Welcome to the middle path

My photo
Sporadic photos and notes from a Psyche-midwife, cheerleader, anthropologist--aka clinical social worker in therapy practice. Photos are usually mine except for those of historical events/famous people. Music relevant to the daily topic is often included in a web video embedded below the blog. Click on highlighted links in the copy to get to source or supplemental material. For contact information, see my website @ janasvoboda.com or click on the button to the right below. Join in the conversation.

Sunday, February 14, 2010


Tis the season to reflect on matters of the heart, and the curious nature of Love.
"Love is my religion," said Keats, "I could die for that."
Although some think of Valentine's day as only relating to romantic love, I've always seen it as an opportunity to celebrate all forms of affection and connection.  You have your eros, sure-- that adrenaline (or more precisely  androgen and estrogen, dopamine and norepherine) fueled state.  But there's also attachment based love, which biochemically speaking is more driven by oxytocin, and it needs its nourishment as well.  Here's a few inspirational sources featuring the L word to drive your Love Train.  Not all are sweetness and light, but then, the course of true love never did run smooth, right?
What We Talk About When We Talk About Love, short stories by Raymond Carver
Love is a Dog from Hell, poems by Charles Bukowski
A Natural History of Love, by journalist/poet Diane Ackerman (nonfiction)
Love in the Ruins, Walker Percy's 1970s satire of American Culture
Twenty Poems of Love and A Song of Despair, poetry by Pablo Neruda
A General Theory of Love, by Thomas Lewis, Fari Amini, and Richard Lanin-- three psychiatrists look at love from a social and neurophysical perspective
Love is a Verb, by Gary Chapman-- a practical self-help book on bringing back gracious kindness to relationship
Love Train, The O'Jays
Love Shack, The B52s
Love Potion Number Nine:  The Searchers
Poems too numerous to mention, but here are three good sources and one poem to seed you:
Garrison Keillor's Writer's Almanac
Joe Riley's Panhala.net

i am so glad and very

merely my fourth will cure
the laziest self of weary
the hugest sea of shore

so far your nearness reaches
a lucky fifth of you
turns people into eachs
and cowards into grow

our can'ts were born to happen
our mosts have died in more
our twentieth will open
wide a wide open door

we are so both and oneful
night cannot be so sky
sky cannot be so sunful
i am through you so
--ee cummings

"it is better to break one's heart
than to do nothing with it," said writer margaret kennedy

"nothing exists that so fills the heart and binds it as love"
--umberto eco

"if you love others, you will be loved. perhaps tomorrow, perhaps in
a thousand years, but you will be loved. nature must pay off the
debt...it is a mathematical law, and all life is mathematics."

"love makes even asses dance."
--french proverb

And finally, this sweet video of All You Need is Love, which yes I have posted before--
 Happy Valentine's Day!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Be A Big Container

Can you be a big enough container for all that life brings you? 
We are as capable of love and joy as we are of sorrow and pain.  We don't get to avoid the latter if we allow the first.  We can delay suffering, but we don't escape it-- it becomes the bandaid off slow or quick dilemma. 
Be a curious, compassionate observer of your pain.  Look for the information it delivers.

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,

still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

-- Jelaluddin Rumi,
translation by Coleman Barks

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Speaking of Creativity...

Got ten minutes? Write a story. Some years ago I was part of a lively little poet game group. We'd have haiku and limerick wars, take turns writing chapters of a story, "translate" poems written in languages we didn't know. One day the fab S. Elsemore started what he thought was going to be a beginning of a group story, only to have it hit the page all done. Hope you enjoy it as much as we did.
By the way-- the pic was a group doodle done through some nifty ap.

Microfiction by Stephen Elsemore
A couple was having breakfast. The man was reading the travel section of the newspaper.

He said, "You know what's funny? Sometimes I have the feeling that if I just found a good place to sit and watch somewhere, and sat there long enough, then it wouldn't matter how remote or small the town or how side the street. Eventually there's just about nothing and nobody that wouldn't come passing by."

She said, "Yeah? Why don't you go try it."

It was a joke, but too quick. He said, "OK, I will." Then he went out to his car and started driving. He got on the highway and headed south. He drove four hours straight, then he started to feel a sadness pulling at him. He decided it was coming from all the weird little towns that were just a half-mile or so off the highway; the ones whose exit signs didn't say gas and didn't say food so there was
no reason for anybody to do anything but whoosh on by. But how could they help but feel all that whooshing, even if the highway wasn't close enough to hear it?

He took an exit and several minutes later he was in one of the towns. He parked in front of a broken meter and got out to walk. All the meters were broken. Between the bar and the diner he hesitated, then went into the diner. He sat down at a booth with a view of the street and started his waiting and watching. While he
waited he listened in on conversations at the other booths.

A lady said, "So what a lot of people don't understand is that past lives don't have to be in the past when it comes to years. Like, your last life might have been as a lawyer in the 2100's, and your next one might be as a poet in the Ming dynasty. Eventually, I think, we all of us get to each be Jesus once, which is the ultimate goal, then we're through with lives and we kind of get thrown back
into the mix and become part of everything."

Someone else said, "Hmmm." And ordered some cherry pie.

"Sure beats 15 minutes of being famous," thought the man who had been driving. He tried to remember the last time he'd had cherry pie.

At another booth a good-looking young man was talking to a pretty young woman, probably his wife. He said, "Sure I told a bunch of people about your buttfoot, but they were friends and I said it with love."

The waitress came over to the waiting and watching man. He ordered a cup of coffee. She said, "I don't know what it is about you. There's something. You have that look like you're the hero of some story." He said, "I'll take that coffee black." She walked off, shaking her head.

There seemed to be a simultaneous lull in all the conversations, so he got up and walked over to the jukebox. He put in a quarter and pressed B4, which was supposed to be a blues number. What he didn't know was that the chef, who was also the owner of the place, had a joke he liked to play which was to switch a few of the songs so that somebody who thought they were playing something cool and soulful would end up playing something ridiculous and hopefully end up real embarrassed, which could be funny to watch. He was a good cook, although still several lifetimes away from being Jesus. But he was god of his jukebox.

The man said, "Huh." He walked back to his booth while the voice from the jukebox went on about somebody leaving a cake out in the rain. A woman smiled at him as he passed and said, "I remember that song." He smiled back and sat down at his booth, where his coffee was waiting. After a few minutes he put two dollars on the table and left the diner and drove home to his wife.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Resolution of the Day: CREATE

It's a poor sort of memory that only works backwardsLewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

Inspiration originates from the Latin  inspirare-- to breathe in.  When we add our breath to an idea, we emulate the Creator.  We are born full of ideas.  Don't give them up.

In my work as a therapist, it has been my good fortune to midwife some undiscovered poets, artists and writers.  I truly believe creativity may be the stabilizing leg of the good life and an essential element to wellness.   Where else can we have such control and generative power as in our imaginations? 

Creativity can become rusty and dusty when left unused.  It can be timid if unsupported.  But it's rarely extinguished.  Give it a little light and air, and it will give back to you in spades.

Julia Cameron has made a career out of encouraging creativity in her books series starting with The Artist's Way.  It's a curriculum designed to nurture the reluctant or undiscovered artist; find it at your local new or used independent bookstore or library and try it out a few weeks.

There's plenty of websites that will jumpstart you if you're nervous or just want to dip your toe in the water.  Try these:
languageisavirus.com with poetry, character and other generators
Mr. Picasso Head --DYI picasso portraits
auto modrian:  Create your own Mondrian painting
National Gallery of Art interactive zone:  from Spirographs to collages

But you don't need a computer to make stressless art.  Go to the woods and build a fairy house in the roots of a tree using mosses and found objects, or try your hand at a Andy Goldsworthy inspired piece. 

The world is but a canvas to the imagination. — Henry David Thoreau

Monday, February 1, 2010

Resolution of the Day: LOCALIZE

Saturday morning at farmer's market meant Saturday lunch of fresh black trumpet mushrooms, eggs that remember what a chicken looks like, luscious butterball potatoes and a memorable creamy havarti "from a single herd of happy local cows." I cannot personally attest to the cow's happiness, but that was a heck of a good piece of cheese.
Local food supports sustainable farming practices and the farmers that make them possible.  When food doesn't have to be refrigerated and shipped long distance, there are real energy savings-- energy that contributes to the true cost of food not just on our pocketbook but on our planet.  An oh my-- that short distance between farm and palate makes a tremendous difference to the palate.  
Take the local challenge.  See how close to home you can keep your mouth and pocketbook this week. If you are lucky like we are in Corvallis, you'll get lots of help from your local co-op, farmer's market and that endangered species, the local supermarket (we love you, Richey's!).  Don't feel like cooking?  Several Corvallis restaurants pride themselves on serving fresh local fare.  If you live elsewhere and don't have such luxuries, try the classified ads to see who's selling what.  In the summer, grow your own and trade your neighbors.  We always have too many grapes, plums, pears and tomatoes and squash and love it when we can swap those for crops that didn't get in the ground.
Bon local appetite!
By the by-- I realize I devoted all this local thought to food, but there are also huge community benefits to applying the localizing philosophy to our other purchases as well.  Think globally, invest locally.

Book of the day:  Animal, Vegetable, Mineral:  A Year of Food Lore by Barbara Kingsolver
Site of the day: http://100milediet.org
Group of the day:  Slow Food USA
Movie of the day:  Ingredients, featuring farms from our beautiful valley