One Mouth, Two Ears

The philosopher Zeno once observed we have only one mouth yet two ears for a good reason: listening makes more of a difference than talking.

When we are silent and open to thinking, or quiet and open to learning, we almost exist in an extra dimension. Some might even say the ability to go silent is a superpower. Being silent better prepares us to learn to minimize noisy distractions and stimulations. Eliminating sound creates more room for deeper understanding and awareness of what’s around us and within us.

Thoughts will not work except in silence.
– Thomas Carlyle

The path to better listening lies in becoming better at silence. Learning to be silent, and steep in that world of quietness where epiphanies and creative ideas can bubble up to the conscious surface, is a sure way to increase one’s awareness within.

  • Composer John Cage, well before his famous (some would say infamous) 4’33” composition, visited an anechoic chamber, a special room designed for complete silence. Is there such a thing as complete silence? As Cage discovered, no. He heard two sounds, one high and one low, that upon discussion with the chamber’s engineer, were Cage hearing his own heart pumping blood and nervous system firing throughout his body.
  • In Helsinki there’s the Kamppi Chapel, designed not for worship but for seekers of spiritual quietness amid the noise of the surrounding city.
  • A study of hundreds of CEOs and financial leaders revealed a common aspect in how they spent their downtimes: activities ensuring an absence of voices.

So set aside some time each day, matters not how little or much, to sit in silence and embrace the absence of outside noises and voices. Over time, you’ll become a better listener and more aware of your own valued internal thoughts.

That quiet is so rare is a sign of its value. Seize it.
– Ryan Holliday

Gotta Love Analog Timers

In my writing practice (and tea making!) I use several electronic timers, and sometimes my iPhone’s clock app, to ensure I don’t forget to stop. A favorite for writing work is this countdown/count-up one I got because it has a switch to change from beep to vibrate. So nice to avoid an obnoxious, harpy-like beep.

This digital sidekick at the left is one I use for writing sprints, or to ensure pomodoro-like break reminders to get up and move around a bit. I’ve also used it sometimes for timing my morning pages… until now.

I’ll let this unedited snippet from this morning’s journal work tell the rest of this tale:

Trying a timed approach to morning pages using my new, 30-minute sand timer. Fun analog toy that may help improve my ambience when long-hand writing. Too many toys and tools can lead us apart from the core intention of any activity, but in this case the old school hourglass timer is my patient, but watchful, “mentor” reminding me to keep the hand moving and not stop until the sands run out in 30 minutes.

I’ll continue trying out the sand timer for morning pages since the whole analog vibe it imbues is enjoyable. I noticed it helps push me a little further, whereas untimed morning pages sessions sometimes see me bail out early, eager to get to fresh article drafts or pick up working on a piece left unfinished from the day before.

Word Wise: Anxious

An infrequent series of posts about curious, misused, onerous, or strange English language words.

There are some English words we ingrain in our thinking for certain situations and believe they’re the right ones. An example is saying “anxious” when that’s not exactly the intended meaning:

I’m anxious about meeting you!

I’m anxious about finally seeing a new Star Wars movie!

Anxious is one of those commonly misused words lazily dropped into our conversations. The meme I’ve used to help me keep things straight is to remember anxious = uneasy (visually that “anxi” combo looks uncomfortable, so works for me).

Substituting “uneasy” in the two examples above fixes the confusion… and it’s obviously not the best word to use!

“Eager” or “enthusiastic” is, in this usage, what we mean to convey. In the past (as many others) I’ve said “anxious,” thinking it conveys excitement. I’ll try to remember Inigo Montoya’s classic phrase and stay word wise.

Want to Read Posts Offline?

If you’re new to the site, perhaps you’d like to catch up more quickly by having a printed or digital copy of all posts in a category? Maybe to snuggle up with while in a nice, comfy chair beside a crackling fire in the fireplace, and perhaps a nice cup of hot tea nearby?

Either way, you can now through this new feature. There’s a link on each of the primary categories to create a PDF with full posts and images. From there you can print (page layout’s nicest if printing from Chrome or Microsoft Edge browsers), or save to a tablet to read on it. Enjoy!

Site news - print PDFs

The Hike That Was Almost My Last

One would think, after acclimating to long hikes with elevation changes in the mountains of West Texas and mesas around Abiquiu, New Mexico, that I’d be in shape for most any romp.

In Hawaii, the hike that was almost my last didn’t give a hoot about all that preparation months before.

I visited my two sons for a month back in April-May 2019. On an island loop drive with my youngest son (stationed on a U.S. Navy submarine based out of Pearl Harbor), we’d planned a hike on a trail deemed “easy” by the local trail guides. The Makapu’u Point Lighthouse trail boasted only a 500 ft. elevation change over the 2.5 mile trail around the coastline, ever-rising toward the lighthouse at the top. 

In a typical year, hiking is among the top three causes of deaths in Hawaii (drowning or water-related being #1). Hiking seemed an odd reason to rank so high. A little research and I learned why. On the beloved ridge hikes atop volcanic ridges, the ridges are barely wide enough for the trail. The park system barricades many of these trails closed, but seems it’s easy to subvert such intentions. The latest death reported when I was there was of a local nurse who stepped back one step too far to take a selfie atop such a ridge and plunged thousands of feet to her death. While we chose a hike on a trail with wide, paved trial winding up and around the point, at least we didn’t have to worry about “death by selfie” (surely someone’s written a mystery novel entitled that).

We arrived at the trailhead and took the last parking spot. On densely populated Oahu island, everyone seems like they own a car, despite a small island and narrow roads. The trail slope didn’t seem that bad, but soon our legs and lungs would disagree, and in hindsight, my heart too. Wasn’t long before shortness of breath, chest heaviness, and sore arms made me wonder what was going on.

Fact is, via a chronic digestive issue I’d been dealing with for years occasionally exhibited similar symptoms. I thought “oh, just another episode” and toughed it out. This concerned my son, once briefly a EMT and long interested in medical stuff. But he deferred to my “just my system getting wacko; happens now and then” self-diagnosis. But said wackiness never continued this long nor stayed in specific places in me (it usually did a wonderful, around-the-body pain tour instead).

Despite the discomfort, the views were amazing and the frequent stops to rest made soaking in the splendor all the better. We didn’t make it to the top and the lighthouse, but the hike down rewarded me with lighter symptoms, thankfully.

Getting back in the car, we continued our loop around the shoreline, each turn more spectacularly beautiful than the last. Mentally, I still connected the symptoms on the hike to my old digestive nemesis, failing to realize what it actually was. I increasingly felt better over the next few days back to normal.

Epilogue


Fast forward past the flight back to Denver, some post-trip time visiting with friends near Denver, and a leisurely drive back to Ohio via a maintenance stop for my RV van in Iowa. Add in a scenic drive up through Wisconsin, over Michigan’s scenic Upper Peninsula, then down through the state to Findlay, Ohio, to a routine exam by my doc, a bad EKG, an exploratory discovery stress test (nearly killed me as I went into cardiac shock from the test and came within a minute of “too late” efforts by two cardiologists and four nurses), to a life-saving stent placed in my “widow-maker” artery, to fix an ~90% blockages.

I’ve never been one to believe luck plays any part in living or fate, but have to wonder if that played a part through all those months before when I was unknowingly a gnat-hair’s width away from a fatal stroke. I wish I could say I was intentional living daringly on the edge of a catastrophe, but truth is I was just ignorant of the warning signs, ones misinterpreted for a long time and certainly ignoring the big “call to action” that day on Hawaiian hike.

New Feature: Journey Image Portfolios!

I’m excited about sharing these new travel picture portfolios with readers! While I use photography in my travel posts, there’s always so many more images taken than ever show up here. So… I decided to create single pages highlighting various interesting places I’ve been. I’m calling them “Image Portfolios” and you can get to them via the top menu: Subjects/Image Portfolios/<portfolios>.

I plan on these being one of the benefits of paid Supporter membership, but for now, the first four are publicly viewable: Hawaii, Ireland, New Mexico, and Ohio Renaissance Faire. As of this posting, only the Ren Faire has extended pictures (meaning, well-beyond those previously share in posts here). I’m working on expanding the other three with images not yet shared here, so check back and enjoy some excellent pandemic armchair travel fun! After all, it’s not like we can go anywhere anytime soon…

Screen shot, Portfolios: Renaissance Faire page.