Archive for April, 2015

Great article on TM’s successful resurgence and supportive applications in health and education

April 28, 2015

FORBES: PHARMA & HEALTHCARE 4/27/2015 @ 11:20AM
Contributor Alice G. Walton covers health, medicine, psychology and neuroscience.

Transcendental Meditation Makes A Comeback, With The Aim Of Giving Back

Transcendental meditation (TM) has been having a renaissance in recent years: Celebrities, businesspeople, and regular folk are practicing it in record numbers. Last week, the David Lynch Foundation, the major non-profit champion of TM, hosted an event in New York City at which public figures like Arianna Huffington, Robin Roberts, and Cynthia McFadden discussed the transforming role of TM in their lives. They made compelling arguments for what the practice had done for them, as previously harried and stressed-to-the-max businesspeople – they may still be stressed, but at least they’re able to balance it with a sense of calm. But the Foundation has a larger goal: To bring TM to schoolchildren, domestic abuse survivors, veterans, and prison inmates to help give them tools to process their trauma and reclaim the capacity to live fulfilling lives. And that’s not a bad goal to have.

The TM movement itself has had some bumps in its past. Developed in the 1950s by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, it rose to popularity after The Beatles “discovered” and helped propagate it – by the late 70s, 4% of Americans were practicing TM, according to a Gallup poll. Then things started to get shaky – and TM began to be associated with some cultishness. But in the last decade or so, the practice has gained back the respect and indeed acclaim, as people – some very famous ones – began to flock to it for its simple and straightforward method to find inner peace.

The business-meets-meditation stories are everywhere these days. Huffington told the endearing but jarring story of when she’d awoken in a pool of her own blood in her office, having passed out from exhaustion; it was then, she said, that she realized that money and power were only two legs of a three-legged stool – self-care, including meditation, being the other critical leg. And the list of companies that encourage their employees to meditate – by teaching it to them and by providing meditation time and space – is growing. Google, Target, Nike, Aetna, and Goldman Sachs have integrated meditation into their cultures.

But the more pressing focus of the David Lynch Foundation is to give psychological support in the form of TM, at low or no cost, to those who need it most: Veterans, schoolchildren, prison inmates, and women and children who have survived domestic abuse. To be sure, TM isn’t the only meditative practice that’s been used to help these groups of people. Yoga, mindfulness, and other forms of meditation are other increasingly common tools in the “service” arena. But, says Bob Roth, CEO of the David Lynch Foundation, there’s something quite simple and powerful about TM which makes it particularly well-suited to touch people who have been through emotional turmoil, or worse. Perhaps its greatest benefit is that it’s relatively quick to learn and easy to master. No waiting weeks or months of practice before you see results: TM cuts right to the chase, taking only days – or for some, minutes – before one feels reprieve from their painful and overwhelming thoughts.

“With TM, you’re given a mantra – a word with no meaning – and taught how to use it,” says Roth. “The active thinking mind settles down to a state of inner calm without any effort. It’s not clearing your mind, as in focused awareness meditation, and not gently observing thoughts as in open monitoring (which is vipassana, or mindfulness). I can put it even more succinctly: TM uses sounds or mantra that has no meaning as a vehicle to experience a quieter, less agitated thought process.”

With the two classical forms of meditation – focused awareness (samatha) and open monitoring/mindfulness (vipassana) there’s generally more practice involved. With focused awareness, the practitioner uses a mantra or other object of concentration to bring a wandering mind back, again and again. With open monitoring/mindfulness, people observe their thoughts with curiosity and some detachment, so that they eventually lose their charge. Though the former is typically learned before the latter, they ultimately work in tandem and complement one another in practice.

To describe TM’s psychological effects, Roth often uses an ocean analogy: An agitated mind, he says, is like 30-foot surges at the surface of the ocean. Focused awareness tries to stop the waves at the top, he says, while open monitoring tries to observe them until they go away. TM, on the other hand, says Roth, has its practitioners plunge deep below the waves, to a quieter depth that’s perfectly still, and blissful. Roth adds that unlike the two classic forms of meditation, “the third form of meditation, TM, is self-transcending. It’s not concentration, and it’s not simply observing thought. TM creates a specific type of alpha brain waves, which is indicative of a unique state of ‘restful alertness.’”

The practice does seem to be helping a great number of people. Roth says the Foundation has helped bring meditation to half a million school children all over the world, and hopes to bring it to three million adults and children in the next five years. It’s also taught TM to 2,000 veterans and as many female victims of domestic abuse through Family Justice Centers across the country, where it’s offered free of charge. The Foundation has also just begun to teach the perpetrators of that abuse, Roth says. The Foundation can barely keep up with all the requests it has from school systems, family centers, and prisons to teach TM.

“There is no medicine, no wonder drug you can take to prevent trauma and toxic stress. And there is no pill you can take to treat or cure it,” says Roth, “Ambien and Xanax, while perhaps helpful to some, are often abused or mere Band-Aid solutions.” There is some relatively strong evidence that TM can affect the stress response, and much of the scientific support for TM comes from its effects on the cardiovascular system, and blood pressure reduction. “The problem of stress is not going away, it’s getting worse and worse,” says Roth. “TM can be an effective tool. It helps you navigate increasingly stressful times. I’m a skeptical person. There’s nothing to believe in. There’s no buy-in. It just works.”

Read the rest of the article here: http://onforb.es/1IfgdIl

The battle for Good and Evil along Highway 218

April 26, 2015

The sun was shining when we drove on Highway 218 to the Eastern Iowa Airport for our trip to New York City. On the way up I noticed 3 consecutive billboards along a section of highway between Washington and Iowa City. Were they telling drivers a story?

The sequence of signs seemed to indicate a battle between the forces of good and evil, and a way to deal with the conflict. It cracked me up, and I pointed them out to my son. We didn’t have time to stop and take pictures, but planned to do so on the way back.

It was raining on the return trip home, but we managed to access both sides of the highway using conveniently placed crossings. Nathanael lowered the window and captured the billboards with his iPhone.

Click on each photo to enlarge them, and then on the return arrow left of the URL to get back to this page.

On the right side of the highway, I saw a familiar sign advertising the Riverside Casino, promising more winners more often.

Riverside Casino

I looked across to the other side of the highway and there was a double sign. The bottom one spelled out, JESUS.

JESUS

Then further up on our side of the road was a sign for an Iowa Crisis Line that said, Overwhelmed? Let’s Chat.

Overwhelmed? Let's chat

Was it offering a chat line for people overwhelmed between both opposing billboards competing for our attention—the evils of gambling and salvation in Jesus? Makes you wonder if each sign was deliberately placed to counter, or take advantage of the other? I thought to myself, Only in Iowa!

See the poem and video from that trip: A NEW YORK HAIKU, and a few links about my nephew’s film, The Driftless Area, which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival.

Enjoy the poetic genius and humor of Billy Collins reading his poem “January in Paris”

April 26, 2015

Enjoy the poetic genius and humor of Billy Collins reading his poem “January in Paris” on Page Meets Stage, November 12, 2005. The video was posted by Taylor Mali who shared the stage with Collins. A poet and teacher, Mali curates the Page Meets Stage series, which takes place at The DL Lounge in New York City. A version of this poem was published in “Ballistics” (Random House, 2010). I read it in my copy of Aimless Love: New and Selected Poems, pages 89–91 (Random House, 2013).

January in Paris

Poems are never completed—they are only abandoned.
— Paul Valéry

That winter I had nothing to do
but tend the kettle in my shuttered room
on the top floor of a pensione near a cemetery,

but I would sometimes descend the stairs,
unlock my bicycle, and pedal along the cold city streets
often turning from a wide boulevard
down a narrow side street
bearing the name of an obscure patriot.

I followed a few private rules,
never crossing a bridge without stopping
mid-point to lean my bike on the railing
and observe the flow of the river below
as I tried to better understand the French.

In my pale coat and my Basque cap
I pedaled past the windows of a patisserie
or sat up tall in the seat, arms folded,
and clicked downhill filling my nose with winter air.

I would see beggars and street cleaners
in their bright uniforms, and sometimes
I would see the poems of Valéry,
the ones he never finished but abandoned,
wandering the streets of the city half-clothed.

Most of them needed only a final line
or two, a little verbal flourish at the end,
but whenever I approached,
they would retreat from their ashcan fires
into the shadows—thin specters of incompletion,

forsaken for so many long decades
how could they ever trust another man with a pen?

I came across the one I wanted to tell you about
sitting with a glass of rosé at a café table—
beautiful, emaciated, unfinished,
cruelly abandoned with a flick of panache

by Monsieur Paul Valéry himself,
big fish in the school of Symbolism
and for a time, president of the Committee of Arts and Letters
of the League of Nations if you please.

Never mind how I got her out of the café,
past the concierge and up the flights of stairs—
remember that Paris is the capital of public kissing.

And never mind the holding and the pressing.
It is enough to know that I moved my pen
in such a way as to bring her to completion,

a simple final stanza, which ended,
as this poem will, with the image
of a gorgeous orphan lying on a rumpled bed,
her large eyes closed,
a painting of cows in a valley over her head,

and off to the side, me in a window seat
blowing smoke from a cigarette at dawn.

© Billy Collins

I love his clever association of completing a poem to an act of lovemaking with his pen as a sexual organ. Very funny! Reminds me of a poem I wrote about The Power of The Pen.

Enjoy other poems and videos: Billy Collins humorously disagrees with Heraclitus showing how to go into the same water twice | Billy Collins suggests more creative ways to respond to poetry than analyzing it to death | Billy Collins discusses the value of getting to the end of a poem and what can happen afterwards.

The Library of Congress Web Guides: Billy Collins: Online Resources.

A NEW YORK HAIKU by Ken Chawkin

April 17, 2015

I’m in New York City this week with my son Nathanael, along with other extended family members, to see the premier of my nephew Zachary Sluser’s film, The Driftless Area, at the Tribeca Film Festival. We’ve been doing a lot of walking lately and I gotta tell ya, New York is a noisy city. Cars honk their horns at all hours of the day and night, ambulances blare and police cars wail their sirens. Construction is going on somewhere. People are everywhere. I had to write this New York Haiku in a New York Minute.

A NEW YORK HAIKU

WALKING ON THE STREETS
NEW YORK’S A NOISY CITY
CONSTANT CONSTRUCTION

© Ken Chawkin
April 16, 2015
New York, NY

Nathanael took this video of me as I was rewriting this haiku. Note how he titled the description as a haiku: Haiku composing / captured in motion real-time / gotta love my dad.

Driving to the airport for our trip to New York City I noticed a series of billboards that seemed to tell a story. It cracked me up. We took pictures on the drive home, and I included them in this new blog post: The battle for Good and Evil along Highway 218.

Some News Coverage on The Driftless Area

INDIEWIRE: Meet the 2015 Tribeca Filmmakers #35: Stellar Cast Teams Up to Solve a Mystery in ‘The Driftless Area’.  Watch The Daily Quirk Blog VIDEO: An Inside Look at the Tribeca Film Festival Red Carpet for ‘The Driftless Area’ and a Red Carpet group photo. Scene Creek: 5 Questions with Zachary Sluser of The Driftless Area. Moveable Fest: Tribeca ’15 Interview: Zachary Sluser on Pushing Forward in “The Driftless Area”. The Blot Magazine: ‘Driftless Area’ Director Zachary Sluser On Zooey, John Hawkes & His Dog. No Film School: Using an Objective Camera to Create Metaphysical Noir ‘The Driftless Area’. Shockya: Tribeca 2015 Interview: Zachary Sluser Talks The Driftless Area (Exclusive). Check the film’s Facebook page for updates.

Here’s an article in NY Magazine about How to Not Think and Do Nothing in New York.

Billy Collins humorously disagrees with Heraclitus showing how to go into the same water twice

April 11, 2015

Heraclitus (535–476 BC) was a pre-Socratic Greek philosopher best known for saying, No man ever steps in the same river twice. In addition to the idea that all things are constantly changing, he also believed in the unity of opposites, and an underlying non-changing principle, or law, called Logos. Read more at Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, and see some of his famous sayings.

Billy Collins, in his New York Times Bestseller, Aimless Love: New and Selected Poems, humorously disagrees with Heraclitus. It’s on page 222, and never fails to crack me up!

Heraclitus on Vacation

It is possible to stick your foot
into the same swimming pool twice,

dive, or even cannonball
into the deep or shallow end

as many times as you like
depending on how much you had to drink.

© by Billy Collins, 2013, Random House

For more about Billy Collins on this blog, see this two-part post: Billy Collins suggests more creative ways to respond to poetry than analyzing it to death, followed by: Billy Collins discusses the value of getting to the end of a poem and what can happen afterwards. Enjoy the poetic genius and humor of Billy Collins reading his poem “January in Paris”.

Tanka For Sali Upholding Her Wonderful Nature

April 5, 2015

Tanka For Sali Upholding Her Wonderful Nature
Her essence shines through the Dementia!

Through all the Changes
Your Nature Remains the Same
Sweet, Joyful, Loving

Radiating Sallyness
Constant as the Northern Star

© Ken Chawkin
Parkview Care Center
April 4, 2015, 5:40pm
Fairfield, Iowa, USA

See Sally’s Smile (Haiku for Nurse Dan) and Sali’s Nature

Billy Collins discusses the value of getting to the end of a poem and what can happen afterwards

April 2, 2015

As we’ve seen in an recent post about the writing and teaching of poetry, Billy Collins wants the poem he’s writing to complete itself, to come to an end. When he writes a poem, he says meaning is the furthest thing on his mind. He’s just trying to get to the next line, to arrive at the ending. “It’s not a search for insight, particularly. It’s a search to be over with.”

In this interview with Ginger Murchison at the 9th Annual Palm Beach Poetry Festival, Billy Collins reveals more about the ending of a poem, how what happens is even more important than the last line of the poem.

During the interview, Ginger Murchison mentions something Billy Collins had alluded to about the end of a poem, and asks him:

What happens at the end of the poem? I want to know about that white space after the last period, for the poet and the reader. You said your poem goes towards somewhere. How do you see that as being more important than even the last line of the poem, that space at the end?

He answers her by describing the significance of the white space:

Well, the white space at the end is just like the white space around the rest of the poem. It stands for silence. And maybe the white space after the end of the poem is a little more silent than the other silences. I think of a poem as an interruption of silence.

He also talks about how satisfying it can be to find the ending to a poem. The implication being, the silence that follows the ending as something new that is created within the writer and the reader.

Once you find it, it’s incredibly satisfying. You found something that didn’t exist before. That the poem brings, calls into existence, through a series of steps, it gains some kind of ground, and out of that ground, there occurs something that had never existed before. It comes as a sort of gain, surprise.

I certainly can relate to that, and described in the previous post how certain poems completed themselves in ways I hadn’t imagined. When that happens, and when a poem enlivens a silence, within and between both the poet and the reader, or listener, it creates a deep feeling of fulfillment.

After hearing a discussion with Bill Moyers and 3 well-known poets on the Diane Rehm show discussing the creation of a poem and the effect it had on an audience when recited, I was inspired to write a poem about this mysterious creative process as something elemental, transcendental.

Poetry—The Art of The Voice, describes the source, course, and goal of poetry springing from and returning to silence, through a poet’s inner voice or consciousness, to a listener’s heart and mind. It also relates to the notion of a writer finding and expressing his or her own voice as a poet.

Another poem I wrote shows how Silence ultimately speaks for itself. See Telling the Story of Silence by Ken Chawkin.

Creation comes about through sounds and silences, expressions and gaps, within which the dynamics of transformation occur. See Coalescing Poetry: Creating a Uni-verse.

For a more detailed explanation of these dynamics in language and creation, see Singing Image of Fire, a poem by Kukai, with thoughts on language, translation, and creation, and Yunus Emre says Wisdom comes from Knowing Oneself — a Singularity that contains the Whole.

George Plimpton interviewed Billy Collins for Paris Review

As referenced by Ginger Murchison, George Plimpton had interviewed Billy Collins for The Paris Review in 2001 after news of his appointment as the new poet laureate by the Library of Congress. He would go on to serve two terms, 2001-2003. Although published 14 years ago, this interview is definitely worth reading:  Billy Collins, The Art of Poetry No. 83.

The interview opens with Plimpton asking Collins how he starts to write a poem. He says he doesn’t write that regularly, much of his time is waiting and watching; he’s vigilant. But when he’s engaged he usually writes a poem quickly, in one sitting.

I think what gets a poem going is an initiating line. Sometimes a first line will occur, and it goes nowhere; but other times—and this, I think, is a sense you develop—I can tell that the line wants to continue. If it does, I can feel a sense of momentum—the poem finds a reason for continuing. The first line is the DNA of the poem; the rest of the poem is constructed out of that first line. The first few lines keep giving birth to more and more lines.

That makes perfect sense. He doesn’t know where he’s going and hopes the poem is one step ahead of him, holding his interest, leading him down the trail to that elusive mysterious ending. I love the different metaphors he uses to describe the pen as a tool to help him discover that something he’s not yet aware of.

Like most poets, I don’t know where I’m going. The pen is an instrument of discovery rather than just a recording implement. If you write a letter of resignation or something with an agenda, you’re simply using a pen to record what you have thought out. In a poem, the pen is more like a flashlight, a Geiger counter, or one of those metal detectors that people walk around beaches with. You’re trying to discover something that you don’t know exists, maybe something of value.

He explains how he likes to invite the reader into a poem with something ordinary, then take him or her, and himself to a place he hasn’t been to yet.

I want to start in a very familiar place and end up in a strange place. The familiar place is often a comic place, and the strange place is indescribable except by reading the poem again.

There’s a lot more to the interview, but he concludes humbly by saying that he’s just trying to be a good writer.

No matter what I’m thinking about when I’m writing a poem, no matter what is captivating my attention, all I’m really trying to do is write good lines and good stanzas.

There’s a reason he’s called America’s most popular poet. He has made poetry accessible to millions of Americans. He continues to write, publish, sell books, teach, and is in constant demand to give poetry readings.

It is a delight to read his poetry. His subtle sense of humor puts a smile on my face. It’s also enjoyable to hear him recite his poems. Seemingly ordinary, they give you a unique perspective on things that were previously unimaginable, and that’s refreshing!

See the previous post: Billy Collins suggests more creative ways to respond to poetry than analyzing it to death. Enjoy the poetic genius and humor of Billy Collins reading his poem “January in Paris” and Billy Collins humorously disagrees with Heraclitus showing how to go into the same water twice.

The Library of Congress Web Guides: Billy Collins: Online Resources.

Cynthia Lennon, dead at 75 (1939-2015) R.I.P.

April 1, 2015

Cynthia Lennon, dead at 75 of Cancer
Julian Lennon’s Beautiful Memorial Tribute
http://www.cynthialennon.memorial


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