Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Chuck and the kindness of strangers...

Karma is defined in many different ways by many different people.  One of the common short descriptions is that what you send out in terms of energy you will get back.  The whole idea of kindness to complete strangers for no reason than it's nice to be nice.  Love they neighbor and all that if you will.

Seems because I have some how managed to heal and miraculously remain an otherwise out going, friendly, kind sort of person, I tend to act like a buglight.  Folks seem to notice me, and gravitate toward me like I'm a small stellar body.  You know, gravity and all that.

Of late I've been running laps on the streets near my house that take me through several small towns.  As I ride, I'm focused on what I'm doing, but because of that gravity, people notice me and I wind up with a cheering section.  Even riding on surface streets.  One such local has been cheering me on and counting my laps as I go flying by.  He hollers across the street, I smile and wave, and keep going.

With the days getting shorter, the darkness of twilight coming sooner, my last laps of the day are often well into dusk.  Saturday as I was making my second lap around, my cheering section had crossed the street and he tried to get me to stop for a moment.  "Next lap" I said as I flew past noticing he was holding something bright and shiny in his hands.

So on the next laps I pulled onto the sidewalk where he was sitting and said "Hi, are you okay?"  He said yes he was fine and handed me this day glow yellow safety belt.  "My Son wore this when he was an SF and I don't know how to adjust it, but I thought you could probably use it.  I worry that you'll get hit out there riding like a woman with a purpose."  So I thanked him, asked if he was sure he wanted to part with it, and when he said yes, proceeded to adjust it to fit and put it on.  So we chatted a bit, exchanged names, brief histories, that kind of thing.  Polite, friendly conversation.  He said that I amazed him, riding by like that going around the neighborhood.  Turned out he though I was running short little loops in the handful of blocks right there.  He was floored when he found out just where I was riding and remarked he'd probably die if he tried that.  That he was thinking of getting a bike, but not doing anything like I was.

I assured him that a few short months ago it took my almost an hour, where I fell over sever times, stopped and sat for a good long time to catch my breath, and got pretty bruised up trying to do two miles around the lake.  Told him that I've been working my way up, and that now I can do ten miles in under and hour and often do more than that.  That he could do it too and that it was fun and so good for ones health.

His name is Chuck, and he didn't want to see me get hurt.  Complete stranger that is now not so much a stranger.  Seems I'm not the only one who tends to practice random kindness and senseless acts of beauty.  I kinda like that and thought I'd share!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Well, it finally happened . . .

. . . after 730 miles since March 27th Serenity got a flat.  Thankfully it was in the parking lot of my house.  So it's not like I had to walk far to get home.  Not like I was going to have to nurse an injured comrade along as we walked miles back to the barn.  Not even like I had to call AAA, though I don't know if it covers me when I'm on my bike...  :)

SO I took her upstairs and set about finding out what the problem was and deciding how to fix it.  Okay, yes, it was a given the tire was completely flat and the only thing to do is either repair or replace either the tire and tube, or just the tube.  I had a patch kit so that if it was something small, I'd be able to patch the tube and go from there, but I didn't have a pump which would only get me so far.  First thing to do was look for any obvious, easily visible signs of problems.  What I found I'd say more than covers that and then some.  A frakin staple, a fairly sizable one at that, stuck deep into the tire.  So as you can see on the right, we know exactly why the tire was flat now.  Thankfully, this kind of damage isn't something that requires I replace the tire, because those are fifty bucks a each the ones that came with the bike.  In this case, I can patch or replace the tube, and go from there.  Which brings us to the wisdom Asa Salas shared over on Team Estrogen about flat tires.  She wrote in part;

"You want to see a trick?" I asked. I took the wheel, and before he could hand me the levers, I zipped the tire off the rim.
"How did you do that?" he said.

The article, which is very well written, goes into how exactly to get a tire off without tools.  No levers, no fuss, muss or bother.  Honestly it's a long, long way from the old days.  Last time I had a flat was over 20 years ago, and I used to keep a bunch of tools with me just to be able to get the thing repaired.  Now of course back in those days the wheel bolted into the frame, and just to get it off required wrenches.  Now, since I bought a decent bike, the wheels come with a quick release to make it easy to get them off the bike.  What was more to the point with the fact that Asa explained how to get the tire off the wheels without the use of tire levers.  Now that is a blessing.  Especially given the frustration that levers used to represent.  Not just having to keep them in a pouch on the bike with others tools, patch kit, spare tube, frame pump and so forth, there's also the annoyance of fighting with the tire levers themselves.  

So while I was thrilled to have found Asa's article early on, I was in no real rush to find out.  Now however it seemed a perfect time.  I had a patch kit, and despite Asa's suggestion to replace the tube and patch the punctured one later, I figured I'd try to accelerate the process some and change it in place.  So, the air already out of the tire I took to following Asa's advice for taking the tire off and pulled the tube out to patch it.  So I carefully slide the tube out from under the tire leaving the staple in the tire so I'd have a good idea where the holes are.  I followed Asa's steps to gently get pull the tire off the rim and slide the tube out.  Cleaned the tube surface, but the vulcanizing glue on the tube and let it dry.  Applied the patch, removed the staple and set about putting it back together.  A good exercise in why Asa was right, and that her technique works flawlessly.

So when I got it pumped up, and the tire seated on the rim I let it sit for a while to see if the patch was holding.  And this is where I learned that Asa was right.  Swap out the tube and play with the patch later!  The tube wasn't holding air.  Which of course meant I had to start over, this time of course I had to pull the wheel and tire/tube assembly off the bike and replace the tube this time.  So once again I got to use Asa's trick, and this time removed the damaged tube and replaced it with a new one.  Put the tube and tire back on the rim, again following Asa's technique and inflated the tire.  Perfect!  Simply perfect!  Serenity and I are back on the trails and adding more miles toward my goal of reaching 1000 by the end of October.  As of this writing, I've got six weeks, and 235 miles to go.  Given that each of the last two months I turned over 200 each, I'm in good shape.  Well, I'm on track to meet or even exceed my goal, shape?  Well that's part of why I'm riding now isn't it? 

In any case following Asa's guidelines the right way, it took almost no time to get the tire off, the damaged tube out, the new tube in, pumped up and put back on the bike and locked down.  Like I said, prefect.  So next I'm going to get one of those wonderful little CO2 tire inflater and an under seat pouch to keep a spare tube and the inflater and I won't have to worry getting flats while out riding ever.  Peace of mind that is well worth the price of some extra gear eh?

Thursday, September 09, 2010

There is no winter . . .

An old Russian proverb keeps coming to mind especially given the last few months.

"In the kingdom of hope there is no winter."

Which is amusing considering this is a kingdom I am fairly new to.  For the majority of my life, suffering simply was an inexorable force that ground away at one's soul until one succumbs to the pain.  I countered this for so many years with cold hard Vulcan Logic and the ability to reach a point of stillness that scared cats.   Seriously, I could and commonly did win staring contests with cats because it was something to do and it so unnerved them.  That and sneaking up on cats to spook them was really the limit to my cruelty back in those days, though I should be clear, I wasn't really me then.

The woman you've come to know here was always hidden away in fear and terror, and this "machine" that stood a post between me and the rest of the world followed without question the prime directive which was to keep me from harm.  There was, in those days, no hope, no feelings to speak of, nothing so much as the welcome darkness of the hide and the waiting.  It was as I've come to understand it a perfectly normal, if not completely healthy, response to Trauma I suffered at the hands of my father.  I was five and what I had been assured was going to be a simple, open conversation flared over into unspeakable violence that caused me to want to die.  Yeah, five years old and suicidal, so not good.  Anyway I "created" this person to stand between me and my father, to protect me from ever having to go through anything like that again.

"Protect and Serve" however only worked in so much as I was able to leave life to this carefully constructed simulation of a human being that made defying the laws of physics seem trivial.  I only wish I was kidding.  This soldier, MY soldier, was incredible.  Tough, powerful, unflappable, untouchable, immune to pain or anything else that could harm either of us.  And devoid of any real emotion, body language, facial expressions, anything.  With a command of rhetoric, logic, and an understanding of my father that could be used as a weapon.

Anyway, that only worked so far, and as I began coming out of my hide and giving him time off, I began a death of a thousand steps.  It lead eventually to me on the floor of the "home" Earl and I had shared for years "in chains" trying to summon the strength to go upstairs and quietly take my own life.  Again.  That "machine" had done what it could, but I was in so far over my - our? - heads that eventually there was only so much that could be done and I was on my own.  That "person" I'd created died standing a post.  Sacrificed everything for a chance that I'd be safe and free.  I still have some issues there.

Be it fate, bad timing, or whatever, I managed then to embark on another journey that lead me here.  A journey toward survival, and astonishingly enough, HOPE of all things.  In talking to a friend recently I was able to narrow down exactly how and when I found hope in my life.  I'm not completely certain the dynamics of it, but I am however certain it has it's hooks into me so to speak, and that it exists.  In meditations upon Entropy I've even found something so breathtaking that I'm still working on putting it to words.

But lets get back to hope.  First of all I can say without question, and as a matter of simple logic it unquestionably has to exist.  We all know without question that despair, or suffering (Dukka) exists.  Or at least I and many people I know, are certain suffering exists.  Suffering, depression, pain, or whatever you call it eventually leads to despair. Having been there, I have no doubt despair exists.  So one might then say that in winter, the kingdom of hope can not be seen.  In fact if you look it up, the very definition of despair is "A Complete Loss of Hope" ergo the entire existence of despair is tied completely to hope.  Like Good and Evil it is functionally and logically impossible for one to exist without the other.  For those who are of a more scientific persuasion, let's look at it this way.

The Law of Conservation of Energy states that energy cannot be created or destroyed, but can change its form.
The total quantity of matter and energy available in the universe is a fixed amount and never any more or less.

So, were we to endeavor to erase despair from the universe, we know than we cannot remove it, but only work to change it's form.  What form would that take?  Why hope of course.  So lets look at that for a moment shall we?  We know that common water molecules can exist in many states, and that changing those states is a simple process.  Energy is either added to, or taken from the water molecules to change it from a liquid to a gas, or from a liquid to a solid.  Heating water adds energy to the water, excites the atoms which then expand and take on a gaseous state.  Conversely, cooling water removes energy, by slowing atomic activity which causes it to expand and become a solid.

Wait, WHAT?!  Did she just said that water, regardless of what state it changes to, and whether energy is added or removed, expands?  How is that possible?  Anyone knows when you heat something it expands, and when you cool it it contracts.  Maybe I read that wrong, clearly she meant to say something else right?

No dear reader, that wasn't a typo, and I did not misspeak.  Water has some unique properties and behaviors associated with it, chief among them a blatant disregard for conventional responses to heating and cooling.  It is in fact one of very few molecules that does this.  Sure, as you lower it's temperature (slowing atomic activity and thus removing energy) it contracts to a certain point.  But at 4 degrees Celsius or 39.2 degrees Fahrenheit it begins to expand again. So it does in fact expand to change states in either direction.  By all means if you doubt this, look it up.  It is this very property of water that makes even mountain eventually turn to dust.  What is it the song says, "Solid stone is just sand and water baby, sand and water, and a million years gone by."

So, let's wander back to despair and hope shall we?  The's say for argument that at a state of balance (rest) one has neither hope, nor despair, and since we know from experience that removing energy, leads to despair, adding energy can push one back towards hope.  Despair is often accompanied by such things as depression, lack of energy, and so forth.  Ergo, balance is lost, and despair expands to engulf everything.  All hope is lost.  So, then we need to add energy to despair to change it's state to either a liquid state (neither despair or hope) or really raise it's temperature further and turn it into a gas.  A state where the heavy solid feeling of despair is replaced by one of lightness, of freedom, of dare I say it, hope?  At this point Hope then, like water, once again expands to fill the void left by the "removal" of despair.  Or from a negative state, to a positive one energetically.

Interesting, so it's NOT just water that expands to fill a volume of space when changing from one state to the other in either direction.  Are you with me so far?  If so, then read on...

So, how then to we change the state of despair to one of hope?  If we treat it like water, we add energy.  The question becomes of course how to do that.  Especially when one feels like there is no hope, and all is suffering and pain with the associated lack of energy one finds there.

To be honest I cannot, and shall not attempt to speak for all the possible ways to do this, I have however figured out what it was for me, how and when energy was added and I moved from a state of life threatening despair to having a little taste of hope.  And that, well that's kinda like winning the lottery.  At least it was for me.  To be fair, hope snuck up on me and caught me completely by surprise.  Which is, in part, why it's taken me so long to figure out what happened and when.

To full appreciate what, how and when things happened for me, I need to once again backtrack.  That machine whose primary job it was to protect and serve?  Well that was a full time kinda thing, and it spilled over into the rest of the world.  Anyone that needed to be served and protected was part of the job description.  Part and parcel to that task was endless study of anything that might help.  Everything from Martial arts, to Meditation (especially since Sensei was almost fanatical about meditation) to psychology and medicine became part of the job.  When I was eight we were in the station wagon late one night on the way back from a trip to Canada.  My Mom got sick, and while my Dad was losing his furry little mind, I herded my brother and sister away from the car, and into the rest stop where I called 911.  My Sister was six, my brother four, and my father was effectively useless, almost as if we didn't exist.  We'd been planing on spending the night in Plattsburg, but not like this.  Long story short, as we were driving along in the rain, my Mom had her first Grand Maul epileptic seizure and it took us all by surprise.  We spent the night in the hospital in Plattsburg as they got her stabilized, gave her chance to recover, and figure out what had happened.

Anyway, I studied like a a child possessed, and learned as much as I could about everything.  Eastern mysticism became important because the benefits of meditation became increasingly obvious as it dramatically enhanced my abilities in terms of martial arts.  Sensei taught me the old ways, where meditation was in many ways more important than all the fancy moves.  I learned about Ki, and how it flows through us, and of course as my training progressed, how to channel Ki to a fine point and use it fully in martial arts.  How in meditation one could and should ground and center oneself, to connect with everything around one, to "tune in and turn on" as was a popular saying in the 60s. Ki became a major part of life for me, and gave me great strength.  But even then I didn't really know Ki.  Sensei mentioned time and again that should I chose to follow the path further, I could learn so much more about Ki than it being a tool of a warrior.  How deep states of meditation could bring peace and healing.  How the way of the warrior ultimately was balance on the edge of the sword of Ki.  It could be used for war and destruction, but also for healing and peace.

At the time, that was a lesson I wasn't ready for.  Meditation however stuck with me, breathing and reflection were always there for me and made for an escape from the pain of living.

My thirst for knowledge and tools to make healing and growth possible took on new meaning when the despair was threatening my life.  I'd renewed my studies of hypnotherapy while still with Earl because it was a tool to use to help him heal and grow.  Of course meditation and hypnotherapy were helping me survive the abuse at his hands as well.  I'd managed to get involved with formal education, leading eventually to certification in Hypnotherapy and I was accomplishing great things with it, but it still wasn't quite enough.  Along the way, one of the Nurses I worked with in the hospital wanted to learn more about hypnotherapy and as we spent time talking, she mentioned Reiki and gave me a hands on demonstration, a bunch of sessions in exchange for helping her quit smoking.  Reiki she explained was actually two Japanese words Rei and ki.  Rei for "universal" and Ki for "energy" and that I might want to learn that too.

At the time I filed it away in a corner of my mind and got back to the task at hand, fighting for Earl's and my own life.  There was no way I'd have the time, or be allowed by Earl to spend the money to receive training and certification in Reiki, especially since He still thought Hypnotherapy was mumbo-jumbo bullshit.  His argument was that if I ever managed to get certified in Hypnotherapy, maybe I'd be allowed to look at Reiki.  Yeah, I'm serious, he controlled my life that much.

By the end of 2004 we were in the middle of a horrific divorce and I'd finally managed to take my final and become a College Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist.  That and three bucks would get me on the subway.  I didn't have three bucks for the subway.  I started looking into Reiki finally, because one of the way I'd always distracted myself from how much my life sucked was to throw myself into studying something.  I might not have been able to afford it at the time, but I was bound and determined I'd get to know it really well.  By late 2006 I'd managed to squirrel away just enough money to start working on a formal course of study and certification in Reiki.

Attunement involves opening oneself up to the energy, the "frequencies" as they are sometimes called, and this is often, but certainly not always done by a Reiki Master/Teacher.  It is where the great cost of Reiki certification comes into the picture.  Dr. Usui a lifetime or so ago received attunement in meditation but long before that Reiki had been a closely held secret of Tibetan Monks, who always meditated their way to mastery of Reiki.  Though the Monks didn't call it Reiki.  Dr. Usui however saw no reason for this to be a secret kept away from the world, and started helping others become attuned.  Sometimes later, money became involved to where these days it can cost upward of ten thousand dollars to become attuned and certified.  I wish I was kidding.  Thankfully the price has been coming down and one can get Attuned and certified these days for around 1000 dollars, there are even reputable, courses that will cost significantly less than this and will give one a method to attune oneself.

Anyway, early 2007 was my first of many attunements, and a conscious decision to open myself up to a wider range of energy, and hopefully use it to help myself heal.  That I could eventually use it for other people, and or chose to teach was nice if it ever came to that, but I was focused more on healing myself for a change. It was, for me, an amazing experience.  That first attunement alone started changes in me that are still unfolding.  Progress and growth that enabled me to finally escape the impossible living situation I was in and move to Ohio.  Over the course of time I've continued my studies and growth, and have long since received full Reiki Master/Teacher attunements and Certification.

Reiki is energy, universal energy, or Ki.  Master Yoda would call it the force.  Han Solo has said 'Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side kid."  Whatever one wishes to call it however it is the very same Ki I started learning all those years ago from Sensei, just taken out a bunch of steps.  The Chinese call it Chi or Qi, and the discipline that brings healing and grow is known as Qigong.    As I've said it is much older than western thinking on healing and growth.

In simplest fashion, attunement brings with it a flow of energy not previously available.  Energy that raises awareness, engenders healing at multiple levels, and allows one to grow.  It raises one's energy levels in ways even I'd not thought possible.  It is, as it turns out, the focal point of the shift in my own journey, and when I started moving away from despair and back to the point of having some hope.  So I'm living on the outskirts of the kingdom of hope now, and God willing I'll not soon be forced to move out.  If anything I'm looking to move in closer as I can!  So, early 2007 was when my energy levels started to shift, and hope became real for me again, all thanks to Reiki.