The Benefits of Meditation

The Perks

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 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.

A Distraction Hack

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!

Stay tuned.

Austin, Anyone?

 Texas Adventure

Ever been to Austin? I recently visited the city. This was a first for me. I’ve been to Dallas, but as far as I can recall, that’s the only place I’ve been in the state of Texas. Yes, I’ve been to the Houston airport, but that’s as far as it goes. So, maybe it was time to visit the Texas capital.

Texas is a proud state. In high school, a fellow classmate, who I believe had lived in Oklahoma for her entire life, announced that she was moving to Texas. I remember her exact words. “Once a Texan, always a Texan!” How, quickly, I thought, she changed her allegiance. So, there’s obviously an allure as well as a deep sense of pride and privilege connected with living in this state.

But, hey, I was just a random tourist passing through…or should I say “we” were just passing through. By this, I mean both me and my money. After all, I left a hefty amount of cash in Austin…at least, hefty by my retired teacher standards. I added to the coffers of the hotel, several excellent restaurants, as well as several trendy shops in the area.  

I left with several Tee shirts and a pair of new glasses. They’re in the genre of the elderly, but fashionable, lady known as Iris…you can find her on Netflix…thick, black glasses that definitely make a statement.

We also went to Milk and Honey for massages. We needed these after hoofing it around downtown Austin. 

The Duck Tour

Tourist wise, we took what’s called a Duck Tour. This is where your vehicle leaves the city streets and drives right into the water. I was hesitant to take this adventure after reading about the Duck Tour fatalities in Branson, but I was assured they no longer use the military style boats.

My first clue this Duck Tour thing was mainly for kids was when the driver started handing out “duck quackers”, as these clickers are called. Strangely, he didn’t give a “quacker “to me or my cousin. Maybe we looked too ancient to even bother wasting a “quacker” on…or maybe it was my curled upper lip that dissuaded him…whatever.

Diary of a Foodie

I like to think of myself as a foodie, although my love for McFlurries probably discredits this moniker. However, it was in Austin I experienced probably the best food of my life to date.

In case you go to Austin, it’s called Hestia. They serve you with individual servings shared by the group. With each serving, my cousin made this noise that sounded like pure bliss. I’ve never heard her do this at any other restaurant. At first I thought she’d bitten her tongue or hurt herself in some way, but I quickly realized she was in a state of culinary ecstasy. I had to concur.

The only not- so- great experience was in an establishment, which will go unnamed, that served really, really hot food. It must have been an Aries restaurant. I’m usually sensitive to spicy foods, but this was spicy on steroids. One taste was all it took. If there hadn’t been a pitcher of water on the table, I might not be here to write this blog.

Yes, the Covid was rampant during our visit. But we wore masks, and in spite of that, had a wonderful time.

So, even though I’m not a fan of Austin City Limits, the trip was a blast.

The Right Thing To Do

A Point of View

I read an interesting article this morning in the Epoch Times written by George A. Rivera. This particular essay was from a column devoted to the next generation. In other words, advice from those of us who are little long in the tooth to the up- and -comers.

In this article, he discusses doing what’s right simply because it’s the right thing to do. “Of course,” you may think. “Isn’t that a no-brainer?”

When the question was posed to his granddaughter, she had other ideas. These included to avoid getting in trouble, to get a reward, and to please others. 

Although these are all bona fide reasons to do what’s right, he reminded her that the only reason to do the right thing is because it’s the right thing to do.

 The other reasons are born of external motivations. Isn’t this, many times, the reason we do the things we do, and is there anything wrong with this?

Our Motivations

 In my mind, absolutely not. How many of my students would have studied for my Civics test if they knew it wouldn’t be graded? How many of us would go to work each day without the extrinsic motivation of a paycheck? So, getting a reward is an understandable reason to do what’s right.

What about not getting in trouble? That’s a valid reason. After all, only masochists intentionally cause themselves pain. Oh, and of course, teenagers, who use those years to experiment with risky behaviors, only partly because the human brain doesn’t totally develop until the age of twenty-five. Until that age, thinking ahead to the consequences of one’s actions may be considered only briefly, or not at all. Insurance companies who insure young drivers know this.

Doing what’s right to please others can be linked to getting a reward. There’s nothing wrong with this. 

But doing what’s right because it’s the right thing to do…ah, that falls into another category. This is what we all aim for. 

A Moral Dilemma

I remember when one of my students found some money on the school grounds. He was thinking about pocketing the money. This turned into a class discussion. 

“But nobody is claiming it. We don’t know who it belongs to,” he reasoned.

“Yes, “ I responded. “You don’t know who it belongs to, but you know who it doesn’t belong to.”

End of discussion. Taking the money to the front office was doing the right thing because it was the right thing to do. But this higher ordered thinking sometimes takes being exposed to advice from someone with more exposure to life than you. 

It’s the gift you give to the up- and- comers.

Flowers and Thorns

Just the Facts

Let’s face it. If life was all flowers, I guess we’d call it Heaven. Unfortunately, and I don’t mean to be a Debbie Downer, but with the flowers come the thorns. 

I love my cats, but they have claws. Their love pats can elicit screams.

 I like having money, but I have to work for it.

I love my work, but the paperwork drives me crazy.

When I was working full time, I had a 50- minute commute and had to be on the road no later than 6:30 am (thorn), but driving in the dark and listening to the radio was pure pleasure.

I love the convenience of ordering online, but having to assemble something is way beyond my mechanical know-how. Unless I study the directions at least three times, I’m likely to deal with the thorns upon arrival, which usually means, in addition to some salty language, a long stay in the garage.

I love to eat what most people would call meals, but unless I do some planning and start the prep before my hunger pangs set in, the so-called meals can look a little grab-baggy.

I love the convenience of the Internet, and how it’s opened up the world and become my part- time resource for the disease of the month, but I hate how I have to be on constant red alert in case I click on a phantom link and make some hacker’s day.

The Cold Truth

It’s true. We put up with the thorns to get the flowers.

Anyway, thanks for listening.

The check is in the mail.

Keep It Simple

Let’s Not Complicate Things

Sometimes I just want my world to be simple. 

One of the clues in today’s crossword was “a game where the highest number wins”. I figured it out fairly quickly. The answer was “War”, a card game my sister and I spent hours playing as kids. It went like this…you each lay down a card and the highest card wins. 

Let’s face it. It wasn’t chess. There was no calculating, planning, anxious moments wondering if your strategizing will pay off. Nope. Just lay down a card. It was purely a game of chance.

Why did I love this game? In retrospect, I hated games where you had to think, and I actually still do. Games are supposed to be a means of relaxation. Not having to think or calculate works for me. That’s why my perfect vacation is going to a spa. Life is simpler at a spa.

Simplify The Commute

Another way of simplifying my life is living no further than five minutes from a grocery. My current home meets that criteria. It’s five minutes from Publix and two minutes from a Walgreens. With gas prices increasing, my location is a little money mecca. I can get to Walgreens on the fumes.

This could even have health benefits. Not having a long drive to the store could mean fewer chances for a road rage incident, ergo…lower blood pressure.

Another idea that would simplify my life falls into the arena of taxes. You can’t avoid taxes. You know what they say…”death and taxes”. But they could certainly simplify it. When one of our leaders was exploring the idea of doing our taxes on a paper the size of a postcard, I was in tax filing heaven. Postcard size would be perfect…no fuss, no muss. 

Finally, I read a Facebook post that explored the idea of a cell phone that could tell you where it was when you couldn’t find it. When you screamed, “Where is my cell phone?”, it would reply “I’m in between the cushions on the couch”. 

This would eliminate all that desperate searching and anxious fantasizing about whether I left it at Publix or Walgreens. 

Thank you, Henry!

So, what are your ideas on how to simplify life? I may concur.

Thoreau was right on when he said, “Simplify, Simplify”.

He’s my hero.

It’s Just the Little Things

The Big Things

Life is full of things…big things and little things. We tend to pay more attention and give more value to the big things. Why is that…and what are the big things, anyway?

I’d guess who your parents are would fall into the category of big. So, choose your parents well. With their help, your character will be formed by the age of seven.

Another big thing would be whether you’ve taken advantage of your totally free twelve years of education. This counts as a super biggie because academic success usually translates into financial success. Colleges want you and four years later, employers want you. You have more choices. 

Working in a fast food restaurant is a big thing because you learn to work with the “public”. This is not a dirty word, but it can turn into one if you don’t have experience dealing with the “public”. Fast food restaurants are beautiful training grounds for this under-rated skill.

Another big thing is the marriage question. Do you or don’t you, and if you do, who will become your lifetime partner? This is a serious biggie. Fools rush in, remember. Make sure you know your partner, but first, make sure you know yourself. Who are you, anyway? What are your values, yada yada yada. This is big.

There are other big things, but I think these are the top three. Your choices determine the trajectory of your life and happiness.

The Little Things

But, ah, the little things can give you joy on a daily basis. They don’t cost money…just a little self- awareness.

I was watching the Crown last night and suddenly realized I was smiling. I thought this was strange because it wasn’t a particularly happy scene. But my body knew. I just had to catch up. 

My body was suddenly my teacher. I’d better start paying attention. It was a little thing, but not so little it went pass my awareness.

Little things can totally brighten, if not your day, your entire moment.

For example, as I rinsed out the cat food can before tossing it in the garbage, I suddenly realized the next day was garbage pickup. I wouldn’t have to gingerly scrape every morsel of tuna delight from the can. I was thrilled. I’ve had many band-aid moments from the treacherously sharp edges of those cans. It was a small thing, but in the moment, it made me happy. Somehow, I felt I had won. At least, I had won a reprieve. 

Many days of the week my neighbor picks my paper from the driveway and puts it on my front door mat. What a wonderful way to start the day! It inspired me to do the same for another neighbor. Don’t they call that paying it forward, or in my case, wanting to return the favor?

So, here’s a challenge. Observe how many little things bring you joy. The big things are important, but few. But the little things are there for the taking each day. 

Don’t let them pass you by. 

Hasta La Vista, Mercury Retrograde

What Is Mercury Retrograde?

Have you noticed things have been taking longer than usual to accomplish? Do normally simple tasks require several attempts before completion? Are you hitting all the red lights?

If so, you may be experiencing the joys of Mercury Retrograde. I only write about this because the last month has been a particularly brutal retrograde, at least in my experience.

So, what is Mercury Retrograde? If you don’t know anything about Astrology, you probably need to know this. It causes frustration. If you like to get things done, just know that the universe isn’t out to get you. It’s nothing personal…just the retrograde…a celestial event that happens four times a year. The good news…there’s a beginning and an end to this astral menace. You can compare it to the frenzy of the full moon. 

Ask Me…I Know

When I had cafeteria duty as a teacher, I tried to anticipate the craziness of the full moon and show extra tolerance for the kids’ behavior. I, at least, knew about the effects of the full moon. After all, if the moon controls the tides, it can practically suck a baby right out of its mother’s womb. You have to respect such a force. Well, I have the same respect for those times when the planet Mercury is traveling backwards.

Although different, Mercury Retrograde is just as powerful, and you’ll be reaching for the chill pill if you’re not aware you’re under its spell. The biggest clue you’ll get is delays. For this reason, during this time it’s advised not to sign contracts or important documents unless you want them back for correction or some other delay tactic. Don’t purchase new gadgets, cars, or cell phones unless you live close to the store where you bought them. Trust me, I’m 99% sure you will be returning to the store. Case in point…the hoop earrings I bought last week broke before I could even wear them…. another trip back to the store. I shouldn’t even allow myself in a store during those weeks.

Another not so fun aspect of this period are the number of fluky things that rain down on you. If there’s something really important you want to do or buy, it’s more than prudent to wait.

The Redeeming Feature

On the positive side, Mercury Retrograde has a redeeming feature. It’ll teach you patience.

But if you’re like me, and satisfied with your present patience level, just remind yourself how happy you’ll be when this is over and things run smoothly…”like butter”, as they say.

If you apply for a new credit card, just look at your daily trips to the mailbox as extra steps on your fitness app. Attitude is everything!

So, to leave with a helpful tip, the last retrograde in 2021 is from September 27 to October 18.

If you’re planning a trip during this time, don’t say you haven’t been warned.

What’s Happened to TV?

Let’s Go Retro

Growing up, TV was a different animal. There were only three channels. At midnight, that was it. You had to find another form of entertainment. That meant either a book or bed.

Having only three channels may seem like the dark ages. But I’m here to tell you those choices were choice…like choice meat. 

I say that because they were stories, almost in the same genre as fables, and they had morals. They were, for the most part, designed to make you think, and possibly suggest constructive behaviors. 

I’m thinking, of course, of programs like Lassie, Leave It To Beaver, and Bonanza. They had shoot em’ ups without graphic details of blood and gore. The writers didn’t compete for the most grotesque displays of human suffering. It was fantasy, similar to little kids play cowboys and Indians. The shows had happy endings. The good guys always won. 

Get Real

Unrealistic? Maybe, but I prefer to live in a world where the values of the good guys trump the villains. Call me vanilla, but life is scary enough. We don’t need terror pumped into our homes in 3D on a 60” screen.

As a therapist, I’ve had to suggest to more than one client to literally change the channel.

This also applies to our thoughts. We can easily scare ourselves out of our wits with a single thought. Often, instead of challenging the thought, we obsess on the thought. …bad idea.

Try This

Instead, try thinking, “How did that thought make me feel?’ If the answer isn’t happy, powerful, thoughtful, or optimistic, maybe it’s time to choose a better thought. In other words…change the channel. 

Another positive aspect of the retro shows, other than brilliant writing, was their demonstration of problem- solving skills. When Beaver Cleaver found himself in trouble, his father, Ward, led him through a mini problem-solving session. It’s along the line of “teach a man to fish”. You know the drill.

These days, when I turn on the TV, guess how many stations I normally watch. 

If you guessed three or four, you’re right. Go to the head of the class. 

Quality always beats quantity.

Are You Living on Elm Street?

To me, “Elm Street” is a metaphor for terror. Some might recognize it as a staple of Halloween. Others love the thrill and excitement, but I like to sleep at night. Sleep is hard enough to come by as it is.

I’m not a fan of using external sources of terror as a means of stimulation because I already have the ability to create enough terror on my own…media aside. Synonyms to describe this mental state might include fright, worry, or anxiety. Shakespeare was right. “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

Scary Times

We’re living in scary times. Yet, if you’re a student of history, most times were scary. To quote Thomas Paine, “these are the times that try men’s souls”. That was over 200 years ago, and they didn’t even have indoor plumbing. I know that alone would try my soul.

So, how are we supposed to be resilient with the circus we call life going on around us?

Ways To Chill

I often tell my clients to monitor what they see. What your eyes can picture, your mind absorbs. This is why looking at nature is so calming to people. I recently read an article about the ability of the colors blue and green to calm the frenetic nervous system. Personally, I use a binaural beats CD with sounds of the ocean waves. I imagine the color blue as I hear the waves hit the shore. It’s like a mini vacay where my hearing meets my imagination. It’s one way of tuning out the world. It’s my way of regulating my mind.

Another perk of regulating your mind is inviting your physiology for the ride up the lazy river of peace.


When Elmer Green, Ph.d and his wife, Alyce, were working at The Research Department of the Menninger Foundation in Topeka, Kansas, they demonstrated that ordinary people can learn to control their blood pressure, heartrate, muscle tension, and temperature. They called it “biofeedback”.

Using this method, I learned to circumvent my migraines by warming my hands from a temperature of roughly 72 degrees to 92 degrees. This was done purely by visualization. I imagined my hands dipping into hot sand at the beach or even visualized the blood from my head heading down into my fingers. As implausible as this seems, it only took about 7 minutes for me to warm my hands to this temperature. Yes, it’s easier to take a pill, but knowing I can use my own mind to control my body is pretty heady stuff.

Claim Your Power

So, we’re not total victims of our genetics, the environment, or our emotions. When we feel our terrors taking over, the power of our minds can rush in to save the day. 

In that way, we’re a little like Superman. It takes practice, but we can be our own Superhero.