Monthly Archives: July 2014

Is This Really What We Want?

UnknownThe US seems to be having a will power crisis. Those in power are running amok, and the people seem to have lost their will to do anything about the situation. We have elections coming up soon so we will hear a boat load of screaming and shouting about what is wrong and how useless and ineffective and blah blah blah. But we won’t hear much about workable plans for change. We can examine the records of most of these people and notice they did almost none of what they promised yet they still went home with paychecks 52 weeks of the year.

But what about our will people? What’s become of self-determination? The strength of character to walk onto a boat when you don’t know what’s on the other side of the ocean. The courage to climb into a covered wagon and ride for months through known dangers to reach a better place. The guts to put your life in danger to stand up to white supremacists. This is our 1collective past – our ancestors found the will to leap into the abyss which created better lives for us. Are we different from them? Are we no longer willing to take to the streets to demand change? Surely the majority of us realize our leaders aren’t paying as much attention to what we want but far more attention to what they want. Don’t we all wish we could make six figures doing what we want while telling the people who pay our salaries what they want to hear!! Wowza!

We have to create a collective vision and demand change rather than waiting for elected officials to do this for us – the few good ones we have are inundated with the many more that are worse than worthless. We can only do this if we successfully build stronger tribes of like-minded people. We are all waiting for ‘the shift’ with many young people even claiming to ‘have awakened’. Well what the heck, you have to be dead to not see that something will change!! So what? I’ve been listening to people like that for the last 30 years. We need really clever people to lead us there- is that you? Your mind is clever but we require more. Do you have what it takes to do the work, every day, to affect the change that needs to happen? As Gandhi said l “be the change you wish to see in the world”? Sometimes it’s easier than other times.

Is this is simply a problem looking for a solution? Are we approaching this like we would any other difficulty in our lives – a broken motor, or ‘whats for dinner’? Have we applied all of the skills learned from thinking outside the box to remedy this? Are we making the most of our leadership skills? Have we been beaten down to the point of inability? Can we pull ourselves back upright, use all of our charisma, passion, intelligence, persistence, leadership, and creative problem solving to remedy what we see that isn’t working in our world to affect positive change?

Or is it, as Paul Levy asserts in his book Dispelling Wetiko, group psychosis?

There is a contagious psychospiritual disease of the soul, a parasite of the mind, that is currently being acted out en masse on the world stage via a collective psychosis of titanic proportions. This mind-virus─which Native Americans have called “wetiko”─covertly operates through the unconscious blind spots in the human psyche, rendering people oblivious to their own madness and compelling them to act against their own best interests. An inner cancer of the soul, wetiko flavors and manages our perceptions by stealth and subterfuge so as to act itself out through us while simultaneously hiding itself from being seen. Not constrained by the conventional laws of third-dimensional space and time, this ‘bug’ in the system deceives us by working with the intrinsic projective tendencies of our mind so as to appear external to and other than ourselves, utilizing the seemingly outside world as the canvas for its full-bodied revelation of itself. Wetiko nonlocally in-forms, gives shape to and configures events in the world so as to synchronistically express itself, which is to say that just like in a dream, events in the outer world are symbolically reflecting a condition deep within the psyche of humanity. Drawing on insights from Jungian psychology, shamanism, alchemy, spiritual wisdom traditions, and personal experience, author Paul Levy shows us that hidden within the venom of wetiko is a revelation as well as its own antidote, which once recognized can help us wake up and bring sanity back to our society. How wetiko manifests─will it destroy our species, or will it catalyze a deeper process of global awakening?─depends upon recognizing what it is revealing to us about ourselves.

Are we really satisfied with what we’ve settled for? In this world of ‘being grateful for what we do have’, we’ve mistakenly forgotten what we don’t have and that it’s OK to identify what isn’t working and strive for change. Can we do more than sit here, day after day while ignoring the enormous mountain of problems we face in the world?

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Not Fitting In

imagesSome of my earliest memories include wanting to ‘be like everyone else’. Like all children, I wanted to belong. Short of that, I simply wanted to be – be comfortable with who I was, be like the popular kids, and feel good about the way I looked. Even then, I wanted to be at peace. It seemed I was desperate to fit in. If only my clothes were cool, my parents were hip, my brothers were handsome, and our car wasn’t a station wagon. As I grew older, conforming to society’s standards just didn’t seem to be in the cards for me even though I continued to try.  Try as I might, I couldn’t believe everything I heard or keep up with the current fads. I couldn’t sit through hours of mass on Sunday when all they talked about was ‘him’. It wasn’t happening. I was the square peg and I wasn’t fitting into any round holes.

Ironically, our society pays lip service to being unique. Industry urges creative problem solvers to apply immediately.  Institutions of higher learning agree that they’re looking for ‘tomorrow’s leaders’. Fashionistas maintain they want to look original. Every focus group I’ve ever participated in encouraged fresh ideas. But where is all this outside the box thinking?  We say we want creative ideas but do we? Education simply recycles the same model used for years. Politicians are ousted and ridiculed for suggesting new approaches. In so many ways, we all want to hide behind ‘normal’ in order to not stick out and not draw attention to ourselves. It can be heart-breaking to feel alone. After all, it’s no guarantee that we’ll be a beautiful swan someday.

For many with social anxiety, I realize this is a painful and not just uncomfortable issue. We tend to over exaggerate how comfortable anyone is in social situations, especially amongst strangers. And we over analyze why we don’t fit in and how much others notice our discomfort. But I finally came to the conclusion, for myself anyway, that I was overthinking ‘what others thought’. images-1I’ve seen a few cartoons that remind me that most of the time, what I think is going on isn’t. Don’t believe everything your mind thinks is one of my favorite bumper stickers. Cliques and social groups will be everywhere, all your life. That high-school mentality is not one you want to allow yourself to get sucked into and whether you share the same interests or not, it’s OK to be unique. But if practice is something you think would improve your social skills, there are plenty of lonely people in the world – the sick, the disenfranchised, the homeless. I know every one of them would hang on your every word! So getting outside yourself might be a good start. In spite of the heartache this has undoubtably caused you, reaching out to others is never a bad idea!

For me, once I had children and had others to think of more than myself, I didn’t have time to dissect social situations or care too much about those that seemed to have everything. I can’t speak for those that do fit in. I know so few of them although my health club seems filled with them and my neighborhood suggests that their lives are a lot more beautiful than mine. I can only surmise however that their lives aren’t as simple as it sounds on paper. I worked for a woman who was perfect in all those ways – beautiful, wealthy, well-connected, smart, and popular in all social situations. She was also a neurotic, obsessive compulsive with passive aggressive tendencies who thought everyone was after her money. Those years taught me that we all create our own beautiful lives – or not. The grass only appears greener from the other side.

Now I am finally learning to embrace my distinctive qualities and hopefully have the courage to not only think outside the box but feel good about it as well. Now, as an older person, I realize I am hardly alone  AND that I don’t want to follow what society dictates as ‘normal’, hip, cool, and trend making. I know now that I never really wanted that anyway. I worried needlessly and pitied myself because what I thought I wanted. It was a waste of time, really.

 

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Seriously Kids – Pay Attention! A Dozen Reasons I’m Cranky

OK people, even if the term global warming is a semantics nightmare, we got a sick puppy on our hands and we better put on our grown-up pants and ALL do our part! I am so tired of the excuses, of the downright ignorance, and the apathy. And I’m calling on you – gen x, millennials, and boomers – especially those of you who have street smarts, are well-educated, know how to read, and are good at getting what you need in most areas of your life. I can’t believe how many Americans aren’t paying attention, not staying informed, and not doing their part. In all fairness, there’s plenty of blame to go around but I want to piss people off enough to rattle them into action.

  1. No – just because you’re buying your groceries at Whole Foods doesn’t mean you are doing all you can. There’s education, action, and leadership! Start somewhere.
  2. And no, the organics you buy at Whole Foods or the fact that you shop at Trader Joes mean nothing. Trader Joes (owned by Aldi) barely sells organics, packages all of their conventional produce and can claim nothing more than being a hip place to shop. It’s the same food as Aldi, higher priced, and repackaged in a way they KNOW makes people feel cool. The organics at Whole Foods are not owned by small, do good/feel good companies. Most are owned by multi-nationals who spend millions a year at present trying to defeat laws which enable you to know if you’re eating food engineered by laboratories that are not only messing with your immune system but raping the environment at the same time.
  3. Inform yourself – while it’s true that my generation did a big disservice by ignoring the patriarchy a long time as they pillaged the environment and stole from the mouths of babes, the rest of you will inherit this disabled planet for yourself and your children and will have to get your head out of the sand sooner or later. And folks- VOTE!! You know all those first generation immigrants in your city? Soon we’ll hear you whining that they’re getting all the breaks because, guess what? They’re exercising their right to vote because where they come from they had no power and they’re not repeating that lifetime!
  4. Your SUV is NOT good for the environment. Justify it any way you like- you need to transport the neighbors kids sometimes so you need all those extra seats even though it’s usually only you in that behemoth, your family likes to camp, you live on a dirt road- whatever! All these gas guzzling vehicles, millions of miles of tar, and the oil for it all – this is not a sustainable model. Do the calculations! And stop driving everywhere – walking and biking are good for you, good for the environment and you can spend some time with like minded people like your family- it’s a win win!
  5. Just because it says “all natural” on the front label doesn’t mean you don’t have to read the back label. If you can’t pronounce it, you don’t want it anywhere near yourself, your spouse, your kids, or your animals.
  6. Round up and fertilizers (unless they came from an animal source) aren’t harmless. Neonicotinoids are disseminating the insects in our environment that pollinate our food. It’s in the paper every day and on the news but some of my well-educated young professional neighbors have never heard of this- really??? The same ones who have the ‘professionals’ come poison their lawn and then let the kids play in it. “We’re not sure where he gets that skin condition.” Pretty sad.
  7. Get a life and start some sort of mindfulness practice. Running yourself ragged with shopping, socializing, drinking, is fine in college but then it’s a good idea to grow up and pay attention to what’s going on right now, right here. You’ll wake up at 50 and wonder where the heck your life has gone with “I was going to take the world by storm” regrets. Trust me, the people around you would love you to be more mindful. They might try it themselves. Everyone would be better off. Really
  8. And what the heck- would it kill everyone to recycle everything? Is it really that hard? Almost everything you use should either be recycled or composted except freezer containers. Do your part! My mom was doing this in the 60s and she wasn’t even a hippie!
  9. There’s no reason not to compost- you can do it underneath your kitchen sink! http://www.gardeners.com/ Maybe you don’t need the fertilizer and thus see #11
  10. Newsflash- we have a population problem! I know the Catholics and the Mormons would have you think otherwise but if your employer can dictate your birth control I can tell you  the planet is struggling to support all the people we already have here. Not saying don’t have kids, just not 5 or 6.
  11. What is it with the lawns??? Fertilize the bejeezus out of it, disturb your neighbors not once but twice a week mowing it, and, icing on the cake, use a louder than a monsoon gas-powered blower to take care of the clippings. And let’s not forget the daily leaf-blowing exercise that’s popular with my neighbors in the fall lest we have, god forbid, a leaf sitting on our turf over the winter! Enough already!
  12. I know clothes lines are WAY out of style but your clothes will last longer and it’s cheaper to not dry every piece of your laundry at the expense of the environment.

It’s true I’m frustrated – everyone who is keeping themselves informed is. You’ve heard ‘if you’re not mad as hell you aren’t paying attention’ right? And it isn’t that I want you to be frustrated, I’m just ready for a lot more people to inform themselves. This apathy is driving me nuts!

So for more on the three eyed fish below, don’t flush your meds…that hasn’t worked out so well for those lower down the food chain. Ask the frogs.

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Good News and Depression

Admittedly, I am a brain nerd. Me and many other far more brilliant stars out there. And I am always thrilled to report there is more good news for those of us who struggle with depression. The brain has been studied so intensely that some of the mysteries about this organ are being revealed for the common man to understand. Best of all, there are ways to change the ways the brain functions without the use of pills, electrical stimulation, or other scary sounding tools.

I’m pretty impressed with Henry Emmons’ 2006 book, The Chemistry of Joy, where he outlines a three-step program for overcoming depression with the best of both Eastern and Western wisdom. And more recently, I read Laurel Mellin’s Wired for Joy – A Revolutionary Method for Creating Happiness from Within. In laymen’s terms, both of these books give hope to those who suffer from depression, whatever it’s underlying causes are. And since I am a big fan of Byron Katie, I will mention her first book, Loving What Is as yet one more excellent example of how humans have learned that we can change our life by changing our behavior.

Wired for Joy encourages us to use EBT- emotional brain training – which helps redirect the emotional brain from states of anxiety and depression to states of joy. This process is enabled by the brain’s neuroplasticity, meaning the brain has the ability to change it’s patterns, and uses the thinking portion of the brain (neocortex) to influence the emotional part of the brain (limbic). Balancing the emotional brain brings stability to our moods, relationships, health, and behavior.

In simplified terms, EBT and its broad network of online professional support help the average person like you and I to identify an emotion, apply some consciousness to what’s happening to you, and correct your thinking which alleviates stress. And the more you are able to consciously use these tools, the more the brain changes the patterns developed that don’t serve you, or your depression and anxiety, well.

“In EBT, you stop giving your power to the problems, and instead focus on how many moments of joy you experienced that day. How many times did you switch your brain to joy to break those errant wires that are messing with your life? And when you change your focus, those wires that ramp up problems change. You are weakening them. You ar breaking them. One by one most stress symptoms fade. Medications, devices, and procedures? You begin to need fewer of them. You stop thinking of yourself in terms of problems. Instead, you think about the abundance of joy in your life.”

IMG_2005Byron Katie’s work has been copied numerous times so you may have come across these tools if you frequent consciousness raising websites. I’m sure she considers this a supreme compliment and would encourage the dissemination of her work in whatever form you can find it, but in all fairness, she is the brilliant one. In this approach, which she calls ‘the work’,  she provides 4 simple questions you apply to your theories of why you are unhappy. Next, you turn it around.

Take a simple example of your own such as: “My husband should pay more attention to me.” Ask yourself the following and consider all your answers from the heart, not the logical mind:

  1. Is it true?
  2. Can you absolutely know it’s true?
  3. How do you react when you think that thought?
  4. Who would you be without that thought?

Now turn your question around so it becomes a series of statements such as “I should pay more attention to my husband”,  and/or “I should pay more attention to myself”. Here, you are trying to work through the brain’s resistance to change and find new neural pathways, fueled by the heart, to consider.  By considering these new questions, enlightenment often appears.

“When you can honestly look forward to experiences that have been uncomfortable, there is no longer anything to fear in life – you see everything as a gift that can bring you self-realization.”

In The Chemistry of Joy, Emmons discusses the necessity of feeding your brain nothing short of the very best foods which are widely available in the United States as well as many other places in the world. He discusses Ayurvedic medicine and correlates western ‘labels’ with eastern doshas. Finally, he interjects a third viewpoint, your Buddhist emotional type to further enable you to understand your own personal tendencies and work with them to alleviate stress.

So here we are again…hhmmmm… right back to mindfulness. All three of these wonderful approaches (something for everyone) implore us to become more conscious and aware in order to change the habituated patterns which then create stress and unhappiness and ultimately, depression. It may be my journey but everywhere I turn, the answer seems to be mindfulness. I don’t even realize it myself until I get to the end of yet another piece and realize – “O wow! The solution is always the same”!! It does make me wonder why mindfulness isn’t in the curriculum of every elementary school in this country.

So none of these tools are complicated to use and EBT is also available in online support groups. I always find that change is so much easier when you aren’t alone. I know it isn’t an option for everyone to approach this with a buddy but being human, we’re social creatures. Reach out! It can change your mind and your life.

Losing Weight: The How and Why of It

By far, the singular question everyone asks the dancer is “How can I lose some weight?” I first wrote this article more than 3 years ago and with a bit of acquired wisdom, mainly realizing that I need more information than the question alone supplies, I’m glad to say there’s even more dimension to my initial reply. “Why do you want to lose some weight” is now my standard reply because that really makes all the difference in the world.

The human body is an amazing machine and you can’t possibly not believe in a Divine force if you understand the mechanics even a little bit. And scrambled into the human condition of body, mind, spirit marches the ego (personality) and its all-powerful wants and needs. Left un-checked or shall we say, living in less than mindful ways creates habits that have some consequences on both how we feel and how we look. Hmmmm – right back around to mindfulness, as usual.

All of us know that weight is simply calories in and calories out and that no weight loss occurs unless we expend more energy than we consume. It’s more complicated than that in reality but that’s where it all begins. So we are left with the simple challenge of changing our habits since, obviously, if you’re asking the question, your equation isn’t working for you.

I’m unable to tell you what you are willing to change. Only you can do that. But any one of the following will work. In other words, do one of these consistently, or better, a combination of them, and you will lose weight!

  • Will it be different eating habits?
  • Will it be a different fitness routine?
  • Will you give up driving and walk, bike, or run everywhere?
  • Will you stop eating dairy products?
  • Will you stop eating meat?
  • Will you stop eating processed foods?
  • Will you vow to not eat after 7:30pm every night?
  • Will you give up alcohol?

Professional dancers are considered some of the world’s finest athletes. Physical endurance and strength training six days a week all day year-round necessitates learning about the body, specifically your body. Everyone is wired differently but we know what we want and what we don’t want. Or do we? The discipline required to study an art form is unique in this culture but anyone can master their own mind but not without effort.

  • First develop a plan (or follow someone else’s) – make sure it’s a good one
  • Find a buddy, a partner, a trainer, or a sergeant to hold you accountable
  • Follow the plan
  • Measure your success and offer incremental rewards
  • Achieve results

So we see the process is simple to understand, uncomplicated to devise, BUT (there’s alway a but, and yes, you will always have a butt) discipline is the magic element. If I told you this bottle of 500 pills I’m giving you would drop the pounds, you’d take the pills consistently, wouldn’t you? That requires discipline. If I told you this bottle of cream would get rid of cellulite you’d use it religiously wouldn’t you? And hopefully you’re in the habit of brushing your teeth each night before bed. Habituated patterns come in both the ‘good’ and ‘bad’category. And we’re all capable when we engage the will, which, like any muscle, needs exercising. More on that at http://zendances.wordpress.com/2007/04/25/discipline/

There are plenty of areas of your life where you’re disciplined. Along with brushing your teeth, more than likely you fill the car with gas when it needs it, buy groceries when you need to, clip your nails and apply your make-up… I mean this all takes discipline as well so you do have what it takes – I promise! So the questions are can you develop this discipline? How badly do you want this? Are you willing to devote some time, energy and resources to it? If it was easy, would you want it as bad?

Changing patterns is a stretch for us humans. We aren’t, culturally, prone to caring well for ourselves. Most of us alive now have lived well, in the moment, accustomed to instant gratification. But we can grow up, change ourselves, lead healthier, fuller lives with a bit of effort.

My favorite motivator is this question – am I a good role model? For my kids, my students, for my clients? Am I earning the right to be a leader? Could I be doing a better job? What if my own children came to me with this problem- how would I counsel them? And remember- you must have a buddy, a helper, a coach – someone who will give you that nudge when the last thing you want to do is put on your shoes. The will does gets stronger the more you work it.

Necessity, the Mother of Invention

My mom was all about necessity. She had all those kids of course so she had to be both clever and crazy which would explain some things about me. But the older i get the more I realize that some of those crazy things were really quite clever after all. For instance:

  • Using the kitchen scissors for just about everything – my favorite is cooking. She would cut pizza, produce, meat of course, fruit, herbs and veggies. I’ve taken after her with this one. My sister in law recently asked me if my niece had seen me at work with my scissors because now she’s using the kitchen scissors for all sorts of things as well. *Note to self- wash them often!
  • Tethering the youngest kid to the largest tree in the yard – I used to think that harness was a bit barbaric, even at age 8, but that child was the one that ran in front of the truck on the road by our home. And then all those years later when I was a young mom, guess what they were marketing to keep track of your kids?
  • Working at night so she didn’t have to pay for babysitters – OK, she was pretty chronically tired which isn’t good for your body, your mind, or your spirit, but I’m sure it saved her a bundle of money and she often said the night shift, where she was an RN, paid more and there were always openings no matter where we lived.
  • Driving a station wagon all her adult life so she never had to pay to have anything hauled around – well she also had a lot of boys in the family to help so moving furniture happened a lot as well
  • Moving across the street from both a city park and a private swimming pool – when you have 9 kids, you don’t let a house like that slip by you, right. There was always something for all those kids to do and usually playmates within our sight as well.
  • If it’s washable, it can go in either the dishwasher or the washing machine- toothbrushes, scissors, sponges, contact cases, pacifiers, combs. The sky’s the limit!

Mothers of old were terribly clever and I’d love to hear some of the things I’ve forgotten that your mentors modeled for you 🙂

 

Manifesting Your Destiny One Day At A Time

imagesI didn’t always think it possible that a simple human like myself could determine the outcome of an experience or even influence events. But I learned, over time, that by practicing and being mindful, I really could. So I began with some small stuff – programming parking spaces for instance. When approaching a congested area that I’ll be expected to park, I quickly call on my ability to create a place for me and most of the time, the empty space is there waiting for me. I will warn you however that you must be crystal clear in what you ask for in this incarnation because the universe doesn’t discern between the good and the bad. I have a quote by some wise Buddhist on the side of my fridge that reads “It is how we see each moment that determines whether it’s a moment of suffering or a moment of freedom”. In other words, all experiences are neutral until we decide which category they belong in. Pretty great stuff right?

When I was young enough to look good in a swimsuit, I set a goal with my new husband that we would take a year sabbatical in 10 years to make up for no honeymoon. I had been practicing my goal setting for some time by then and was becoming confident. I would decide what I wanted, work diligently toward that goal, and was successfully manifesting a wonderful life. But in this case, I’d become a bit lazy and inattentive. I failed to realize that, according to the rules of the universe, time off is time off. Long story short, my then husband lost his only large client 10 years later and was out of work for one full year.

So back to manifesting, I first heard this was possible when it was suggested that you begin each morning by ‘programming your day’. Of course I was skeptical but the results sounded incredible so I went about giving it a try. I was already spending time each morning in a meditative pose – no clue how much meditating was actually happening – but I had a designated time and place to begin this exercise. Soon I realized that it wasn’t like walking on water. My life began to shift and of course, so did my interest in the power of the mind.

There are some caveats with all of this (you knew they were coming, right?) and since I’m not trying to get everyone on the planet to buy my book, I didn’t title this post Seven Things You Need To Manifest Your Destiny as the blog gurus suggest. However it’s still important

  •  to have some sort of regular meditative practice because this requires peace, focus,  & clarity
  • to be specific (see paragraph 2 above)
  • your intention needs to harm no one
  • to sow your seeds in the fertile soil of gratitude
  • to have the faith that you are capable, worthy, and deserving
  • to understand this is a gift and to use it wisely
  • to understand that the more passion, commitment, and energy you expend toward your goals, the better

Clarity is an elusive goal in this crazy world and it requires work and patience. No one promised that you could have it all AND it was going to be easy. So spending some time on the cushion clearing the mind is a great way to be clear and specific about you intentions. Being grateful for the life you’ve been given, whatever it currently looks like and to those that gave you a leg up to where you are today will help you use your gifts wisely. And then there’s the work, whatever that means to you, that will make the outcome all the more wonderful.