Thursday, January 26, 2012

Fiction exerpt: Cheering Up Tom

Frank asked Tom to pick up Rita at the St Paul Street bus stop for him. He said that he would know who she was; she never let herself be unnoticed.

“Well … Is she blond? Tall? Older?” Tom asked.

“You’ll know!”

“Why am I picking her up?”

“I promised her a ride home and I can’t make it. You don’t want to break a promise ever, and especially not with Rita.”

As Tom sat in his car he feared he would regret this. The hazy fog hanging over town did not make it any easier to discern people. He turned the key in the ignition, going through the motion, and the engine remained silent. His shoulders relaxed and he smiled. His relief was brief though; he remembered to step on the clutch the next time he turned the key in the ignition.

There were several people at the bus stop. None were particularly noticeable. It wasn’t going to be as easy as Frank predicted.

There was someone who did not look like she was waiting for the bus. She was leaning toward an opened passenger side window, speaking with the driver. As Tom opened his door, he overheard the woman express slowly but distinctly that she did not realize that her walking on the street could possibly disturb anyone and that if her presence was distracting to him she was completely sorry, but that again she had not meant to cause any problems.

“Just use the sidewalk,” the man insisted, “it’s dangerous in this fog!”

He started to close the car window, but she continued talking about not meaning any harm and that she really thought the street was for everyone.

“Lady, I need to run, so would you please step away from my car?”

She looked at him very directly and said, spacing each word patiently: “Sir, I was apologizing to you, you could be a gentleman and accept my apology.”

“I accept your apology,” he said with some irritation.

“Now, what was your name again, I don’t recall hearing it?”

“Goodbye lady!”

He drove away, and sped up quite briskly once at a safe distance from her. She stood up, watched him leave. Her long dark hair still covered her chest from bending forward at the car window. She had dark features as if Mediterranean, which in Tom’s mind was in contrast to her slow and distinct southern belle speech pattern.

“There are so few gentlemen anymore,” she said out loud.

“Rita?” Tom hailed out.


“Frank couldn’t make it; he asked me to pick you up!”

“I will be darned if that isn’t Frank! Would you come and open the door for me?”

Except for a large size purse, Rita had her hands free. It puzzled Tom that she asked this. He went ahead anyway and opened the door for her.

“You’ll have to give me directions,” he said, once in the driver seat.

“Frank did not tell you where I live?”


“Did he leave you with an envelope for me?”


“Isn’t that’s a surprise?” She said sarcastically.

“Is there a problem?”

“Not at all. He planned it all very well. Thank you!”

Tom remained quiet.

(soon to be published in a collection of shorts called CONSTELLATIONS)

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Fiction exerpt: Margaret Emond’s Letters

People call me to fix leaks. I’m a plumber. I have to cut into walls sometimes to replace old pipes. What I find there, you may call family secrets. Yesterday, in an old stone house, behind some crumbling plaster, I found a stack of old letters in their original envelopes tied together with hemp twine. There was a note on top: “To whoever finds these letters,” and it was signed: “Margaret Emond”.
Letter no. 1 – May 21st, 1854

Dear Mystery Friend,

Ever since I was a little child, I stood still watching people. People appear warm and clever but are preoccupied with ambitions. They pretend to converse with motives unspoken. I find myself not caring for their presence. I distance myself as my suffering from people’s absence from their heart is too heavy to bear. I have come to be a quiet person.

I walked to the park to watch the swans earlier today. My spirit filled rejuvenated and blessed with hope.

I cannot suppose men and women of all races and religions will treat each other with contempt forever. I long for a friendship with someone open to a true sharing of the soul. I hope you will take my confidence to heart kindly.

M. E.
I am making plans to visit my aging parents for the end of the year holidays. On the phone, my father asked me for a favor. He told me he needed nettle roots. He makes it into an herbal tea; it helps lower his PSA levels and relieves pressure from his swelling prostate. He can no longer find it at the health stores near him and wondered if the stores near me would have some. 

My friend Mel called Chris, a farmer friend of hers, and we were soon driving to his farm. He told us there were different species of nettles. He’d never heard of their roots being used for medicinal purposes and thought he should look into it for his own father. He directed us to a meadow where he pointed at two patches of tall brown growths.

We did not have to dig too deep and large amounts of roots came with each shovelful of dirt without too much effort. In half an hour we had two tall buckets filled with roots. There was plenty more. We gave them a quick rinse and went home.
Letter no. 2 – May 28th, 1854

I wonder about your era, Mystery Friend. Are people still bickering over racial and gender divides? Are people celebrating life? Are people living with passion? Oh! I am elated at the idea of seeing something of your world!

M. E.
“It has to be roots from the stinging nettle,” Dad said on the phone.

“That’s what I have. Do you know what part of the root I need to dry up?”

“What do you mean?”

“I did not buy them at the health store. I dug them up at a local farm.”

“Are they organic?”

“Sure, Dad!”

“How do you know?”

“The farmer said they are. I trust him.”

“And you are going to dry them up?”

“Yes, Mel has a food dehydrator. But I need to know what part of the root has the healing properties you are looking for.”

He did not know. A day later we had the same answer; we can use the entire root.

Washing the roots and chopping them up to get them ready for the dehydration process, I thought of my relationship with Dad. Neither he nor I are herbalists. He is a historian. He seeks for and reads old documents from archives. He pieces facts together like puzzles. He does not try to say more than the documents say. If something is missing, he keeps searching until he finds answers that make sense.

I don’t live in the same world as Dad. I work hard and don’t mind getting my hands dirty. Dad and I, we do not have much in common except for fitting pieces of puzzles together; different kinds of pieces.

(soon to be published in a collection of shorts called CONSTELLATIONS)

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Affirmations or Reminding Myself of a Truth?

I got to think about affirmations recently. I never use them. I use something else but without giving it a name. I now think it is what affirmations are meant to be. An example will clarify what I mean.

When I worked for Wyeth as a biostatistician -- biostatisticians do statistics for medical and pharmaceutical research -- I often heard coworkers complaining about never finishing their workload by the end of the day. When I heard them, I promised myself I would always have enough time to finish my work on time at the quality level that I felt happy with so I would not have to stay at work after hours. Whenever I was scared I would not be able to complete something by the deadline given to me, I took a deep breath and reminded myself that I would have enough time. And ... I always did. When I was not done by the deadline, I would often get a call from my supervisor requesting that we postpone our meeting due something urgent coming up, or some other reason. I always had enough time.

 Do you think the climber has any doubt right now?

When I drive somewhere and I realize that there is a chance I may arrive late at my destination, I remember my mantra from work: "I will have enough time!" There is no reason to worry. Either my being late is not a big deal, others will get there even later than I will, or something has come up and the meeting has been canceled without my knowing.

How is this different from an affirmation? Well it may not be. When I first heard of affirmations, I heard of them in the context of finding the right date, or raising one's self esteem. I heard people using them and complaining they don't work. If people just repeat something they don't believe and are trying desperately to create in their lives, it will not work.

What I do is something a little different. I am not trying to convince myself of something I want to believe. I put myself in the space where what I am saying is true. So my "mantra" is just a reminder of this truth. Another way to look at it is, if something belongs to my higher self, it is truth. It may not be a truth I am able to believe from my lower self's perspective, but that only means I am in a space of illusion, believing I am unworthy of something.

Whatever you truly want: A happy relationship, the perfect job, the perfect car... Just put yourself in the space where that is true. I guess that's what the law of attraction is about. But be careful what you wish for ...

There are also hierarchies of desires. Some desires are much more important to you than others. For instance, for me, being peaceful, happy and in harmony with myself and the world are my first priority. Secondly comes my vision of helping create a world where everyone lives from a place of passion and purpose. I thought that being a counselor working for an agency might help me get there... but it has not worked out that way. I was confused at first, until I remembered my priorities. Then my life started to reorganize itself differently from my expectations.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Loving my Neighbor

In the message of Jesus, loving others is inseparable from loving God. The ideal of loving others is not unique to Christianity. Buddhists are taught to have unselfish interest in others’ welfare. Bahá'ís are taught to love all even one’s enemies. Jews are taught about loving-kindness for all. Muslims are taught compassion for all. Jaina are taught to have benevolence for all. Non-religious humanists believe in being of service to all of humanity.

The notion of loving one’s neighbor came back to me recently and made me see that I had not seen its importance. I had accepted it as truth but had not seen what it truly means. Why is it such an important notion?

It takes an effort to love a neighbor who seems uncaring, selfish, judgmental, competitive, etc., etc. But let’s go to some extreme. What if my neighbor commits crimes? What if my neighbor is a murderer, a rapist, a pedophile? What if my neighbor flirts with my life partner? What if my neighbor introduces my kid to drugs? Then what does it mean to love my neighbor?

We are used to judging behaviors as good or bad. This is what our culture has taught us from infancy. But that isn’t helpful in understanding why circumstances happen as they do in our lives. And it does not help to heal our self, let alone the planet.

If a neighbor commits crimes, a more useful question is: What in me needs this experience in my life? This is the approach of Ho’oponopono. It is not an approach of self-judgment, or self-blame; it is an approach of taking responsibility, of not separating oneself from one’s experience. As a parent I know that if I feel stressed and ignore it, my children start acting out. Most parents then ask the children to calm down, but in truth, they would if only the parent who is anxious would start taking deep breaths!

So our neighbors teach us about our own state of mind. By loving our neighbors, as they are, and taking responsibility for our own state of mind and releasing its negative aspects in relation to these neighbors, with self-love and self-forgiveness, our neighbors either change or move away.

Dr. Hew Len, who was trained in the tradition of Ho’oponopono, says that he was originally trained to go out and help people, but then he realized that that doesn’t work: “What works ultimately, is when I realized that the world is within me, and that to change the world, I have to change it within myself.”

In the end, loving one’s neighbor helps heal our self, and our personal relationship with the universe. Loving one’s neighbor is an essential component toward enlightenment.