Saturday, October 23, 2010

Autumn's Splendour.

Autumn.... a time for introspection, reflection, and taking stock.

As a child, autumn was just one more step in a long adventure I knew as my life. Summer was followed by school, shorter days, heavier clothes, and finally snow. Somewhere in there, the event known as “Autumn;” sometimes known as “Fall,” occurred. The leaves turned colour, then fell to the ground, none of which really made much difference in my young life.

As I became a teen, a vigorous “back to nature” movement was in full momentum. By that time, I had learned to appreciate the spectacle of Autumn’s painting. I followed in my Father’s footsteps and learned to use a rifle and became a hunter in the fall. Soon enough I discovered that I preferred to just look at the forests than to kill the inhabitants thereof. I began hiking around the open spaces of abandoned farms, visible to hunters yet in contact with the trees and drying grasses. I would sometimes carry a notebook and jot down a poem or short story.

As I began driving, I was able to go to other parts of the Province, places I hadn’t often seen before. I marvelled at the different colours from region to region, species to species... Maple, Birch, Oak, Beech, Aspen... All took on a different hue in Autumn; some red, some yellow, orange, brown... Some kept their green but it became muted or lighter than its summer vibrancy.

As a touring musician, I got to see the Autumn in every province in Canada. I think among the most beautiful places in this great country is the Niagara peninsula. How amazing it is!

As I grew older, I began to find Autumn depressing. I dreaded winter's arrival; the cold and shivering, the snow, the dangerous driving. Autumn also reminded me I was growing older. Each one came around a little sooner than I expected it to, a lot sooner than I wanted. I spent many years feeling melancholy during Autumn's visit.

Last year, I was once again living in south-central New Brunswick. I spent many Autumn days in or near Odell and Wilmot Parks in Fredericton. I watched the leaves turn magnificent colours and fall to the earth below, and I realized just how much I need that. Without Autumn, Summer would become meaningless and boring. Autumn reminds us to make Summer count for soon she will be gone.

Yesterday I had some time available, and my camera was blessed with fresh batteries, so I took a short drive and took some photos. I was pleased with the results and posted some of them in a You Tube video, although that concept seems strange to me; still images in a video. Heh... Watch it here

~Still Wandering…

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Pain and Suffering.

The second of the Five Remembrances in Buddhism as taught by the Venerable Thich Nhat Hanh states, “I am of the nature to have ill health. There is no way to escape ill health.”

Ill health can be anything from the common cold to cancer, or in my most recent situation, injury.

On October 2nd 2010 I was setting up my drumset in a confined space. When I stood, my back was stiff. I gave it little thought since these things happen from time to time and I usually recover relatively quickly, and a few days later I thought recovery was near. However, the stiffness became pain which worsened and by the morning of the 17th, it was excruciating! I placed a call to the chiropractor I sometimes see and left a message on his answering machine. I then e-mailed my friends who do Reiki and asked for some positive vibes and good Mojo.

By my second visit to the chiropractor on October 19, it was determined that I had sprained a disk in my back but total recovery is expected. It is important to note that this sprain was deemed “minor” by the chiropractor.

Although I am advised against sitting to avoid compression, my life is only temporarily inconvenienced by this.

When I think of the many people I know or have known who have been in serious pain, I cannot help but think of how unpleasant their lives must have been. Yet, the majority of these people put on a cheerful smile and went on with their lives. There are of course, exceptions, but I am amazed at those who managed to be happy and cheerful despite their pain.

When my chiropractor said it was a “mild” sprain, I commented that I couldn’t even imagine what a serious sprain must feel like… or anything else such as a deteriorating disk or cancer. Having watched my Father and a few friends grow weak and pass away from cancer I can attest to the pain and suffering they experienced.

What always strikes me when I become ill or injured is how much we seem to take for granted when we are well. Because I am advised at this time against sitting, I spend my time either standing or lying flat with my legs straight. Simple tasks such as putting on socks or tying shoes can be a challenge. Earlier today, I had to squat to retrieve an item from the cupboard and bending my knees was such a pleasant relief. Then I think of Darcy, the guitarist/vocalist in the band I play with who spent several months in a cast for a broken leg and I realize my situation is not bad at all.

While we are all concerned with our own problems, it is probably quite all right to be. Each of us is the one who has to live within our own skin. Many people have experienced the same back pain as I have, but we each experience it differently, from our own unique personal perspective. Others have had broken legs, but have experienced that differently than Darcy has. Others have had cancer and have experienced it differently than Dad did.

We all can also choose to be better prepared to deal with illness and/or injury. With proper diet, exercise, and lifestyle choices we can prevent damage, recover more easily from damage, or have less severe damage. My chiropractor mentioned that I have flexible hamstrings (I always thought they weren’t) and I attribute that to all the cycling I have done in the past five months. I’m sure that will be a factor in my recovery time and could perhaps also have prevented the injury from being far worse than it was.

Since the chiropractor is also a Yoga practitioner and former Yoga teacher, I am going to ask him to prescribe some stretches I can incorporate into my daily life in order to keep flexible. A little weight lifting is probably a good idea too, and certainly adjusting my diet to reduce foods that contribute to inflammation will be taken into consideration.

And, if my recovery is not complete, I will adapt. Pain and suffering can be great motivators in learning to do the things we have always done in new and different ways.

Finally, since we have just recently celebrated the Canadian Thanksgiving, I will give thanks for being as healthy as I am. As the old saying goes, “I was sad because I had no shoes until I met a man that had no feet.”

~Still Wandering…

Monday, October 11, 2010

Giving Thanks

Today is Thanksgiving in Canada.

During my school years, that meant a day off school; a long weekend. As I entered the workforce, nothing changed. As I went into a full time career as a musician, Thanksgiving Day varied from Province to Province, from establishment to establishment. Sometimes we’d have the day off, sometimes not.

If it was a day off, it was spent walking around whatever town or city we would be performing in for the week. Sometimes I would be accompanied by a fellow band member or, if it was a place where we performed frequently, I would call a lady friend to accompany me and go to dinner or a movie after an afternoon of walking or hanging out. If I knew no one in that location, I’d find a museum or art gallery and get a taste of the local culture.

Thanksgiving Day in recent years has become the day I put the lawn furniture and decorations away for winter. Sometimes, if I get my yard work done early, I may take a hike or drive in the country and enjoy the colourful leaves.

Today, I read a piece in the Reader’s Digest about a young man who said his childhood was “lucky.” He qualified that by saying he and his sister had grown up in Canada while his parents were immigrants who grew up without the benefits of the things we take for granted in this country. This young man began a blog a few years ago; a thousand things that are awesome... one posted daily for a thousand days.

While I cannot even begin to aspire to that, I would like to take the opportunity on this Thanksgiving Day to mention a few things for which I am thankful.

First, like the young man in the Reader’s digest article, I am thankful to be a Canadian. As such, I live in a country that is loved and respected worldwide, despite our close geographical and political association with a warring nation.

I am thankful also that my Canadian heritage grants me a free education up to and including high school, and free basic health care. My country won’t let me die just because I can’t afford to pay for treatment.

While I dislike the cold, and find all but one season in Canada just that, I still AM thankful for the three seasons that I shiver. They make the summer all the more enjoyable!

I am thankful that in Canada I can worship the deity of my choice or disregard as I see fit. I can befriend people of all faiths and philosophies and have; Christian, Jew, Muslim, Buddhist, Native American, Atheist... It might earn me the scorn of my peers, but it isn’t illegal.

I am thankful for the good health I enjoy. While in the advanced stages of middle age, I have the “normal” aches and pains associated with my age and geography, but I can still ride my bicycle, log a few kilometres hiking or snowshoeing and I’m not on a regimen of daily medications like many my age or even younger.

I am thankful to have had a stable family environment as a child and teenager. My parents, while smokers, did not drink and provided me with a diet of fresh grown vegetables and homemade bread and baked goods. In some ways, my parents did not prepare me for the world I grew into, but I don’t think they could have; it was so different than their world.

I am thankful to have a healthy intelligence coupled with an above average memory. I can recall song lyrics from the first live performance I played in 1970!

Speaking of performing, I am thankful for my ability to play music. I have had a long and rewarding career in that field, and it’s not over yet.

I am thankful for the many “esoteric” teachings I have received, from Reiki to Taiji and Yoga; from the Law of Attraction to Vibrational Healing; I have learned much and met many wonderful people because of it.

Which brings me to the final yet most important thing for which I am thankful... (Although I would hardly categorize all my wonderful friends as a “thing” to be thankful for.)

Each of you reading this has been a gift and blessing to me. Although many of you have moved to other parts of Canada or other countries, (or if you are still where I started my life and noticing MY absence) you still mean a great deal to me. If I have sent you the link to this blog it is to tell you that very thing.

Today, I have realized I have a great deal to be thankful for. Despite my propensity to sometimes see the glass as, if not half empty, being on its way there, I have more reasons to see the glass as being re-filled as well.

What are you thankful for today? Do you have to think about it or do they come to mind easily? Are you sharing your thanks with special people or are you alone?

And mostly, as a friend pointed out on Twitter earlier today, “I don't believe that 'Thanksgiving' was ever meant to be one day...”

~Still Wandering…

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Living Simply.

Everyone is stressed… Too many bills to pay, not enough time to do all we need to do, too much clutter in our homes and offices… Life seems to be an ever-increasing circle of meaningless repetition, spinning faster and faster out of our control. When life gets this way, even the simplest of tasks can seem daunting and un-doable.

Often, while planning to address one issue, we are thinking ahead to the other things that need to be done and we become overwhelmed; simply moving a few magazines from the couch becomes a day-long task… In order to move the magazines, there needs to be a place to put them, but in order to find that, the bookshelf needs to be tidied up. In the process of tidying the bookshelf something else becomes urgent and we become sidetracked, usually with the end result of being less organized and tidy than when we started.

In my case things get out of hand in the summer. The summers where I live seem extremely short and warm sunny weather is appreciated like nothing else. On a sunny day, when I should be mowing the lawn, I am more tempted to get on my bike or take a hike in the forest or along the shore. The end result of course is that eventually the lawn becomes a pressing issue that takes the better part of two days to deal with. Then I have put myself in a position of spending two days doing something that should only take a few hours. Exhausted, I flop onto the couch and read, which leads to a nap and what I’ve been reading stays where it falls. Then I’m back outside trying to squeeze as much as I can out of our short summer.

My friends are all equally busy too. I have three level 2 Reiki students who have been trying for months to coordinate schedules with myself and each other to get together and share some time. Another friend, who I used to see many times a week, I now see perhaps three times a year.

There has been a movement afoot for some time in North America, to “lighten up” our lives and homes, to remove clutter and disorganization and free up some time for personal growth. In recent times, many “successful” people have given up their careers, assets, and belongings to seek out a simpler and possibly more meaningful life.

During my adolescence, there was a movement among the Hippies to move back to the land and give up the trappings of society. Many at that time were escaping the U.S to avoid being drafted into the war in Viet Nam. Today it is not a war in Asia that is being avoided, but enslavement to a life of consumerism and accumulation.

I think the problem is too much television. Not that television is inherently evil; on the contrary, it is a great source of education and entertainment, but we spend far too much time as a society watching it, and the commercials encourage us to buy products we don’t need, maybe even don’t want and will probably never use. This consumer mentality forces us to have too many cars, too many TV sets, too many computers, a swimming pool, a bigger house and so on and so on.... Then when our credit cards are maxed out, we need to work, work, work to pay off the massive debt load. Add children to the mix and the cost of raising them and saving for their University educations and ... well my friends can speak on that better than I can.

If you can get them to spare the time...

~Still Wandering...