I was thinking a new thought. Before, I believed that there were things that could be done by someone else if I don’t do them.
Now I see, years later, that there are many things that only I can do. Not only that, the state of the universe in that moment is special to fit whatever it is I have conceived of. So if I don’t do it, quite possibly it could disappear into the fabrics of time and space, never to come to be. I was thinking this about research into bird behavior and language, which I wanted to research as a child, but didn’t know I could and neither did anyone else. I wanted to be a bird watcher. Over the years, I have considered it again over and over, but it always seems like something less important than what I could do.
But I see also, now, that if I don’t do it, it will probably never be done, at least not the way I would have. Or what I would have studied. My genius Grandpa once told me (after having live half a life of debauchery), “La vida no es un juego ni una diversión.” He was nearing his end, and he still wanted to do so much. I feel that way, too, though perhaps not quite as intensely since I’m still pretty young… Life goes by… It’s never long enough. We should do what we can while we can, before it’s too late.
So if you have a dream that you want to come to life, chase it. Don’t let it slip into oblivion. Give it life, breathe your soul into it.
where there was only eternal dark gray a breath, a moment, before.
Poem “Rising Sun” by Sofia Penabaz-Wiley, on January 5th, 2023, upon opening the gate for the albañiles and rising to the 3rd floor to find the splendor of day had begun considering it’s ascent into The Times.
The simple version was:
I love how the rising Sun caresses the expectant Mountains, bathing them and pastels of purple and pink and orange, where there was only gray a moment before.
And I wanted to say something about the little doves, greeting that union in graceful explosions of wings and voice, but I dared not invade that peaceful space between the Mountains and the Sun, it stayed a bit quieter in verse.
So, I read a lot of academic medical papers, especially regarding nutrition. It seems we’re always learning more about how the human body works. But, I realized today that I also read a lot of papers about cats. This is because I have two of them and they’re elderly with problems. I figured that since I read so much, it might be beneficial to other people to write about what I learned sometimes. So I thought I’d share what I’m learning about now.
Currently one of my cats, Bina, has a problem with possible pancreatitis. Up until a few days ago, she had been losing weight and she looked really bad. Her fur was getting scruffy and she was listless and vomiting almost every meal. She was scratching her neck and had some sort of rash that would get worse with the low-fat diet food I was giving her.
I haven’t taken her in for her ultrasound yet, but after a visit the the vet with a blood test her lipase levels were really high. I started searching around on the web for papers referencing what to do in cases of irritable bowel disease, pancreatitis, feline regurgitation, and high levels of lipase. I found quite a bit of stuff. The most shocking was that almost everywhere I looked, it said that many vets say not to give cats in this kind of situation fats, but that although this applies to humans and other animals, it doesn’t apply to cats. Their internal organs work differently… Thus, sometimes there are anomalies. And in this case, almost all of the places said that you can give cats fats even if they have high levels of serum lipase. Even though that was the only recommendation by the vet. No fats, and to limit her to kibbles.
Now, a lot of other places said that you’re lucky if you can get your cat to eat at this point. Also, cats should be on a liquid diet so that they can get their hydration back.
I pulled on her neck skin, and it slowly went back down to normal. Wow, she’s pretty dehydrated. So at that point, I pretty much threw everything that I had been told out the window and started doing my own research.
I use triangulation when I’m researching information on the web. That means, that at least three veterinarians or academic sources have to say something similar in order for me to accept it as possible fact. Also, the words can’t be plagiarized and each has to be a different academic paper. The information should preferably be newer.
What I found was that the most common treatment for the situation is to ultimately treat them with antioxidants and to rehydrate the cat with a potassium rehydration liquid first, because usually they are dehydrated. Sometimes this involves force-feeding because they refuse to eat, and some places they don’t even worry about what they’re feeding the cat because cats can go into a dangerous bodily shock if they don’t eat for too long. In general, my cat doesn’t have too bad of problems eating; she’s a glutton. But my choice of food for her has mostly been dry kibbles, with wet food at night. Almost every day she throws up. So what I did was change her diet to wet food, with vitamin supplements added.
One hint was the vitamin B complex. I was not shocked to find that vitamin B complex, especially folic acid can be helpful. Also, she is particularly low because I give her Coenzyme Q10 for her heart problems (5 years ago she almost died — within 2 weeks of coenzyme Q10 treatment she was fine)… But Coenzyme Q10 uses Vitamin B during absorption into the system… Even though I supplement the cats with Yeast flakes, I guess it isn’t enough, because the other day I found her attacking a B vitamin pill that I had dropped, and devouring the contents… So B Complex was in.
The supplement that’s most recommended for her situation is Sam-e. Other than that, vitamins E, C, K2, A, B vitamins, and other antioxidants are recommended. Other than that, some places recommend probiotics, and in humans with pancreatitis they recommend using digestive enzymes to aid the pancreas in digestion while balance is returning but it hasn’t been tested in cats.
I mashed up her wet food and mixed in B complex and vitamin C and added almost as much water as food. She gobbled it up. Within the day, she was already starting to look less anorexic and her nape skin was falling a little faster. Within 3 days she has almost returned to normal. Her eyes are sparkling, her nape skin can be lifted and drops into place almost immediately, and she looks just so much better. She wants to race me and play. I’m so happy she feels better.
I’m waiting for the Sam-e, Vitamin E, and an antioxidant set of resverotol with vitamin A to arrive. I’ve been giving her small amounts of K2, C, and digestive enzymes with lots of water. She gets her regular Coenzyme Q10 and the new addition of vitamin B Complex, but I have tapered off the dosage as she took a lot for a couple of days. I check the dosages and vitamin types before feeding them to the cats. Some vitamins are dangerous for cats.
I’m considering the raw or semi-raw food diet, but at this point, high liquid wet food seems like it may work. I know it has more chemicals, but it also has a lot of water and the cat will eat it… That being said, for the long-term I am considering different raw food diets at the moment for both of them.
I used to sing a lot until Shinpei got sick a few years ago, and something started to wither within me… but I still sang and refused to completely give up until he actually passed away. Then I was lost. Throughout my entire life, it had been how I healed myself when I was depressed. But I have been having a hard time singing since he passed on.
I found going to karaoke to be very cathartic. At home I had tried and it hadn’t worked out. I felt trapped. Every time I would try to sing alone, I would cry… and it has been months like this. But towards the end of my karaoke session, I felt much better. I felt like I was able to hit notes I hadn’t hit in a long time, and the strength in my voice and my vibrato came more freely.
In general, recently, despite the situation, I’m feeling really thankful for my life and this chance that I have on Earth to make ripples of joy or peace in people’s lives. I pray for the necessary vitality to take me forward and out of this sad shade I have been under since he disappeared, and before that. I am thankful all the time for the moments we were together and for all he taught me. It was really very hard, but I loved him immensely and I don’t regret my time with him. It’s amazing how old I feel now, and how many eye wrinkles have appeared, after six months of this.
But each day is a little brighter, and I realize that I am still alive bit by bit, even though there is an emptiness where he once was. Part of going into the light is the struggle.
Life is a struggle, but the struggle brings treasure.
I hope to be able to share what I find.
I wanted to upload Moon River, which I sang today… It is a horrible recording, and it’s my first time actually really putting some effort into singing in a very long time. I used to practice every day. May this wonderful, light-filled, guiding Universe be my Moon River to share this World and all of its inhabitants with me.
My Mama used to tell me stories about her homeland in Cuba.
In one of my favorite stories, she said that when she was a little girl, every day at sunset the people would go out into the street to sing and dance.
She said the people would go out and dance happily with things like brooms.
She would dance around the house listening to a myriad of music… My childhood was filled with sunny afternoons where the light filtered into the sliding door, lighting up hanging plants, a big fuschia, a huge begonia with brilliant red flowers, and images of my mother dancing, dancing, singing through the house, to salsa, to Mozart, to funk, to The Pointer Sisters.
My brother and I then followed suit. We had our own collection; Paul Simon, The Gypsy Kings, and several Billboard Oldies tapes including 1957 and 1964. We pranced around, flying like pixies in the open living room. From the balcony that overlooked the sapphire-like Bay of Banderas, our music wafted over the red-tiled houses, and we gleefully danced our afternoons away until the sun’s gifted last rays of gold…
That house is going away on Monday, sold into someone else’s dream. I wish for future days of music. I wish for space to dance around, and warmth, and happier days. I have no doubt that they will come, just as the sun rises each morning. We are blessed, we only need to give thanks and dance, and the universe will dance with us in rays of pink and blue and gold.
When a loved-one passes away, there are so many emotions that it can be overwhelming. Coupled with work, it can seem like there is no option but to recover quickly and get on with life-as-usual. But doing so holds many negatives…
Some people turn to drugs and alcohol to deal with loss and pain. The problem with that is that, even though it might help in the moment, long-term it has severely debilitating effects on how you can move forward in life. Mood-altering substances produce confusion in the brain. Though used for the supposed purpose of healing, they hinder the ability of the mind to go through the motions of grief and then navigate back to how to deal with reality.
By numbing and denying, one not only loses the way, but also denies the pain and shuts down important aspects of the relationship, such as memories of the person, feelings for them, and urges thought why are gone. This denial buries these feelings in the subconscious where they affect the future of the griever through illness, stress, emotional instability, and other happenings that are opposite to real healing. In a way, the person who is gone can never find peace, and the person who is grieving can never really move on.
Rather than pushing through grief with resilience and control, Ossefort-Russel believes and I concur, that “the terms fortitude, bear-with-courage, transform, and humility underlie a story that honors the strength” of being honest to your feelings when someone passes away.
I hold the strong belief that without those feelings of acceptance, you deny the person their existence, pushing them away into the nether world so that you can get back to business-as-usual. It lacks integrity. One needs to accept their loss in order to honor them, and it can take a long time to recover when you aren’t denying it in your heart through resilience.
Silence, mindfulness meditation (feeling the pain in your body, thoughts, memories… and letting it go), journaling, sharing your feelings with someone close, therapy; these are all ways that you can honor your grief and also your loved-one. Feel it to the fullest and let it go; this will honor both your feelings and the person who was so very important in your life.
These methods are ways that one can truly move forward with integrity and become a deeper and more truly resilient person in the end, through acceptance and change.
Recently, I joined a sketch group with some lovely ladies here in Japan. One of them asked for some tips on how to improve her sketching.
When I see everyone’s drawings, they are so creative. Even though most of us are seeing things from the same angle since we are on video chat, we use different techniques, feelings, textures and media, to complete the drawings. For me, everyone’s drawings are unique and beautiful. But I think that the most important thing is that they believe that about their own work. Let me explain.
A few things helped me learn how to sketch better.
One was when I took an extra year of college to study art and music. One of my teachers trained us to do an activity on the shorter sketches (2-3 minutes) where we could not look at the paper, except to reorient. We had to sketch while looking only at the subject. No only that, we were not to take the pencil off the paper, but to trace the form of the object over and over. Of course, the sketches looked horrible, but the feeling was different… It became much easier to understand what we were looking at.
Another was a wonderful book by my favorite philosopher Frederick Franck, called “The Zen of Seeing.” This wonderful book teaches one how to really look at the subject without judgement.
Finally, I had the extremely good fortune to be given a trip by my Austrian grandfather as a graduation present at 22. It was a month-long Eurail Pass. In every city I went I visited at least one if not multiple museums. I learned from the great masters, tracing their wisdom in my sketchbook. There is absolutely nothing like looking at the real thing to understand which line came first. That month was probably the greatest lesson of all in studying the human form in particular.
I also studied watercolor in college, and then took three years of Sumi-E from a master — Shoshiko Sensei — in Kurume. He taught me that in just a few carefully planned strokes, the essence of something can become filled with spirit and detail. Some wonderful artists like the Harusakis demonstrate specific techniques such as extensive layering and patience to create some amazing effects. Watercolor, and especially Sumi-E, force the artist to surrender to the medium. It is impossible to erase what one has created. This makes it a kind of meditation and is training in allowing things to happen the way they will, because you cannot erase your mistakes.
The rest was just practice, practice, practice. And not judging whether something was good or not, just letting it be what it was.
I am definitely not the best at sketching. My lines are not straight and I shake and there are probably a billion things I could do better.
But it’s like meditation. Each day is different, and appreciating the art as a gift I have been given in time and space, as an opportunity to live, changes any judgement I might have to gratitude. I’m so thankful to this group, to the organizer for putting it together and to everyone for making it a community. I was doing maybe one sketch every six months. Now it’s a few a week.
So, in short, I recommend reading that book. Try tracing without looking at the paper once per session. Going to the museums in the big city (if you have the energy) and sketching would be an enjoyable and educational past time — especially considering we near Tokyo have the very good fortune of being next to one of the greatest art-loving cities of the world, with perhaps hundreds of museums.
But most of all, I would say to try to consider the art as something that is a gift that you were given, to hold gratitude towards it. That will remove the judgements surrounding it and allow you to develop without faltering at each step.
Just as we tell our students that to improve in English they need to make mistakes, we could look at life and art with the same eyes and say that in order to move forward it is important to take each step as a lesson, appreciate it, and move on. This will be the wind in your sails leading you to lands unknown.
Takeaway: For children and adults taking Atomoxetine, supplement it with vitamins C & E, and other antioxidant sources like fresh fruit and vegetables. This will most likely prevent DNA changes and preserve healthy mitochondrial activity in the brain cells. If they are not taken, it seems that some serious cellular changes occur over time.
A large percentage of people take these kinds of medications, even though we have little knowledge about their effects.
…Actually, this is my own assessment from reading other articles about psychiatric drugs, but we don’t know enough about their effects on the brain/body system. It is clear that they often cause weight gain, over which mitochondrial activity is one factor. Also, I have read that they can cause permanent changes in DNA. So actually, if you or anyone you love is taking these medications, it is probably a good idea to supplement them with antioxidants no matter what drug it may be.
Yesterday I woke up really early, before dawn, and went to practice Mindfulness Meditation at the Buddhist temple near my house.
I have been studying Mindfulness Meditation for about two years now.It was originally developed by Jon Kabbat Zinn at the Harvard Medical School for treating people with chronic diseases such as Cancer and chronic pain. Over the 30 years since it’s inception, its uses have expanded to include everything from severe mental disorders to stress, and where it seems to work best is in the realm of the mind. Thousands of studies have supported the case for it’s use in psychology to benefit society.
There are many kinds of meditation, including guided meditation and chanting. I have practiced those, too. Before coming to Japan, I lived in San Francisco and tasted a variety of different kinds. But my first experiences with it I have to credit to my mother, who would sit with me and guide me into it as a child. I remember many times finding the light in my heart and finding peace as well. She says I used to sit for about 45 minutes in silence by myself, and some mysterious things happening, like once I came back and said that “Grandma and Grandpa are on an airplane from Europe!” Which was true, and I had no way of knowing it because we hadn’t spoken to them and they hadn’t told us. I remember in my teens meditating on the moon, and that was when I started to see beautiful circles of colored light, kind of like what I’ve heard can be seen on the screen in biofeedback. That happens a lot.
But my recent studies in meditation haven’t been spiritual. They are more geared towards regulating my emotions. Life can get stressful, for everyone, and it has been proven to be most effective for that. That being said, it isn’t just for making you calm.
The way it works is you sit in a comfortable place, preferably not too comfortable so that you don’t go to sleep. You close your eyes, take a few deep breaths, and then just start to watch. You watch how you breathe. You scan your body from the tip top of your head to the soles of your feet. You notice your breath. You feel yourself becoming calmer and calmer, relaxing your body when you feel tense places, allowing your body to adjust into a peaceful state. You watch your breath. Come back to it. You listen carefully to the things around you. Further and further away. Then come back to the breath.
Over the course of this, your mind will invariably wander, and that is wherein the key lies. When you notice that your mind has wandered, you gently come back to the breathe. How it enters your body. How your stomach lifts. The tip of your nose where it comes in. And then your mind at some point will wander again. And you gently come back to the breath. You become mindful of your mind.
This is the key to mindfulness meditation in the school in which I practice. It begins with watching the wandering mind. But with time and practice, one begins to notice their thoughts. You can label them, and then begin to put thoughts, memories, emotions, urges, into ‘buckets’ and label them. You begin to notice what it is that preoccupies your mind and causes you stress.
And then here’s the real kicker. Once you get good at that, you start to notice it when you aren’t meditating. In the act of doing something out of character or experiencing something uncomfortable. You begin to realize how your reactions to life affect it. And that is something.
With this knowledge, you can move forward in life. I would say that most of us live life without really examining how we live or why we do things. We are creatures of habit. But once you begin to notice how you affect your own life, you begin making different decisions.
So, anyway, back to the temple. So I figured it was Sunday, and the old monk had invited me to listen to the ancient drumming and bells anytime I wanted… But he does it at 6:30AM. So I had woken up early on a Sunday, and decided to do the things that people do on Sundays when we want to feel particularly close to God, whatever we may deem them to be. I went to the temple and began to meditate. It was locked, and he was not up yet, so sat on the steps. At one point, he opened the door slightly and I greeted him, but stayed there watching the morning. He played the drums and bells. The little birds came out. The sky changed, exploded in a dawn of color and then mellowed into a gentle morning. The leaves of the trees swayed, and I listened.
The monk is pretty old, in his mid 80’s, but so full of life, very energetic, and loves to teach. He told me about the equinox holidays in Japan. The spring and fall equinoxes are days of rest in this country. He says that the days surrounding them are important, too. The three days before and the three days after have an important Zen Buddhist function, and the entirety of the week is referred to as Higan.
During the three days before the equinox, one should practice these three things: you should be generous with others, keep your promises, and strive to be patient and open-minded.
After the equinox, you should: gaman (refrain from excesses and persevere), meditate, and study the wisdom of the scriptures (here, he emphasized that it should not be ‘human’ wisdom, because humans are not pure of thought).
After he told me, I thought that maybe this is why many Japanese people consider patience, quiet listening, and perseverance to be essential elements of their culture.