I will be attending a poetry workshop next weekend with the poet Li-Young Lee as part of a free literary conference at the Poetry Center in Paterson, New Jersey.  He requested that if attendees have a copy of the I Ching, they bring it along with three pennies. I have a guess at what he intends to do.

I first encountered the I Ching when I was a college student. A friend showed me the “Book of Changes” which is an ancient Chinese divination text. It is the oldest of the Chinese classics, going back more than two and a half millennia. She told me that it could be used to have my questions answered and for guidance. She showed me how to cast sticks (coins are also used) which are then interpreted using the book. I can see that process being used as a poetry prompt.

Though the I Ching is an influential text read throughout the world and it provides inspiration to the worlds of religion, psychoanalysis, business, literature, and art, I am sure that most people in the U.S. have not heard of it or used it, and would lump it dismissively in with horoscopes and Tarot cards.

But the I Ching is the subject of scholarly commentary and the basis for divination practice for centuries across the Far East. Eventually it made its way to  the West and it was influential in the Western understanding of Eastern thought.

This post is not meant to be an explanation of how to use the I Ching. There are many websites and books about that, but I’ll give you an overview because the poetry prompt sent me back to my copy and coins.

You may have noticed that I haven’t posted here for a few weeks. As it has before, Life got serious and writing was set aside for me in April and for some of this month. I put that divination prompt together with the issues in my life and did some casting of coins and looking for some answers.

Whether you use sticks or coins (or even an I Ching app on your phone – which just seems wrong), the casting leads you to construct a hexagram – a figure composed of six stacked horizontal lines.

hexagram 43I asked my question, cast my six coins and got hexagram 43  (shown here) which is named 夬 (guài) or “displacement.” Giving the hexagrams numbers is a modern adaptation.  There are 64 possible hexagrams.

Each hexagram is made up of two trigrams. The trigrams are grouped by 8 categories: earth, heaven, lake, wind, fire, water, thunder and mountain. The top three lines of the hexagram are one trigram, and the bottom three another.

I find that the interpretation of the lines vary quite a bit depending on the edition of the I Ching you consult. The #43 hexagram not only means “displacement” but also means  “resoluteness”, “parting”, and “break-through”. Its inner trigram is ☰ (乾 qián) force = (天) heaven, and its outer trigram is ☱ (兌 duì) open = (澤) swamp.

Does that answer my question? No. Then again, I am no expert on this process. And it is all about the interpretation. After all, it is the Book of Changes.

My college friend had told me that I shouldn’t use the I Ching for prognostication.  It’s not for foretelling or prophesying future events. Don’t ask “How will I do on my exam tomorrow?” She told me to ask a question that had an answer “within me.”  Ask something like “Should I start dating this girl who is teaching me about the I Ching?” The coins would point the way to the answer.

But seriously,  using the I Ching seems similar to using other forms of prognostication. I also learned about the Nordic runes. The rune stones are from a place far from the I Ching but these stones from Northern European cultures and the pagan Norse world of gods and goddesses, giants, dwarves, warriors, and wizards seemed to work better for me than the I Ching.

So, I also cast the runes this week and consulted the book of runes. A three rune spread that represents the past, present, and future.

The past is EHWAZ,  E, the Sacred Horse. My rune was reversed, meaning sudden unexpected change that is not wanted

The present rune is RAIDHO,  R, the  Journey and yes I am on a kind of journey right now. An unexpected and unwanted journey. It is physical and not physical. It is about healing something that needs healing.

My future rune is blank. That seems empty but the blank rune is Odin’s Rune and it means anything is possible. But the blank rune was a modern addition. I would like to believe anything is possible right now, but I cast another stone.


This fourth stone was DAGAZ , D, Dawn – a rune that cannot be reversed. This indicates a new day. A breakthrough, like hexagram 43. That is an answer that makes sense. All three runes make sense.

You can cast the I Ching or the runes or whatever method you prefer, and you can ask your question, but they are just pointers. The answers are within. She was correct.

 

cow grazing under the full moon

The Moon will be full today in Paradelle at 5:42 pm. It is probably best known as the Corn Moon, Planting Moon, and the Hare’s Moon. The Arapaho Indians referred to this Full Moon as “when the ponies shed their shaggy hair.” It is the Flower Moon in Algonquian.

I chose one of its lesser known names, the Milk Moon. During May cows, goats, and sheep (at least they did and may still if they are free to do so) get to enjoy the newly-sprouting weeds, grasses, and herbs in the pastures and so produce very rich milk.

The exact moment at which the moon is fullest — when the sun, Earth and moon align — won’t be visible to observers in North America, because the moon will be below the horizon. On the U.S. East Coast observers will see the moon rise a few minutes before 8 p.m., 2 hours after the full moon’s peak. (Find out what time the moon will be visible at your location with this moonrise and moonset calculator.)

According to folklore, it is lucky to hold a moonstone, a gemstone that looks like a milky moon, in your mouth at the full moon. It is said that it will reveal the future.

Folklore also says that a the eyes of a cat will be open wider during a full moon than at any other time.

Though the term “moon struck” usually means mentally deranged, crazed or dreamily romantic or bemused, it originally meant a person was chosen by the Goddess and the person was said to be blessed.

Vesak Day is one of the biggest days of the year in the Buddhist calendar and is celebrated by Buddhists all over the world on the day of the full moon in May. Sometimes informally called “Buddha’s Birthday”, it commemorates the birth, enlightenment (Buddhahood), and death (Parinirvāna) of Gautama Buddha in the Theravada or southern tradition.

 

 

 

Teresa of Ávila s a young woman by François Gérard, 1826

Last March 28, I saw on a website that it was the birthday of St. Teresa of Ávila. I’m not a “religious” person these days in the sense of an organized religion, but I have an odd relationship with St. Teresa.

It started when I was 13 and attended “Sunday school” at St. Leo’s Church in Irvington, New Jersey . The year I was 13 I had for my class a young and kind nun. Those two qualities set Sister Teresa Avila apart from all the other nuns.

I knew nothing about the real Saint Teresa of Ávila whom she was named after until many years later. The Saint Teresa (28 March 1515 – 4 October 1582), was a prominent Spanish mystic, Roman Catholic saint, Carmelite nun and author during the Counter Reformation, and theologian of contemplative life through mental prayer.

Teresa grew up in a wealthy household in the province of Ávila, Spain. She was a beautiful and social girl who loved her privileged life, perfume, jewelry, and elegant clothes. Her mother died when she was 14, and her father sent her to convent school to protect his beautiful daughter.

Perhaps surprisingly, she found the religious training very appealing and she decided to become a nun.

After twenty increasingly important years, she established her own monastery, She then traveled around Spain on a donkey, setting up 16 new monasteries for women. She also wrote several books, including The Way of Perfection (1566) and The Interior Castle (1580).

One day in my thirteenth year, I had forgotten a homework assignment for Sunday school catechism class. Sister Teresa told me to go home, get the assignment, bring it to the convent and ask for her. The nun who answered my knock at the convent door went to get Sister Teresa.

When Sister Teresa Avila appeared she was not wearing her nun’s habit. I can only imagine how my face must have looked.

She was beautiful. She had long, dark, shiny hair. She asked me for my assignment which was in my hand. I was frozen. It probably took me a few seconds to respond but it felt like a lot longer.

I was in love with her in the way that a boy of 13 can be in love with an adult woman. I don’t know in what way a boy can be in love with a nun.

The Ecstasy of Saint Theresa

The Ecstasy of Saint Theresa by Gian Lorenzo Bernini , 1652

In college I took a course about religion in literature and although it was taught by a religion professor, it was the most influential literature course I took as an English major. Along with novels, we read religious works including The Wisdom of the Sufis, The Dark Night of the Soul  by Saint John of the Cross and Saint Teresa’s The Interior Castle.

The Interior Castle was inspired by a Saint Teresa’s mystical vision of a crystal castle with seven chambers, each representing a different stage in spiritual development. She immediately wrote her book which is divided into seven parts (also called mansions, dwelling places or chambers) Each level brings you closer to God.

Entrance into the first three mansions is achieved by prayer and meditation. The fourth through seventh mansions are considered to be mystical or contemplative prayer. The soul achieves clarity in prayer and a spiritual marriage with God in the seventh mansions.

Of course, as I read the book my thoughts often returned to Sister Teresa rather than Saint Teresa. The two have remained blurred in my mind. I imagine Sister Teresa before she took the veil as a beautiful young girl much like the Teresa of Avila in 1529.

 

Over the years, both Teresa’s have been in my thoughts and have been alluded to in other works. Simone de Beauvoir writes about Teresa as a woman who lived her life for herself in her book The Second Sex. George Eliot compared the character Dorothea to St. Teresa in Middlemarch. Thomas Hardy took Teresa as the inspiration for much of the heroine Tess (Teresa) in Tess of the d’Urbervilles, a character who in one scene lies in a field and senses her soul ecstatically above her.

Saint Teresa appears in a few contemporary songs: “Theresa’s Sound-World” by Sonic Youth  and in “Saint Teresa” by Joan Osborne.

But none of those allusions have had as much of an impact on me as reading The Interior Castle through the lens of a 13 year-old boy discovering another kind of love.

Fasting is an ancient practice. It has religious roots. In more modern times it was practiced as a weight loss method (not an effective or healthy one) and as a way to “detox” the body.

A lot of the most recent studies have shown that it does seem to have a role in cellular responses and protection.

It is always a leap to go from research on rodents to humans, but that research has found some evidence that periodic fasting may protect against diseases.  In an article about intermittent fasting, it lists as possible benefits protection against: diabetes, cancers, heart disease neurodegeneration, obesity, hypertension, asthma and rheumatoid arthritis.

I tried fasting twice in my life. The first I did it without much knowledge of how to do it and it was more harmful than beneficial. The second time I followed instructions from a book and found some short-lived benefits.

Lately, I have read more about intermittent fasting. This can be the practice of a weekly 36-hour fast.

The detoxification of your body through fasting seems to be more myth than fact. If you are relatively healthy, your digestive system, liver, and kidneys already do that for you and don’t require additional supplements or fasting. Drinking more water and avoiding smoking, alcohol and junk food certainly will help your health.

Fasting will eventually cause some weight loss, mostly water weight, but it will take a few days. Our body’s first response to a fast is to conserve calories to survive, so a 24-48 hour fast probably will have no effect on weight long term. Your body burns up its glucose stores and then glycogen bound with water molecules, gets processed and both get flushed out of your system.

Fasting makes you more aware of true hunger. That is not the hunger that comes because the clock says “it is time to eat” or because we always snack while watching TV or a movie.

Most people report an increase in energy even though you would assume your energy level would go in the opposite direction.

Since this is not a health blog and I have no medical expertise, I would caution anyone to do your own research before trying any fasting. People who are underweight or have any known ailments might make things worse with a fast. There certainly is no shortage of books about fasting.

The possible benefits are tempting. I watched a TED talk about boosting the growth of new brain cells by fasting. I picked up a book, The Complete Guide to Fasting: Heal Your Body Through Intermittent, Alternate-Day, and Extended Fasting, and once I get past some other medical issues, I plan to give intermittent fasting a try.

Maybe it is because I taught in a public school for many years, but I still find myself feeling really tired and ready for a nap around 3 pm. What is going on with my body clock?

Sleepiness generally hits all of us 7-9 hours after we wake up from a night’s sleep. That’s not very convenient for anyone who works a normal day. If you wake up at 7 am, it will hit you somewhere from 2-4 pm.

Generally, we fight off the urge to sleep, but our alertness drops. Now that i am in unretired mode, I don’t fight off the feeling much. I take a nap, but for most of you that is not an option.

The fatigue can also be attributed to adenosine, a chemical that accumulates during the day and causes sleepiness. But don’t go out trying to find some adenosine to help you sleep at night. It is used for treating certain types of irregular heartbeat and during a stress test of the heart.

When this sleepiness hits, your internal body temperature also drops starts dipping, I do like a blanket for nap time and a drop in body temperature signals your brain to conserve energy and prepare for sleep.

So what can you do when a nap is not an option? Many people chug down some caffeine or crave a sugary snack. These are not very healthy relief. I love my morning coffee kick, but I can’t do caffeine in the afternoon without wrecking my sleep that night. My wife can have a strong cup of caffeine before she goes to sleep.

What are alternatives?

Dehydration can cause sleepiness, so a glass or two of water can also help. I try to log 64 ounces every day on my Fitbit app.

Get outside and get some sunlight. Twenty minutes of sunlight (through clouds counts too) sends a signal to that brain clock to turn on some energy to wake up and be more alert.

I love to walk and there is evidence that even a 10-minute walk that is brisk can energize you again. You can do it inside, but a walk outdoors adds that sunlight boost.

Want to add more to that walk? Make it social. Some research shows that talking with someone and social interaction can help give your mind a break and gets you to focus outside yourself. Get a walk buddy. Have a walking meeting. Even a phone call (not a text!) might help.

Lots of websites, like the Fitbit blog, will tell you that nap time isn’t just for pre-schoolers. Tell your boss that data shows that a brief, 20-minute nap can be enough to boost mental and physical performance.

Some call this May Day. Depending on where you live, it could be International Workers’ Day or Labour Day. May 1 is a national holiday in more than 80 countries and celebrated unofficially in many other countries. Not many people are celebrating Beltane, so let’s mark that festival here.

Beltane is an ancient Celtic festival which came into English from the Gaelic word bealltainn which literally means “May First.”

Traditionally large bonfires would be lit to celebrate this transition from spring to summer and the fertility of all things. Cattle were driven through the Beltane bonfires for purification and fertility.

The annual Beltane Fire Festival held in Edinburgh, Scotland is the prime modern example.

Today, the neo-pagan community, often associated with the art of fire dancing, have also embraced the Beltane festivities.

In Wales, Creiddylad was a character connected with this festival and often called the May Queen. The maypole and its dance is a remnant of these old festivities.

In Finland, May 1 was celebrated as Rowan Witch Day, a time of honoring the goddess Rauni, who was associated with the mouton ash or rowan tree. Twigs and branches of the rowan were, and still are, used as protection against evil in this part of the world.

May Day is another name often given to this day. That derives from the Greek goddess Maia, the most important of the Seven Sisters (the Pleiades) and the mother of Hermes. From her, we get the name of this month. The Romans called her Maius, goddess of Summer, and honored her during Ambarvalia.

A maypole is a tall wooden pole erected as a part of various European folk festivals, around which a maypole dance often takes place. The festivals may occur on May Day or Pentecost (Whitsun), although in some countries it is instead erected at Midsummer.

May Day celebrations were continued by early European settlers to the American continent with May baskets filled with flowers or treats left secretly at someone’s doorstep. If the receiver catches the fleeing giver, a kiss is exchanged.

 

May Day basket

May Day basket

 

Visitors to Paradelle

  • 345,968

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 1,886 other followers

Follow Weekends in Paradelle on WordPress.com

Recent Photos on Flickr

crime scene

meditating turtle

2 pm by the sun

budding colors

fort

at the edge

More Photos

I Recently Tweeted…

Archives

On Instagram

This is about as much boogie down as you're going to get from me this weekend. Buds like gumballs.  #peony Tiger iris morning When I dip my tortilla chips into some baba ganoush, I feel like I'm uniting cultures.  Don't build walls; build bridges. Show a pansy (or viola) face to the world Some iris sunshine on a rainy day.
%d bloggers like this: