Saturday, December 24, 2011

"Guilt is a useless emotion." (Wayne Dyer)

I haven't blogged for a while. I was about to feel guilty. Actually I've had low-grade guilt humming beneath my spirit for two weeks. My internal dialogue was running something like this: I have plenty to say, so why aren't I saying it? I'm slacking; that' s why."

But this morning, I stayed in the bed for a while and felt the weeks of over-activity weighting my body to the mattress. If we're lucky the holiday season brings gatherings, shopping, planning, and running around in crowds. If we're unlucky, it may bring sadness, regret, fear, and stress.


We can't beat ourselves up during a season that brings heavier loads. Some things will have to fall off until there's space on our wagons.

So my grounding tip this Christmas Eve is to keep your internal dialogue going in a positive way. We can't remember or even afford to give everybody a gift. We might not have the ideal circumstances with friends, family, money, or whatever. This might not be the happiest time of the year for you. That's okay. Lose the pressure. Life just is. It doesn't have to be any particular way. Do your best, and call it a day. And sometimes our best falls way short of our ideal.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

My new and improved aging process!

In the book Younger Next Year, co-author Henry S. Lodge, M.D. states, "Some 70 percent of premature death and aging is lifestyle related. Heart attacks, strokes, the common cancers, diabetes ... and many more illnesses are primarily caused by the way we live. If we had the will to do it, we could eliminate more than half of all disease in women and men over fifty. Not delay it, eliminate it."

Is that not the best news you've heard all year? Americans have become pretty sickly. It's evident by the number of CVS, Walgreens, and Rite Aids at the major intersections. And their parking lots are rarely empty.

So here's my testimony of sorts:

Two winters ago I went to NY to visit family and friends. I'm not exaggerating when I say that a good 20% of my time was spent rummaging through luggage trying to locate items I'd packed. My brain fog was clearly at an all-time high, and my nervous system was definitely lacking some vital nutrients. My heart did a fair amount of palpitating, and my breathing was shallow enough to realize that I was probably oxygen poor. I shlogged (my word) through the vacation praying for the strength to survive it all.

Fast forward to two weeks ago.

 I took the same trip, with the same people, to the same four-family house in which I grew up. The only difference is that this past year, based on the advice of my naturopathic practitioner, I gave up sugar and processed carbs (I still get to eat rice and whole grains-- the best food group on earth!). I exercise more than I did (but not quite the 45 minutes, six days a week that the Younger Next Year authors emphasize). 

This time I felt just fine. My mind was clear. My energy level was even. I enjoyed the crowds, the walking, the treks up and down the subway steps, the late nights, the wine, the chaos of preparing Thanksgiving food with loved ones. I realized that I feel MUCH younger now than I have for nearly a decade. I also realize that looking younger has become the feel-good accomplishment of our culture (and I don't knock that, because I certainly want to look good too), but if we don't feel good, the quality of our lives will be greatly diminished. Basically, we won't feel good enough to do the things that ultimately make us happy.

I'm ecstatic to announce that I feel a HECK of a lot younger than I have in a long, long time, and that is the key to some WONDERFUL milestones that I've met recently.... which I'll write about at a later date....

Monday, November 14, 2011

Emergency! Time Pressure!!!!!

Deepak Chopra wrote, “In medicine we realize that people who don’t have enough time are probably going to develop health problems. The discovery of Type A behavior, for example, revealed that heart attacks were linked to a sense that there’s never enough time. …” Ageless Body, Timeless Mind.

It scared me when I read that. I totally identify. I was not surprised to read Deepak’s words, “It’s no accident that the word deadline contains the word dead.” When I wrote grants for a living, I would have to go directly to bed after meeting a deadline and stay there for a couple of days because I was simply done. After 15 years of that, I changed careers and never looked back because I felt like the deadlines would send me to an early grave. I don’t even like to hear the word grant at this point.

Something deep in my soul knows that the chronic rush so many of us feel is unnatural. We know it's not good for us, and it doesn't feel good while it's happening. Whether you work out in the world or work at home, there is this underlying, nagging feeling of what comes next, and will I have enough time, and I don't want to be late, and when am I going to do x and y?

So what’s the solution? I thought about summarizing Deepak’s recommendations, but they are a bit too metaphysical for simply trying to make it through the day. His website, however, is worth the visit:
Linear time is simply what we’re stuck with (on this plane anyway). We only have so much leeway. So this weekend, I tried to come up with ways to save my heart—which has a tendency to race and rebel when under emotional time pressure. Since I want my heart to last for as long as I want it to last (a very, very long time), these are my intentions:
q       Make a daily list with the most important things at the top, and try very hard to fit in the things that really matter. So today at 4 p.m., I simply stopped what I was doing, locked the classroom, and drove to the track to get in my three-mile walk. I refused to think about the condition of my desk because that would have taken me out of the present moment. The condition of the desk will be in my present moment tomorrow when I walk into the room.
q      Prepare only two items for weekday dinners (plus I will always have a chopped head of lettuce, so it can be a third thing if desired.) I have this ridiculous, early twentieth-century habit of sometimes making separate dinner items for each of us—e.g., pork for my husband, chicken for me. I lost that habit today when I realized I must suffer from some form of mental illness. Two dishes—max.
q       Keep centered in the face of chaos. If you are exposed to people-- any people, there will be stress (kids, wives, partners, husbands, parents, family members, coworkers, etc.). People will always have their own agendas, and sometimes will have agendas for us. Everybody basically wants what they want. Sooooo, I’m going to remember my agenda and think long and hard before I respond to the desires of others. Deepak says to have an inner smile and take three deep breaths before responding (something to that effect). Doesn’t that seem like a wonderful way to handle people who are trying to steal our time? Because if we aren't mindful, we will run out of time without having done anything that we want to do.

I suggest that you come up with your own plan. To coerce you into doing so, I’ll leave you with a final quote from Ageless Body, Timeless Mind. “When heart patients are given demanding tasks under a deadline, a significant number grow so agitated that their heart muscles actually suffer ischemic or “silent” heart attacks (damage without any sensation or pain).”   Jeeze!!!!!!!!!  (But to make you a bit optimistic... I've read that we can heal practically everything-- even the most caustic and devastating illnesses with the proper attention and focus.)

Sunday, November 6, 2011

The perfect is the enemy of the good

I become a bit shy (such a childish word) when I’m sort of on the spot—like when I’m in front of a group participating in some forum that is not my strong suit. In such a case, I want the opportunity to really rehearse and over-prepare. Otherwise I tend to feel inadequate, and after the situation is over, I beat myself up a bit. I will remember every stammer, every omission, or any foolish statement. I’ll relive the discomfort and feel lousy.
Today I was about to go down that road after participating in a workshop. I wished I’d had more time to think about my role in it. But maybe because I’m blogging about reducing stress, I was instantly aware of the truth of the matter. My self-criticism was irrelevant—nothing major at all. Nothing I would judge anybody else harshly for committing or omitting. I was able to catch myself and basically say, “Who do I think I am that I have to expect such perfection from myself?”
My friend mentioned a quote a of Voltaire's “The perfect is the enemy of the good.” Fixating on perfection is crippling. We will rarely feel that the time to do something is now. The time will always be after I’ve done this, or mastered that, or rehearsed however many more times. The need for perfection keeps us from putting ourselves out there in ways that would probably do us a lot of good.  But the chance never comes if we just keep self-critiquing forever.
There are some areas that demand such detail-oriented nitpicking—where almost really isn’t good enough. But there are many situations in everyday life that would turn out so much better if we would just relax and do our best and move on. Doing our best at the moment is the important thing. Also, according to many of the sages, there is no future—there is only now.
So ultimately the closest we will get to perfection comes from having the courage to put ourselves out there when we are merely good, and over time—that good gets better and better.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Inside and Outside Truth

Amy Bloom wrote in her novel Away, "Everyone has two memories. The one you can tell and the one that is stuck to the underside of that, the dark, tarry smear of what happened." I like this because everyone likes his or her own decent version of our story. In the retelling, we might shy away from the parts that cast us in an unfavorable light. Sometimes that might be the ugly thing someone said to us that hints at a deeper truth. Other times it might be the part we played in a drama that took a turn for the worse. Sometimes it’s a little thing we did or didn’t do that ultimately made a difference in the outcome.

So in order to stay grounded, I guess we can say or tell what we want to… as long as we don’t lie to ourselves. When we believe our superficial story and omit the “dark, tarry smear of what happened”, we are doomed to let ourselves off the hook too easily. We are likely to blame the world for our conditions when we had all the power. The power that lies in seeing our own truth-- stark and bare. Owning our truth lets us walk authentically through life, dealing with what really is there, and coming to terms with what actually helps or hinders us on our journey.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


All week the idea of recommiting has been with me. Life simply requires it. We all have intentions. Then life happens, and the intentions fall by the wayside. Then we remember what we set out to do and become discouraged, maybe hit ourselves over the head a few times, call ourselves a few names.  This may apply to exercise, eating, meditating, running, giving things up for Lent, cussing, judging, yelling, and on and on. My grounding tip is this: When we recognize we've fallen off, do the merciful thing and recommit. There's no virtue in hating little bits of ourselves because we're human. Really. That's a myth. A crock.

Give it your best shot again.  That's part of the journey.

Leonard Orr wrote these powerful words:
Infinite Power directed by thoughts of weakness can produce infinite weakness. Infinite power directed by wholesome and healthy thoughts produce infinite wholesomeness, health, and safety - beyond safety - peace and pleasure.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Magical Breathing

Seems that I would have mentioned this already. But when I consciously ground myself, I’m always stunned to recognize that, quite often, I go through life holding my breath. Taking measly breaths. Just enough to get me through a day filled with a long string of slightly tense minutes. Today I caught myself, and I started walking slowly enough to remember to breathe deep-down-in-my-belly breaths. A while later, I realized the tension had melted. I had a great day even though nothing spectacular happened! I found myself being in the moment--  just as peaceful and productive as you please. I WAS THRILLED! So simple, and yet so powerful.
And since breath is the most important element, it stands to reason that it will go a long way as a physical and mental healer. I really hope I remember to breathe tomorrow.

Sunday, October 9, 2011


I  love my Danskos! These shoes were made for walking. For me, staying grounded has a lot to do with shoes. I can wear these babies all day and night without thinking about my feet! Simple pleasures. Grounding tip: Wear comfortable shoes. Life is complicated enough without being reminded of your feet all day. 

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Stress-Free Weekend

What happens to me is this... I'm going along fine and feeling pretty decent. The better I feel, the more I feel like doing. I keep doing, doing, doing, and suddenly I don't feel so decent anymore. This usually leads to a feeling of being unbelievably overwhelmed.. to the point that I'm not feeling so clear about anything anymore. By the end of the week my head is buzzing.

My grounding tip... Go to bed. Get some rest. Forget fun. Forget obligation. Sleep till you get that pressed-down feeling in your bed, and even if life is happening all around you, don't get up till you know you've slept late. Then get up and move slowly. Really slowly. Don't get too far away from a chair or a bed. I did it this weekend. I feel sooo much better. It works.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

A wounded heart is the most likely to wound....

Dozens of times I've read about the world being a mirror. That was very cryptic. Now I understand it. People project their beliefs out into the world. If my heart has been broken four times, then I'd expect the fifth love to come along and break it as well.That's the cycle... the self-fulfilling prophecy. And what's very strange is that the person who has been hurt will often say and do some very mean things to you. It's the "I'll get you before you get me" syndrome. Eckhart Tolle refers to "pain-bodies"-- the hurt places within that are triggered by the most innocuous things. So my grounding tip is to beware the walking wounded because they may just strike out. But don't take it personally because 9 times out of 10 (don't quote me on that), it's not about you at all.

The other day I told a student who has a very caustic attitude that he needed to stop addressing me in such a harsh tone. He said, "People are always yelling at me." I said, "But I don't yell at you. I never yell at you. I speak nicely to you." He looked at me with surprise and said, "Oh. I'm sorry."

Saturday, September 3, 2011

One well-lived day at a time rewrites your history.

That idea came to me a few months ago. And I believe it. There's a statistic about our only using some tiny fraction of our brain power. Couple that with the amount of time that our society actively encourages us to waste time, and you can see why so many people are not happy with themselves. Notice how there is nolonger a commercial interruption between television shows. Or notice how they play marathons of your favorite shows back to back to back. We are suckered into becoming passive consumers of whatever advertisers are paid to sell us. Such a lifestyle will leave you wanting for damned near everything you've ever desired... and never getting it. (I won't even mention addiction to the social media!)

So we've got to push ourselves against the 21st century tide. For me that means carrying my sneakers in the car so I can get some walking in at the end of some days. I have to set up my crockpot so I can have some slow food cooking, so I don't fall into the fast-food trap. I have to leave behind the idea of a comfort zone because, as I wrote before, a wide comfort zone won't get me what I want. And I also have to get enough sleep, because if I'm tired, I won't feel like doing any of the stuff that truly satisfies me-- like exercising, writing, and eating good healthy homemade food.

If I incorporate these things into my life, I am a happier wife, mother, family member, and friend. And I have well-lived days. If I don't I become irritable and annoyed, and generally dissatisfied-- creating ugly chapters in my personal history book. So I'm really trying to keep from falling for the easy outs that can take away my control of my desired destiny.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Comfort Zone

"Happiness begins at the end of my comfort zone." (anonymous, quoted by Stephanie McIntyre)

That line says it all. What does a comfort zone bring? More of the same. Getting out of it is like starting to exercise... there may be a bit of resistance, maybe a little pain, discomfort. Or it can be like speaking a new language... awkward, a feeling of stupidity, stumbling around in intimidating territory. I hate to do it, but I'll state the obvious: The only way to really live is to adopt a spirit of adventure-- even if they're tiny adventures, like:
  •         having dinner alone in a restaurant and ordering a glass of wine (or even two glasses of wine)
  •        driving down a highway just because you want to know where it leads
  •        buying a ticket even if you're the only one who wants to go
  •        talking to different people at work
  •        hiring somebody to do things you dread, so you have time for the things you love

The list can go on and on. Make a list of things that can stretch you beyond the familiar, and into the realm of who you actually imagine yourself to be.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Eating for Success

The most basic guide to what you should eat is your body type." Perfect Health by Deepak Chopra

In October I pretty much gave up refined sugar and most refined carbs. Since then, I can almost count the number of times I've consumed them. It has changed my life. The fact that I'm blogging, fixing my website, and following "how-to" manuals is confirmation that they had a horrific effect on my nervous system or some system. I'm thrilled! Sugar made me spacey and emotional and somewhat antsy. My mind was all over the place. A few weeks ago, I noticed how much longer I'm sticking with tasks, and how much deeper I can go into a topic before I'm distracted.

My grounding tip is this: If you know, or even intuit, that something isn't working for your body, give it up. It's hard, but it's worth it. In the long run, our taste buds will evolve to actually want a healthier diet; but we won't get back the hours and days sacrificed to sugar lows,  jittery nerves, and queasy stomachs. 

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Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Right to One's Opinion

"A man convinced against his will, is of the same opinion still." attributed to Dale Carnegie, et. al.

Debating and justifying were two of my favorite pasttimes for decades. Friends, cousins, and I would belabor a topic with heels dug firmly and deeply into a particular point of view. We were hoarse with righteous indignation, shouting until the sun rose. It was rare that anyone changed perspectives-- although some conceded because they were simply worn out.

Slowly it dawned on me that each person simply walks in his or her own shoes, so there is little value in convincing another to see and believe as I do. The need to make another understand my point has more to do with my need for security-- for confirmation that I am right. But right is relative, and so is wrong. Mistakes, learning, and growing make up our respective journeys; and the journey is life.

I'm now testing the validity of my own assumptions and actions. I'm trying my best to leave others to do as they please. Amazingly, as I let others have their own opinions without my interference, I feel freer. When I acknowledge each person's rights, I am more aware of my own.

Sunday, May 29, 2011


"There is no physician like cheerful thought for dissipating the ills of the body; there is no comforter to compare with good will for dispersing the shadows of grief and sorrow." James Allen

Yesterday I visited two women in their mid and late sixties. They are of marginal means, have health challenges, and limited mobility. One has cancer, and is taking chemotherapy. But... in spite of all this, they have stronger life forces and joie de vivre than anyone I've come across in a very long time. Though their bodies are challenged, their minds and spirits are glowing with health. Many would have crumbled months or years ago. Would have taken to their beds and given up, succumbed to weakness, pain, and despair. But these two had stayed up till 5 a.m. watching mysteries, and had awakened two hours later to prepare food for their visitors. The afternoon passed with a comfortable rhythm of food, laughter, and stories from the past and present. All the while, I marvelled at how neat and clean their apartment was, and I listened intently for clues about their daily and monthly routines. I detected excitement, contentment, and love between all their lines. I learned a lesson during these six or seven hours. They are winning at the game of life. No matter what life has brought to us, now is what we have. There is no need to waste time commiserating. The magic of life is in squeezing the joy out of the day we're in. Life will deliver a mulititude of challenges, but yesterday I learned, firsthand, that perspective is everything. Conditions won't get the best of these women because they're not focused on the diagnoses and prognosis and limitations.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Enjoy Life While You Can

"People are forever expressing their loneliness, despair, frustration, and loss of hope. ... They are constantly finding reasons for their unhappiness in those around them and in their external environment." (Leo Busgalia)
I've been really busy lately, and when I'm busy, I can get impatient and snappy. However, busy means my life is bustling, and I'm healthy enough to have relationships and responsibilities. When I read this quote, it dawned on me that perspective is everything. I really can choose how I approach exercising in the morning, preparing dinner in the evening, and meeting deadlines throughout the day. I make dozens of decisions from the time I rise until I retire. Nobody and nothing sits in my brain, having my experience. If we lean on the tendency to criticize and complain, we'll never be content. Sometimes we don't know how good we have it until something worse happens. We must use our power to enjoy as many parts of our lives as we can, while we can.

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