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Below are the 4 most recent journal entries recorded in growing both high up and deep down's LiveJournal:

Tuesday, April 13th, 2010
10:28 pm
[silveraspen]
the mindful year, day 2: musings on the significance of silverware
Earlier this evening, I was in the kitchen emptying the dishwasher when it occurred to me to take a closer look at just what I was doing.

Two kinds of forks (salad and dinner), two separate sizes each of stoneware bowls and plates, water glasses and white wine glasses and red wine glasses, mugs for coffee and cups for tea, not to mention a variety of knives and pots and pans for cooking, all of it tucked neatly into an entire machine whose only purpose is to wash things like this.  And that's not even including the heirloom family silver or my grandmother's china, both of which are preserved for "special occasions."

And then, of course, all of it was routinely stored away into cabinets above the countertop and cabinets below the countertop, into drawers and on shelves, arranged in rows and in stacks and some of it even arrayed for display in the dining room -- think of it, an entire room traditionally devoted to dining! -- in an antique china cabinet built into the wall...

... anyway, I think you get the idea.

Leaving aside the privilege inherent in that I am fortunate enough to have all these various things, whether inherited or purchased or otherwise obtained, what does the simple fact of their existence say?  Does anyone really need two or three or four different kinds of forks and spoons?  Does it matter whether or not a plate is placed on a charger? (I don't actually own any chargers, for the record.)  The food doesn't care, I'm sure; I can't imagine that bread, for example, would taste any different whether precariously balanced on the edge of a general-purpose dinner dish or served in style on a plate of its own.

This is not to say, mind you, that everyone should run out and donate everything but a single basic dish and utensil.  It's certainly worth considering from a societal perspective, though, I think.  Whether formal or casual, dining sets and services have often been linked with displays of wealth and status.   Gifts of china and silver and appliances are traditional for a newly-established household (often associated with a wedding, but not always), underscoring the household's capability to support its own and sometimes others as well in accomplishing one of the most basic human needs, that of obtaining nourishment.

Maybe it's simply because dining is indeed something that everyone has to do in order to live.  It's become a social event as well as a survival-based one, and sometimes a highly-ritualized social event, down throughout the years and across many, many, many  cultural traditions.

It's something to think about.

(cross-posted to silveraspen.)

Current Mood: wondering
Monday, April 12th, 2010
11:37 pm
[silveraspen]
and the evening and the morning were the first day
Back at the new year, I listed as the first of my resolutions that I would endeavor to live mindfully.

So far, I haven't been particularly successful with that one.  I find that it's way too easy for me to be scrambling between too many things, overcommitting my time, and splitting my focus in a zillion different ways.

(Okay, not literally on that last one.  Still, sometimes it feels like it.)

Yesterday was my birthday, and I spent a lot of it in quiet contemplation, thinking over a number of things.   (It was a good day!  Just quiet.)  As part of that, I have decided to spend the next three hundred and sixty-five days chronicling an attempt to live at least one mindful moment each day.

Some days I expect to go better than others.  That's okay.   In this case, it really is the journey that matters.

Today included more than one mindful moment, but I think I'll let the writing of this post and the beginning of this year-long project stand for the day as a whole.

April 12, 2010.  Day One.

(cross-posted to silveraspen.)

Current Mood: contemplative
Wednesday, February 21st, 2007
12:43 pm
[silveraspen]
a state of contemplation
As many of you already know, today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the season of Lent. This season is always an interesting experience for me, perhaps especially because I came to the Episcopal church as an adult and therefore never had an innate childhood comprehension of the concept.

The Ash Wednesday service in the Book of Common Prayer describes the practice of a "holy Lent" as a period that can be observed "by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God's holy Word." To me, that's exactly what Lent is -- a time of contemplation and study, through which one can come to a greater understanding of a number of things. (I tend to not limit myself to matters Biblical alone during this period, by the way; there are a number of thoughtful works in a number of spiritual traditions that carry valuable insights.) There's a degree of asceticism inherent as well, which I myself find personally useful as a way to take a mental step back from the overwhelming busyness of life and contemplate a simpler existence.

Part of the idea of giving something up for Lent (i.e., the Lenten sacrifice) as I understand it is the idea of greater self-awareness through willing self-denial. For example, if I were to give up tea during this time, then whenever I would normally be accustomed to making myself a cup of tea, I would remember and be consciously aware of the reason why I was not, in fact, going to have one. That consciousness is the key, really; an awareness, a state of mindfulness that lends depth to even the simplest of things. Try it, sometime -- instead of reading a book or newspaper or email over a quickly snatched working lunch and paying little if no attention to what it is that you're actually eating, set those external things aside and concentrate on the food itself. Appreciate, even if only for a few minutes, such things as the appearance, smell, taste and texture of your nourishment. It can make quite a surprising difference.

I'm not giving up tea for Lent, by the way. Instead, I'm planning to make an attempt to relinquish something a bit more abstract, but just as deeply-ingrained in my life. I'm giving up my procrastination.

Mind you, this isn't to say that I'm never going to relax again, or take time for myself. No, what this means is that when I set about to do something, I am going to put clear focus into it and move through the experience to the point of completion (or some determined pause point), rather than working in fits and bits and pieces of starts that result in twice the time needed to accomplish half the amount of anything. To give a simple and clear example, let's say that I come home from a bookstore on a cold and snowy day, carrying three new books. Instead of toeing off my boots and leaving them by the door, draping my coat on the back of the nearest chair, and absently dropping two of the books on the nearest table while I go off to read the third, I will take the few moments necessary to put the boots in the closet, hang up the coat, and put away the other two books properly on a shelf, then sit down to read my book, secure in the knowledge that I'm not leaving loose ends that will have to be collected and dealt with later.

It's all just little things, but they add up. Little moments, which together amount to a delayed-action life. Therefore, during this season of contemplation and self-awareness, of meditation and change, I plan to use exactly these little moments to bring myself to a more balanced state-- and all the while, a more mindful one.

It should be interesting, to say the least. I'm looking forward to seeing how it goes.

(cross-posted to silveraspen)
Tuesday, February 20th, 2007
12:32 am
[silveraspen]
An aspen is a mountain tree that puts down deep roots at the same time that it reaches for the open sky. An aspen grove, in turn, is born of a single seedling whose spreading roots can give rise to a colony which may live for thousands upon thousands of years-- against all odds.

(Seriously. Did you know that aspen groves can survive even the heat of a forest fire? It's true.)

This grove is intended to be a place of just such lasting and hopefully-spreading growth-- and, like other groves, this one also is born of a single seedling.

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