How to Slow Down and Meditate

I received an email recently from a blog reader who said he was having trouble slowing down enough to meditate. That the time he spent meditating was no fun because it went so slowly.

That’s a common problem for beginning meditators, especially those practicing breath counting or mentally repeating a mantra or phrase.

I have a suggestion for this…

Simply do your best to not let it be a problem. Just devote twenty to thirty minutes each day to sitting and do it, no matter how long it feels like it takes. If your experience parallels mine, a happy day will arrive when your sitting sessions go so quickly you won’t believe that 20 to 30 to even 60 minutes passed like a snap of your fingers. 🙂

Important point: when you meditate (and during your non-meditating time, too), just be.

Breathe in; pause for a few seconds and note the stillness; breathe out; pause for a few seconds and note the stillness. That’s it. Everything you need is right here, right now.

Especially in that deep silent pause between each breath.

Until next time, meditate every day and let it all go.

Breathe in Absolute Freedom

For this week’s meditation, we turn to Dogen (founder of the Soto school of Zen Buddhism), who wrote:

The human mind has absolute freedom as its true nature. There are thousands upon thousands of students who have practiced meditation and obtained this realization. Do not doubt the possibilities because of the simplicity of this method.

During the coming week, while you’re meditating, breathe in absolute freedom and breathe out true nature.

Do not think or conceptualize about absolute freedom and true nature while you’re sitting and breathing.

Simply breathe in absolute freedom and breathe out true nature.

Wet Socks Remedy for Colds and Flu

The Wet Socks Remedy is an interesting and useful treatment for all sorts of infections and inflammations in the upper body. It is simple to do and you don’t need anything but some socks and some water.

The wet sock treatment is best if repeated for three nights in a row if you’re suffering from any of the following symptoms: sore throat or any inflammation or infection of the throat, neck pain, ear infections, headaches, migraines, nasal congestion, upper respiratory infections, coughs, bronchitis, and sinus infections.

To do the wet sock treatment, you’ll need:

1 pair white cotton socks
1 pair thick wool sock
A towel
Warm bath or warm foot bath

With the above items in hand, here are the directions:

Take a pair of cotton socks and soak them completely with ice cold water. Be sure to wring the socks out thoroughly so they do not drip

Warm your feet first. This is very important as the treatment will not be as effective and could be harmful if your feet are not warmed first. Warming can be accomplished by soaking your feet in warm water for at least 5-10 minutes or taking a warm bath for 5-10 minutes.

Dry off feet and body with a dry towel.

Place ice cold wet socks on feet. Cover with thick wool socks. Go directly to bed. Avoid getting chilled.

Keep the socks on overnight. You will find that the wet cotton socks will be dry in the morning.

This treatment acts to reflexively increase the circulation and decrease congestion in the upper respiratory passages, head, and throat.

It has a sedating action and many patients report that they sleep much better during the treatment.

This treatment is also effective for pain relief and increases the healing response during acute infections.

The Cold and Wet Sock Remedy is said to be an excellent treatment for early onset of a cold or flu.

A New Orleans Ghost Story

I’ve embedded at the end of this post a picture of the house my beloved late wife Ellen and I lived in for our first seven years in New Orleans, starting way back in 1973.

This classic house had four apartments. Two on the first floor and two above. Our crib was on the second and third floors on the right hand side of the house.

Ellen and I enjoyed really good years in that old place.

Some hopefully interesting details about the house:  The landlord said it was built in the 19th century by a rich sea captain for his beautiful young wife. At the time (and still true today after checking Google Maps) this was the only house in the surrounding area with three stories, and the captain included the “widow’s walk” balcony outside the third floor so his beloved could watch for his ship coming up the Mississippi River when he returned from whatever voyage he’d gone on.

As legend would have it, the captain raised a special flag to the top of the highest mast of his ship upon getting close to New Orleans so his wife, who must have spent a lot of time on the third floor balcony pining for his return, would know he would arrive home soon.

I don’t know if she would then rush to the kitchen to prepare red beans and rice with a side of gumbo. Maybe so, maybe no.

Ellen and I couldn’t see the Mississippi River from the third floor balcony when we lived there because the area had been developed to a point where the view was blocked, but The Father of Waters was probably about, maybe, a half mile directly in front of the house. 

I swear this next part is true, though it might sound like a writer’s fabrication.

During our first month in this apartment on Tchoupitoulas Street, Ellen saw the ghost of the captain’s young wife in the middle of the night, standing over our bed and staring down at us, visibly angry.

Ellen was frightened and physically shaking when she woke me up to tell me what she’d just seen, that the captain’s wife was practically in a rage that we were in their bedroom.

That she held her pale white arms over her head, her hands twisted into angry and shaking fists!

“Her eyes were pinpoints of hatred,” Ellen explained. “I’ve never seen anyone so angry.”

Geez, I’m getting goosebumps right now revisiting this memory.

That was the only time anything that might have been supernatural occurred, thank goodness, but our apartment often seemed to vibrate with ancient memories from all those who had lived in it before us.

Almost fifty years have flown by as I type these words, and now I find myself alone with ancient memories.

I still occasionally dream about this apartment, a small but truly wonderful place for a young couple to call home in a crazy and fascinating city.

Oh, one more thing. At some point, the owner of the apartments in this historical home in New Orleans converted them into four condominiums, and the last time our little apartment of 960 square feet was up for sale at few years ago I vaguely recall the asking price was around $411,000.

We paid $175 a month rent in 1973, gradually going up to $250 when we moved right after Ellen got pregnant with our first son, Josh.

A buck sure doesn’t go as far as it used to, eh?


Ellen and I lived in this wonderful house for seven years in the 70’s
Click here to see 3D movable map of the apartment and surrounding “shotgun” houses.

A Fish Story

Back in 1977 when my beloved late wife Ellen and I were living in New Orleans my visiting uncle stayed at our house for the weekend after a long spell of fishing for tuna off the California coast. A deep sea fisherman his entire life, he was tired that day, but not so tired that he couldn’t tell an interesting story.

Since I’ll soon be older than dirt, I decided to share this tale rather than taking it to the grave with me. So, without further preamble, here we go…

“Twenty some year ago, when I was 28,” my uncle said that long ago weekend, “I was working off the California coast on a tuna boat. We lucked into a fabulous school of fish, and we were hauling them in as fast as we could move. I’d gotten married a week before and was wearing a heavy gold wedding ring my new wife purchased for me. Unfortunately, I hadn’t yet had time to get the jeweler to resize the ring, which was too big for my finger. Downright loose, in fact.”

My uncle sighed before continuing. “It was raining that day and my hands were slippery with fish slime. We were working furiously. So I snagged a tuna with the grappling hook, and my wedding ring slipped right off my finger and fell into the ocean. I was tempted to jump in after it, but it was already too late. I knew from the weight of the gold that my ring was on its way to Davy Jones’s locker.”

“Gosh, that’s awful,” I said. “Did you tell your wife?”

“Oh, of course I did. She was upset, but she knew that accidents happen on fishing boats, and she told me we’d get another one after payday.”

Uncle Lance took a sip of a cold beer and sighed again. He shook his head, and it was obvious his mind had drifted back to the day he lost that ring.

Though I was anxious to hear the next part, I didn’t say anything.

A few moments later, my uncle came back to the present, smiled the biggest smile I’d ever seen, looked at me, and said: “Chet, I bet you can’t guess what happened last week when we were fishing the same area and happened on another large school of tuna.”

Anticipating something incredibly cool, perhaps even unbelievable, I told my uncle, “I don’t know. Tell me.”

“Well, after we had a good ten dozen fish onboard, it was time to clean them. I picked out the largest one — gosh, it was a gargantuan blue tuna, must have been at least thirty years old — inserted my knife, started cutting, and, mercy, you’ll never guess what I found inside.”
“You can’t be serious. You found your wedding ring!”

My uncle smiled more broadly and said, “Nope. I found Jimmy Hoffa!” He then slapped his knees with his hands and laughed until I thought he’d have a heart attack.

The Still Voice Within Meditation

For this week’s meditation, we turn to Soen Shaku.

At the World Parliament of Religions in Chicago in 1893, Soen Shaku turned heads when he made the first public presentation of Zen to the West.

Here’s an observation from him that I like…

Religion is not to go to God by forsaking the world but to find Him in it. Our faith is to believe in our essential oneness with Him. “God is in us and we in Him” must be made the most fundamental faith of all religions

During the coming week, seek God (or Source or Presence or whatever fits your point of view) in the world and in yourself.

Quiet your mind down enough while meditating, and you’ll open yourself to the small still voice within.

Jalal ad-Din Rumi also has good advice for this week’s meditation:

No more words. Hear only the voice within.

During the coming week, while you’re meditating, focus on your breath intently enough and open yourself to the voice within.

Drop in the Ocean Meditation

For today’s meditation, let’s turn to Kabir, an Indian weaver and mystic poet born 1398 AD, who writes…

All know that the drop merges into the ocean, but few know that the ocean merges into the drop.

Close your eyes.

Take a deep breath. Hold for a few seconds. Exhale slowly. Repeat until you’ve slowed down, decreased your thinking, and deepened your awareness.

Visual a single drop of water.

Watch the drop fall into the ocean.

Feel the ocean merge into the drop.

You are the drop.

You are the ocean.

Breathe and be at peace.

Utility Bill Rant

Here it is the fourth day of March, 2021, and I find myself annoyed, very annoyed.

In fact, I suppose I’m verging on pissed off, if you’ll excuse my French.

Speaking of France, I’m wondering what kind of asphalt they use on their streets since apparently the French military can drive tanks through Paris during a big parade that weigh something like 62 metric tons each without ripping the macadam into something that looks, but certainly doesn’t smell, like zucchini shreds?

Anyway, I’m extremely annoyed today because, you see, I sat down at my desk a few minutes ago to pay a utility bill, and, as usual the past several years, the tri-folded sheet of paper that has at its bottom the section to return with payment to the folks who provide me with electricity is screwed up.

I mean, seriously messed up and totally unacceptable.

How so, you ask?

Well, the tiny tearing perforations on the “return this part” of the bill are almost exactly 1/16th of an inch away from the second fold of the tri-folded sheet of paper!

Consequently, if you’re a neat freak like me, when you try to remove the bottom 1/3rd of the sheet from the whole sheet, you always end up tearing on the damn fold instead of being able to precisely and cleanly (and with a barely discernible but still satisfying sound, if your hearing is still functioning at a decent level) tear on the perforations, the way God means for these “return this section” sections to tear.

I mean, seriously, we put guys on the moon more than 50 years ago with an onboard computer that had 1 millionth of the power of a chessy $8 smartphone and yet we don’t have the technology to line up the folds and the perforations on a doggone utility bill?

Gimme a break!

WTF!

Now, it’s entirely possible you may be thinking that I’m making a mountain out of a molehill because I’m either an idiot or entering my dotage, but that’s not the case.

This is a serious issue that impacts serious people, and I think something needs to be done to lick this problem.

Speaking of licking, I’m also on the rampage this morning because once I end up with a “return this portion” that looks like it was cut up by John Wayne Gacy, I have to put it in an envelope that came with the bill.

A $#@%$#@%$ envelope flap that doesn’t have enough glue on it to actually stick to the back of the envelope to which it’s supposed to stick.

I mean, honestly, in my annoyance I’ve already mouthed up a thimble’s worth of spit over the damn misalignment of the “return this portion” fold and perforations, and yet even that much saliva doesn’t produce enough moisture to seal the flap to the back of the envelope because no doubt the bean counters at the utility company have apparently purchased cheap envelopes with a glue that wouldn’t bond two fleas together, even if they were engaged in coitus.

Speaking of coitus… oops, best not go there, better save that one for another day.

And the worst part about trying to seal envelopes by licking glue that doesn’t work is that stubborn guys like me (yes, in the interest of full disclosure, I admit to a streak of obstinacy) have occasionally suffered paper cuts on their tongues in vain attempts to properly seal envelopes that won’t seal unless you resort to spending big money on roll after roll of Scotch tape.

Speaking of tapes, lately I’ve been reviewing my Watergate materials and noted with interest that John Wesley Dean truly had a remarkable memory. Of course, I do too, even in my early 70’s, and, to this day, I can still recall watching Dean testify while his lovely wife Maureen looked on lovingly.

But I digress.

Anyway, now that I’ve drained some of today’s grumpy old man vitriol from my arteries, let me conclude by pointing out that about half of the population of what used to be a pleasant place to live — the United States of America — currently believe we’re making America great again the other half think the opposition is dragging the U.S. to the darkest corners of hell.

But as far as I’m concerned, we’ll never be great again until we fix the problems with our utility bill statements and envelopes.

Oh yeah, if you — like 99.99% of the population of the earth — haven’t already done so, I hope you’ll treat yourself to one of my three novels (very creepy thrillers). Dropping a few bucks on my fiction will help me replenish my hoard of Scotch tape. Grab one, or, even better, all three, right now at https://amazon.com/author/chetday

Keep It Simple Meditation

This week we learn a helpful technique from Chogyam Trungpa on how to meditate while doing things that would seem trivial…

If you pour a cup of tea, you are aware of extending your arm and touching your hand to the teapot, lifting it and pouring the water.

Finally the water touches your teacup and fills it, and you stop pouring and put the teapot down precisely, as in the Japanese tea ceremony. You become aware that each precise movement has dignity.

We have long forgotten that activities can be simple and precise. Every act of our lives can contain simplicity and precision and thus can have tremendous beauty and dignity.

During the next week, as often as possible, slow down and become mindful and conscious of what you’re doing, no matter how trivial. You’ll be stunned at the meaning and beauty to be found in an act as simple as sharpening a pencil.

Until next Monday, meditate every day and let it all go.

Driving to New Orleans

My late wife, the lovely Ellen Schoenberger Day and I stuffed everything we owned in my 1966 VW bug in the summer of 1973 when we began our move to New Orleans after attending graduate school in Fort Collins, Colorado.

Probing my old brain this afternoon here in rural North Carolina as I wander through my memory palace more than fifty years later, I happily report that I can still vividly recall driving into northern Louisiana in our un-air-conditioned Beetle in early July and remarking to my young wife, “Man, it’s really hot.”

Speaking of hot, did you ever wonder about what’s really in hot dogs?

I got curious about this once because there was a time in my life before I hopped on an extended health kick when I found nothing more delicious than a hot dog on a bun smothered with onions, mustard, and a generous serving of cheap chili.

“I can’t believe you eat hot dogs,” the beautiful Ellen Schoenberger commented one date night after a movie when I pulled my VW Bug into the local fast food joint for a post-cinema treat. This, of course, occurred before we roped together at the hitching post in 1972. “Are you not curious about the real ingredients?”

Well, actually, no.

No, I wasn’t at all curious.

As far as I was concerned, ignorance was bliss regarding Ft. Collins’ local Wienerschnitzel, an American fast food chain founded in 1961 and well known by aficionados as the World’s Most Delicious Hot Dog Chain.

I mean, seriously, if one got too curious, eating a hot dog or jellied moose nose or a brick of liver mush one might realize that consuming such delicacies might even gag a maggot.

Indeed, that kind of curiosity has been the downfall of many gourmets over the centuries.

And, of course, you know what happened to the cat that got too curious, don’t you?

Well, according to “Schools and Schools,” an O. Henry story, “Curiosity can do more things than kill a cat; and if emotions, well recognized as feminine, are inimical to feline life, then jealousy would soon leave the whole world catless.”

But I’m wandering too far afield of where I’m supposed to be heading, aren’t I?

Back to wieners and what’s really in them.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO): “The raw meat materials used for precooked-cooked products are lower-grade muscle trimmings, fatty tissues, head meat, animal feet, animal skin, blood, liver and other edible slaughter by-products.”

So much for ever enjoying a tasty chili dog again, eh?

Anyway, so Ellen Schoenberger Day and I have just driven through Shreveport, Louisiana, and we’re on a straight course for New Orleans, and I’m bitching about the heat, constantly complaining, “Man, it’s really hot. Can you believe this heat? Hell can’t be more than eight degrees hotter than this. And I bet you a dime to a donut that the humidity down there is less than what we’re experiencing. Seriously, it’s really not. I mean, seriously, can you believe how hot it is? Feel my forehead. I’m burning up. I’m having trouble breathing.”

I recall my young wife’s evil smile as she sympathized, “My poor baby.”

Ellen, you see, had earned her BA from LSU, and both of her parents were from Louisiana, so she knew (but didn’t proffer full disclosure to me when she decided to do her doctoral work at Tulane) the kind of heat and humidity that we had in our future.

As we drove further and further south (it’s 327.3 miles between Ratchet City and The Big Easy), I’m fantasizing about life in a blast furnace and thinking, “Thank God we’ll cool off in an air-conditioned house before nightfall.”

Speaking of air conditioning, I bet you didn’t know that a guy named Stuart W. Cramer coined the term “air conditioning” in 1906. Well, he did just that in a patent claim as an analogue to “water conditioning,” which was at the time a well-known process for making textiles easier to process.

Water, ah, yes… well, back to our journey to New Orleans…

Three hundred twenty-seven and point three miles later, I’ve lost maybe 18 pounds of water weight from sweating, and we pull into the driveway of my wife’s Grandmother’s home in Old Metairie, a suburb of New Orleans.

Nana Beydler, you see, owned a lovely old shotgun home typical of this part of New Orleans/Metairie.

For those not in the know, a shotgun home is a long house built for the three days a summer in southern Louisiana when a slight breeze cuts through the unbelievably brutal heat and humidity and passes through the front door and straight out the back door.

If you find this hard to visualize, let me put it another way: you could enter Nana Beydler’s shotgun home and walk a straight line that’d take you from the front porch, through the living room, through the dining room, through the kitchen, and out the back door to a small yard. In Nana’s home, the bedrooms and bathrooms were off to one side of the long barrel of the shotgun.

Anyway, as I stumble out of our VW in Ms. Beydler’s driveway, now thoroughly dehydrated and slightly crazed from carping for hours and hours about driving through humidity a man could cut with a butcher’s cleaver, I remark to my wife, who has — unbelievably and extremely annoyingly for me — not even broken a sweat, “Thank God! Finally, I can breathe some cool air.”

Then, lord love a duck, as I literally stumble up three steps to the front of Nana’s home, I realize that only a screen door separates me from the porch and the living room.

And NO cool air is issuing from that living room through the screen door.

None.

Not even a wisp as tender as a first kiss.

“Can it be true? Can this actually be happening?” my fevered brain screams to itself. “WTF! She doesn’t have air conditioning! Arghhh!”

And then this lovely little old white-haired woman comes to the screen door, opens it, and bends down on one arthritic knee to help me find my feet from where I knelt in agony because of the heat and humidity, and says, “You must be Chet. I’m so happy to meet you. I’m Nana Beydler.”

I try a polite greeting in return, but by now I’m so dehydrated my tongue is the size of a brisket and only weird Lovecraftian sounds come out: “Drkaj ughs mysls…”

“He’s pretty hot, ” my wife translates, “and he’s been grousing about the heat and humidity ever since we drove through Shreveport. What a baby.”

“Oh, then let me put the air conditioner on,” Nana replies. “I wasn’t going to waste money using it today since there’s such a nice breeze blowing through the house, but if he’s not man enough to take the heat…”

Her voice trailed off and she kind of shook her head while tsk tsking to herself at her granddaughter’s poor choice in men.

Ellen and Nana each take one of my arms and pull me to my feet.

At this point, I’m gravitating between guilt over Grandmother Beyder’s next electricity bill and gratitude for the inventor of air conditioning — while simultaneously pondering heat stroke and possibly even death at the tender age of 25.

So they lead the now distracted and deeply ruminative me to an armchair in front of a window unit that is soon blowing cool air over my fevered self.

I’m thinking about offering to pay one-thirtieth of Nana’s power bill when it next comes in, but since Ellen and I only have $430 to our name I selfishly decide to let a sweet old woman drop part of her monthly social security check to help keep her new grandson-in-law from melting like the Wicked Witch of the West.

Speaking of the Wicked Witch of the West, Wikipedia reveals that “She has a pack of wolves, a swarm of bees, a flock of crows, and an army of Winkies” at her disposal.

Learning this information from my favorite online resource kind of freaked me out because when I was a boy, a kid down the street used to refer to a certain part of his anatomy as “his fun-loving Winkie.” Yeah, seriously, he had named a part of his body with such pride one could hear the capitalization of the W in the name from three blocks away when he was bragging about it.

Anyway, after four hours in front of the window unit, my core temperature started to return to normal and I started to come back to myself.

Interestingly enough, I personally have no recollection of those four lost hours, which to my dying day I shall always believe reveals just how close I came to shaking hands with the Reaper.

Speaking of hands… on the other hand, my wife gets a real kick out of telling strangers at parties that during those four hours when I drifted in and out of consciousness, I periodically ranted about Richard Nixon’s visit to China, the launching of the Copernicus satellite, the miner’s strike in the United Kingdom, and various deontological moral theories with a peculiar emphasis on the works of Immanuel Kant.

I’m pulling your leg about Kant, of course, since I’ve never had the smarts to read, much less understand, his many contributions to metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, and aesthetics.

Lack of smarts notwithstanding, I will pat myself on the back for surviving our July drive and subsequently living and loving the next twenty-four years of our lives in New Orleans, the Crescent City that has wonderful people, fabulous food, and amazing ambiance.

Finally, speaking of New Orleans, I hope you’ll bang on the link below and treat yourself to one of my three novels (wickedly creepy thrillers), each of which is set in my beloved city. Dropping a few bucks on my fiction will help keep me and my little dog Cricket in beans and kibble this coming week.

https://amazon.com/author/chetday