Beginner's Mind

"In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert's there are few." - Shunryu Suzuki-Roshi

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Odds and Ends

Haven't posted in awhile, but it was an interesting week. Some highlights:


On Saturday (yesterday) I received training and First Degree status in Reiki. Now I have the power to ease the suffering of most invertebrates, guppies, small birds, and a handful of rodents.

OK, OK, there's more to it than that. The hardest part of the training was to put my reductionist, scientific brain parts to rest, and just receive uncritically talk about chakras, crystals, energy, and mantras and just accept on face value what was taught. In the afternoon, after receiving the first three (of four) attunements, there was a practice session where the students (both of us) worked on each other. The other student was a woman. Some of the chakras are located in places on the body not normally touched by a stranger (or even close friends, for that matter). Thankfully there are ways to deal with this without making a session into a grope festival.

Does it work? So far, I can't say that it doesn't, but I can't say that it does, either. Today while Ethan was crying, upset that he was getting a diaper change rather than a meal, I did a hands-on over his tummy and he quit crying and calmed down. Now that my reductionist, scientific brain parts are back on the job, I consider that instance anecdotal.


Tomorrow I will be going to my first acupuncture treatment. It turns out that my insurance does cover this treatment, and there are in-network providers. Unfortunately, the practicioner I have chosen is also a chiropractor, and I'm afraid he or she (there are two of them there) might be one of those chiropractors that claims to be able to cure everything by twisting your spine. They are like drug dealers, and once you get hooked, you go again and again and never get cured. There are sound, physiological reasons why you don't get cured I won't go into.

I went to one of the "good" chiropractors for my migraines, at the insistence of Karen, and by the second or third treatment my back hurt so much I had trouble standing straight. And this fellow was one of the good ones who stop working on you if you don't improve in a reasonable amount of time. So, you can imagine my suspicions about chiropractors.

Unfortunately, insurance only cover acupuncturists who work in conjunction with a chiropractor or an M.D.

Damn. I've got some good recomendations for practicioners, and none of them are in the network, or even qualify for out-of-network coverage.

Oh, by the way, did I mention that I have problems with needles?


NaNoWriMo starts Tuesday. I have a few characters and a few story ideas, but that's about it. From reading Chris Baty's No Plot? No Problem!, that may be all I need.

That gives me tomorrow to clean up the computer area, and discover if my laptop batteries are still good. Writing this post, I've discovered that my dictionary is missing (I have two copies, and can't find either of them). (I had to turn to the big Merriam Webster's to figure out how to spell invertebrate.) There's a group of Vermont writers getting together Tuesday night, and I'm hoping I'll be able to join them. As I said in the forum, if it's as uplifting to write in a group as it is to meditate, I don't want to miss it.

Last year I entered the "contest," but wrote nary a word, as I was at Dartmouth-Hitchcock undergoing a fruitless DHE protocol. That was followed by a painful withdrawal process (from pain meds, not the DHE). So, better than half the month was shot. This year seems more promising.

For those interested, I plan to post my work periodically and will provide links here on the blog.

If any of my readers are also NaNoWriMo participants and want to set up a virtual support group via Yahoo Messenger, drop me a note (e-mail is at the bottom of the blog page).

I don't know if this is an omen or not, but as O've been wrotong thos pist O've been wrotong O's when O wanted ti wrote I's, and voce-versa.


It must be the changing of the time, getting off Daylight Savings Time, but this has been the longest, headacheist day of the year, and I've got those Imitrex numb fingers and weird nostril tingling side effects. Ick.


I'm not sure if it was a remnant of one of the hurricanes, but we had snow last week, the first of the season. That means it was a wet, heavy snow, a few inches of it and it hasn't yet all melted. The foliage on the trees was still pretty much hanging around, which means that the snow stuck to leaves. This led to a build-up of snow that bent, and broke, tree limbs. Right now the back yard has huge limbs, and a few entire trees, down on the ground, including a couple that fell onto the back deck. There was one oak limb which fell across the driveway, that was just barely moveable by one person (me).

In fact, the yard, and probably the woods, look like a hurricane hit.

This all means I need to get a new chain for the Husqvarna and make some kindling and firewood.


Is it just me? Or does the Internet seem a bit sluggish tonight?


No music in my head this evening. Probably just as well.

Monday, October 17, 2005


Why are there so many songs about rainbows
And what's on the other side?
Rainbows are visions, but only illusions,
And rainbows have nothing to hide.
So we've been told and some choose to believe it
I know they're wrong, wait and see.
Someday we'll find it, the rainbow connection,
The lovers, the dreamers and me.

What a switch: it's 3 AM and I'm awake and Karen and Ethan are asleep. Somehow I've managed to sleep through his night fussiness. I don't know if there's a connection, but if by being awake Karen gets a good night's sleep, then I don't mind at all.

Karen has done most of the care-giving, as I'm not equipped to feed him, and gosh, he does like to eat. I don't know what he weighs now, but he was only in the "1" diapers for about a week, and now they are too small.

Who said that every wish would be heard and answered
When wished on the morning star?
Somebody thought of that, and someone believed it,
And look what it's done so far.
What's so amazing that keeps us stargazing
And what do we think we might see?
Someday we'll find it, the rainbow connection,
The lovers, the dreamers, and me.

Last week I ended my membership to the Zen Center. It was a hard decision. I never felt all that comfortable there. I'm sure the path to enlightenment is no walk in the park, so I couldn't tell if my discomfort was the path or the center. I finally let practicality take over; if I'm not going to sittings and sesshin and the like, then I'm not using the membership, regardless of how I feel about it.

Being in the presence of Sensei was really something sometimes, a feeling that she was someone who really "gets" it. I remember my first private instruction; entering the room, Sensei was arrayed on her zafu and I was momentarily breathless.

But I don't think belonging was a waste of time, either. The biggest lesson I learned was the difference between belief and practice. I think most Americans have beliefs, in God or Jesus or Allah and the like, but don't have a practice. Religion is something we do on Sunday mornings, in our best Sunday clothes. We think we are moral people because we have those beliefs. But as this guy pointed out once, we shouldn't believe everything we think.

All of us under its spell,
We know that it's probably magic...

I know my formal practice is poor. This is part of the reason I joined in the first place. Now, I have a son, and I want him to have a practice, too. But I didn't really connect with people over there. It wasn't that people were unfriendly, far from it. But there was an air of "qualifying", of proving you belonged. Enlightenment is serious business, and if you weren't taking it seriously, then, well, nice to see you and all, but we're on a path and you need to get on it or get out of the way.

I understand this. It's like the old joke: How many therapists does it take to change a light bulb? Just one, but the bulb has to really want to change. They are on a path that has worked for many, many people over hundreds of years. It's how Things Are Done. You have to prove not only that you want the end result of the path, but that you are willing to walk it in a certain way.

And I guess I'm not.

Have you been half asleep? And have you heard voices?
I've heard them calling my name.
Is this the sweet sound that calls the young sailors?
The voice might be one and the same
I've heard it too many times to ignore it
It's something that I'm s'posed to be...
Someday we'll find it, the rainbow connection,
The lovers, the dreamers, and me.

Perhaps enlightenment is not for me this time around. I love life and living too much, which may sound like an odd thing, coming from a person in constant pain. Death is this conceptual thing, something I'm not quite completely convinced won't be circumvented by some sort of technology before my run of days are over. It's that little bit of my youth left that thinks I will never die.

And then there's the whole reincarnation idea. If it's true, I get to ride this ferris wheel again. The whole purpose of gaining enlightenment is to get off that wheel.

There's something to be said about getting off. Life is suffering, the Buddha taught, and attachments (like to life) just increase the suffering. Looking around, it isn't hard to find someone who is suffering in some way or another. My informal practice is to ease suffering as much as I can while I'm here. So often it is ridiculously easy to do, and I often wonder why more people don't do it.

But I think I know why; we have beliefs, not practices.

Someday we'll find it, the rainbow connection,
The lovers, the dreamers, and me.

Rainbow Connection was written by Kenny Ascher and Paul Williams (whatever happened to Paul Williams, anyway?).

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Some Ethan Stories

Around 5 AM on September 1st, Karen woke me up as she headed for the bathroom. "Robert, wake up! My water broke!"


This might seem like a silly question, but twice before we thought her water had broke and it turned out not to be so.

"I'm pretty sure this time," she said from the bathroom.

So, I got up, and saw that someone had run a garden hose full blast from the bed to the bathroom.


We got the hospital, and we were given one of the "Presidential Suites," one of two corner labor and delivery rooms (LDR) with a great view of Lake Champlain, the Adirondacs, and the UVM campus. The nurse came in and felt Karen's tummy. "Did anyone mention that you have a breach birth?"

"No," we replied.

The nurse poked at the top of Karen's pregnant belly. "His head is up here," she said.

Karen smiled, "Oh no, that's his butt!"

"I've never felt a butt that hard, I'm ordering an ultrasound."

A few minutes later a technician came in with the machine, the nurse in tow. He gooped up Karen's belly and waved the sensor over it. "She's right," the tech said, "that's his butt."

That's how Ethan came to be known as H.B., for Hard Butt. Several of the nursing staff came in to feel Ethan's butt, and all were amazed.

Later, during labor, the fetal monitor showed that Ethan was humming along through labor just fine, with no distress, and he then became known as H.B.-Squared, for Hard Butt Happy Baby.

Music in my head: Don't Get Around Much Anymore, Willie Nelson

If you'd like to see pictures of Karen when she was pregnant, and pictures of Ethan up to one month old, check out the first album here.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Just Can't Do It

Stuck in my own little world of football and diapers, I missed the news yesterday of the big quake in Kashmir.

I wish, I wish, I wish during times like this I could say something, anything appropriate, but such events leave me speechless, shocked, and sad.

Why is it that, when there are such disasters in the world beyond the control of humans, we create man-made disasters like terrorist attacks, wars, poverty, and hunger?
Why is it that 20,000 die in an earthquake and we (the world, not just Americans) rush in with aid, but 100,000 Iraqis die and we (the world) keep bombing them?

Some days Voltaire seems very observant.

Friday, October 07, 2005

This Sounds Familiar

Making Whoopee, Donaldson/Kahn/Shearer

Another bride, another groom
The countryside is all in bloom;
The flow'rs 'n trees is,
The birds and bees is
Making whoopie.

The choir sings, "Here comes the bride"
Another victim is at her side
He's lost his reason
'Cause it's the season
For making whoopee.

Another bride
Another groom
Another sunny
Another season,
Another reason
For makin' whoopee.

A quiet service,
A lot of rice,
The groom is nervous
He answers twice.
It's really killing
That he's so willing
To make whoopee.

Picture a little lovenest
Down where the roses cling
Picture that same sweet lovenest
Think what a year can bring.

He's washing dishes
And baby clothes
He's so ambitious
He even sews;
But don't forget, boys
That's what you get, boys
For makin' whoopee.

For all you M*A*S*H fans, you can find lyrics to songs from the movie and the TV show here, which is where I got those above.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Uh Oh

Well, I guess I've stepped in it big time. This year, I plan to complete that novel in November. How about you?

Sunday, October 02, 2005

How Perfect Was Yesterday?

Pretty close to perfect.

The Yankees won the AL East.

The University of Texas Longhorns got their act together to beat Mizzou.

The Crimson Tide washed away the Florida Gators.

The weather was fabulous. The Relpax worked. I got some laundry done. I finally got started on my summer reading project (Herodotus' Histories, anyone want to join me?).

But it wasn't completely perfect.

The Texas A&M Carpetbaggers won a close one in overtime to beat the Baylor Biblethumpers.

Trojans proved to be a match for Sun Devil STD (several touchdown defeat).

And today?

Ethan turns one month old today. I had a good sit on the back deck this morning (good fresh, cold air), and a good walk along the creek with Kane. The high for today is predicted to be around 76 F (that's 24 C). And I have this rare urge for cleaning.

I'll let you know how it goes.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Those Smart Aggies

Yup, there's some pretty smart(ing) folks in College Station.

Quiet Morning

I've been reading comments that y'all have left, and it looks like Haloscan isn't mailing them all to me, just some of them. So, I haven't responded to the stories, well wishes, and the like. I'm sorry about that! Rest assured I am reading them all, and really appreciate them.

Also, Sitemeter has added a map feature so that I can get an idea of the area from which my readers hail. Please don't freak out; there's no spying going on, your browser provides your IP address to Blogger, and then it's a simple look-up to find the location of the server of your ISP. (By the way, that's not all that is given...your last viewed web page is also transmitted). I bring this up to say Hi! to folks on other continents (and a special big wave to Thessaloniki, Greece - is the water around Greece as blue as they say? I really want to go there some day) in addition to my North American neighbors.

It's a quiet morning. For some reason I seem to wake up early enough on Saturday or Sunday to write a bit. It's amazing how tired I get, and the adrenaline or whatever it was that was keeping the headaches at bay has stopped working. It's time to reset my morning routine, and I should be working on that now, but I miss writing an awful lot. I could write pages and pages about the birth experience and the latest goings-on, but I think I'll just stick to the highlights.

One topic that has been going through my head is the nature and content of this blog. I am fortunate to be linked by Buddhist blogs from all over, and I very grateful for that. I know I used to write more Buddhist-specific stuff, quotes from readings and the like. But, I have drifted away from that. This echoes a drop in my practice (like I said, I gotta reset my routine). However, I believe my Buddhist beliefs have changed my views of the world; I see things in a much broader sense, and have the ability (such as it is) to hold opposing ideas (to be honest, that's not a good way to describe them - I'm not much for dualist thinking any more)(where was I? oh yeah) in my head and believe them to be valid. I suspect there are other ways Buddhism has changed (warped? straightened? illuminated?) my thinking, too. I guess the bottom line is I haven't abandoned Buddhism stuff, it shapes what I write here all the time. Perhaps that doesn't show so much, but it's true, all the same.

So, thanks to all my Buddhist readers and linkers. I try to return the favor when I discover a blog links to mine, and I know I have a few that need to be added. I'm not ignoring you, it's just that, well, lately...

Other thoughts...

It's October and Vermont is still mostly green. There are no other colors in the woods behind my house, except for the apples in those trees, which are now ripe red. The winter squash in the garden is mostly yellow or brown. It's been a good year for acorn squash, and in fact there were more of those than there were zucchini, if you can believe that. But along the roads and here and there the autumn colors are beginning to show. The temperatures have gotten cool at night, and we've needed to heat the house some. However we are due for 80 degrees in the next few days; wow.

My parents visited for a week, to see their first grandchild. My mom spoiled Ethan in about the only way you can at his age - she held him while he slept after each meal. So, now he doesn't want to sleep in the cradle and not in the baby swing and only reluctantly in the car. No, now Mommy or Daddy has to hold his head to our chest, so he can hear a heartbeat, I guess.

(Don't get the idea that this is a problem, mind you.)

Last week I held a little beer and cigar soire' while Karen and my mom were at a scrapbooking session (which was canceled). Friends and former coworkers came over, and I passed out cigars with custom labels with Ethan's birthdate, weight, and length. We sat out on the back deck in the dark and smoked stogies and caught up with each other. It was the really great to see old friends again.

OK, I'll close with an Ethan story.

Lately Ethan has been sleeping between me and Karen in our bed. We know this is not a good habit, it just makes it harder to get him to sleep on his own. But generally, by the end of the day we are just too exhausted to fuss with him too long, so we start him out in the cradle, and he ends up moving into bed with us at his next feeding.

We were pretty nervous about doing this at first. We were both afraid we would roll over and crush the little fellow, but so far our bodies have just known what not to do. It's a temporary situation, and each night he spends more and more time in his own bed. But, I bring it up to tell you about last night.

I woke up sometime between three and four this morning. I opened my eyes, and there were two tiny little blue eyes staring back at me; wide awake eyes. The reading light on Karen's side of the bed was on, but Karen was snoozing away (hurray for her!). Now Ethan wasn't fussing. He wasn't hungry, dirty, or tired, he was just...awake. And curious. So we played a bit at "sensory integration"; in other words, I tickled him.

At the risk of sounding like some sort of groping pedophile, I would give him rubs in different parts of his body and see how he reacted. Tummy rubs would get legs and arms flying and flailing about. Leg rubs and foot rubs (we was wearing a "footie-sleeper") would calm him and he would look around. When I rubbed his nose, his body would go limp and he would close his eyes. The same happened when I rubbed his cheeks.

It occurred to me around 4:30 or so that the room was pretty bright, so I got up and turned on a very dim light and turned off Karen's reading light. This made the room fairly, but not completely dark. I slipped back into bed, and, to my surprise, Ethan closed his eyes and fell asleep. Just like that!

And he slept for a good hour before he awoke again, wanting an early breakfast. After that, he fell back asleep, and, as of right now, at nearly 9 AM, he is still asleep. So is Mommy, bless her heart.

Music in my head: Short People, Randy Newman