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Friday, December 21, 2012


Sometimes I forget to breathe.  I know that’s nuts.  After all, breathing is supposed to be one of those automatic things we do, but I don’t think I’m the only one who forgets to do it.  We get stressed, and our breath becomes shallow.  We don’t even notice there isn’t any oxygen in our lungs, but who hasn’t cried and ended up gulping air in dramatic sobs?  Tears trump air and actual survival.

I have an interesting uncle, the kind of uncle everybody should have.  He has a house full of mysteries that’s fun to explore.  He’s shot lightning across the basement with Tesla coils, melted glass in a kiln, and had huge tins of military surplus candy.  He also had a picture of a turbaned man lounging in a plastic recliner, which definitely wasn’t my idea of “spiritual leader”.  I couldn’t imagine Jesus in a plastic lawn chair.

My uncle was the first person I ever knew who chose a different religion than the one he was born into.  The idea was novel to me, exciting, disturbing – and I wasn’t really sure how to accept it.  I also didn’t know how to process things about that religion, especially when my uncle tried to explain how and why he meditated.  I couldn’t grasp the concept.  I simply couldn’t keep my attention on my third eye and kept thinking “this is impossible”.

When I reported back to my uncle that I couldn’t do it, he asked if I had ever looked at a cup on a table and become so absorbed by it that I forgot about everything else in the room, forgetting the table the cup was sitting on, and even forgetting about my own body?  Or, had I ever lost myself in the flame of a candle?  Well, sure, everybody’s done that, right?  Which I don’t know if that’s actually true, but it made sense to me.  “That’s meditating”, he said.

I found myself sitting at the river, watching the light bouncing off ripples of water.  I felt my heart calm, felt my breathing deepen, and realized I was great at meditating – when I actually remind myself to do it, and I didn’t have to convert to a religion with a guru sitting in plastic lawn furniture to do it.  In fact, I realized that meditation is a universal human activity when we go fishing, get lost in painting, or any other quiet, focused activity that humans do.

Today is the winter solstice.  That means the days will start getting longer again.  In many traditions, it’s time to meditate and let go of things that no longer serve us, time to look forward to new opportunities.  Breathe in good, and breathe out bad.  In is healing and universal light; out is stress, pain, disease, release. 

I’ve been distressed about the recent school shooting in Connecticut.  I don’t want to see video of stunned children forgetting to breathe, their faces white from shock.  Other people can argue what we should do about preventing events like this in the future. I’d like to remind people how to cope when bad things happen, and remind other people that while I hope you have the best of holidays this week, we also need to remember the people who are missing at the table this year.

There are candles lit all over the place right now for prayer vigils, Christmas, and Hanukah.  Let’s all remember to take some time to look into the glow of candles and remember to breathe.

The top illustration is scratchboard with some screwing around in PhotoShop.  The painting is something I did when I was first learning how to breathe on purpose and before I understood what cats look like.  It’s also my first oil painting, when I decided I hate sticky paint.

Wishing everyone the joy and peace of the season!


  1. A very poignant post Linda. Let's all light a candle for those poor souls......we watched and grieved for them over here. So very tragic. Wishing you a very peaceful winter solstice. Your flame is really memorizing..... I love it x

  2. Love the scratchboard. Wish I could do that. But then if I could yours wouldn't be so special so I won't so yours can. I'll concentrate on breathing. Thanks for sharing the story about your uncle. And thanks for the good wishes. Best to you as well!

  3. I can't even imagine what the parents of those children are feeling. Actually, I can, and it makes me cry every single time someone reminds me of it. I'm with you on meditating. I don't do it sitting crosslegged on the floor with my thumbs touching the tip of my middle finger, but I spend a lot of time looking at trees. And water, if it's there, but I live in Kansas, and other than the river (way too low this year) and a bunch of farm ponds, there are not many great expanses of water.

    Beautiful candle, by the way!

  4. Beautiful candle imagery!

    I had to smile when I read this. I grew up in a Christian tradition and when I started embracing Buddhism, I had a lot of "splaining" to do! LOL! Meditation is a beautiful and wonderful ritual, which brings peace on so many levels.

    Have a beautiful holiday and may all your meditation bring you sweet peace!

  5. Heisann!
    Ønsker deg en riktig god jul ;:OD)

  6. The scratchboard image is really cool! (Well, in this case warm, I suppose.) I've almost picked up a pack of scratchboard once or twice, but then I worry it will just become more un-used clutter. I have a lot of artsy clutter!

    Your uncle sounds like a real character. In fact, you have so many tales of interesting or unusual characters. You may be living in a fairy tale yourself! Maybe we all are.

    Happy holidays to you!

  7. very cool. nice subtle glow on that flame.

    well done!

  8. My scratchboard paper is getting old and cranky, so I may have to use it up and get some more. It didn't help that the last time I bought X-acto blades, I bought the cheap generics. Just goes to show that sometimes we shouldn't skimp on good art supplies.

    Sometimes I do think that I have known more than my share of "characters", but they keep life interesting!

    Thanks for the comments everybody! Merry Christmas!

  9. The flame is especially nice. Happy Holidays to you. I'll look forward to many more family stories over the coming year. Your always come up with something good!

  10. Hey Linda! Merry Christmas! I’ll be by later to leave a more indepth comment.

  11. Hey Linda! Merry MERRY Christmas!

  12. Merry Christmas to you, Linda- May 2013 bring you many moments of peace and inspiration! :o)

  13. I hope everyone had a merry Christmas yesterday. Thanks for the comments!

  14. Love the texture of the scratchboard! Gorgeous colors! And I feel exactly the same way about painting in oils! :)

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