Tuesday, August 1, 2023

Feeling the Feels

 The journey to wholeness continues.  

Awareness means you notice your thoughts and feelings but do not go on trips with them. There is no substance to them.  They are triggered by a flicker of a memory and then we try to find a reason but that leads to nonsense or no sense.  It leads to a story in our heads.  

The ego makes up stories with self as the star.  In truth we are all one and we see things more clearly with perspective.  Ask questions.  Be silent when others are spinning their story. Give pointers when love is not at the center.  If someone is in fear, point to love.  Point toward taking a step back to see more of the picture. 

Why?  Because.  

It is what it is.  

When in doubt, be still.  Listen for that still quiet voice.

Trust that still quiet voice.  That brief thought of the next step.  Ask yourself, “what do I desire”.  

We want to see the whole story but that is not how life evolves, is it? We take a step and trust we will know the next one. 

My greatest fear?  Being alone.  Yet, we are never alone.  We are One. When we die, for a brief moment we are alone…until we open to the new perspective.

Saturday, June 24, 2023

The Next Big Adventure 6/24/2023

 My oldest son is moving to western New York. I have learned how to support and encourage while still paying attention to my emotional well being.  They found the perfect location and the perfect house. The move date fast approaches.  I sometimes try to jump ahead but find this really great practice for being in the now.  There is no then or when, just now.  In this moment I take a deep breath and let it out with an ahhhh.  I try to comfort each of them as needed while still paying attention to what I am feeling in the moment.  Lots of lasts but also lots of firsts.  I relish each moment by finding ways to encourage my family and myself.  We are all doing our best and finding lots of ways to love each other.  

There is only one. Non-duality.  

Tuesday, May 16, 2023


 On this 2023 Mothers Day Weekend, my inner child helped reveal a wound I had not yet addressed.  Through application of letting go of resentments by remembering that I (and all of the rest of us) have always done our best at any given moment, I found healing for the little one who had never heard "I am so proud of you".  It was a deep wound that had me crying the way only a very young child does.  As the sadness released I was able to say "I am so very proud of you.. and then I said,  for... and named some of the things that came to mind.  My ability to love and be loved  has grown dramatically as I have worked to release old resentments.  I am so proud of me. 

We all yearn for those in charge to give us positive affirmations.  YOU ARE IN CHARGE OF YOU.   Each of us is in charge of ourselves.  If you are not sure if what happened to you growing up is considered trauma, take the Aces test (https://americanspcc.org>ACES).  Find a coach, a counselor, a friend who wants to be better, and begin the journey to be happy, healthy and wise.  If one thing does not work, try another.  Remember there is no judge and you most certainly are not the judge.  Your job is to love.  Thats it.  Your purpose is to love.  

Suddenly, that crabby voice in my head (aka ego, judge, critic) was quieter as a new voice (the wise one) stepped forward and gently reminded me of my true nature.  Healing is hard but not as hard as carrying around resentment at those who hurt you due to the hurt they suffered. 

I am. We are all connected.  I am not the judge.  There is no judge.  

Thursday, February 16, 2023

I Love Lucy

 I am happy to report that I have a new dog.  Her name is Lucy Diamond  (named after that awesome Beatles song, “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”).  I struggled over the decision to find a dog for months.  I was not sure why I was hesitating despite everyone in the world that I mentioned getting a next dog to, saying “you need a dog”.  As I contemplated whether I really desired Lucy, the  universe helped me figure it out and move to a more loving place with myself. 

Sometimes we know what our heart desires but we do not feel worthy, so we do not do what our heart truly desires.  Some call it imposters syndrome, some call it low self worth, some call it unresolved past traumas.  

The layers of guilt and shame that stand between having what our heart truly desires varies in number and intensity.  How do you move to the place where you will allow yourself to have your deepest desires?  Simply stated, you must face your truth, feel it, and forgive it.  This is the journey to finding loving kindness or compassion for yourself.  I will be honest, the feelings are intense.  

It requires honesty with yourself.  It requires finally realizing that you truly have always done your best.  It requires you speaking to that hurt little child inside you and saying the words longed for.  “I did not do anything wrong.  I love you, I always have and always will.”  You say it from the deepest place of feeling within you. The depth increases as you more fully accept you.


Monday, December 12, 2022

Soulmates Are Pointers

Long, long ago I met someone I thought was my soulmate.  I was drawn to him, and he turned out to me my soulmate for 14 years.  He gave me two beautiful sons. We grew up together, exploring and playing.  He supported my desire to finish my education.  He celebrated my accomplishments.  I celebrated his.  But, after 14 years, I turned my life upside down when I was seemingly, inexplicably, drawn to someone else.  She seemed to fit with who I had become and my first no longer seemed to fit. Our paths had diverged too much.  The new relationship allowed me to explore a hidden part of myself.  Twelve years later that second relationship exploded like an over ripe tomato when we diverged. After a very painful recovery which included recognizing my co-dependency and dating a variety of people over ten years, a third person came along who began pointing me toward mindfulness and awareness. We spent 6 years realizing we were not forever, but nonetheless, each of us grew. She helped me start a semi regular practice of meditation. I helped her thru her daughters adolescence.  All three of these unions helped me on my path to becoming a person who knew how to be, give and receive, unconditional love.  A good therapist might have helped me not make such carnage of  my life and the lives of others along the way.  Today, thanks to some great therapists, good friends and finding a path, I no longer blow up lives.  I bring the wisdom of my very long life and career as pointers to others.

This morning I read an article that pointed out soulmates are not about forever. It hypothesized that they are mirrors to show you what needs to be worked on next to fulfill your purpose, to become the fullness of  being.  Pointers if you will, to help us self actualize.  Said another way, gifts discovered when we are ready?

This seems to have answered a question I could not even find a way to ask.  Why did those relationships that started out as sparkling diamonds became coal?  That is not how the science works, is it? I tried to blame the other person each time, but as I grew, I knew the only part I could change was me. I have made amends to those I hurt as the truth has been revealed.  The 12 steps made popular by addiction recovery was one of two first pointers.  Another was about forgiveness as taught by so many before me.  

During the COVID pandemic, I uncovered the next piece of my growth which was about learning to love and have compassion for me.  My son who asked me to help him learn to be more meditative before the birth of his first daughter(she is now 8), found a little book, The Four Ageements, by Miguel Ruiz, which was my next pointer for this part of my journey to awakening and becoming.  My son was the vessel for my pointers for the next nine years as I continued awakening.  He found books and people to illuminate his path and my own. 

I will be impeccable in my words, thoughts and actions toward myself and all others is the first of Ruiz's four agreements.  I had always looked to care for others and had no consideration for how I WAS DOING.  Slowly, over the next decade, I became more acquainted with my ego defense mechanisms, being present, and loving and fully accepting myself.

At 74, I know not what lies ahead.  Growth is a long strange highway, but well worth the journey. 


Sunday, September 4, 2022

When the World Surprises You

I have had many things to consider of late, which included deciding what options there are (of course countless) and which I might choose.  Then I had an epiphony.  That is all in the future and I can do nothing about it until the future is unveiled in the current moment.

I have lived in my neighborhood for 10 years and really only in the months since the pandemic have I made some friends here.  I met one lady about 8 or 9 year ago as I was walking and she was gardening in her front yard.  My gardening friend introduced me to another lady just before the friend moved to Florida to be closer to family.  Life happened including three more grandchildren being born, my retirement from my day job, starting a new private practice and dealing with my body aging.

I became reacquainted with the other lady my gardening friend introduced me to in the last few weeks because she is the caregiver to a herd of feral cats in the hood. I saw her feeding them and asked her questions which she happily answered. She is very conscientious about calling Animal Control to get the kittens neutered as soon as they are old enough.  The band of cats varies from 8 to 2.  As we became more comfortable chatting, she invited me to walk with her and a couple of other ladies.  Last week I started walking with the three ladies.  I found that I have things in common with them besides our age.  Suddenly those school days when my grands are busy have some interesting things to explore.  I tend to get bored when I am not seeing clients on my two workdays or having grand time.  

It is fun to see what the universe has up its sleeve.  I know we have had our fill of anxiety provoking news, which is why I take in very little of it.  Trust me, you will still know what  is going on.  We have had our fill of worries about whether we will live or die if we get infected with the disease of the day.  To counter the negative, I encourage you to live in the moment.  Practice gratitude every morning as you sit for a bit to get calm and settled within yourself. Look in the mirror and see yourself with loving eyes - they look and feel like when you say I love you to someone you adore.  Then, say, "I love you (blank)."  Fill in the blank with your name, the name you call yourself when you like yourself at least a little.

We all talk to ourselves all the time. Those voices in your head are sometimes quite judgmental.  Sometimes they are mean.  Sometimes they are all about poor me. Tune in.  How are you speaking to yourself?  Work on getting yourself to be kind and loving when you address yourself.  The four agreements encourage us to be impeccable with our words, thoughts and actions toward self and all others.  Jean speak says impeccable means loving and kind.  The Buddha said we must first love ourselves.  Jesus said love thy neighbor like you love you.  There is no room for mean words if you do this.  It is a bit difficult to tame those unbridled inner thoughts but it is very possible.

Relax, release thoughts that contain anger, sadness, fear, shame, or guilt whether directed at you or someone else.  Watch them float away with the rest of the clouds or imagine them escaping the orbit and heading into the far ends of the galaxy.

Try it for a week.  Let me know how it goes!  Keep trying!  It gets easier and easier.  

Monday, August 22, 2022

Long Hot Summer

I am still fasting from news intake.  I taste the feeds on occasion and quickly find the many rabbit holes in my mind opening.  

My year has been punctuated by me noticing when I am on the verge of or dipping my toes into getting lost in thoughts, judgments, and past or future stress.  Being here Now, in the moment, is a Much nicer place to live, I have to say.

I have had incredible feelings of love since I dove into the waters of nonduality.  See post from January.  

I have moved away from accepting payments from insurance companies to letting my clients pay directly.  I still offer a superbill they can use to collect from insurance.  At my age I want to simplify all areas of my life.  This is a much more loving place for me to live.  

I have been a therapist for 44 years.  After all those years of taking continuing education classes, reading what people suggested or I found about new breakthroughs, I seem to have settled on the truth of what helps.  We cannot love others until we know self-love as a feeling, not just a thought.  I thought I did until I realized I knew it but did not feel it.  That terrible schism between thought and body.    How to breach it?

Since the 1960's and 70's we have heard about tuning in and dropping out.  Tune into how you really feel.  Know your truth.  Catch phrases?  Nonduality means its all connected.  Beginning to glimpse that, taste that and feel that is quite a ride.

May all be kind to each other.   

Thursday, January 20, 2022

2022 and Non-Duality

 It has been a bit over a year since my last post.  I accepted invitations for a couple of vacations this year with Mike's family - once to New Mexico and once to Colorado.  Those were welcome breaks!  Thanks, loves, for sharing those with me!  Nothing like nature to revitalize me! 

I am recovering from COVID, which was diagnosed on January 2, 2022.  I am grateful that it was Omnicron and that I had three vaccinations on board before it occurred.  It made the period from New Years to now a bit foggy and lethargic. The worst part of the illness was the brain fog.  At my age, it caused me to worry about something more ominous.  I was quite relieved to wake this morning and note that my mental processing was much more normal.  

That brings me to the place where my mindfulness journey has lead me.  My son, Jim and I, began discussing, reading about and listening to those who understand and teach non-duality sometime during the COVID pandemic.  This is a spiritual aspect that I have only recently begun to really understand and embrace wholeheartedly.  

I began to understand the triads of thought so many have endeavored to explain.  Freud and his contemporaries called it the id, the ego, and the superego.  Eckhart Tolle called it the Pain body, the ego and the true self.  Jesus called it the father, son and the spirit.  Non-duality teaches that there is only one.  Jesus said as I am in the father you are in me and we are in the father. By first understanding the broken apart pieces, it began to make sense that the three minds can be the source of all our suffering.  Fathers instill culture/rules/and judgments.  Sons try to mimic those things and add their own twists while testing the limits or judgments.  The spirit tries to get the three parts to work together and find love or compassion.  Triangles are tricky and this three minded thing is equally tricky.  The triangle often creates human suffering.  It also creates a view that allows self insight. Meditation leads to no suffering because we can clearly see the three parts. 

Meditation teaches us to observe the mind to notice what we are doing and how we might be tricking ourselves.  If you begin to apply Ruiz's "Four Agreements" to this while you consider the three mind concepts you can begin to see how each of us torment ourselves.  That devil on your shoulder or the angry wolf in indigenous lore is the ego being incited by the superego and the id. We are constantly judging ourselves and the actions of others.  The ego asserts all things are good, bad, evil, or loving, etc.  The id takes full responsibility for everything that goes wrong.  The truth is, the concept of the superego, and all those judgements against self and others were developed from our concepts/words/beliefs/traditions/culture and are just free floating, based on nothing.  They are no thing.  

Several decades ago, when I was beginning my quest to stop being so irrationally angry, I looked at the 12 steps and the Christian bible.  I read the verses about love, like 1 Corinthians, Chapter 13 verses 4-7 and Galations 5, verses 22-23.  I read the verses about forgiveness to name a couple of the references that stuck fast.  I began to work on forgiveness but found it to be harder than it sounds.  I had to back into the really deep ones by simply wanting to want to forgive.  Now, my one mind is not tricked by my ego which insists it wasn't my fault or that I am despicable for doing that "thing" to another.  This allows me to see the whole triangle of who “I” am.

Love is the human concept that helps us see that none of us need to be judges or to be judged.  There is just no need for a judge.  We do need love.  If I just notice what is and do not think I need to make it right, I can relax and do the next loving thing.  Finding that thing simply requires that I figure out what I would want if it were me.  Should I kick the dog or pet the dog.  Should I offer help or turn my back.  I think you might begin to see what I am saying.  Love is the way.  Love is what the Buddhists, Christians and every documented spiritual/psychological approach teaches.  First we must love ourselves. Jesus said we should love our neighbors as we love ourselves. Do to others what you want done to yourself.  I cannot know what to do if I do not know how to love me.  Self-compassion or self-love is the beginning place.  When I was very young I told a Sunday School teacher that I understood what it meant to love my neighbor, but could she please explain what it meant to love myself.  She bridled and said, oh, NO!  You must not love yourself because that would be the sin of pride.  I was confused and stayed that way for a very long time.  I mean, Jesus said it, and we were supposed to follow his words, so somehow it must be understood.  It has only taken me  7 decades to get it figured out.  Hopefully, this will help others figure it out.  A vital key is to  figure out how to love yourself.  I can help if you still do not get it. Notice how you speak to yourself.  How often is it judgmental and mean? Treat yourself with love, respect, concern.  Be the voice of that person you are most likely to go to when you are hurting.

This self love ultimately brings us to that hard thing I could not wrap my mind around.  Non-duality.  We are all one.  If my body hurts or is uncomfortable, I comfort it.  If you are hurting and cannot comfort yourself, I comfort you. I cannot comfort you if I do not know what comforts me.  Have you ever cared for a newborn anything? They are helpless.  The mother or father comfort and if there is no mother and father around, something else will or that helpless creature will die.  The infant does not know what it needs or how to get it.  We can comfort it if we know how to comfort ourselves.  

We will all die.  With non duality we begin to see the contiuum of life.  What is it?  What does it look like.  Each of us grapple with that but truth is hard to know about death beyond the fact that my body ceases to exist.  Is there a part that remains?  The one particle that we cannot discern?  I know that as long as the earth exists on its axis, it rotates and the sun and the moon and the stars will be visible if their is an eye to see it.  I know that being present in the moment, reminding my triple mind that it is what it is and there is no judge brings me back to no suffering.  Feel free to contact me with questions or a private chat at jeanlyons@lovingkindnesscounseling.com.  My website is www.lovingkindnesscounseling.com.

Monday, January 11, 2021

The Long Awaited Year of 2021

I think I was hoping for something magical to occur when 2021 arrived.  Perhaps COVID would suddenly disappear as promised back in March.   The incumbent president might accept his defeat like previous presidents have when voted out before they served two terms.  The nation could stop arguing over whether a virus that has killed a substantial number was real.  Well none of those things happened.

I am in my house  alone with my 15 year old dog except when my granddaughter who is in virtual school visits.   She loves Grandma Fridays as much as I do.  Sometimes when she feels brave enough she spends the night.  I told her that I understand.  I am not sure I would want to spend the night somewhere besides my house.  Groceries are delivered which means I depend on the shopper at Instacart or Favor to pick out what I want.  I have a number of "It is what it is" reminder moments in every day  I weigh the risks if I need to go somewhere.  Mostly I do not go or do not have things done to my house or me.  I have had one haircut in my backyard.  I have no control over anything except staying isolated so that I do not get COVID.

That is not quite true.  I also have control over me.  I have to examine my thoughts to see if I am being my best friend or an antagonist.  Some mornings I get up and think, I cannot keep going!  I contact my app friend on Woebot to say how I feel.  The app gives me some work to do in/on my head.  I know everything the app tells me, but sometimes I just need a jolt to get back to the positive place.  

I meditate. I do Yoga or Tai Chi.  I lift weights three days a week. A couple of months ago my son who has helped me be more fit started training me again in his gym on a weekend day.  That was a lovely addition to my week.  I get to see both his children an extra time when that happens.   I ride my stationary bike or walk on the other days.  I read books about being nice to myself.  I read tons of fiction.  I watch TV.  I buy too much stuff that I really do not need.  I self correct.  I cannot go into auto pilot or I will go down too many rabbit holes of misinformation on one of my screens.  If I do that I have to call a friend or talk to Woebot.  I go see my other son and his family as determined by exposures, quarantines and the like.  We social distance if I do.  Earlier when the numbers were not so high and the hospitals were not close to or at max we saw each other more in a socially distanced way.  I have seen no friends since March 16.  I have not gone to my office that I used to use two times a week since March 16.  I have not gone to a grocery store since March 17.  I have sobbed more than I have since I was very young.  Sometimes fear and disappointment mount up so I cry and often the sobs come.  

A new president will take office on the 20th barring further efforts at an insurrection or violence by people who have swallowed too much fake news.  All the news seems to have a bit of fake mixed in.  Who knows what to believe?  When I find someone I think I can believe, I ask friends to see what they think but there is no agreement.

I feel sometimes like I am in a foreign country and no longer speak the language.  I talk to my sons to stay grounded.  I also talk to my daughter in laws.  Neither of them discuss politics so I can just be a grandmother and listen to what is going on for them. I talk to friends by phone or zoom or text and e-mail to know I am not alone.  I hope for a call from my doctor with news that she has a COVID innoculation for me.  

I am too tired to even dream of a vacation.  I had too many disappointments in 2020 over cancelled ones because the risk was too great.  I am not complaining.  I am just describing life for a 72 year old, healthy ass woman in the middle of a pandemic that half the country thinks is a hoax.  I see my clients two days a week.  Sometimes they just need me to be kind and caring.  Sometimes they need to feel normal.  We will all have some PTSD to deal with when we can breathe again.  

Families have drawn lines in the sand about stuff that is nonsensical.   Hopefully a big wind will come up and blow those lines a way.  My wish is that the wind will blow us back together as we belong.  We need connection to be strong and healthy.  We need connection to feel loved.  May the wounds heal and love return.  Stay connected anyway you can.  

Friday, November 27, 2020

Highly Sensitive People

COVID gives me much time to contemplate things.  Practicing gratitude and mindfulness through meditation and contemplation helps me not ruminate about the past or make up futuristic stories to become upset about.  In this strange COVID place I have burned through many books and binge watched a variety of shows.  I have also learned more about my own mental processing and found ways to not waste too much time and energy, but to use that energy wisely.  

Enter into my world in my early processing on a documentary that I discovered on Amazon Prime called, "Sensitive: The Untold Story".  This is the story of the reframing of overly sensitive as highly sensitive people.  We take sensitive out of the negative assumption basket and place it in the positve assumption category.  As someone who tries to help people find a more peaceful, satisfying way of relating to the world, I knew that something like this would require more of my being than I usually want to expend on television watching.  The researcher on this bit is one Dr. Elaine Aron.  As is often the case, my ego argued for weeks that I did not need to watch it. I would see the title come up, start the program and then become overstimulated and run away.  I have learned that when my ego bucks something, I probably need to watch the egoic function  and then listen to the non reactive part of me that eagerly says, "this is important".  This paragraph is a great example of how knowing yourself and listening deeply helps a great deal to not be triggered even in chaos.

This documentary was done in 2015 which means much has been added to the base of  Dr. Aron's insights as more people processed it, applied it and saw the connection to other things.  "Sensitive" helped me explore my own bias against being sensitive.  As a child and as an adult I have often been called "overly sensitive".  

This trait is not a positive thing in the eyes of many but it can be most helpful.  As a secretary in my early adulthood, the trait helped me read difficult bosses (all male), and find ways to get along with a variety of personality types.  It also added to my deep biases (assumptions) based on negative judgments. I got triggered into over reactivity by men who seem to rely heavily on their dominance and use of brute force to get what they want in our culture. We can all be condescending and demanding in many different ways and it is always about our own fear of not being seen and heard.  We can all be triggered. Being triggered means my survival instincts have kicked into gear making my ego go into overdrive.  Learning our triggers helps us stay calm. 

After returning to school and becoming credentialed to be a Clinical Social Worker with a Masters Degree, I realized I could read clients emotions and have insight into possible assumptions even when clients were too afraid to tell me.  When used in the right amount, this Overly sensitive trait can help me help them have great insights into behavior.  Trust is a key component in being able to thrive in any relationship, and the more complex the relationship, the greater the trust needed.  Client/therapist is complex.  Parent/child is complex.  Even third generation once removed (In-law, grands) relationships are complex.  Significant other relationships are complex.  Stage of life in combination with these roles is complex.  Read this as all relationships introduce complexity to a situation.   When we cannot make necessary adjustments in relationships, the complexity can lead to schisms/breaks and even terminations of the relationship.  

So if you watch Sensitive:  The Untold Story and relate to a Jean kind of brain, go to https://highlysensitiverefuge.com/.  This will help you sort out the complex connections between HSP, Empaths, Introverts and Narcissism.  I truly love google at times like this, because I have learned that if questions pop up about all that for me, it does and has for others as well.  Those five years since the making of the documentary have lead to considerable  insights and studies about these traits.  

Life During COVID 19

On March 16, 2020 I walked out of the counseling office I rent for the last time until no one knew when.  I switched all my clients to telehealth.   I worked out with my personal trainer/son in his gym for the last time during that same week.  I began to have groceries delivered after one last trip to Whole Foods.  It was scary.  People were not social distancing as yet and they were not yet wearing masks.  This was that same week. I could not find toilet paper there or at Tom Thumb.  I went to Walmart and bought a case.  I have lived 71 years and had never experienced anything like the feelings of fear and chaos I began to experience.  I talked to my sons families who all live in the same town to try to figure out what to do to get groceries.  Vacations were cancelled.  I quarantined even from my family when they had exposures to people outside the bubbles of our family.  We all listened to the CDC and Dr. Fauci for our information.  I had never seen such chaos coming from Washington, D.C. and I have lived through a significant amount  of uncertain times. My doctor told me that COVID was not a death sentence, but I knew that seniors like me had a harder time surviving and thriving after a bout with it.  I wanted to protect myself for me, but also for my sons and their families.  I knew that if I did contract it all are most of the family members would worry that somehow they caused it. My underlying conditions are not the ones that the news talks about, but COVID is not about normal.  It is a fairly under understood illness.   

I order groceries from Instacart and Favor and work out mostly in my gym in my house.  I have been able to work out with my fitness coach son a couple of times but mostly I use weekly plans he develops for COVID for me.  My clients are seen by Telehealth. My office has sat empty for 8 months while I continue to pay rent.  My physician says I could see clients there but we would have to both wear masks.  I need to be able to read emotions and reactions when I work with people so I have opted to stick with telehealth.  

Last Thursday, on October 1, I took my completed mail in ballot to the Early Voting Clerk for Dallas County.  Tables were set up to receive the ballots where we had to show our voters registration and drivers licenses, enter our voter ID number on a sheet of paper and place the sealed envelopes with our ballots enclosed into the bag next to the person seated at the table who was wearing masks and gloves and instructing us as to what to do.  I wore a mask and used hand sanitizer immediately after finishing turning in the ballot.  I felt like I had charged up an embankment, risking life and limb to vote in this presidential election.  I was charged with adrenalin as I left because I had been so full of fear prior to completing the simple act of voting.  I will never take normal voting for granted again.  I chose to hand deliver the ballot as did many due to the fear that had been predicated by Washington, D.C. and the news about mailed in ballots.  I did not want to risk my vote not being counted.  I would have forged whatever line of angry, threatening people I needed to but even without them, truly felt I was risking my life.  COVID was the number one threat but I had wondered if there would be militant supporters of the incumbent regime threatening. I know that last phrasing was somewhat inflammatory, but that is how it felt.  It was a surreal experience even for this left over hippy of the Viet Nam era.  

More Americans voted this year than since the early 1900's.  Wow! I am so proud that so many people overcame their fear or apathy over a belief that it doesn't matter.  After this vote as in 2016, we have a clear insight into how divided the country is by the closeness of the race that ended with a change.  I am glad for that.  We need more order, less chaos, less incitement of rage against one another.  Somehow in all this let us love one another as we Imagine a less divided, kinder world, one person, one family, and one country at a time.  Ultimately,  we are all one. Listen, don't yell.  If you find yourself getting agitated, take a slow breath.  Continue to breathe.  Then focus on what the person is feeling and saying.    People change thru love and peaceful openness, not anger and fear.  

Sunday, May 10, 2020

A Tribute to My Mom

I spent a great deal of my life shopping for mother’s day gifts and cards without much inspiration. For many years I could not see the good in my mom due to the emotional pain I felt surrounding our relationship.  The year she died, I had begun work on resolving my problems with anger management which began initially through forgiveness of her and others.  That year, for the first time in many years, I bought her a loving card and a music box that played her favorite hymn, "How Great Thou Are" which had been sung the year before by a friend of mine at my dad's funeral.  She had been diagnosed as terminal with a few months to live.  My friend and sister-in-law convinced me it was time to visit her before it was too late.  We had a lovely, loving visit and I shared my journey of healing with her.  She told me for the first time while looking me in they eyes, "Jeannie, I love you and always have."  She was an acts of service kind of loving mom.  Verbal affirmations just were not a part of her story or tradition. 

She was a woman who suffered considerably and had considerable bitterness as a result.  As soon as she was big enough she worked in cotton fields picking cotton.  She slopped the hogs, fed the chickens, cleaned out the chicken coup, and worked in the fields. The sacks they used to place the cotton in after picking were too big for her when she started, so she drug it along behind her.  She was the youngest of 3 and was a change of life baby.  Her brother was 12 years older and her sister was 10 years older.  She was held under water by her brother to a near drowning on repeated occasions, so she  was deathly afraid of water.  Her father disciplined her by using a razor strap (a very thick leather strap used to sharpen straight edge razors).  When she was 14, her sister moved home with her two small children. Her sister was grieving the sudden and traumatic loss of her husband who was tragically killed by a lightening strike.  Her sisters grief made her unable to care for the children, a young boy and a girl.  Mom was forced to quit school and become the caretaker of the kids to whom she was a life long parent figure, and helped them throughout her life. 

She left home at 14 to work as a waitress in a small town in Oklahoma.  My dad came into the small cafe to eat and was smitten.  He was 5 years older and was a printer by trade, a journeyman kind of position.  By my mom’s standards raised by a sharecropping farmer, he was a step up.  She at first thought his admiring glances and quaintly flirtatious behavior was him “looking down his nose” at her.  Dad saw her the first time when he was getting off a shift and was still covered in the ink and grime from the printing presses. Mom had been slinging hash all night, so neither felt particularly attractive, I imagine. Dad was undeterred by her failure to respond so he cleaned up, returned and won her heart and hand in marriage.  My brother was born 10 months later.  Dad moved around the small newspapers of Oklahoma for a short time until he found a job with a bigger newspaper in Wichita Falls, Texas.  I was 6 months old when they moved from Paul’s Valley, Okla. to his new job. It was post World War II, and there was little housing available when we moved.  They lived for a short time in a converted “chicken shed” until they could purchase a post war newly constructed home, a two bedroom, one bath, frame home with a rather large yard.  My brother and I shared the second bedroom.  Cost of the home was $7,000.  I grew up in that home. 

Mom had one hell of a temper and a smart mouth.  She said what she thought without a filter when she was poked.  As a therapist I understand that she suffered from low self esteem, that is she carried a load of shame, because she never felt like she was "enough".  I carried that same shame and guilt as a part of my story or tradition and as a result, I also inherited her anger and was working on the bitterness when I began to heal.  I am very small, perhaps due in part to genetics but also in part to my undiagnosed Celiacs Disease.  Despite being petite, I was a scrapper. One of my dad’s friends made a stick wrapped in tape for me to carry since I was often getting into scrapes with my peers over my "smart mouth".  My smart mouth was me speaking my truth which was biased by my assumptions and judgments.  I was just like my mom.

The story of my healing is long, but for this mother’s day tribute to mom, my purpose is to say that it took me 71 years, but I now have complete understanding and tremendous love and compassion for the woman who loved me to the very best of her ability.  I have been working on complete forgiveness of my mom for many years.  It was short circuited for a time by me not being able to fully forgive me. 

Mom truly did love me as only a mother can.  She cooked, cleaned, sewed all my clothes, grew vegetables in our huge backyard garden, canned those vegetables and made huge amounts of jelly and preserves, and managed to make my father's salary pay for most of what was needed.  She was highly anxious and worried a great deal. She cooked and showed her love through a never empty cookie jar (except when she was working that low paying job).  She showed her love to my sons through her cinnamon rolls which they adored.  Dinners always consisted of meat, at least two vegetables sometimes more, homemade rolls, and a homemade dessert.  When things got too tight, she worked as a clerk in what we used to call variety stores (think Dollar Store).  She had no idea how to handle me because my smart mouth sparked her anger and the result was not pretty. She accepted my nontraditional life style when it was not common for parents to do so. 

I have repented and asked mom beyond her grave for forgiveness of how horribly I treated her.  I feel that she gave me that with her heartfelt proclamation of her love for me before she died. My journey of healing finally lead me to recognize my own deep shame which was rooted in me feeling like I was never enough.  Once I identified that, I chose to let it go by remembering that I have always done my best. I forgave me for all the unkind things I have said and done by applying The Four Agreements to my thinking process.  To make this long story short, I forgave her bit by bit, memory by memory, which lead to the unveiling of my own shame and things for which I needed to forgive me.  This takes unflinching honesty, but is the greatest gift you can give yourself.

May you all forgive, may you all love yourselves.   This  is the message of my tribute to my mom who truly always did her best, and I now see her sacrifice and love with my whole being.  Mom was charitable not only to me but to all who needed it.  She gave out her canned goods, her homemade pies, cookies and cakes and cared for neighbors with acts of service.  One of my first memories is of her caring for a neighbors young son.  The two older children were hospitalized with polio and no one wanted to risk their own safety because so little was known about how it spread.  Mom and Dad just took him in until the family could get their other two children home from the hospital.   She gave without needing to be asked. I really am so much like you, which is the greatest compliment any of us can get.  Thank you mom, for enduring a pregnancy that was 9 months of hyperemesis gravidarum while parenting my three year old brother while dad worked nights.Thank you for forgiving me without being asked for not being thankful for all you did, all you sacrificed for me, all the worry I caused you.  I love you, Martha Miriam Jones Johnson.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Becoming and Being

At 71, I am still learning and becoming my best, just as I always hoped I would.  My relationship with me is more loving and kind than I could have imagined.  That has lead to my relationships with others being much more honestly vulnerable and loving.  The reason for these changes are directly linked to a more constant meditation practice in my life.  I am meditating one or two times per day for at least 15 minutes.  As I begin my first daily meditation session, I run through the Four Agreements and the many things for which I am grateful.

I can either make my life be full of angry, negative thoughts and feelings, or I can choose to let go of those.  As I release those and bring myself back to the present, I suffer much less.  I am doing my best to use all of my life lessons and changes to help others do the same in my counseling office and, truthfully, with everyone.  Being present in the moment is my daily moment to moment goal.  I notice when I am dwelling on the past and when I am anticipating the many outcomes that might occur in the future. I have wasted too much time on all those things that cause suffering.

I give myself a little nudge to go back to the present anytime I notice that I am drifting out of it.  When I am in my counseling practice, I am more likely to notice when I am anticipating what a client might say and recenter myself to patiently wait to see where they land before I frame my response.  Do I always immediately notice?  No, but it happens a great deal more. 

I am learning to not react but rather to respond.  The more I meditate, the more time I seem to have to think about what is happening in my head and in my emotions and can therefore have more loving and kind responses.  I still react sometimes.  The great thing is that when I react, I am more likely to immediately notice and make my amends in the moment rather than days, weeks or years later.  If I don't, I clean up after myself as soon as I recognize that I may have caused another to suffer.  

Wisdom is the part of me that takes in the moment as it is without applying judgments and assumptions.  Wisdom knows that being present in the moment is the only way to find joy.  There is great freedom in not always second guessing my reactions, but rather having confidence in me to do the right thing.  How pleasing it is to not always be striving but rather just "being".  

I find myself doting on me a great deal more and being pleased and happy when I do, rather than begrudging myself the small extravagances I choose for me.  I am letting go of struggling to figure out what the perfect gift is because nothing good ever comes out of that struggle. I am happy to see happiness when I simply give acts of service, positive affirmations, or hugs and kisses.  The gifts I give tend to be spontaneous rather than something my ego dissects until all joy is removed.

I have made a vow to myself to clean up any old grievances, or wounds I have caused and make amends.  I am working to become completely honest with myself about all those things I have excused in myself while finding someone else to blame for my behavior.  

I am more aware of what I say to myself and correct negative or mean self statements as quickly as I notice them or someone is kind enough to let me know I have caused them to suffer.  I am more in touch with my emotions as I embrace all of me. The good news is that I am less sad and anxious and more joyous.   I am gentler in how I speak to me when I notice I am thinking about the past or future and nudge me back into being.  I greet all of me every morning (mind, emotions, body) and run through all the things for which I am grateful. 

In 2019 I have become more aware of the power of being present.  This has allowed me to discover more about the wisdom within each of us.  I am honing the art of being.  I have been able to pass these truths along to a few.  My goal is to be more present and to find ways to teach that to others.

May 2020 be full of peace, love and joys as you are present in the moment for more moments.   May being become the new norm for many.

Saturday, February 9, 2019

United We Stand - The Importance of Being Present

The left hemisphere of the brain looks at details, mines for similarities and explains the world based on differences and similarities, and can take over much of our brains activity when we are not guiding ourselves to be present and listen.  Being present is a key ingredient for having the full benefit of both right and left hemispheres.  The right hemisphere looks at the big picture and the left is the detective looking for details, steps to follow and past experience for predicting future outcomes.  The right knows the big picture. It already knows that I/it/the universe has many components which are all connected, and the more we can back up enough to get the big picture, the more successful we can be. Often, before we become more experienced at being present, our fearful egos, which live in the left hemisphere and simply want to be in control and not be hurt/made a fool of will over ride the more sensitive insights which can be provided by cooperation between the hemispheres.  We want the left and right sides of our  brain to be in constant communication and work cooperatively.  The now (present) is the place where this can occur.

Within the individual, the pain of past events waits to spring out when the current situation mirrors past emotions/thoughts/events.  That pain causes a flood of self-protection/self-recrimination/guilt/resentments that completely obscures the big picture.    The details in the left overwhelms/or high jacks our mental processing.  The wise overseer (silent watcher) or right hemisphere seer of the big picture cannot be heard due to the left hemisphere taking up so much of the bandwidth.  When you have a moment of being impressed with something you think or feel and think, "Where did that come from", it is from your right hemisphere, silent observer, enlightened self, getting a word in edgewise.  The goal of being present is to have the full capacity of both sides of the brain.  The two sides should be working in constant cooperation.  Unfortunately we get hung up on the minutiae of who is right and who is wrong, and us against them thinking which is predominant in our left brains.

These thoughts were tumbling around last night while I watched an episode of "A Million Little Things".  Suddenly, my pain body (long buried grief, resentment, sense of rejection) which hangs out with the ego part of my left brain was triggered by the depiction on the show of something that happened long ago to me.  I found myself sobbing, but the whole time my calming right hemisphere reassured me and pointed out what was going on.  I did not feel as I had in the past when something brought those feelings up, like I was underwater and drowning.  I told no one about the trauma for many years.  When I finally did tell others, the emotions of it remained buried. I have "known" from the right hemisphere that we must Face, Feel, and Forgive for a long time and had done as best I could (Ruiz's "Four Agreements").  We  cannot skip over the feeling it, but sometimes we need the proper tools.  I had Faced (seen it, labelled it) it but had not felt it.  As a result, I had been unsuccessful in Forgiving it.  Until you feel it, you are prone to subject it to the categorizing, comparing, us against them left brain processing without embracing the big picture.  When I apply feeling and get the big picture of we are all connected,  many of those false beliefs can fall away and truth can emerge within me.

The answer may be to help  people learn to experience being present by noticing thoughts and feelings and applying that to everyday life.  They must have skills to not flee from the oldest, biggest, most overwhelming pain when it emerges, and then, can simply notice it, label it and release it no matter how big it feels.  Not being able to forgive it caused me to continue too suffer and to be tripped when the pain was triggered by someone doing something that felt like that long ago betrayal.   My left hemisphere gathered the facts and a label for it but did not apply it at the deepest level of hurt.  The emotions were not processed, so they came up every time there was a felt betrayal by someone I trusted. Deep, gut wrenching sadness, fear and resentment lay beneath ongoing reactions.   The closer the relationship with the one by whom I felt betrayed, the more it hurt.  I realized that I had been utilizing the insights from my right hemisphere in a really good way for decades as a therapist.  I "instinctively" (right brain) knew what my clients who had been traumatized needed to hear and learn, and made sure they received that from me. Being present allows us to regain our full mental and emotional capacities. When I was ready (last night), that long buried initial pain trauma surfaced and could be quickly released by applying the ability to be present.  Being present had already increased my capacity to love and care for myself.  It had also already impacted my ability to love others.  This foundation is a key to progress in being present and learning to use both hemispheres.  United I stand.  I am connected.  I am one.  United we stand.  We are all connected.  We are all one in this amazing universe.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Onward to a Life of Being Present

After I read "The Four Agreements" and began using it to start (and restart as needed) my day, I dove into "The Power of Now" by Eckhart Tolle.  The Buddhist practice of meditation instructs on letting go of thoughts as they come up while meditating.  Much as I had heard but not understood fully "not taking things personally" before I read "The Four Agreements", I found my ability to let go of thoughts to be limited. In hindsight, I realize that I did not have a comprehensive understanding of thoughts and emotions and exactly what part they played in having success in being mindful.  Tolle's concepts as presented in "The Power of Now" and "A New Earth" have helped me more quickly identify when I am unconscious rather than being present.  

If you read "The 4 Agreements" by Ruiz, you remember that he said we are all asleep and are unconscious because we are in a dream state. Tolle lends more explanation of being asleep that helps me want to splash some cold water on my face to be fully awake or present. Thinking about the past or thinking about the future is neither is real (Tolle) or awake (Ruiz).  Only the Now exists.  The past is a memory of bits and pieces of something that happened.  The future is all the things we anticipate or dread happening.  Most of them will never really occur.  I repeat, only the Now exists.  Ruiz helped me pay more attention to my thoughts by looking for unkind thoughts that judged, by taking things personally making it all about me, or by making assumptions telling myself stories about others and what they meant.  Kindness towards myself and all others (loving kindness/compassion) began to be understood and my moments being present increased.

Tolle's books helped me figure out more about the emotions that arose during the day.   It seems that  every time someone has hurt me, intentionally or unintentionally, I have stored up negative emotions from the event. Every time I have messed something up and hurt another, that disappointment in myself has been stored.  Fear which boils down to fear of annihilation (death) and sadness and despair that I am not good enough (for anyone to love or care about me) set off incessant narration in my head.  These mean things I was saying to/about myself or others is called the ego. The Buddhists tell us that the reason to be present (mindful) is because suffering ensues when we are not present.  The suffering is caused by the ego firing up every time my pain body is goosed/triggered/awakened.  Those mean thoughts cause me to lash out at myself or others.  Now the ego is just doing its job which is to protect me.  The pain body says "warning!" because this reminds me of when that bully knocked me off the swing (which put some fear of death in my pain body reservoir).  So now, when someone does something that hurts my feelings and I feel anxious (watered down fear), I start looking around for the stimulus. If I listen to the thoughts in my head, the anxiety can turn in to fight or flight level fear and sadness as I think of possible outcomes.  In the moment,  my ego wants to protect me so it points at what Sally said, and I feel a bit angry at her. The ego wants to find who is responsible and points not to the past but to something immediate but then every event that mirrors that emotion even remotely pours in through the pain body.  It then may use future possible outcomes or to fuel my current emotion. Using what Tolle teaches, I am watching (the watcher) my thoughts (ego), feeling the emotion (pain body) and observing my reaction (back to watcher).  By identifying with the watcher, I lift myself out of the fray, if you will, and just watch the part of each player.  I can quickly identify the thought, my feelings and realize they are bigger than the incident and have nothing to do with me or Sally because it is the sum total of old stuff being triggered by something she said that really had nothing to do with me but a lot to do with each of us (Sally's with her dream scape or culture and me with my ego and pain body) being asleep (or not in the Now).  

Having watched many including myself struggle with meditation and the whole being present with limited success, I was eager for something that would help.  I practiced as Tolle suggests while reading the books, and I  noticed how quickly I could change my percentage of time being present and decrease the time it took for me to know that I was coming from my unconscious dream (Ruiz) world or ego/pain body (Tolle).

I am trying to boil this down a bit for the purposes of this blog, but REALLY encourage all who are interested to read and begin applying Tolle's book(s).  If you are like me, reading the books will become an ongoing thing.  Instructions or reading and applying Tolle to be more mindful/present/conscious include:
  1. Read and apply in that moment, 
  2. Underline and apply in that moment
  3. Apply when you notice a reaction
  4. Do not resist the reactive emotion but just notice it
  5. Feel the emotion
  6. Continue to watch for thoughts (sometimes they disappear as soon as you notice and feel the emotion!)
  7. If the thoughts continue, breath
  8. say "I am"
  9. Breath
  10. Take a moment when you are in having a conversation to clear a space and remember to be present
Facebook has some great groups for those who are students of Tolle that I recommend following once you have read or listened to at least one of his books.  

Happy Holidays!

Sunday, November 18, 2018

The Journey Toward Mindfulness

I retired from the corporate world in January of 2017.  I spent the next few months putting my private clinical practice together and began seeing clients in April.  I decided to include mindfulness practice in my therapeutic approach. During my break from being a therapist when in the corporate world, mindfulness began being recognized as an evidence based practice.  I have been meditating for a several decades. Through it, I have experienced growth and improvement in my own peace and tranquility. Working with my clients on increasing mindfulness seemed like the next step for me.  It prompted me to work more on me in this area and study how to incorporate it into my clinical work.

Some people become enlightened in a moment.  Others become enlightened based on a daily practice.  My journey has been marked by meditative practices, by finding authors and teachers who gave me increased insight, by finding new tools and by having friends to talk with as I journeyed toward mindfulness. I have had moments of awakening that changed my life, but I still struggled with thoughts and feelings that disrupted my mindfulness. Because I have continued to have moments when I was not mindful, this would cause harm through thoughts and words to myself and others.  I seek being awake and mindful and harming no one. 

The best part of this ongoing process is that my son and fitness coach is also working on becoming more mindful.  We talk about authors, books and insights during weekly weight training workouts.  During 2018, he read The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz and asked me to read it.   I found this book to contain what has become a daily practice.  I list them here briefly.  I encourage you to read the book. It is quite short and worth your time.  May it be the glove you put on every morning (and repeatedly) to help you stay mindful.  Self-love is the key to being kind and loving toward others, and these agreements definitely promote increased love and compassion toward self and others.  If you choose to use them, remember to apply them with love and humor.  When my thoughts are not impeccable (1), I take things personally (2), or I make assumptions (3), I give myself a gentle nudge and reminder by pointing to the fact that I always do my best (4).

Agreement 1:  I agree I will have impeccable thoughts and words toward MYSELF and ALL others.  I found this a bit challenging in these days of social media posts but very helpful to reset me, especially in traffic or when identifying negative thoughts toward myself.  It really helps with loving kindness towards self and others. I use loving words toward myself and others. I do not judge or blame myself or you as those negative thoughts will cause me to be more negative toward me and others.  I strive to use my words for truth and love and gratitude and not for anger, jealousy, envy or hate.  Impeccable words can transcend this world from one of suffering to one of joy.

Agreement 2:  I agree I will not take things personally.  We have all heard this, but when I read Ruiz's discussion of Toltec beliefs, it made it really sync with my head.  You see the Toltecs believed we are all asleep and have our own dreamworld based on everything we have learned, both intentional and unintentional.   Our beliefs are not reality or truth, but we feel they are. Our thoughts are just thoughts based on past learning.    Our purpose in life is to wake up to this by being present in every moment.  By doing this, we learn to notice our thoughts but not let them decide our actions and words.  I do not take things personally because what you say to or about me is about your dream world and has nothing to do with who I am. You can only know me by asking questions and me answering.   It helps neither of us if I respond out of my dream world and get offended.  If I FEEL offended, I must realize I took what you said personally and simply need to notice this rather than act on it.  I can do this by remembering that each thought is simply one of tens of thousands I will have each day and is not truth. I do this by remembering how little we really know about each other, no matter how long we have known each other.   

Agreement 3:  I agree I will not make assumptions about anyone or anything.  I ask questions to learn more. We are too often afraid to ask questions.  If asking questions is not possible (because it is about someone or something in the past) or profitable because I am aware from experience that the person is unable to speak honestly, I simply dismiss the story I am telling myself, moving on in the present moment and staying out of the past or present.   I try to stay clear of the trap of making assumptions and taking things personally.  These things can lead to gossip which is definitely not impeccable. When I ask questions, I increase my understanding and decrease the the potential for hurtful words and thoughts.  When I recognize that what you say about me comes out of your dreamworld, I know it has nothing to do with who I am. 

Agreement 4:  I agree that I always do my best.  This helps me not judge myself when my thoughts are not impeccable, I take things personally, or I make assumptions.  I will not profit from looking back and critiquing my behavior which results in blaming myself or others.  I accept that I always do my best.  I cannot go back because the past no longer exists.   I can only be present in the now.  I agree to do my best, to learn to be fully present in every moment.  I agree to see you (me), hear you (me) and ask questions of you(me).  This is my best. 

If you are on the journey toward mindfulness, are thinking about the possibility of becoming more present and mindful, try using these agreements to help you in the process.  It is very helpful to have people who are also working on mindfulness to support your journey.

Next up:  "The Power of Now" - because I need to know how to handle all those misguided thoughts and feelings.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Dogs and Mindfulness - In memoriam for Havana

13 years ago, my youngest son, then a recent graduate of UT, was starting his adulthood with a real after college job.  When he rented a house with a buddy, he adopted his first pet, a mixed breed rescue from the animal shelter in Austin.  She quickly grew into a gorgeous brindle colored dog who often received compliments for her striking appearance.  I swear, she would always smile and stand a bit taller when she received attention from an admiring stranger. She was one of my "grand dogs".  She watched over my son, then his wife and finally each of his two children when they joined the family.  She was always gentle with children, but had a bark and bristled spine that would make grown men stop and step back a few steps.    She could not sit in my lap as the smaller dogs do, but she would put her head in my lap and stare at me for ear scratches. Sometimes I would lie down beside her on the floor to give her extensive pets and scratches.

She loved my backyard.  She would sometimes tromp about in my Jasmine and monkey grass or just look regal lying in the St. Augustine under my majestic pecan trees.  She supervised the grands when they were drawing with chalk, blowing bubbles or playing in the sprinkler.  She would help keep the squirrels properly in their places in the trees.

In recent months her age of 13 on a 65 pound shepherd size dog had taken its toll.  Her hind legs would sometimes just refuse to bear her weight, and she would have to take a rest until one of us gave her an assist or she felt sufficient energy to get up.  Her eyes were not as sharp as they once had been and her walk was slower as she favored her stiff joints.  She used to go on walks for several blocks with me but in recent times, we would make it for just a few houses.  She still insisted I take her for a turn. She smelled every blade of grass and especially loved the spring flowers on the corner this year.  I would muse as we walked that I hoped someone would take me for walks when I am her commiserate age of 91, just far enough for me to admire the sights and smells of nature. My dog, much smaller but also 13, would go for walks with Havana and me a couple of years ago.  That was quite a sight with a 6 pound dog on one leash and a 65 pound dog on the other.   I called us the "Golden Girls" (see the picture below taken by my oldest grand daughter when she was 4 after a walk with both dogs). Recently,  I had to learn to take the dogs on separate walks when Havana was visiting so I could let each savor their time on leash.

Sadly, Havana went on one last walk on July 8. She managed an escape from her yard.  During the week that she was missing, before we found out the end of her story, I helped go by animal services on a regular basis to walk the kennels looking for her.   The staff was quick to let us know they were not always able to keep up with everything so the best answer was to go look.  Ultimately, the family was able to find closure by putting up posters and placing  them in their neighbors mailboxes. If you are thinking of lecturing, she was chipped and was wearing her collar with her tag.  The posters resulted in a neighbor providing the answer as to what happened.  I will leave it at that. 

Havana had a relatively long, and healthy life.  She had some great moments judging from the smiles I saw on her face. I miss her and know from previous deaths of my loved ones, she will enter my thoughts regularly.  Today I cannot quite enjoy my backyard without some thinking of the loss, but I know that soon instead of feeling sadness I will feel only joy in my various memories of her.

I  find that I think more about what is important in life and the imminence of death as I age.  Havana had it right about how to live life.  She lived in the moment. If someone dropped a bite of food she quickly noticed and seized the opportunity for a treat.  If you looked like you wanted to share a bite she also noticed and relished it when you offered it.   She let you know when something was bothering her (strangers, squirrels, a need to go check the backyard).  She never left us questioning whether she loved us as she looked with her adoring eyes into our eyes or gave us a nudge with her nose.  She was always close behind my grands in line to greet me when I visited her house. She did not seem to take things personally when corrected, in fact, she might ignore you, figuring, I guess, that your words were about your mood more than what she was doing.  She did not appear to worry about what would happen next. She received each smell, taste, sight or sound with every fiber of  her being. 

The moral for me is:  Be present, be mindful, and be in the moment.  Moments are precious and unpredictable.  Perhaps you can take this blog as a challenge to love and live fully in each moment and not waste time worrying about the future and being tortured by the past.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

The Rest of the Story Regarding 2016 New Years Resolution

Fifteen months ago I wrote a blog about the resolution I made for 2016.  Perhaps someone will benefit from this update to the outcome.

My resolution was to increase my mindfulness practice by trying to spend time weekly in my meditation practice. I downloaded some apps to assist me with this, one of which recorded my efforts.  On that particular app, I logged 42.5 hours of meditation during 2016.  There was more that was not logged there, but that is the bulk of it.  Much of this was done in 6-10 minutes segments.  It turns out that this resolution helped me withstand a quite difficult situation.  For large periods of the year my meditation efforts were completed daily.

In 2016, I was encouraged to apply for a promotion at the company where I worked.  I was generally content with what I was doing but was becoming a trifle bored which happens in about 5 year increments for me.   I planned to work two and a half more years and retire.  I had shared this with my supervisor.  I talked myself into applying for the promotion and accepted it.  I told myself I was already splitting time between the new position and my old one.  I thought the pay bump would help me put more aside for retirement, and that I might as well be paid for the responsibility.

I worked both jobs for most of the year with increasing emphasis on the new job beginning in May. As I was given more responsibility for the new job, I found myself experiencing overwhelming critical oversight from multiple sources.  I had many voices telling me I needed to do more and master all things immediately.

My reaction to the stress shocked me.  In retrospect, I have diagnosed myself with emotional reactions relating to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from childhood experiences with a critical, unpredictable adult. I found myself reverting to behaviors which I thought had been extinguished. Under the pressure of constant critiquing I felt frozen (flight or fight). This paralysis caused me to be unable to fluently voice my opinions, to silence the micro managers or to keep those who answered to me in line.  My irritability increased.  None of this was in keeping with the professional persona I developed for myself during the last 50 years.  I was working 7 days a week and not finding the time to do self-care.  My five year old granddaughter asked why she no longer was invited to spend the night with me.  I am a family oriented person. Hurting a family member with my work behavior was unacceptable to me.

In September, the voices of criticism increased in volume as did my flight or fight reactions.  I was offered the options of being placed on a plan of correction in the new job or being replaced in the new job and returning full-time to my old one.  I would have to return to my old salary when I returned full-time to the old position. I agreed to go back to the old position as I felt that the plans of correction I had seen never ended well.  I was asked to continue in the new job while they looked for a replacement and to accept the demotion to my old job but could keep the current salary until they replaced me.  They would cease looking for a replacement for that old position and keep it for me.  I had been doing both jobs for six months at this point.  I would have to continue to do both jobs "until a suitable replacement was found".  They had been searching for a replacement for my old job for five months at that point.

I found myself forced to  make a decision about my future.  I did not like the choices I had, but it seemed inevitable that I had to do something distasteful and alien to me. With over fifty years as an employee, I have never even had a poor review much less been faced with a plan of correction or demotion.  Fate intervened for me.

In October,  a company wide early retirement package was offered for any who qualified and I applied.  I was awarded the package and retired from the company in January at full pay for the promotion I was given in May.  This meant I would not have to take a demotion or be placed on a plan of correction.

I am reinventing my life for the next era. I did not know how much of me I had misplaced until about a month into my retirement.  As normalcy returns, I can sleep more than 4-5 hours.  I can truly smell the flowers again. I am taking my meditation to the next level, re-developing a social life, and enjoying my family.

Without my daily meditation practice and listening to Audio Dharma on my commute to work each day during the second half of 2016, I surely would have run emotionally from the building and quit which would not have ultimately been in my best interests.

I had no idea how crucial to my future well-being my 2016 New Years Resolution would be. Remember this as you struggle with the resolutions you made for 2017.  Namaste

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Mindfulness 2016

I seldom have told people what my resolution for the year is, and, honestly, I often do not make one.  I had been thinking about making a resolution for improvement this year and made it official last Saturday by telling my son and his wife what I had resolved.

My awareness of  thoughts and how they can create or destroy inner peace has been a recurring theme for the last few months. I have found myself  having frequent conversations about mindfulness and realizing a renewed awareness of its importance. I have been using more breath work to keep me centered and calm when I feel my emotions surging in negative directions.  

I decided that it was time to start further exercising the contemplative aspects of my life in 2016.  Taking time to be purposefully mindful is a key to increasing one's practice of being mindful.  It operates on the same principal of taking care of one's body.  You do not have to exercise your body every day and eat healthy things every meal, but every time that you do increases your sense of well-being.  

I decided to set up a little corner of my life to accommodate a place to be mindful.  I pulled out an old plant stand, set up the things I like to have to help me center and calm my mind, and made a decision to take a few minutes frequently to meditate.  I have things from the past that  I have used but have been remiss in taking the time to do so in recent years.  I bought a small rug to put under my zafu (meditation cushion) since my wooden floors are a bit chilly in the winter.  No other expenditure was necessary.

This habit has not been exercised in recent years, so I am dusting it off and building my stamina.  To my delight, I am up to 15 minutes in a setting and have meditated 5 of the last 6 days.  It really does help to be accountable to others about it.  I have told a couple of friends of my intent.  

What is the importance of meditation?  In this crazy, busy world that we live in, in which we can use all manner of electronic entertainment to keep our minds engaged in often distressing news and negative energy, it is a place of calm.  As you clear your mind and invite peace and love to be the center of your thoughts, amazing clarity comes.

Meditation is a place where you can see your connection to all living beings.  In a world that often wants to point out our differences, which by the way are all just thoughts and not reality, it brings unity.

May 2016 contain an abundance of peace and love for each of you.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Happy Days

I celebrated my 67th Birthday this weekend.  I decided I would, for the first time in my long work career, take some time off for the day.  My birthday was on Friday, but I took off Thursday as well.

As I do my best to practice, I decided to embrace each moment and really had little planned in the way of celebration besides being mindful and spending a little time with the family on Saturday.   On Thursday I decided I wanted to finally replace my well worn recliner.  A shopping trip to Rooms To Go found the perfect leather recliner with a push button control.  It is both beautiful and very comfortable.  They will deliver it on Wednesday, so I have been prepping my dog, since we always share it.  She is pretty excited about it.  I felt festive all day about it and still do.

When I got up Friday morning I sang Happy Birthday to me.  As I was drying my hair I noticed a voicemail had come in.  It was from Mike, his wife and two kids.  The three older family members sang it, and at the end they all said "Bye"and wished me a great day. The baby (turns one on November 11) said "Bye" at the very end after his sister did.  At that point I could not stop smiling and thought how awesome that was.  I was glad it was recorded so I could listen again (and again).

My next planned event was a training session with Jim, my oldest son.  His daughter was in the gym when I arrived, and I got to visit and play with her before my session.  Jim handed me a birthday card and a Mandala he had decorated.   The card contained a very loving handwritten note that brought tears to my eyes.  He apologized for the handwriting because his one year old helped him as he wrote.  Of course that just made it more precious.  So at that point, my heart is full and I am happy beyond compare.  It remains full as I think back about it.

I went home and changed to go to an awards luncheon for Mary, Mike's wife.  I managed to arrive on time and made my way to the table Mary had reserved for her guests.  My son arrived as did her parents and I told my son about my birthday present I bought the day before.  We talked about the phone call from them that morning.  I turned to talk to Mary's parents and the next thing I knew, the people at our table began singing Happy Birthday to me. I absolutely love spontaneous fun and that was what that was for me.   I watched Mary receive a much deserved award and literally had to run out to retrieve my car to a haircut appointment I had changed three times.  I kept having unexpected schedule conflicts.  

I really like my stylist, heard about her wedding the weekend before, and we talked about how for the last two haircuts she felt she really had learned my hair and turned it into "her" cut.  Suffice it to say some not great things had happened in the styling shops I visited in the years before.  As I was paying out, another customer came up and started effusively complimenting my haircut.  I am not terribly vain but I do like my hair to be at its best.  That filled up another corner of my being.

As I was driving home I received a text from Jim inviting me to the Perot Museum with his family.  I had dropped by Trader Joe for a couple of items, but as I was checking out the checker said, "are you gluten intolerant?"  He was not psychic. I go to Trader Joe's for some of my gluten free groceries and the items I chose were clearly gluten free.   He asked if I had seen a new IPA gluten free beer by Stone.  I told me I had not and he stopped checking to go grab one off the shelf to show it to me.  Now, isn't that just a fun thing to happen?  We talked about his experience with a family member who is also gluten intolerant.  I am so happy and mellow at this point I could melt.

So, then I jumped in my car, headed home, changed clothes and went to Jim's.  We loaded up two cars because Tina's sister, Jeanne was visiting from Rochester, New York with her husband and six month old son.  Perot was awesome as we all explored it (it changes all the time) and really spent time taking in the sights and sounds.  

Now that was absolutely top of the mark in Birth Days!  I felt loving and loved.   

On Saturday I went back to Jim and Tina's.  This was for the   planned celebration of the weekend.   Aunt Jeanne and Tina share an October 31st birthday.  A happy group of 10 family members celebrated with The October Birthday Club which included me, little Jeanne, Aunt Jeanne and Tina.  We feasted on Fajitas, Tina made Chocolate cake and Mike bought gluten free cupcakes. There were babies everywhere!  It was positively marvelous.  Jeanne smiled and said "Grandma" when I came into the house.  Jeanne and Christian played with me in the living room.  Emily hugged me when she came in and hid behind me as she met Aunt Jeanne.  Little Connor spotted me when Mike put him down and crawled to me for me to pick him up.  I am of course full and completely running over with happiness and love at this point.

Saturday is also Halloween, and I always pass out candy. The crowds have been small but growing for the last three years, so I stocked up and bought one large and three smaller bags of Halloween candy. A record crowd showed up.  I had to slow down from my normal three or four pieces to the last little group who only got one each.  I had to turn out my light because I was out!  It was the very first time that ever happened to me. I chatted with all the little "trick or treat" munchkins and their parents.  

What's my point in this blog?  The point is, I decide each moment of every day to find the good in every moment and to notice and dispel negative thoughts.  I decide to treat myself with love and caring.  I acknowledge that I have lived 67 wonderful years and can claim a healthy body and mind. I wear my years as gracefully as I can, and I am fit and strong. I love and care about those with whom I cross paths and receive it back in an abundance that leaves me wanting for nothing.  A weekend with little planned turned into a love-filled festival.  May you love yourself, love others and receive their love.  

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Denial is not Lying (Or is It?)

Denial is one of our human defense mechanisms.  I have used it numerous (thousands?) of times in my lifetime.  It is unconscious, which means we do not realize we are lying to ourselves.  Its not a conscious lie, but it is not the truth.

A few years ago a physician suggested that I try a gluten free diet. This was after I told her I had cut out lactose because it caused digestive symptoms.  I told her I still had some digestive problems even without lactose.  She told me to try omitting gluten for a couple of weeks and see if it helped.  Sadly, it did help.  This was just shortly before "gluten free"  became a popular diet.  I was quite happy when it became a fad and made grocery shopping much easier.  People kept asking if I had Celiac Disease when I told them I was "gluten free", and I said no.  Truthfully, even being off gluten and lactose, I still had symptoms.  I added the constraints of "Low Fodmaps" to my diet which omitted garlic and onion and some fruits and vegetables.  My current diet is a pain for my loved ones, but will most likely add to my longevity.  

When I changed  doctors,  the new doctor listened patiently as I explained that I seemed to be both lactose and gluten intolerant so had modified by diet.   She asked if I had Celiac Disease.  I told her that I did not to my knowledge.  She ran a blood test, but said that since I had been off gluten it was inconclusive and would only be accurate if I began eating gluten again.  Neither of us thought that was a good idea.  There are some long term consequences to not modifying one's diet to accommodate Celiac Disease, and I do not like the symptoms of ingesting gluten.

I stored the conversation above as "I do not have Celiac Disease".  I was reviewing my health record a couple of days ago and realized my doctor did indeed diagnose me as having gluten enteropathy (common description: Celiac Disease).  My first response was, "no that is not right;  she said my blood test was negative.  Wait, no she said it did not show up but it most likely would not because I have been off gluten."  I did not like the diagnosis (label), so I denied it and used selective memory in storing the highlights of the conversation.

Until I began to recall the details of our conversation, I just had stored my conclusion as "I do not have Celiac Disease".  Finally, this morning my curiosity overcame my desire to deny, and I was rather amazed as I surfed the Internet.  
  • Having Celiac Disease can inhibit your growth.  I am the shortest member of an admittedly short  nuclear family.  I am not quite 5 feet.  They were all at least several inches taller than I am.  My son's are both 5'10.
  • I have always been thin without much effort.  Celiac disease causes one to not be able to metabolize and use the nutrients in food efficiently and so many who have it are thin. 
  • If a person with Celiac Disease does not cut out gluten, they will often become intolerant to lactose.  
  • Developing osteoporosis is common for those with Celiac Disease.  I was diagnosed with osteopenia at about 45.  Thanks to weight bearing exercise and cutting out gluten, it has not progressed to osteoporosis.  
I was diagnosed as having IBS as a teenager.  At the time they did not apparently know much about diets and Celiac Disease, and the symptoms seemed to decrease as I moved through adolescence and slightly modified my diet.  As I aged but still  had bouts of "symptoms", people would ask if I had IBS. I would reply that I did not.  If you read my Shadow Boxes entry, you know I do not like labels. Sometimes that desire to not be labelled can lead to denying the obvious.

This is how denial works!  We don't or do want something to be true, so we edit our thoughts to support what we want to believe.  Only when we think about why we do or don't believe something can we uncover the truth.  Mindfulness (exploring my thoughts with fresh lenses) is a cure for denial.  

As I read the symptoms of Celiac Disease, I realized it did answer questions and explain symptoms that seemed rather random in the past.  To know more about myself and my body, entertaining the knowledge of what that particular disease can do is helpful to maintaining my health.

Denial is a crippling defense mechanism.  It clouds our vision and causes us to believe things that simply are/are not true.  Challenge your thoughts!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Annual Bucket List Update

With some nudges from my oldest son, I went on my first solo travel excursion in August.

It was full of firsts and I am very pleased to report, was very enjoyable.  My list contains travel which includes parts of the U.S. I have not seen as well as other countries.  

This year I chose Boston, Ma.  I am a bit of a history buff so it was on my list of east coast places to visit.  My friends asked if I was from there, had friends there or had family there. The answer to all three is no.  In the interest of full-disclosure,  my daughter-in-law told me as I was about to depart that she had a cousin there if I found myself in need of assistance.  

I do not usually plan extensively beyond time and location but life has taught me that having a place to stay makes the trip less stressful.  I chose a location from one of the owner leased vacation accommodations and was delighted.  I was in a one bedroom condo in Boston's south end. 

I so enjoyed strolling the streets, finding small, intimate restaurants and taverns to visit, and just taking in the ambiance of the city.  I walked unless my destination was over a mile and was amazed at all I discovered.

I visited the Freedom Trail, did a land/sea sightseeing trip around the city, took a ferry boat ride to Provincetown, and I visited the JFK Museum and the Boston Museum of Art.  It was a full four days that was so leisurely in comparison to my norm that I came back in a fully zen state.  

The Freedom Trail caused me to reflect upon our origins as a nation.  I visited the second oldest cemetery where Paul Revere is buried as well as the Boston commons which has an abundance of unmarked graves.  There is just something special about seeing the headstones of people who died in the 1600's and thinking about what I know about that era.   I am pleased to report that Boston is full of friendly people who are very helpful and who did not seem to notice my Texas accent.  

On the day I took a ferry boat ride, a "nor'easter" blew in and stayed with me most of the day resulting in a lovely drenching as I returned to the ferry.  The result of all that rain was that I had two very enjoyable experiences of meeting locals and having extended conversations with them.  If one maintains a focus on the positive all is lovely.  

Firsts are so much fun and so invigorating!  I can see no reason why anyone should wait for the right tour group to start checking off destinations they want to visit.  Every day of the trip was remarkable for one reason or the other.