An Ode (in prose) to Life-Long Learning

Hello dear Friends,

Happy New Moon today! We’re on the upswing of lunar energy — what kind of project are you beginning now? I decided to take an art course, Design Boot Camp, from Julie Fei Fan Balzer. I’d been following her blog and youtube channel for years. She’s a mixed-media artist, and has literally hundreds of videos available, most of which demonstrate techniques to make all sorts of art from collage to gelatin printing to Christmas ornaments to painting. A testament to her teaching abilities is that even though her art style and mine are very different, she’s one of the best teachers I’ve ever learned from. She teaches HOW to THINK about the choices involved in our art rather than showing us how to copy her artwork step by step.

The images above are experiments in my studio notebook, aka Sketchbook. The course, Design Boot Camp, is about the Elements and Principles of art: to use the analogy of food, the Elements the ingredients. They’re what makes up our art, and we all use the same ingredients such as line, shape, form, texture, color, et al., while the Principles are the recipes, or how we use our ingredients. It’s giving me an awareness of the different things that make up my art, and a vocabulary and skills to identify what might be missing in a work that I don’t quite like —- and helps me to try different things to fix it. And for my artwork that I love, it helps me discern if there is anything that may enhance it, or communicate my intentions more clearly. It’s a very intense course, two intense hours twice a week for 5 weeks, and with tons of homework. Julie teaches us how to learn on our own, and I imagine that I’ll have enough material and ideas to keep my learning going for months and months.

Did I NEED to take this course? Of course not. I’m not an artist who is trying to make a living from my artwork. In fact, I’m in the middle of writing a book! But learning something new, or going deeper into an area of interest, is always enriching, and I believe that the creativity within seeds the other creative works one is involved in. As I grow and expand in one area, the other areas of my life grow as well, filling up the spaces I’m making in my neurons and in my life.

Intentionally learning new things has so much to offer us. It keeps me engaged in something interesting that isn’t scrolling more on my Facebook or Instagram feeds. It’s cheaper than therapy and a lot more fun! Not to diss therapy, which has been a lifesaver at different points in my life —- but if you’re doing therapy primarily as a form of inner growth, oftentimes taking on a new learning project can fulfill the same goal. It’s also less expensive than travel —- which we can do so little of these days, anyway! And I never get carsick or have an uncomfortable bed, either.

I’m really enthused about this learning. I’m always reading and learning on my own, but having the guidance and accompaniment of a gifted teacher is such a delight. This course is so different from the other art instruction I’ve enjoyed. Instead of new techniques or inspiration from a particular artist’s style, this is art theory, or graphic design. Had this been the first art course I’d ever taken, I probably would not have gone on to play with paint and try to communicate my visions. I needed to have enough experience to know the real limit of my skills and to be ready to study the more “boring” things in art. But I’m not finding them boring at all! New ways of looking at art, more skills with color, and learning how to learn from other artists’ work are all percolating through my days. So thankful that I can do this now, at this time in my life.

This artwork is a perfect complement to the re-reading and the editing of my book that is filling the rest of my time. It’s a magical time, too: The Feast of St. Brigid, Candlemas, the Celtic festival of Imbolc, the cross-quarter time (the day right between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox), and even Groundhog Day are all happening in the next day or so. And the New Moon. I sincerely hope that you are involved in activities that you love that can spice up all the things you have to do! There’s so much to worry about. Do what you can to be as prepared as possible, and then turn your attention to what brings joy.

With much love and many blessings,

Cat

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The New Moon of the New Year 2022

“Please Remove. . . ” acrylic on canvas, (c) Cat Charissage, 2022

Dear friends,

May this New Moon in this New Year bring joy, health, and abundance for all of us! Do you do any rituals or make any resolutions for the new year? For the past couple of years I’ve chosen a Word of the Year. I selected a word that encapsulates some important quality that feels like it’s time to nurture. For last year it was FOCUS (and I did get the first draft of my book done). The previous year was INNER SPACIOUSNESS. And this year, I’ve chosen RELEASE. As many of you know, I’m always battling with the feeling that I don’t have enough time to do what I feel I’m called to do and what I want to do. In addition, I suffer from an unhealthy dose of FOMO (fear of missing out). And then fibromyalgia slows me down quite a bit, and on top of that I spent two months this year healing from from some very severe burns. I often feel quite frustrated that my days seem so short. But I don’t want to live my life frustrated, nor do I want to feel as if I’m always behind on a To Do List that only grows rather than diminishes.

I’m moving into Elderhood, and well know that there are not an unlimited number of days left in my life. I want to come to peace about this feeling of never quite getting enough done, especially because it’s not the truth: I get done the most important things I want to accomplish and I almost never waste whatever time is in my control. I’m learning to reframe my “not enough time” into an awareness that, in fact, I’m blessed with many interests that call to me to explore. But how to choose? Which interests will resonate with what is most truly “me”? What is it that is mine to do? I actually don’t think that we are assigned certain tasks before birth that we’re “supposed” to accomplish in our lives (that’s a story for another day), but given that we all have different skills, talents, and interests, and different opportunities in our unique life situations, what is it that I’m best positioned to do, to be, and to enjoy?

A few years ago at one of Dr. Estes’ trainings, she encouraged us to not run after every shiny distraction that is thrust into our lives at the rate of a firehose shooting water. She suggested a little prayer to help us to remember who we really are: “Please remove from me everything that is not myself.” And so, as this all has arisen for me in the last few months, I’ve chosen that as my 2022 intention along with the word “RELEASE”. I also love that “release” sounds much like “real ease”. Yes! That’s what I want!

I painted this image to hold that intention. The background of a gold-rimmed red rose blossoming reminds me of the Mystery of Life unfolding around me all the time, just waiting for me to pay attention to what I see and what I know. The figure is me, with the purple feathered cloak as the boundary between myself and all that is not mine to do or to be. I want to discover more deeply what is already within me, and to share whatever may be of help to others, offered as a small golden rimmed purple rose. The asemic writing includes my intention in the form of an unreadable future.

What about you? The New Moon is a good time to think about what it is that we want to nurture in our lives as the moon gradually becomes full. At Full Moon we can be thankful for all that has grown, and let go of whatever we don’t need anymore. I often think of the time from full moon to new moon, when the visible moon is smaller and smaller, as cleaning up whatever was too much in what we created: I organize the mess, I throw out or recycle the real and symbolic leftover pieces, and I ready the studio (and myself) for whatever is coming next.

And that’s what I did this past couple of weeks. I gathered my journals for the year and re-read what I wrote in 2021. I’ve put some things away, kept track of promising ideas and inspirations, and expressed gratitude for all the wonders and kindnesses. One big gratitude was the love I felt from so many people who contacted me when I was healing from my burns in July. Thank you. Your love was needed, and your care kept me going in my “a little too close to death” experience.

Even if you don’t have special rituals or do resolutions, take a few minutes to go over that second pandemic year we just finished — 2021. Congratulate yourself on coming out the other side, and recognize your strengths that you tapped into this year. What is it that you want to bring into 2022? What is it that you will leave behind?

May we all have “real ease” in 2022!

Cat

The Book Chronicle: Who Are We?

Happy New Moon, dear friends!

It’s a grey, grey day here, this Friday in Lethbridge. No snow, yet marching into Winter. Here in my studio I enjoy a bright, busy, cluttered cocoon, hopefully creating something beautiful something true. I’m about halfway through the editing of my book with the new working title of We Belong With Each Other: Developing an Inner Life as a Political Act. It goes well, and I’m hoping to get it to my beta readers before Christmas. Remember, if you would like to be one of my first readers, please let me know. I do have enough first readers to give me the feedback I need, but would love to have a few more, just for the variety of worldviews of the readers. (Deep thanks to those of you who have already contacted me.) What’s involved: I will send you the whole book, and ask you to read one particular chapter (that I choose for you) and give me feedback. What I’m looking for is checking for the usual grammar, spelling, typos, etc., but also “Does it make sense? Is it easy to read, or did you have to stop and reread anything to understand what I was saying? Does what I say ring true for you? If not, let me know your thoughts. If you had written this book, would you feel good about it going out into the world as it is?”

It would be your choice whether to read anything more that the one chapter that I ask you to comment on; you may want the context around “your” chapter, or not want to wait until its published to read it in full. (Personally, I vastly prefer “real” books rather than reading online!) I hope to send it out before Christmas, with a hoped -for deadline of mid January to get your feedback to me.

Here’s an excerpt from the chapter on Embodiment:

“When we do reflect on our physical bodies, what is it, exactly, that we are thinking about?  We almost always focus exclusively on the aspects of ourselves that are enclosed within our skin, the boundary that separates you from me .  Yet none of us can survive more than a few days if we’re not taking into ourselves parts of our earth in the form of water and food.  What we take in becomes the actual cells and organs enclosed within our skin.  So, how are we actually separate from the waters in the rivers that we use as our drinking water?  How are we separate from the plants and animals that will become a part of our physical bodies, even though at this moment they might still be growing in the fields around our cities?  What we excrete from our bodies, though no longer enclosed by our skin, breaks down into nourishment and moisture for the soil or for microorganisms.  Gases within our bodies are excreted by our breath and become nourishment for the plants which rely on this carbon dioxide.  The plants and trees then excrete through their pores the oxygen which we ourselves so need in order to survive.

But many of us have become so numb or so distracted from these processes that we don’t even notice when the new coal companies bring new poisons into the watershed along with the few new jobs they promised.  Clearcut forests are literally hidden behind strips of trees lining the highways in order that the public doesn’t get upset seeing all those bare stumps.  When there are few trees to absorb carbon, where will the carbon go except into an atmosphere that slowly warms, and warms, and warms?  Where do our own bodies begin and end, when even our skin boundaries absorb sunlight —- and the chemicals in the sunscreen lotions along with?

So as I talk about embodiment here, keep the question of where your own body begins and ends in mind.  How does your own awareness of what constitutes your body impact what choices you make?  Do you even know what choices you may have? I am well aware that each of us and all of us have huge limitations as to choice, but I also know that I haven’t yet met anyone, including myself, who is aware of and makes use of all the choices that we do actually have in each day that influence our own bodies/the world.  How might we know more, become aware of so much more all around us without overwhelming ourselves?  How do I  do what I can, when at the end of an ordinarily stressful day just figuring out what to make for dinner can reduce me to tears?”

Many blessings to you, as we enter into the darkness of the year which has so many Holidays (holy days) of Light Returning. Our times have much pain, and it’s sometimes impossible to see what we might be able to do to be of help. Let’s take as much hope as we can from the stories of Light in the Darkness!

Much love,

Cat

Time out of time

Dear friends,

After hitting the huge milestone of finishing my first draft of Making Meaning, Making Soul: Developing Your Inner Life as a Political Act, I took a couple of weeks off just to breathe and heal from my summer adventures. Now I’m watching a course from The Teaching Company called How to Publish Your Book, and I have to admit that the course is making me feel as if writing the book is going to have been the easy part! Oh well, I’ll take it one step at a time. I will get this book out into the world one way or another!

While watching the program, I’ve been making little notebooks. It’s terribly easy, and terribly fun. I just use cardstock or leftover thick paper from other projects, cut a small pile of copy paper scraps a slight bit smaller than the thicker covers, and staple them at the crease. Totally zero waste, they are made up of the waste from other projects. The books are limited to the size of the stapler — since the staple is in the middle of the cover, the papers need to fit inside the length of the stapler. So far, I’ve just glued on images I’ve cut from magazines or copied from the internet. The “Owl Stay Weird” notebook is from a sticker for the Owl Acoustic Lounge, the venue where (in non-Covid times) we had our monthly Poetry Open Mics. (The Open Mics are currently conducted on zoom). Perhaps I will do some simple original painting on the covers, but I want them to be ordinary pocket notebooks, used for notes, grocery lists, and great ideas we don’t want to lose.

I find that when I make things from paper, or put images on paper or canvas with paints, my brain goes into the most exquisite dreamy space —- my hands busy, my mind wanders and rests, escaping from the busy world’s imperative to do, do, do! Doing art and making things is one of my ways to “practice what I preach” in my new book —- that at least 20 minutes a day of refusing to give in to the overculture’s demands allows a person to know themselves, what they love, and what they’re willing to give their life’s energy to. It frees a person to be themselves — human, unique, a gift from the universe to themselves and to all of us. I’m looking forward to quieter days of doing just that, to being just that.

With much love and many blessings,

Cat

The Book Chronicle: FIRST DRAFT DONE!

“THE” Manuscript!
A truth that might keep me humble!

Dear Friends,

As of this afternoon (Wednesday) at 2:30, on this new moon in October, I have finished the first draft of my book Making Meaning Making Soul: Nourishing Your Inner Life as a Political Act! I am so pleased, but also rather daunted by all the work yet to do! I plan to review and revise it until it’s as good as I can get it, then send it out to my beta readers who will provide feedback for me (if you’re interested in being one of my readers and offering feedback on one chapter of the book after it’s revised, please let me know!), then I’ll do another revision incorporating the feedback, and then, I’ll work on figuring out how to get the book out into the world. It’s 362 pages long right now, and represents one helluva lot of work distilling four decades of thought and experience!

The book has two parts, one part giving all kinds of reasons why investing 20 minutes a day in contemplative practice, that is, in practices that nourish our inner lives, is deeply helpful to any person whether they come to their inner lives with a religious outlook or not. Contemplative practices help us to tune in to ourselves, explore our values and how we’ve acquired those values, relax, find what gives us deep pleasure and meaning, and examine how the world around us pulls us in such a variety of ways that may not be in integrity with who we really are, what we really want, and what we really believe.

The other part of the book contains dozens of practices that one can do in 20 minutes or less to bring us back to our true self. These practices are divided into five different categories of Word, Image, Dream, Silence, and Embodiment. “Word” refers to the practices such as collecting quotations or poetry that are meaningful to us, journal writing, responding to prompts that help us explore areas of life we may not have considered very deeply, as well as other practices. The “Image” chapter includes ideas to help us notice and examine the images that we’re bombarded with every day, whether in advertising or in images of the “good life”, simple exercises in art making, color, and mark making to create small havens of beauty, and collecting images that inspire us. “Dream” includes collecting and examining both night dreams and day dreams, and helps us to notice and deconstruct all the stories we sometimes take for granted in our lives, as well as how to imagine new stories for us to grow into. “Silence” looks at the many ways to bypass words and stories to clear out space for peace, rest, and new creativity to arise, including various ways to meditate. And the chapter on “Embodiment” asks us to consider who we are as physical bodies, where we begin and end, how we are interconnected with all that is around us, and invites us to experience that interconnection in ways we may not have thought of before.

These practices are helpful in healing the wounds that so many of us have suffered, and helpful in our healing the world around us. The book is for both beginners and more advanced practitioners, for both people who would describe themselves as spiritual or religious as well as people who want nothing to do with a religious point of view. As true humans, there is more to us than the everyday, and we face deep challenges to the earth’s and our own survival. This book can help us become conscious of just how many resources we have within us, and help us to know what is uniquely ours to do and to be, for justice and the good of all of life.

With much love and many blessings,

Cat

My Winged Heart

Winged Heart acrylic paint on canvas, (c) 2021 Cat Charissage

Hello dear friends,

Happy new moon here in September of 2021! The calendar turned and I am immediately busier than I’ve been all summer. Fall is here with all its possibilities and obligations. To me, it feels as if I lost this summer —- a month in the hospital burn unit, then another month convalescing will do that to a person! Though my burns are almost healed, I’m still running at a lower energy than before. I don’t know if I’ll slowly return to more energy, or if this is my new normal.

Regarding my book, Making Meaning Making Soul: Nurturing an Inner Life as a Political Act, I have just moved into the first draft of my final, 10th chapter: “Do Not Lose Hope: Breaking for Freedom”. It’s been a challenge for me to get back into the routine writing most days — momentum is so easily lost; so difficult to build up again. Once I complete the first draft of the whole book I will be editing it to be the best I can make it, then sending it out to select readers who I hope will carefully read a chapter and give constructive feedback. Once I incorporate the feedback, I’ll be looking to publish it. I don’t yet have a plan for that, whether I look for a publisher or try self-publishing. If any of you have any advice, contacts, or info on that, please let me know.

This painting, Winged Heart, is what I produced this summer. It now hangs over my new comfy recliner chair that I inherited from my dear mother in law. It’s hard to put into words what this painting means to me. If I could have said it in words, I would have written a poem or essay instead! The red energy, left over from the underpainting, reminds me of the spirit which burns with passion. The white rose in the heart speaks to me of the Spirit of Love which lives within all and which can bring us all together. “My” winged heart desires to connect with all those who I come into contact, who are symbolized by all the figures in the gold field. It speaks of my desire to be of service to and to connect with those around me, offering the best of who I am, with ease, all based in the deep passion of my heart and spirit.

Here’s to all of us juggling life, loves, health, and the new opportunities of fall,

With much love and many blessings,

Cat

Here are some photos of the painting in process:

Update, The Book Chronicle, and The Burn Poems

“The Treasure is Gift” acrylic on watercolor paper, Cat Charissage (c) 2021

Hello my dear friends,

It’s the New Moon, and time for intentions for the waxing moon! Here’s mine: “I have peace about time, and a quiet confidence that I will finish my book in perfect timing, that there is no conflict between caring for myself and doing what I need to do. I focus on what is best to do and to be in each day in each moment.”

Burnwise and healthwise, I am healing, though much more slowly than I would like. Yet, the nurses who come to change my dressings say that I am healing so well, and so quickly! Methinks I have an unrealistic view of what is possible! My burns still hurt, and I’m still quite tired and easily aggranoyed (aggravated and annoyed): my burns itch as they heal, I’ve been covered in perspiration because of the oppressive heat, my jewellery annoys me, my bandages annoy me, my hair band annoys me, my hearing aids annoy me, and the fibro pain and sciatica have come back “home”! But other than that, I’m fine! Actually, I am so very glad to be here to tell the story, and to be home and healing.

I’m making an attempt to get back to my writing tomorrow, with the goal of a couple of hours of writing on most days! It took me almost two weeks to tidy my study up from the blizzard of “STUFF” that my guys had put in there while I was in the hospital. Trying to find places for books when all the places are full is especially challenging. I think I’m ready, I hope I’m ready, to get back into a bit of a routine. I actually went out by myself twice now —- though when I got into the car there was a panicked moment when I was afraid I’d forgotten how to drive. But I did remember, and all went well.

I made it home in time to attend our Owl Poetry Open Mic at the end of July, and I had written a few poems to debut there. I’ve included all four of them here, and I hope they give you a sense of what the last six weeks have been like in my life.

I hope that the rest of your summer is filled with just the right amount of sunshine, and just the right amount of people you love,

With much love and many blessings,

Cat

The Most Unexpected July

[Cat Charissage, July 2021]

Surprises happen.

I wasn’t planning on spending July

In the Foothills Hospital Burn Unit.

But trying to finish one more chore before going out for dinner —

Finally!  First time since lockdown —-

As I was pouring herbal infused oil and beeswax,

Just off boiling,

Into jars for precious First Aid Ointment,

The gallon and a half of boiling oil jumped

Out of the pot and baptized me —

Practically immersed me —

The beeswax glueing the hot oil to every part of hair, hands, 

Blouse, skin, pants, and feet.

Then slipping, I fell into the ointment.

Intended to be healing, but too hot to handle,

Instead it seared my flesh 

Shock.  Pain.  Searing pain.  Pull me out of the oil!  Quick!

Clothes off, get to shower, water too hot.

Bring pans of cool water, please!  Fast!

Oh my God!  Pain. Pain. Pain!  It hurts so bad!!

911.  Call 911!  Call 911!  It hurts so bad!!

Life Renewing, Rebuilding

[Cat Charissage, July 2021]

Three weeks watching dear body heal.

Life renewing, rebuilding,

Skin buds forming,

Looking like little mushroom forests colonizing the burned flesh.

Hands peeling, then hand skin peeling again, and again.

New pink flesh — so sensitive.

So exquisitely sensitive.

Deeper burns — lakes of oozing yellow fluid

On red flesh shores.

Disgustingly fascinating, 

Until I remember that’s MY breast!

That’s MY stomach!

That’s MY thigh!

Oh MY!  Oh MY!  Oh MY!

The call for surgery.

Dear body, trying so hard to heal, needs some help.

Sew together the skin over yellow canals,

Graft some skin, donated by my dear thigh,

Cover the oozing yellow lakes.

The first and greatest surgical success is that I wake from the anesthetic

To heal some more.

It’s hard to keep this good woman down!

My People, My Beloveds

[Cat Charissage, July 2021]

I saw the beauty, the blessing, the possibilities of Facebook, of email.

A short post, then an update,

And waves and waves of beloveds released their prayers, their healing energies,

Washing over and over and over me.

Thank you, I need this,

Thank you, you remember me,

Thank you, you care!

Thank you, I need this,

Thank you, you remember me,

Thank you, you care!

I calm.  And then I wonder.

Why?  Why so much pain?

Pain on top of pain on top of dear body living with pain

For so much of my life.

Why so much pain?

And then more pain?

No answer.

No answer.

Why?

In that direction madness lies.

Crawl back from why.  Crawl back from that edge.

Does it help, or does it just hurt more 

To know so many have suffered so many do suffer even more

Much more than I?  Why?

Don’t ask why! Don’t go there!

Crawl back from why.  Crawl back.

Know the love.

Rest in the healing energy.

Lean on the prayers.  Lean on the love.

Thank you, my beloveds, thank you.

Heart open.

Witches Heal.  Witches Burn.  

[Cat Charissage, July 2021]

Witches heal

Witches make potions

Witches burn.

Me, the descendant of witches and healers,

Making herbal ointments, even today,

From common weeds, common plants.

What we need to heal is around us.

What we need is surely around us.

I won’t be burned at the stake anymore,

But, a slip of the hand,

Too heavy a load,

Perhaps a bit of neuropathy,

And six liters of oil and beeswax, just off boiling,

Pour over my hands, my arms, my breasts, 

My stomach, my side, splash into my hair.

And then the slippery floor pulls me down

And I sit in burning oil scarring my seat and my feet.

Burned.  All over.

Even today, witches make potions,

Witches heal, 

And witches burn.

And witches rise,

Scarred, and strong.

The Book Chronicle 9, and Listen to the Silence: It is a political act to have an inner life.

Listen to the Silence, acrylic on paper, Cat Charissage (c) 2021

Hello dear friends,

Happy New Moon, the first moon of summer! What kinds of energies are starting for you? I’m working on Chapter 9 in my book, the 2nd to the last chapter. It’s on Embodiment, and it’s here that I’m realizing that the working title of the book, Making Meaning, Making Soul: Developing an Inner Life as a Political Act, is just right. It’s when I think about, feel about, listen from the inside of my physical self, that I know how childhood trauma has formed so much of who I am, and who so many are. I explore how the structures of power in the home echo and compensate for the lack of power outside of the home. How silence and cooperation is enforced. How the status quo has been built out of certain numbers of us living in captivity, “held” by those who love us. The auto-immune issues as one consequence, chronic pain as another, and yet other issues are the consequences, but also the scars that are the badges of surviving, and thriving, and not colluding in silence and hiding. For so, so many of us, we’re doing pretty damned good, all things considered, and in pondering who we are, what we’ve been through, and what we want for all our children, are creating a new way of thriving in this toxic world. Another political consequence of embodiment is the color of my skin. How I am seen and treated, how my body is seen and treated, is charged with meanings that have participated in the sufferings of those with a different amount of melanin in their skin. So much to write about, so much to listen for.

I did this small 8″ by 8″ painting this month — witnessing to how much sitting in silence it takes to make sense of the blobs of intuitions and insights that swirl around us, hiding in plain sight. It is daring and it is a political act to put into words what is inchoate in our flesh. I started with the intuition that I was in the middle of something — something having to do with my life force and the blood of my flesh:

Then came the blobs, and shapes:

And then finally the words that helped me know what the painting was about:

Dear friends, know and grow, grow and know. Be willing to sit in the no know, the not knowing. It’s not fun, but it’s wondrous to experience what Walt Whitman said “I am large. I contain multitudes.”

With much love and many blessings,

Cat

p.s. I was interviewed by the New York Parrot Literary Corner a little while ago about my poetry. Have a listen:

The Book Chronicles & More: May 2021

Gratitude book, watercolor on paper, March 2021

Dear Friends,

THE “& MORE”: Coping with the Pandemic Blues has really been a chore in the last couple of months! I just want to go out for coffee with a few friends —- please?!?! Because I could so easily enumerate what was wrong with life, I decided to make a little accordion book of 100 plus things that are going right in my life. Number One of which is that I and my family are well and we have enough of all that we need.

I had no idea if I could come up with more than 100 things to be grateful for, but it was actually very easy. And I did feel better after I made this little book. I started with some basics that I used to teach Liberty about: that because we have indoor plumbing, central heating, and hot and cold running water, we have a more comfortable and “richer” life than kings and queens had only a couple of centuries ago! And it really is a blessing that our electricity is reliable enough that we notice it only if there’s a very occasional blackout.

I totally recommend making your own little book of Gratitudes. Now it sits on my bookshelves, in front of a few hundred books (another gratitude!), and reminds me that these, too, are true in my life.

THE BOOK CHRONICLE: I HAVE FINISHED CHAPTER EIGHT out of 10 chapters! I keep chugging along, following the plan that I put together at the beginning of the project. This was the chapter on SILENCE, and it includes a dozen ideas for entering silence for both beginners and the more experienced, for people who consider themselves spiritual and those who who just want a renewing rest. Here’s a couple: I start with a basic sitting practice, then describe 3 or 4 ways to meditate, but I also talk about sitting and watching a snow globe settle after you’ve given it a good shake. Or if you don’t have a snowglobe, putting a tablespoon of dirt in a jar of water and giving that a shake. It takes awhile for it to become calm again, and that’s a good metaphor for how our inner attention and our nervous systems work.

My favorite part of the chapter was coming up with a variety of postmodern and very secular koans to include. Koans, as you probably know, are from the Zen Buddhist tradition and they are short statements or little stories that are not rational nor logical, but that if you meditate on them, may very well help you to bypass all that right-brained activity and have a sudden realization. It feels like a flip into another way of thinking/being, almost as though your brain just got out of a car wash! So here are two I included: “I ask my friend, ‘So are we crazy or intensely sane?’ She replies, ‘Yes!'”; or, “When there’s no place to go, how do I get there?” And here’s one that’s a little more serious: “‘Good God!’ screamed the woman as the bomb dropped from the plane.”

The next chapter is on reflective practices from the point of view of Embodiment, where I’ll talk about knowing, resting, and abiding in our physical selves, which are too often limited and achy and not working quite right. Then the last chapter will pull it all together where I assert that developing our inner lives is, indeed, a political act that just might “save the world” in the only way it can be saved, each one of us at a time. With the emphases on “one” as well as “us”.

With much love and many blessings,

Cat