No Pooping in the Pool

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I saw this sign posted at the entrance to the pool at my condo complex. I never noticed it before, but John, my hubby says it’s been there awhile — so much for my great observation skills since I started Zazen meditation! I don’t know about you but I find it pretty funny. I even looked the code up on the Internet and sure enough, there among a zillion other codes regarding public pools was the “no pooping” code. If your interested you can find more about public pool codes here.

What I want to know is who thinks up this crap? Was there a landslide of complaints coming into the health department that people were pooping in the pools, especially runny poop? What if they only leave small turds floating in the pool? Is that ok? Who will enforce this code and how do they know if one has had diarrhea in the past 14 days? Is someone  “swabbing” butts for fecal matter before we are being allowed in the pool? Do we really need a law against pooping in the pool? Shouldn’t it be understood that doing so is not socially acceptable?

I would love to have been a “fly on the wall” when whatever committee got together to discuss CA Code 3210B.11. If I were actually present, I couldn’t have kept myself from laughing and probably would have come up with several poop jokes and at least one fart joke. I mean honestly some of the laws we have on the books is downright stupid — AND unenforceable!

Since I was not invited to that meeting — I will share some poop humor with you dear reader:

(I may put this one next to the city code plaque…just for giggles)

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I’m thinking that maybe this summer, just for giggles I will buy myself a bikini and show up at the pool. I have an ostomy bag. That should raise a few eyebrows. Will I start a riot? Will the pool police be called?

Actually, I don’t like swimming anyway — too many babies peeing in the pool. Come to think of it, why isn’t there a “code” for that?

Have a fun week and remember “No pooping in the pool!”

Inge

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Christmas at the Hospital

Three years ago today, I was admitted to UCI Hospital and given an emergency blood transfusion. The last time I was hospitalized, I was in labor with my son. He is now 35. This post is not really about that time in my life, I only noticed the date when I was looking at my laptop, deciding on what to write about. It’s amazing though how time flies and how far I have come since that day.

I wanted to write about how I spent my Christmas this year. I am not a religious person, so the Christmas holiday for me is not about the birth of Jesus. I also don’t go for the idea of shopping myself into financial ruin in order to buy everyone I ever met the ‘perfect” Christmas gift. I have everything I need to live comfortably and most important I am healthy.

So for me, I like volunteering at the infusion center at UCI. There are no volunteers working there during the two-week holiday. I don’t have to be there either but I enjoy it. My job this year was to hand out Christmas gifts to patients getting treatment; knit hats, scarves, and book bags made by other volunteers specifically for our cancer patients. I even persuaded my friend, Bob, another volunteer and stage four cancer survivor, to help me out.

Bob helped take care of me when I was sick. I have a special bond with him. Actually, he helps me every Wednesday afternoon when he is finished helping out his doctor on another floor, so it wasn’t that hard to get him to join me Christmas eve.

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This is me and Bob making our Christmas faces. I have a friend who told me that she doesn’t have one single picture of me making a normal face — like smiling. I like making faces for the camera. Its hard to find people who will make faces with me. Bob is good that way. I am so lucky to have Bob as my friend.

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One of the patients who snagged a private room brought Christmas with her. You can’t see them in the picture (to ensure her privacy) but her friends were there along with food and presents to celebrate. People are so smart. Christmas can be anywhere you want.

We gave all the presents out and I think the patients were happy. That made me happy.

But before I left the hospital, I ran into a patient’s mom in the parking lot. I met the patient and his mom a few times before and I knew he was currently an inpatient. He was in ICU and it didn’t look good. His mom was upset that the hospital refused to allow him out for a few hours so he could eat Christmas dinner with the family. She was convinced he would feel better if he could be home.  I knew he was in no shape to be released. It broke my heart to see his mom so upset. Being a mom myself , I can’t imagine the pain this woman must have felt. I wondered though, if she knew how grave his situation was or was she in denial in order to cope with the situation. I never know what to say in those circumstances except that I am sorry.

I will admit, that part of my volunteering sucks.  And that’s when my Buddhist practice comes in handy. Nothing and no one is here forever. Its about impermanence. I do know that the short time I spent with that patient, I did my best to “water his seeds of happiness.”

I hope your Christmas or whatever you chose to celebrate or not celebrate, was happy.

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Sat Nam,

Inge

Right Speech vs. Freedom of Speech

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It seems to me that no matter what news channel or social media I go to lately, they all have something to say about the Duck Dynasty controversy. I won’t go in to the details about the news story because I’m sure you already know about it and may have formed your own opinion. However, I would like to explore this from a Buddhist perspective. By no means do I claim to be an expert on Buddhist philosophy; I am only a beginning student who tries to practice its teachings; I have given this topic much thought.

I want to discuss this idea from two perspectives — I am sure there are many more ways to see it, but I want to stay within the Buddhist perspective or at least as I interpret it, which is right speech vs. freedom of speech.

We Americans live in a diverse mix of dynamic, cultural ideologies. We all have different beliefs when it comes to our world views, yet at the same time we are tribal — meaning we tend to gravitate to like-minded people and cultures and life styles. I believe it’s always been that way from what I read in history books, but I think social media could be challenging that, or at least what is allowed to be said in the public discourse.

Basic Buddhist doctrine believes in following The Eight Fold Path in order to attain enlightenment (also called nirvana) and Right Speech is the third of the eight path factors. For me, I’m not so interested in becoming enlightened in the conventional sense, as much as I want to learn these concepts to help me become a better version of myself. I want to be more compassionate, patient and understanding. Those three things do not come to me naturally. I have to work on them.

For those of you who don’t know what the Eight Fold Path is, I posted a visual list:

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Buddhism is no different from other religious or philosophical beliefs; it has different sub-sects, each with its own set of dogmas. There are those who view Buddhism as a religion and those who practice as a secularist/atheist. One does not have to believe in a deity to call himself a Buddhist. I think other religions pretty much require believing in a God or higher power but I could be wrong.

Like I mentioned, Right Speech is on the list of what a practicing Buddhist should be at least trying to do or meditating about. As recorded in the Pali Canon, the historical Buddha taught that Right Speech had four parts:

1. Abstain from false speech; do not tell lies or deceive.

2. Do not slander others or speak in a way that causes disharmony or enmity.

3. Abstain from rude, impolite or abusive language.

4. Do not indulge in idle talk or gossip.

To me, this sounds pretty close to what Christian faith teaches as well.  I think it’s safe to look at it another way, “Think before you speak.”  Before I open my mouth, is what I am about to say meant to hurt or uplift? To me, thinking before speaking is especially important when I’m pissed off. I can easily say something I may regret later.

Words are powerful. They can be used to express love or inflict pain. Wars have been fought over them.

In America we pride ourselves in having the freedom to say what we want — It’s first on the list in the U.S. Constitution but does that mean its a good idea to always say what we think? Just because we have that right, shouldn’t we also be mindful of our words? I think it also depends on the context from which we speak.

Back to the Duck Dynasty controversy, the offending speech was part of an interview for a well-known magazine. The reporter asked Phil Robertson, the star of the show (I think all so-called reality shows are scripted) about his religious views and his answer started a fire storm. It set off a whole other war-of-words. Was the journalist aware of what his line of questions could do? Was Robertson aware that his answer could be construed as “hateful?” or at the very least hurtful?

I never watched his reality show, in fact I don’t watch any of them because I think they all are centered around hurtful speech. That’s seems to be why Americans watch them. The “characters” on these shows say things that would be frowned upon to say publicly in a civilized society. Or are these shows making it acceptable to say mean things? I know the bar for civil discourse on social media can get pretty low.

Martin Bashir is another example of what can happen when one does not think before speaking. I think his controversial words are different from Robertson’s. He wasn’t reading from a teleprompter, Bashir was. Was he aware that his words were pretty vile? Was that his intention? Was it for ratings? Was it meant for shock value? I’m sure he didn’t know he would put himself out of work because of it. And what about the person who gave the “ok” to allow him to say such things on air? Did anyone stop to think of the consequences?

I am a proponent for free speech. I am glad to live in a country where I can publicly voice my opinion without fear of being imprisoned. At the same time this freedom requires me to be responsible for what I say. It requires me to go deeper in my Buddhist practice and make sure that my speech is within the context of Right Speech.

Are my words meant to harm or uplift? Are my words meant to unite or divide? Words are not bullets but they can leave deep scars just as well.

I don’t like the idea of severely punishing someone because we don’t like what they say, especially when they are giving their opinion about something they believe to be true for them. I think things can spin out of control quickly when no one comes from a place of compassion and the only desire is to either silence those we disagree with or inflict pain on the perpetrator. Trying to ban undesirable speech does nothing to win hearts and minds.

On the other hand, talking out of one’s butt just to hear oneself speak could mean all bets are off and that person must accept the consequences, which could mean ending up in the unemployment line.

I cannot control what others do and especially what they say, but its my hope that these recent examples encourage us all to examine our behavior and at least to consider practicing Right Speech.

Sat Nam,

Inge