September 2014 Features

Your Poem

Tell me your poem
And I’ll tell you mine.
Everyone has a poem
That unfolds hour by hour and line by line.

Some parts of the poem might be straightforward
And some of it might be complex.
It might be clear where the poem’s going
Or hard to know what might come next.

Our lives are our poems,
They unfold over time.
With new stanzas each day,
And with our own rhythm and rhyme.

Photo of the Month: Fall Feeling

Nothing else gives a feeling of fall like the striking hues that are revealed on trees in many parts of the country this season.

  Blue Ridge Mountains, Virginia, October 2011.   (Photograph by Michael Riddle.  )

Blue Ridge Mountains, Virginia, October 2011. (Photograph by Michael Riddle.)

Book Review: How to Meditate

The book, How to Meditate, provides an excellent introduction to meditation. Written by Pema Chödrön, an American-born Tibetan Buddhist nun, this guide to meditation is relatively short (175 pages), straightforward and easy to read.

Subtitled A Practical Guide to Making Friends with Your Mind, it is indeed practical. Chödrön presents a full set of instructions that can be used by anyone interested in starting a meditation practice. She emphasizes that you don’t need to go on a retreat or buy special supplies to start. She writes, “you can begin anywhere, in any room, at any time of day. You simply begin. You start where you are.”

Like many meditation instructors, Chödrön suggests using one’s breath as an object of meditation. She mentions that an “excellent reason” for focusing on your breath is “because it’s impermanent. It’s always changing; it’s always flowing; it’s not a stable thing.” She also provides suggestions on how you might sit and how you might position your hands. One unusual suggestion she has is to keep your eyes open during meditation. My guess is that, for many beginning meditators, having their eyes open would make it harder to meditate, because of all of the possible visual distractions. But one can certainly try meditating with open eyes per her instructions, and choose to close them if it turns out that visual stimuli are too distracting.

One question that often comes up in connection with meditation involves how much time to devote to it. Chödrön recommends that a beginner spend 20 minutes meditating each day. But she indicates that just 10 minutes a day can be beneficial. If you can find at least 10 minutes a day to devote to meditation and would like some guidance as to how to go about it, How to Meditate is a terrific place to start.

6 Documentaries You May Have Missed

This month public television is broadcasting some new documentaries that seem intriguing, including The Roosevelts and Enemy of the Reich. Here are 6 earlier documentaries that you might want to check out:

 The number 6

1) Cosmos (2014). If you haven’t seen this new version of Cosmos, it’s worthwhile to make an effort to view it. The 13-part series, hosted by Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson, puts the spotlight on little-known scientists who have made big contributions to our understanding of the universe.

2) The Gettysburg Story (2013). The director, who grew up in Gettysburg, provides a fresh perspective on this hallowed ground and the battle that took place there. He was able to use techniques such as aerial drone cinematography to provide unique shots of the landscape of the battlefield.

3) Alfred Stieglitz (2001). This film, subtitled The Eloquent Eye, takes a look at the fascinating life of the man called “The Father of Modern Photography.” Included in this documentary is an interview with the painter Georgia O’Keeffe, who was married to Stieglitz.

4) New York (1999). Directed by Ric Burns (brother of Ken Burns), this 7-episode series covers the history of New York City from the early 1600s to the late 1990s. The episode about NYC in the 1920s is the most memorable—it really gives a feeling for what the city was like during the Jazz Age.

5) Thomas Jefferson (1996). While Ken Burns has produced numerous documentaries that have garnered much attention, this is one that deserves to be better known. The film presents Jefferson in all of his complexity, and looks at various aspects of his remarkable life.

6) For All Mankind (1989). This documentary is all about the 24 astronauts who traveled to the moon. Instead of narration, the film uses the words and voices of the astronauts themselves, and it includes many marvelous images from their journeys.

Word of the Month: Persistence

One of the more colorful synonyms for persistence is “stick-to-itiveness.” That synonym conjures up images of sticking with a challenge, not giving up too quickly, not being discouraged. The challenge might involve school or work or a relationship. We may overcome one obstacle and then find another one in our path. Persistence helps us to keep on going.

When we’re persistent, we are in a sense stringing together bursts of courage. Each time we tackle a challenge anew, we’re bringing a bit of courage to the situation. And when we’re persistent, we try different ways to make progress. We don’t just do the same thing over and over. If an author is trying to get a book published, being persistent may mean sending it to many different publishers, one after another, until the right publisher says “yes.”

Persistence can be tricky, because there are times when it’s appropriate to let go of an old dream to make room for a new one. Sometimes we have to do some serious soul-searching in order to determine if we should continue to pursue a particular path. At other times, we just know that we have to stick with something, no matter how impossible the goal may seem. As Nelson Mandela said, “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”

See September 2014 article

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