Rush Hour, Anxiety and Meditation


I listened to a short dharma talk before starting meditation one morning. Our teacher was speaking about how meditation could relieve chronic anxiety.

The teacher described a morning routine of leaving home with our mental to-do and worry list already being rehearsed over and over in our thoughts. From the sidewalk, we could can the rush hour traffic jam building. We get in the car. Join the line up. Progress comes to a full stop. Ahead we see the flashing lights of emergency vehicles, drivers are hitting their car horns hard. Children are firmly strapped in their car seats before arriving a pre-school. Mom’s are on the smartphones saying they will be late. In the other lane, a tow truck is pulling a stalled, damaged vehicle.

The day has only started and we are already feeling the tightness in the chest that is anxiety itself.

Our meditation teacher suggested a different approach. The race of thoughts in our minds is like this morning driver encountering rush hour. And the anxiety from all these conflicting thoughts:

1. I’m getting old.
2. My muscles are stiff.
3. I can’t cross my legs like all the other meditation students.
4. How am I going to meditate and still get to work on time?
5. I need to login, check my bank balance, and pay bills.
6. I wonder what she meant last night in reply to my question when she said, “Maybe”.
7. What will my doctor find in my annual exam later today?
8. I need to stop coming here to meditation, and tackle all these issues first thing in the morning.
9. Fast, so I can be at peace the rest of the day.

Except for number 5 in my list, none of these thoughts, and the resulting anxiety could be stopped by leaping into action.

So the alternate approach my teacher suggested was to sit “metaphorically” on the side of the road filled with all this rush hour traffic of worries and to-dos. Close my eyes. Breathe. Just count the breaths. As the to do and worries scroll in my mind, I should just note them and move on and return to just breathing.

Pretty soon, the traffic starts to clear and when I choose to rise, just maybe I might start my day with some peace.


Out of Focus

As I sat in the rented car across the street from my childhood home, I remembered how I had cleverly disguised the real purpose for asking my employer to pay for my travel and attendance at a telecommunications course just outside of New York City. My true purpose was to meet my younger sister and bury the ashes of my mother at my father’s gravesite I had not visited in over 20 years. I had carefully attended to all the details of having the grave opened. I even had written on a scrap of paper an idea for a graveside service. Yet now, after all that careful planning, I found my thoughts inchoate. I stared at my childhood home with that thousand mile away look of PTSD sufferers. It was now owned by someone else who did not know I had grown up in that house.

I had poorly exposed snapshots in my memory. The camera flash had not quite worked well and the images were too dark. I remembered sleeping in the twin bed in the room I slept in with my father. Before sleep, I would remember staring out at the dark pine trees in the back of the house. They always gave me a sense of an unknown that was somewhat frightening. Adulthood maybe. Why my father slept in our room in the second twin bed had been unknown to me. It was a fact, but confusing. My mother slept in her room with my younger sister. Only later in life, would I hear stories from my sisters of the painful and scary birth of my younger sister; Dad’s banishment to the other bedroom. Fear of another, maybe life-threatening pregnancy. Roman Catholic Birth Control. Was that the sum of all reasons? My sisters tell stories now my Dad protested, was sad and angry.

My father was a photographer, and quite a good one. He was known for his sharp focus, deep depth of field, and uniform exposure. He preferred a mirror finish on his prints. All surfaces in the house were usually covered by glossy black and white 8”x10”s. So I grew up with an expectation of clarity in photographic images. Remembering in pictures was a given.

Yet, now as I stared across the street at my old childhood home I couldn’t precisely recall what I traveled across the country and 35 years to recall. Too many indistinct memories. Indeed, I could not summon the courage to walk up to the front door, introduce myself as the aging younger boy who grew up here. While I had some of my father’s clear eyed photographs back home on the West Coast, why and how his and my life unfurled in this place was not exposed in the pictures.

-written in response to

The Daily Post Challenge by Krista Stevens: Inchoate

Borodin String Quartet

I am feeling nostalgic tonight about hearing two of these Shostakovich Quartets when Visiting Scholar in Bergen, Norway in 2015. The concert was at King Haakon’s castle. The Borodin Quartet is one of the oldest performing quartets still in existence. They played at Stalin’s Funeral!

How do I write and blog

  1. Get up early and get on the bus to University of Washington Suzzallo Library Coffee Shop.
  2. Set up my food: Big Coffee with Half-and-Half and something healthy. This morning it is fruit and cheese.
  3. Tilt my iPhone on my improvised stand. Connect by Bluetooth Apple Magic Keyboard.
  4. Start Ulysses App, an amazing Markdown editor. It is developed and marketed by it’s creators in Leipzig, Germany.
  5. No laptop! Just keyboard and iPhone!
  6. I publish to WordPress from a menu choice within Ulysses. Just a click away. Check out my blog, comment, and follow me so you get notices that I have updated my blog.
  7. Among other subjects, I blog about astronomy, mindfulness, cognitive-behavioral therapy, exercise and sports, farming, books, and interesting scenes, objects and people I meet every day. I try to keep it light, cheerful and positive. Call me out if I don’t.

Bean, beans, be@ns

Pickin’ beans on the farm is picking my favorite vegetable. Whether the beans be haricots vert or dragonstooth or yellow wax variety, they can be picked in rows of low growing bush vines. You will have to get down on your knees for picking. You have to look carefully for some varieties because they blend in so easily with the vines and foliage.

Whether you are wearing jeans, or just shorts your knees will have the dirty look that certifies you have been down in the dirt today. Not bad, if you want to look like a farmer.

If you want to show off call your green beans: haricots vert. There, you are no ordinary farmer. You have traveled to France. Haricots Vert are the unripe, or young unripe fruit and protective pods of the common bean. They are harvested and consumed with their enclosing pods before the seeds have fully ripened. Green beans are called sometimes String Beans for the the string which is a hard fibrous strand running the length of the pod. This can be removed before cooking or the bean can be cut into short segments to make them easily edible. Some modern varieties lack strings.

We have three other varieties of beans on the UW Farm. One is named Dragon’s tongue or Dragon’s tooth for the purple variegated creamy white pods. Next, our yellow wax beans have a pale cornflower colored stringless pod. They have a satin or or matte finish which look waxy. One of the most famous varieties is named Buerre De Rocquefort Bush Wax Bean. It can be succulent and tender firm with a grassy, sweet nutty flavor.

Our most deceptive variety of bean have pods purple in color. If you slice the bean lengthwise, however, the inside is green. The big surprise comes when you cook the beans. The pods turn green.

When harvesting beans we do not pay as much attention to making sure of our count. You surely have heard of counting beans by the bushel. That’s a hint: most of us can’t keep the counting going in our heads high enough for all the beans we picked more by volume of the containers we use.

Picking beans has been the source of much common wisdom:

“It doesn’t amount to a hill of beans!”

When trying to figure out if something is significant or not:

“Quit being a bean counter!”