Supple

Can you coax your mind from its wandering

and keep to the original oneness?

Can you let your body become

supple as a newborn child’s?

Can you deal with the most vital matters

by letting events take their course?

Three questions found in Stephen Mitchell’s 1988 Tao Te Ching, which I tossed into the travel tote for a day trip to the hill. His translation notes included a quote from somatics educator, Emilie Conrad-Da’oud:

There is no self-consciousness in the newborn child. Later on, the mind wanders into self-images, starts to think Should I do this? Is this movement right? and loses the immediacy of the moment. As self-consciousness develops, the muscles become less supple, less like the world. But the young child is pure fluidity. Suppleness is really fluidity. It transcends strength and weakness. When your body is supple, it feels like there’s no barrier in you, you can flow in any direction, your movement is a complete expression of yourself.’

Limber, lithe, pliant, yielding. Wishing for all of us thoughtful questions to ask, with suppleness of mind and body to seek the answers. Be safe. Be well. Wear your masks—-

 

Yes

 

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In Eudora Welty’s Delta Wedding, Ellen is observing her brother-in-law George, her eldest daughter Dabney, and Ranny, her next-to-youngest child:

He had, and he gave, the golden acquiescence which Dabney the bride had in the present moment—-which Ranny had.’

The Random House Dictionary of the English Language tells me that when we acquiesce, we ‘assent tacitly.’ We consent, comply, accede, concur, and this last one is my favorite, we ‘find rest.’

This exquisite gem of a sentence is found near the end of a story in which a 1920’s Mississippi Delta family gather for the wedding of the firstborn. Throughout, various family members are brought to the forefront, their foibles and rich humanity aptly depicting the beauty and also the dark side of family life.

But that phrase, ‘golden acquiescence’! It’s a yes to life, an affirmative to all of it. In the present moment, we can shine.

May you acquiesce to this moment. Find rest. Say yes.

 

 

Apples and Roses

 

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Strolling through the Park of Roses, fall’s arrival was the big picture. Straggling branches, limp in the unseasonable heat, created a scene of tangled decay. The up-close view was quite different and surprisingly fresh and beautiful.  Here and there could be found the most perfect of rose blooms, exuberant in their beauty, even on the last Monday of September. (Yes, this one—–)

With concerns for  the future of American civility and fear of nuclear war as world leaders exchange threats, the big picture is grim and unsettling.  But up close, there is a walk in the park with Alicia and Leo, applesauce in the slow cooker perfuming the afternoon house, and an evening rehearsal of Haydn’s Mass No. 3 in D Minor.

So. I’m going with roses and goodness today. And what better way to celebrate late roses  and right-on-time apples than with Bourbon Butter Apple Skillet.  Sauce is adapted from Sherry McKenney’s  maple pecan cake recipe, found in her cookbook, A Taste of the Murphin Inn. Thanks, Sherry!

Bourbon Butter Sauce:  Combine all ingredients and stir until heated through.

1 Cup sugar

1/2 cup half-and-half

1/2 cup butter

2 tsp vanilla

2 tsp bourbon (with lots of spill-over)

Thinly slice a few apples (leave on the skins) and toss them in a skillet with some of the prepared sauce.  Use medium heat until apples are cooked through but not soggy.  (5-10 minutes or so)  Serve in dessert bowls with a small pitcher of cream for drizzling.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Hike From Hell

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tiger swallowtail, courtesy pixabay

Humid, sunny, no breeze, no water, no hat.  A horse-fly repeatedly dive-bombs, then burrows into my hair with an angry buzz.  Waving walking poles at it,  I whack myself in the head.  Good Lord.  Did I mention 7 ticks on my person?  S-E-V-E-N.

Trudging up the final crest, a litany of complaints was in rehearsal, performance scheduled for an audience of one (my husband).  With gaze fixed glumly on the ground, I happen upon a pair of tiger swallowtails.  Returned to the present moment by astonishing and surprising beauty, I stop in my tracks.

And you know what comes next.  This stopping of whatever you are doing Mr. Alexander termed ‘Inhibition’.  Having stopped usual habits (i.e.–trudging, mental rehearsals, downward pull compressing my spine, etc.), I then have the opportunity for something else.  Usually something much better.

Please note:  optimal conditions are not required for choosing optimal Use.  In other words, you can, in the most unpleasant of circumstances, stop and receive whatever is right in front of you.  This provides greater ease and comfort in the physical body, and a lightness of mind as well.

That performance of complaints?  Never happened. The swallowtails stole the show.

What If?

 

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pixabay graphic

Glory be. It’s a fine morning on the hill.  Bird chorus was a cacophony, and early. Sighted a Baltimore Oriole!  A flash of brilliant orange and there he was, singing in a meadow bush. On lifting from his perch, he flew straight toward me, veering off to land in the nearest oak.  Oh, my.

To enhance your birding experience, add some Alexander Technique thinking.  Begin by simply noting and observing your usual patterns of use.  Mine:  1.  In the excitement of a closer view, I plop the binocs right up against my face, blurring my vision.  2. In a mis-directed attempt to obtain the best look, I scrunch down into the binocs, often not noticing this until my neck begins to hurt.  3. Arms get pulled tightly in toward torso in an effort to keep the binocs steady.

Next, having observed Habits (patterns of Use), ask yourself the question,  ‘What if?’  ‘What if I didn’t ram the binocs against my face?’  The body’s inherent wisdom asserts itself when we get out of its way. We get to find out what the body would like to do instead.  Instead of plopping, ramming, scrunching, pulling, there is now the option of lightness, lengthening, widening; all choices that make for more comfortable birding in a happier body.

“Thy Mind a Kingdom Is”

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‘Thy mind a Kingdom Is’—-Granard.  This quote was on Mr. Alexander’s business/appointment cards in 1900, a paraphrase of, ‘My mind to me a kingdom is…,’ part of a longer poem  included in William Byrd’s 1588 collection, Psalmes, Sonets and Songs.  It has traditionally been attributed to Edward Dyer (1540-1607).

From 1588 to 1900 to 2016, the power of the mind has been a topic for our consideration. Mr. Alexander made a life’s work of teaching others to train what he called the Self, the Body/Mind. Most recently, Ruth Whippman took up the subject in her book,  America the Anxious:  How Our Pursuit of Happiness is Creating a Nation of Nervous Wrecks.  She claims ‘the single philosophical consensus of our time is that the key to contentment lies in living fully mentally in the present.’  In a scathing review of the ways in which ‘mindfulness’ has been monetized in our culture, from employee workshops to spiritual seeker retreats, she questions the benefits of training the mind for living in the present moment.

She’s a good writer and funny.  It’s a worthwhile read.  She decries what she terms ‘self-help-based cultural thought policing,’ and ‘moralizing smugness’ towards the more distractible members of our western society.  Well, yes.  The notion that we can improve our lives via our thoughts is just another way to sustain the illusion of control.  (But I digress, with a smidge of smug.)

Let’s return instead to the 1500’s and leave behind this current age of opinions and pronouncements, visiting instead a poetic discourse on mind.  If, at these 200 words (the blog’s usual word cap), you have reached your on-line reading limit, I wish you a good week, and yes, many mindful moments.

For the rest of us, we time travel to the Elizabethan age, and the first and last stanza’s of Dyer’s poem—–

My mind to me a kingdom is;

Such perfect joy therein I find

That it excels all other bliss

Which God or nature hath assign’d.

Though much I want that most would have,

Yet still my mind forbids to crave…

My wealth is health and perfect ease,

And conscience clear my chief defence;

I never seek by bribes to please,

Nor by desert to give offence.

thus do I live, thus will I die,

Would all did so as well as I!

(The full six stanzas can be found at: http://www.poemhunter.com.)