We’re nearing the Winter Solstice, and the Sun is headed for a comeback. All I can say is, ”It’s about time!”, which rings true on more than one level. The days will slowly grow longer, and with any luck, I won’t feel like it’s bedtime at 5:00. It portends the end of Seasonal Affective Disorder for those living in the North, and gives me hope. As best said by the poet Shelley, “If winter comes, can Spring be far behind?”
This is the season for optimism, for hope, for making resolutions. Resolutions alone are hopeful promises. The fact that they’re broken by February 1st should be a given. Don’t think of it as defeat. Resolutions are meant to be marathons, not sprints.
So, what does this have to do with my cats? These two tuxedos are prognosticators of change. It’s as if they’re reading my mind as I think about the changes I need to make in the coming year.
Their approach doesn’t come in the form of a gentle suggestion, or prod. Instead, it’s experiential, like emersion therapy. Their therapeutic method doesn’t ask permission. Instead of suggesting ways to manifest my new reality, they create a situation that demands action on my part. They force my hand in their sneaky feline way, at just the right time, in just the right place.
The synchronicity of their schemes is not lost on me.
Their Exact Approach
I’ve been trying for the past year to remove the clutter in my house…in other words, to become what they call a “minimalist”.
It aint easy!
Cats are explorers. They’re curious. Today they discovered the family pictures so carefully arranged on top of the file cabinets in my home office. Their sights are set on the heavens as they yearn to get as high a perch as possible.
I could instantly get that those pictures were no longer safe in their present location. Those family pics were in imminent danger of becoming flying projectiles. They had to go…but where?
There wasn’t room anywhere else. For the time being, they’ve been stuffed in a drawer. They’re no longer visible. My filing cabinets are now minimalist.
The cats” reality therapy” approach has forced me towards my goal. I guess I should thank them. As they say, “the end justifies the means.”
They’re psychic little somebodies, and I have to admit, all in all, pretty good therapists!
I’ve always loved learning about WWII, so much so that as a part of my teaching internship, I requested to teach a unit on WWII. Coincidentally, this high school just happened to be showing “The Longest Day” to the history students. The school actually had a theatre. I was impressed.
My fascination with this war probably has something to do with the fact that I was born four years after the war ended, a war in which my father had served.
So I’m finally reading Killing Patton, the story of the infamous General. Don’t ask me what’s taken me so long, but because I’ve waited, I now need the large print version.
Patton served mainly in the European front. He was known to his soldiers as “Old Blood and Guts”. He lived for battle. He never lacked for bravado or optimism when it came to strategy and the thrill of a new mission.
He believed in reincarnation and sensed he’d fought in many battles throughout the ages. He liked to read the war strategies of long deceased warriors, and believed he had fought in the 19th century.
Strategy-wise, General Eisenhower, who was his superior, thought Patton too impulsive and headstrong to take a major part in the D-Day invasion, but used him as a decoy.
The truth is…Patton tended to obey orders if he agreed with them. If not, he made his own decisions and attacked where he felt it was most advantageous. For this reason, he was called on the carpet many times. However, Patton was such a successful General and victorious in battle, he became an integral part of defeating the Germans and liberating the Allies.
Patton vied with the British General, Montgomery, known as Monty, for choice battle assignments, and due to his rash temperament, often came in second.
Wartime romances were also the norm throughout the story, and Patton was alleged to have had an affair with a socialite Red Cross worker throughout the war.
What struck me about the battles was the freezing cold temperatures the soldiers had to endure. So many lives were lost, and life was cheap. Killing was the goal. Ethics and morals aside, war trains boys to be assassins. Surprisingly, toward the end of the war, as Patton gazes upon the razed buildings and bodies of the vanquished, he made a comment which mirrored the adage, “War is hell.”
If you’re a hawk, it will probably appeal to your belief in strength through might, and war as a necessary evil. If you’re a dove, you may be astounded by the brutality and loss of life.
The Buddhists refer to “the middle way”. Many years ago, I wrote a poem about war. In it, I wished we could “view each person as a brother rather than to kill each other.”
But, that said, we owe so much to Patton and those brave souls who defended our country. To them, we can say we owe” our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor”.
Sometimes writing a blog is therapeutic. There’s actually research to prove writing soothes the soul, so here goes. My latest frustration triggers are the robots companies use to avoid complaints…good for them, not so good for the rest of us.
I had a recent encounter with a telephone robot that reminded me I’m still capable of losing my serenity, despite years of dabbling in meditative practices.
The automated robot is one modern convenience I can do without. It’s actually only a convenience for the company that uses the automated woman. I’m sure they come in male versions, but I can’t recall. Maybe these companies feel that a female voice would sound more soothing to the listener, but to me she sounds like a creepy female version of Hal, the robot from the movie 2001.
It’s Halloween season and I could probably deal with creepy, but she’s also a sadistic somebody. She wants to know why I called in, and when I attempt to explain, she says, in a totally non-feeling monotone voice, “I didn’t understand.”
Enough Is Enough
It’s at this point I can feel my blood pressure rising. Before my next call, I’ll be sure to strap on a blood pressure cuff.
It only takes a second or two before I find myself screaming into the phone. I realize I’m screaming at a robot. On an intellectual level, I know how crazy this is. My emotions have been totally hijacked by this idiotic chick. Doesn’t she get what “connect me to a representative means?”
On some level, I think she gets it. This is where her sadistic tendencies blossom. She’s in total control, and she knows it.
At this point, my only option is to drive to the store. I used my best tones of civility and sanity as I expressed my discontent to the guy at the front door. Then, after taking a number, I smugly listened to the next customer describe how she was screaming into the phone to no avail. Misery loves company, as they say.
Ahh…The Joy of Humans
It’s so satisfying describing your problem to someone with real flesh and blood vocal chords, someone with the ability to actually listen, understand, and get you to a representative.
I have a renewed appreciation for humans. I know it’s not easy working in customer service, but replacing humans with robots is a disservice to humanity. There’s something so soothing about speaking to an actual human being.
But, robots are everywhere. replacing us at every juncture. I think they call it progress. Even surgeries are being hijacked by robots. Mercifully, at least you’re given anesthesia.
So, I have a message for these companies. Instead of sending me an email survey to ask how you did, you could send me an anti-anxiety prescription with the instructions, “Take 30 minutes before your next call.”
After a week of clouds, humidity, and daily rain, I’ve come to a conclusion. This weather pattern doesn’t simply affect my ability to walk outside. It affects my mood. Anything that affects my mood tends to affect my productivity, and not in a good way.
First, my energy level is lower. I become more slug-like. Couch-surfing, along with watching the news non-stop, becomes my go-to activity. This might be ok on an occasional basis, but during the rainy season (Florida is semi-tropical), this is a daily event. Even the days that start out sunny become ominously dark as the day progresses.
The Money Pit
On that note, I can’t tell you how much I spend on umbrellas. It’s so easy to lose one. If I hired a detective to track down my lost umbrellas, I’m guessing they’d be found on restaurant seats and floors, grocery cart baskets, check -out counters, friends’ houses, as well as the myriad of places I simply put it down.
It only takes a fraction of a second to forget about the umbrella. It’s not something that rates five stars unless it’s actually raining.
If I’m lucky and the stars have aligned, I’ll have left it in Whole Foods or Walgreens where I can actually buy a new one. In fact, I often do a mental review to see if I’m walking into a store that actually sells umbrellas. This is because not having to take my umbrella out of its “safe place” on the bucket seat is like a little savings plan. It’s an automatic potential savings of $14.95. It may not sound like much, but I’m here to tell you, it adds up over time.
I shouldn’t complain, because at least I don’t have to deal with Siberian temperatures here. Humidity may portend a bad hair day, but it’s good for my skin. That seems like a fair trade off. But I draw the line when the temperature goes below 60.
Ok. I know I’m spoiled by warm weather and tropical breezes, but let’s face it. I’m a weather wimp.
Here’s another drawback. You’ve heard of spectrum lamps? These are for people, like me, who tend toward depression or even old fashioned grumpiness when the sun stays behind the clouds for too long.
There’s even a name for it. It’s called Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD Syndrome. Talk about an appropriate name. I’ve included a link if you’d like to buy what they call a SAD Lamp. If you suffer from this disorder, which miraculously goes away after Spring Break, one of these lamps can give you much needed relief.
If you live in a region with four seasons, you get a little reprieve.
If not, you can always move to Florida.
But beware…there’s always the rainy season.
Here’s a question. Why are you here…on planet Earth?
Do you know? Is it even a “thing?” Or is it simply a passing fad, like the pet rock?
Has this question even passed through your mind, and why should it?
Ok. What Is It?
Many people think it’s a job…a career. It can be, but doesn’t have to be. Basically, that may be one of the reasons you’re here. I say one, because I believe you’re here for multiple reasons, with multiple goals or spiritual assignments. As they said on Mission Impossible, “your mission, should you choose to accept it, is…”
That’s the cool thing. You don’t have to accept it. This is called “free will.” Free will gives you power with a capital “P”. You’re in charge. Your acceptance is mainly a matter of whether it coincides or interferes with what you define as what you’re here to do, be, or accomplish.
However, and this is a big however, I believe it’s a setup. I feel, in the depths of my being, that you’ve already agreed to this mission, or you wouldn’t be here. Maybe you’d be lounging on some cloud, but you wouldn’t be on this battlefield.
Since you’re reading this, I take it you’ve accepted your mission.
You’re a soldier now…a type of Navy Seal on Planet Earth. In other words, you signed up for the ultimate adventure…life.
As a child, you probably didn’t give a thought to esoteric issues like spirituality, religion, or self- examination. There are too many other developmental things occupying your time and demanding your attention.
But at some point, most people begin to wonder what it’s all about, and question their place in this maelstrom. Thomas Moore defined it as “the dark night of the soul”. Peggy Lee warbled, “Is that all there is?”.
This may sound depressing, but it’s actually a good thing, akin to the butterfly breaking through the chrysalis.
There’s no one way that works for everyone. For some, the search for meaning is born through tragedy, misfortune or loss. The book,” When Bad Things Happen To Good People “by Harold Kushner comes to mind.
With others, therapy may crack open the search for one’s life purpose, or at least propel a search for meaning through a trip down memory lane, or a life review.
Never Too Soon To Start
At the tender age of 13, my teacher assigned an autobiography. I still have it. It’s called, “From Pablum To Pizza”. Even at that age, I had zeroed in on the events that made a difference to me, the events that stood out as meaningful. I believe those events were pointers to my life purpose.
Even meeting people you feel like you’ve known before can make the events of your life seem less random.
Finally, we all have intrinsic gifts and talents. We all have things that excite us and move us to action. These are also pointers to the reason we’re here.
Still, life is basically a mystery, but overall, I think these are worthy issues to ponder.
What Is It, Anyway?
As a therapist and life coach, I often hear clients talk about the subconscious. This is, at best, a murky subject. Everyone has their ideas on what the subconscious actually is. Some refer to it as the unconscious because it’s the part of ourselves not accessible without some type of intervention.
Loosely, going to sleep might be considered an intervention. Dreaming, known as REM sleep, is one gateway to the subconscious. But, how often do you even remember the content of your dreams? It’s hard to receive messages or even begin to do dream interpretation if you don’t even remember the dream. Yes, sometimes I get brief snatches of a scene, but they evaporate at record speed, leaving me frustrated and still clueless about what the dream might mean.
According to Carl Jung, a Swiss psychoanalyst, the subconscious is genetically inherited, and is not shaped by personal experience. Freud, however, did believe it was formed as a result of personal experience.
What seems to be the popular notion is that the subconscious is the receptacle for all our memories and experiences. One method of accessing these is through the Energy Therapies, such as hypnosis and The Emotion Code.
I have to admit. I love the Energy Therapies…in particular The Emotion Code. Developed by Bradley Nelson, it’s based on the belief that emotions are bits of energy, and, as such, are always in motion in some form. However, unprocessed emotions can become stuck at various locations in the body.
Let me give you an example. An argument with your spouse is likely to cause anger or anxiety. If you’re able to process these emotions through self -talk or a healing discussion, the energy generated by these emotions will quickly leave your body. However, if you’re not able to resolve the emotions, they can become stuck in your body, causing residual problems in your relationship or your sense of self.
Through a process called Muscle Testing, which essentially uses the strength of your arm to gauge the validity of certain statements, you’re able to get information from your subconscious mind.
How is this possible?
Your muscles actually weaken slightly when presented with an idea or statement that doesn’t resonate as true with your subconscious. In that way, you’re able to communicate with your subconscious and easily and painlessly release the emotions connected with that event.
I know this sounds really “out there”, but I’ve witnessed amazing healings with this method.
We all have a subconscious and it’s the repository for everything we’ve ever experienced.
When they talk about a “Life Review” after death, I wonder if they’re simply rewinding the tape of our subconscious mind.
Don’t Say You Don’t Know Him
I’ve decided to share a book review I wrote for my blog, I Read the Book. This book is written by a man most people will recognize immediately…Mike Lindell. If you watch infomercials, I know you’ve seen him…maybe too many times. He’s the My Pillow guy.
He’s nothing if not a “character”. Even though he describes himself as shy, he’s exuberant and outgoing. If you’ve seen him on TV, you know what I mean. He either doesn’t have a shy bone in his body or he deserves an Academy Award.
Success didn’t come easy for Mike. He struggled with alcohol and drug addiction for many years. Owning a bar was probably not the healthiest occupation for him, but his life has been nothing if not colorful.
Mike is, or was, a card counter. If you’re like me, I had no idea what that was. But if you spend much time in Vegas, you know exactly what it is. Numbers are his strong suit, and even in his druggie periods, he could memorize cards with the finesse of a savant. This is what kept him from going under financially. He was like those plastic dolls that pop back up when you knock them down. Mike is a fighter.
The fascinating thing about Mike is his strong intuition and connection to God. In my opinion, he’s a psychic. He trusted the messages he received, and they were right on. He seemed to have a direct line.
Ultimately, he made a success of My Pillow, and the book details his struggles. If I had to choose one word to describe him, it would be “tenacious”.
To be honest, I’ve never owned one of his pillows, but I highly endorse his Giza Dream Sheets. I recently visited a hotel in Austin, and those sheets felt just like the Dream sheets I sleep on at home.
All in all, his book is an interesting read because he’s a fabulous storyteller, and discusses his ups and downs with no holds barred. His personality jumps off every page. Simply stated, the book is page turner.
I can’t wait to see what he does next.
Let’s talk about the perks of meditating. You’d be amazed by the many benefits of this ancient practice. In an 8-week study, a meditation style called “mindfulness meditation” reduced the inflammation response caused by stress. Ever experienced stress?
I thought so.
Furthermore, research has shown that meditation may also improve symptoms of stress-related conditions, including irritable bowel syndrome, post-traumatic stress disorder, and fibromyalgia.
Another study found that people who completed a meditation exercise experienced fewer negative thoughts in response to viewing negative images, compared with those in a control group
Meditation can also increase your ability to focus.
First, let’s look at how meditation works. Because your task in meditation is to focus on one thing instead of letting your mind wander, it conditions your mind. You’re building your focus muscle. This helps you feel more in control of your mind. Ever walked into a room and wondered why you’re there? Meditation helps you feel less like you’re losing it.
Meditation can make you kinder. In “Loving Kindness Meditation”, you think kind thoughts about others, starting with those you love, and, with practice, advancing to those you’re not so crazy about. For example, the thought “May she be at peace” actually helps you feel more loving, or at least, more tolerant.
See For Yourself
If this sounds too airy-fairy to you, go to PubMed.org and research “meditation and telomeres”. Then comfort yourself by reading about your telomeres. These are the caps, somewhat akin to the caps on your shoestrings, on the end of each of your chromosomes. The more your body ages, the shorter your telomeres become. Aside from the aging process, stress shortens your telomeres. So, stress is not innocuous. It can affect the number of years you have on this planet.
Meditation protects your telomeres. Check out the research.
The average meditator doesn’t look like a monk sitting atop a mountain, or even Buddha sitting under the Bodhi tree.
News flash…the average meditator looks like you.
The Biggest Distraction
It’s easy to get distracted these days. There’s little respite from the media. If you’re even a touch obsessive, it’s hard to turn off the TV …if only for fear of missing something. It kind of reminds me, as I’ve said before, of the scene in “A Clockwork Orange” where the guy is forced to watch what they wanted him to see.
The problem with TV is it kidnaps at least 50% of my focus. This is okay when I’m folding clothes. But any activity requiring more than 50% focus, like reading directions, cleaning the litter box, paying bills, talking on the phone, or especially reading, is half- baked with the TV blaring in the background. In fact, talking on the phone becomes a battle of the talking heads if I happen to be watching a News channel.
Bottom line, there are many things vying for my attention, and it’s become increasingly more difficult to focus. I’m at the point I need to memorize my morning and evening routines so I don’t leave out a step.
The Magic Elixir
So, what’s the magic elixir to cure my lack of focus without a drastic reduction in TV? After all, this isn’t Lent. I don’t want to actually give up TV. I just want to be more efficient.
The answer, in my mind, is Meditation. Meditation trains your brain to focus. It’s like a magic pill, and it’s free!
They say if aspirin came out today, no one would be able to afford it. We tend to take it for granted, in the same way we water down our respect for freebies as potent healing modalities. In this way, we’ve drunk the kool-aid.
Meditation is a freebie…a potent freebie, and one of the benefits is an increased ability to focus.
Not only is it easy on your pocketbook, it’s an easy process. You simply find a quiet spot, set a timer for 5 minutes (if you’re a beginner), and focus on your breath or a word, such as “one”, or any word that won’t lead you down a trail of other thoughts.
Of course, other thoughts will interrupt you because the brain is always percolating with thoughts. That’s what the brain does. You’re simply harnessing, or in other words, training the brain by limiting it to one thought, or one focus, for a brief period.
This is your mental gym. It requires concentration. But the benefits are off the charts. And one of the coolest benefit is how meditation beefs up your immune system.
In my next blog I’ll explain how, and go over the other benefits.
So powerful…so cheap…so cool!