Ed Buryn, Vagabond


A Meditation for Healing
March 25, 2008, 12:52 pm
Filed under: Healing Meditation

NOW HERE BE WELL
A Way To Use Meditation for Healing

by Ed Buryn
copyright 2008 all rights reserved

Part 1 – Healing with Sitting Meditation

The well-known admonition “Be Here Now” brilliantly and succinctly sums up today’s New Age wisdom for spiritual seekers. This present essay focuses on the “Be” portion of this statement, and offers a possible way to Be Well as a extension of it. It describes a relatively simple and flexible meditative process that I enjoyably and optimistically use in hopes of improving my health, in the firm belief in that All Healing Is Self-Healing. Maybe it will be useful to you too. So read on. Improve Your Health in Comfort and Privacy of Your Own Home! It doesn’t hurt and it’s free.

Anytime we meditate, the Here and Now parts are easier to understand than the Be part. The meditator understands the concepts of Here and Now but understanding what it means to Be is more elusive. Active Being is difficult both to imagine and achieve. And how do we go about doing that in its fullest sense?

I offer the idea that Being can be better understood if you Open or extend yourself beyond your normal actions or reactions, which then stimulates what I call Flow. Using these terms, Flow is the pragmatic and full experience of Being. This concept of Flow, of which more later, is also the means to Being Well; that is, being healthy or fully Being. In sum, consciously Opening to Flow is a functional means of Being, and a creative process for healing ailments and maximizing health. When you feel healthy and in the flow, you do Be. So this is about how to Now Here, Be Well!

In meditation, we can ‘stop the world’ and focus our minds on what we wish to attract into our lives. I do not refer here to Buddhist meditation, which seeks to quiet the mind to complete emptiness in a quest for the underlying truth of existence. Instead, I mean what is sometimes called New Age meditation, with definitely no slur intended. Here the mind is quieted for the purpose of focus upon whatever ideation it chooses. The degree of focus that can by achieved by this technique, when harnessed to our imaginations, enables us to create images in the mind that then become commands for the fulfillment of our personal destinies. This also sometimes called the Law of Attraction, the so-called “Secret” recently revealed by a book and film. I even saw a copy published in Polish! Yes it’s true! We tend to attract into our lives whatever we visualize with our minds. The more powerfully we can do this, the more likely we are to achieve the object of the visualization. We may ignore this possibility as a folly but maybe it would be wiser to see if we can employ it to our benefit.

In this case, I want to suggest how this power can be used to improve one’s health and maybe even cure illness. No promises, only hopes. And in the process of doing this, we might also get a better understanding our capacity to Be. That’s fair enough for any Fool.

In order to better Be, it’s good to rev up Flow. By this I mean the meta/physical motion of energy throughout our physical bodies and our extra-physical bodies, if any. But trust me; there are. In your meditation, this motive healing energy is readily accessible, is what I believe. You can do it without extensive training, without a guru or leader, without knowledge of any particular dharma or body of teaching. The concept of Opening is a useful key to unlocking this process. To understand the truth of something we have to open ourselves to let the truth in. This should include the truth of our situation, particularly in health terms. In your healing meditations, you are going to take this concept literally, using your own body as the instrument and focus of your attention. For example, in this meditation can be used to OPEN:
your mind
your eyes
your sinuses
your throat
your lungs
your heart
your arteries
your stomach
your organs
your glands
your bowels
et cetera
— depending on what interests or what ails you.

By doing this, the focus of the meditation is to enhance the FLOW of:
your energy
your breath
your blood
your lymph
your mucus
your secretions
your tears
your sweat
your semen
your urine
your stool
et cetera
— depending on what’s needed and what works for you.

The method itself is simple and easy to understand.

Meditation allows you to focus your attention as you choose, without outside distractions. You simply visualize the process of “opening up” whatever organ or part of the body you choose to. Normally this will be a part of the body that is afflicted or otherwise needing some sort of healing, as defined by your own personal situation. But it can also be done as a “tune-up” or just for the fun of it.

The simplest way to explain this is to simply to do it.

First, assume a sitting meditation pose, whether on the floor or mat or chair. It is important that your spine be held erect and straight to enhance the flow of psychic energy and as a continuing physical reminder that you are maintaining a state of attention. Place your palms on your knees with arms relaxed. Close your eyes. Calm your breath. Calm your mind. If possible, choose a meditation site that is quiet and with pleasant surroundings. You might also consider enhancing your meditation by listening to favorite music CDs or to repetitive shamanic sounds like drumming or rattling. One of those thing-a-ma-jigs that generate different sleeping-sounds (surf, rain, crickets, white noise) is good too, especially if there is distracting background noise. Whatever works.

When ready, focus your attention on your breath. Imagine it visually as you inhale and exhale through your nostrils. Imagine a point on the end of your nose, and see it in your mind’s eye; feel it as a literal presence on your nose. I find it helps me to dilate my nostrils to bring awareness to that point, as if providing a platform on which to rest your point of focus. Once you are able to do this, change this point of attention into a point of light. During the meditation, this point of light is the tool you will employ for healing, by moving it at will to different parts of your body. Eventually you should also be able to feel it as a physical presence at any selected point.

Since visualizing the point of light is the crucial skill you need for this process, some instructions about that may be helpful. You may be able to do this at once, from the get-go. That’s unlikely, however. It usually takes practice, but it’s not like moving mountains or shifting the planet in its orbit. You will get the hang of it through practice. It’s about focus and then focusing some more. If you find it difficult, don’t worry, be happy, and especially don’t give up.

When you first try to focus your attention into a point, you will probably find that at first your “point” of focus will be more like the size of your head. So the first task is to shrink this zone of focus through practice. Keep coming back to awareness of your breath and keeping your attention on the tip of your nose. Try to make the zone of focus smaller, like maybe the size of a grapefruit. When you can do that, practice making it the size of an apple. Then a plum. Then a grape. Then a pea. Eventually you want to visualize this point of focus as being a tiny spot that can very comfortably fit on the tip of your nose. Ultimately it should be dimensionlessly small.

The next task is to convert your point of focus into a point of light, which requires another qualitative step in your process of concentration. You can readily understand that shrinking your point of focus will make it correspondingly easier to ignite into a point of light. After all, it’s easier to light a point than a globe or globule, even in your imagination.

There are many ways to approach this process of imaginative ignition. But first of all, bear in mind that the goal here is not some pale incandescent light. What you want to create in your mind is a numinous and magical light, a light that never was in reality but which you can create in your mind as a Light of Power. Think of it as a point illuminated by the all-powerful sun of your imagination. Think of it as a crystal that resonates visibly to cosmic energy. Think of it as a speck of gold that attracts light to it and glows from within. If you are a migraine sufferer or ever had a detached retina, as I have, you probably have experienced what is called optical scintilla, which is a kind of indescribable brilliance within your field of sight. (When it first happened to me, I thought I was about to see God.) Anyway, this is the quality of light that you want to give to your meditatively focused point of light. Brilliant, potent, rich in healing potential.

One quick way to give you some idea of what is possible regarding this light is to gently but firmly use your fingers to press on your eyeballs (eyes closed, of course), gradually increasing the pressure until you see some terrific lights and thus get an idea of the kind of illuminations that are readily at your disposal. In this case, the lights and patterns come from exercising your physical eyes but suggest what you can achieve with your imaginative eyes.

Ok, back to the visualization. Center on your breath. Focus and create your point of focus, or if possible, your point of light. Imagine it at the end of your nose, as you flow your breath consciously in and out. Breathe first from your diaphragm by letting your stomach bulge out, and next fill your lungs to their fullest extent. When you exhale, first empty your lungs, then gradually pull in your stomach until all the air is evacuated.

Using my own health situation as an example, I wear glasses because I’m nearsighted, and I’m ok with that. Making myself 20-20 is not one of my goals. My more modest concern is that I also have “floaters,” which are small portions of tissue that drift in the aqueous humor of the eyeballs. They’re often visible and sometimes even obstruct my vision. So my goal is to Open my eyes in order to create more Flow of energy generally and particularly in the fluid in my eyes. Therefore, my process is to bring my focused point of light upon my eyes. Then I concentrate on “opening” my vision, not physically but mentally.

First I visualize my point of light being located in the fluid of one of my eyes, I imagine it moving slowly back and forth and up and around the tissues of the eyeball, cleansing and flushing. Then I mentally move light into the fluid of the eye, locating and dissolving the particles that interfere with my vision. I visualize the tissues in the walls of my eye opening to reabsorb the particles. When ready, I repeat these visualizations in the other eye. Throughout the process, I visualize all the fluids involved in the use of my eyes as increasing in Flow so that my eyes can more fully Be, and Be Well.

And in this particular case (eyes), I also have the opportunity to physically exercise my eyes as part of the process, which is sometimes the case with other parts of the body too. Here is the exercise portion of the process: With my physical eyes closed but with my attention on my imagined eyes, I first look downward as far as possible, and hold that position for a few moments before returning my eyes to center. If done vigorously enough, this may cause some pain in the muscles involved, along with visual phenomena such as colored spots (blue spots in my case) Then I look upward as far as possible until the same results occur, then return my eyes to center. In like manner I continue to exercise my eye muscles by moving them to the left, to the right, to the lower left quadrant, upper right quadrant, lower right quadrant, and finally to the upper left quadrant. Finally, slowly rotate your eyes in a circle, extending them as far to the edge as you can; then repeat in the opposite direction. These exercises actually increase blood flow to the tissues of the eyes, but I also visualize this blood flow and imagine it being increased further. I also imagine my tears as cleansing agents, and may try to increase their physical flow by scrunching my eyes repeatedly to increase the lubrication of my eyes.

The foregoing example illustrates the essence of the meditative healing process. But be aware that you can always be modify this process according to your own healing intentions and the imaginative techniques you bring to your own healing. This process is not a matter of following detailed instructions or other such ‘painting by the numbers’. It is an inventive and creative procedure that you personally tailor to your own situation, according to your own physical issues, using your own imagination. You are both the patient and the doctor; you are the healer and the person being healed as an interactive and highly individualized personal experience. There are no monitors here. No exams. No grades. Every part of the process is totally up to you. Your inner critic, if any, is instructed to remain quiet!!

After any healing exercise, always return your awareness to your breath. Visualize your point of light at your nostrils again, and stay there with your breath for awhile. While being aware of your breath, consciously breath more deeply than you normally do. Expand your diaphragm and breathe first into your belly. Then continue inhaling and slowly suck more air into your lungs that usual. Feel your gut and rib cage opening and expanding as your draw extra oxygen into your body and lungs, opening them to greater capacity. Imagine your entire body being oxygenated by your breathing, and each cell in your body receiving this hyper flow of oxygen.

At any time that you lose your focus and find yourself thinking about something else or otherwise drifting off, simply bring your attention back to your breathing, and refocus your point of attention or your point of light.

Continuing my meditation, next I turn to my sinuses, another personal problem area. After first returning to focus on my breath, I move my point of light to explore the cavities inside my nose and my frontal bones. Knowing the anatomy of my sinuses is not necessary but could conceivably be helpful. If you think this is the case, you might study this anatomy in a book or by going to the internet. You can do the same with any physical problem you may have, because visualizing an organ other area of the body becomes easier with more information about it. Returning to my case, in my mind’s eye I explore my sinus tissues and give them my full attention. The particular problem I have is postnasal drip, which is an allergic overreaction to irritants in my system or my environment. It could be thought of as an overflow of mucus, so in my case the process is not so much trying to increase Flow but to regulate it within normal parameters. But since my sinus passages are often closed, clogged, or mucus-laden, the main part of my visualization is to Open my passages to allow the Flow of air and healing oxygen into my body more efficiently. And this is an example of the personal modification I spoke of in the previous paragraph.

In this case, I move my point of light successively into each sinus cavity, bringing healing light, figuratively cleansing and opening the passageways. Another personal approach to enhance the healing energy to my sinuses during meditation is to internally “speak” to my sinus cavities. I try to reassure them that their over-response, whose intention is to float away irritants, is also a lack of acceptance of the larger reality of my/our entire physical body, a kind of insensitivity to the truth of my/our overall health situation. Since I believe my body has an intelligence of its own, I try to reason with it, to communicate with it, to open up an intimate personal interaction. I want my dear but beleagured sinuses to know that their involuntary impulse to pump out mucus is sometimes an inappropriate response, one that could be intelligently modified through increased awareness of the whole organism — that is, the gestalt me/us that is the sum of all my/our parts. So, again, my focus is to Open my sinuses, this time not just physically but energetically and intellectually. I entreat them to cooperate with the bigger picture of Me/Us, and not to act so independently.

Next I shift my attention to my heart and arteries, which may have some degree of closure from presumable plaque buildup. Again, the procedure is simply to bring meditative focus on this area of my chest, and then to invoke Opening for the sake of Flow. Of course I am speaking literally of blood flow, but figuratively and energetically invoking healing processes of broader scope. Again, I “speak” and ask my arteries and tissues to Open to life and Flow, to a level of fully Being, and ultimately of Being Well.

In particular, after first returning to awareness of breath and refocusing my point of light in my nostrils, I move my point of light to my heart. First of all I ask my heart to open to Love, to face my fears, to give up past failures that may impact the health of my heart and my ability to flow Love into my life. Now I move my point of light to the valves and chambers of my heart, bringing light to its dark places. I move my point of light into the surrounding arteries and veins, scavenging away obstructions and accumulations. I ask my heart and arteries to forgive the toxins and hydrogenated oils that I inflicted upon it in the past because I believed that corporations told me the truth, because I believed in the healthiness of foods that my government approved. Now I know better and take personal responsibility for my diet, and disbelieve the systematic lies promulgated by irresponsible agencies in the name of greed and power. I ask my heart to cleanse itself and trust that the larger Me is taking more responsibility for the health of my heart, and offering gratitude for its daily work of flowing blood and oxygen to my entire body every day of my life.

Another technique I sometimes use just for working with my heart is to physically vibrate my chest and heart area by doing a kind of guttural humming sound deep in my throat. This creates noticeable vibrations in my upper chest that I then try to direct down into my heart area. The idea is to breathe in energy on each inhalation of breath, and then perform the humming and vibrating during each exhalation, directing the energy to my heart by focusing and meditating on it as I do this. I continue for as long as this feels helpful.

Yet another valuable technique, which can be applied to the heart and/or any other organ or part of your body, is to mentally create a light shield or shroud around it. To do this with your heart, create a picture in your mind of your heart, and then bring your point of light into the picture. Begin by moving your point of light all around your heart, around and around in a spiral manner, and visualize the motion of the light leaving behind a trail of light that gradually enshrouds your heart in a glowing shield. With each breath, try to fill your heart with this light, As you breathe, think of opening, flowing, being.

Any amount of creative visualization can be applied during your meditation. Whatever works for you, or whatever seems worth a try, should be considered. With infections, you might imagine inner armies of good microphages sweeping through your system to do battle with bad germs. You could employ disease-seeking bio-agents empowered by magical forces, fatigue-destroying chemical insurgents that regenerate and cleanse muscles, guardian angels descending to touch your wounds or tenderly hold your heart or other organ with their healing powers, bathing yourself in glowing fields of color, or whatever individualized instrumentalities you can imagine that might work to make you more fully alive, more open, more flowing, more able to Be and to Be Well.

Back to my own personal examples. Next I move my focus to my prostate gland, which is enlarged and sometimes creates partial blockage of urine flow from my bladder. So here I go again, giving this organ my full attention, speaking and cajoling, reasoning and communicating with it. After centering and returning to awareness of my breath, I again move my point of light to my bladder and prostate area. I move the light around the inside of my bladder, radiating healing. then I move it down my urethra and to the prostate gland that surrounds it. I visually scan my prostate gland in concentric circles, around and around until I feel it has been sufficiently irradiated with healing light. And in this case, as with my eye muscles, I can also exercise my prostate to some degree by constricting the muscles around the gland, an exercise that I incorporate into my healing meditation. I imagine my prostate releasing its grip on my urethra, relaxing and feeling less stressed about its plight, whatever that may be. As with my sinuses, I ask it to use its body intelligence to take its place in the larger view of the entire organism called Me/Us of which it is a part.

And so forth. In this same manner, you may address problems or issues with any of your various glands, or other organs, stomach, lungs, bowels, and more. Cleanse and heal them with your moving point of light. Locations of pain in your body can be addressed similarly. Move your point of light to the center of the pain, and ask it to open to increased flow of blood and fluids, and to release from stress and tension. Another approach is to ask the affected nerves that signal pain to your body to desensitize themselves to the pain, as a kind of merciful action.

Problems with bodily joints such as knees, wrists, hips, shoulders, ankles, fingers can perhaps be better addressed by using walking meditation, which is the next topic.

Part 2 – Healing with Walking Meditation

Based on similar principles but requiring a slightly different approach, healing of joint problems is approached by meditating while walking. Again, this is a simple and straightforward process. You should preferably be barefooted to feel the most constant with the floor, although wearing socks is ok. Walking (clockwise) in a circle around a room works best because you will not be distracted during the meditation by differing stimuli or surfaces. As you walk, keep your eyes open but directed somewhat downward to see where you are going and yet not become too distracted by other features of the room.

While do walking meditation for healing, one of the most important techniques is to walk as flat-footed as possible. The purpose is to stimulate the nerve endings on the soles of your feet to the maximum extent, and then to visualize the resulting nerve impulses rising up through your body and through all your joints as you walk. This method of walking also requires more of a jolting gait, which sends small shudders of vibration through your body as you walk, again to remind you of your intention.

I recommend a special walking technique that requires you to pay attention to it, and thus provides a means of continuous focus rather than merely unconscious walking. Here is the technique: As you take each step, land your forward foot – not on the ball of your foot but on the entire sole at once – and at the same time rest and balance your back foot only on its bent toes. At this point, briefly pause and rest in this position. Let energy flow up your flat foot, and use your bent back toes to keep you balanced in this position — for just a moment. Then take the next step and again pause for a moment on your other foot. This ensures that your gait is not continuous and unconscious, but deliberate and irregular, a kind of conscious stop-and-go.

Meanwhile, the main idea of walking meditation is to flex your joints while focusing attention upon them in the same manner as described previously for sitting meditation. It makes obvious sense to do this while moving because it flexes the ankles, knees, and hip joints naturally. To flex your fingers, wrists, elbows, and shoulder joints, plus spine and neck, requires but a small degree of consciously moving these joints in some manner as part of the meditative healing process — not so much to physically exercise them but to merely help bring them to the attention of your focus in succession.

As before, you bring your focused attention successively to all your joints, beginning with your toes and ankles and then working gradually upwards. Visualizing the joints themselves Opening to Flow is an integral part of the process, as before. Besides the action of nerve impulse from the soles of your feet, Flow also refers to increased blood flow to the joints as they open up according to your intention and attention. And it also refers to directing your visualized breath to all these same areas at the same time. In particular, you can imagine the flow of natural synovial fluid lubricating and healing your joints. Imagine whatever scar tissue you may have accumulated at inflicted joints to be melting and relaxing, affording greater range of motion and movement without pain.

When you bring your attention to the joints not directly involved in walking, you should gently flex those joints as you bring your focused attention to them. Regarding your fingers, open and close your palms as you walk. Flex your spine gently to and fro when attending to back problems. Raise your shoulders up and down, and then back and forth, when their turn comes for your healing attention and dialogue. Similarly with your neck, which can be gently flexed to left and right as well as up and down in its turn.

When you have finished all your upward-rising attentions to your joints, bring your concentration to the top of your head. Try to make your scalp tingle with your focus on it, and then imagine a stream of energy entering the top of your head and going down through your body, through all your joints, and then entering into the earth or floor on which you walk. This last imaginative exercise is also an introduction to the final phase of the healing meditation, presented below as an optional closing exercise. When you are finished walking, resume your sitting posture.

Part 3 – Healing with Sitting Meditation, using a Light-Shroud

This is an optional healing visualization to be done following your Healing with Walking Meditation.

The idea of this final healing meditation is use the moving focus of your attention to create a spiral shroud or shield of energy around your body as you meditate. Begin as you did in the first part, by bringing your focus to your breath, to your nostrils. Feel it there as both a psychic and physical presence, as if your mind is touching your breath. Now transform this into your point of light, as before.

Now move your point of light to the very top of your head, resting on your scalp or hair. Begin to move your point of light by mental willpower so as to describe a small clockwise circle around the top of your head. Then, slowly, as slowly or quickly as you are ready to proceed, gradually move this point of light downward to create a larger circle around your scalp and forehead. As is moves, imagine it leaving a trace a light behind as a continuously glowing cord. Continue this meditation by creating a downward moving spiral of light following your moving point of focus as it spirals slowly down and around your body, a little at a time. Keep your point of light always in direct contact with your skin, not floating at some distance in space around you. The intention is to continuously “feel” or “see” the point of light upon your skin at all times, letting it touch to your body as it gradually ravels or weaves a healing shroud of light around you. Go as slowly as you need to to stay focused enough to weave this shroud or shield.

Ultimately your spiral garment of light will reach the floor on which you are sitting. At this time, bring the focus of attention to the base of your spine, while keeping an image of your complete glowing shield that describes the surface of your body exactly. Maintaining your spine straight, now begin to bring the focal point of your attention, which is still a point of light, upwards along your spine, vertebra by vertebra. When you attain the top of your head, launch the point of light into the space behind you as an extension of your spine. Visualize yourself as being completely encased in a spiraling garment of light that now extends a growing tendril into the air above you. “See” yourself as a light-being encased in a glowing shroud of energy — a healing force that you have created with the power of your own imagination, a divine power you can access at any time.

Now continue elevating your moving point of focus into the air, through the ceiling or space above you, rising ever higher into the sky, up into the clouds. This is your “antenna” that gathers energy and channels it to you. Keep it rising above the earth and heading out into space. Visualize the surface of the earth, with a line of glowing energy rising upward from the place at which you sit in healing meditation. Now widen or grow your line of light so that it includes more space at the leading edge, like a trellis or a tree or trianglular curtain at whose base you are sitting. The idea is to increase the size of your antenna to be able to gather even more energy. Continue raising your trellis of light through the solar system and into galactic space, and then go beyond into the furthermost depths of space. Remember that your imagination is an unlimited power that can take you anywhere you can imagine. Take it wherever you wish.

Imagine the trellis of light created by your consciousness as a net gathering energy from the universe itself, which you can then direct down into your spiral shield of Being. Visualize yourself being Open to it, letting in the Flow of universal energy, embracing and filling you with healing energy. Feel gratitude for this gift from the universe, called into being by your own intention and will. This creation is a true analogue of universal consciousness, which you can directly experience to some degree in this healing meditation.

This is a good time to focus on deep breathing using both your lungs and your diaphragm. With every in-breath, feel a rush of healing energy pulsing through your light body, radiating health into your entire body and all its elements; on every out-breath, let go and release this energy through your exhalation, carrying with it your toxins, ailments, and problems — evacuating them into the void beyond the protection of your energy shield.

Finally, when you feel sufficiently bathed in the light of cosmic energy within your personal shield, you may collapse your shield at any time on any given exhalation of your breath. If possible, lie down now and give thanks for your healing. Rest in this feeling. Relax and let go of tensions and concerns. Be Open to these moments of Flow, and fully let your self Be Here Now.

**************

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Greetings from Poland – 4
March 16, 2008, 8:37 pm
Filed under: Poland

Pozdrowienia z Polski 4 14 March 2008
Greetings from Poland 4

Awhile back Joanna & I had a great meeting at a fancy downtown coffee shop ($12 for two cups of coffee and a slice of cake) with an American woman named Juanita who is married to a Polish author and philosopher-poet named Henryk Skolimowski. She is the sister of my accountant Wayne Cameron (also my daughter Jan’s one-time boyfriend before she married her husband Kevin). Juanita or Joan is a warm and vivacious 60-some lady who is leaving shortly for several months in the US, which she does every year because Poland is hard on her. She and her husband also have a home in Greece where they go every summer. We may meet Henryk sometime because he has a new book for which Joanna may be able to help find a publisher. Henryk has an interesting web site at http://www.ecophilosophy.org including quite a few poems of his that I like. The five key tenets of his eco-philosophy are: 1) The world is a sanctuary. 2) Reverence for life is our guiding value. 3) Frugality is a precondition for inner happiness. 4) Spirituality and rationality complement each other. 5) To heal the planet, we must first heal ourselves. {Right on, dude!]

Juanita says that Henryk, although he was a professor at the University of Michigan for a long time, now prefers to live in Poland because of the dark political situation in America. Juanita is also a poet and has published a bilingual book of poems in Polish-English. Juanita told us that when she first arrived here to live in Poland years ago, she was struck at how aloof everyone was, and so she resolved to always smile at women on the street (smiling at men of course is not a good idea) despite how they ignored her friendliness. She persisted in this for months before she got the first hint of a return smile. But that was years ago, in the old hostile Poland. Today she says that she receives smiles in return quite often, a positive sign of the new Poland.

——-

Richard Marcus asked via email about anti-semitism in Poland today. I have seen no direct evidence but then I am a Yankee know-nothing unlikely to. Joanna says that many Poles either dislike or detest Jews, usually to the same extent that these critics are communist, socialist, conservative, nationalistic, or unsophisticated (ie, from the villages). The most liberal newspaper in Poland is Gazeta Wyborcza, for which Joanna used to work, with many Jews on its staff including its director Adam Michnik. Joanna says this paper is widely disliked for being pro-Jewish as well as liberal and democratic — but it is also the strongest voice of intellectual Poland and tells the truth however unpalatable. The recently ousted government of the Kaczynski twins (one president, the other still prime minister) was nationalistic in that it supported the ideal of Poland for Poles, which is to say, no Muslims, no Jews, no foreigners, no non-Catholics. Kaczynski at one point urged Poles to have more children in order to keep out the Muslims hordes. Still, the this government was recently voted out and a more liberal regime presides today.

As for the future, it is impossible to say or guess what will happen. Millions of the best and brightest Poles, usually the youngest, are leaving Poland to work and live in other countries of the European Union and abroad (the biggest group is now in Ireland and UK, fewer in Germany, Scandinavia, France, Austria). Meanwhile, Poles at home are caught between poverty and politics, materialism and Catholicism, modernity and tradition, tempted by the West and afraid of the East.

There is a Jewish Center here that I hope to visit, and I want to learn more about the infamous Warsaw Ghetto. Much to learn. Joanna always points out to me the boundaries of the Ghetto as we drive around town, and points out how in places the level of certain streets slightly rises and falls or how the buildings are placed on embankments — because she says it all is built upon uneven piles of rubble and graves and bodies from the former Ghetto. She is one Pole who never forgets this. Joanna’s historian friend Stanislaw says that during the Ghetto Uprising lasting four weeks in 1943, many sympathetic Poles helped the Jews by supplying them with food and guns as long as they could. There was also Zegota, a Polish resistance organization whose objective was to help Jews during the Holocaust. Among others, Zegota was responsible for saving 2,500 Jewish children from the Warsaw Ghetto. So there is also a humane counter-element that is also part of this horrific story.

There are a lot of reports on the internet about modern Polish anti-semitism (and other difficult issues regarding Poland) but it’s hard to assess the truth. Knowing Poles and something of Polish history, I’d say that anti-semitism is strongly and historically rooted in Poland but at the same time is repudiated and disavowed by the best and most liberal modern Poles. (And by liberal Poles of the past, such as the revered Marshall and President Pilsudski of the 1930s).

Joanna says that politicians are one of the main sources of contemporary anti-semitism. The second was always and still is the Catholic Church, which states that Jewish people killed Jesus (while failing to note that Jesus also was Jewish). No, probably Jesus Christ was Polish (it was even proposed in parliament to make Jesus the king of Poland), had blue eyes and long blond hair, so for sure he was Polish. And of course Madonna Mary was obviously Polish and She is the Mother of Polish nation and the only one.

All I can say from my own experience is that there is no blatant anti-semitism here, but any definitive look at Poland must admit and allow that various elements of Polish society have always been and probably will always be brutish, ignorant, prejudiced, and dangerous to more enlightened points of view. Polish history is not pretty but its human stories are indelibly engraved in world history.

———-

A few days ago I went to the Muzeum Powstanie, or the Warsaw Uprising Museum, which is a new (2006), world-class, ultramodern, multimedia, must-see attraction that tells the almost unbelievable story of the 1944 heroic and tragic uprising of the Polish underground against the German garrison in Warsaw. It lasted 63 days, during which 18,000 Polish Home Army soldiers died (25,000 wounded), while 180,000 citizens of Warsaw also died (mostly murdered) and what remained of the city was systematically destroyed under Hitler’s orders to wipe Warsaw off the map of Europe. (Reported German losses were 10,000 killed, 7,000 missing, and 15,000 wounded.– which were their greatest losses in any battle except on the Russian front.) To put this in perspective, 5,000 Americans & allies have died so far in Iraq & Afghanistan in five years (about 30,000 wounded) — so the American war deaths are averaging under 3 per day, while the Polish underground army deaths during the uprising were 300 per day, AND 3,000 Polish civilians dying each day. Yet this people’s army resisted longer than did the well-equipped French army in 1940 during the Blitzkrieg. The Warsaw Resistance failed after two desperate months because, not only were they poorly equipped (no planes, tanks, armored cars, artillery, or heavy mortars as the Germans had in abundance), but mainly because they were betrayed by the Russians and virtually ignored by the Allies. In the Spring 1944 Yalta Agreement, before the Uprising, Roosevelt and Churchill agreed to abandon Poland to Stalin. As a result, the Polish Home Army felt politically compelled to try to liberate Warsaw from the Germans because they felt it was their best chance to avoid Soviet totalitarianism in the aftermath of WW2. They wanted to show the world that Poland would fight for its own freedom, not only from Germany but from Russia. But they failed, and thus Poland was forced to undergo Communist domination for another four decades following their five years of Nazi domination. Finally, in the 1980s another Polish uprising — the Solidarity Movement — erupted and ultimately succeeded, becoming the first crack in the Iron Curtain that finally toppled the USSR itself. One of the most horrendous aspects of this story is that the surviving Polish leaders of the Uprising were repatriated to Poland after the war, only to be arrested by the Communist government and sent to Russian prisons where they were tortured and murdered. Stalin was as bad as Hitler.

This epic story of triumph and tragedy is told in the Warsaw Rising museum in vivid and graphic detail. The exhibits include an B24 bomber suspended from the ceiling (commemorating some supplies dropped by the Allies during the siege), a 500-foot-long, Vietnam-Vets-style memorial wall engraved with the names of almost 20,000 dead, a re-creation of the brick sewer channels in which the insurgents moved supplies and escaped the incessant air raids, films and combat photographs by the hundreds, a b/w slide show on a large suspended screen showing pre- and post-uprising photos of prominent Warsaw sites, first as handsome buildings and then as piles of rubble still recognizably the same places, and much more in the way of interactive exhibits.

One of these is a video interview with Marek Edelman, a Jewish-Polish hero and leader in the 1943 Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, the 1944 Warsaw Uprising, AND the 1980s Solidarity Movement (which itself was almost a decade-long struggle against Communism that finally succeeded in 1989 with the election of Lech Welesa, and the later withdrawal of Russian troops and bureaucrats). Edelman, a remarkable survivor, is still alive and lives in Warsaw, and has written several books about his experiences of a lifetime struggling against Nazi and Communist tyranny. To me, the museum testifies that resistance against the most monstrous oppression can ultimately succeed if the populace is sufficiently courageous and willing to sacrifice everything for their freedom. The motto of this museum is: “We wanted to be free — and to owe that freedom to nobody else.”

As a kind of postscript to the museum, today Joanna and I drove to Kampinoski National Park, a large forested area north of Warsaw to take a walk in the woods on a budding spring day. Before long we came to the Palmiry cemetery and execution site with 2,200 graves of murdered partisans and citizens including several mayors and even a prewar olympic medalist. Reminders of the great Polish sacrifice are everywhere. Joanna believes the Uprising was disastrous for Poland because it destroyed an entire generation of its finest young people and degraded the national gene pool, but in any case, Poland’s war dead are omnipresent and grim reminders of Poland’s modern heritage.
—————————-

Lest all this gore and mayhem prove too depressing, there was also a delightful visit we made to Wilanov Palace at the south end of Warsaw, to which one drives on what is still called The Royal Road. This present-day museum was the home of several centuries of kings and wealthy families, and is a treasure-house of antique furniture and art, portrait galleries, and dozens of wonderfully beautiful rooms decorated and embellished to an astounding degree. Their are formal gardens with topiary, lavish statues, a king’s tomb, a private museum of Greek and especially Etruscan art that was collected personally by various owners of the palace, friezes and frescoes, tiles and tapestries, gold and gilt to the max. When you go in, you have to put on disposable plastic bags over your shoes. (We forgot to take ours off and walked around outside in our plastic bags for quite a while.) As we left the grounds, we saw some tiny crocuses poking up through the soil, the first harbingers of spring.

—————–

Feels So Damn Good

I wake at night
Needing to pee,
Stagger around,
Find the bathroom,
Void my bladder–
Feels so damn good.

Stagger back to bed,
Blow a cleansing fart–
Feels so damn good.

Lie back down and sigh,
Knowing I can sleep
As late as I want–
Feels so damn good.

Reach out for her
Warm naked body,
Skin pressed to mine–
Feels so damn good.

Back to my dream,
Relaxed and at ease,
Drowsy and smiling–
Feels so damn good.



Greetings from Poland – 3
March 16, 2008, 8:35 pm
Filed under: Poland

Pozdrowienia z Polski 3                            2/28/08
Greetings from Poland 3

The snows of winter have descended again, and I’ve been ill with throat and sinus problems, hacking and coughing for several nights. So I have stayed home in Joanna’s flat for three consecutive days, relaxing with TV treatment including BBC News, CNN News, and HBO movies overdubbed in Polish, drinking beers, and writing some poetry and other stuff. Staying inside and vegging-out feels very good after much touristic running-around. But this week it’s back to the old touristic grind, and I will soon be going to the Museum of the Warsaw Uprising during WW2, accompanied by Joanna’s best friend Stanislaw, an 82-year retired forester. He is a really good old guy who whips out the vodka every time we see him. While sitting around talking he keeps saying, “dawnosmy nic nie pili!” which means “it’s long she we last had a drink” — and then we have another round. Stanislaw lives downtown with his brother, Zdzislaw who is slowly wasting away from lung cancer.

Death ever lingers here. During my first week here, Joanna and I visited her friend Malgosha, an editor in her office who has been hospitalized for months with bowel problems. She was operated on for the fifth time a few days ago and then died. When we saw her in Szpital Bielanski, a gray and dreary hospital, she was thin and weak, in a room with various other patients vaguely smelling of excrement. Malgosha was the same age as Joanna, 53. Another one gone, says Joanna, referring to the loss of someone else dear to her. She feels very alone, says I am now her closest ally.

Yesterday we attended Malgosha’s funeral in a large and beautiful cemetery nearby that is non-denominational, ie, not Catholic. Her estranged parents were there, and a collection of friends. Words were said over her grave site and then the father threw in a handful of dirt. Joanna said Malgosha’s mom treated her as a slave at home; her illness was probably a way out of domestic tyranny. Joanna says most Polish women are slaves to either their husbands or their families or both. Afterwards Joanna & I went to the Catholic cemetery, even larger, where her parents are buried. I think we walked most of a mile in a straight line past endless graves before we came to theirs. Her father Witold has a marble slab; her mother Hanna, who was cremated, has a plaque. Joanna said that when her father died, cremation was frowned upon and was not approved my her mother.

The cemeteries here are awesome, like museums of the dead, crammed with funereal artwork of every description. The marble-covered graves are in good shape, the plain-stone ones are covered in green moss, like the surrounding trees. The whole place is a necromantic treasury of sculpture, statuary, shrines, tombs, and variation of every kind. All these graves, packed in tightly, row on row, avenue after avenue, are like a separate city that reflects the history of Poland. There is one immense section of crosses for the dead of WWI. Nearby is another expansive section of crosses from WW2. There is a separate section for graves of those murdered by the Russian NKVD. Another section is for the Poles who served the Russians during the postwar socialist era before Solidarity. Another section for the thousands of Polish officers murdered at Katyn (which is the subject of Polish film directed by Andrzej Wajda that was recently considered for an Oscar). Another section for the famous artists and politicians (Aleja Zasluzonych — Avenue of the Distinguished). One prominent grave near the entrance, covered in flowers, marks the grave of a Polish hero who was an American spy for the CIA against Russia, adorned with quotes from Ronald Reagan. Another tall and impressive marble monument salutes heroes of the Uprising, but Joanna scornfully laughed that this particular one is a public  lie; because the men honored here only claimed to serve but did not. Apparently there is a lot of politics concerned with who gets buried where and how, depending on what they did and how much money they had. Every year in November people collect private money for renovation of all the monuments standing on the territory of Stare Powazki Cemetery to honor the history and memory of those buried here.

I watch a fair amount of TV here, in between other stuff. The linguistic offerings are impressive — besides dozens of Polish channels, of course, there are channels in English, French, German, Russian, and Spanish. In Radom one night I watched a trilingual film, original script spoken in Croatian, with English subtitles and Polish overdubbing. The premium channels like HBO and Cinemax also offer programs in either the original language (usually English) or with Polish overdubbing. News, weather, fashion, game shows, and movie channels dominate, along with many sports-only  channels that feature soccer and winter sports especially but also boxing, volleyball, basketball, and even ping-pong tourneys (which are more interesting than almost any other sport I’ve seen).

Virtually all channels have advertising but they graciously announce that the ads are coming by stating “Reklama” (“ads”) before they begin. The ads themselves are similar to those in the US for the most part — cars, beer, food, cosmetics, OTC medicines — but I notice quite a few travel ads to exotic destinations such as India, Greece, Turkey, Montenegro, and Moscow. From Europe, these destinations are close. And after midnight come the plethora of sex ads and porn sex shows, as I discussed in an earlier email.

Advertising in Poland is more prevalent and more extreme than in the US, if you can imagine that. Ads are virtually everywhere in every form possible — on billboards that line the highways and city streets; on electronic billboards that constantly change their message; as murals on the sides of buildings (sometimes enormous in size, larger than any I’ve seen in America); on skyscrapers as programmed messages in the form of moving lights; as decorations entirely covering the sides of the busses and trams; as stickers pasted on practically everything including buildings, bus and tram stops, light poles, fences, traffic dividers; on street corners in the form of large round poster-pillars that serve no other purpose (some of which even rotate); as handouts being distributed to pedestrians walking by; as handouts placed on the windshields of parked cars; as handouts placed on doorsteps; and of course everywhere in magazines and newspapers – of which there are many more than I thought possible in a small country.

The whole place is nuts with reproduced visual messages on every hand.  In fact, there are many companies that reproduce posters, signs, and ads for both business and retail customers — which I don’t think have any equivalent in the US, I suppose because their is no comparable demand. In addition to this is the prevalence of graffiti on practically every building in Poland. Much of it consists of gang-style designs and pseudo-words, much of it is artistic or at least colorful, some is cartoon-like, some consists of rebellious political scrawls such as Capitalism = Exploitation, Eat the Rich (but in Polish, of course). All in all, Poles are the most visually bombarded culture I’ve seen, maybe the most anywhere. When driving, every km is dense with ads because there is little empty place between building and the next. Poland is crowded.

Probably related to this visual craze is the fact that Polish poster art is world famous for about 100 years. There is a special museum in Warsaw devoted solely to this indigenous art form that I hope to see later.

Last Sunday we went to a New Age Psychic Faire, called here a Targi Medycyny Naturalnej (Natural Medicine Fair), at an old hall that was once a sports arena of some kind. It reminded me very much of the annual Nevada City fair of similar title. Iridologists, masseuses, astrologers, tarot readers, vitamin vendors, health machine vendors (juicers, light therapy, massage wands, etc.), health juices, ear candling, and much more. One booth featured live leeches for drawing blood, which I have not seen in NC. There was a Chinese food booth at which two very friendly sisters offered excellent Oriental dishes, and it turned out they spoke English as well as Polish, Vietnamese, and two dialects of Chinese. Joanna treated me to a full-body massage with a Korean masseuse, a bio-energetic session with a very large gent who also does magnetic therapy (he can make metal objects stick to his chest), and an ear-candling session supposedly to remove ear wax and healing sinuses. As we left, we also shared a large apple pancake made to order in a large pan of hot oil, covered with powdered sugar, quite tasty.

Have I mentioned the food? The food everywhere is delicious, and we have been to many terrific restaurants from fast food to fancy fare. It does not seem to matter the price range; the food is excellent everywhere. However, the standard everyday fare at home is basically meat and potatoes with thick slices of bread and butter, washed down by endless cups of tea. Kielbasa  or Polish sausage is truly the national dish, eaten daily for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and every store offers about a dozen different kinds and grades. And cheeses and ham of all sorts. And sauerkraut. And mushroom soup and beet soup. And fresh unpackaged breads and cakes. And vodka and beer, lots of it. Maybe I’m just pregnant but my stomach is getting very round and large. I’m afraid to weigh myself.

However, I must give thanks to Dale Jacobson for liberating me from my reluctance to eat foods like kielbasa that contain animal fats. Dale wrote a paper entitled “The War on Dietary Cholesterol: How Corporate Medical Quackery is Rapidly Degrading America’s Health – A Discussion of Fat, Oil, Cholesterol, and Heart Disease”, which I brought with me to Poland to read. The gist of it is that cholesterol is good for you, especially so-called “bad” cholesterol. He presents facts proving that the higher your cholesterol level, the longer you live — not just true for individuals but for entire societies. Higher cholesterol in the blood goes  along with long life, and the opposite is also true: the lower the cholesterol level, the higher the mortality. I have read this paper three times and am convinced that what he says is true. Animal fats, eggs, butter, and whole milk are good for you; vegetable oils (except olive oil), margarine, refined foods and low-fat foods are bad for you. Is it any surprise that corporations and pharmaceutical companies lie to you for profit, and many doctors knowingly or unknowing support this horrible scam? Copies of this article are available at Dale’s Office; I highly recommend it. Jacobson Chiropractic, 194 Gold Flat Rd, Nevada City CA 95959.

Another faire we recently went to was the Targi Staroci or antique bazaar in the suburb of Kolo. About a square block filled with people selling a huge variety of old goods from wooden booths, from the trunks of cars, the inside of trucks, or just laid out on the ground on blankets. The things are mostly prewar things including old furniture, new furniture rebuilt from old wood, art of all kinds, old photos, jewelry, rugs, dishware and silver utensils, documents and medals, rugs and carpets, traditional clothing, brass and ironware, antique farm items and tools, rare coins, weapons and helmets, swords, memorabilia, and more. Beautiful and wonderful things to look at, much of which would be worth more in the US but there’s no simple, economical way of getting it there. Joanna says that some Poles come here to buy things that give them a phony social pedigree. She also said that many items are likely stolen, and some buyers actually come here to find and buy back their stolen goods. She said this was particularly true just after WW2. There are of course antique shows and fairs in the US but I don’t think there is an equivalent to this weekly Targi Staroci. Joanna says it is fashionable here for wealthy people to have antiques in their homes, and it is good news that so many beautiful pieces of art are available on the Polish market because it means not everything was stolen or destroyed during WW2. Meanwhile there are many IKEA stores here to furnish the young people at reasonable cost.

I also want to mention that I have been going every Wednesday night to the Shambala meditation group that meets downtown. This is new for me, as I am no Buddhist, and have never wanted particularly to meditate as a spiritual practice. Yet I have found it enjoyable and productive. In my case, instead of meditating, I practice contemplation. In particular, I have been using these weekly session to speculate about how to use such meditation for healing. In fact, during the course of my weekly contemplations I have conceived a healing process that I have written up as an article called, “Now Here Be Well: A Way To Use Meditation for Healing.” It describes a meditative self-healing technique that I practice during these sessions and sometimes as I am going to sleep. It’s a bit long, about 20 pages, but I’d like to share it with others because I think it might be helpful to anyone wanting to try healing their ailments through focused intention. See another category of this blog if you are interested.

love,

Ed

————————————

KFC on Jerusalem Street

The KFC on the main drag in  Warsaw
Is a piece of USA easily incorporated here.
The fried chicken is good, just like at home.
The corn on the cob is soggy, like at home.
But the babble of talk is all in Polish, and
The wall photo shows the Palace of Culture.
No one here knows what KFC means,
But that’s probably true at home too.
The whole place is gleaming clean, and
The bathrooms smell sweetly chemical.
It’s freezing cold and snowy outside,
A good night to linger with light music
In the plastic booth under the bright lights
And give thanks for Yankee corporate culture
So far away on a busy street named Jerusalem

——————-

Beauties of Warsaw

O matko boga, o jejku, and no tak —
The beautiful women of Warsaw
Explode upon my innocent eyes
Like bliss-bombs from Nirvana.
Their madonna-like faces fur-framed
By stylish hoods and flowing capes,
Slim ankles peeking beneath long coats
Or in tall boots with sexy clicking heels,
Their taut dresses and skintight pants
Portray soft curvaceous torsos and
Dispense visions of perfect femininity.

My neck aches from gleeful swivels
Tracking goddesses, my eyes like pies.
For here in Warsaw I languish among
Living, moving works of female art,
A parade of perfectly formed beings,
Amazons still bearing all their breasts
And other parts delightful to go into.

Yet however much I do admire them
I swear I do not care to possess them.
The wise man readily loves beauty but
Knows that craving it leads to misery.



Greetings from Poland – 1
March 16, 2008, 8:29 pm
Filed under: Poland

Greetings from Warsaw–                        2/5/2008

This blog seems a way to be in touch with friends who may be interested in my doings despite our not being in contact often enough — and with strangers who may become closer. For starters,  I’m here again in Poland to commune with my Polish fiancee, Joanna Przybylska Mlodzinska, an editor living in Warsaw. She is 53, divorced, childless, and a rare Buddhist in an all-Catholic land. She came to visit me last spring in California, and I am now returning the favor.

————

As my plane landed in Warsaw after 12 hours en route, cross winds were blowing so strongly that the pilot touched down the wheels briefly but then took off again and circled the airport for another try — a trifle unnerving. But that’s Poland for you.

It’s generally no-nonsense cold here almost every day, and it snowed a few days ago (although apparently not as much as in Nevada City recently) . The wind seems to blow more or less constantly, creeping stealthily into every crevice. There are many parks in the city but all the trees are bare and brown. Winter is a real presence here but I am coping well enough thanks to warm clothes and California attitude.

My impressions of the city’s architecture so far, gained primarily from riding around with Joanna in her car, is a gray-brown mix of utilitarian housing, neoclassical civic monuments, and skyscraper moderne. It definitely has an old-world look but of course tinged everywhere with store signs and street billboards, buses and trolleys covered with advertisements, many in English as well as Polish. Advertising is everywhere, visual blight to the max. Plus vicious urban sprawl that extends endlessly outward into the countryside.

The Stare Miaso (Old Town) is another matter, however. Totally rebuilt after WW2 destruction, this is a breath-taking area of cobbled squares, decorated buildings in medieval style, monuments, castles, museums, shops, restaurants, coffee-houses, and historic sites. Old Europe at its most beautiful. A touristic paradise.

In the square is the Museum of Warsaw, which presents the city’s history from the 13th century to the present, with special emphasis on the devastation of WW2. It’s hard to imagine or appreciate the horror of what happened here, but the photos and survivors’ statements are amazing and intensely moving. Everyone in the world should come here to find out what it means to be human – at its most cruel and most heroic. Warsaw was the most war-devastated city in the world, 85% totally destroyed, and most of the population killed – at least 200,000 people.

Another day I happened upon a memorial at Umschlagplatz commemorating countless numbers of Jewish Poles who were gathered at this spot for deportation to labor and death camps, at the edge of what was the Jewish Ghetto. Next door is a building with a plaque stating it was the first building liberated from the Nazis at the start of the Resistance Uprising. And next door to that is another monument commemorating millions of Christian Poles who were sent to labor camps in Siberia during the war. The entire city of Warsaw is a vast memorial and living tribute to suffering and renewal that Americans and other nationalities can hardly imagine. Being here where these events actually took place is a powerful experience, and I am constantly aware of the interactive layers of history whispering behind these modern facades.

I took a long walk from Old Town to Downtown a few days ago, crossed two bridges of over the river Wisla, and wound up on Alleja Jerozolimskie, the main street, at the same spot where I stayed at a youth hostel forty years ago, across the street from what was once Communist Party Headquarters, a monolithic and forbidding fortress of fear and paranoia. The youth hostel is still there but the building, ironically nicknamed The White House, is now a bank.

I clearly remember how it was then, in the 1965, with few cars, poorly dressed people trodding the avenue with heads down, nothing but cheap junk in the shops, a scarcity of food in the restaurants, and with the scars of war still evident everywhere. Russian soldiers were commonly seen and English speakers seldom encountered (people spoke either Russian or German as a second language). Experiencing the exact same place now is like some weird sort of time travel, and a personal revelation. Today the same street is full of bustling traffic, with autos of every European, American, and Japanese make (no more Russian cars), the sidewalks thronged with well-dressed pedestrians, the stores brimming with goods, and a palpable sense of vitality and hope. Not mention the presence of McDonalds and KFC and multinational corporate presence everywhere. The towering Palace of Culture, built by Stalin in the 1950s, was then by far the tallest building in the city and a despised symbol of Soviet domination. Today it is still a civic landmark but considerably diminished by taller, modern skyscrapers like the Marriot building. And the Soviets are long gone, since Lech Walesa and the Solidarity Movement in 1989, although most Poles still fear that the Russians wish to retake Poland, especially now that Putin is in power in Moscow.

On another, more pleasant topic, every day here I note that today’s young Polish women are amazingly attractive! Although their famous beauty is everywhere evident, it is delightfully hard to get used to. Through Joanna, I have met a number of these women, and am quite impressed. They are beautifully dressed and groomed, very friendly, and generally speak English well. I might add that the young men are likewise attractive: mostly slim, often bearded, intense-looking. I like the look of Poles and I love hearing the language being spoken, because it is both complex and sonorous. I am learning new words every day and beginning to read signs and speak simple sentences. Speaking it is more difficult; the consonant combinations are awesome; it has been said that speaking Polish sounds like biting glass.

Joanna’s apartment, although tiny (about 10 x 15 feet altogether), is attractively appointed, and, as a fourth-floor walk-up, has a pleasant view overlooking a tree-lined street and other nearby apartment houses. It is in a northern suburb called Bielany, with a forested park nearby and not too far from the Wisla River, Poland’s largest. Her flat is amazingly compressed but contains all we need: a kitchenette, bathroom with shower, small washing machine, bookshelves, storage closets, and enough floor space to unfold two foam mats at night. A radiator provides adequate heat but is non-adjustable so if it gets too hot we open a window as appropriate. Just for me, she ordered the installation of cable TV with HBO plus internet service so I am now online in my underwear. When I was last here, there were three grainy b/w channels; now I have about 80 channels including several in English, two in German, one in French, one in Russian.

Late at night, numerous of the junk channels that feature game shows, fashion, shopping, and local programming suddenly switch over to outright pornography. Normally I am in bed here by 10 or 11 pm so I didn’t know this until the other night when I stayed up late hoping to watch the Super Bowl. Despite all these channels, it was not available (at least in Radom, another town where we spent the weekend; perhaps it played in Warsaw, I don’t know). The interesting thing about the porn offerings is that apparently no genitals can be shown but just about anything else goes: breasts and nipples, of course, but also fondling, masturbation, fucking, fellatio, titillation and outrageous exhibitionism of every kind – just as long as no genitals are explicitly displayed. It’s a commentary on the prevailing Catholic mentality, which, because it denies sexuality, channels it instead onto late-night tv screens as a kind of sick reactionism. Joanna says that many Polish married women refuse to have sex with their husbands after they have children, so there is an active trade in prostitution. Some prostitutes park their cars by the road in the suburbs and solicit passing traffic.

So far, Joanna and I are very busy most of the time. We went to one party on my first night, a gathering of some young Buddhists who offered a great spread of bread, cheese, and kielbasi, with beer, wine, vodka, whiskey — plus lots of music, singing, and laughter. The next day we went to visit some friends of Joanna’s and then attended a dramatic reading in the evening. Occasionally we do some odd shopping — like trying to buy a voltage converter so I can run my computer and recharge my camera battery. I have also visited Joanna’s office near downtown at the headquarters of Poland’s primary dramatic magazine: Dialog – located on the grounds of the Polish National Library. Another day we went shopping on a cold wet day to a large outdoor street market, one of many throughout the city. It was quite large, spread over several blocks, with farmers and merchants of every kind, goods spread out from trucks or in small sheds – huge variety and cheap prices, colorful and crowded. We’ve also eaten out a few times. I had a traditional Polish dish called “bigos” – a combination of various shredded meats mixed with sauerkraut and sauce. Quite good but never again, I think. Another night we went to a downtown Indian restaurant that could only serve a total of four people at two tables. Yesterday, driving back from Radom, we stopped at a lovely new dome-shaped restaurant and I had cheese pierogi (dumplings) and salmon. Yum. Also, the beer is great and quite cheap, a dollar for a big half-liter. It’s a good thing I am going to be here awhile because there is so much to see and do. And I have been to her weekly meditation session, met numerous other friends and colleagues, and so on. This evening we will have tea with her ex-husband. I will also be going to her weekly Shambhala meditation group. Later I want to go to a dentist, an optometrist, and a doctor – but so far not time for that. Busy, busy, busy.

Joanna’s mother, who lived in Radom, a good-sized city several hours drive to the south, died a few months ago, leaving Joanna the task of clearing out four decades of possessions and selling the flat there. Joanna and I will probably be going there every weekend until the job is done, and quite a job it is. Her mom’s flat is on the fifth floor, which I went down and back up about 30 times this past weekend, carrying loads of clothes and stuff to be donated or junked. Although there are many thrift stores everywhere, they do not accept donations and most of the stuff cannot be sold easily or at all. So we are throwing out many valuable items that would fetch good prices in America but are effectively worthless here. Joanna found a hospital, an elder care home, and various friends to donate clothes, linens, towels and we loaded and drove them to these places. Her father, deceased many years, also had all his life’s possessions in the flat, including many valuable specialty and collector books (in Polish, of course, with some in Russian), dictionaries in multiple languages, maps, tools, and hobby items such as cameras, models, and collections. There is also a huge collection of family photos, including many antique ones on heavy visiting cards from the 1800s, family crystal ware, silver service, pots and pans, dishware, and on and on. I am going to attempt selling some things on Polish eBay, now that I have internet hookup and my laptop computer here. But there there are so many things, and all will need to be described in Polish, then uploaded, and then mailed if sold. And it’s all in another town, several hours drive away. It’s a huge undertaking, whichever way we try to do it. It reminds me of when I had to dispose of my deceased daughter Jan’s possessions, and I also note how emotional Joanna feels while doing this, just I did then.

Meanwhile, Joanna works four hours per day at her office and then does free-lance editing and proofreading at home for a variety of publishers and  magazines, often working nights and weekends to make ends meet. So, my being here is not exactly a vacation, or I could call it a working vacation. In any case, being in Poland is fascinating and tremendously educational, even though only part of our time is available for relaxation and sightseeing. However, Joanna is a charming companion and gracious hostess, while also being a virtual font of linguistic, historical, cultural, intellectual, and spiritual information and conversation. We are comfortable together and I feel at home in her tiny flat. Things are going well but we often feel exhausted at the end of the day because each day is full of activity and stimulation.

Best wishes and love,

Ed

———————————–

Warsaw Crows

The first thin traces of dawn
Illuminate the snow-clad trees
Of Bielany district apartments,
Sets free a cacophany of crows –
Loud, raucus, untamed cries
That inspire the pigeons and dogs
To come awake and also sing,
As early Sunday church-goers
Gamely trod the sodden streets,
Allowing crows to just be caws,
Allowing gods to just be dogs.



Obituary for My Mom
March 15, 2008, 6:05 pm
Filed under: Obituary for Mom

Obituary/Eulogy

Mrs. Josephine Solecka Buryn died March 6th 2008 in Miami FL at the age of 100-1/2 years. She was born September 24th 1907 in Benton IL to Polish parents.

She is survived by her sons Edward Buryn of Nevada City CA, Henry Buryn of Bonifay FL, and Ted Buryn of Santa Cruz CA; by her daughter Jane Buryn McDade of Biscayne Park FL; by her grandsons Jake Buryn of Warrenton OR, Joey Buryn of Bonifay FL, Gregory McDade of Birmingham AL, and Kazimir Buryn of Oakland CA; by her granddaughters Sierra Buryn of Portland OR, Casimira Greer Buryn Kneebone of Hollywood CA, Kristin Buryn Parsons of Parker CO, Kelli Buryn of Birmingham AL, Sya Buryn Kedzior of Lexington KY, China Buryn of Laguna Beach CA, Nikita Buryn of Santa Cruz CA, and Jessica McDade Ianniello of Birmingham AL; and by her great-grandchildren Tiffany Buryn, Jay Buryn, Adam Buryn Parsons, Gage McDade Ianniello, and Simone-Rose Buryn Souza. She was preceded in death by her husband of 53 years, Kazimierz Buryn of North Miami FL in 1983, her grandson Stephen Buryn of Bonifay FL in 1995, her son Lester Buryn of Birmingham AL in 2004, and her granddaughter Jan Buryn McCarthy of Nevada City CA in 2005.

Think of it! More than a century of life! Josephine was was born in the early days of the electric light, the telephone, the automobile, and the airplane. In 1907, the year of her birth, transatlantic radio first began and Oklahoma became the 46th state. Gene Autry, Katherine Hepburn, John Wayne, and Frida Kahlo were born the same year, and all of them died years earlier. Her life spanned almost the entire 20th Century, and crossed into the Third Millennium. The span of her life is arguably the most exciting and eventful period of human history and she experienced it all as an active and righteous participant.

Josephine was born in America into a Polish family who returned to Poland when she was two years old. She grew up in the small farming village of Straszydle in the southern hills of Poland near Rzeszow, where her father was a horse trader. Her earliest family job was to rise before dawn to pick wild mushrooms in the forest when she was five. When she turned 18 she spent a year in Lvov, Ukraine, working as a nanny. But because she was an American citizen by birth, Josephine grew up knowing she would someday claim her citizenship, and so she came by ship from Gydnia to New York in 1930 when she was 23.

She arrived with few funds and no knowledge of the English language, only the names of some Polish friends. On her first night in America she was forced to sleeplessly walk the early-AM streets of Manhattan because her friends were late and the boat terminal had closed. Her early life in this strange native land at the start of the 1930’s Depression was a difficult time marked by exhaustion and privation. Her first job was as a live-in housekeeper-cook-nanny to a family of seven, working twelve hours per day, six days per week, for $5 plus room and board. She recalled crying herself to sleep every night during her first year in America.

At about that time, Kazimierz Buryn, a young Polish vagabond who had earlier emigrated to New Jersey after a series of careers in Poland including soldier, miner, lumberjack, gang leader, and roustabout, learned through the immigrant grapevine that Josephine was living nearby. They were both from the same village and had known each other slightly there, but he was five years older and had left the village while she was young. At the time of their meeting again in America, Kazimierz was an apprentice baker who had worked his way up from busboy and kitchen helper. He began courting Josephine and they were married in 1932 — the rest is history– family history, that is.

They saved enough money to buy a small bakery in Union City NJ with an apartment in the rear where their first sons Eddie (1934) and Lester (1937) were born. Later they moved to Perth Amboy NJ to start their very successful Majestic Bakery on Smith Street near Five Corners, and bought two homes. Their third son Henry (1940) and only daughter Jane (1943) were born in Perth Amboy. Josephine worked full-time in the bakery as store manager and counterperson, while Kazimierz created European-style baked goods with a staff that later included Josephine’s brother Henryk Solecki, who immigrated to America with his Polish wife Stella. After WW2, Kazimierz and Josephine sold their New Jersey properties and moved to Miami Beach FL where they purchased the Southern Sands Apartments on the corner of Byron and 81st Streets, located on Indian Creek, three blocks from the Atlantic Ocean. Here their last son Ted (Thaddeus) was born in 1950. All of Josephine’s children were born at home and all were breast-fed.

Their Miami Beach property was intended to be their retirement dream home, but Kazimierz was an inveterate entrepreneur who dabbled in several other careers and was at times a building contractor, furniture store owner, and real estate investor. Some of these ventures foundered disastrously and for awhile in the late 1940s, Kazimierz had to work as a day laborer to keep the family financially afloat. Then he again went into the bakery business, founding the New Majestic Bakery in Little River Florida, a suburb of Miami, which became an outstanding financial success. At one point in the 1950’s, they owned three bakeries in the Miami area. In the late 1960s and early 1970s they traveled several times to Poland to renew old family ties and revisit the land of their youth. They retired from business in the 1970s, sold the apartment house and moved to a large home on several acres in North Miami. They celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary by remarrying in 1980.

Kazimierz died in 1983 from complications of a stroke, following years of illness during which all of his children took time off from their own families in order to help Josephine with his care. After his death, Josephine lived another 25 years alone, and never even considered remarrying. In her last ten years, she lived with various of her children in turn, alternately in Florida, Alabama, and California. Until the end of her long life she remained vital and vivacious, energetic and active. At the end, her wits had left her but not her awareness and presence.

Josephine Buryn was a remarkable woman who devoted her entire life to working and caring for her husband and children. She practiced and taught filial love by demonstration and generosity. She never spared her time, energy, or funds to help her family. The widespread and growing Buryn clan that she procreated is a variegated and colorful American family committed to righteous living following her example. Josephine Buryn was a storybook heroine who empowered her children by giving them freedom, respect, and love without limit. She was also a beautiful and graceful woman, optimistic and friendly, honest and authentic.

Requiescat in Pace —
to our beloved wife, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, friend, colleague, and all-around, on-the-job goddess.

—————————-

March 6th 2008 — Josephine Rises

A new Angel ascended to heaven today
After a century’s tenure on Planet Earth
Serving as Polish-American Super-mom
Who loved five children and just one man
With such allegiance and steadfastness that
She became our icon of Devotion to Family.

Josephine Solecka Buryn now has risen,
But those who knew this resilient lady
Happily prize their memories of her
Through all “the ten thousand things,”
For she managed the soft art of love
By repeated effort through a long life.

Unschooled and famously stubborn,
Undaunted by heaven or hell itself,
Josephine was no saint, just a woman
Who unyieldingly fought and labored
To better her life and free her family
From want, from rejection, from fear.

Just like in her favorite Polish prayer,
Her Angel self watches over us here –.
“Aniele Bozy, strozu moj, [On-yow buh-zhi, stroh-zhoo moo-ee,
Ty zawsze przy mnie stoj”; [Tih zahv-sheh psheem-nyeh stoo-ee]
“God’s Angel, guardian mine,
You stand by me all the time.”
———————



The Warsaw Rising Museum
March 14, 2008, 10:27 pm
Filed under: Poland

A few days ago I went to the Muzeum Powstanie, or the Warsaw Uprising Museum, which is a new (2006), world-class, ultramodern, multimedia, must-see attraction that tells the almost unbelievable story of the 1944 heroic and tragic uprising of the Polish underground against the German garrison in Warsaw. It lasted 63 days, during which 18,000 Polish Home Army soldiers died (25,000 wounded), while 180,000 citizens of Warsaw also died (mostly murdered) and what remained of the city was systematically destroyed under Hitler’s orders to wipe Warsaw off the map of Europe. (Reported German losses were 10,000 killed, 7,000 missing, and 15,000 wounded.– which were their greatest losses in any battle except on the Russian front.) To put this in perspective, 5,000 Americans & allies have died so far in Iraq & Afghanistan in five years (about 30,000 wounded) — so the American war deaths are averaging under 3 per day, while the Polish underground army deaths during the uprising were 300 per day, AND 3,000 Polish civilians dying each day. Yet this people’s army resisted longer than did the well-equipped French army in 1940 during the Blitzkrieg. The Warsaw Resistance failed after two desperate months because, not only were they poorly equipped (no planes, tanks, armored cars, artillery, or heavy mortars as the Germans had in abundance), but mainly because they were betrayed by the Russians and virtually ignored by the Allies. In the Spring 1944 Yalta Agreement, before the Uprising, Roosevelt and Churchill agreed to abandon Poland to Stalin. As a result, the Polish Home Army felt politically compelled to try to liberate Warsaw from the Germans because they felt it was their best chance to avoid Soviet totalitarianism in the aftermath of WW2. They wanted to show the world that Poland would fight for its own freedom, not only from Germany but from Russia. But they failed, and thus Poland was forced to undergo Communist domination for another four decades following their five years of Nazi domination. Finally, in the 1980s another Polish uprising — the Solidarity Movement — erupted and ultimately succeeded, becoming the first crack in the Iron Curtain that finally toppled the USSR itself. One of the most horrendous aspects of this story is that the surviving Polish leaders of the Uprising were repatriated to Poland after the war, only to be arrested by the Communist government and sent to Russian prisons where they were tortured and murdered. Stalin was as bad as Hitler.

This epic story of triumph and tragedy is told in the Warsaw Rising museum in vivid and graphic detail. The exhibits include an B24 bomber suspended from the ceiling (commemorating some supplies dropped by the Allies during the siege), a 500-foot-long, Vietnam-Vets-style memorial wall engraved with the names of almost 20,000 dead, a re-creation of the brick sewer channels in which the insurgents moved supplies and escaped the incessant air raids, films and combat photographs by the hundreds, a b/w slide show on a large suspended screen showing pre- and post-uprising photos of prominent Warsaw sites, first as handsome buildings and then as piles of rubble still recognizably the same places, and much more in the way of interactive exhibits.

One of these is a video interview with Marek Edelman, a Jewish-Polish hero and leader in the 1943 Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, the 1944 Warsaw Uprising, AND the 1980s Solidarity Movement (which itself was almost a decade-long struggle against Communism that finally succeeded in 1989 with the election of Lech Welesa, and the later withdrawal of Russian troops and bureaucrats). Edelman, a remarkable survivor, is still alive and lives in Warsaw, and has written several books about his experiences of a lifetime struggling against Nazi and Communist tyranny. To me, the museum testifies that resistance against the most monstrous oppression can ultimately succeed if the populace is sufficiently courageous and willing to sacrifice everything for their freedom. The motto of this museum is: “We wanted to be free — and to owe that freedom to nobody else.”

As a kind of postscript to the museum, today Joanna and I drove to Kampinoski National Park, a large forested area north of Warsaw to take a walk in the woods on a budding spring day. Before long we came to the Palmiry cemetery and execution site with 2,200 graves of murdered partisans and citizens including several mayors and even a prewar olympic medalist. Reminders of the great Polish sacrifice are everywhere. Joanna believes the Uprising was disastrous for Poland because it destroyed an entire generation of its finest young people and degraded the national gene pool, but in any case, Poland’s war dead are omnipresent and grim reminders of Poland’s modern heritage.



Hello world!
March 14, 2008, 9:23 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

I’m on the road again. Join me on my travels through Poland and into a new phase of my life.