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Searching…. (the “missing” Tuesday post w/a little extra) January 19, 2022

Posted by ajoyfulpractice in 9-Day Challenge, Art, Books, Healing Stories, Life, Love, Mathematics, Meditation, Movies, Music, One Hoop, Philosophy, Poetry, Vairagya, Wisdom, Writing, Yoga.
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This is the “missing” post for Tuesday, January 18th. You can request an audio recording of the practice via a comment below or (for a slightly faster reply) you can email me at myra (at) ajoyfulpractice.com.

In the spirit of generosity (“dana”), the Zoom classes, recordings, and blog posts are freely given and freely received. If you are able to support these teachings, please do so as your heart moves you. (NOTE: You can donate even if you are “attending” a practice that is not designated as a “Common Ground Meditation Center” practice, or you can purchase class(es). Donations are tax deductible; class purchases are not necessarily deductible.

Check out the “Class Schedules” calendar for upcoming classes.)

“As soon as Rabbit was out of sight, Pooh remembered that he had forgotten to ask who Small was, and whether he was the sort of friend-and-relation who settled on one’s nose, or the sort who got trodden on by mistake, and as it was Too Late Now, he thought he would begin the Hunt by looking for Piglet, and asking him what they were looking for before he looked for it.”

*

– quoted from “Chapter Three, In Which – A Search is Organdized, and Piglet Nearly Meets the Heffalump Again” in The House at Pooh Corner by Alan Alexander Milne, with decorations by Ernest Howard Shephard

Similar to The House at Pooh Corner (published in 1928), this post begins with an end note; but, let’s not call it that. Let’s call it a Side Note. See, when I’ve used quotes in class in the past, I don’t always cite chapter and verse. That’s not the point of the practice. However, now that I’m blogging more, recording classes, and posting a video or two, I feel that due diligence is required. Ergo, I make an effort to search for precise sources. It takes some time and effort, but the internet makes things easier than when I was doing such research in school and it’s super nice when I actually have hard copies (and/or paperback or electronic copies) of the source material. However, things can get complicated when something takes on a life of it’s own – outside of its original incarnation. This is even more true when that something is beloved… and the Walt Disney Company is involved.

Because sometimes people are quoting Disney productions, but citing the author.

“’It means just going along, listening to all the things that you can’t hear and not bothering.’”

*

– Christopher Robin defining “Doing Nothing” to Winnie the Pooh in “Chapter Ten, In Which – Christopher Robin and Pooh Come to an Enchanted Place, and We Leave Them There” of The House at Pooh Corner by Alan Alexander Milne, with decorations by Ernest Howard Shephard

Many books begin with a prologue or an introduction, however, as I already mentioned The House at Pooh is different from most books. It begins with a “Contradiction,” which the author explained was the opposite of an “Introduction.” Some of us might think of it as an epilogue, which it was… and also wasn’t, because it was coming at the beginning of the book rather than at the end. But, it was the end of the series – that was never intended to be a series. Of course, the author, A. A. Milne, understood the differences and the nuances of the words; that’s why he picked the one’s he picked.

Born Alan Alexander Milne on January 18, 1882, the famous children’s book author was the youngest of three boys that grew up in a household dedicated to learning. His father, John Vine Milne, ran Henley House School, a private school for boys that famously boasted teachers like H. G. Wells (who taught science there for one year). A. A. Milne reportedly taught himself to read at age two; attended Westminster School in London and Trinity College in Cambridge. It was at the latter that he edited and wrote (with his brother Kenneth) for The Granta, the student magazine now known simply as Granta. It was also at Trinity that he decided to pursue writing as a career even though he was graduating with a degree in mathematics.  He started working for the humor magazine Punch not long after he graduated.

Then World War I broke out and – even though Mr. Milne didn’t believe in war – he served as an officer for at least five years, first as a signaling operator and then (after recuperating from an illness that sent him home) as a writer of military propaganda. He finished his service as a lieutenant and started writing articles and books denouncing war. He also started writing plays and poetry, some which appeared in Punch magazine. He had married Dorothy “Daphne” de Sélincourt just before the war and, within a year of his discharge, they had their son, Christopher Robin.

Mr. Milne was in the habit of making up little verses for his son, including one called “Teddy Bear,” which appeared in Punch when Christopher Robin was three years old. About five years after their son was born, the Milnes bought and moved to their country home in East Sussex. The woods around their East Sussex home – as well as Christopher Robin, his toys, and the games they played – became the inspiration for more poems and, ultimately, the stories about Winnie the Pooh, Christopher Robin, and all their friends. Those stories, however, were little more than divertissements to A. A. Milne and he was a little astounded (and latter appalled) that those little entertainments were earning more accolades than for his plays, articles, and adult novels. Later, he was also concerned by how all the attention affected his still young son – who, it must be said, kind of hated the attention.

“Every child has his Pooh, but one would think it odd if every man still kept his Pooh to remind him of his childhood. But my Pooh is different, you say: he is the Pooh. No, this only makes him different to you. My toys were and are to me no more than yours were and are to you, not different to me. I do not love them more because they are known to children in Australia or Japan. Fame has nothing to do with love.”

*

– quoted from “12. The Toys” in The Enchanted Places by Christopher Milne

There are a lot of reasons why people still love the characters created by A. A. Milne, but why are Christopher Robin, Pooh, Piglet, Owl, Eyeore, Rabbit, Kanga, Roo, Tigger, the Heffalump, and (even) Small more beloved than any of his other characters? We can, of course, point to the loveliness of an ideal childhood and those lovely “decorations” by E. H. Shephard. Of course, there is also the fact that the books are all about friendship. Then, too, there is the fact that we all know people like all of the characters. In fact, if we take a moment to turn inward, we may even recognize ourselves as one of the characters. Finally, there is just so much wisdom in the books. Yes, we can say it is wisdom for children; however, the best advice we receive as children, serves us as adults.

The children’s poems and stories by A. A. Milne remind us to slow down, savor our “honey” and our friends, and to soak up the moment. There are stories that remind us to play a little (Pooh Sticks); keep in touch (even when we are physically far apart); that sometimes we need a little help from our friends (in order to get out of tight situations); and that there is something to be said for being in the present moment. In fact, I think of the poem “Halfway Down” as a meditation on the liminal, or “threshold” moment that is this present moment.

“Halfway Down” is the thirty-fifth poem in When We Were Very Young, first published in 1924. It appears just a few pages before the aforementioned “Teddy Bear” and has been turned into a song sung be people as different as Robin the Frog (Kermit’s nephew) and Amy Lee. The children’s book reviewer Zena Sutherland called the poem a “juvenile meditation” – which was a ringing endorsement from an expert on children’s literature who would go on to teach “Children’s Literature” and “Literature for Young Adults” at the University of Chicago Graduate Library School; serve on the committees that award the Newbery and Cadecutt Awards, as well as the Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction; and highlight the emotional benefits of books by Maurice Sendak, John Donovan, and Robert Cormier. She was the expert, but in my humble opinion, it is a great meditation for anyone, regardless of age.

“I’m not at the bottom,
I’m not at the top;
So this is the stair
Where
I always
Stop.
*
Halfway up the stairs
Isn’t up
And isn’t down.
It isn’t in the nursery,
It isn’t in the town.
And all sorts of funny thoughts
Run round my head:”

*

– quoted (from halfway down) the poem “Halfway Down” by Alan Alexander Milne, with decorations by Ernest Howard Shephard

In some ways, The House at Pooh Corner was like that stair “halfway down the stairs.” It marked a transition. As A. A. Milne explained at the beginning, Christopher Robin and his friends needed no introductions – the readers already knew and loved them. What he also explained was that The House at Pooh Corner was a goodbye – he just didn’t tell his young readers why. And, in the end, maybe the why didn’t matter. Because…

“…they went off together. But wherever they go, and whatever happens to them on the way, in that enchanted place on the top of the Forest, a little boy and his Bear will always be playing.”

*

– quoted from “Chapter Ten, In Which – Christopher Robin and Pooh Come to an Enchanted Place, and We Leave Them There” of The House at Pooh Corner by Alan Alexander Milne, with decorations by Ernest Howard Shephard

Tuesday’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify. [Look for “08212021 An Afternoon of Just Knowing”]

Feel free to check out this 2016 post to discover someone who likes to explore enchanted places.

“Christopher Robin came down from the Forest to the bridge, feeling all sunny and careless, and just as if twice nineteen didn’t matter a bit, as it didn’t on such a happy afternoon, and he thought if he stood on the bottom rail of the bridge, and leant over, and watched the river slipping slowly away beneath him, then he would suddenly know everything there was to be known, and he would be able to tell Pooh, who wasn’t quite sure of it. But when he got to the bridge and saw all the animals there, then he knew that it wasn’t that kind of afternoon, but the other kind, when you wanted to do something.

*

– quoted from “Chapter Six, In Which – Pooh Invents a New Game and Eeyore Joins In” of The House at Pooh Corner by Alan Alexander Milne, with decorations by Ernest Howard Shephard

Searching for Small and little things? (Part of the Nine Days series)

### “Rivers know this: there is no hurry. We shall get there some day. ~ A. A. M. ###

Here Be The Wild Things June 10, 2020

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“And so we have…this critical problem as human beings of seeing to it that the mythology—the constellation of sign signals, affect images, energy-releasing and -directing signs—that we are communicating to our young will deliver directive messages qualified to relate them richly and vitally to the environment that is to be theirs for life, and not to some period of man already past, some piously desiderated future, or—what is worst of all—some querulous, freakish sect or momentary fad. And I call this problem critical because, when it is badly resolved, the result for the miseducated individual is what is known, in mythological terms, as a Waste Land situation. The world does not talk to him; he does not talk to the world. When that is the case, there is a cut-off, the individual is thrown back on himself, and he is in prime shape for that psychotic break-away that will turn him into either an essential schizophrenic in a padded cell, or a paranoid screaming slogans at large, in a bughouse without walls.”

 

– from A Joseph Campbell Companion: Reflections on the Art of Living by Joseph Campbell

 

How do we keep from becoming, to paraphrase Joseph Campbell, a screaming paranoid person? How do we face trauma, loss, and disability with a smile on our face, as Wayman Tisdale did? Maybe we have to go all the way back to the womb to figure out why some people survive the challenging circumstances they face in life. Maybe we have to go back even farther than that to see why some people just inherently know how to stay connected to their “inside stuff” even when life throws them one curve ball after another fast ball. Whatever the reason some people rebound and some people don’t (or don’t as easily as others), trying to figure out that reason has fascinated people since the beginning of time.

Children’s book author and illustrator Maurice Sendak, born today in 1928, in Brooklyn, New York, once said, “I only have one subject. The question I am obsessed with is: How do children survive?” Like the poets mentioned during Sunday’s class (06/07/2020), Sendak wrote about what he saw – and what he saw was a family decimated by the Holocaust and trying to acclimate to a new country and a new culture. He saw kids being kids, being alive and full of so much life despite the overwhelming and pervasive feeling of perpetual mourning. The adults called the unruly children “vilde chaya,” which is Yiddish for “wild animal.” Sendak turned it into “wild things” and wrote a children’s book that become the center of a trilogy about (you guessed it) how children survive and thrive.

“I grew up in a house that was in a constant state of mourning.”

 

– Maurice Sendak in a 2002 interview with children’s book historian Leonard Marcus

 

 

“’And now,’ cried Max, ‘let the wild rumpus start!’”

 

– from Where The Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

 

Where The Wild Things Are, published in 1963, tells the story of preschool-age Max who, as adults would have said during my childhood, gets a little too big for his britches. He is sent to his room without his dinner because he can’t behave and, as children do, he lets his imagination take over. His bedroom becomes a magical land full of wild animals, beasts, monsters….

My amazing friend Julie K just sent me a recent essay in The New Yorker about metaphorical monsters. I found it problematic because the identity of the monsters is too vague. Sendak, however, was always very clear; the monsters in his first book were the perpetually mourning and stern adults in his family. He just exaggerated them into something endearingly grotesque. As Max manages his emotions, becoming “king of all wild things” (a. k. a. the “most wild thing of all”), he finds his way back to the regular world. Managing one’s emotions, it turns out, is the secret to making one’s way back to the regular world.

“Your sacred space is where you can find yourself again and again. You really don’t have a sacred space, a rescue land, until you find somewhere to be that’s not a wasteland, some field of action where there is a spring of ambrosia—a joy that comes from inside, not something external that puts joy into you—a place that lets you experience your own will and your own intention and your own wish so that, in small, the Kingdom is there. I think everybody, whether they know it or not, is in need of such a place.”

 

– from A Joseph Campbell Companion: Reflections on the Art of Living by Joseph Campbell

 

“There should be a place where only the things you want to happen, happen.”

 

– from Where The Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

 

As I mentioned before, Where The Wild Things Are was the first of a three-part series to be published, but it is actually the centerpiece to the trilogy. In The Night Kitchen (published in 1970) follows toddler-age Mickey as he falls, naked, into the Night Kitchen, where he has to avoid getting baked into the cake batter and eaten up. Max, again, is preschool-age. Outside Over There (published in 1981) features pre-adolescent Ida, who shirks her responsibility and then has to face the consequences of making things right. It is interesting to note that while there is always a symbol of a mother and evidence of a mother’s love in all three books, Ida is the only real-live human girl featured prominently in the books and she is given (in the book) the mother’s role of caregiver – a role she initially fails to take seriously.

“When Papa was away at sea and Mama in the arbor, Ida played her wonder horn to rock the baby still – but never watched.”

 

– from Outside Over There by Maurice Sendak

Maurice Sendak’s trilogy is recognized as a series which traces the psychological development of children. Each protagonist has age appropriate responsibilities, feelings, thoughts, and emotions. Each protagonist also has to navigate and find balance between the (age appropriate) expectations of the simultaneously present yet absent parent(s) and their feelings, thoughts, and emotions. One of the emotions that figures prominently, especially in Where The Wild Things Are, is rage and one of the themes that figures prominently in the books is how to manage emotions like rage. Because, as I sated before, managing one’s emotions is the secret to making one’s way back to the regular world. It is the boon, as it were, of this particular hero’s journey/cycle.

“But it is more than mere survival that Sendak aspires to, for his children and for himself. He asks the question of resilience: How do children surmount and transform in order to prosper and create? It is tempting to imagine that Sendak conceives of the trajectory of his own life and art as a model for the way he has handled these questions in his works.”

 

– from a 2009 The Psychologist article by psychoanalyst Richard Gottlieb

 

When Where The Wild Things Are was turned into a movie, therapists like Richard Gottlieb offered their clinical take on the book and the movie. Psychoanalyst and attorney Stanton Peele noted in a 2009 article for Psychology Today that Dr. G. Alan Marlatt, a psychologist who focused on addiction, “specifically developed mindfulness as a relapse prevention technique, one that assists addicted people to combat cravings. In brief, a user may imagine the urge to use again as a physical challenge – like a wave – that he or she rides out.” Then, Peele called Sendak’s work “a model of mindfulness.” For his part, Gottlieb did not think it was an accident that Sendaks’ work was so psychologically applicable. In fact, he specifically highlights various “psychological proddings and teachings” which influenced Sendak’s life – including the fact that his partner (for over 50 years) was psychoanalyst Eugene Glenn – and shares bits of conversations with colleagues who also see the value in the book.

“I’m not the milk and the milk’s not me. I’m Mickey!”

 

– Mickey in In The Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak

 

Call it a coincidence, a coinkydink, God winking, or serendipity, but it is interesting to note that Maurice Sendak, whose seminal book has been hailed and praised by addiction experts, was born on the anniversary of Dr. Bob Smith’s last drink, which is also the anniversary of Alcoholics Anonymous. Today in 1935, Bill Wilson and Smith’s wife Anne gave a severely hung-over Smith (a. k. a. “Dr. Bob”) a beer so that he would be “steady enough” to go into surgery. Hours beyond when the surgery should have ended, Smith announced that yes, the surgery was successful and that he had spent the remaining time reaching out to creditors and others he had hurt when he was drinking. Founded by Smith and Wilson, with support from Smith’s wife Anne, Alcoholics Anonymous is a 12-step rehabilitation program that has helped some people cope with alcoholism. It is also the model for other 12-step programs. While I have not counted the steps as they apply to Maurice Sendak’s work, there are very definite parallels in the way the main characters acknowledge their problems, turn inward, and offer restitution and express remorse. There are also, in the books and in recovery, humongous amounts of love and forgiveness (in particular, self-love and self-forgiveness).

“Quiet down there!”

 

– Mickey In The Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak

 

“If Ida backwards in the rain would only turn around again and catch those goblins with a tune, she’d spoil their kidnap honeymoon!”

 

– Papa’s song in Outside Over There

 

Please join me today (Wednesday, June 10th) at 4:30 PM or 7:15 PM for a practice inspired by the inner workings of a child’s heart and mind. Use the link from the “Class Schedules” calendar if you run into any problems checking into the class. You will need to register for the 7:15 PM class if you have not already done so. Give yourself extra time to log in if you have not upgraded to Zoom 5.0. You can request an audio recording of this practice via a comment below.

Since music soothes the wild beasts, the goblins, and the cooks, Wednesday’s playlist is available on YouTube and Spotify. (NOTE: YouTube is the original playlist and includes the video below.)

 

My all time favorite rendition!

 

### “I’LL EAT YOU UP!”• “I LOVE YOU!” ###