Dec 31, 2013

New Year's Resolutions for 2014

There are two things I need to do, simply because they are important to overall health and sanity.

  1. Sit less at computer.
  2. Daily spiritual practice of some kind.

This computer—and the internet—are way too distracting. WAY too distracting. Hours can pass by and all I've done is look at stranger's pictures, and stranger's comments, and stranger's anecdotes, some news and a few Facebook updates.

Sitting for hours isn't healthy and I already do that at work. But I don't have something just as enticing to replace this addiction with, so I find myself actually a bit afraid to let go of it.

But that's what New Year's and resolutions are for, right? Get cracking on January 1 (better make that January 2 'cause I've got to sleep in) on new habits. It takes 21-30 days for a new habit to stick (if you've been practicing daily for those 21-30 days, that is) so just get in there and try to do a new habit every day.
Right.

Sitting less at computer: I need more exercise/movement. I also need to get my home decluttered. There's a happy combo. Housework is good exercise, meaning it's the sort of movement that's gentle on the body and yet gets the heart going and limbs moving. I will be using FlyLady to help me focus.

Daily spiritual practice: I want to get into "A Course in Miracles". Actually try to do the 365 lessons this coming year. Ever read that book? It's a Very. Slow. Read. Each and every sentence matters, however it's structured, and therefore requires effort. I'll need help with this (too). Will be looking for an app (preferably Android) for that.

Already got a Yoga app downloaded onto my iPad. That combines 1 and 2: Moving and spirituality. Stretch, meditate, get on the floor.

Feel free to ask me how I'm doing. Make me have to follow through. Try to guilt me into not letting myself (or you) down. Thanks!

In the meantime, have a happy new year's celebration and may 2014 be very good to you, no matter how you start it.

Dec 29, 2013

Mannequin

I was wondering why this moved me so much. And then it occurred to me: Their smiles. Their trust. Their courage.

There is a bit of pity on my part, I have to admit that. However, it is a testament to the human spirit that people get on with their lives in spite of what their bodies are like, and that, really, is what we all need to remember: We are never our bodies, nor are our bodies us.

We need to remember this: People don't pay us compliments because we look perfect to them. They pay us compliments because we look beautiful to them.

We are not the tool we use. We are how we use the tool.

We are whatever makes us share what's inside of us: Our courage, our need, our joy.

Our smiles.

Dec 22, 2013

Christmas 2013, Bergen, Norway

The norm for Bergen, Norway (at the end of the Gulf stream at 60N23, 5E20) is not a white Christmas, but a rainy one. Thank goodness for all the pretty lights!

Happy holidays to all of you! GOD JUL!

Nov 11, 2013

Astrology, the story-teller

OK, I knew my last post would not appeal to everyone, but as I said in a comment to a comment, I take my wisdom wherever I can find it. Which happens to include astrology.

Because of my family's interests, I grew up in a home that not only had huge picture books showing the treasures of the Sun King and Tutankhamen, but also books by Teilhard de Chardin, Krishnamurti, Alan Watts and Agatha Christie. The one common thread: Mystery. Life's mystery. What makes us tick? What else is there? Travel, whether literally or metaphysically. That's what my family does. We like to wonder and dream and think big and if there's a UFO encounter thrown into the mix, that's fine, too, but most importantly: Enjoy humanity.

So I knew my Sun sign at the age of 7, and pretty much knew when all the other Sun signs were, too. My grandma had my chart made for me, so I also knew that there is more to astrology than just Sun signs. (The whole solar system is in on the act.)

There are so many tools out there for self-discovery (like psychology, meditation, music, drugs) or even for understanding human evolution (like art, anthropology, biology, religion). You can be playing with a puppy or reading a biography. There's always something to learn, to be inspired by. Some people prefer a hike up a mountain while others do Mountain pose in yoga class. The source doesn't matter; the learning does.

Fiction can teach, too. Really good fiction grabs your heart and years later, you still think about the story, rekindling the feelings it first stirred in you. And if there was a lesson in it, then you have been reached and taught. Aesop's fables are fiction that features talking animals, but we don't get hung up on that; instead, we understand that it is metaphor and focus on the moral of the story.

If you like, astrology is fictional like a fable: Stories told about people using their birth dates and ancient mythology. A planet named after a Greco-Roman god of war describes your willingness and ability to do battle, to be macho, to fight for whatever is worth fighting for in your life. Another planet named after the messenger of the gods* shows how you handle communication in your own life and whether or not you think too much. The funny thing about this fiction is that it hits pretty darn close to the non-fictional home. But then, many fictional stories can do just that.

As a tool for self-discovery, for understanding a current difficulty or feeling, astrology is amazingly powerful, even as a made-up language based on made-up deities. I think it's because it isn't really that divorced from reality. A lot of the myths about the Greco-Roman gods are actually colorful rewrites of astronomical or natural events. For example, the story about Pluto stealing Demeter's daughter away for a while every year, causing Demeter to lay the land barren until her daughter returned, describes the agricultural cycle in a dry climate perfectly. As astrological symbolism, the story represents Pluto forcing transformation through emotional upheaval (he's efficient but not gentle).

We humans make associations which then become symbolism. Same thing with astrology. People over the millennia have seen expansion during a Jupiter influence and contraction during a Saturn and these have become astrological keywords.

As with anything we humans like to make up, this may or may not apply to all things at all times. The one thing I've learned in all my years of hanging out in the New Age section of the book store is that there too, ultimately, there is but one message: Love everyone (not everything), including yourself. And chill.


*) Speaking of which, Mercury is no longer retrograde. If you've been feeling stuck, especially with writing, you should be feeling unstuck now.

Nov 8, 2013

National Write Something Month

Pluto.

Pluto in Virgo.

Pluto in Virgo conjunct the North Node.

That's what I have to offer in November.

Not a novel—navel-gazing.

An old hobby is being rekindled. Astrology is a life-long love, and just when I thought I could live without it, it shows back up and shows me how good it is at unraveling mysteries in my life.

You think you know yourself, but there's always something new to discover. The astrological equivalent of cleaning out a closet I stuffed back when I first moved into my apartment. "Oh, I forgot I had that!" Mostly, I forgot where I put it.

And so it is with Pluto. It may be "just" a planetoid, but astrologically it still packs a punch. So there is a transformative energy (Pluto) in the sign of "Let's file this alphabetically" (Virgo) standing next to "Karma's a Bitch but Also a Fun Gal" (North Node). In other words: My pathway to ultimate happiness in this lifetime is through organization and routine.

Doesn't that sound excruciatingly boring?

After a lifetime of thinking that, it occurs to me: I'm not writing a novel in November because I lack the routine of writing. I lack the routine of planning and organizing and researching. And without those things, creativity can't find an outlet; it can't give life.

And there are activities in life that are regular, but because they are happy activities we don't apply the "routine" label to them. And yet, some routine must be had if a pleasant activity is to be enjoyed: Rewind the fishing line properly. Recharge the batteries. Polish the hiking boots. Empty the suitcase and do laundry. Clean the paint brushes. Write something every day. Look at astrological charts every week.

I want to get back into my weather astrology, and that requires discipline which will lead to routine. Did I mention that Pluto's position currently is messing with the discipline part of my horoscope? See, the universe is a boy desperately trying to show a girl he likes her by giving her a hard time. The universe shoves, pinches your arm, steals your books, calls you names to get you to notice that it has something for you: The gift of insight.

And so it is with so-called transits, especially the heavy-weights from beyond the easily seen in the night sky (Saturn on out). There is something be done or learned, so pay attention.

Also: The Blog.

My sadly neglected home in cyberspace, but which I refuse to give up because this is how you find me. And I realize that I want to be found. Since Pluto in my horoscope is in cahoots with Mercury (the planet of all things communication), then this blog, too, is part of a routine to be nurtured so creativity can bear fruit.

Oct 13, 2013

Autumn outside my kitchen window

The photos don't come fresher than this, the view from my kitchen window right now. It's going to be an Indian Summer day!

Aug 26, 2013

Grabbed

Creature comforts.

Usually I find mine in warm, fuzzy blankets, or clean, soft bath towels, or a well-made meal, or the corner of my sofa, or a warm muffler on a drafty day.

This time I found it in a pair of shoes I never meant to pack, let alone wear.

I have a friend in California who is basically my exact opposite: The yang to my yin. She has all the get-up-and-go I don't have, the creativity, the fearlessness, the curiosity, the desire to constantly be doing. Always taking an extra step and seeing a different view than the rest of us, always making sure she uses all five of her senses.

And I, I am no match for her. I am a whole head shorter, and a whole heart wussier. I'm happy walking pavements. And yet, we get along. We talk, we share, we love each other. Now she was less than 400 miles away, in the Norwegian town her mother was from, just a plane ride away.

We sat in the sun talking and got hot, so we decided to hike to a nearby lake. I got into my hiking pants, stuck my water bottle and bathing suit in my rucksack, grabbed the shoe bag and pulled out…the trainers that made my legs hurt.

I'd try wearing them walking to work, but they gave me shin splints, so I've been using them only as indoor shoes when I need something that cushions my feet on my hard floors. For hiking, I preferred my far more expensive and more solid Ecco shoes, even though they felt oddly stuffy on my feet.

But I hadn't grabbed my Eccos. I had grabbed the cheaper trainers. At no time during my packing did any alarm go off. At no point did I take a second look and realize my mistake.

So here we are, two girls of 50-ish, getting ready for a short hike to the lake on a late summer day, the sun in full force still. Well, I can't have come all this way to say I want to just sit under an umbrella with a cold one!

So we hiked to the lake, and not once did I notice my feet. At the lake, we discovered that low visibility, slippery rocks and an uneven bottom made walking out to where we could dive in rather risky. Since my shoes were not my favorite and bought cheaply, I decided they could be sacrificed. I put them on and waded comfortably into the lake. I did not stay comfortably there, though. Neither of us stayed at all. It was so cold we gasped for air. The nice thing about that sort of cold water is that sitting on the rock afterwards, drying off, feels so incredibly good. The sun heated our backs, a little piece of bun thrown into the water created quite the commotion among the tiny fish there, and we talked. My sure footing helped ferry towels, food and cameras safely from and to shore.

The shoes dried out overnight.

Our plan the next day was a 5-mile hike organized by the local hiking group. I was nervous about that. I know my physical condition isn't the best. My heart and lungs are fine, but a lot of uphill hiking tires my flabby thighs out. I knew I needed to be able to take breaks when I wanted to, and it's not easy to ask a bunch of strangers to wait up.

And I didn't trust my shoes. I'd felt a bit of the shin splints coming back from the lake. But maybe that was just because we were on pavement then?

I did consider copping out by blaming the shoes, but I really didn't want to disappoint my friend. So I told her I didn't feel like hiking in a crowd (which was true), that I needed to go with people who would understand my need to take a breather. Her 78-year-old uncle, who knew the trails well, suggested a nearby peak that gives a view of mountains 120 km away. The three of us ended up doing our own 5-mile hike.

Once again, the shoes were just fine. Gravel, tree roots, soft pine needles, squishy moss, smooth rocks…my feet stepped on it all, comfortably, easily. No shin splints. And even when I couldn't avoid getting wet crossing one bog, it was only deliciously cooling for hot feet. I had spare socks and knew now that the water wouldn't hurt my shoes.

We had another perfect day in the sun, picking blueberries along the way, noting the abundance of lingonberries (mountain cranberries) this year, smelling peat and pine, brushed by a few golden birch leaves set free by the breeze, heralding autumn.

It occurs to me, thinking back on the magic of moving through Norwegian woods so we can enjoy the view, talking sometimes, walking in silence sometimes, that if I hadn't packed those particular shoes, we wouldn't have had that hike, one my friend had never been on before. We both got to make a new discovery, and I told her I'd do it again.

Next time.

And I'll know which shoes to bring.

Aug 4, 2013

So while I've been gone…

Interests keep changing. Or rather, focus does. I obviously still enjoy taking photographs, because I kept my camera busy during my vacation. But even photography requires inspiration—and weather that won't ruin a camera.

And so I let Wordless Wednesdays slide. I stopped forcing myself and let my blog rest, too.

The nice thing about long days on the autobahns of Germany, is that it is very relaxing. Nothing to do but watch one field after another blur by, sometimes spotting a bird or a cow or a house. But sometimes even that loses its charm and I ducked into my Kindle, finishing three books during my trip.

But that—plus discussions about blog resuscitation with my good friend Alice—has given me inspiration.

I know now where I want to take this blog next, and I even have ideas for a visual make-over. I don't think blogs are dying. They are too useful to do that. Blogs may no longer lead the pack in social networking on the internet, but they definitely supplement it because they are still the best way to share lots of words with lots of people.

The devolution of the blog from eager writing to the occasional picture is not fair to the blog nor its readers. Nor to me. Because there's something about thinking and typing and getting thoughts out of my head and in front of my eyes that does me good, both intellectually and emotionally. Having invisible readers to consider also helps me focus and edit. Getting a comment from my readers is icing on the cake and always appreciated.

So the plan is this: Monthly writing, and the occasional photo post, and not just on Wednesdays. I've been reading about ho'oponopono, and it's worth sharing. So is other stuff going on, like life in Norway, which still has its moments ("no, Norwegian actually isn't a difficult language to learn…"—there's another blog post!).

I was practicing ho'oponopono on my trip. Man, when you start trying to clear up the spiritual cruft, the universe catches on quick and sends you more. Like housework. Start doing the dishes or laundry, and without fail someone else will come along with a pile of their stuff to add "since you were already doing that".

So my vacation was on the outside cobblestoned streets in medieval towns by German rivers with vineyards clinging to the slopes, and on the inside "I love you. I'm sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you."

Rüdesheim on the Rhine, Cochem on the Mosel. I don't know which was better. I want to go back to both. I want to take a river cruise and walk past grapevines again. Rivers and vineyards are oddly relaxing.

Mar 16, 2013

Funny thing about being foreign

The funny thing about being foreign is that I don't talk about being foreign.

Norwegian TV came to my place of work and interviewed some of our non-Norwegian employees during lunch. They managed to find one of the noisier places in our cafeteria to do so, but also a pretty visible one. (We assume it's NRK and the show "Migrapolis", which is about foreign nationals living in Norway.)

One of my co-workers grinned at me and said I should be interviewed, too. I responded with a quick "nope, too assimilated". But then I offered the real reason:

I never talk about life in Norway as a foreigner. I have read how other foreigners feel about living here, I've sometimes talked to them about it, and it's never good. I don't watch "Migrapolis" because the foreigners arriving now seem to be taken better care of than when I first came here. Norwegians now are more curious about foreigners and therefore friendlier towards them; I'd rather not feel the envy.

I can remember how cold and lonely this country felt to me when I came back in 1981, but I met individuals who brightened my day. According to the Norwegians themselves, the natives of Bergen are pretty sociable and cheerful, so I've lucked out. This is one of the few places in this country where you can strike up a conversation with a stranger at a bus stop and get a friendly response. And I love when that happens.

I don't criticize the Norwegians for being the way they are. They themselves are aware that not all their national quirks are advantageous. I don't feel the need to find fault like I used to, perhaps because I really am assimilated and perhaps because the Norwegians themselves are getting less provincial. (And to be honest, Americans seem to be getting more provincial.)

A sample of Norwegian culture

When my company bought some major US software in the 80's, a number of American consultants came to our head office in Bergen to work during installation. I gave up talking to them; they kept finding fault with the Norwegians (the roads, the food, the prices, the etc.) and I felt they were both being unfair to Norway and reminding me of my own struggle to fit in and not be so homesick all the time. Hordaland will never be South Carolina, 'K?

My grinning co-worker has just had Polish painters redo his living room. One told him that he avoided talking about Norway with other foreigners; it was too depressing. His experience was like mine: It's hard to focus on the good when others keep reminding you of what's wrong.

It's not that Norway's perfect, but it's also not the US (or Poland), and never will be. May as well just get used to the idea and find out what's good about Norway. It's unfair to compare one country with another, anyway. They all have advantages and disadvantages. This is why I love traveling abroad on my vacation: To give myself a break from the Norwegian way of doing things. And to return home to Bergen, Norway, with gratitude.

Feb 4, 2013

And the other shoe drops

Unlike what other people I know experienced, 2012 was a laid-back year for me. I entered the new one, ready for action. Today, I got a taste of what might be in store: I've been asked to stand for election to my co-op's steering committee, an office that is for two years at a time. Right away, I think about Saturn transitting Scorpio during that time frame - in my house of community, groups and friends. I won't know for sure, one way or the other, until later this spring, but the fact that I've gotten this sort of attention tells me I'm no longer at rest; I'm on the move again.

In other news, I've finally become an adult. I'm finally starting to understand this business of taking care of home and stomach on a regular basis. At the age of 52, I'm cooking every day for myself (or reheating leftovers from an earlier meal), and my home is fairly tidy (next step: get it fairly clean). I even try to dress like a grown-up, trying to class up my usual sweater-and-jeans look. With repetition comes knowledge; with knowledge comes creativity (know the rules so you know how to break them). I accidentally made a good dish of salmon baked in crushed orange seasoned with oregano because I didn't understand the recipe. But by then, I understood enough of the process to trust a bit of going rogue.


I'm even getting back into arts and crafts. Well, crafts. I haven't touched knitting needles since the 80's, but knitted a scarf in one day, and thoroughly enjoyed it. There's a certain trepidation about doing something unfamiliar, something you could err with, but I found that I didn't care. My attitude was that it didn't matter. The yarn was cheap, the concept easy, and so I settled in with an expectation of fun, not failure. I still have that feeling - and six new balls of yarn waiting to be turned into a seat cover. Again, no pressure, just anticipation.

This attitude is also coming more to the forefront at work. There is absolutely nothing anyone can do to stop change or down-sizing or restructuring. Such is the nature of organizations: They expand and contract and shift. I heard myself saying that we older employees just need to understand that the company's future is in the hands of the younger employees; it's their turn to create and produce and lead. And the moment I said that, I realized that I was willing to stop being "young and promising", and pass the torch on. I am willing to let the next generation do their best; I won't keep telling them how we've always done things. Times have changed, and that's that. What I can do is allow myself to be flexible and learn new ways.

The forward momentum I'm now feeling is pleasant and encouraging. I intend to welcome changes and challenges without fear. Fear is no fun, anyway. The motto for 2013 seems to be "Accept the unknown happily". I'm behind that!

Jan 6, 2013

An interview with Dr Amit Goswami


Dr Amit Goswami, a quantum physicist, discusses spiritual searching, consciousness, ego, free will… The whole shebang.