Meditation and Centering Prayer

I have begun a regimen of centering prayer. 20 minutes in the morning, 20 minutes before dinner. It is not a speaking prayer–it is a meditation in which you let your thoughts float by you without paying attention to them. The book that is guiding me, Open Mind, Open Heart, calls it “consenting to God’s presence and action within.”

This is incredibly difficult. Eastern meditation often tells you not to think. That is impossible. Centering prayer tells you not to think about your thoughts. That is almost impossible.

But I’m going to keep doing it. It puts me in my place. It reminds me that I am a vessel for love. I am not here for my own advancement, wealth, or happiness. By surrendering my thoughts and worries and agenda, I find true happiness.

We have nothing to lose but 40 minutes that would otherwise be spent watching TV or on the internet.

Also, a livelittle thing you can do to aid our Health Care crisis: Eat five fruits and vegetables a day and walk for at least 30 minutes every single day. You will prevent countless health problems.

Green Gathering and Idea to Incubate

Tonight I am going to the Green Gathering in Downtown Grand Rapids.  It’s at Harrison Park Elementary School and they will be talking (and voting?) on what projects are our priority…white water rafting? Bike lanes? Farmer’s markets? I’ll let you know how it goes.

My idea to incubate (and what better place to incubate anything than a blog?) is starting a project where people sign up and commit to walking or biking to any destination that is under 1.5 miles away. It seems small (litttlllleeee) but depending on where you live, it can be a huge HUGE challenge. Our grocery store is 1.3 miles from home, but I would never think to walk there, mainly because there are no sidewalks on the entire stretch of 28th Street–the most direct route. However, if I take Alger, a residential street, the walk is much safer and more pleasant. Too bad that rerouting makes the trip 1.9 miles. But that’s a perfectly lovely bike ride. If you’re completely out of food and need about 12 bags of groceries, a car is perfectly acceptable because you can’t bike with that many groceries. All kinds of loopholes. In my hypothetical project, I’d leave it to the participant’s best judgment.

I walked to the post office today, and it was a mile away. It was great, except that I was lugging two boxes on the way there and on the way back, it was windy and rainy (good thing I had an umbrella). I’m still so glad that I did it. The point I want to come across is that we, as a city, want to walk and bike again. We want to be seen walking, we want it to be safe for us to walk, we don’t want to be ignored by cars and developers. We want sidewalks. If people start walking to their closer destinations, even though there may not be a sidewalk and they have to trek through a huge parking lot, it will add to the shift away from cars. Also, we could experience just a little bit what it’s like to not have the privilege of owning a car.

These kids know how to WALK
These kids know how to WALK

Starting Little for the Walkers

Walking is the best weight-loss plan on the planet.

It’s better than running because you can always speed-walk and you won’t risk knee or ankle injury. As your target heart-rate lowers with age, running is too strenuous.

When I moved to Chicago for three months, I lost 15 pounds. A guy I know who moved to Scotland lost 25 pounds. It’s because you must walk everywhere in these places–even though I took the bus and train almost everywhere, the walking was still more than in the suburbs. This is why all those weightloss advice columns say park far away from the store–they’re trying to replace what we lost when we made our nation suburban–natural exercise.

So I know I just conceded that suburbs can be a good thing in our future, and I still say so, but they have to be more walkable. Which starts with the citizens. Not with the sidewalks. Here are some tips for truly enjoying walking:

1. Walk with a partner.

2. Have a destination. As I mentioned before, the ice cream place near my house attracts many walkers. This is because you can’t drive up to it. The parking lot is in the back and there’s no back entrance. Every summer night, people swarm that place in large groups.

3. Take Group Walks! Group walks are incredibly fun. Conversation flows enormously better when walking–the backdrop is constantly changing.

4. Listen to some meditative music. If you’re walking alone, let it be meditative and spiritual. A walk can slow down your thoughts and change the course of a bad mood.

5. Walk in beautiful places. Enough said.

6. Walk for an hour or more. It feels really, really good when you’re done.

Swine Flu Death Rate in America Reaches .000024% of the Number of Car-Crash Deaths in 2007 alone

I graduated from Hope College two days ago. Several local news representatives attended the ceremony on Sunday, but they were more concerned with the president’s decision to shake the graduates’ hands than with the actual accomplishment of 700+ students.

Today, I talked to two little girls who were biking around the street. When I asked them why they weren’t at school at 10am, they said it was because of the “disease” and they had six days off.

I found this statistic about car accidents today. Then I found this statistic about swine flu deaths. I know that comparing a flu scare to the lack-thereof with our automobile systems is unfair in many ways, but it’s also revealing about how unfair the media can be.  Why are we so focused on a flu? Do we perceive it as more preventable? Are car crashes truly preventable? No. No driver is perfect. No driver can be perfect. I won’t even mention the destructive presence of alcohol–we all know this. But we can increase the probability of safer transportation by the way we plan our cities. Most roads are made to make driving easier and quicker, but these same qualities make it more unsafe.

People are more apt to be incredibly afraid of flying, even though it is safer than driving. If fear is such a controlling force in America, why can’t urban planners just scare people into supporting better cities and towns?

My answer: because they know it’s unethical! 🙂