Wednesday, December 30, 2009

We Live in the Land of Serenity

The wind whistles
The bird sings
The water churns.
We live in the
Land of serenity.
The wheel of life
Turns in grace.
The universe
Pivots in peace.
Each moment arises
Deep within.
We live in the
Land of serenity.
The fire burns
The earth shifts
The air clears.
We live in the
Land of serenity.
There is a choice
We all can make
To live in the
Land of serenity.

Friday, December 18, 2009

A Moment in Time

This week’s blog will focus on some of my favorite exercises from the second section of my book “The Songbird In My Heart.” These exercises are called “Acts of Contemplation, Freedom for a Glad Heart” and are designed to put you in touch with your deeper self. Each day a corresponding prayer from the book will also be posted to Facebook.

The inspiration for these exercises came from two unlikely sources. The first are the beautiful books from Thomas Merton and his editors A Book of Hours, Seeds of Contemplation, and New Seeds of Contemplation. The second is the red Fieldbook by Peter Senge to his best selling business book The Fifth Discipline. While this part of the book bears little resemblance to these great books, they did serve as inspiration.

Please take some time and try them out! If you like, let me know how it goes. Best of luck. Mark

Acts of Contemplation, Freedom for a Glad Heart

Monday – Wake-up Time
Tuesday – Airtime
Wednesday – Mealtime
Thursday – Moontime
Today - A Moment in Time



A Moment in Time

Opening Thoughts

When I was 9 years old I loved the New York Yankees. Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris were my heroes. I loved everything about baseball, but was at that age where I hadn’t actually played it much. I heard about the little league and talked my Mom into taking me to tryouts.

I was so excited, but at the same time had never actually played. At the tryouts, I had no idea what I was doing, but had watched others and had swung a bat my grandfather had given me. Well, you won’t believe this but I was awesome. I connected with each swing of the bat.

Well, that all ended soon when I went to practice and they taught us how to play. With all the instruction and criticism I became a lousy hitter.

I could tell you other stories like this one. As soon as we become self conscious, the magical thread that connects us is broken and we are no longer one. With the loss of selflessness comes a loss of our true nature. This has nothing to do with becoming selfish, everything to do with a loss of oneness. Not in some sort of paradox, but in a loss of unity.

All the great athletes forget everything that they have learned and just do whatever it is that they do. There is no thinking. This is being in the moment, being in the now, or simply being time. If we can stay in the present moment, if we can actually be time, we exist in the absolute truth of the universe. There is no separation, no gap in linkage. We can be perfect in our living of life, connected to our true nature.

Acts of Contemplation
Act 1 – We will focus in on trying to be mindful in the present moment. We are trying to experience the pivot of time, how each moment is change, and that if we can fall into the moment, we will forget ourselves. If successful we achieve selflessness so that we can achieve mindfulness.

So, this year during the warmer weather, go outside and try to catch a butterfly without a net. As you perform this task, focus in on being in each moment of time and change as you chase the butterfly. It should feel like you are in a movie as each snapshot of time is taken.

Did you feel each moment as it came and went? Did you perceive time and change in unity? Did you forget about yourself and achieve mindfulness? Write down any important thoughts in your journal.

Act 2 – Repeat Act 1 with an outdoor gardening task. These tasks could be dividing bulbs, repotting an indoor plant, or planting some annuals outdoors. Remember, we will focus in on trying to be mindful in the present moment. We are trying to experience the pivot of time, how each moment is change, and that if we can fall into the moment, we will forget ourselves. If successful we achieve selflessness so that we can achieve mindfulness.

Did you feel each moment as it came and went? Did you perceive time and change in unity? Did you forget about yourself and achieve mindfulness? Write down any important thoughts in your journal.

Act 3 – Repeat Act 1 with the preparation of your favorite meal. The work may include planning the ingredients, food shopping, then preparing, and eating the meal. Remember, we will focus in on trying to be mindful in the present moment. We are trying to experience the pivot of time, how each moment is change, and that if we can fall into the moment, we will forget ourselves. If successful we achieve selflessness so that we can achieve mindfulness.

Did you feel each moment as it came and went? Did you perceive time and change in unity? Did you forget about yourself and achieve mindfulness? Write down any important thoughts in your journal.

Act 4 – Repeat Act 1 by cleaning your car. The work will include wetting, washing, rinsing, drying and waxing the car. Remember, we will focus in on trying to be mindful in the present moment. We are trying to experience the pivot of time, how each moment is change, and that if we can fall into the moment, we will forget ourselves. If successful we achieve selflessness so that we can achieve mindfulness.

Did you feel each moment as it came and went? Did you perceive time and change in unity? Did you forget about yourself and achieve mindfulness? Write down any important thoughts in your journal.

Act 5 – Repeat Act 1 by building something; a patio, brick wall, garden shed or some other physical structure that you can see. It could be a garden trellis or piece of furniture, like a garden bench or work table. The work will include planning the project, buying the materials, building the product and then using it for its intended purpose.

Remember, we will focus in on trying to be mindful in the present moment. We are trying to experience the pivot of time, how each moment is change, and that if we can fall into the moment, we will forget ourselves. If successful we achieve selflessness so that we can achieve mindfulness.

Did you feel each moment as it came and went? Did you perceive time and change in unity? Did you forget about yourself and achieve mindfulness? Write down any important thoughts in your journal.

Act 6 – Repeat Act 1 by taking a warm bath after a hard physical days work. If available use a sudsy bath gel, open the window to let in the sounds of the world around you and have an appropriate cool drink. After taking some time to orient yourself, relax and hum a favorite tune to yourself. Feel the vibration of your voice throughout your body. Empty your mind of all the days’ business and relax.

Remember, we will focus in on trying to be mindful in the present moment. We are trying to experience the pivot of time, how each moment is change, and that if we can fall into the moment, we will forget ourselves. If successful we achieve selflessness so that we can achieve mindfulness.

Did you feel each moment as it came and went? Did you perceive time and change in unity? Did you forget about yourself and achieve mindfulness? Write down any important thoughts in your journal.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Moontime


This week’s blog will focus on some of my favorite exercises from the second section of my book “The Songbird In My Heart.” These exercises are called “Acts of Contemplation, Freedom for a Glad Heart” and are designed to put you in touch with your deeper self. Each day a corresponding prayer from the book will also be posted to Facebook.

The inspiration for these exercises came from two unlikely sources. The first are the beautiful books from Thomas Merton and his editors A Book of Hours, Seeds of Contemplation, and New Seeds of Contemplation. The second is the red Fieldbook by Peter Senge to his best selling business book The Fifth Discipline. While this part of the book bears little resemblance to these great books, they did serve as inspiration.

Please take some time and try them out! If you like, let me know how it goes. Best of luck. Mark

Acts of Contemplation, Freedom for a Glad Heart

Monday – Wake-up Time
Tuesday – Airtime
Wednesday – Mealtime
Today – Moontime
Friday - A Moment in Time


Moontime
Opening Thoughts
Our Moon was birthed from a collision of a Mars-sized planet with Earth about 4 billion years ago. In this act it is the progeny of Earth. The Moon is our planets’ little sister.

The Moon is always facing us with the same geography. As it revolves around the Earth its rotation assures the same view to us. In this way it is apparently worshipping Earth.

As little children we are fascinated by the Moon and its possibilities. As we grow older we learn of its influence on the tidal nature of all the bodies of water on Earth. There are those that believe it also affects plants and animal moods and behaviors.

Acts of Contemplation
Act 1 – On several successive nights at the Full Moon (consult a calendar or Almanac) go outdoors and observe the Moon. Appreciate its size, luminosity, and symbolism. Take ten minutes or so each time. Empty the mind and put aside today’s issues. Wait for the next thought to come. Patiently wait for the next thought. And then, translate the thoughts that arise from the emptiness. Write them down.

Act 2 – Repeat Act 1 for the New Moon. The New Moon occurs when the Moon is between the Earth and the Sun.

Act 3 – Repeat Act 1 for the Waxing and Waning Moons. The Waxing and Waning Moons are Quarter Moons; the Waxing Moon precedes the Full Moon with the outer curve to the right, the Waning Moon follows the Full Moon with the outer curve to the left.

Act 4 – Consult your almanac and determine the dates for the Apogee and Perigee. The Apogee is when the earth is furthest from the Moon and the Perigee when they are closest. The Moon will appear significantly larger during Perigee. These will be separated by six months. Reserve these dates and observe the Moon over several successive days. Take ten minutes or so each time. Empty the mind and put aside today’s issues. Wait for the next thought to come. Patiently wait for the next thought. And then, translate the thoughts that arise from the emptiness. Write them down.

Act 5 – Review your notes and consider making some part of these Acts a semiannual contemplative practice. Consider adding the stars and constellations to your repertoire.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Mealtime


This week’s blog will focus on some of my favorite exercises from the second section of my book “The Songbird In My Heart.” These exercises are called “Acts of Contemplation, Freedom for a Glad Heart” and are designed to put you in touch with your deeper self. Each day a corresponding prayer from the book will also be posted to Facebook.

The inspiration for these exercises came from two unlikely sources. The first are the beautiful books from Thomas Merton and his editors A Book of Hours, Seeds of Contemplation, and New Seeds of Contemplation. The second is the red Fieldbook by Peter Senge to his best selling business book The Fifth Discipline. While this part of the book bears little resemblance to these great books, they did serve as inspiration.

Please take some time and try them out! If you like, let me know how it goes. Best of luck. Mark

Acts of Contemplation, Freedom for a Glad Heart

Monday – Wake-up Time
Tuesday – Airtime
Today – Mealtime
Thursday – Moontime
Friday - A Moment in Time


Mealtime
Opening Thoughts
Besides the air that we breathe, the food and fluids that we eat and drink are our most important contributions to good health. Before going into that, let me say that we have become so separated from the reality of our food that we have forgotten that everything we eat has given its’ life for us. We should never forget to give thanks and feel deep appreciation. Always remember, life lives on life.

There is the old saying “you are what you eat”. I don’t like to lecture others on this but here are a few simple points. Our digestive system is long like a vegetarian, not short like a carnivore. Our teeth are consistent with eating fruits and vegetables not meat. Having said that, eat whatever you decide to, it is your choice. I personally grow my own fruits and vegetables, plus try to practice balance and moderation.

Acts of Contemplation
Act 1 – Plan and prepare your favorite meal. In the planning and preparation be mindful. Stay in each moment of the tasks involved. Enjoy the smells and tastes along the way. Write a prayer of thankfulness in the downtime of the final preparation. Give thanks. Eat in each moment. Savor your food. If appropriate have a nice glass of wine. Relax and enjoy. Take a nap afterward.

Act 2 – Try juicing a fruits and vegetables meal. Gain access to a juicer. Maybe you have a friend who has a juicer that you can do this with. Pick out organic raw materials that you think will go well together. As you clean and prepare the fruits and vegetables for juicing, be mindful. Take in the smells and flavors of each fruit and vegetable as you go. Write a prayer of thankfulness ahead of time. Give thanks as you take your first sips. It is best to sip this slowly over time. Relax and enjoy.

Act 3 – Plan and prepare an all vegetarian meal. In the planning and preparation be mindful. Stay in each moment of the tasks involved. Enjoy the smells and tastes along the way. Write a prayer of thankfulness in the downtime of the final preparation. Give thanks. Eat in each moment. Savor your food. If appropriate have a nice glass of wine. Relax and enjoy. Take a nap afterward.

Act 4 – Consider taking anything you learned and make this a part of your daily routine.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Airtime


This week’s blog will focus on some of my favorite exercises from the second section of my book “The Songbird In My Heart.” These exercises are called “Acts of Contemplation, Freedom for a Glad Heart” and are designed to put you in touch with your deeper self. Each day a corresponding prayer from the book will also be posted to Facebook.

The inspiration for these exercises came from two unlikely sources. The first are the beautiful books from Thomas Merton and his editors A Book of Hours, Seeds of Contemplation, and New Seeds of Contemplation. The second is the red Fieldbook by Peter Senge to his best selling business book The Fifth Discipline. While this part of the book bears little resemblance to these great books, they did serve as inspiration.

Please take some time and try them out! If you like, let me know how it goes. Best of luck. Mark

Acts of Contemplation, Freedom for a Glad Heart

Monday – Wake-up Time
Today – Airtime
Wednesday – Mealtime
Thursday – Moontime
Friday - A Moment in Time


Airtime

Opening Thoughts
There is nothing more influential to your healthfulness and peace of mind than your breathing. Your body and all of its complex processes are dependent on a reliable oxygen and carbon dioxide transport. Your breathing connects your body to your mind and in so doing offers a useful entry point into your consciousness.

Acts of Contemplation
Act 1- Try this breathing exercise:
• Let in the fresh air and sounds of nature
• Relax in a comfortable chair.
• Breathe in slowly to 60% of lung capacity over a count of 5.
• Let the breath out slowly, over a count of 5.
• Repeat this process ten more times.
• As you repeat, begin to notice your heartbeat (probably in the neck).
• Feel your heartbeat radiate out to the rest of your body.
• Now, notice the pleasant feeling in your body (probably in the belly). Let that feeling radiate out to your entire body.
• As you breathe feel the presence of your body and a deep peacefulness.
• Write down anything you feel is important in a journal.

Act 2 - Try this breathing exercise:
• Let in the fresh air and sounds of nature
• Relax in a comfortable chair.
• Breathe in slowly to 60% of lung capacity over a count of 5.
• Let the breath out slowly, over a count of 5.
• Repeat this process ten more times. As you repeat,
o Imagine the breath entering slowly through the toes up the spinal cord into your forehead
o Imagine the breath exiting slowly from your forehead down your spinal cord out your toes.
• Feel the aliveness and presence of your body.
• Write down anything you feel is important in a journal.

Act 3 - Try Act 2 standing with the legs spread shoulders width apart. Imagine drawing the air from the earth below through the soles of your feet, up your spine, through the top of your head into the sky above. As you release your breath, imagine drawing the air from the sky above through the top of your head down your spine and into the earth below.

Act 4 - Try this breathing exercise.
• Let in the fresh air and sounds of nature
• Relax in a comfortable chair.
• Breathe in slowly to 60% of lung capacity over a count of 5.
• Let the breath out slowly, over a count of 5.
• Repeat this process ten more times. As you repeat,
o Imagine the breath entering slowly through every pore in your skin into the center point of your body
o Imagine the breath exiting slowly from the center point of your body out every pore of your skin.
• Feel the aliveness and presence of your body.
• Write down anything you feel is important in a journal.

Act 5 - Try Act 4 standing with the legs spread shoulders width apart.

Act 6 – Review and consolidate your notes for future reference.

Wake-up Time

This week’s blog will focus on some of my favorite exercises from the second section of my book “The Songbird In My Heart.” These exercises are called “Acts of Contemplation, Freedom for a Glad Heart” and are designed to put you in touch with your deeper self. Each day a corresponding prayer from the book will also be posted to Facebook.

The inspiration for these exercises came from two unlikely sources. The first are the beautiful books from Thomas Merton and his editors A Book of Hours, Seeds of Contemplation, and New Seeds of Contemplation. The second is the red Fieldbook by Peter Senge to his best selling business book The Fifth Discipline. While this part of the book bears little resemblance to these great books, they did serve as inspiration.

Please take some time and try them out! If you like, let me know how it goes. Best of luck. Mark

Acts of Contemplation, Freedom for a Glad Heart

Today – Wake-up Time
Tuesday – Airtime
Wednesday – Mealtime
Thursday – Moontime
Friday - A Moment in Time



Wake-up time
Opening Thoughts
Waking up from a good nights sleep is a special time of each day. My two dogs and I wake up every morning when the sun comes up to a routine of yawning, tousled hair and gentle head rubs. I usually get a few cheek licks as a final wakeup before we go out to do our business.

The experts say that there are few things more important than a good nights sleep. Finishing that off with a good wake up is delicious chocolate dessert after a great meal.

Acts of Contemplation
Act 1 – Option 1 – Keep a pad of paper and pen close to the bedside. Pick a morning that you can waken on your own without an alarm clock. As you wake try to remember any dreams you might have had. Write them down. This may take a while but eventually one will come and you will remember. Keep this for further review.

Act 1 – Option 2 – Keep a pad of paper and pen close to the bedside. Pick a morning that you can waken on your own without an alarm clock. As you wake, stay in quiet stillness. Be aware of your surroundings but don’t sit up yet. Let your mind wander. Just let it go, and run with it. After your mind settles, write down what happened. Keep this for further review.

Act 2 – Repeat Act 1, but pick a subject for your dream before you go to sleep. Write it down ahead of sleeping. When you wake, after your mind settles, write down what happened. Compare this to the subject you selected. Keep this for further review.

Act 3 – Review your notes from Act 1 and 2. Consider future topics for your dreams or daydreams. Consider making this a regular part of your routine, to consciously dream.

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Red Book – Review of “Scrutinies,” Great Blue Heron Crane, and Belted Kingfisher

This concludes this week’s series of discussions of C. G. Jung’s The Red Book, and completes the birds of prey nature series I have observed here on Turk’s Mountain.

The Red Book – Review of “Scrutinies”
I have now completed my first review of The Red Book, concluding this series with the final section “Scrutinies”. I mention here for completeness that the editor utilizes many footnotes to help explain certain references and other events going on at the time in Jung’s life.

In “Scrutinies”, Jung confronts his new found soul, “his I, his nothingness”. An extensive conversation including biblical characters and his “shadow” is provided. Who is it that actually confronts his soul – this fast talking voice is Jung’s ego (in my opinion). Perhaps this is meant as a metaphorical prop; however there is no evidence of this. It would seem that his ego found the soul, but has no intention of turning any control over to this voiceless spirit.

I am surprised by the level of biblical references found in the book. I had always thought that Jung was more spiritually-focused outside of religion. But unless there is some hidden sarcastic methodology at work here (I see no evidence of this) Jung seems deeply rooted in biblical tradition. In fact it would appear he is trying to utilize it to his own purpose.

It is unclear to me why this work would be considered to be an awakening, or spiritual finding. It would seem that Jung has clearly found his egoic mind, and is quite captivated by it. Perhaps, to the psychology student, this may explain some new basis of Jung’s theories and methods. But to the spiritual seeker, it is more of a cautionary tale of someone in search of his soul choosing to stay in the false clothing of his egoic mind.

Although he speaks of peacefulness, Jung continues to speak in the tortured voice of someone still lost within himself. I see no evidence of what we might expect – joy, happiness, grace, or peace. He seems still rooted in his egoic mind world of words, words and more words.

While I still feel that this is a masterpiece of its time, this work is deeply disturbing to me and with no happy ending in the rear-view mirror, I feel exhausted or even used up by the effort of completing this book. I will now put it aside and decide whether to reread it in a few months to try to gain a better perspective.

Today’s Nature topic
And, now on to today’s nature topic - the birds of prey, a reminder to us that life lives off of life. Each of these creatures have informed me and made my life fuller. I salute each of them and show my deep respect with this small recognition.

Monday – American Kestrel (Sparrow Hawk)
Tuesday - Red-Tailed Hawk
Wednesday - Osprey (Fish Hawk)
Thursday - Eastern Screech Owl
Today - Great Blue Heron Crane and Belted Kingfisher

Great Blue Heron Crane
A symbol of peacefulness, patience and good fortune, this long legged, ungainly bird is actually regal in its flight. As it flies high in search of its next fishing area, it captivates the imagination as something prehistoric. In fact, the entire bird category is the closest surviving relative of the dinosaur.

There is nothing more stunning than to see a heron slowly wade through the water patiently looking for its next meal. As it catches a small fish and then tilts its head back on its long throat, we see a masterful hunter at work. At our pond herons would appear every day.

I have never seen a heron rook (communal nesting area), as the heron is particularly shy. I have heard stories of these secluded communal areas where the young herons are raised together at the same location for hundreds of years. These are very special places that deserve careful consideration for maintaining their privacy.

When I used to actively farm in southeast Pennsylvania, the common egret (the heron’s smaller, not-shy cousin) would appear in the dozens at hay cutting time. They would follow me grabbing large insects, mice and snakes. Typically, it was quite a feast to witness.

Belted Kingfisher
This blue-grey, expert fishing bird (11”) with the distinctive crested top, can be found up and down the larger streams around here. I tend to see them at the same places, as if they have favorite perches. They will hover over a stream and then dive straight down to catch their meal of small fish, frogs, salamanders and crawfish. Although I have never seen their nest, it consists of a long tunnel (up to 8 feet) dug in a sand or gravel stream bank.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Red Book – Review of Liber Secundus and

Each day this week I will discuss topics from C. G. Jung’s The Red Book, along with my perspective and then continue the nature series with individual birds of prey that I have observed here on Turk’s Mountain.

The Red Book – Review of Liber Secundus including my perspective
In this second section of the English translation of The Red Book, there are 21 short chapters with a brief prologue. Jung continues his dream/vision interpretations starting with “The Red One” which revolves around his personal devil. This is a vivid and highly detailed description and conversation containing an abundance of adjectives, adverbs and other descriptors. It seems that he uses the opportunity to make a point, although I am not sure I understand what that might be.

As he continues, each dream/vision seems very personal and specific to something of great meaning to Jung. Although they carry broader themes, it is hard to detect a broader message to mankind. Due to their highly detailed nature, one must consider these:

1. Did he embellish the dreams upon waking in order to make some additional point?
2. Were these more daydreams than night dreams, involving his thinking mind?
3. Were these efforts a purposeful vision-quest involving something like fasting?
4. Did Jung suffer from some chemical imbalance?
5. Was Jung experimenting with hallucinogenic drugs?


It occurs to this reader that these are not entirely dreams, but are augmented in some way, perhaps involve his thinking mind. I am guessing that he is trying to intellectualize his own personal pain and suffering of generational angst through dream interpretation. In my opinion, he is searching for spiritual answers in the world of illusion and false reality. Instead of looking into his mind of emptiness, he is looking into his mind of learned religion and societal tradition.

If that is not the case, then I have to conclude that he was either fasting, suffering from a chemical imbalance or was experimenting with hallucinogenic drugs. His musings remind me of discussions that I have had with people who have experimented with LSD or peyote. I am not saying that is the case here.

For this reader, interest quickly wanes, as this is difficult reading. Jung seems to believe that rooting his musings on religious and societal traditions makes it all the more real. There is a section of “Incantations” using religious language as well as a set of “Prophecies”. You can only surmise this work somehow solved some underlying tension in Jung. How any of this may have helped him is a mystery. To this reader it is more like the party guest who repeatedly tells stories with no ending.

As someone who has found grace and serenity within the emptiness of original spirit, I do not see how Jung’s approach will lead anywhere. He is attempting to rationalize illusion to find truth. I am not sure that this will result in his goal of resurrecting his soul. Perhaps it could make him more capable of practicing psychiatry, or operate within his religious or societal circles. But it is hard for this reader to imagine how he could have achieved any level of spirituality from this work. I will read on and report tomorrow on his next section “Scrutinies”.


Some notable quotes:“My gaze wanders widely over solitary countryside, a combination of fields and forests. I am wearing a green garment. A brown horn hangs from my shoulder.”

“But I spoke to my serpent. “In truth, my serpent, I didn’t know that you are also a teller of fairy tales. So tell me, how should I interpret your fairy tales.”

An argument then ensues between Jung and the serpent:
“Let everything grow, let everything sprout, the sun grows out of himself.”

Tomorrow – Review of “Scrutinies”

Today’s Nature topic
And, now on to today’s nature topic - the birds of prey, a reminder to us that life lives off of life. Each of these creatures have informed me and made my life fuller. I salute each of them and show my deep respect with this small recognition.

Monday – American Kestrel (Sparrow Hawk)
Tuesday - Red-Tailed Hawk
Wednesday - Osprey (Fish Hawk)
Today - Eastern Screech Owl
Friday - Great Blue Heron Crane and Belted Kingfisher

Eastern Screech Owl
The notes of this little fellow (10”) are heard at great distance particularly because they occur at night in the late winter when things are otherwise quiet. This is their time of courting. It is a crisp whoooo. I absolutely love to call back and set off a whole chorus of answering sounds.

A few years ago, late on a warming March day, I was taking a rest from some work I was doing on the first ridge. I was looking into the distance and noticed some movement on a dead maple tree that had broken about half way up. I picked up my binoculars and saw this magnificent bird looking back at me. I will never forget this sight.

Here in Virginia we have an extraordinary number of field mice measured in numbers per 100 square feet by the state’s Natural Resource Department. The Screech Owl is an important part of the nocturnal balance of field mouse ecology.

According to Dancing Otters and Clever Coyotes by Gary Buffalo Horn Man and Sherry Firedancer, the Owl, also known as the Night Eagle serves as “messenger and guide from the shadowy realms of darkness.” With the Owl’s extraordinary sight and hearing it serves as a “harbinger of change”. This is from their intriguing and colorful book that has been reviewed with my own.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Red Book – Review of Liber Primus, and Osprey (Fish Hawk)

Each day this week I will discuss topics from C. G. Jung’s The Red Book, along with my perspective and then continue the nature series with individual birds of prey that I have observed here on Turk’s Mountain.

The Red Book – Review of Liber Primus
In this first section of The Red Book, there are eleven short chapters with a brief prologue. Jung shares his internal conversations and struggle for his soul. He recognizes that the search is within. His places great importance on his dreams as he vision-quests in a dream of the desert to leave behind desire, descends into hell to slay his demons, and finally returns to resurrect his soul.

His words are of his contemporary world, religion and gestalt of the turn of the last century. He speaks in the language of the Bible, attempting to resolve mythology with biblical references. He seems to want to rebuild all of his prior misconceptions into a new understanding within the same framework of the Bible. He has conversations with Biblical characters in order to resolve continuing issues.

Some notable quotes:
“My path is not your path, therefore I cannot teach you.”

“The way is within us, but not in Gods, nor in teachings, nor in laws. Within us is the way, the truth, and the life.”

“But my soul answered, “You are pleasure-seeking. Have you forgotten why you went to the desert?”

“The soul said “How, tell me, do you then believe that your thoughts should help you?”

“The cleverer you are, the more foolish your single-mindedness.”

“Fear is your herald, doubt stands to your right, disappointment to your left.”

“Our eyes were blinded and our knowledge fell silent when we received your radiance.”

“But still he is a victim of his knowledge.”

“…mercy is given only to these who believe in the highest and fruitlessly betray themselves for thirty pieces of silver.”

My Perspective
With the deepest respect, I think that only Jung truly knows what has led him to these musings. They are based on a lifetime of experience, the defining moments and deeply-rooted meaning in his mind.

At times, Jung feels that he faces certain madness, particularly as he interprets his own paintings of the dreams. I detect real honesty and innocence in his manic reflections, albeit in a pitiful and self-deprecating manner. It is very tiring to read this as witness to his pain and suffering. It would seem to this observer that most of his struggle has been brought on by his religious and societal upbringing.

While his objective is to resurrect his soul, he attempts that within the context of his religious and biblical beliefs. In this way, he has not apparently transcended his world view, but has just reshuffled it. So it is unclear to me whether he sees his struggle metaphorically or from this more concrete perspective. Of course I am not yet finished, so we will see.

Tomorrow – Review of Liber Secondus


Today’s Nature topic

And, now on to today’s nature topic - the birds of prey, a reminder to us that life lives off of life. Each of these creatures have informed me and made my life fuller. I salute each of them and show my deep respect with this small recognition.

Monday – American Kestrel (Sparrow Hawk)
Tuesday - Red-Tailed Hawk
Today - Osprey (Fish Hawk)
Thursday - Eastern Screech Owl
Friday - Great Blue Heron Crane and Belted Kingfisher

Osprey (Fish Hawk)

The Osprey or Fish Hawk is a common sight in the area of the Chesapeake Bay. Several years ago, I lived about a mile from the Bay on a small horse farm with a 3 acre pond. The Osprey would visit and fish there. What a sight!

An Osprey would appear just above the tree tops flapping slowly, gradually circle the pond and then dive into the water head first. In the dive into the water this large bird (little smaller than the red-tailed hawk - 22”) disappears for a few moments. More often than not they’d exit the water with a small fish in their talons, only to slowly flap away back to their nest, dinner in hand. It all happens so quickly, you could easily miss the brief experience.

The Osprey competes with the Bald Eagle in the Chesapeake watershed, and like the Bald Eagle was threatened back in the 1960’s by the use of pesticides. In my experience, and anybody who sails or boats on the Chesapeake, this majestic bird has made a great comeback and their large nests can be seen at every port of call, on the marker buoys and posts.

The Red Book – The Intoxication with Myth, and the Red Tailed Hawk

Each day this week I will discuss topics from C. G. Jung’s The Red Book, along with my perspective and then continue the nature series with individual birds of prey that I have observed here on Turk’s Mountain.

The Red Book – The Intoxication with Myth
Jung had a deep fascination with mythology, its interpretation and meaning. He was influenced by Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra and Dante’s Commedia. This was during a time when the world was interested in both comparative religion and the psychological basis of symbolism. Jung was focused on answering “what is the myth you are living?”

Jung began interpreting his and other’s dreams. There are a number of dreams presented concerning his relationship with other people including Freud and prophecies about the apocalypse, which were a common discussion topic during this time period. He began trying “to get to know my myth” only to find “I was not living with a myth”. He was interested in the myth of the hero which was to “free himself from the mother” and then the incest myth as the “attempt to return to the mother to be reborn”.

While his intentions were/are unclear, this now completed work is derived from several of Jung’s finished and unfinished works. There is evidence that at some point Jung did intend to publish the work. However, due to its intensely personal nature, it is also possible that he did not intend for it to be published. This only adds to its mystique.

My Perspective
This work is a deeply personal journey to find true nature. It is written in another time and perspective of the world and society. It is so deeply personal, I am not sure it is for anybody other than the dedicated student of Jung or spirituality. I feel almost a voyeur in reading it.

Although it is early in my review, this book may reveal several lessons to us – 1.) Perhaps society has advanced, to no longer create this level of pain and suffering, 2.) Perhaps religion has evolved from shame and guilt to become more of a path to the spiritual life, or 3.) Perhaps Jung’s choice of profession indicates a felt need to understand his own unique problems. I will read on and report more tomorrow.

Tomorrow – Review of Liber Primus

Today’s Nature topic
And, now on to today’s nature topic - the birds of prey, a reminder to us that life lives off of life. Each of these creatures have informed me and made my life fuller. I salute each of them and show my deep respect with this small recognition.

Monday – American Kestrel (Sparrow Hawk)
Today - Red-Tailed Hawk
Wednesday - Osprey (Fish Hawk)
Thursday - Eastern Screech Owl
Friday - Great Blue Heron Crane and Belted Kingfisher

Red-Tailed Hawk

The Red-tailed Hawk is a familiar resident around my area. They are a very large bird – I have seen one that is more than 2 feet long. I called Roxy (one of my Jack Russell’s) in the other day when there was one dropping in a slow circle not more than 50 feet away. My brother’s neighbor lost a Chihuahua to a hawk a few years ago.

There are several active pairs I have witnessed raising and training their young. My impression was that after the courtship and nest building there was only one parent raising the young. Farmers with free-range chickens must be vigilant as the Red-tailed Hawk has been known to carry off a full grown chicken. I have a fenced ceiling in my chicken run, and in spite of their relative safety, hear the chickens scream when ever the hawks visit nearby.

Its flight is performed at a great height, sailing across a wide berth. A few days ago I saw three hawks chasing each other, rising very high into the sky then diving at each other. It is more common to see a mockingbird or crow chasing a hawk away as they seem to be able to turn and dodge faster than the larger bird. Their flight can be accompanied by a prolonged mournful cry, which sounds like kkkkaaaaeeeerrrr.

According to Dancing Otters and Clever Coyotes by Gary Buffalo Horn Man and Sherry Firedancer, the Red-tailed Hawk has a special connection with the Sun. If we see a Red-tailed Hawk circling over us it symbolizes the need to “embrace the power of our inner fire”. This is from their intriguing and colorful book that has been reviewed with my own.

Monday, December 7, 2009

The Red Book and The American Kestrel

Each day this week I will discuss topics from C. G. Jung’s The Red Book, along with my perspective and then continue the nature series with individual birds of prey that I have observed here on Turk’s Mountain.

The Red Book
The Red Book was written during a period of Jung’s “self-experiment” from 1913 to 1930 (from age 38 to 55). This was his “metanoia”; his new focus on mythology, folklore and religion, during a period where there was a cultural shift and broad interest in comparative religion. It is written in a formal, highly stylized, religious script and contains many paintings by Jung depicting his dreams and visions. There are many religious references and biblical quotations. While the meaning of the words is timeless, the style and tone is of an earlier time.

In the first part of the book is a color copy of the original in German. The second part contains commentary on Jung’s life and the English translation. Jung puts forward his personal spiritual journey to reclaim his soul by looking deeply within himself and developing a new view on both theology and psychology. In his words, he had been “living in an insane asylum of my own making”.

In viewing his paintings, we see at first, someone who is terribly troubled, maybe even tortured by his past. I would suggest he is bravely facing and interpreting his own personal demons in order to find inner truth and peace.


Here is an example from the book.

Jung had been walking down a street to see the sun shine off the new roof of a cathedral. At that moment he had a “terrible sinful thought” which he tried to ignore. He agonized for several days, until finally convincing himself that it was God himself who wanted him to think this thought much like the biblical example of Adam and Eve and the apple.

At that moment, he saw God “unleash an almighty turd” on the cathedral’s roof crushing the new roof and cathedral. Jung interpreted this as a “direct experience from the living God – standing omnipotent and free above the Bible and Church.”

My Perspective
Some of my friends have suggested I should peel back the curtain on my own experience. So here goes.

Everyday moment, I live in a peace that passes all understanding. It is a world without words. It is a world of beauty and joy, acceptance and surrender. It is not a passive world, but is without judgment or very much thinking at all. In order to write these words, I must step back into the skin of who I used to be.

I am only in the beginning of my review of the Red Book, so I don’t yet have a complete perspective. But this is what I see so far. I see an extraordinary man who had the courage to face his demons, because somewhere down deep, he knew that this was not who he really was. He knew that he was a victim of the socialization and indoctrination of his time.

Tomorrow – Jung’s “Intoxication with Myth”

Today’s Nature topic
And, now on to today’s nature topic - the birds of prey. These majestic birds are a constant reminder that life lives off of life. Each of them have informed me and made my life fuller. I salute each of them and show my deep respect with this small recognition.

Today – American Kestrel (Sparrow Hawk)
Tuesday - Red-Tailed Hawk
Wednesday - Osprey (Fish Hawk)
Thursday - Eastern Screech Owl
Friday - Great Blue Heron and Belted Kingfisher

American Kestrel (Sparrow Hawk)
I first heard about the Kestrel when I started building bird houses a few years ago. The plans for my screech owl box also accommodate the American Kestrel. I saw my first one several months later. It is a very colorful bird in a very compact package, 9-12”. As soon as I saw him, I knew what he was; it was only later that I looked him up in my Audubon book and confirmed the sighting. I now see them several times a summer. On my place they stay to the lower, wooded creek areas.

A hunter of small birds and mammals, these diminutive hawks fly low along the ground, unlike their soaring, larger cousin, the red-tailed hawk. The kestrel stands proudly erect on a point of observation waiting patiently for the scene to unfold. It will then fly low; darting left and right until it secures its prey in its talons, returning to its stand to devour its prey. It’s hard to believe that it took me 50 years to see my first one, while they have been near me all along.

Friday, December 4, 2009

The Universe in Time

This week’s blog will focus on some of my favorite exercises from the second section of my book “The Songbird In My Heart.” These exercises are called “Acts of Contemplation, Freedom for a Glad Heart” and are designed to put you in touch with your deeper self. Each day a corresponding prayer from the book will also be posted to Facebook.

The inspiration for these exercises came from two unlikely sources. The first are the beautiful books from Thomas Merton and his editors A Book of Hours, Seeds of Contemplation, and New Seeds of Contemplation. The second is the red Fieldbook by Peter Senge to his best selling business book The Fifth Discipline. While this part of the book bears little resemblance to these great books, they did serve as inspiration.

Please take some time and try them out! If you like, let me know how it goes. Best of luck. Mark

Acts of Contemplation, Freedom for a Glad Heart

Monday – Walking In Quiet Stillness
Tuesday – The Blue Skies Shine
Wednesday – Naturetime
Thursday – Mindtime
Today - The Universe in Time


The Universe in Time



Opening Thoughts
In each moment, time, space and matter come together to create our lives. As each moment pivots into the next, the magical mystery of the universe makes the change in matter and space that we witness.

Better understanding the vastness of the universe in terms of time, space, and matter gives us the humility we need to live in peace and grace. It also delivers the magic and mystery to always keep life interesting.

Acts of Contemplation
Act 1 – Time – Scientists believe that the universe is twelve billion years old. Our solar system is believed to have coalesced about 5 billion years ago. The Moon was probably formed from a Mars sized planet colliding with the Earth about 4 billion years ago. Life on Earth is probably 3.5 billion years old, man-like creatures 2.5 million years old and homo sapiens two hundred thousand years old.

Ponder this scale of time in its relation to your life. Take ten minutes or so. Empty the mind and put aside today’s issues. Wait for the next thought to come. Patiently wait for the next thought. And then, translate the thoughts that arise from the emptiness. Write them down in a journal.

Act 2 – Matter – There are believed to be 100 billion galaxies like our own. Each contains 100 billion stars. That is 10 billion trillion stars in all.

Ponder the number of stars in the universe in relation to your life here on Earth in the Milky Way galaxy. Take ten minutes or so. Empty the mind and put aside today’s issues. Wait for the next thought to come. Patiently wait for the next thought. And then, translate the thoughts that arise from the emptiness. Write them down in a journal.

Act 3 – Space/Distance - Our galaxy, solar system, Earth, and human body are mostly space. While our body has more atoms than there are stars in the universe, the space between is proportionately similar.

Contemplate space and its meaning to you. Take ten minutes or so. Empty the mind and put aside today’s issues. Wait for the next thought to come. Patiently wait for the next thought. And then, translate the thoughts that arise from the emptiness. Write them down in a journal.

Act 4 – Power - The unimaginable power of the black holes, quasars, blazars, and galaxy mergers is only exceeded by the big bang itself. If the Earth is not consumed by its own Sun in 5 billion years it will either be irradiated by a quasar, gulped down by a black hole, lost in an upcoming galaxy merger with Andromeda, or boiled off by the Sun as it evolves.

Ponder the violence of the universe in relation to your life. Take ten minutes or so. Empty the mind and put aside today’s issues. Wait for the next thought to come. Patiently wait for the next thought. And then, translate the thoughts that arise from the emptiness. Write them down in a journal.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Mindtime

This week’s blog will focus on some of my favorite exercises from the second section of my book “The Songbird In My Heart.” These exercises are called “Acts of Contemplation, Freedom for a Glad Heart” and are designed to put you in touch with your deeper self. Each day a corresponding prayer from the book will also be posted to Facebook.

The inspiration for these exercises came from two unlikely sources. The first are the beautiful books from Thomas Merton and his editors A Book of Hours, Seeds of Contemplation, and New Seeds of Contemplation. The second is the red Fieldbook by Peter Senge to his best selling business book The Fifth Discipline. While this part of the book bears little resemblance to these great books, they did serve as inspiration.

Please take some time and try them out! If you like, let me know how it goes. Best of luck. Mark

Acts of Contemplation, Freedom for a Glad Heart

Monday – Walking In Quiet Stillness
Tuesday – The Blue Skies Shine
Wednesday – Naturetime
Today – Mindtime
Friday - The Universe in Time


Mindtime


Opening Thoughts
We have lived most of our lives in the racing, random thoughts of our egoic mind. How do we find the deep peacefulness of the original mind of our birth? Well, with practice of course!

Acts of Contemplation
Act 1- Poetry Exercise – first attempt - Sit down with a pen and empty sheet of paper. Breathe slowly as you clear your mind of its racing thoughts. Focus in on the next thought that comes into your mind. Patiently sit there, focus and wait for the next thought. You will find that no thoughts will come.

You will be witnessing the interplay between your original mind and egoic mind. You have given control over to your original mind, and the illusory, egoic mind is now sitting on the sidelines

After a while, write down what your original mind has to say. Feel the emotions arise out of the emptiness, then translate into words. If you are successful, it is your original mind driving the thoughts, your egoic mind translating into words.

Act 2 – Poetry Exercise – second attempt - Repeat Act 1, but this time, before you begin, identify a subject for the poetry. Write down the topic on the blank sheet of paper. As you proceed, focus your efforts on this specific subject. Do not force the subject, translate and write down whatever arises from the emptiness.

Act 3 – Poetry Exercise – Additional attempts - Keep a blank pad and pen handy. You may feel a need to translate and write down further poetry. Act quickly as these moments may pass, and you probably will not remember the words for long.

Act 4 – Poetry Exercise – Review and Reflection - Collect the body of work over time, reread and reflect on what you have written. Consider sharing it with loved ones. Consider new topics for further poetry. Consider organizing it for your own further review.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Naturetime

This week’s blog will focus on some of my favorite exercises from the second section of my book “The Songbird In My Heart.” These exercises are called “Acts of Contemplation, Freedom for a Glad Heart” and are designed to put you in touch with your deeper self. Each day a corresponding prayer from the book will also be posted to Facebook.

The inspiration for these exercises came from two unlikely sources. The first are the beautiful books from Thomas Merton and his editors A Book of Hours, Seeds of Contemplation, and New Seeds of Contemplation. The second is the red Fieldbook by Peter Senge to his best selling business book The Fifth Discipline. While this part of the book bears little resemblance to these great books, they did serve as inspiration.

Please take some time and try them out! If you like, let me know how it goes. Best of luck. Mark

Acts of Contemplation, Freedom for a Glad Heart

Monday – Walking In Quiet Stillness
Tuesday – The Blue Skies Shine
Today – Naturetime
Thursday – Mindtime
Friday - The Universe in Time



Naturetime



Opening Thoughts
Nature is who we were before we became civilized. That is why we appreciate it so much. It reminds us of who we once were. As we separate ourselves further from it, we forget its best lessons.

In closer proximity, nature’s lessons bring us closer to the reality of life. We have the opportunity to do so as a silent witness. I recommend a digital camera to record the memories.

Acts of Contemplation
Act 1 – Place a birdfeeder within the view of a window where you can observe the birds. Identify the birds that visit. Take notes of the timing of the comings and goings. You will find that the birds come in waves, certain birds arriving with other species, some alone. Appreciate their beauty and aliveness. Take pictures for your friends and family.

I put out seed after the first frost and stop after winter comes to an end, usually November 15 until March 15. I mix my own combination of cracked corn, sunflower seeds and wild bird seed mix. Some areas will need to be careful about attracting bears if you feed too early in the fall or too late in the spring. If the squirrels bother you, put the feeder on a pipe covered with something slippery.

Act 2 – Install a bluebird house facing toward the sun and out of the wind in the late winter. Place it where you have a good sightline. If you like you can check it once a week to monitor progress. Keep notes. I only check mine at the end of the year these days. You may want to find the local bluebird club that monitors bluebird activity.

Act 3 – Place a hummingbird feeder outside of one of your windows in the late spring. Appreciate their unique splendor. Keep notes on your observations. The first ones appear in early April and usually migrate south in late September.

I have six feeders near my house. There are as many as twenty flying nearby at any time. Last year they nested in back of the house along the woods edge. The sugar mix is 1 sugar to 4 water to be changed every 3 to 5 days depending on the heat. These are the most magnificent creatures on earth.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Blue Skies Shine

This week’s blog will focus on some of my favorite exercises from the second section of my book “The Songbird In My Heart.” These exercises are called “Acts of Contemplation, Freedom for a Glad Heart” and are designed to put you in touch with your deeper self. Each day a corresponding prayer from the book will also be posted to Facebook.

The inspiration for these exercises came from two unlikely sources. The first are the beautiful books from Thomas Merton and his editors A Book of Hours, Seeds of Contemplation, and New Seeds of Contemplation. The second is the red Fieldbook by Peter Senge to his best selling business book The Fifth Discipline. While this part of the book bears little resemblance to these great books, they did serve as inspiration.

Please take some time and try them out! If you like, let me know how it goes. Best of luck. Mark

Acts of Contemplation, Freedom for a Glad Heart

Monday – Walking In Quiet Stillness
Today – The Blue Skies Shine
Wednesday – Naturetime
Thursday – Mindtime
Friday - The Universe in Time


The Blue Skies Shine


Opening Thoughts
Is there anything more beautiful or peaceful than the clear blue skies? The blue skies offer hope of a brand new day of opportunity. The energy in this kind of day allows quiet thoughts and contemplation.

Acts of Contemplation
Act 1 – Set up a recording of the song “Blue Skies” (my favorite is Willie Nelson) either with a headphone system or inside on a sound system. Or if you are alone, sing the song yourself out loud. As you listen, look up into the clear blue sky (out a window if you are inside).

Empty your mind and put aside any issues of the day. Let your mind fill with peacefulness and grace. Enjoy the fresh air. Appreciate the beauty and majesty of this perfect day. Let the song run until it is done. Repeat the song if you like.
As the day progresses let your mind return to this special feeling. Write down anything you feel is important in a journal.

Act 2 – Repeat Act 1 with “Somewhere over the Rainbow”

Act 3 – Repeat Act 1 with your favorite song.

Act 4 - Repeat the previous acts without any musical accompaniment, only you and the day, basking in its magnificence.

Act 5 – Review any notes or memories of Acts 1-4. Make this into a routine act of outdoor contemplation.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Walking In Quiet Stillness

This week’s blog will focus on some of my favorite exercises from the second section of my book “The Songbird In My Heart.” These exercises are called “Acts of Contemplation, Freedom for a Glad Heart” and are designed to put you in touch with your deeper self. Each day a corresponding prayer from the book will also be posted to Facebook.

The inspiration for these exercises came from two unlikely sources. The first are the beautiful books from Thomas Merton and his editors A Book of Hours, Seeds of Contemplation, and New Seeds of Contemplation. The second is the red Fieldbook by Peter Senge to his best selling business book The Fifth Discipline. While this part of the book bears little resemblance to these great books, they did serve as inspiration.

Please take some time and try them out! If you like, let me know how it goes. Best of luck. Mark

Acts of Contemplation, Freedom for a Glad Heart

Today – Walking In Quiet Stillness
Tuesday – The Blue Skies Shine
Wednesday – Mindtime
Thursday – Naturetime
Friday - The Universe in Time

Walking in Quiet Stillness



Opening Thoughts
The deepest part of you can be found in the quiet stillness of your inner being. Walking mindfully without purpose, without intent, with an empty mind will lead you to this place. This cannot be achieved by force, only by surrender. Allow your inner self to come forward. Put aside the obstacles of intent, purpose, and the agenda of your racing mind.

Acts of Contemplation
Act 1 – Pick out a safe, quiet route for walking. Put aside the issues of the day. As you walk call on the witness of your inner self to observe the thoughts that come. This is as if there is an observer on your shoulder watching and recording what is happening. When you return from your walk, write down what you experienced.

Act 2 – On this next walk, notice everything that is around, the sounds, the smells, the sights. Look deeply and see beyond the obvious. Breathe, see, and hear to that deeper level beneath the level that is beneath the level that you might typically. Be empty of the racing mind and be mindful of everything around you. Write down what happened.

Act 3 – Now, in the quiet of some special place, sit down and review your notes. Then, wait for the next thought. Patiently wait for the next thought. Be empty of your racing mind. If anything rises up out of this emptiness, try to translate it into words and write it down.

Act 4 – On this next walk, start by empting the mind of any racing thoughts or issues of the day. Then, wait for the next thought. Patiently wait for the next thought. Continue this throughout the walk. If you are successful you will have walked in the quiet stillness of your inner being, free of illusion and false reality. If not successful start back at Act 1 and repeat the steps.

Cardinal and Blue Jay

Each day this week I will focus on some favorite songbirds that have entered and become part of my life here on Turk’s Mountain. Each of them have informed me and made my life fuller. I salute each of them with this small recognition.

Monday – Eastern Bluebird and Tree Swallow
Tuesday - Indigo Bunting and Scarlet Tanager
Wednesday - Carolina Chickadee and Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Yesterday - House Wren and Eastern Phoebe
Today - Cardinal and Blue Jay

Cardinal
Most everyone knows what a cardinal looks like; being named after the red robes of the Roman Catholic Cardinals. Their song you probably also recognize as either purty-purty-purty or sweet-sweet-sweet.



I have these beautiful red birds on the lower ridges of the farm, but for whatever reason they don’t come to the higher elevations. As a very territorial bird, perhaps there are birds up here that they don’t get along with. Is there anything more stunning than bright red cardinals dancing across the white snow in search of food?

Blue Jay
As one of the larger and loudest of the songbirds, the Blue Jay is also among the most gregarious. I guess it is no surprise that the Blue Jay is related to the Crow and Magpie. They appear in the hundreds at my upper level feeders, staged in the distant trees, the near trees, and surrounding grass. They must come from miles afar to be in such numbers throughout most of the winter months.



Their main song is jay-jay-jay, but they are also known to queedle-queedle-queedle, as well as mimic other birds such as hawks. The Blue Jay buries seeds, acorns and nuts for future use and as such has earned the title of nature’s tree planter, credited for reestablishing oak trees after the last glacial period. They are a striking blue contrast to the green grass when waiting their turn at the feeders.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

House Wren and Eastern Phoebe

Each day this week I will focus on some favorite songbirds that have entered and become part of my life here on Turk’s Mountain. Each of them have informed me and made my life fuller. I salute each of them with this small recognition.

Monday – Eastern Bluebird and Tree Swallow
Tuesday - Indigo Bunting and Scarlet Tanager
Wednesday - Carolina Chickadee and Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Today - House Wren and Eastern Phoebe
Tomorrow - Cardinal and Blue Jay

House Wren
The size of a chickadee, some say the House Wren is plain brown. I say that this beautiful little bird is every shade of brown and with its energy-filled, exuberant song is the fiercest of competitors. It is reported that they add spider’s eggs to their nesting materials to fight off mites and other nest parasites. Like the chickadee, the House Wren also is a cavity nester and will use a bird box.




Eastern Phoebe

Like the American Robin and Barn Swallow, the Phoebe prefers an open-fronted nest. I had them use one of my open nests on the side of the equipment shed last year. While they winter to the South, I see them frequently in the warmer months as they are constantly entering my barn and require assistance to exit safely.



The Phoebe, a type of flycatcher, is named after its song fee-be.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Carolina Chickadee and Rose-breasted Grosbeak

Each day this week I will focus on some favorite songbirds that have entered and become part of my life here on Turk’s Mountain. Each of them have informed me and made my life fuller. I salute each of them with this small recognition.

Monday – Eastern Bluebird and Tree Swallow
Tuesday - Indigo Bunting and Scarlet Tanager
Today - Carolina Chickadee and Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Thursday - House Wren and Eastern Phoebe
Friday - Cardinal and Blue Jay

Carolina Chickadee
Dressed in what appears to be formal attire, these small, curious birds are among the most inquisitive. They are in constant movement as small flocks, seemingly in well-oiled coordination. They winter in this area and appear to be fearless in snow storms. They are named after their song chick-a-dee-dee-dee. A common visitor to most bird feeders, they move in concert with the Tufted Titmouse and Junco.



I admire their courage and enterprise. There is a lot of energy in this small package.

Rose-breasted Grosbeak
This distinctly colored bird is related to the Cardinal. It appears around here at my bird feeders in the early spring for a few weeks before moving on to somewhere else. While more of a temporary visitor, I wish he would stay around a little longer.

Indigo Bunting and Scarlet Tanager

Each day this week I will focus on some favorite songbirds that have entered and become part of my life here on Turk’s Mountain. Each of them have informed me and made my life fuller. I salute each of them with this small recognition.

Monday – Eastern Bluebird and Tree Swallow
Today - Indigo Bunting and Scarlet Tanager
Wednesday - Carolina Chickadee and Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Thursday - House Wren and Eastern Phoebe
Friday - Cardinal and Blue Jay

Indigo Bunting
It has been reported that the Indigo Bunting is the Magellen of the bird world as it navigates by the stars at night. From my observation this is amongst the shyest of birds, as I only get brief glimpses of it as I travel the farm and surprise them around a corner. Someday, I would love to take his picture as proof of my stealthy approach. The Indigo Bunting is a member of the Cardinal family, yet leaves every winter early, returning to the same three areas on my farm each year.



This diminutive bird appears to be a deep purplish to deep blue color because of light diffusion, but has no blue pigments in its feathers and is actually black. I have planted large areas of wildflowers where they nest, which they seem to really like.

Scarlet Tanager

This strikingly colored bird is equally as shy as the Bunting. Staying deeper in the forest, this black-winged red bird winters in South America. He makes a chip-bang song.



I saw my first Scarlet Tanager late last summer, alighting within 15 feet of me on a dawn Redwood I planted several years ago. I will never forget how amazed I was at his remarkable coloring. I don’t think he saw me as he stayed there for several minutes. I barely breathed for the entire time. Perhaps he did see me and was not threatened.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Eastern Bluebird and Tree Swallow

Each day this week I will focus on some favorite songbirds that have entered and become part of my life here on Turk’s Mountain. Each of them have informed me and made my life fuller. I salute each of them with this small recognition.

Today – Eastern Bluebird and Tree Swallow
Tuesday - Indigo Bunting and Scarlet Tanager
Wednesday - Carolina Chickadee and Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Thursday - House Wren and Eastern Phoebe
Friday - Cardinal and Blue Jay

Eastern Bluebird
True to its name, the bluebird is mostly royal blue, the breast a reddish brown, the belly a creamy white. Their song can be described as a melodious warble. Part of the thrush family, the bluebird is related to the American Robin and Wood Thrush (all plentiful around here).



The bluebird is a peaceful, almost passive bird, susceptible to more aggressive species. Back in the early 1900’s a few pairs of English House Sparrows were released in Central Park (New York). These aggressive birds took over many of the natural cavity nesting areas of the bluebird, threatening the bluebird’s future. A popular groundswell of support for the bluebird resulted in large numbers of wooden bluebird nesting boxes being installed, coming to the bluebird’s rescue.

In 2006, I installed 27 bluebird boxes and tracked them that year on a weekly basis. Over 137 bluebird eggs were laid in 40 sets of nests. We had 49 bluebird fledglings make it out of the nests. In addition, there were 11 Tree Swallow eggs laid with 4 Tree Swallow fledglings.

The other part of the story is that many of the eggs and at least some of the hatchlings were eaten or killed by other birds or snakes. At least two of the nests were abandoned by the parents after bad rain/wind storms. A 7 egg Tree Swallow nest was attacked by other birds, killing the babies leaving one of the parents on top of the nest, headless. There is a cruel reality in nature that we forget when we are separated from it.

The good news is that we are blessed with many bluebirds and tree swallows. You cannot go anywhere on this farm without seeing the bluebirds, all four seasons of the year. I have installed winter community-nesting boxes for their use.

Tree Swallow
This dark bluish-purple-backed and white-chested bird is known for its graceful swooping flight in chase of insects. As fierce protectors of their nests they differ dramatically from the bluebird. Their song is described as a cheerful twitter. They travel away from here in the winter and gather in the south in large flocks.



The tree swallow is related to the Barn Swallow a rainbow-colored swallow which nests in open shelf type nests and the Purple Martin which is similar in color, but prefers community bird houses.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Time and Place

Each day this week I will discuss the evidence for our interconnection in the world. Our feelings of separateness can lead us to feelings of dissatisfaction because we have lost our connection to the universe, to who we really are.

Monday – Origins - A Moment in Singularity (a.k.a. The Big Bang)
Tuesday - Holarchy
Wednesday - Chaos and the Hidden Order of Life
Thursday - Synchrony
Today - Time and Place

As contemplation of time deepens, a new understanding emerges. There is quiet stillness in each moment. There is also simultaneous change, movement, activity as the universe pivots into the next moment. This realization is quite stunning. There is both stillness and motion in each moment of time.

The stillness emphasizes the interconnection of everything, while the motion emphasizes its separateness. The stillness emphasizes the eternal nature of time, while the motion emphasizes the passage of time. Stillness and motion are not separate but simultaneous.

When we are in the quiet stillness it is as if we have fallen out of time into eternal time, a feeling of no-time. We are witness to timelessness and interconnection within each moment. Yet we know that time marches on.

If we can carry this understanding with us into the pivot of each moment of change, our lives become fuller, more connected to everything. We are now one, interconnected and interdependent in each moment of time.

And then finally as to place; here we are all gathered on our beautiful planet Earth. Of all the billions and billions of stars and their planets, we just happened to end up here, together. Wow, now take that for shared connection!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Synchrony

Each day this week I will discuss the evidence for our interconnection in the world. Our feelings of separateness can lead us to feelings of dissatisfaction because we have lost our connection to the universe, to who we really are.

Monday – Origins - A Moment in Singularity (a.k.a. The Big Bang)
Tuesday - Holarchy
Wednesday - Chaos and the Hidden Order of Life
Today - Synchrony
Friday - Time and Place

In the simplest of nature’s creatures we find valuable lessons. In some parts of the world, as the sun goes down, and darkness descends, fireflies appear and slowly begin to blink in unison. Witnesses to these events know deep inside that this is not by chance.

Scientists have studied the firefly and now better understand these and other similar events like crickets chirping in rhythm. Apparently there are biological oscillators within us that seek connection with others around us; a natural rhythm within the beat of change, the beat of time, the beat of life.

The human heart has specialized pacemaker cells that are responsible for the rhythmic beating and subsequent movement of the blood through the body. This is an integrated complex of thousands of cells all working together to maximize heart muscle efficiency.

Studies of people clapping in an audience, human sleep cycles, and the nature of traffic jams have found patterns of hidden order. On college campuses, females who live together in close daily contact tend to experience their menstrual cycles together.

Consider for a moment your ability to read and comprehend this material. Ponder your capacity to solve problems, think creatively, and consciously change the world around you. After all you are only a bag of chemicals made up mostly of water. The neural network we call consciousness is truly a miracle of connectedness and interdependency.

Duncan Watts’s “Six Degrees” found strong evidence for his hypothesis that every person on the planet is socially connected to within six degrees of separation. A successful play and movie were produced around this idea.

In nature’s ecosystems, thousands of interdependent connections exist in what at first appear to be otherwise simple relationships. As we have found the hard way, any intervention has unpredictable, even unintended results.

Do you see it? Do you see the connectedness that surrounds us?

There are some really great books on these and other examples of synchrony that I can recommend:

Barabasi, Albert-Laszlo. Linked, How Everything is Connected to Everything Else and What it Means for Business, Science and Everyday Life. New York: Flume Books, 2003.

Buchanan, Mark. Nexus, Small Worlds and the Groundbreaking Science of Networks. New York: WW Norton, 2003.

Holland, John H. Hidden Order. New York: Perseus Books, 1995.

Sole, Ricard, and Brian Goodwin. Signs of Life, How Complexity Pervades Biology. New York: Perseus, 2000.

Strogatz, Steven. Synch, The Emerging Science of Spontaneous Order. New York: Hyperion Books, 2003.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Chaos and the Hidden Order of Life


Each day this week I will discuss the evidence for our interconnection in the world. Our feelings of separateness can lead us to feelings of dissatisfaction because we have lost our connection to the universe, to who we really are.

Monday – Origins - A Moment in Singularity (a.k.a. The Big Bang)
Tuesday - Holarchy
Today - Chaos and the Hidden Order of Life
Thursday - Synchrony
Friday - Time and Place

There was a time, when the complexity of nature and even life in general looked to be a series of random events. As time has progressed our perspective has broadened and now there are many reasons to see order, connection and interdependence in the apparent chaos.

When computers first became available, scientists started using them to solve mathematically intensive problems. What they found were complex hidden attractors behind their observations and calculations. These attractors organized the apparent chaos into patterns not previously understood.

One of first of these was in the study of weather and the “butterfly effect”. The naming of the “butterfly effect” came from the idea that a butterfly beating its wings in one area will cause a weather storm in another. So began the study of nonlinear dynamics also known as Chaos Theory.

The nonlinear nature of the weather makes the measurements difficult. Any small mistakes are dramatically amplified in the subsequent calculations, reducing the accuracy of the longer term prediction. This key finding is generally true in all nonlinear situations. Considering life’s nonlinear nature, could this give us any insight into our personal destiny in the near term versus the longer term? Does this help confirm that as each moment arises, an infinite set of possibilities appear?

So, beginning with the idea that the natural condition was chaos, a hidden order has been found. Now with the discovery of fractals, repeating patterns from the smallest sub segments throughout the Holonic hierarchy, hidden order and connection is found where chaos was expected. As this can be a highly technical subject, I suggest further reading in James Gleick’s “Chaos, Making a New Science”, or Gary Flake’s “The Computational Beauty of Nature.”

Picture by: the-square-root-of-3 via deviantart.com

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Holarchy

Each day this week I will discuss the evidence for our interconnection in the world. Our feelings of separateness can lead us to feelings of dissatisfaction because we have lost our connection to the universe, to who we really are.

Monday – Origins - A Moment in Singularity (a.k.a. The Big Bang)
Today - Holarchy
Wednesday - Chaos and the Hidden Order of Life
Thursday - Synchrony
Friday - Time and Place

A few years ago, I became intrigued by the concept of the Holon in Ken Wilber’s book “A Brief History of Everything” and then my subsequent reading of Arthur Koestler’s book “The Ghost in the Machine”. The Holon frequently refers to philosophical hierarchies, but has relevance on a broader basis. It suggests that everything coexists as both a whole and a part of a greater whole at the same time. This is such a simple concept, it is pure genius. Our ability to understand this concept informs our view of the interrelatedness of the world.

A hierarchical example of Holons goes something like this: an atom is made up of smaller particles, and is part of a molecule which is part of a cell which is part of an organ which is part of a living organism. The hierarchy continues on in both directions. A Holonic hierarchy is known as a Holarchy.

The concept of the Holon is important for every decision that we make, exposing a greater responsibility past the part to the whole. If we take the Holon to its natural conclusion, we may find the roots of kharma. If everything is both part and whole, every act affects everything else, as everything is part of everything.

The Holarchies in Wilber’s work suggest that we are connected to a greater, shared, universal consciousness. Some of us may feel we are islands unto ourselves, alone. The concept of Holon suggests otherwise.

Most would agree that if we once had easy access to this shared consciousness, we have lost it. Maybe we still tap into it when we solve problems during sleep, day dreaming or meditation. It is said that Einstein came up with many of his theorems while “day dreaming”, not proving them until years later. I wonder if we lost access because of the insanity of our egoic mind, or, perhaps we have just forgotten how. Is finding our true nature the key to let us back inside?

Monday, November 16, 2009

Interconnection and Interdependence

Each day this week I will discuss the evidence for our interconnection in the world. Our feelings of separateness can lead us to feelings of dissatisfaction because we have lost our connection to the universe, to who we really are.

Most spiritual traditions attempt to teach us how to realize a unity of mind, body and spirit; to expand beyond our societal traditions of individuality and disconnectedness. My purpose here is not to deny your individuality, but to expand your vision of yourself with the evidence of your connection to the universe.

Today – Origins - A Moment in Singularity (a.k.a. The Big Bang)
Tuesday - Holarchy
Wednesday - Chaos and the Hidden Order of Life
Thursday - Synchrony
Friday - Time and Place

Origins - A Moment in Singularity (a.k.a. The Big Bang)
According to the theory of general relativity, the initial state of the universe just prior to the Big Bang, was a gravitational singularity. Imagine all the matter and energy of the universe condensed into a single focused point. And then, BANG!!!!

In that moment before the Big Bang all matter and energy was in close proximity, including the tiny amount that would become us. Let me say that again, to our best understanding, all matter and energy arose at the same time and in the same moment, leading to us as beings.

The materials that we are made of are the same materials that the oceans, and land, all the animals and plants are made. The air that we breathe, the water that we drink is shared with all living things, now, in the past and for ever more. As far as scientists know, no matter or energy is destroyed or created, only converted into a different form of matter or energy. Forms may change, the materials and energy stay the same (e=mc2).

In the pursuit of superconductors, scientists have developed new understandings of atoms and how they act. Starting with theories by Einstein and Bose in the 1920’s, scientists recently reported making atoms work in unison at very low temperatures. This has demonstrated interconnectedness at the atomic level. As this is the very substrate of life, our connection to the universe actually starts here.

With the advent of genetic research we find that the average two unrelated humans share 99.9% of the same genetic material. Humans share 98% with chimpanzees, 79% with whales, dolphins, hippos and camels. Clearly, we are more genetically and physiologically related to other animals than not.

So, from the beginning to now, and into the foreseeable future, the physical connections between us and everything else can be found everywhere we look.


Photo by laura_world_wide via deviantart.com

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Quiet Whisper


As we make that
Crucial judgment
Yet again,
Mother Earth whispers
Her wisest intervention,
“Find another way.”
She warns of
The mysterious performer
Crafting a new act
For your thinking mind
An illusion providing escape
Within a false reality.
The gift of divine mind
Has another way.
Reach deep
To find what’s there.
A muted message
Is carried
On the wind.
May the circle of love
Heal with its
Magnificent song,
Completing its flawless miracle.
May the power of kindness bind you
To each precious moment
May peace and grace flow through you
So when you fall,
You land softly
In the quiet stillness
Of life’s loving embrace.
Photo by: jyoujo via deviantart.com

Thursday, November 12, 2009

What is Gnosticism?

How much do you know about Gnosticism? This question is a little more difficult than what it first appears. While many would say Gnosticism goes back to the beginning of the current era (first century), its roots probably go back much further. There are different groups of Gnostics, each of which contain diverse subgroups.

I first became interested in Gnosticism when I learned its basic definition as “inner knowing”. As I strove to better understand its foundations, I found great diversity of tradition and belief. Some may be aware that in the early days of Christianity, the Council of Nicea excluded and even destroyed many of the early Christian Gnostic ideas and texts.

Carl Jung was one of the modern students of the Gnostics with the finding of the Nag Hammadi texts and the Dead Sea Scrolls. His studies along with modern scholars such as Elaine Pagels and Karen King have brought this early development of Christianity back into focus.

For those who would like to learn more, I recommend Stephan Hoeller’s Gnosticism, New Light on the Ancient Tradition of Inner Knowing, as well as Elaine Pagels’ The Gnostic Paul, Beyond Belief and Reading Judas, The Gospel of Judas and the Shaping of Christianity written with Karen King.

Here is my personal list of books on Gnosticism:
Hoeller, Stephan A. Carl Jung and the Lost Gospels, Insights into The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Nag Hammadi Library. Illinois: Quest Books, 1990.
Hoeller, Stephan A. Gnosticism, New Light on the Ancient Tradition of Inner Knowing. Illinois: Quest Books, 2002.
Meyer, Marvin W. The Secret Teachings of Jesus, Four Gnostic Gospels. New York: Vintage Books, 1986.
Meyer, Marvin W. The Gospel of Thomas, The Hidden Sayings of Jesus. New York: Harper, 1986.
Pagels, Elaine. The Gnostic Paul. Harrisburg, PA: Trinity Press International, 1992.
Pagels, Elaine. Beyond Belief, The Secret Gospel of Thomas. New York: Random House, 2003.
Pagels, Elaine and Karen L. King. Reading Judas, The Gospel of Judas and the Shaping of Christianity. New York: Viking, 2007.
Patterson, Stephen J., Robinson, James M., and Hans-Gebhard Bethge. The Fifth Gospel, The Gospel of Thomas Comes of Age. Harrisburg, PA: Trinity Press International, 1998.
Randolph, Kurt. Gnosis, The Nature and History of Gnosticism. California: Harper and Row Publishing, 1987.
Robinson, James M. general editor. The Nag Hammadi Library in English. California: Harper, 1988.