Be Here Now

kai14wks2

“The quieter you become, the more you can hear.”
Ram Dass

This has been a funny summer. I think it’s because of this guy over here to the left.

Today Kai is 14 weeks. He looks like he’s about 2 years old. Watching him go from fitting in the palm of Mike’s hand to being too heavy to pick up in such a short period of time has really fine-tuned my perspective about time, life in general, and being in the moment.

You always hear people allude to this. Where did the time go? Seems like just yesterday. You blink and it’s gone. Where was I? Nothing like a fast-growing puppy to blow that up in a size 72 font.

Because we feel like the 8 week to 20 week window is the most important determining factor of the dog you will have for many years to come, the summer has been filled with 5:15 a.m. training episodes (don’t ask), weekly handling class, twice weekly puppy obedience class, multiple trips out to places where different kinds of people roam (Home Depot, PetSmart, the mechanic, the hairstylist, the grocery store…you name it), swim class, organized play dates with different breeds of dogs, reading The Monks of New Skete and training handouts, buying abnormal amounts of treats, learning about weird things like beef tripe, getting lots of blood marks from sharp puppy teeth (enter “OFF” and the water bottle) and so on. All this, mind you, while not catching Parvo which our vet tells us is chronic in the North State.

So how exactly does this work? It’s not healthy for the puppy to be in isolation during his key socialization windows, but if you take them out, they could get Parvo and die. However, if they don’t get Parvo and die, and you don’t take them out and socialize them, they can easily become neurotic, interact poorly with other animals and people, and not be as happy and well adjusted as you may hope. This has been a key fulcrum in balancing our summer.

What this has meant is that Mike and I have had to break up swim meets for our competitive swimming teen. This is weird and different because we have all been going together since 4th grade and he’s going into his junior year of high school. Somebody goes and somebody stays home. The person who stays home goes through withdrawals. That’s been me for the first 2.5 meets of the summer. Last weekend was finally my weekend to go watch my son swim.

We hightailed it up to Weaverville where I’d rented a great place 15 miles out in Lewiston on Airbnb. We were going to take Kai originally until our vet said she’d rather us not have his little pre-vaccinated paws out walking around and he’s way too big to carry.  One more time for the divide and conquer.

As we are driving there, my son gets a freaked out look on his face.

“I can’t stay out here, Mom. I only have one bar.” This as we pass through beautiful forest brimming with towering pines and interspersed with green meadows.

“That’s fine. You can find someone to camp with and stay at the pool.”

“K.”

It was settled. He would sleep on the ground and I would sleep in one of the three cushy beds.

So after the day’s races and following activities, I retired to my large 3 bedroom place in the woods, under star-blanketed skies. Nobody was around and the air was still and peaceful. The house looked out over a meadow on one side and up into a forest on the other. I could lay on this one bed that said DREAM on it and look out a high window straight into the trees. After the constant vigilance of having a puppy in training, just being able to lay still in silence and watch the trees was complete luxury.

I never touched any of the TVs. I got more sleep those two nights than I’ve had any night this summer. I had fantastic dreams (about dogs!) And I sunk into each moment, appreciating the fullness of both the puppy reality and the swim meet weekend reality.

As the weekend went by, and we returned to the routine of early morning trainings and liver treats, I brought back the thought that all these moments are precious gifts of the present for which I’m so grateful. Sometimes breaking our patterns is just what we need to be present and remember how special each moment really is.

Posted in animals, conscious living, healthy living, nature, pet health, pets, relaxation, therapy dogs | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Mind the Step

stairsMy mind’s like a bad neighborhood. I don’t like to go there alone. Annie Lamott

If you’ve ever tried to sit and meditate, you know what she means. I talk to so many people who say as soon as they sit to be quiet, their minds go wonky with talk bubbles popping up from The Committee. This happens to me, too.

I use different strategies to settle that down. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. One strategy is to picture a glass of murky, sand-swirled water. I watch as the sand settles on the bottom of a glass and the water becomes clear. I hope my mind gets the metaphor. Most simply, I repeat “in” and breathe in, and “out” while I breathe out until the mind chatter slows.

You hear through ever-increasing portals that meditation can change your life. I agree. It can make your brain bigger, say the scientists. It can increase attention, decrease tension, make you live longer, do your laundry. (Just seeing if your tracking.) And now I’m seeing it paired up as a dance partner to the Mindfulness Movement.

The interesting thing is that in the West we don’t know much about the mind. We throw the term “mindful” around, but there’s not much education on that mind. (I mean did you ever have a class in “What is the Mind?” I know I didn’t.)  I watched a documentary this week called “Spiritual Revolution” which reports some startling facts about our mind knowledge. They speak about how only in recent years has the medical community began to study the brain, and more importantly, the mind. Dr. Daniel Siegel, a professor at UCLA Medical School and Director of Mindsight Institute, teaches over 60,000 mental health practitioners. He has recently began asking these two questions at seminars.

  1. How many of you have ever had a seminar defining the mind?
  2. How many of you have had a single seminar defining mental health?

To the first question, only 2 – 5% of mental health professionals raise their hands. To the second question, only 3 – 5%. That means over 95% of mental health professionals HAVE NEVER had a single seminar defining the mind or mental health.

I find this mind-boggling.

These are the professionals we look to most carefully for answers on these topics in the West. The truth, it seems, is they don’t have the information either.  Other parts of the world look to other philosophies to understand the ways of the mind. For example, the documentary goes on to look at Buddha as the original psychotherapist. His search was for happiness, alleviation of suffering, and ultimate well-being. He was the ultimate “mindfulness” guy.

Today, we see the term “mindful” and variations thereof everywhere. There are mindful snacks, there is mindful eating, there are mindfulness seminars, there are even mindful schools for kids and teens such as Innerkids in Los Angeles that teach kids how to settle themselves in an unsettling world. “Mindfulness” is used widely and hails from Behaviorist Theory. But what exactly is it and where do you get it, this mindfulness medicine?

In my own experience, the best place to understand mindfulness is in my own silence and meditation. I think this because if I am not doing those things daily, my mind is not as present and focused the rest of the hours I’m awake. I can not listen as well on all levels (sometimes any level) to other people.  I lose things easier. I find myself less grateful for the small things that I notice when I’m more balanced and mindful. It’s a key step in what feels to me like mindful being.

When facing a stair, our English friends tell us to Mind the Step. There’s a connection there. By paying attention, and being mind-full, we can get to where we’re going in a better way without falling on our faces.

 

 

Posted in Inspiration, mindful | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

E-Motion

DSCN2361All my life I’ve been told I’m too sensitive. I’ve also been told I’m clairsentient, psychic, and an empath. When I walk in a room, I feel the emotions of each person. I can see what they are carrying internally and often what lights them up. I have always seen my role on this planet to lighten the heavy part by inspiring and highlighting the bliss part of human souls.

It took me many years (like 50) to be able to regulate this. It is important to regulate for both others and for me. For others, it becomes an ethical issue. Not everybody wants another person looking into their very personal emotions. For me, it becomes an issue of preservation as it’s exhausting to feel the gamut of emotions (pain, sorrow, joy, fear, anger) that people feel and feel a strong impulse to regulate that. It’s hard enough handling my own.

This is something I’ve never shared publicly. I’m a very spiritual (and not at all religious) person, but my relationship with the Source/God/Spirit is so magnificent and so ever present that I can’t really keep it to myself anymore. As I move into my third year of metaphysical studies, and at increasing depth through spiritual practitioner program this Fall, I have learned to modulate my sensitivity without using food, alcohol, or distraction to regulate my emotions…to start to look into my subconscious mind and unravel some of the not-so helpful programs that live there.

I’ve come to realize–and feel so much gratitude for–my emotional steering committee that helps me to experience life in the fullest and live out my purpose on this planet which is to lift up and inspire others. In order to do this best, I need to isolate in meditation, spiritual studies, and writing. I seek that balance with all the other life callings on a daily basis. Sometimes things (like a new puppy, for example) throw that balance out of whack and it is my responsibility to reclaim it.

In that reclaiming process, my husband and I were grateful to have a date night on Saturday. We have done that weekly for 17 years and when we miss a few, we really notice. When our friend offered to stay with Kai so we could do our regular movie and dinner, I felt elated and supported. (And, probably we didn’t really need to check in on him remotely through our phone video, but we did anyway.)

We went to see “Inside Out,” an animated film so cleverly crafted and told from the point of view of the emotions themselves. It also delved into memories and how they are affected by various emotions, how they are stored in long term, short term, and subconscious places, and how they all should be experienced in their right time.

It gave me an increased compassion and gratitude for my own set of emotions, and how each has such a vital role in keeping us moving forward, ever evolving. I spent some time just thanking them for giving me the sensitivity that, while it sometimes causes me great pain at times, allows me to help others in a way I wouldn’t be able to otherwise. And the flip side is that when I look at a rose in bloom, my heart opens in a moment of bliss that blocks out anything and everything else in the world as I take in the incredible sensations of that moment and this world of never-ending abundance and beauty.

That’s what I’m talking about. It. (Not a typo. Just something my youngest son used to say that makes me smile.)

 

Posted in co-creating, conscious living, healthy living, Inspiration, metaphysical, nature, spiritual, subconscious | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

Firsts

surferI’ve been thinking a lot about firsts lately. When I was a young teen, firsts revolved around kisses and “I love yous.” As a half-way through adult, I see firsts everywhere. (I was going to say half-cooked adult, but that made me sound a little like I was leaning too heavily on the sauce so I didn’t).

I see firsts through the eyes of my kids. First time joining a board as an almost 30-something in academia; first time flying on a plane alone as a teen; first time buying a king bed on his own; first time falling in love…

I see it through my new 11-week-old pup who I think we should have named “Tank” due to his 24 lb. physique. Absolute fascination with his first ice cube which he skittered all over the floor with glee; his first dive in the pool; his first bee sting.

And I see it in the community, the country. The first time one of my health coach clients realizes the power they have to get themselves healthy. The first time gay marriage is legal in 50 states. The first time certain local mountain towns hit 117 degrees. I marvel at it all.

And that’s because firsts make us keenly aware of the moment we’re in. Whether we like the thing that transpires or not, the Universe cries out for our attention. It reminds me of the name game with my new pup. “Kai!” and his head (ideally) snaps in my direction. That’s what the Universe does. It says our name enthusiastically, with cheese on top, so that we snap our head in its direction. Always. In the hills and the valleys. And it says, “Yes!!”

Look at all that I am. Look at the gazillions of blades of grass in one square foot. Look at the grains of sand in one square inch. Look at the leaves on the trees, the birds in the sky, my special sound and light effects with thunder and lightning during a summer storm. Look at all of it here, abundant and available.

It’s everywhere, not just when we’re traveling to an exotic bungalow in Bora Bora (though admittedly those definitely make it easy!)  But it’s just as present and available when we’re sitting in our own space with our own spirit listening to the silence. Not checking our phone, not making a list of what’s to come, not thinking about what we’re lacking, but just sitting and thinking, “Wow. Just wow.”

We get so busy thinking about what came before and after, we miss the present. Firsts are here to remind us to stop that.

Posted in animals, conscious living, healthy living, Inspiration, pets, therapy dogs | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Through Kai’s Eyes

cat4My people call me Kai after a place they like in Hawaii. It’s called Kailua Kona. They say they’re going to live there one day. I hope I get to go. (Today I got my own Instagram account at Kai Weil if you want to watch me grow. It’s going to be good.)

I’ve lived with my new people for 8 days now. It’s quite different than my other family. For one thing, they don’t like it when I bite them. The weird thing is my other family loved that. As soon as our teeth started coming in, we celebrated by nipping each other’s ears and legs. It was great fun.  But when I nip at my new family members, they yell “OUCH!” really loud and stop playing with me. It’s confusing, but I think I get it. It’s because they don’t have hair like me except for the stuff that hangs down when they play with me. (They don’t like it when you bite that either. So many rules.)

One thing they have here at my new place that rocks: these little chewy nubbins they call Nylabones. They taste delicious. I can hold them between my paws and gnaw away. It feels so good on my teeth. Sometimes I miss the bone and get the stuff below it which is kind of fun to pull on because it tugs back. Then the people say, “NOT THE CARPET” and I look at them to understand because I want to understand. I want them to like me. I go back to my bone because they seem to like that.

“Goooood boy,” they say. Phew. Yes, bone. No, carpet. Check.

I live inside here. I like it because it’s cool and we have DogTV and toys and people to play with, but I get preoccupied and pee which they don’t like at all.  They yell, “NOT THE CARPET!” They really like the carpet. I hope they like me that much, too.

I’m trying to win them over by doing some things they like. I’m very clever so I’ve figured those out. They do so like it when I go to the place they call my “special spot” and they get REALLY excited when I run there and go on my own. But did I mention it’s really hot out there? Today is 112. (I know that because they keep saying it.) To cool off, I jump in my pool and grab my toy. If I bring it to them, they get really excited. They also really like it when I sit or run towards them with my whole butt wiggling.

Back to the list of “don’ts.”

    • Don’t potty inside
    • Don’t bite the people (as already mentioned, but it’s a biggy)
    • Don’t eat the furniture, or the walls, or the carpet (any of the good stuff, really)
    • Don’t go hide behind things where you can’t be seen (can’t a guy get a little privacy?)
    • Don’t go in the mud
    • Don’t dig big holes in the yard (this one’s a real drag, ’cause I love me some diggin’)
    • Don’t yipe…for any reason really
      kaiinmud
    • Don’t dig in the fire pit and make all the ash go up in a big cloud of gray until you look prematurely aged (That was crazy! I couldn’t see anything!)

This is just a starter list. More comes up and I’m trying to learn it all. But it’s tough to remember. I’m doing it, though, because I get perks like these.

  • A family who loves me
  • I get to meet new friends like these pretty ladies
  • I get to swim in my pool, which I adore
  • I get to go “training” and learn sit, stand, stack, leave it (not my fave), here and then they say, “Goooood boy.” (After I get to play with my cousins and bite which I do so enjoy.)
  • Best of all, I get to make my family so happy and bring them joy.remi

crista2

swim3

Mom says I’m going to be a “therapy” dog. I don’t know what that means exactly, but I think it’s going to be fun. Mom says it’s perfect because my name means “restoration” and “recovery” in Hawaiian. It also means ocean and she says we get to go see that at a place called Dog Beach in Santa Cruz. She says I’m gonna love it there.

I can’t wait for all our adventures. I’m going to be the bestest boy. I’m so happy I’m home.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in animals, conscious living, healthy living, Inspiration, pets, therapy dogs | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Ashland Secrets You’ll Love!

There are things you can control in life, and things you can’t. Eric Weisinger of Weisinger Family Winery

(inspired by Professor Clark Smith who wrote on the board: Winemaking (like life) is the art of the intelligent compromise.

Today is mDSCN5248y husband and my 18th wedding anniversary, 21 dating anniversary and 32 friendship anniversary. What can I say? We like to celebrate.

So we headed North to Oregon, pioneer style, to discover unexplored territory. Although I’ve been visiting Ashland for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF) since my teens, we found so many new gems. I can hardly wait to share them with you.

First, we stayed at Lithia Springs Resort. This place is nothing short of magical. It’s a collection of 11 different types of cottages with periwinkle blue walls and yellow doors (perfect for two Bruins!) The cottages have a soaking tub fed by the healing Lithia Springs water, along with a shower to wash off the minerals spa-style. The beds in this place are heavenly–white fluffy pillows as far as the eye can see. You could probably just spend your time going between the soaking tub and bed and be completely transformed into pure bliss. (Well, I could anyway.)

Around these cottages, acres of lush gardens with sitty places abound. Each mini-garden is accented with a water feature of some kind. At the koi pond, you can sit and watch koi of unusual size. Do you see how big those suckers are?DSCN5249

There are benches, loungers, chairs — whatever matches your style. The birch trees even seem to wave at you in the wind. (We waved back, but then we’re freaks that way.) Roses, delphinium, grape vines, and flora throughout the walk ways and cottages are listed in the tea room, along with a list of critters that live there, too.

That’s right. There’s a tea room.  DSCN5256

At 3:00, tea, lemonade, scones, lemon curd, raspberry jam and cookies — all homemade–are put out for guests to enjoy. The space is so relaxing and is right next to the Waterstone Spa so you can catch that spa smell. You can also get hot or cold mineral water out of the tap here. (Not the stinky mineral water you taste in Ashland at those fountains in case you’re wondering.) The lemon curd is divine, but it’s sort of like picking a favorite child at the tea. You just can’t do it.

Then there’s the breakfast! Inclusive in the already low price, is this delicious, extensive breakfast with Chef Cheryl’s own homemade scone recipe. She’s been at this for 16 years and has mad skills in the kitchen. There were eggs, homemade granola and scones, blintzes, yogurt, sausage, bacon, coffee, juices, fruit and about a gazillion other things. On one wall of the dining room is Gabriel Lipper’s first large mural he painted and it really sets a mood. The woman on the left was his then girlfriend, now wife, and the woman on the right her best friend. They bought these vintage clothes and posed for this mural. The owner was so happy with his work, he promoted Lipper and eventually Lipper went on to DSCN5236paint many naked ladies and westerns, including some work for Garth Brooks. How do I know all this? Cheryl (scone etc. maker extraordinaire) saw me taking a photo and gave me the whole back story. Breakfast and history lessons here at Lithia. (We Googled Gabriel and tried to find his studio, but I think we ended up at his house. We didn’t go in because we thought that may be a little weird with the whole naked lady thing.) Instead, we headed to check out the up and rising Southern Oregon wine scene we’d heard so much about. They now boast over 50 in the five appellations at the bottom of Oregon.

We visited four wineries. I would recommend all of them because they were all so unique in place and wine. We love finding wineries that don’t sell wine outside their winery. You can’t find them at BevMo. That way, it feels like a treasure hunt when you find that special  wine or a place.

The first place with that special find was Caprice Vineyards in Central Point just outside of Jacksonville. The first thing I noticed driving in were the fruit trees and a lone catalpa which happens to be one of my favorite trees. Immediately you get a different vibe than the typical winery drive up a dirt road. There’s a quaint, Italian feeling porch with tables perfect for enjoying a glass of wine (I’d go for the ’09 Cab) or one of their delicious cheese trays. But what you should really do, after tasting the wines in their tasting room/gift shop, is get your favorite glass of red or white and head on out to the alpacas. The boys are slightly more friendly than the girls, but both groups (strategically separated) LOVE grape vines. Conveniently, the day we went, the vines were being trimmed and we were able to bring offerings.

DSCN5203

Aren’t they the cutest? They were sheared the weekend before which explains the look. (Jeanne uses the ultra soft hair for alpaca classes and has her students turn it into hats, scarves and other things you can find in the gift shop.) The Caprice owners actually started their alpaca farm in Riverside, California after watching an ad on television. An interesting detail about these darling creatures is that they are shy and considered prey. This llama is put out as a bodyguard to take care of them. This winery is a good option for children as not all in Southern Oregon allow them.

DSCN5216

The next winery we hit up has a whole different vibe. Owner/winemaker Eric Weisinger heads up this long time father/son venture. Eric’s Dad, John, Presbyterian minister emeritus, launched the winery in the 1970s with the digging of what remains one of the largest underground cellars in the area. One of the earliest wineries as evidenced by their very thick Gewurtztraminer vines, Weisinger has taken on different influences over the years. One of the very interesting influences is Eric’s international flavor. He’s spent much time in Europe and actually worked at a winery in New Zealand. Eric explained aspects of the wine business to us we’d never heard in our 20 years of tasting such as the economics behind custom crush. So interesting to us, but here are two things you need to know.

The view here is fantastic and the wine is awesome (especially the first Bordeaux blend in Southern Oregon known as Petit Pompadour at 64% Merlot and 36% Cab Sauvignon. The 2011 is delicious–bought some!) But what I’m equally excited about is the upcoming 2014 Cab Franc and 2014 Pinot that’s on barrel. DSCN5223Eric was kind enough to let us taste from the barrels and wow–outstanding. If it was in bottles (patience because it’ll be a few years) we’d have brought home multiples in a heartbeat! We will for sure be making a trip back when they are released.

The next day we hit two wineries, EdenVale and Dana Campbell. EdenVale is located in Medford, about 20 miles north of Ashland. When we arrived, we saw this stately historic house which we wandered into because we couldn’t find the bathrooms or anybody in the tasting room. You must go here just to see DSCN5252this place. Old photos on the wall reminiscent of plantation homes and vineyards/orchards as far as the eye can see. When we started our tastings, the standout we brought home was the 2010 Rogue River Rose. However, here’s a funny secret about these guys that wine club members absolutely love. We talked to two from San Mateo who verified. They have wine in airtight bags that last up to 45 days. The winemaker responded to club members’ requests. It cuts expense and waste–no more having to drink a bottle in 3 days. Their Sangria, prepared nicely by event manager Aaron Nino with ice and fruit, was delicious.

On the other side of town is Dana Campbell, the closest winery to Ashland. It sits up on a hill overlooking rolling hills and the quaint town of Ashland. Floor to ceiling windows in the converted 5 bedroom house make a breathtaking tasting room and patio. On the patio is a large fire pit with ample seating for those fall sunsets over the vineyard. Pat Flannery was kind to meet us on a closed day and show us around the wines and the place. We loved (as do the locals) the Sauvignon Blanc. Pat has a Hawaiian-esque way of talking story and we enjoyed hearing stories of how the tasting room came to be. The day before we arrived several acres of new grapes had been added to the already lushly covered hills so new wines on the horizon there. They grow the grapes, and take them off site, happy to not have the expense and work to keep up with on-site equipment.  (Pat, after all, is “retired.”) This one is not for kids, by the way. Rattlesnakes live out in the vineyards.

But what about food?

Okay, can I just say GO TO THE LOFT right near OSF.

First, get this:

DSCN5254

 

It’s the butter lettuce salad.

Then, get the Dungeness Crab Macaroni Casserole. If you are with someone, you can totally share it. It’s rich and I could only eat about a third, but it’s not to be missed. It’s the crab macaroni and cheese treasure hunt. Large pieces of succulent fresh crab hidden beneath a mac & cheese blanket.DSCN5255 In addition to the unforgettable food at The Loft (sit on the balcony under the liquid amber for a quaint, romantic spot) was the service. Ashley Chamberlain was perhaps one of the best servers I’ve had for quite some time. In a funny twist of fate, we discovered she went to the same high school in Palos Verdes California that my oldest son attended. (Yah, we were totally in the flow during our stay there.)

After The Loft, the perfect place to go is
the Shakespeare Festival and see “Anthony & Cleopatra.” For one, it’s in the Elizabethan so you’re out under the stars in this very sacred space rich with Oregonian history. Two, it’s Shakespeare, and you just have to hear people talk like that sometimes. And three, this production is outstanding. All three hours of it wrapped to a standing ovation. If you can still get tickets (and I don’t know if you can), this is one to catch. We also heard great things about “Guys and Dolls” and I’ve never seen a bad play in the New Theater. If you go here and like these plays, join the OSF. You get first pick tickets, discounts, and free tickets during special promotions, not to mention bathroom perks in the Member’s Only lounge. Plus, it’s an awesome cause to support.

So what are you waiting for? High-tail it to Ashland already! I know we’ll be back. Maybe in the winter for another kind of magic.DSCN5229

Lithia Springs Resort – 2165 West Jackson Road, Ashland, OR  (800) 482-7128 www.lithiaspringsresort.com

Caprice Vineyards – 970 Old Stage Road, Central Point, OR 97502 (541) 499-0449 www.capricevineyards.com  Owners: James & Jeanne Davidian

Weisinger Family Winery – 3150 Siskiyou Boulevard, Ashland, OR (541) 488-5989 www. weisingers.com  (awesome new website!) (541) 488-5989 GM/Winemaker: Eric Weisinger

EdenVale Winery, Eden Valley Orchards 2310 Voorhies Road, Medford, OR (541) 512-2955 x2 www.edenvalleyorchards.com – They’re big on events and Aaron Nino is the event manager.

Dana Campbell Vineyards, 1320 N Mountain Avenue, Ashland, OR (541) 482-3798 www.danacampbellvineyards.com, Owners: Patrick Dana Flannery and Rear Admiral Paula Campbell Brown

The Loft, 18 Calle Guanajuato Way, Ashland, OR (541) 482-1116

Oregon Shakespeare Festival, www.osfashland.org (800) 219-8161

Jubilee Trolley, Katherine Hooker, Owner – (541) 253-1080 – If you want to hit the Rogue River Appellation, this is the way to go. At $40 per person per day, Katherine and her husband (who built the trolley) will take you to five wineries!DSCN5209

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The Flow

waterfall2
One of the first thing kids want to know when they find out I write books for children and teens is where I get my ideas. If it’s a particular story I have not been assigned, and I don’t have structural restrictions that way, I find the stories the same way I try to live my life. I use my intuition. I like to call it The Flow.

When I tell a story, I want to tell a story that is authentic on a deeper plane. I want to tell a story that comes to me and through me, not one which I force into a container mandated by market trends. I smile when multiple people say, “You wrote that for me, didn’t you?” because I feel then I have tapped into the collective consciousness. I have told the story that needed to be told in that moment.

But what does that look like? It’s not something that can be done with an analytical mind. For me, it’s about staying in The Flow. We are all programmed to do this, but often we keep ourselves too busy, riddled by our monkey minds.  Luckily, there’s a secret tool. A key part of getting there–and staying there– is something I do every day before I write: meditation.

In my pre-writing meditation, the focus is on allowing. After a period of just being and following the breath, I invite the story that wants to be told to come forward.  I ask that the timing of that story be made clear to me from the ultimate Storywriter. I open up and allow, setting my look-at my-fancy-metaphor ego in the closet–and wait. It is not about drawing attention to myself with my literary bling, but rather about opening up as a conduit for a bigger story that wants to be told.

What happens next is I can barely keep up. The words waterfall off my hand and onto the page just as they are at this very moment. (I first wrote this entry longhand in my journal. The words flowed so fast my hand fell asleep and I kept having to shake it.)  If I’m not standing in The Flow — indeed living and breathing there — the words disappear like a dream upon awakening.

But by staying in The Flow, we remember what we need to remember. We make space for the moment, in both writing and life. In fact, often by the end of a blog entry, or a novel, I am surprised to find where it leads and opens up. It’s almost always better than my logical mind could have devised. Take this entry for example. I thought I was going to write about anxiety because I had this really fascinating input from the world around me this week on that subject. However, this story flowed very different than that. That means the thoughts on anxiety want to come at a different time and I’m totally good with that.

In life, I start each day with an outline on a yellow sticky sheet. It’s prioritized the night before, a habit I developed after attending a business management conference while working at law firms and juggling marketing activities for hundreds of lawyers. It helps me get stuff done and not procrastinate. However, what I’ve learned to do now is allow for The Flow each morning and recognize that may modify my note because there might be something that trumps it all. I will know when I listen. If I don’t check in, the day is never as much fun.

I feel grateful and joyous when I’m living in The Flow. Synchronicities abound and such fun stuff happens. The Flow is always there when I sit quietly and go to it, letting my thoughts pass…saying hello but not clinging to them and allowing what is to be. Answers become clear. Inspirations abound. I connect with the collective.

That’s my happy place. The best part is it reaches beyond me to you and shows how we are all connected to each other.

I do so love being connected with you.

Posted in conscious living, healthy living, Inspiration, meditation, Uncategorized, writing | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Yoga as a Pathway to Recovery

quotesRecovery wears many robes. It can be recovery from addictions. The twelve-step programs have really coined the term in that way. It can be recovery from mental illness. The mental health movement uses it in this way. Or it can mean simply getting back what once was yours.  Here’s the actual definition:

  • a return to a normal state of health, mind, or strength.
  • the action or process of regaining possession or control of something stolen or lost.

Several weeks ago, a writer and editor approached me with this post on the role yoga can take in recovery. That person requested I share it with you. As a dedicated yogi in philosophy and practice, I was eager to share. I hope you will like it as much as I do.

yoga-recovery-addiction-benefits-680x415For individuals in recovery, the path to a healthier life requires a multifaceted approach. Physical, emotional and spiritual growth are all vital parts of the success equation. One practice that embodies all of these elements is yoga, and its use in recovery is a natural fit.

The word yoga literally means “to yoke,” a uniting of spiritual, mental and physical practice. Yoga is not about achieving the incredible feats of flexibility that grace the covers of magazines in the checkout line of Whole Foods; in fact the physical postures are just one of eight “limbs” of yoga, including ethical standards, self discipline, postures, breath, sensory transcendence, concentration, meditation and ecstasy. The physical practice of moving through various poses—or asana—is meant to be a moving meditation. It is as much about connecting breath to movement as it is about achieving any sort of physical milestones.

Pranayama—the limb that focuses on the breath—is a particularly poignant practice for those in recovery. By harnessing the depth and rhythm of our breath, we are able to tap into our parasympathetic nervous system and help its regulation. This helps us bring our heart rate and stress hormones back to a normal level after our “fight or flight” sympathetic nervous system response has been activated. For many people in recovery, the sympathetic nervous system is out of balance. Either they are actively seeking to tap into it by using stimulants, or working to quiet an overactive system by using sedatives.

Inversions—or going upside down—help people see the world in a different way, which is exactly what they’re trying to do if they’re in recovery.-MARCUS BERARDINO

Addiction functions on many levels, but a common feature is a sense of detachment from the body. Yoga poses work by cultivating focus and attention on the body to help counteract this. Certain types poses are specifically indicated for people in recovery. “Child’s pose, squatting, standing pose and other grounding poses help establish a sense of feeling safe, feeling at home,” said Marcus Berardino, a Brooklyn-based yoga instructor and massage therapist who offers “yoga prescriptions” to his clients. “Inversions—or going upside down—help people see the world in a different way, which is exactly what they’re trying to do if they’re in recovery,” he said.

The body of someone in recovery is a holding place for pain, and physical reminders of an addiction often linger long after sobriety has been established. Yoga therapist Weena Pauly, who teaches a method called Rising Phoenix Yoga Therapy, explains that the body gives us clues about our emotional state that we may not be consciously aware of. “In yoga therapy we might look at someone’s posture and see why its there, versus in a yoga class where we might look to correct the posture,” she said. Pauly feels that while 12-step programs are often highly effective, they do not include a focus on the body.

Another common feature among individuals in recovery is a history of trauma. Both Berardino and Pauly cautioned against moving too quickly into poses that might be intense or evoke strong feelings of vulnerability too quickly, such as major backbends, or heart openers. “The person in yoga therapy needs support outside of the session when they’re headed into messier waters,” said Pauly.

Yoga’s rise to popularity in the U.S. began in the 1950’s but was more widely popularized starting in the 1960’s, mainly as a result of more relaxed immigration laws that allowed for yoga gurus from India to remain in the U.S. for longer periods of time and disseminate their teachings. Yoga has been in practice in India for 5,000 years, but today’s yoga bears little resemblance to the ancient practice. In many classes, the spiritual teachings are rarely if ever mentioned and instead, an emphasis on the physical benefits—a longer, leaner, more toned physique—is the sole focus. While physical activity of any sort can still benefit individuals in recovery by providing them with a way to care for their bodies rather than do harm, this type of practice does not address issues of emotional regulation that can lead one to use substances in the first place. There is also a missed opportunity to work through step 11 of the 12 steps, which focuses on meditation.

In yoga therapy we might look at someone’s posture and see why its there, versus in a yoga class where we might look to correct the posture.-WEENA PAULY

Fortunately, for those who are interested in pursuing yoga as a means to aid their recovery, resources are plentiful. Classes are becoming more prevalent at inpatient and outpatient treatment facilities. Yoga teacher Tommy Rosen, who is himself in recovery, hosts a free online conference featuring experts in the field of holistic recovery. There are yoga programs specifically geared towards those in 12-step programs such as Yoga of Recovery, which offers retreats in the Bahamas and other tropical settings. And with hundreds of free resources readily available on the Internet, yoga is an accessible and egalitarian form of recovery support.

Posted in Inspiration, mindful, recovery, yoga | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Lessons from the Pack

We are getting a new puppy mid-June named Kai. He is a yellow labrador retriever.kai8 His momma, Reece, was friends with our beautiful Ms. Bay who passed last January. When we found out Reece was going to have puppies, we got on friend Julie’s list. (This may be Kai or his sibling. We’re not sure yet.)

Several weeks ago, while I was away in the Bay Area celebrating my oldest son’s passing of orals on his PhD and launch into dissertation mode, Julie texted and asked if we could take the pack for four days over Memorial Day weekend. Her husband’s dad had died and they were going up to Oregon to be with family. I would get home, have a day to regroup, then all seven four and a half week pups would come over with Reece who was still nursing, though the pups started solids as well. This was quite a favor and we had never had puppies (as in EVER) in mass.

Well, of course we will do it! was the obvious response.

DSCN5185DSCN5186

We printed up documents of feeding instructions and emergency numbers and pasted them on the fridge. The dad showed up with a whole pickup bed worth of equipment which we set up. One by one, momma and puppies piled out of the backseat crate and into our hearts.

Frankly, I think this should be mandatory for every pet owner. Make it a bill. Maybe a Change.org petition. Every puppy owner first needs to tend to the entire pack for a minimum of four days before bringing one home to stay. Because during these four days, you really  begin to understand so many aspects of the transition from dog pack to people pack. You understand how hard it must be for the pups to leave their family and move to a human family with new rules and new ways that were different from their primary family.

It reminded me of this exercise I did at this recent youth mental health conference I went to at Asilomar after watching a film called “Removed” about a young child dropped into the foster system. Child services took her from a domestic violence situation. Here was the exercise.

Pretend you are a tourist in Russia and war breaks out. You have $10 and don’t speak language. You have only one more night in your hotel. You can’t leave the country and the embassy is under attack. All foreigners will be removed and imprisoned if found. You are stuck there for at least a year. What do you do?sib3

This, I thought, must be similar to how the pups feel when they are taken from their pack and brought into homes with a new language, culture and customs. They are eager to please, but don’t know the language, the rules, the routines. They need time, and focus, and consistent practice to know they are doing all the right things.

Potential puppy owners really need to read Ian Dunbar, the Monks of New Skete, and anything they can get their hands on from top trainers in this field. Then, unless they are professional breeders or trainers, they need to hire a trainer BEFORE THE PUP comes home, to train them. It is not fair to the pup, who’s stuck in Russia, not to invest this way. This training should continue after the pup comes home and as the pup grows. Then maybe we won’t have such a high rate of pet dissatisfaction and abandoned animals.

Watching the pups also taught me about personality. We saw how certain pups would pair off. We spotted the instigator who would bite everyone’s ears and had insomnia. We saw the boy who always reached his arm out to draw around his sibling. He did this many different times. We saw the pup who preferred to be behind the doghouse in a smaller, tighter space (sensory integration issues?) I could see the labeling process happening before our very eyes.

love

We witnessed competition and collaboration. As the pups interacted we saw how biting could be both for play and domination, and that if one got too aggressive, a third pup would often come over and intervene. We saw them wrestling for pack position, and we noticed those who wanted no part of that competition. By the second night, we saw how all pups piled on top of that blue cot thing, cuddled up, and slept all night snuggled together.

I noted how forgiving they are. No grudges, no anger, no remembrance of biting and wrestling, or who did what to whom. Just one big happy family, growing together, and so happy when the whole thing begins all over the next day. Pure love.5weeks2days2

Posted in Inspiration, nature, pets, relationships, resilience | Tagged , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Children and Mental Health: They Need Us

cheerLast week, I attended a conference called CHMACY at the Asilomar conference grounds in Pacific Grove, California. A group known as United Advocates for Children and Youth gave me a scholarship so I went to learn more about who they are and what they do.

United Advocates for Children and Families (UACF) is a non profit organization with a mission to improve the quality of life for all children and youth with mental, emotional, and behavioral challenges and to eliminate institutional discrimination and social stigma. They empower parents, caregivers, children, and youth through education, training, and technical assistance programs and services to ensure families are present at every level of decision making. They keep families informed on important news and events by providing monthly opportunities for networking and collaboration and extensive communications and outreach efforts . UACF also operates a direct services program for and by families in various counties of the state. It is free to belong.

There were many interesting moving parts to this CHMACY conference. As a mental health advocate and teacher in this area for many years now, I couldn’t figure out why I’d never heard of them. Their goal is to collect information from the various counties throughout California and be a voice for children and families in Sacramento. They track closely what’s happening with legislation, if current legislators are friends and allies (or not), and lobby for mental health needs on behalf of the marginalized voices of the youngest Californians.

I met some amazing people. They were county employees, parent advocates, social workers, and so forth. They worked in schools and in agencies and for the government. My favorites, though, were youth advocates. I met and spoke with young heroes in a group called Youth in Mind who were activists, consultants, and advocates. Many were 20 somethings (barely) who had “lived experiences.” That means quite likely they had run away from abusive home scenarios (foster or otherwise) or had been kicked out of their homes for various reasons. Many had lived homeless for different periods of time. They had figured out a way to take their experiences and help others, and they had amazing stories and hutzpa.

After a day or so of listening to stories, I realized I was not familiar with these groups or with this conference because unless a person is in the foster system or goes to prison, they do not have access to many of these services. Sometimes, even then it’s hard to figure out how to access them.  That didn’t make much sense to me. Shouldn’t there be a group out there trying to intervene two steps BEFORE prison and foster care and make the services easy to navigate?

No question that ALL families with children experiencing mental health issues could use a helping hand. Many times, they don’t speak up for fear of being stigmatized. They may not have the resources where they live or even if they do have resources, they might not be able to pay for them. They may not know where to start. Schools often dodge the issue for fear they may have to pay for them. Churches say to pray harder and are often not equipped with the right tools for desperate families. I’ve heard many people tell me churches kicked them out and they were devastated. When they need spiritual strength most, they are abandoned. (Bad churches. Shame on you.) Meanwhile, the kids don’t miraculously get better because the adults can’t figure out a plan. They get worse.

So here’s what I’m going to do. There is this model called Parent Cafes (evidence-based and successful!) where parents of children experiencing mental health challenges can come and discuss what they need. I’m going to start one in Shasta County. Parents brainstorm and network and chat. Discuss what’s working and not working in their counties. (By the way, Shasta/Tehama/and all surrounding counties have NO REPRESENTATION and I believe the worse drug issues in the country last time I looked. Obviously, that correlates to more prevalent mental health problems.) After the cafes, notes are sent to Sacramento for a voice so they can at least not claim ignorance as to what’s happening in the north part of the state with the kiddos and their families. And parents feel supported in their darkest days.

Parents and families are the crux of our societies. It is vital we take care of our children and their needs. It won’t be long before they’re running the show. When I look at the inspiring stories of the young adults I met at this conference, I have so much hope. Thanks, UACF, for giving me this vision into what’s happening in California. I know, without question, we can make a difference.

Posted in healthy living, mental health, mental health and children | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments