Did You Hear What Aristotle Said Recently?

Oh Bummer, I’m living in the past!

But here, for your edification (and mine), it is:
He said, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an action but a habit.”

The “action” you want to make habitual here is applicable to thoughts, words we say, things we look at/notice, turns we take.
“The road less traveled” is one of the roads that does not lead where we want to go – unless we go there. Simply, if you want to win the lottery you must buy a ticket.

What we do over and over again we tend to space out. Do you notice what you say to yourself over and over? You may not be paying attention but, rest assured, your body is. You may not even notice when you feel defeated in a tiny moment. Your body does. And its memory is infinite and merged into your psyche and, dare I say it, your personality in such a way that we all may notice and you may not.

How much can your dog or horse or cat, your boss or best friend, the guy who cut you off or who helped you in the supermarket – tell. About you?
We leave shards of ourselves around, like DNA falling all around us. You can’t help that and you can’t help or be responsible for what other people see or think. What you can do, and hope you do it well, is be the person you want to be, the person you don’t mind being when everybody’s looking. You do that a lot and you’ve got a habit. A good habit. Congratulations!

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Your Word, My Word

Every day begins with a word. It ends with a word too. Sometimes the one leads the other – it can be either the last or the first. Sometimes just knowing what the word is and who it belongs to are the keys.

This may seem nonsensical to you until you listen to your thoughts as well as what you say. Where did that come from? You might ask if you are listening? A voice from the past, or one masquerading from the future – always in  the past! Words formed in the mind and not spoken are as palpable as any spoken. It is being more and more known that our body language is more powerful and to the point than the words spoken by us are.

Such a powerful connector is mind to body, and so clear, that we cannot fool the most sensitive beings around us – animals, plants and insects – as to what are our true intentions.

We too are on the list of sensitive beings. Those among us who do not include ourselves among the listeners do not fool our minds, but we are fools.

Who are you?

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What Would You Do?

I was out to lunch with a friend the other day and we overheard two women at the next table talking about the men in their lives. We got very quiet ourselves and did a lot of eye contact, but not enough to giggle or anything untoward like that.

The two women were both very well put together – probably in their forties or early fifties. I noticed after listening for a while that neither had on a wedding ring – not that that makes a whole lot of difference anymore but it carries my story along because choice is easier, you’ll see what I mean in a minute.

The one to my right was saying how wonderful her life is now that Joe (not the name I heard her say) is in it. While she was speaking the other started twisting her hair and her mouth did a funny wrinkle – as far as my peripheral vision, which is always good at the eye exam, could see.

To my right I heard about Joe. He is dedicated, fixes dinner when she comes home late. Their shared house is really special, so much nicer than when she was alone in it. He hasn’t been doing all the other things he and other lovers did before. He’s always there when she needs him, he works at home, how nice that is. He volunteers for her favorite charities – how refreshing that is, no one ever did that before, including him when they were together before.

I check in with my peripheral to see how her mouth is and the state of her hair. It’s all a bit tighter, but nothing to worry about yet. The 54 year old boyfriend is still being explored with joyful bullet points when I feel an energy pull peripherally and note the friend has stopped twisting and her mouth is set. I look at my friend and see total engrossment.

“Has he paid back the money he borrowed?” I hear from the peripheral. “How is it going with the daily expenses you mentioned to me last time we had lunch?” “What about…” I see a stammer, eyes narrow and blink to my right. More than anything I feel the wall come, the confusion, the flight of purpose. I want to create a distraction for her, I want my water to spill, the waitress to come, dogs to bark.

There is silence at both our tables and I fear my friend and I will be exposed in our reverent listening, our solemn hush. But their silence is so emphatic that when my peripheral begins to speak again, we can all listen without restraint, so intent are they on their own world.

“When I was growing up,” she said, “I heard about women who kept men. I didn’t understand, and in our age the lines are blurred. I can’t tell who is supposed to pay for what and what anything means. But I’ve been your friend for a long time and I feel like I know you and I know I love you. It’s hard for me to see you with Joe and get the crusts of love he offers you. It’s hard to see him take advantage of you and it’s hard for me to see your goodness and neediness and openness. Maybe if you were less of a person. Maybe if you were a schmuck I wouldn’t care so much. But I love you and I can’t stand to see you like this.”

By now we were not the only ones listening. The woman to my right stood up, I think she was crying and I know her face was red. She left. My peripheral, by now, friend, put her hands to her face and sobbed. She left a few minutes later.

I’ll probably never see either again but I know I got a lesson. I notice I think it’s easier to leave a relationship with marriage at its base. But I also know that a marriage is the relationship we have with our self, our needs, our visions and, yes, our illusions. The slightest of relationships is as sticky as our illusions. We cling or let go or let be as we relate to our self.

What is your lesson? Is it better not to say anything and keep your friend. Or would you risk all and speak up in the hope of being heard?

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You May Never Know What’s Eating You

It has long been both my assumption and very clear to me personally that there is no gold in mining the past for anything that will “cure” whatever distress is lingering in my daily life. That is not to say that where something disturbing me comes from cannot be useful, it’s that I don’t think it’s necessary.
In fact the more I am exposed to quantum theory and the research coming from the genetic dynamics we are heir to, the less I am inclined to lean on the past for anything but storyline.
I want to share with you this article I found recently as I think it speaks to so much clarity we could have using strategies in the moment without the concomitant muddying of waters gone still.
Reminds me of the teeshirts I have seen proliferating – Keep Calm and Carry On or variations which satisfy the makers’ intentions.

Phobias may be memories passed down in genes from ancestors

By Richard Gray, Science Correspondent   @The Telegraph

Memories can be passed down to later generations through genetic switches that allow offspring to inherit the experience of their ancestors, according to new research that may explain how phobias can develop.

Scientists have long assumed that memories and learned experiences built up during a lifetime must be passed on by teaching later generations or through personal experience.

However, new research has shown that it is possible for some information to be inherited biologically through chemical changes that occur in DNA.

Researchers at the Emory University School of Medicine, in Atlanta, found that mice can pass on learned information about traumatic or stressful experiences – in this case a fear of the smell of cherry blossom – to subsequent generations.

The results may help to explain why people suffer from seemingly irrational phobias – it may be based on the inherited experiences of their ancestors.

So a fear of spiders may in fact be an inherited defence mechanism laid down in a families genes by an ancestors’ frightening encounter with an arachnid.

Dr Brian Dias, from the department of psychiatry at Emory University, said: “We have begun to explore an underappreciated influence on adult behaviour – ancestral experience before conception.

“From a translational perspective, our results allow us to appreciate how the experiences of a parent, before even conceiving offspring, markedly influence both structure and function in the nervous system of subsequent generations.

“Such a phenomenon may contribute to the etiology and potential intergenerational transmission of risk for neuropsychiatric disorders such as phobias, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.”

In the study, which is published in the journal of Nature Neuroscience, the researchers trained mice to fear the smell of cherry blossom using electric shocks before allowing them to breed.

The offspring produced showed fearful responses to the odour of cherry blossom compared to a neutral odour, despite never having encountered them before.

The following generation also showed the same behaviour. This effect continued even if the mice had been fathered through artificial insemination.

The researchers found the brains of the trained mice and their offspring showed structural changes in areas used to detect the odour.

The DNA of the animals also carried chemical changes, known as epigenetic methylation, on the gene responsible for detecting the odour.

This suggests that experiences are somehow transferred from the brain into the genome, allowing them to be passed on to later generations.

The researchers now hope to carry out further work to understand how the information comes to be stored on the DNA in the first place.

They also want to explore whether similar effects can be seen in the genes of humans.

Professor Marcus Pembrey, a paediatric geneticist at University College London, said the work provided “compelling evidence” for the biological transmission of memory.

He added: “It addresses constitutional fearfulness that is highly relevant to phobias, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorders, plus the controversial subject of transmission of the ‘memory’ of ancestral experience down the generations.

“It is high time public health researchers took human transgenerational responses seriously.

“I suspect we will not understand the rise in neuropsychiatric disorders or obesity, diabetes and metabolic disruptions generally without taking a multigenerational approach.”

Professor Wolf Reik, head of epigenetics at the Babraham Institute in Cambridge, said, however, further work was needed before such results could be applied to humans.

He said: “These types of results are encouraging as they suggest that transgenerational inheritance exists and is mediated by epigenetics, but more careful mechanistic study of animal models is needed before extrapolating such findings to humans.”

It comes as another study in mice has shown that their ability to remember can be effected by the presence of immune system factors in their mother’s milk

Dr Miklos Toth, from Weill Cornell Medical College, found that chemokines carried in a mother’s milk caused changes in the brains of their offspring, affecting their memory in later life.

Everyday Choices

“When you are more aware you can make better choices.”

Deepak Chopra said that in his book, What Are You Hungry For? But anyone can say that, has said it. Your mother or father probably told you that. They may have substituted other words – older, more one thing or another – but basically it’s a simple thing to say and very true.

Not simple to do. It’s one of those moments in my practice – or with myself – when I say something really obvious and they say or I say, “Oh I know that!”

Yes, but what can you do about it? That’s the question, and the follow through pretty much determines how you feel about your life.

What is “awareness?” We all talk about it a lot but defining it in the moment is another thing. The nasty word “discipline” comes to mind. We all think we are disciplined until we really look, then, if we are lucky, we can see the cracks of where we could be better, where life can teach us something maybe without hitting us over the head.

Start with joy, love, fear, a feeling of peace. Their presence or absence and how much and how often. You can go a long way just watching your life according to those feelings.

Emotions cloud the feelings sometimes with justifications, sometimes with resentments or envy. Those pretty much take the equation to a much lower level and as long as we dwell in “I’m better than or worse than,” the fear we live in will be masked by jealousy and hubris and all their relatives and cousins and the truth of who we are will elude our grasp.

In the moments of willingness to take a risk, to take time off, not check something, take a breath, we let in what’s real for us – or it knocks at our door and to the extent we are comfortable or not, we make excuses or see a thing as what it is.

Our lives are changing all the time – our thoughts wiggle around like the microscope slide of pond water. We are never still, even as we are completely still in our human viewpoint, our bodies are oceans of activity. Our thoughts send neuropeptides all over our bodies. Our hearts have more receptors for emotions than our brains, every organ we recognize (and those we don’t) is listening to us, eavesdropping on our every micro moment. Even thoughts we don’t recognize ourselves as thinking are heard in our body in their fullest voice. What passes through the conscious mind is picked up by the unconscious with full comprehension.

The reason meditation is so impressive an avenue for change and positive growth is that it is channeling the unconscious, the part of us not so involved in our outside world of fame and misfortune. The unconscious has, from our sentient inception, been aware of our every thought and move, has received all the input that our cortex was not mature enough to take in and is processing it as I write. The more it can be counted in any decision-making process we embark on, the smarter we can be.

Finding well-being doesn’t happen by itself. It isn’t lying in wait for you ready to pounce. You must receive it. Your motion of looking, seeking, opening – the door, the box, the mind – is a way of saying you’re ready, you are not too full or empty to take more in. Awareness isn’t like food of which you can have enough, it’s a quantum field, expanding as you fill in and inhabit its spaces.

There is a story about what’s important. There is a jar, water, big rocks, small rocks and sand. Maybe you’ve heard this, bear with me. The jar is your everyday life, the choices you make in every minute, and the big rocks represent what’s the most important to you, the smaller rocks, yes, you get it – and the sand, the sand is all the phone calls to return, facebook posts, emails and so on.

Many of us put the sand in first on an everyday basis. We say something like, “oh, they’ll (our loved ones, family, friends) be there, they always are.” Or, “nobody cares anyway so what difference does it…..”  You get where I’m going.

So with the jar full of sand, there’s no room for the rocks, or you have to choose really carefully. What to do? When I have the visual, it’s perfectly clear that you’re going to get nowhere with the sand first, it just doesn’t work. So I take it out – because if I start my day with things like emails, I’ll have a lot of sand in the jar and a few little rocks and maybe a big one on a good day.

When I put the big rocks in first (I’ve chosen ones that fit), and then I place the smaller ones, maybe shake the jar a bit, then I put the sand in. It all fits! And I can add the water, which will make everything happier and more workable.

In practical terms what that all means is I put my oxygen mask on myself (big rock), I take care of what is important to me every day – more likely than not it’s just an attitude (very big rock), not something you’ll see me grinding away at. Keeping the long view (big rock), looking at the nitty (what I have to do to get where I want to be – part big & little rocks, sometimes involves sand) of life not so much as gritty but as supporting the long view. If there’s something I’m doing I find frustrating or painful, hopefully it will be in support of a brighter, more aware future me. If it isn’t, I hope I can let it go. Just as I let this lily be the next thing it’s going toward.

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Where I’m going with this

This is an expansion of my last post, The Long View. When I first wrote it I realized I had more to say but I wasn’t sure what. I found more today – tell me if it expands the ideas for you – or what? Thank you.

The Long View

When I was growing up everyone around me gave me suggestions for “what to do when…” I grew up. My friends and I wrote on our notebooks and in our journals what we wanted, to do, to be, to have and to hold. We girls tried different names on with our “first” names, we got “married,” wore “big” clothes, generally did everything we could to avoid being who we were; little girls growing up.

It wasn’t different for the boys, just different jobs, no name change and different responsibilities. We all had help from those around us. Teachers, parents, aunts, uncles, headmasters, principals, ministers of all kinds and creeds told us pretty much the same things: Do your best by following the designs laid down by our forebears. Take the next step, don’t be a surprise. No one wants a surprise.

When I was ten my mother’s cousins sat around me – I remember a close circle, but that was more how I felt than how they were arranged I suspect – and, talking over my head, decided where I would go to college, what I would do for how long before I married into their version of a suitable match.

I took notes. I listened (it made no sense), smelled their breath, their perfume, their shoes, and, in the invisible notepad in my heart vowed to do nothing they said. Nothing.

What a great set up that was for a willful rebel, for a kid whose mission was to fly under the radar. All of which I did (flew under) and none of which supported me anymore than following their objectives could have.

Now in the age of Facebook I see everyone married to everyone else – transcending age and gender – all goals and paths, up and down laid out in not very elegant prose. (If my mother’s cousins were anything, they were elegant.)

It feels so much like freedom I could almost be fooled into thinking there is less planning today and more “happy being me.” Instead I think not so much in terms of “more” and “less” but in the same. For instance, a few weeks ago I spoke with a young man of 25 who (I think) was trying to impress me with his plans. He said he had just landed a job with a well-known company in the tech field, he was being paid to be trained (and very proud of that) and he claimed to be willing to work for that company for 35 years. He had the list of his steps up the ladder: one year entry level, three years field work, and ending somehow in management after 35 years.

I have to admit my head swam and I might not have gotten all his details correctly. Why would anyone put himself on such a journey. I didn’t hear about discovery, I didn’t hear about enjoyment. I heard entrainment, a version of responsibility. I was at a loss – for words, among other things.

After spending much of the summer researching trauma and loss, fear, recovery and memory – and why would anyone study that unless they felt they would grow in the understanding of those close around them (that would be me!) – I did recognize that I was listening to fear. I was hearing about unacknowledged choices, unrecognized chances and a life lived within the barest of minimum tracks.

Of course I see myself in him. The fear of failure, the holding tight to what is known. We can all relate to some degree to the young who are starting out with what we call “chances of a lifetime,” while we know something about lifetimes and the longevity of denial. Denial has its own life. It can go on and on. It can hide in the smallest cracks, the most reasonable choices, the most sensible moments.

Who among us does not have a story about a dream unfilled, a lover denied. Not all of mine were chances lost, most were gains – but what about the mini-moments of denial, the tiny efforts let go, the chances I thought I couldn’t handle because I wasn’t good enough or didn’t deserve. There are those moments that come to each of us every day. How do we meet and greet them. What plans do we make to avoid them, what skills do we fall back on to justify choices? How do we treat our moment of green thrust? Do we make room?

Being here, where I am now, having parried with choices, with denial, with feeling good and bad about myself, I can see the well- lived, the half-lived, under and over the bar, within or without the spectrum, the degree to which I have been me, myself. It has become easy to see when I stray, when I strain. It was not so easy then. I thought strain was part of it. Part of the path – strain to be on it, strain to be off it. I was often filled with self-conscious confidence, judgement of where I was, where they were. Lots of judgement, like a chocolate sundae, so good at the first bite, a bit sickening at the last.

I don’t have the story that Mark Twain told of being amazed how much his father had learned in such a short time – when he got older and saw the wisdom of his father. I don’t feel anyone is right or wrong. I think there are a lot of confusing choices. There always have been and there always will be. That’s why we are here. Not to have an easy life but to bump up against ourselves, to make our marks like wrinkles as well as those of us who get to be known for something. To keep on going is enough. Putting one foot in front of the other, keeping our eyes and our hearts open, the wind in our face. As James Taylor wrote, “It’s enough to be on your way, enough just to cover ground, it’s enough to be moving on.” But for a life “well lived,” we are tasked to mindfulness, to feelings. (not emotions – that’s another article) We want the best for ourselves and in order to get that, we have to give ourselves the best – and accept it.

 

 

The Long View

A few weeks ago I spoke with a young man of 25 who (I think) was trying to impress me with his plans. He said he had just landed a job with a well-known company in the tech field, He was being paid to be trained and he claimed to be willing to work for that company for 35 years, he had the list of his steps up the ladder: one year entry level, three years field work, and ending somehow in management after 35 years.

I have to admit my head swam and I might not have gotten all his details correctly. Why would anyone put themselves on such a journey. I didn’t hear about discovery, I didn’t hear about enjoyment. I heard entrainment, a version of responsibility. I was at a loss – for words, among other things.

After spending much of the summer researching trauma and loss, fear, recovery and memory – and why would anyone study that unless they felt they would grow in the understanding of those close around them (that would be me!) – I did recognize that I was listening to fear. I was hearing about unacknowledged choices, unrecognized chances and a life lived within the barest of minimum tracks.

Of course I see myself in him. The fear of failure, the holding tight to what is known. We can all relate to some degree to the young who are starting out with what we call “chances of a lifetime,” while we know something about lifetimes and the longevity of denial. Denial had its own life. It can go on and on. It can hide in the smallest cracks, the most reasonable choices, the most sensible moments.

Who among us does not have a story about a dream unfilled, a lover denied. Not all of mine were chances lost, most were gains – but what about the mini-moments of denial, the tiny efforts let go, the chances I thought I couldn’t handle because I wasn’t good enough or didn’t deserve. There are those moments that come to each of us every day. How do we meet and greet them. What plans do we make to avoid them, what skills do we fall back on to justify choices? How do we treat our moment of green thrust? Do we make room?IMG_7843

 

 

Do Good Work

In my office right now – among other things – are two dogs and a wilted iris. As far as doing work goes, the iris is finished, but the rest of us are very able to do more.
The question is, “are we willing?”

The dogs are easy. They are. They are waiting for the opportunity and eager for a chance. In the meantime they are being their best selves. That’s what they do.

I, being the human in the mix, have choices. I can be excited for the next moment like the dogs and the iris when she was a bud, or I may succumb to any of the temptations my flesh is heir to.

In my favor, in the myriad possibilities, lies much pleasure. Same for pain, though that wouldn’t be called a plus although it might bring me to happiness if I let it.

I don’t have to change my world to get happy or sad, I need to change my mind. In order to do great work I can be here – wherever I am – and, as the dogs, be the best I can be right here right now.

Going to a place far away or even near, changing my life or keeping it the same is not the matter of great work. I can make a difference, change my attitude and create opportunities without changing my shirt.

“If you don’t change your beliefs, your life will be like this forever. Is that good news?” Douglas Adams

Up to you (me) – is that good news?

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This Is My Room

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I’ve been studying a lot about the brain lately – and habits. Such important tidbits and bytes that make up our worlds, personalities and basically our lives. How we see things – things as they are are how we see them. Pirandello wrote a play called Cosi e se vi pare – as usual I can’t do the accents on my accentless keyboard – but loosely translated it means we see what we want to see. (it is so if you think it is)
One of my brain readings involved toast. Burnt toast. It seems that when we in the christian world burn toast, we often see Christ’s face. This is not because Christ’s face is there, no, but because we see what we expect to see and we see the face of Christ a lot.
Gives me pause about the court system and any leaning at all toward believing in the truth of the eyewitness. Bystanders are no exception, they see what they want to see. I read what I want to read. Sometimes I think I’m making up the whole novel as I go along – but then every once in a while an idea plays in front of me that I know didn’t come from my head!
What about you? What do you see? Who do you see? Where were you when you saw…?

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Better and Better

In the 1800′s a physician named Emile Coue – my type doesn’t allow me to put the accent on the e – helped thousands of people in the town (city?) of Nancy, France. It was the era when those who were healers would hold group healings and/or see people one by one. Another worth looking at is Florence Scoville Shinn – same-ish era and modus operandi – writing and talking about auto-suggestion.

I have been delving into their work for some years now and marveling how far we have come from helping ourselves when we go to seek help from someone else. I remember once I asked my (very) country vet – no one here – about flea powder for my cats. He looked at me – I’m sure I was trying not to put it on my cats – “you might as well put it on your shoe and expect the fleas to go away.”

Reading Florence and Emile I notice how much they teach about how to apply the wisdom they espouse. No pills, no treatments other than developing the mind/body to align with the sought after result.

I believe that is my job too. For myself, yes, but also for those who come to me for guidance. And I know it best because, having done it, I see the result. Nothing is a straight shot, my misses are as fruitful as my hits.
I found this poem in my head while I was pondering these wonderful mentors, Florence and Emile, who I thank so much.

I am getting better and better every day.
Better at what? You might ask
Or, you might not. I’m getting better and better
No matter what I say. Or you say. That’s
The height of better.

I have ideas about myself that I no longer
Parade in front of me, take on for my
Impression of you. Or your impression of me.
Whichever comes first and stays longest.
I’m cozy on my own.

It’s not that resentments and dramatic fantasies
Of someone who was nasty to me don’t enter.
Perhaps I can roll around
Having a bit of a hard time. I might even participate
In that hard time but it’s brief.

And mental. That’s’ why I’m not so mental anymore.
Yes, I’m getting better and better every day. Did I
Neglect to say, “every way?” I did, didn’t I?
Well I have nothing to make up for because
I didn’t really do anything wrong, did I?

More heights, with sunny and light breezes.
There were some other things I wanted to say.
But I forgot or they slipped away. I
Don’t know which. Does it matter?
What matters is that the air is nice and
Spring is finally here.

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