On the twelfth day of Christmas: James Fielden

lake, close-up of water

I discovered James Fielden’s site more than a year ago. Ever since, I’ve been enjoying his writing, photography and, more recently, his music and audio meditations – all paths in which James explores aspects of spirituality and the inner life. James lives in Los Angeles, where he mixes sound for film and television.

His 23-minute guided meditation, Journey Across a Lake, is a wonderful way to begin the new year.

Photo by James Fielden.

Summer day meditation, week 5

Waterfall

Last meditation class.

He says pay attention, notice.

He says look forward to getting old.

He says keep changing, you just get more who you really are.

He says live with the world inside you.

Contentment is Life living through you.

                          excerpts from  Hokusai Says, by Roger Keyes

Summer day meditation, week 4

water lily

I found this in the backyard pond this morning.

In meditation class, our instructor read a poem by Rumi about welcoming all emotions as you would a house guest, even the negative ones, as they may be clearing you out for something else.

Also a poem by Derek Walcott about loving again the stranger who was yourself, published in David Whyte’s book, The Heart Aroused: Poetry and the Preservation of the Soul in Corporate America. For a time, David Whyte was a visiting poet at a major corporation. I’ve never read a book quite like it.

You can sample some of David Whyte’s poems on his beautiful, rich website. David leads groups on hiking tours in Italy, England, and Ireland, where he reads his poetry and visits artists, cooks, gardeners, farmers, and other creatives committed to their locales.

Summer day meditation, week 3

pergola, hummingbird feeder

Under the pergola

A moment of pleasure: Sitting under the pergola at my brother’s house outside of Cleveland. Taking in the Cleveland-ness of being here.

I can’t really explain this. Something in the air has a distinctive quality, maybe the humidity and the heat of Ohio, and it takes me back to summers growing up here: listening to the Beatles on my transistor radio (WIXY 1260), swimming with my friend, Nena, at Stafford Park, play-by-play of the Indians’ baseball game always in the background….

In meditation class this week, our teacher read Wild Geese by Mary Oliver, who is from my hometown.

Summer morning meditation, week 2

Pond with Buddha

Meditation at the pond, 7:30 am.

For my mindfulness meditation class, this week we are to record one pleasurable moment each day.  Here are two:

Friday morning: helping a medical student find information about adolescent health. Enjoying her youth, beauty, enthusiasm, the unfolding of her potential. She will help many people.

Saturday morning: visiting the backyard pond, enjoying the coolness.

I’m thinking that a great book to read, lying in the hammock next to the pond, would be The Narrow Road to the Deep North, by Matsuo Basho.

Please share your recent moments of pleasure in the comments.

Summer evening meditation, week 1

Tonight I attended the first of five mindfulness-based stress reduction classes, which include instruction in meditation. Four years ago, I took a similar series of classes; this summer I hope to renew and re-commit to my meditation practice.

We followed our breath for several minutes. We ate a raisin, mindfully. We practiced the body scan (progressive relaxation of each part of the body, preferably while lying down.) I thought I was totally relaxed, lying on my yoga mat on the hardwood floor. But when our instructor read Mary Oliver’s poem, “The Summer Day,” I found myself lying in a field of grass, giving myself up to it as if I were a kid.

That was my second encounter with Mary Oliver today. The first occurred in my wanderings around the Internet, where I found out she will publish a new book of poems this fall, “A Thousand Mornings.”

When I came home from class, my son had just arrived with fresh-picked raspberries. I ate some with whipped cream. Mindfully, of course.

She wanted to decode her beautiful, quirky genome

…we are each of us temporary depositories of information that has an almost eternal life, and which is passed on and on and on…           Lone Frank, My Beautiful Genome

Staring at the luminous model of the strand of DNA on my computer screen, a sculpture of great beauty, perfect function, and masterful design, I wondered. Who is the designer? And is this a question that even makes sense?

I say perfect function but, when it isn’t perfect, there can be disease, pain, suffering. Or simply quirkiness that doesn’t amount to much, just makes you a little different – a bit of rheumatism in your right big toe, for example, so you can’t wear high heels.

My medical librarian colleagues and I were learning how to search the data generated from the Human Genome Project and other ongoing genetics-based research. Our instructor, a bioinformatics librarian with a PH.D. in molecular biology and years of research under her belt, showed us how to look up the gene associated with cystic fibrosis in humans. We found a map of the gene’s location on a specific chromosome and links to places where you can order a clone of the DNA for research.

And over the course of the two-day class, our instructor, who is also a storyteller, told us the tale of research into the human genome, the explosion of data that’s resulted in a very short time, and how far we’ve yet to go.

My Beautiful Genome book coverA few months later, I discovered Lone Frank’s My Beautiful Genome: Exposing Our Genetic Future, One Quirk at a Time and added it to my reading list. Over the next weeks, I’ll be reading and discussing it on Books Can Save a Life as I decide whether or not to explore my own beautiful, quirky genome. I’m reasonably certain I will explore my genome unless I’m persuaded otherwise. It’s not a matter of if, but when. There is so much turmoil and confusion surrounding consumer-based genetic testing, I may wait until things settle down a bit.

The lure of this kind of knowledge – the secret of my own, one-of-a-kind, unlike-no-other-in-the-history-of-the-world genetic makeup – is something I don’t think I can resist for long, though.

As with everyone else, it’s personal.

My genetic make-up was of special concern years ago when my husband and I were deciding whether to have children. We’d gone to a genetic counselor to find out the chances of our children inheriting my mother’s schizophrenia. Fortunately, they were quite low. The counselor could tell us this by simply taking a family history and looking at the heritability data of the grandchildren of people with schizophrenia.

More recently, I was curious to know what the Human Genome Project and other research has revealed about the heritability of schizophrenia, and what a look at my signature genome might tell me. I’ll be exploring that, among other things, as I make my way through My Beautiful Genome.

Possessing this kind of personal genetic knowledge will become commonplace, I believe, and learning how to live with it ethically, in a way that will benefit humanity, will be one of the great adventures of our time.

Do you think we’re overreaching, like the mythic Prometheus? Wanting to know more than is good for us and we can responsibly handle? Please comment if you have thoughts about this.

Mindfulness Meditation

In My Beautiful Genome, Lone Frank talks about how everything we perceive is filtered through our brains, which are influenced by our genes, and how our behavior may be genetically determined. I just happen to be starting a mindfulness meditation class that will take place over the next several weeks. It will be my second time through this type of meditation instruction, a refresher that will bolster the meditation practice I began five years ago. So, while I read My Beautiful Genome,  I’ll also be highlighting some of my favorite books about meditation. If you’ve tried meditation yourself or have a practice, please join in the discussion.

Quote from My Beautiful Genome: Exposing Our Genetic Future, One Quirk at a Time, by Lone Frank, Oneworld Publications, 2011.

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