Colleen Bunker’s Journey: Nutrition, Needles, Ease & Flow

“We live in a vastly complex society which has been able to provide us with a multitude of material things, and this is good, but people are beginning to suspect we have paid a high spiritual price for our plenty.”
Euell Gibbons

When I first met Colleen Bunker, LAC, with her needles and certification as a Nutritional Therapist, I was waking up at 2 or 3am many mornings and lying restless for hours. I suffered a chronic hip pain and hoped acupuncture might help me to hike the mountains and snooze through the night. Almost 50, enrolled in massage school, and learningg to use my brain, body and hands in new ways, I felt stressed.

Colleen had begun acupuncture school at age 45, after years of managing a whole-food co-op in Maine. Before that she had an acre market-garden, three green houses and grew food for the store and elsewhere.

While working at the co-op, her father fell terminally ill and moved into her home. She still had two teenage boys around, and a man on the board of the co-op noticed her distress: “You need to come see me,” he said, and those visits were her introduction to acupuncture.

She also met her now-husband, Joe, at the co-op, also a board member. They eventually moved to Vermont where he studied Meditation and Conflict Resolution. She continued to receive acupuncture treatments, and several years later they moved to Portland, Oregon where she enrolled at OCOM (Oregon School of Oriental Medicine). Continue reading “Colleen Bunker’s Journey: Nutrition, Needles, Ease & Flow”

The Zen of Forgetting

“Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries.
Without them, humanity cannot survive.”

— Dalai Lama XIV, The Art of Happiness

I met this week’s guest-blogger, Cassy Soden, at Elk Plain Elementary School–when I was eight years old. Though it wasn’t until after college we grew close, we had worked together on Bravetalk, the high school newspaper. We played basketball on the same team at Bethel Junior High. Tomorrow is Cassy’s birthday! Though I’d love to be up in Seattle eating sushi with her at her celebration, publishing her story on L.I.T. is the next best.

Cassy Soden is a multimedia producer, writer, and story strategist. A story maven and student of the art of storytelling, her focus is to document and tell stories that reflect people’s inspiring passions. She seeks to make known stories that create learning opportunities, encourage positive change, and deepen cultural understanding.

I hope you will enjoy the personal and powerful post and poetry she has written for us. You will find an invitation, too–in her conclusion. I appreciate so much that she has offered to share this experience with us, an experience that will certainly touch many lives.

DSC03150BloomMarch stirs with rain, wind, and glimpses of the sun. It is a time when the wet Northwest blooms and vibrant colors pop against gray skies. It is against this backdrop that for many years my dad and I celebrated our birthdays with a communal cake. I remember wishing him a happy half-century birthday. Now, on the dawn of this same age, it is so strange to be here myself, my father’s life a lesson carved into my heart.

Two years ago instead of a birthday celebration we held a memorial service for my dad, Terry. In attendance was a special person, Penny, who knew my dad for only a short time but had become an important lifeline and ally in the final years of his life. Continue reading “The Zen of Forgetting”

Here’s To A Little Boy’s Life & Hope for Healing–in Today’s High-Tech Internet World

 “Healing is impossible in loneliness; it is the opposite of loneliness. Conviviality is healing. To be healed we must come with all the other creatures to the feast of Creation.”

Wendell Berry, The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays

 

Strength testing results say Edan's strong and ready for bone marrow transplant
Strength testing results say Edan’s strong and ready for bone marrow

Sometimes the internet, the interstates, airplanes and the speed of life leave us to feel disconnected.

Yet, my sister tells me they now have a milkman–delivering fresh cow’s milk to their doorstep.

In our urban backyard, kale, chard, lettuce and beets continue to feed us, even in March. Maybe this summer we’ll pluck blueberries off the vine. The neighbors grow their own vegetable garden–and invite us to pick figs from their trees.

The internet, fast trains, and certainly being able to type these thoughts on a computer rather than using the typewriter I took to college make a lot of life work way better.

And, when a child is born premature or with complications– like Amy’s son, Oriana’s granddaughter–or a little boy is diagnosed with cancer when he is only four years old–chances of survival are amazingly improved from back when any of us reading these words first took a breath.

In 2012, Edan Owen was diagnosed with stage 4 Non-Hodgkin’s T-Cell Lymphoblastic Lymphoma.

This week’s blog post is dedicated to him and to appreciating today’s world, its advances in medicine and how the speed of life provides its reward. Continue reading “Here’s To A Little Boy’s Life & Hope for Healing–in Today’s High-Tech Internet World”

Brooke Hall’s Leap Into the Wilderness

 “Ethical behavior is doing the right thing

when no one else is watching

– even when doing the wrong thing is legal.”

Aldo Leopold, 1887-1948

Ecologist & author of A Sand County Almanac

 

20140621_183222_AndroidMy interest in the outdoors started when I was horseback riding as a child,” says Brooke Hall, now a Naturalist teaching children survival skills, ethnobotany, bird language, primitive crafts and wildlife tracking.

“Some of my favorite memories of riding are through fields outside of San Antonio–finding a swarm of bees in a tree, or encountering a rattle snake on a road. In New Hampshire, I remember being bundled up on chilly fall days, following trails amongst the colorful fall trees.”

Brooke says she did lots of exploring and loved being outside with the horses and all of the hard physical work that went along with the sport. “I loved being covered in hay, dirt, horse hair, and sweat.”

Though her parents aren’t outdoorsy types, they supported their only child to do what she loved.

Riding taught her how to jump into things and not be afraid to get dirty.

“I probably wouldn’t have had the courage to cover myself in mud and crawl around on the forest floor practicing native scout skills this year if I hadn’t had those early experiences.”

Brooke spent nine months as a student in the Wilderness Awareness School’s Anake Outdoor School–about 30 miles northeast of Seattle. She learned to track wolves, build fire from friction Continue reading “Brooke Hall’s Leap Into the Wilderness”

The Other Side of Silence: Chopping Onions and Peeling Potatoes–Cooking at SCOL

 “The way to the star

can often be

to pick up a stone.”

Roger Housden, Risking Everything

20141025_172251_Android-crop2For a bunch of years I would spend at least a week of my summer break away in silence. Usually to Cloud Mountain, in Castle Rock, Washington, I would attend one of the Buddhist retreats. Though I hadn’t identified as Zen, Tibetan, Theravadan or even Buddhist, I loved the deep quiet.

Besides the stillness and gentle guidance, scrumptious vegetarian meals were served, and it was a luxury to not worry about feeding myself or anyone else. I simply showed up to the table and filled my plate.

Those “vacations” from the whirl of the world nourished: Besides the food, I could witness the wildness of my very own mind making a big mess of things with no danger of doing further immediate damage. I didn’t need to figure out what to say to anyone.

Odd as it may seem, I’d return from my days away more refreshed than from most beach-vacations. Many times, some trouble I was feeling had worked itself out–or didn’t seem such a big deal. Some crazy relationship with a colleague, a neighbor or someone in my family didn’t seem quite so impossible. The luxury of quiet allowed me to observe how my own mind creates the chaos, drama, and constant travels back in time and hops into the future. Continue reading “The Other Side of Silence: Chopping Onions and Peeling Potatoes–Cooking at SCOL”

John Fox, Poetic Medicine & the Art of Listening

“Wherever I can find a place to sit down and write, that is my home.”

Mary TallMountain

John Fox
John Fox at Gleann Cholm Cille in Ireland

At Groiler’s, the one-room poetry bookstore in Harvard Square, back in 1996, I bought a copy of Finding What You Didn’t Lose— John Fox’s first book, subtitled, “Expressing Your Truth and Creativity Through Poem-Making.”

“It’s important to be a witness and to be present to someone so they can edge out a little, then a little more. If I can be without judgment–or at least not show it–people feel safe,” he tells me.

It would be almost two decades before I would meet this kind listener, poet and poetry-therapist, though I thumbed through the chapters year-by-year–always a believer: Writing can heal. Writing does heal.

In the English 101 courses I taught for almost 20 years, I saw it happening. In essays students wrote week-by-week, journals they kept, conversations we shared, the world shifted.

Students  learned about themselves, writing words on the page. And we read poetry aloud and talked and wrote in response. They–and I, too–made connections and discovered possibilities for our lives. It was fun, and some who had recoiled in the beginning opened with the poetry.

From a young age, John knew he was a writer. Planning to study poetry with Ann Sexton and George Starbuck, he went to Boston University. Sexton would leave before her time, of course, and eventually John would transfer to Bard College. He continued his studies of literature though never called to deep-academia–earning a Ph.D. or publishing scholarly articles about Renaissance-men. He memorized Blake, Yeats, Ezra Pound and began exploring his spirituality with the likes of Ram Dass, later Stephen Levine, and he would eventually meet Joy Shieman–a poetry therapist Continue reading “John Fox, Poetic Medicine & the Art of Listening”

“Kindness”–A Poem For All Times, by Naomi Shihab Nye

“I write to learn rather than to spout off what I already know.”

Ellen Sussman

naomishihabnyeI learn a lot when writing these blog posts–usually when writing anything. This week’s musing on the poem “Kindness” by Naomi Shihab Nye led me to new places. I had to think about why I’d been drawn to the poem so many years ago, and I also learned what led her to write the poem. It had been too long since I read “Kindness” out loud, and then I listened to her reading–which you can find at the end of this post (the 3 min. video where she tells how she came to write this and another poem!)

When Ludger and I got married, it wasn’t fancy, and it wasn’t long-thought-out either. Invitations were sent a few weeks before the late-December date because his parents and brother would be visiting from Europe.  My father canceled his plans to take his family to Arizona, and they drove down, the almost-two-hours, to be with us on our marriage day. My sister threw me a wonderful shower sometimes that December , and we found a dress, special earrings–and spent the night at a bed-n-breakfast sort of place the night before.

The most fun I had preparing for the ceremony and reception involves the poem “Kindness”: It was one of the poems I chose to include in a collection we put together. Ludger translated some of the poetry into German so his parents could read, and we hung the poems around the room. After our wedding day, we bound them between purple cover pages, for keepsake. More than photos to remember the union-day, I have the poetry to remind me of our vows.

“Kindness” by Naomi Shihab Nye was read aloud–by my friend, Najeea. It had been an important poem. I discovered it when a teaching colleague lent me the collection Words Under the Words (isn’t that a super title!?!) Those were the years just after I’d lost my mother. This was a poem I read and reread, and it gave me comfort. Then, when I moved to a small town where I felt alone and out of place, I read it as meditation and often to students those years when I would begin every class meeting with the reading of a poem. Continue reading ““Kindness”–A Poem For All Times, by Naomi Shihab Nye”

Happiness & the Rat: More Similar Than We Might Think

There are two ways to live your life: one is as though nothing is a miracle, the other is as though everything is a miracle.

– Albert Einstein

This week takes me back to the rat, the brain that dictates all we do, and the choices we make along our road toward happiness or wherever we’re headed.

You might remember the super-MOOC [massive open online course] Understanding the Brain: The Neurology of Everyday Life I signed up for back in April: Dr. Peggy Mason, professor of neuroscience at the University of Chicago, teaches this 10-week course.

After a 25-year focus on the cellular mechanisms of pain modulation (how does morphine work?), she now focuses on the biological basis of empathy. Some current research looks at “empathy in rats.” Watch this short video to see one of her experiments!

In her findings, it appears that a rat will choose to free another rat from captivity before choosing to eat a yummy treat. In other words, the rat empathizes with his comrade and helps relieve this other rat’s seeming misery before feeding himself chocolate and butterscotch.

Often, we humans think we’re quite different from others life, Continue reading “Happiness & the Rat: More Similar Than We Might Think”

Lives That Touch Our Own: Karen Turner–More than English Professor

“Nobody sees a flower–really–it is so small–we haven’t time–and to see takes time like to have a friend takes time.”
Georgia O’Keefe, American Artist

 

 

karenturnerbench-inscripMany of you, I imagine, have had this same experience: A friend, teacher, pastor, rabbi, astrologist, lover, sister, doctor, neighbor–someone in life–is like a fixture. We take them for granted. We don’t realize how important they are or how we’ve depended on them until it’s too late.

Not to sound dramatic, but you probably know what I mean. It’s human–waking up a bit too late. For me, it wasn’t losing my mother that left me reeling in the way of “I never realized how important she was.” I had regrets, but I knew Mom was important in my life. Her diagnosis spun me into a panic and regret, but I would have some time near the end of her life to say goodbye, make some peace, and let her know how I appreciated her. I tried–as difficult and awkward as I was.

When she died, I was just 31 and hugely sad. The loss called me to attention in a way nothing had. I wanted to make her proud. I wanted to live a life that would show my mother’s efforts and all she gave of herself to me was worthwhile.

A couple of years later, I traveled to India Continue reading “Lives That Touch Our Own: Karen Turner–More than English Professor”

A Plate at the Table: There’s Enough Food for All

The poster for the documentary A Place At The Table. Let us be united

Let us speak in harmony;

Let our minds apprehend alike.

Common be our prayer;

Common be the end of our assembly;

Common be our resolution;

Common be our deliberations.

Alike be our feelings;

Unified be our hearts;

Common be our intentions;

Perfect be our unity.

FROM THE RIG VEDA

 

What’s “inspiring” about the film A Place at the Table–a documentary about poverty and hunger, a film calling us to action in regards to a lack of nutrition for one in four kids in the USA?

I saw it last weekfeaturing actor Jeff Bridges, Ph.Ds, social workers, and ordinary people struggling to feed their children–or attend school without feeling hungry.

This film shows that “being hungry” doesn’t always look like the protruding bellies we’ve seen on television, children from sub-Sahara Africa or Bangladesh. There is hunger nearby, and it’s often kept hidden because people feel ashamed. Hunger in the USA often occurs at the end of the month, and obesity often results from poor nutrition.

Not only is it upsetting to know people go hungry in our wealthy country, but when kids don’t get enough nutritious food at a young age, their cognitive abilities are damaged. Continue reading “A Plate at the Table: There’s Enough Food for All”