The great Greek philosopher taught that there was no difference between life and death. “Why, then,” inquired a critic, “do you not die?” “Because,” answered Thales, “it makes no difference.”

“Seek truth in meditation, not in moldy books. Look in the sky to find the moon, not in the pond.”
-Persian proverb.

~from Autobiography of a Yogi

Some classic Amy Grant lyrics from Heart in Motion, where a big theme is the duality of all things, including love & commitment:

The same sun that melts the wax can harden clay
And the same rain that drowns the rat will grow the hay
And the mighty wind that knocks us down, if we lean into it, will drive our fears away.
~How Can We See That Far

Love can soothe what love hath burned.
~You’re Not Alone

I heard once that the Eskimos have 30 or 40 words that translate only as snow in English, because it is so fundamental to their lives. I think we ought to have as many for love, and that the word is used too vaguely in our culture, which makes it hard to know what someone really means when they say they love you. I believe love in a romantic relationship is really a series of things, including attraction, admiration, need, trust, respect, and commitment. The “I love you” I strive for includes all these things, and it can take decades to acheive. So anyway, I mentally substituted commitment for love in the following lyrics to give them more meaning (although some other aspects of love could work too):

Sometimes, we make it harder than it is
We’ll take a perfect night
And fill it up with words we don’t mean
Dark sides best unseen
And we wonder why we’re feeling this way

Sometimes, I wonder if we really feel the same
Why we can be unkind
Questioning the strongest of hearts
That’s when we must start
Believing in the one thing
That has gotten us this far

That’s what love is for
To help us through it
Nothing else can do it
Melt our defenses
Bring us back to our senses
Give us strength to try once more
Baby, that’s what love is for

Sometimes, I see you, and you don’t know I am there
And I’m washed away
By emotions I hold deep down inside
Getting stronger with time
It’s living through the fire
And holding on we find
That’s what love is for

Round off the edges
Talk us down from the ledges
Give us strength to try once more
Baby, that’s what love is for
~That’s What Love Is For

After 2 nine-hour days on the road, I had arrived in Pierce, Idaho. I passed many small towns along the way, and one in particular was so cute, I had to call my boyfriend and tell him all about it. I went on and on about how cute all the little houses were with their pumpkins on the front porches, and with the children playing in the parks and walking down the sidewalks strewn with fall leaves. He responded, yeah, right, it looks nice now…and I knew he was referring to the racism and white supremacy he had heard about in and around Idaho (this town was in eastern Washington). I joked, “No way, this town is too cute,” but I couldn’t convince him. As I hung up the call with him, I was astonished by a single billboard on the way out of town:

I was saddened by this naive and ignorant display of identity. Maybe it’s true, as George Carlin put it, that there’s a biggot and a racist on every street corner and every living room in this country.

Racism is a way of closing off your heart to a part of the universe; an exaggerated way of saying that I am different, separate, and will not co-exist with certain others, for whatever reason I choose. What racists don’t realize is that as long as there is fear or hatred toward others, there can be no inner peace, and certainly, no world peace.

Live in New York City once, but leave before it makes you hard.
Live in Northern California once, but leave before it makes you soft.

I had a delightful stay at Esalen, an alternative education institute perched inspiringly on the ocean cliffs near Big Sur (see pictures). I was in my element–meditating about psychology, art, and massage for 3 days, while breathing in the ocean air and gazing at myriads of stars through the steam of pristine natural hot springs. Anyone who knows me can picture me eagerly waking up early in order not to miss a morning “Global Dance” session, where you dance your heart out to fun, funky music in broad daylight with a smile on your face. I also had a chance to attend a light-hearted yoga class with a kind and nurturing instructor. I love going to different yoga teachers and getting all the different perspectives that I can.

My classmates were diverse and good-spirited, so it made for a very pleasant experience overall. Our main teacher, Pablo, from Argentina, had a fun accent that reminded me of my Venezuelan friends from Chevron, and had such a peaceful countenance and a real joy in teaching, so it was fun to be around him. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the food at Esalen, which was hearty, delicious, and thoughtful. I was lucky to be at an adjacent table at lunch on Saturday when a young woman on a work-study at Esalen was looking for a ride to San Francisco on Sunday. I quickly offered, she gratefully accepted, and we met on Sunday and had such a nice 3-1/2 hour drive to San Francisco in my 4Runner. She was so much fun to talk to and hang out with, and the time really flew.

I had a laid-back, somewhat guilty-feeling-Monday: attending a 9:30 yoga class at Greenpath across the street from my trusty friend The Surf motel on Lombard, then getting a manicure/pedicure with a great massage. I went out in the afternoon to find a new beautiful beach (I found one! Stinson Beach) and some hills in the sunshine (see pictures).

But as the quote above put it, 4 days in Northern California and I’m already getting soft, so it’s time to move on. Tomorrow is my last day in San Francisco, then I’m heading up north on I-5 toward Oregon, then on to Idaho.

More wise quotes from Autobiography of a Yogi:

On discipline of the mind:
“In shallow men the fish of little thoughts cause much commotion. In oceanic minds the whales of inspiration make hardly a ruffle.”
~Hindu Scripture

On virtues:
“Good manners without sincerity are like a beautiful dead lady.”
“Straightforwardness without civility is like a surgeon’s knife, effective but unpleasant. Candor with courtesy is helpful and admirable.”

On mind over matter:
“Pain and pleasure are transitory; endure all dualities with calmness, while trying at the same time to remove their hold. Imagination is the door through which disease as well as healing enters. Disbelieve in the reality of sickness even when you are ill; an unrecognized visitor will flee!”

On real communication:
“What a person imagines he hears, and what the speaker has really implied, may be poles apart. Try to feel the thoughts behind the confusion of men’s verbiage.”

On being even-keeled:
“A healing calm descended at mere sight of my guru. Every day with him was a new experience in joy, peace, and wisdom. Never did I find him deluded or intoxicated with greed or emotion or anger or any human attachment.”

On natural desires & discipline:
“Enjoyment of wine and sex are rooted in the natural man, and require no delicacies of perception for their appreciation…Just as the purpose of eating is to satisfy hunger, not greed, so the sex instinct is designed for the propagation of the species according to natural law, never for the kindling of insatiable longings,” he said. “Destroy wrong desires now; otherwise they will follow you after the astral body is torn from its physical casing. Even when the flesh is weak, the mind should be constantly resistant. If temptation assails you with cruel force, overcome it by impersonal analysis and indomitable will. Every natural passion can be mastered.”

On breaking religious rules:
“Sometimes, too, a master purposely ignores a canon in order to uphold its principle as superior to and independent of form. Thus Jesus plucked ears of corn on the day of rest. To the inevitable critics he said: “The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath.”

As a fitting follow-up to my tour of the Berkeley Rose Garden, here are some thoughts about plants and other “inanimate” objects from the Indian Scientist Jagadis Chandra Bose in the early 1900’s, as recounted by Paramahansa Yogananda, in his Autobiography of a Yogi:

“The telltale charts of my crescograph are evidence for the most skeptical that plants have a sensitive nervous system and a varied emotional life. Love, hate, joy, fear, pleasure, pain, excitability, stupor, and countless appropriate responses to stimuli are as universal in plants as in animals…A universal reaction seemed to bring metal, plant and animal under a common law. They all exhibited essentially the same phenomena of fatigue and depression, with possibilities of recovery and of exaltation, as well as the permanent irresponsiveness associated with death…”

“By first chloroforming a huge tree, I achieved a successful transplantation. Usually, such monarchs of the forest die very quickly after being moved.” Jagadis smiled happily as he recounted the life-saving maneuver. “Graphs of my delicate apparatus have proved that trees possess a circulatory system; their sap movements correspond to the blood pressure of animal bodies. The ascent of sap is not explicable on the mechanical grounds ordinarily advanced, such as capillary attraction. The phenomenon has been solved through the crescograph as the activity of living cells. Peristaltic waves issue from a cylindrical tube which extends down a tree and serves as an actual heart! The more deeply we perceive, the more striking becomes the evidence that a uniform plan links every form in manifold nature.”

The effect of the chloroform discontinued all growth; the antidote was revivifying. The evolutionary gestures on the screen held me more raptly than a “movie” plot. My companion (here in the role of villain) thrust a sharp instrument through a part of the fern; pain was indicated by spasmodic flutters. When he passed a razor partially through the stem, the shadow was violently agitated, then stilled itself with the final punctuation of death.

The great scientist pointed to another Bose instrument.

“I will show you experiments on a piece of tin. The life-force in metals responds adversely or beneficially to stimuli. Ink markings will register the various reactions.”

Deeply engrossed, I watched the graph which recorded the characteristic waves of atomic structure. When the professor applied chloroform to the tin, the vibratory writings stopped. They recommenced as the metal slowly regained its normal state. My companion dispensed a poisonous chemical. Simultaneous with the quivering end of the tin, the needle dramatically wrote on the chart a death-notice.

“Bose instruments have demonstrated that metals, such as the steel used in scissors and machinery, are subject to fatigue, and regain efficiency by periodic rest. The life-pulse in metals is seriously harmed or even extinguished through the application of electric currents or heavy pressure.”

Yesterday evening I was driving aimlessly around Berkeley, and to my delight I discovered a beautiful Rose Garden up in the hills. You can see all my pictures by clicking here. One of my favorites was a shameless little rose exposing herself, named Las Vegas:

Las Vegas Stripper

Another rose was truly aging gracefully. You can see her spots and wrinkles; she is stooped over from gravity’s effects, and the ants crawl on her…but she doesn’t care:

Old Rose

Finally, a beautiful, colorful maze of twisted branches viewed from the path around the rose garden.

The moon was so close and brilliant last night, outshining even San Francisco’s city lights. I didn’t have an opportunity to photograph it, but I doubt I would have captured its brilliance anyway…As I was driving away from Berkeley last night, I couldn’t help but shed a few grateful tears for how good my life is. It’s that good. I’m that lucky.

When you’re unemployed, you have time to listen to songs like this:

Weird Al Yankovic “Straight Outta Lynwood”— Trapped In The Drive Thru