Thursday, June 28, 2007


Aside from the fact that the "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End" soundtrack has eaten my brain and I've been listening to it pretty much non-stop since seeing the movie last Saturday night, I did purchase some other music this past week.

Awhile back following a link from a link, I found and subscribed to the Pray As You Go podcasts. Last fall they were great for commutes into the city after work, calming and rejuvenating. About 10-15 minutes each they start with some chant music, then read a portion of scripture, and guide you through thinking about that scripture, asking you to place yourself in the scene, and asking some pointed questions about how this relates to your life. Plus, most of the readers have British accents *grin*.

I started downloading them again this week, after my first attempt at meditation, b/c they are a nice bite sized chunk of what I am trying to learn. Anyway, when i was listening to Monday's podcast, the music at the beginning was quite different, not the usual Gregorian chant music I've got used to, but rhythmic voices, with a stringed instrument, similar to a guitar but not, and percussion. It immediately grabbed me so of course I had to research and find out who it was so i could get the music for myself.

Turns out it's from a monastery in Senegal called "Keur Moussa". Unfortunately the English version of their website doesn't seem to be working, and I don't read French, or I would have bought some cds from them directly. However after some surfing around I was able to find a cd used on Amazon. (Have I mentioned I love Amazon? I do :)).

Amazon recommended another cd with it called "Kora Revolution", kora being the stringed instrument that sounds sort of like a guitar but isn't. The artist is from Afro-Celt Sound System, of whom I have two albums already. This one was available on Itunes, so I got it there. (sorry, Amazon. I do love you. Really.)

So, long story short - I have new music. Though am still listening to Pirates...

Monday, June 25, 2007

Of solitude, silence, and meditation

It's hard to find solitude and silence in New York City. In the summer, I love the beach. I go to the farthest field where the buses don't stop and they rarely have lifeguards. On a weekday it's just me, a few surfers and some fisherman. But today was too chilly for the beach. Absolutely gorgeous - sunny, blue sky with fluffy white clouds, no humidity, 69 degrees.

I tossed a towel and my books in my string bag and walked to the park about a mile away, with a stop at Dunkin Donuts for a ridiculously large iced coffee and bagel. Waded through the little leaguers, bikers, joggers, and people sunning themselves to a place where miraculously no one else was, a gazebo in the woods, overlooking the highway far below and the bay. Not exactly silent, tho the highway traffic is more white noise and almost matches the wind rustling the leaves of the trees.

Finished Richard Foster's chapter on meditation in "Celebration of Discipline." He describes three different forms of meditation - meditation on scripture was the first and the one that appealed to me. He points out that meditation is not study, or exegesis, but personalization of the passage.

He quotes Dietrich Bonhoeffer as saying "just as you do not analyze the words of someone you love, but accept them as they are said to you, accept the Word of Scripture and ponder it in your heart, as Mary did. That is all. That is meditation."

Foster suggests "that you take a single event, or a parable, or a few verses, or even a single word and allow it to take root in you."

How do we pick what scripture to meditate on though? Today selecting was easy because I picked something quoted in the boo. Foster quotes Bonhoeffer again as saying one should meditate on the same passage for a week. Fine, but then what about next week? We are reading Genesis in Bible study, and I'm working my way toward psalms in my own reading, tho admittedly have been reading more books that actual scripture this past year. Foster's descriptions of using the "sanctified imagination" to place ourselves in the scene with Jesus makes me want to pick something from the gospels. So, how do I choose?

Today I chose James 1:17 because it was mentioned elsewhere in the chapter, and therefore handy.

All that is good, all that is perfect, is given us from above; it comes down from the Father of all light; with him there is no such thing as alteration, no shadow caused by change.

Some ramblings I jotted down:

God is light with no change of shifting shadow (I know I've read that in another version), like the way the light shifts and shimmers on the leaves and the water. So, pure light with no shadows such as leaves cause. But elsewhere in scripture it says God is the shade on our right hand or something to that effect. (note to self, next time might help to actually bring a bible along) So God is both pure light and shade. How can that be?

The sun is warm but also contains harmful radiation. shade is cooling and safe, protecting. So God is pure light that causes no harm and provides shade?

Am I supposed to be meditating with a notebook and writing things down? And is what I am writing down making any sense?

Bottom line: Not sure if I was missing or getting the point of the exercise. Foster says you don't learn to meditate from a book (darn b/c I like learning things from books). You learn to meditate by meditating. So that is what I am attempting to do.

Thursday, June 14, 2007


I don't think that I am an overly modest person. I don't mind showing some skin, leg, arm, etc. I love shorts and low rise pants that add a few inches to my torso. I have no issues with wearing a swim suit, hate long skirts, and rebel against the notion that women shouldn't wear jeans to church, tho I respect the rule against wearing them if I am leading worship.

I especially adore the soft clingy feel of Old Navy tank tops. I just wish most of the necklines were about two inches higher. I was shopping earlier this week, looking for a couple *non* tank tops for summer, a brown themed swimsuit top to go with the shorts I made from capris, and possibly a cute dress for church and parties. Of all the things I tried on, I walked away with Bermuda jean shorts, a skirt, a sweater (on clearance sale, see previous post), and another couple tank tops.

Every single one of the shirts, dresses, and swim suit tops I tried on had one thing in common - they exposed so much of my chest that I might as well just walk around in shorts and a bra. Actually my bras cover more than some of these tops. I don't mind showing a hint or shape of cleavage, and I admit I have another motive for keeping my chest to myself - I had heart surgery when I was nine, and so have a scar that runs straight down the center. But really.

This morning I was reading from "Real Sex" by Lauren Winner, and a couple passages jumped out at me after this (and many many other) shopping experience.

Lauren is discussing taking her friend's five year old shopping for school clothes: The kindergarten set, it appears, is wearing the same low-riding, midriff-revealing tops and trousers that their big sisters and moms are sporting, At least, the working-class and middling kindergartners are. All the affordable shops, in other words, specialize in revealing outfits and tight skirts. Wealthy daughters, whose parents can afford to shop at Hanna Andersson and Nordstrom, still get little girl clothes - crinolines and dresses and smocking. But we apparently expect their less well off cousins to start dressing for sex early.

I thought,wait a minute, it's not just kids shops but ours too. Sure, I can pay $40 for a full coverage unfitted tank top from Title Nine, but my budget would cry much less if I grab the two for $12 at Old Navy.

Reading further: Try finding a truly modest summer frock that doesn't make you look like a sack of potatoes - it isn't impossible, but it also isn't the easiest thing in the world either.

Or cheap. *sigh* All I'm asking for is a couple of inches here and there, without sacrificing style. I want to be covered, comfortable, and not look like I borrowed my grandmother's clothes. If I were a seamstress, I'd make or alter my own, and I admire those that do, but sewing is not my forte. I can manage cutoff shorts and replacing a button, that's about it. Let's face it, you can't chat on the computer, watch TV, or read a book while using a sewing machine. Possibly by the end of next year I might be making my own pajama bottoms (WHAT is the obsession with drawstrings??? They might make Jean Butler look good, but no one else!), but don't hold your breath.

Thankfully I wear a uniform, so have no workplace clothing issues. Anyway, will have much food for thought in the next year.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Pic spam

Some piccies, posted here b/c it's easier than on LJ - lol. But since I made reference to my new computer in my last post...

My new laptop, Chuck:

Chuck and his uniform:

I took a picture of this sweater b/c I am v. proud of finding it on clearance sale at Old Navy, marked down from $36 to$9.

Plus it matches perfectly my new skirt, and I now have a ceili outfit for either Sat or Sun. It might be destined to become my favorite sweater during the Year of No Clothes Shopping.

And finally the Pirates towel that happened to jump into my cart when I was in Target. No idea how that happened.

I will be enjoying my beach time methinks *grin*

Delayed Gratification

I have a brand new laptop, which I am typing on right now. His name is Chuck. Chuck has wireless capability, but I don't have wireless in the apartment. I am getting a wireless router from my parents for my birthday at the end of August. Until then I have to content myself with typing stories and blog posts on Chuck, while sitting curled up on the couch, and then transferring them to my desktop, Allan (yes I do name most of my appliances. I'm weird that way.) for posting. I can't use Chuck to chat, twitter, surf, or check my email.

Two months is an awfully long time. I mean just a few days ago I was saying fifteen minutes was a long time. But this summer I am supposed to be learning spiritual discipline, so I guess here is my first lesson - patience and delayed gratification. Not exactly the American way. We want it now, now, now, and thanks to credit cards we get it. Not this time.

And after all it really is for the best. Starting in September, I'll probably never leave my couch.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Books, books, books

Since my last post I did a wee bit of shopping on Amazon. LOVE Amazon. I bought "A Celebration of Discipline" by Richard Foster, which I've read once but my mom's copy and I want my own, esp considering my focus on disciplines this summer, "Real Sex" by Lauren Winner, and the pocket/travel edition of "The Divine Hours" by Phyllis Tickle.

Lest those reading this who don't know me well think me too serious, be advised I am halfway through "Song of the Beast", a lovely fantasy by Carol Berg (I am a total sucker for dragons), and have on my to read pile two fantasy novels by Tad Williams (yes *finally* getting around to that series that I've been looking at and thinking "I should read that someday..." for about 10 years.), and "Blood on the Tongue" by Stephen Booth, which I actually am dying to start given my current bent toward British and Canadian mystery series. Someone really needs to take BBC America away from me. And my Tivo. How am I supposed to catch up on all these DVDs waiting for me when I keep finding and grabbing new shows?

Am also currently reading "Mysteries of the Middle Ages" by Thomas Cahill, a loner from Mom. I love his subtly Christian slant, but that he is matter of fact, not in your face about it, and gives a thoroughly intellectual and also at times quite cynical overview of history. I just finished the chapter on Eleanor of Aquitaine and Francis of Assisi - talk about an interesting combo. Working tomorrow but don't need to start too early, so plan to have some reading time with this book over coffee before I have to go. Of course I am typing this Friday nite on my laptop, and by the time I export it to my desktop and post it will probably be Sunday, and my plans will have come and gone. The novelty of typing on my new lappy, Chuck, has not worn off, and I doubt it ever will, esp once I get my router. :)

As regards silence, managed ten minutes this morning, and what popped into my head halfway through was "Christmas Canon" by Trans-Siberian Orchestra. I have NO idea why. It's not even come up on shuffle in months. My friend Pia (who really needs to get a blog ;)) and I have been having a running debate on the merits vs harmful effects of practicing silence. I might post some of it here at a later time with her permission. I will say that since I've started my attempts my language behind the wheel seems to have improved somewhat, but that could just be b/c I've not driven into Manhattan this week.

ETA: The books came today! Amazon is fast. Now I have to decide what to read first, even tho I am supposed to be writing.

ETA2: It is ridiculously easy to add links here on Blogger.

ETA3: Amazon should give me commission.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Sounds of Silence, part deux

Some quotes from the Henri Nouwen chapter "Bringing Solitude into Our Lives", in "Devotional Classics":

A spiritual life requires human effort. The forces that keep pulling us back into a worry filled life are far from easy to overcome.... A spiritual life without discipline is impossible. The practice of a spiritual discipline makes us more sensitive to the small, gentle voice of God. ... Through the practice of a spiritual discipline we become attentive to that small voice and willing to respond when we hear it...

we are usually surrounded by so much outer noise that it is hard to truly hear our God when he is speaking to us... When, however, we learn to listen, our lives become obedient lives. The word obedient comes from the latin audire, which means "listening."

Without solitude it is virtually impossible to live a spiritual life. Solitude begins with a time and place for God, and him alone.

To bring some solitude into our lives is one of the most necessary but also most difficult disciplines... As soon as we are alone, without people to talk with, books to read, TV to watch, or phone calls to make, an inner chaos opens up in us... when we have removed our outer distractions, we often find that our inner distractions manifest themselves to us in full force.

Once we have committed ourselves to spending time in solitude, we develop an attentiveness to God's voice in us... Time in solitude may at first seem little more than a time in which we are bombarded by thousands of thoughts and feelings that emerge from hidden areas of our minds... at first, the many distractions keep presenting themselves. Later, as they receive less and less attention, they slowly withdraw.

As we empty ourselves of our many worries, we come to know not only with our mind but also with our heart that we were never really alone, that God's Spirit was with us all along.

Today after reading this was attempt number two. A bit different as today I have the day off from work, and aside from an appt with my trainer at 4:30, and our end of the year music ministry dinner at 7, I've the whole day to myself. Plus my brother is out of town till tonite, so also the whole apartment to myself. And of course a million things I want to do...

And typing on my new laptop is SO cool.

Attempted 15 minutes this am, at quarter to so that the clock bird would chirp at the hour to let me know the 15 minutes was up. Was fairly quiet, except for the birds, one train, and someone mowing the lawn a couple blocks away.

15 minutes is a long time. Tried my best to not look up at the clock but wait for the bird. I see what Henri Nouwen means about being "bombarded by thoughts." What am I going to have for breakfast/brunch/lunch. What am I going to wear to the gym, and what am I going to wear to the dinner tonite? The next scene in the SG1 fic I'm working on during ficfrenzy on LJ. What books I want to buy on amazon, b/c I have another GC burning a whole in my fingers. Tho I give myself credit that it was books from the list in the back of the above book I was thinking of, never mind the stack of nice meaty fantasy novels on my to read pile, which then lead to Will I drive or take the train tonite, and if I take the train, which book will I take to read? and is it 15 minutes yet?


Baby steps, I guess!

The Sounds of Silence

June 6, 2007

Have decided after yesterday's road rage temper tantrum in the car ( which fortunately no one but my steering wheel saw/heard) that I really need to start practicing some spiritual discipline, aside from my usual practice of getting up, drinking coffee and reading for awhile before work. These past few weeks I feel really out of touch with God, unsure how to meaningfully pray, and in need of... something.

The first discipline I decided to try is silence. I've read many references to silence; Thomas Merton, Kathleen Norris, Richard Foster, Tony Jones, to name a few authors who espouse it. My practical brain wants step by step instructions, but I'm finding to my frustration that I have to figure it out for myself.

So, this morning I read the chapter on silence in Tony Jones' "The Sacred Way", and then started with 10 minutes of silence, sitting cross legged on my bed, with my ubiquitous cup of coffee, door closed and cell phone off, and tried to just listen.

I heard birds, trains, buses, clanking pipes from the plumbing supply place across the avenue, Jose the maintenance guy talking on his cell phone in Spanish (the office is below my window), and various other voices in the distance.

Tried to clear my mind and kept thinking about what I was going to write in my journal, and whether someday I will be able tp publish all my great, inspired writings. Talk about getting ahead of one's self.

Alternately, my mind kept wandering to the lyrics of the U2 song "Yahweh", which I suppose is a start.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Welcome to my new blog :)

Figured I should make some sort of introductory post so this page isn't completely blank while I get my act together. I started this blog for the purpose of organizing my religious/spiritual scribblings.

If you're more interested in the fangirlish/fiction-writing side of me, feel free to check out my live journal.

Right. Let the possibly deep ramblings begin!