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Posts Tagged ‘East’

While my brother Dr Jim was getting punished with a foot of snow in MN, Spring has sprung here in Nashville.

We’ve been busy collecting the daffodils in Ms Berdelle’s secret garden, and practicing Quigong on her patio. This past weekend I enlisted my young neighbor, Ashley, to give this ancient form of exercise and healing a try; but when she asked me what Quigong actually is, I was at a loss. I’d only studied T’ai Chi in the past and since today is Tuesday, I’ll be aligning my Chi pretty soon!

Still, Berdelle’s son is a Master of Quigong, and luckily he was visiting and the weather has been cooperating, I was game to give it a try:

When you start practicing Qigong exercises, the primary goal is to concentrate on letting go, letting go, letting go. That’s because most imbalance comes from holding on to too much for too long. Most of us are familiar with physical strength of muscles, and when we think about exercising, we think in terms of tensing muscles. Qi energy is different. Qi strength is revealed by a smooth, calm, concentrated effort that is free of stress and does not pit one part of the body against another.  https://www.consciouslifestylemag.com/qigong-exercises-healing-energy/

If that sounds like a song from a Frozen movie you’d be right. This is less like a Pelloton workout and more like a meditation on harmony, with birdsong as background music. When our Yin and Yang energy becomes unbalanced (or as Dr Jim would put it, we are too tightly or too loosely strung), it’s important to LET GO of everything that is holding us back and weighing us down.

Since Great Grandma Ada’s NJ house has just gone on the market, I’ve noticed a change in her – realistically she knows that her “collections” have served their purpose and she doesn’t need the hundreds of dishes, pots, silver and heavy furniture she has accumulated over a lifetime. In fact, she has sent the Steinway Grand piano out to California for the Rocker to enjoy!

But emotionally, she is still coming to terms with this new reality. Who are we without all our stuff?  

When I studied Buddhism at UVA, our class was told to write down words to describe who we are: Woman. Mother. Writer. Wife. Gardener. Chief Cook and Bottle Washer. (I wasn’t a grandmother yet)… but you get the point. How do we define ourselves? Irish. Democrat! Progressive! Feminist! Then our teacher told us to erase all those words, and some people had plenty of descriptors.

We were looking at a blank page.

The point was to empty our minds of all our labels, labels meant to divide us socially and politically, to create havoc and borders and even war. This past week we watched House Democrats try to come up with an Anti-Semitism bill that devolved into an anti-hate bill and lost its legs – criticizing a policy of racism and apartheid is not the same as hating a people for their ethnicity. Or spreading stereotypic garbage for that matter.

Is it possible to become one with the human race? To meditate and find the flow that connects each and every one of us to the earth and other living things. When I look into Ms Bean’s soulful eyes I see unconditional love. When we look into a new baby’s black, blue or green eyes we experience that same tenderness.

For some this is a very hard exercise, to give up everything we think we know about ourselves. We might feel like a ship stuck at sea with no harbor in sight. But for some, it is the very definition of freedom.

The Bride was asking me about Great Grandma Gi the other day. She wanted to know how and why the Flapper came to love Buddhism because she is seriously studying Yoga. Born in 1908, my Mother had a long hard life – she was abused as a young girl, had to relinquish two of her children for a time, and then her sixth and last child, me, after our Year of Living Dangerously. She survived a horrific car accident and buried three husbands. But her strength was a direct result of her suffering.

Gi was not a fabulist or a pollyanna in any way. She worked hard and constantly told me that every person has a story. Studying the interaction of mind and body became her religion in late life; just as integrative medicine, blending Western science with Eastern philosophy, has become accepted by wellness experts in America.

In this Year of the Pig, I will try to meditate, to breathe and to plan on letting go.

“I will practice coming back to the present moment,

Not letting regrets and sorrow drag me back into the past,

Or letting anxieties, fear or craving pull me out”

Thich Nhat Hanh 

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Months ago, a friend’s daughter mentioned that she had stopped taking Adderal, a drug that was prescribed years earlier for Attention Deficit (ADD). She was proud of weaning herself off this stimulant and started looking at the world, and her career differently. I was happy for her, since as y’all know I am NOT a pill person – well except for vitamins – and I recommended she read this book, “Thinking Fast and Slow,” by Daniel Kahneman who won the Nobel Prize in 2002 for Economics, even though he is a psychologist.

A therapist friend recommended this book to me, and Bob just finished reading it on our Kindle App, so now it’s my turn. It’s easy enough to say that men are from Mars, but this non-fiction book doesn’t try to explain male vs female minds. In fact, gender has nothing to with it. Instead we find out that our instinctual, fast assessment of any situation is the hero of our cognitive world, and the slower, analytical mind is rather lazy!

System 2, in Kahneman’s scheme, is our slow, deliberate, analytical and consciously effortful mode of reasoning about the world. System 1, by contrast, is our fast, automatic, intuitive and largely unconscious mode. It is System 1 that detects hostility in a voice and effortlessly completes the phrase “bread and. . . . ” It is System 2 that swings into action when we have to fill out a tax form or park a car in a narrow space. (As Kahneman and others have found, there is an easy way to tell how engaged a person’s System 2 is during a task: just look into his or her eyes and note how dilated the pupils are.)  http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/27/books/review/thinking-fast-and-slow-by-daniel-kahneman-book-review.html

When we speak about the “tone” of a conversation, as we have been doing about Mr T’s recent attempts at a Press Conference, we are engaging System 1. It is the nuanced way we communicate with others, the reason we may meet someone and feel an immediate kinship. I was actually thinking that System 1 may be a higher evolutionary adaptation to an increasingly complex and interconnected technological world. Making a diagnosis of ADD more of a plus, than a minus.

Now Bob’s opinion of an ADD diagnosis is that your environment isn’t sufficiently stimulating. As the student who sat in front of him in French class in the 60s, I know this to be true – his legs were always moving behind my desk, so much so that I felt as if I was on a Disney ride. I am positive he would have been medicated as a child. And our son had a similar level of energy in high school, similar to a race horse in the gate, one very hard to contain in a “normal” classroom. I can already see this fast level of relating to the world in the Love Bug. I can almost see her mind racing to keep up with us; at the age of two she was asking us to teach her how to read!

So the inner-linguist-in-me was delighted to read this morning that in fact, our thoughts may have been shaped by the kind of crops our ancestors grew! http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20170118-how-east-and-west-think-in-profoundly-different-ways

 

Growing rice requires far greater cooperation: it is labour-intensive and requires complex irrigation systems spanning many different farms. Wheat farming, by contrast, takes about half the amount of work and depends on rainfall rather than irrigation, meaning that farmers don’t need to collaborate with their neighbours and can focus on tending their own crops.

This BBC article explains how so many social science experiments are biased toward the Western world, more specifically American graduate students who participate in these studies. The idea of Western thought being more frontier in nature, valuing the individual, John Wayne, self-directed approach, as differentiated from Eastern thought which values the whole, group achievement, socialist model over the individual is a narrative based in reality, and not alternative facts.  “…our social environment moulds our minds. From the broad differences between East and West, to subtle variation between US states, it is becoming increasingly clear that history, geography and culture can change how we all think in subtle and surprising ways – right down to our visual perception.”

And I would add Red and Blue states to this mix. I once asked a group of women knitting together in a room if in fact every US citizen didn’t deserve to have health care. This was early on, when President Obama was being blocked by every single Republican legislator from passing health insurance reform. And the one Republican knitter in the room said very defiantly “Absolutely not!” She was thinking like a pioneer, and not like someone on the Titanic.

The Flapper loved everything Eastern, including Buddhism, and believed in mindfulness before it was ever trending. Since I received the results of my Ancestry DNA, I realize that my cells are all Irish, with unfortunately no Asian influence. But ever since I was a girl, wearing my Catholic school uniform, my environment taught me to share and think collectively…and maybe now we need to think faster than ever. We need to be the first Jedi.

“All that we are is the result of what we have thought. The mind is everything. What we think we become.”

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