Friday, December 16, 2016

Every Day Millions of People Leave the Earth Taking with Them Everything they Learned

When I had my 70th birthday, I threw myself a "Celebration of Decrepitude" because I thought I'd earned it.  70 years is a vast amount of time in people years.  In those decades there have been complex, daunting situations I couldn't escape from.  No choice.  I just had to live through them.  At no time in the past had I had any instructions for how to handle such situations. 

When my dad stepped out onto the back steps of his and my mother's house after the tornado and saw that the house next door where my mother and her mother had been and saw that it was completely gone, he said, "I just sat down on the steps and waited for someone to come and tell me what to do.  I had never experienced anything or read anything that would tell me what to do in this situation."

I'm glad he had the option to sit and wait for instructions.  In my situations, there were other people who depended on me and I just had to keep moving in some direction even though I had no idea what to do.  So...trial and error.  Lots of error. 

However, eventually I fell into luck or God and found people or they found me that could teach me how to do situations. 

When I turned 70 5 and 1/2 years ago I realized that it might be an idea with meaning to begin writing down the stuff I've learned.  I began to write a memoir.  I started writing about those lessons in my blog. 

Then a year or so ago I realized that everybody 70 and over has lessons they've learned that could be shared.  I mentioned to a couple of people whose stories I thought would be good ones that I was available to help them write them.  They turned me down.  So I gave up for awhile.  But now I'm feeling very stubborn about it.  I want to ghost write a series of stories for a book.  Watch out.  When I'm being very stubborn, I'm not going to relent.

Sunday, December 04, 2016

Convincing My Amygdala that the Saber-toothed Tiger is Extinct

Brain studies -- I love them.  We're learning so much incredibly important stuff that we can use to make our lives better. 

Right now the articles I've read have informed me that if I had high levels of stress as a child -- which I did -- that my brain didn't develop normally.  Here's my probably-oversimplified-but-probably-accurate explanation:

The amygdala is the primitive part of the brain that alerts us when it thinks we're in danger.  We get a surge of adrenaline that gives us the power to fight or flee.  That's a good thing if we're living in a world where there are saber-toothed tigers everywhere.  We as humans probably survived thanks to the amygdala.

However, there are a whole lot of downsides to this mechanism.  The main thing is that there are no more saber-toothed tigers.  There are drunk mothers, etc. and that seems to have the same effect on a developing brain. 

The amygdala develops a large presence in the brain and for whatever reason the hippocampus (memory and learning center) doesn't grow as large as it's supposed to and the frontal lobes (that tell us whether to believe all the signals of extreme danger coming from the amygdala) don't grow as large either. 

So... if there's a lot of stress from poor parenting, poverty, abuse, disasters or whatever, the child's brain develops into an adult brain that works mostly to keep the adult in a state of anxiety, anger, and prey to bad choices to make the painful feelings go away.

Not a very functional adult.  That was -- and sometimes is -- me.

Not much research yet on solutions but there's enough to make use of.  For kids -- their need is a consistent food supply; warm, loving, present, unstressed parents; plenty of stimulation.  If they don't get those things...  For adults-- we need ways to calm our amygdalas down -- like yoga and meditation.  We need a nutritious diet with lots of fresh fruit, vegetables and good protein and lots of omega 3s.  We need lots of rest and many connections with loving people.  Kinda similar for us adults, huh?

Apparently we need to really work on shrinking our amygdalas, increasing the size of our hippocampus and frontal lobes or we're just going to go through life feeling as if we're being chased by tigers.  If we don't want to have a world full of kids acting like they're being chased by tigers, we will want to help parents provide the things their children need.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Blaming and Complaining

Blaming and complaining - the story of my life for the first part of my adulthood.  If I was talking that's what I was doing.  If I was thinking, that's what I was doing.  When I was driving alone in the car, I told myself my sad stories.  If I wrote a poem, it was a whine.  I spent a lot of time on the phone with certain friends who either liked to blame and complain or who were willing to listen to me.

Blaming and complaining gave me a kind of high.  Adrenaline surged through me as I tried to make my life better by doing what I thought would work.  After awhile though, I would start to feel depressed and tired.  So I'd sleep, wake up, and do it all over again the next day.

I had plenty to complain about too.  I've never run across anybody that I've told my sad stories to who didn't agree that I had had bad treatment by life and the people in my life.  So sad.  So true.

On the other hand, my blaming and complaining never changed anything. 

When I'd had enough pain and finally asked for help from somebody who was immune from being sucked into my whining, I experienced a continuous series of revelations.  I'm still having revelations.  The first few were pretty tough to take, but the woman I had asked for help was someone I trusted to know what she was talking about.  I could look into her eyes and see it.  She was pointing out all the options I had that I didn't know about, and that was all she was doing.  At first, though, I felt as if she was saying everything was my fault.

I resisted taking the actions she was suggesting because it felt like admitting everything was my fault.  But just like everything else, I finally had suffered enough to try something she suggested.  (She used to say sadly, "I guess you haven't hurt enough yet to be willing to change.")  When I tried it, it was a simple action but it was me taking responsibility for myself.  And it worked!  I had some kind of spiritual awakening.  Until that moment I had firmly believed that the only solution to someone else's bad behavior was for them to change--preferably along with a groveling apology.

I wish I could say that from that day forward, I stopped blaming and complaining.  But that's not what happened.  I had to learn over and over again to wrestle with my mental habit of looking outside myself for solutions to the problems that I thought were coming from outside myself.  Turns out that both problems and their solutions were all inside me.  My perspective; my point of view were the source of them both.

Over time I've had other teachers.  One of them said that my blaming and complaining were just symptoms of my effort to not feel the grief of my losses.  I've come to believe this is true.  Little kids fight when they don't get their way.  Sometimes they show it on the outside.  Sometimes they hold it in.  But we all fight against not getting what we want.  For example, for sure what I wanted was for the people I loved to stay on the earth.  But some of them have left me here without them.  But the blaming and complaining about their loss, is certainly futile and never made me feel one bit better.

A better way, a more grown up way, is to be mindful of my losses.  To honor them in my heart by acknowledging the gifts they brought and feel the loss fully.  If I do that even for a little while, my grief eventually turns to gratitude and so do my urges to blame and complain.

Monday, November 07, 2016

Why I Want to be Mindful about my Intentions

Unconscious intentions are running through our heads all the time – for most of us we are predicting disasters, trying to read other people’s minds (and assuming they have bad intentions), worrying about the past and wondering how it’s going to negatively affect us today, etc., etc. etc.  Since these thoughts/intentions usually cause us to have negative emotions, we act negatively on the negative emotions, and create negative outcomes.

 If I get up in the morning assuming I’m not a good person and that bad things are going to happen to me today, bad things will probably happen – or at least I will believe bad things are happening – interpreting neutral events as bad.  On the other hand if I “set an intention” - make the effort to consciously decide who I want to be and how I want to act - there’s a very good chance I will have positive outcomes.

Setting healthy, positive intentions:

1.       Get clear about something you want and write it down.

2.       Share it with someone who will encourage you to take the action to make it happen.

3.       Do something today to demonstrate your commitment to taking the action.


1.        When you get out of bed, say, “Dear God, I intend to remember all day that I am in your loving care and to remember to be kind and loving to the people in the day.  Please help me remember.”

2.       When you get in the car, say, “Dear God, I intend to drive safely and remember that I am in your loving care.”

3.       Before you get with a friend or family member, say, “Dear God, I intend to spend quality time with ____________and I ask you to help me act in such a way as to make that happen.”

4.       Before you go to work, say, “Dear God, I intend to do my part today, to be kind and helpful to the people in my day, and I need your help to carry out my intention.”

5.       Before a business meeting, say, “Dear God, I intend to be calm and professional in this meeting and to care about other people’s concerns as well as my own.  I intend to be helpful to everyone involved as well as myself.   I need your help to carry out these intentions.”


Monitor your thoughts and words:  One of the major keys to changing your thoughts is to become aware of them!  Most of our thinking is unconscious but by checking in with ourselves, we can notice these thoughts and change them.  Noticing when we speak negatively (complaining, blaming, judging, predicting disaster, etc.), will let us know that we are speaking our thoughts.  Then we can change what we say.  I spend a good bit of time saying, “Oops!  I take that back.  What I really meant was….”  Watch out for words like “hate,” “terrible,” “never,”  “always,”  “but.”  Instead of complaining, get in touch with what you want and set your intention for that!  For example, instead of saying, “I hate the food at that place, “you could say, “I love the food at this place.  I’d like to go there.  Would that be okay with you?”


Take action:  Everyone has heard the saying, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”  That’s a good example of why it’s necessary to take action as soon as we are totally clear about what intention we want to set.  One of the first actions after writing the intention down is to contact someone to share it with whom you can check in to share what happened.  By sharing your intention, you solidify your commitment.  I also like to wear a particular piece of jewelry to remind myself throughout my day of the actions I intend to take.  Every intention needs reminders to help me stay focused on it.  Otherwise my mind wanders off in its usual directions that are either negative or have nothing to do with what I intended.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

How to Prepare to Vote Spiritually

Every year I try to decide how to vote without being consumed by the news of the latest attacks on one candidate or another.

Every year I wonder how our country has survived such scandal and cruelty in our election process.

Every year I want to be a tiny bit of sanity and kindness in the process.

Last year I was sick when the election came around, so for the first time in my life I didn't vote even though there were candidates I supported.  I know about early voting so this year I have choices about when to vote so surely I'll feel well enough to vote one of those days.  It's only a little over a week away so I'm preparing by studying the State Questions, praying and researching articles about spiritual preparation.  I found an article by Rev. Frederick Schmidt that helped me.  Here's my summary:

       * Don't vote from fear and/or anger.  Explore the causes of those feelings.  Think about solutions.              Find candidates that support those ideas or solutions.

       * Remember that character assassination doesn't help assess character.

       * Remember that after the election we all have to live together.  That's democracy.  Look for                     candidates that seem to be capable of that.

      *Voting requires us to be realistic about what our leaders can actually accomplish.  Look for                    candidates that are realistic.

      *Voting requires that we look beyond our own needs and the needs of the people we agree with                and vote for candidates that seem likely to serve ALL the people.

     *Look for candidates that look into the well-being of future citizens.

    *Pray for humility, wisdom, and perspective.  Sit in quiet humility and self examine so that our                 love of God and others drives our decisions.

This article was extremely helpful to me.  Maybe it will be to you too.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Benefits of Mentoring Others.

I've been missing my blogs for awhile now.  I read other people's and love them and miss writing mine. it is again.

I've had the honor for several years now of being asked to mentor a few people in recovery.  I, of course, hope they benefit, but for sure I benefit more.  Every time I suggest that someone practice a new behavior or thought pattern I realize that I could benefit from doing the same thing.

I don't suggest things that I haven't done and benefitted from myself,  but most things I've tried were good for a lifetime and not just a one time deal to solve one problem.  So...sure enough going back to a spiritual practice I've forgotten about is almost a thrill.

In the past week or so, I've suggested writing out decisions made with the help of a Higher Power and a wise person, and then reading what we've written every day for as long as it takes to integrate the new idea into my soul. 

This practice reminds me of my meditation practice.  I really only stay in the peaceful silence for about four breaths before my mind wanders.  After awhile I remember what I'm doing and return to the silence.  It lasts about four breaths...The same thing happens with decisions.  My mind wanders.  The events of the day take my attention.  The next thing I know I'm back practicing old ideas and habits. 

Thanks to my own mentors, I have a whole lot more patience with myself than I used to.  The mantra needs to be "never, never, never, ever give up."

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