Good Medicine Haiku: Take quality time for yourself as this crazy year comes to a close

December 28, 2020

December 29, 2020, my son Nathanael emailed to say he was planning to go offline and take some downtime to close out this crazy year. I sent him this haiku, and he replied: GOOD MEDICINE. I used it as the title.

Good Medicine Haiku

Trust inner feelings
Let go; settle in silence
Honor your essence

© Ken Chawkin

So if you’re wanting to forget 2020 ever happened and are looking to refresh for 2021, think of this Good Medicine Haiku as a prescription to take a much-needed, guilt-free time-out. Try a digital diet, meditate, go within—take quality time for yourself. We owe it to ourselves. Peace out.

Wishing you a Happy Holidays, regardless of dietary restrictions! Enjoy the gift of laughter.

December 25, 2020

Laughter is the best gift we can give each other during these stressful times. A friend sent out several humorous videos with holiday wishes. One, to me, was the funniest. It reminded me of earlier times around the family dinner table. Maybe not as extreme, but that’s where the humor lies, by making us laugh at ourselves through exaggeration.

Here’s the hilarious short video CBC Comedy posted from 22 Minutes: How to deal with dietary restrictions at Christmas dinner. Catering Christmas dinner to everyone’s diet can be a difficult task these days. Luckily, there are some easy solutions.

Enjoy your holidays, with or without family. Hopefully, next year will be a better one for us all. For more laughs, see: Good cartoons teach us a lot if we’re willing to learn and laugh at our little foibles and neuroses.

Good cartoons teach us a lot if we’re willing to learn and laugh at our little foibles and neuroses

December 15, 2020

Cartoons that make us laugh at ourselves are the funniest and wisest. Here’s one I found that caught me by surprise. As soon as I read the second line of the quote below the image I could not stop laughing. Even now, when I think of it, I chuckle to myself. It says a lot!

It was posted on Narrative Magazine‘s Instagram page. The signature at the bottom suggested Sipress. I searched on Instagram and found David Sipress. He’s another cartoonist published in The New Yorker cartoons. I’d seen his work before and think he is a brilliant commentator on life, pointing out the crazy humor in current affairs.

I’ve posted other cartoons, light and dark, that tickled my funny bone. This one by Gahan Wilson is another unexpectedly funny New Yorker cartoon—what this fortuneteller tells her client. And this other funny one tellingly depicts our obsession with the past and future, ignoring how to be in the present moment!

The cartoon at the top of this post on my favorite romantic movies is where we go to keep learning our life’s lessons. Towards the bottom of that same post I inserted a related New Yorker cartoon by Roz Chast that perfectly reminds me of Bill Murray waking up each morning in the brilliant little film, Ground Hog Day, but with a twist!

An astute and funny one by Alex Gregory shows us what social media can do to us. And the brilliant cartoons and videos in this post deal with cellphone addiction and love in the digital age.

Rick Hotton, creator of the award-winning cartoon Holy Molé, opens our hearts and minds with insightful humor. Speaking of interfacing with reality through computers instead of our own eyes, this cartoon make us laugh realizing there’s more to life when we’re truly present.

If you’re up for non-stop laughter, check out Instagram’s Favorite New Yorker Cartoons of 2020. It’s in The New Yorker’s 2020 in Review culture section of their December 14 issue. They’re very funny and relatable!!!

This one-minute video from CBC Comedy’s 22 Minutes on how to deal with dietary restrictions at Christmas dinner is hilarious because it’s true!

Cartoon wisdom from Karl Stevens appears in this week’s print edition of The New Yorker. It’s all about learning to live in the moment. Turns out Karl has been doing TM for 7 years. Says it’s completely changed his life for the better, helping him focus on living a cleaner life.

WRITING TANKA—Preparing to Write

December 10, 2020

Here’s a little backgrounder on this poem, which I wrote around 20 years ago while on a course at Heavenly Mountain in Boone, North Carolina. The first part was originally just a haiku. It was a fun way to point out the need to increase awareness as a preparation to write. Years later, an idea presented itself extending the metaphor to its logical conclusion. The phrase, taken literally, was an unexpected surprise, along with the irresistible pun. I added them as a hoku, completing the poem, transforming it into a tanka on writing. Enjoy reading “Preparing to Write.”

The Uncarved Blog

PREPARING TO WRITE
a tanka on writing

.

Railroad Crossings Are

Places To Become Aware—

STOP! LOOK! And LISTEN!

.

If you hear a train of thought

You’ll know you’re on the write track!

.

© Ken Chawkin

.

Also see Haiku On The Nature of Haiku.

a writing tanka on writing tanka by ken chawkin

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Being in Nature—a gift from a tree

December 6, 2020

We often hear about the the benefits of being in nature. I remembered an experience I had with a tree when I went for a winter walk with a friend on the University Endowment Lands in Vancouver during the mid-1990s. I’ve now updated that blog post with what had happened and how a poem came to be written around 25 years ago. The post contains links to other poems written about trees, and advice from Mary Oliver.

The Uncarved Blog

We often hear about the the benefits of being in nature. I remembered an experience I had with a tree when I went for a winter walk with a friend on the University Endowment Lands in Vancouver during the mid-1990s.

I stopped in front of a particular tree to admire its intricate bark structure up close. I felt a ray of loving attention come from the tree into my heart-mind with these words: “the realness of natural things, the nearness of you.” It was an unexpected intimate experience and I quickly wrote the words down for further exploration. The next morning, I rewrote them as a two-line stanza, and then sequential stanzas naturally unfolded sharing its wisdom. It was as if I had been given a creative seed and it sprouted into a poem.

This gift from the tree was much appreciated. The experience reiterated what Mary Oliver described in…

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William Stafford prescribed creative writing to find your own voice and reveal your inner light

November 30, 2020

One of the first books of poetry I ever bought for myself was You Must Revise Your Life by William Stafford. It was part of The University of Michigan Press series of Poets on Poetry. His poems, essays and interviews on writing, teaching, and performing were a revelation!

I was discovering the writing process at the time and how to facilitate it, and found Stafford’s poems and his thoughts on the teaching of writing poetry to be very relevant. Here are a few that caught my attention: When I Met My Muse, You and Art, Ask Me, and A Course in Creative Writing.

I reread his poem, Rx Creative Writing: Identity, and decided to include it.

Rx Creative Writing: Identity
By William Stafford

You take this pill, a new world
springs out of whatever sea
most drowned the old one,
arrives like light.

Then that bone light belongs
inside of things. You touch
or hear so much yourself
there is no dark.

Nothing left but what Aquinas
counted: he—touched, luminous—
bowed over sacred worlds, each one
conceived, then really there—

Not just hard things: down on
a duck as real as steel.
You know so sure there burns
a central vividness.

It tells you;
all you do is tell about it.

This poem was also later included in The Way It Is, New & Selected Poems. The last poem he wrote the day he would die introduces the book. You can read it in this blog post: William Stafford’s last poem now seemed prophetic—an unintended literary epitaph.

There is a quote on the back cover of You Must Revise Your Life taken from an earlier compilation of his, Writing the Australian Crawl: Views on the Writer’s Vocation. It epitomizes Stafford’s approach to writing.

A writer is not so much someone who has something to say as he is someone who has found a process that will bring about new things he would not have thought of if he had not started to say them.

As part of their Poets on Poetry series, The University of Michigan Press published four books of Stafford’s collections of prose and poetry on the writing profession, the poetics of a new generation. Writing the Australian Crawl was the first, followed by You Must Revise Your Life. The third and fourth volumes, published posthumously, were: Crossing Unmarked Snow: Further Views on the Writer’s Vocation and The Answers Are Inside the Mountains: Meditations on the Writing Life.

I also very much enjoyed reading the biography written by his son Kim, Early Morning: Remembering My Father, William Stafford. The lines from his most profound and favorite poem, The Way It Is, were used as chapter headings. I’ve posted more of his poems on The Uncarved Blog.

Stafford and other trailblazers of the writing process are mentioned in this related blog post: The perils of praise or blame for young writers. New ways to help students find their own voice.

I was naturally influenced by what I was reading and experiencing at the time. Some of my first inspired attempts were very meta, commentaries on Writing—a poem on the writing process, and Sometimes Poetry Happens: a poem about the mystery of creativity.

New York poet laureate Mary Howe’s experience captured in her poem, Annunciation, and her conversations with On Being’s Krista Tippett and The Millions’ Alex Dueben, reveal a profound understanding of how poetry vividly comes to and through us.

Mary Oliver is the Messenger for Thanksgiving

November 26, 2020

Happy Thanksgiving to all of our American friends, and to everyone of us who are thankful for life and staying healthy.

The Uncarved Blog

Mary Oliver’s poem, Messenger, was written in her own unique voice, but it must have been influenced by her favorite American poet, Walt Whitman. It’s a perfect poem to share for Thanksgiving, since her poetry is a thanksgiving for being alive in the world, appreciating every living thing in it, and singing their praises. “My work is loving the world…mostly standing still and learning to be astonished…which is mostly rejoicing…which is gratitude…a mouth with which to give shouts of joy.”

My work is loving the world.
Here the sunflowers, there the hummingbird—
equal seekers of sweetness.
Here the quickening yeast; there the blue plums.
Here the clam deep in the speckled sand.
 
Are my boots old? Is my coat torn?
Am I no longer young, and still half-perfect? Let me
keep my mind on what matters,
which is my work,
 
which is mostly standing still and learning…

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Entrepreneur @SigurdVedal and #TM teacher Lakos Antal discuss how to build a better life

November 15, 2020

Doug Rexford sent me a link to an interview on The Sigurd Vedal Show. Sigurd Verdal is an American-Norwegian tech entrepreneur, successful multi-business owner, investor, and CEO of Vedal Media Group. Sigurd invited his TM teacher, Lakos Antal, on his show for a lively discussion on how to build a better life with Transcendental Meditation. The names of the host and his guest were unfamiliar to me, but as soon as I saw and heard the TM teacher speak, I recognized him as Tony.

Sigurd Vedal interviews Tony Antal: How to build a better life with Transcendental Meditation.

I had met Tony, as we knew him, and his friend Peter, around 20 years ago on an international TM course for men in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. They were friendly young TM teachers from Hungary who had worked on international projects. Coincidentally, years later, Peter had become a student here at MIU, married a fellow student, had a son, and is now completing his doctoral thesis on a TM research study.

Tony had learned TM in high school when he was 15. Within 3 weeks he noticed it gave him added energy and clarity of mind. He was a straight ‘A’ student and was expected to follow his family’s tradition of becoming a medical doctor. During his first year of medical school Tony would come to realize that the medical profession only dealt with treating diseases, not preventing them.

Becoming a TM teacher instead of a doctor

After a year of medical college Tony felt it really wasn’t what he wanted to do with his life and followed his heart’s desire instead to become a TM teacher. Turns out it was the right decision for him. One of the things he did was give Introductory talks to medical students. Many of them started as they needed something to help them deal with the stressful challenges of their chosen profession.

Interestingly, Stritch School of Medicine, affiliated with Loyola University Chicago, was the first to make TM available as an elective course. It’s been part of the medical curriculum for four years now. See The first Transcendental Meditation elective course offered at a major US medical school. Two years ago the Catholic Health Association of the United States published an excellent report on the program in Catholic Health World: Medical students learn meditation to counter stress, promote physician wellness.

Tony told Sigrud that when he was a student in Budapest, meditation was a foreign concept. Today, millions of people of all ages and backgrounds around the world have learned to meditate, including famous celebrities who praise the benefits of TM. With hundreds of scientific studies verifying its efficacy, TM is part of wellness programs and recommended by doctors to patients with high blood pressure and other stress-related diseases. TM has been shown to help veterans suffering from PTSD.

I emailed some questions to Tony and he said he taught TM to Sigurd in August. Since Sigrud has business ties to Hungary, the interview took place in his Budapest apartment. They had both tested negative for COVID before they got together. Sigurd shared how TM has helped him to maintain a more even perspective in stressful situations, and that he is now able to fall asleep without the aid of sleeping pills.

Sigrud asked Tony some practical questions prompting him to go into more detail, which he did by sketching his ideas out on paper. They also edited in graphs and animated sequences illustrating Tony’s points, as well as video footage of people meditating in different situations.

Meeting with the president of Hungary

One story Sigrud really wanted Tony to share was his interaction with TM founder Maharishi Mahesh Yogi at the end of his TM Teacher Training Course. Based on Tony’s answer to a particular question, Maharishi suggested that he contact the president of his homeland, Hungary, with a solution to his governmental problems. Maharishi even gave Tony a message to relay to the president on his behalf! How such an improbable meeting could occur, and how the president would respond to the presentation and Maharishi’s personal message were beyond Tony.

Listen to how it all unfolded, halfway through their conversation. It reveals a fascinating insight into the workings of leadership and collective consciousness—the highlight of this discussion for me. Tony told me that the story about the president made him realize that the government is really just an innocent mirror of the collective consciousness of the nation, as Maharishi had taught us. He explained the mechanics of this concept to Sigurd in the podcast video.

Jerry’s Last Mission was not just in WW2; he later helped bring peace to today’s troubled veterans

November 11, 2020

This week, Nov 9-13, 2020, is ‘Jerry Fest’, a 5-Day free, Sneak-Peak Screening and Virtual Celebration of Veteran’s Day, honoring the life of Jerry Yellin with the release of a new documentary film, ‘Jerry’s Last Mission’.

Here is a press release that was sent out announcing this week’s activities: Ed Cunningham Announces David Lynch Foundation and Regnery History to Host ‘Jerry Fest’. 5-Day Virtual Festival Celebration of Veteran’s Day and WW2 Fighter Pilot will include free screenings of the Feature Documentary ‘Jerry’s Last Mission’ and Q&A sessions with the filmmakers.

The two virtual Q&A sessions take place on Veteran’s Day, Wednesday, Nov. 11 at 8 pm ET hosted by Regnery Publishing, and on Thursday, Nov. 12 at 8 pm ET hosted by the David Lynch Foundation. Both will include Yellin’s family, producers Ed Cunningham and Melissa Hibbard, and director Louisa Merino. Check the film’s website for zoom links. 

The film’s website is www.jerryslastmission.com and the social media addresses are facebook.com/jerryslastmission, @jerrys_last_mission_film on Instagram and @jerrylastmiss1 on Twitter. The film’s distribution rights are represented by Scott Kaplan of Domino Content (www.dominocontent.com).

The NJArts wrote a great article about the film in time for Veteran’s Day: War and inner peace: Moving documentary ‘Jerry’s Last Mission’ available for free viewing. [PDF] Here’s the film’s trailer.

When the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, a young Jerry Yellin signed up to become a fighter pilot. He flew P-51 missions over Iwo Jima, including the last official bombing raid of the war over Japan. He was the only one left in his squadron to survive. He returned home a hero, but suffered for decades from what is now known as PTSD. Thanks to his wife, Helene, Jerry learned the Transcendental Meditation (TM) technique, which transformed his life.

Decades later, when Jerry heard about the high rate of suicides among today’s veterans, he inspired the David Lynch Foundation to start Operation Warrior Wellness, which provided scholarships for veterans and their families to learn Transcendental Meditation.

So Jerry’s last mission was not only at the end of WW2, but also decades later during the latter part of his life, when he made it possible for American veterans of foreign wars to heal their PTSD by learning TM.

Last year The Fairfield Ledger published this 2-page cover story: Jerry Yellin laid to rest with full military honors. See more stories on this blog.

Just found another great report on the film, this one by News 12 The Bronx: Hate turns to love: ‘Jerry’s Last Mission’ tells the story of WWII veteran coping with horrors of war. The story of a World War II fighter pilot from New Jersey who flew the last combat mission over Japan is now the subject of a new documentary film – “Jerry’s Last Mission.”

I cropped a photo of Merino and Yellin from this excellent TV news story.

Director Louisa Merino and Jerry Yellin

Additional news coverage

In addition to the NJArts and Bronx News 12 reports, these new articles came out: Baristanet: Limited Pre-Screening of ‘Jerry’s Last Mission’ Will Honor New Jersey WWII Veteran, and this comprehensive article by Claire Barrett, who interviewed Louisa Merino and Michael and Steven Yellin for The Army Times, Observation Post: ‘Jerry’s Last Mission’: How WWII’s last combat pilot became a lifelong testament of the human spirit. Steven Yellin was also interviewed by KTVO-TV3’s Beth Waldon: New film helps Fairfield man understand father’s fighter pilot experiences in WWII. Click the title to see a video of the full report with the news anchor’s introduction and conclusion to Beth’s report embedded here.

This article, with photos from Michael Yellin, came out November 24, 2020: Montclairian’s father, Jerry Yellin, a WWII hero.

What is Poetry, where does it come from, and how does it enter into us?

November 11, 2020

I posted many wonderful poems under this blog’s Poetry category. Also saved comments about poetry written by poets throughout the ages. These three made an impression on me years ago that I’ll share with you.

Hazrat Inayat Khan (1882–1927): The Music of Life, Poetry (pg. 327)

The one who reads poetry, the one who enjoys poetry, and the one who writes poetry must know that poetry is something that does not belong to this earth: it belongs to heaven, in whatever form one shows one’s appreciation and love for poetry, one really shows one’s appreciation and love for the spirit of beauty.

Yang Wan–li (1127–1206) Sung dynasty poet: What is Poetry?

Now, what is poetry? If you say it is simply a matter of words, I will say a good poet gets rid of words. If you say it is simply a matter of meaning, I will say a good poet gets rid of meaning. “But,” you ask, “without words and without meaning, where is the poetry?” To this I reply, “Get rid of words and get rid of meaning, and still there is poetry.”

Wei T’ai (5th Century BC) Chinese Song Dynasty poet and scholar

Poetry presents the thing in order to convey the feeling. It should be precise about the thing and reticent about the feeling, for as soon as the mind responds and connects with the thing the feeling shows in the words; this is how poetry enters deeply into us.

Poems on Poetry

Here are links to a few meta-poems I’ve written over the years about the sometimes mysterious creative process of writing poetry and its influence on an audience: Writing; Sometimes Poetry Happens; Poetry—The Art of the Voice; a seven-haiku poem, Coalescing Poetry: Creating a Universe; and Haiku on The Nature of Haiku. This Teapot Poem came about as a result of putting Wei T’ai’s advice into practice.

Also see this post: Writers on Writing–What Writing Means To Writers.


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