Self Love…

May 30, 2009 by  
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Last night I had a small interaction that reminded me of when I was first putting this site together.

I asked a few friends of mine to write essays or post blogs for this site.  I have many friends that are writers and I thought it would be wonderful to launch with these very well written pieces. 

They all said yes but as the deadline approached, I started to get the “I’m sorry but I’m so busy can I write something next time around?” or the “I tried but I just had no inspiration to write about love”.

At the time I was reading Arianna Huffington’ book about blogging and one of the things the book describes is the process of reaching out to others to contribute to the blog. She was able to get commitments from many people including some of high visibility.

So I thought is the subject of politics more interesting or important than the subject of love? Or is Arianna more important than me?

Right about now you reading this could say that I have a complex of inferiority – maybe.  But the point I’m trying to make is that if I was highly successful it would be easier to get others to want to do things with me but I would still be the same person just with more money and maybe more self assured but basically the same person. What would be different would be outside of me. 

My point in discussing this seemingly small point is the fact that we/I can’t have a sense of worth or self love based on others as their interaction with us/me sometimes is based on things that are outside of us and not really about whom we truly are as people.

I for one will try to keep remembering that the truth of whom I am and my own value as a person is independent from how others see me and react to me.  And to those friends who have contributed to the site, to my life and love me for whom I am my deep thanks.

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A Roadmap To Peace…

May 29, 2009 by  
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“Peace between countries must rest on the solid foundation of love between individuals.”

- Mahatma Gandhi

 ”Choosing to cultivate love rather than anger just might be what it takes to save the planet from extinction.”

- Pema Chodron

In the Buddhist tradition much of human suffering is attributed to the effects of three primary forces that are at work in the human mind. This triad of psychic forces is generally translated as Greed, Hatred, and Illusion. Other wisdom traditions have developed similar frameworks in their analysis of the causes of human anguish. For example, the Roman Stoics warned against the influence of lust, pugnacity and acquisitiveness. According to these pragmatically oriented traditions, the task of building character, or of cultivating spiritual growth, aims to diminish the intensity of these forces that are circulating in the body-mind system. In doing so the practitioner creates a climate of inner peace from which an array of virtues may flow into the world.

The force of greed is born from an innate yearning to maintain a continuous stream of good inner feelings. It fuels the relentless drive to seek out experiences that will provide a steady stream of pleasure. This dimension of mind is charged up with an assortment of habitual cravings; with varying degrees of addiction that are directed towards objects or experiences that often lie beyond reach. The mental state of greed could consist of anything from lust, to an obsession with collecting handbags. It is a state in which appetites fan their own flames, generating an inner momentum that drives behavior.

The Buddhist approach to this problem is not an inordinately severe or ascetic one. It is not a position or path that endorses abstinence or a “just say no” mentality. It is a perspective that places the array of human desires in a sober context: Desire is seen as a good servant, but a bad master. It has an appropriate time and place. Moderation and proportion are necessary to keep its living flame from engulfing us in an inferno of agitation and addiction. Such states feel like a powerful spell that can compel us to make some really bad decisions. Desire is to be enjoyed when available to experience. When the world does not offer up the objects of our desire, despite having taken our best shot at getting them, letting go enables us to hold on – to a balanced and poised state of mind.

The mental force of hatred refers to the anger and aggression that can arise and overtake the mind when threatened in some way, or incited by a hostile or unpleasant presence. The mind of anger operates with an internal logic that is spelled out in its own native tongue. Under the influence of such a state, decisions and actions that would be seen as outrageous and destructive from a clearer and calmer vantage, seem entirely consistent and appropriate. They actually feel gratifying in the heat of the moment, often providing a sense of momentary relief and satisfaction. Invariably, this is followed by feelings of regret or even self-loathing, in proportion to the damage that has been done.

One way of looking at the phenomenon of destructive anger is through the lens of a cost-benefit analysis. When applied in retrospect such postmortems often reveal great costs and negligible benefits. The primary cost of being drawn into this mental state comes with the loss of peace of mind – it leaves you shaken and disturbed.

Reflecting in this way can lead to a realization that the mind of anger is to be regarded with a healthy sense of skepticism and distrust. Bearing in mind its power to mislead, to contaminate our perceptions and to steer us down the road of regrettable action, can help us resist its gravitational pull. Doing so brings its own rewards, in the form of tranquility and a sense mastery that nurtures self-esteem. Of course there are practical benefits to exercising such restraint as well. By regarding the mind of anger from a skeptical distance we can preclude unnecessary confrontations, or at least prevent an escalation of hostilities. All of this takes real guts.

A distinction should be made between anger that has been channeled toward appropriate action, and anger that simply corrodes the mind until it boils over and unexpectedly explodes. Consider an example of injustice in the world, such as the Chinese occupation of Tibet. When hearing of daily events in this part of the world – the persecution, oppression and destruction of a people and its culture – it is hard not to feel a sense of indignation and anger toward the Chinese authorities. If such feelings become the basis for a course of constructive action – e.g. active participation and opposition to these injustices, then it has served a useful purpose. Such anger has been harnessed to good effect. If however it is just another source of distress, another axe to grind, further evidence to fuel a sense of despair about the condition of the globe, it only serves to erode one’s peace of mind. The idea then, is to engage energetically while maintaining a clear sense of conviction and a cool head.

The mental phenomenon of illusion is the grand-daddy of the entire family of woes that inhabit the human mind. The mind of illusion consists of distorted or partial perspectives, of perceptions that are clouded and buffeted on a sea of unstable emotions, and is the root that grows beneath the other two categories of mental anguish.

I have no illusions about having breached these walls of illusion – or more accurately, my head is filled with just such illusions. So I will say just a few things based upon the occasional glimpse behind the veil …

… It is a state that is charged with expectations that are levied upon an indifferent and impersonal universe. It is a vantage from which it is difficult to distinguish circumstances that can be influenced or controlled through personal effort, from those that unfold independently of our will and wishes. The mind of illusion obsesses with schemes and configurations of thought that are designed to sway the world in its favor. It imagines a desired outcome will emerge from the nervous energies it brews up in high doses. While it may succeed in generating an abundant supply of such energy, the only certain outcome will be the erosion of our own peace.

Needless to say, the project of quelling these energies, of redirecting mental and physical currents that are charged with their own natural momentum, of rearranging errant and longstanding habits of mind, is a daunting one. It involves the cultivation of a form of insight that watches over the mind with an increasingly refined eye; it entails keeping a vigil that observes the impulses and tricks the mind involuntarily plays.   

Through the habitual cultivation of this form of contemplative perception, a practitioner can progressively strengthen the power of an inwardly focused lens that observes the activity of the mind. In doing so she creates the conditions that make it possible to see her world with increasing clarity – to recognize what separates conscious experience from what is referred in Buddhism as the “basic goodness” that is inherent in all Being. It is a path whereby one may cultivate an increasing experience of an inner peace that ultimately blossoms to express itself in the world.

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Recovering Alcoholic…

May 28, 2009 by  
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I have become an honorary recovering alcoholic. I follow their prayer; grant me the strength to change the things I can, the serenity to accept the things I can’t and the wisdom to know the difference, to the letter.

In the last 9 months of my life I have lost my husband, my savings (I was one of the people that thought I had invested with a member of my husband’s family but was actually investing with Madoff), and my father had a heart attack.

I have no way of fighting life’s current as things just keep coming at me. So all I can do is  stay afloat and concentrate in what I need to do a moment at a time.

Although I have endured much there is something liberating about knowing that I don’t know or have any control in what is coming ahead.  That opens up life to all kinds of possibilities; good and bad. 

It is not that I don’t hold any responsibility in what happens but it truly shows that I should deal with the future when it becomes the present.  So in essence I have an easier time living in the moment.

So many things I never expected have happened to me.  I grew up in Brazil and never imagined living in NY or LA and here I am.  Never imagined working in the film industry or being a widow but that is life.

Of course the best thing about realizing that nobody knows anything is that I no longer spend any money in psychics or tarot readers.

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Facing Off With Fear…

May 27, 2009 by  
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I recently saw a movie called “Veronica Guerin”, based on the life of an Irish journalist whose investigations of narcotics trafficking in her native Dublin led her on a mission to expose the devastating consequences of this activity on local communities. In doing this work she awakened the larger community to the impact of drug infestation upon the lives of families in the afflicted neighborhoods. As depicted in this film, it was her role as a mother of a young son that imbued her with an inescapable and fateful sense of empathy for the young families around her. The sense of interconnection this generated in her created a moral imperative to face down the criminals forces, and oppose the poisonous streams they had unleashed in these neighborhoods. By relentlessly working to raise the public’s awareness of these problems she was able to galvanize the community into action. Though she lost her life in the course of this fight, it was her work that ultimately cleansed these communities of the monsters residing in their midst.

The most remarkable aspect of her character was an indefatigable willingness to embrace her community with an urgency and sense of responsibility that is commonly reserved for one’s immediate family. In essence, she extended her perception of family – of those who reside within the circle of familial love – to encompass the community as a whole. This was a heroic expression of love, engendered by an equally uncommon degree of fearlessness. She did indeed experience great fear, having been shot, assaulted, and having the life of her child threatened in the vilest terms. Nevertheless she continued to pursue her work with an undaunted sense of mission, struggling at the same time to convey to her uncomprehending family that for her this was not a matter of choice, but of absolute necessity.

Her path of action was a manifestation of the hard, uncompromising face of love. It was an expression of love as an encompassing and inclusive ethic that radicals like Gandhi have espoused. It was a rare and powerful expression of one whose love is so great that it transforms the lives and circumstances of those who fall within its sphere of influence.

Her story illuminates the inter-relatedness of love and fear in the starkest terms. It unfolds amidst circumstances in which things of the greatest value were at stake and in danger of being destroyed. It concerns family in both the conventional sense and also in a wider sense that encompasses all of the human family.

Admittedly the ethos of Veronica Guerin sets the bar beyond the reach of the ordinary man. It is a story that examines the possibility of considering the bonds one shares with others in a different light. This is an aspirational theme: the expansion of one’s field of consideration and caring to include others with which one does not have an immediate, personal connection – besides sharing the same patch of ground.

This story also portrays the mystery that binds love and courage as though they share the same coin. Perhaps it is as Winston Churchill has said – that courage is the greatest of all the virtues for it is the guarantor of all the others. Fearlessness, courage allows its great accompaniment of love to take action, to come in to life.

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My Yard

May 26, 2009 by  
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I’m just about to write the biggest cliché of all clichés but when I walk outside to my yard and hear the birds and look at my tree full of oranges and at the flower trees, I think life is good.

My dog runs out and meets up with his friend, a street cat that comes to the house every day, and they greet each other and then lay down together in the sun.

If I sit on the steps with the dog and the cat and join them in taking in the sun, life is perfect.  For that moment I don’t think about my husband, who is gone, financial difficulties, or my dad’s failing health. 

Of course I have the privilege of having a yard with oranges, flowers, and animals. What if I lived in a slum and when I came out I saw garbage and hungry faces?  I don’t know.

But I would like to offer from my very bourgeois experience that for each person there is a “yard” out there.  That each of us needs one. And maybe its not one with oranges but it is only a plant grown from a seed. Maybe the pride of seeing this seed turn into a plant can be someone’s yard.

I have to remind myself tomorrow to come out to my yard.   Maybe you can do the same.

 

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Ruminations…

May 25, 2009 by  
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Rumi had a thing or two to say about love.

And I have a thing or two to say about Rumi.

Here is a link to a little background info on Rumi, in case you’d like to know more about him.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rumi

25

Friend, our closeness is this:

Anywhere you put your foot, feel me

in the firmness under you.

How is it with this love,

I see your world and not you?

This quatrain is a container of words into which a poet has poured his own mystical experience of love. The voice in the first stanza of this quatrain seems to be addressing a beloved friend. The words allude to the distance between them that has neither diminished their inner experience of connection, nor dulled an accompanying aura of longing. Though separated in space, these friends stand in a single stream of being that flows through both their hearts.

When the poet addresses matters on his own side of the physical divide, he suggests an inescapable sense of longing that troubles him and fuels the wonder that burns with it. He has shifted his tone, letting us know that he is addressing his question to both the human and divine subjects of his adoration. He knows the object of this love only through its surrogate – a world which is radiant with life and being. And yet in all its radiance, it is still only a surrogate and this suffuses the experience of this poet with great tension – between the love and awe that comprise his visionary experience, and the longing and doubt that confines the human mind.

In light of the second couplet, it seems that the first stanza has actually been an address of the Transcendent to the poet – the one who adorns the ineffable in words, making its presence audible in the world, ushering it toward an encounter with human minds. From this perspective, the words are an expression of natural benevolence; they extend the reassuring touch of an old and wise friend.

 36

When I am with you, we stay up all night.

When you’re not here, I can’t go to sleep.

Praise God for these two insomnias!

And the difference between them.

The words of this quatrain are arranged in a manner that intermingles human and mystical love, as a reminder that the barricade between them is merely an artifact of our own forgetting.

“Praise God for these two insomnias” – of longing and of consummation, the two channels by which human beings may transcend the drowsiness of their daily toil, the relatively meager boundaries of production and consumption that are conventionally imposed upon the experience of living.

The tidal motion between these two insomnias animates life. The lover follows the dance-steps of a natural opera; the insomniac is in the throes of an imagination that is aflame with the processes of creation that have illuminated his sleeping mind.

Were it not for these God-given insomnias we would never raise our heads and open our eyes to gaze on a wider view; our minds would remain tethered to the chores placed before them. Without them we would graze along the surface until we slipped forever into the darkness beneath it.

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Get Here (If You Can)…

May 23, 2009 by  
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Many of us over forty will  recall this melodic plea made by Oleta Adams several decades ago.  The lyric suggests from one lover to another, that  they must be together by any means necessary … no matter what it takes:

          “ You can reach me by railway, you can reach me by trailway

          You can reach me on an airplane, you can reach me with your mind
          You can reach me by caravan, cross the desert like an Arab man
          I don’t care how you get here, just- get here if you can … ”

                                                                               (Songwriter, Brenda Russell)

Undoubtedly, an all-time favorite for me, the theme is not hard to miss … it’s about expediency   it’s about connecting (for those well under forty, it’s about “hookin’ up”) … it’s about now.  Notice the lyric ascribes to making that “connection” not just mechanically, but mentally. Personally, I interpret it on yet another level, a level of spirituality.

Love is not just about being with someone or thinking of being with someone … it’s that and more.  It’s about being about the other being (you may want read that to yourself?).  It’s about setting no limits or boundaries on your kindness and compassion, your generosity and commitment, your support and care.  It’s like water, you can’t live without it.  So matter how you do it,  that love can be flown in, emailed in, called in, thought in; whatever the method, the intended recipient will get it, every time. 

No matter what the distance is or no matter how much time there is between you, when love is sent, it is received.  So with that said, I would suggest to the songwriter that (If You Can) as part of the title is more than parenthetical, it is truly unnecessary.   No airline, no law, no misunderstanding, no one … can stop love from being given to you or being offered by you.

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Point Dume…

May 22, 2009 by  
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A small wedding party has climbed out onto a rocky promontory that overlooks the Pacific and offers a sweeping view of the Santa Monica Bay. From the beach a few hundred feet below I watch the windblown figures and imagine their vows rising above the ocean currents, and falling into the wind. The contrast between the fragility of these figurines, and the stillness and solidity of the ancient rock they have been momentarily set upon, is apparent on this windy day.

This rock was once a sacred site to the Chumash Indians who inhabited the region in another time. The body of water that lies between the Channel Islands and the mainland comprised the watery universe this people lived upon, adorning it with myths and ways that have been washed away, essentially without a trace. I wonder about the rituals that were enacted atop this rock as the Chumash and others before them made their passage through time.

Human beings tend to view their lives with a sense of ownership, an implicit assumption that we are permanent fixtures of the landscape we inhabit. We have been wired with a distinct preference for immortality and a strong distaste for its alternative. Our culture further barricades our sensibilities against the uneasy murmurings of impermanence that surround us. This leaves us unclear as to the terms of a natural contract whose only guarantee is that we are just passing through. It is an outlook that comes at a cost, as most delusions do.

Not long ago I listened as a Zen monk delivered a dharma talk that touched upon this delusion, and on the human capacity to pierce it. A consideration of the Buddhist idea of “insight” was central to this discussion. This is a term of particular significance in the Vippassana Buddhist tradition, whose central practices are referred to as insight meditation.

The definition of insight that was offered by this monk was unusual in its simplicity and directness. It did not elaborate on complex theories of mind, or offer sublime strategies to unveil the illusory and errant machinery of human consciousness. Rather, it defined insight in the following way: it is a recognition that we are all occupants of transient vessels, that each of us is confronted by the same fundamental circumstances, that the human lifespan is alarmingly short, that our passage through the world is a one-way, one-time trip, that we will all ultimately disappear without a trace. The natural consequence of such insight, the monk continued, is a disposition and an inclination to co-exist with our equally impermanent neighbors, in a manner that is conducive to peace and harmony. The attainment of such insight (which is tantamount to grasping the central Buddhist tenet of impermanence) yields an attitude of empathy and gentle regard. It generates a desire to maintain a consistent course of action in this singular life that is guided by an ethos of shared vulnerability. The inclination to over-power, to make trouble for ones fellow beings, is subdued by such a vision of life. It is a vision that situates each of us within a highly intricate and fragile ecosystem that is defined by its ephemeral beauty. Nevertheless, it is a vision rooted in hard reality, not  soft ideals and the benevolence it generates is a natural ethic that flows from an awareness of our mutual, magnificent transience.

There is a wistful sense of surrender in such an attitude towards ones own life and the lives of others. We have each been designed with the fatal flaw that insures our own mortality. In this, if in nothing else that may be apparent to us, we are undeniably and inescapably brothers. This recognition compels us to confront a simple and profoundly significant question: How do I wish to behave toward my brothers, what is the legacy I wish to leave when I too disappear without a trace?

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Beautiful Young Blonde

May 21, 2009 by  
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I travelled to Brazil to see my dad a few weeks ago.  He had some heart complications and so I decided to fly in to help my mom and be by his side.

In the plane, behind and to the right of me a beautiful young blonde sat with her 3-4 year old son. 

Before we took off, I heard her on the phone say her husband would be flying down in a couple of days in his private jet.  I started to wonder who this woman was.  A private jet?  Not too many people ever have that experience in their life.  I could tell she was Brazilian because of her accent and that just added to my curiosity. What was her life like?  Was her husband Brazilian or American?  How did they meet?  Was he young like her or was he her sugar daddy?  My imagination kept creating new scenarios but what I was most struck by was the lovely manner in which she related to her son.  They played together and it seemed to me that they were both having fun, real fun.

In the middle of the night when I woke, I saw her son lying on top of her.  He was having trouble sleeping so she had him on her trying to comfort him.  I know she was really tired but she kept stroking him and speaking to him in a quiet soothing tone.

Eventually the boy fell asleep.  I kept looking at them as to me they made a beautiful picture of love. 

In this world where we are always trying to put ourselves ahead of others to bear witness to the opposite is touching. 

I know she was a mother taking care of her son but still for that moment at least to me her gesture was meaningful.  Her son was more important than her.

I wanted to thank the young beautiful blonde for giving me that moment to treasure.  So if you are out there young mom, my deepest thank you.

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About the Site

May 20, 2009 by  
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The Love Project Inc. came out of a very personal experience; that of losing my husband and companion of five years, on August 15th 2008.  Chris was sick for almost three years and everything about his illness and passing was extremely dramatic.  But more dramatic was the love we felt for each other and the love I still feel.  This powerful feeling gave us respite from the pain, strength for the fight and at the end comfort.  Sharing exchanging ideas and support and inspiring each other is the idea of the site.  So after almost a year in gestation on May 11th The Love Project Inc. was launched.

My hope is that the written and visual information on this site will entertain, stimulate, move and comfort everyone who pays me a visit. And mostly I hope you will be moved to participate in some form with your thoughts, feelings, and art to the growth of The Love Project Inc.

Deborah Calla, Founder, Blogger

Brazilian-born producer/writer/director Deborah Calla has been working in the entertainment industry for the past 10 years.

Feature highlights: A BEAUTIFUL LIFE (2008 producer/co-writer) directed by Alejandro Chomski and starring Dana Delany, Debi Mazar, Jesse Garcia, Angela Sarafyan and Bai Ling; LOST ZWEIG (co-producer) starring Rudigler Vogler; DREAM HOUSE (producer) starring Justin Theroux.

TV highlights: Carnaval in Rio – 2004 (producer/director) Travel Channel documentary narrated by Anne Archer; Carnaval in Rio – 2003 a co-production with Terry Jastrow, a seven-time Emmy winner; Chicano Artists (writer/producer/director) for HBO Latino, programming for TNT Brasil, FOX Latin America, as well as many commercial campaigns.

Deborah is a member of the Advisory Board of the Los Angeles Brazilian Film Festival, the Brazilian film programmer of the Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival (2005 – 2006) the Chair of the Diversity Workshop of the Producers Guild of America, Chair of MAA (Media Access Awards) awarding individuals in the entertainment industry for their portrayal and employment of people with disabilities.  She is also the writer of two books for Putnam and one for Scholastic.

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