Monday, September 28, 2009

Health Care - Earned or Entitled?

Do we want health care regardless of ability to pay to be our right as Americans, or do we think it is a benefit to be earned? This is a core issue being debated all over the country.

Should everyone visiting the US be able to receive urgent or emergent care? Should children or the elderly have special consideration and coverage? No matter our opinion on these issues, we are freaked out about how we are paying for care now and how we might pay for it in the future. Right now costs are high. We are already paying for our unhealthy citizens in so many ways - just look around you at the decreasing quality of so many of our lives.

We are becoming more overweight, diabetic, and depressed. We wait until we absolutely have to, and then visit our emergency rooms for care. This is a lot more expensive than a primary care physician or clinic. However, when there is no insurance and emergency rooms have to take you, it is clearly the easiest option. Lack of insurance coverage also discourages regular check-ups and deprives people of developing a relationship with a provider that can be key in in injury/illness prevention and health maintenance.

I would like to see a system crafted that provided incentive for getting healthier and staying healthier. I hear from people daily who would like to learn self-care and health improvement skills but can't afford it. I want people to be able to gain skills and be empowered to improve their quality of life. Don't you?


Friday, May 29, 2009

What To Do With A World of Hurt?

Hurt feelings, physical pain, suffering, anxiety, fear. These experiences are pervasive and compelling. Ignoring them is foolish, as is indulging them. Pretending there is no pain and suffering is willful ignorance, while focusing only on the power of pain and suffering places you in slavery to it. How does your ignoring or indulging the pain of the world help it be a better place? It doesn’t. So what does?

Life wants to live! Every organism, down to the smallest component is programmed to try to live and make more life like itself. We are designed so anything that might threaten our safety is a trigger for our defenses to engage and anything that might help us survive is valued and grabbed onto. To immediately stop taking what you see and experience quite so personally, remember that every living thing is busy figuring out how not only to survive, but to thrive. Transcending and integrating that survival programming with our desire for creative expression, spiritual and social growth and harmony with the environment is what having consciousness is all about!

Our nervous system provides signals we interpret as pain, anxiety, worry and fear which are designed to stimulate our defenses when we need to focus on survival. There are other signals, experienced as positive sensations, that tell us it is ok to relax. Some responses are automatic and happen without involving our brain, such as reflexes, but the majority of patterned responses our brain develops through making meaning of experiences, and lots of practice.

When we are young our brain is very elastic and we are excellent and quick learners. Our developing brains translate signals and stimuli from our nervous system, observing and creating response patterns to help with our survival. Later, these patterns become more rigid, and it is harder to integrate new information to strengthen and adapt old patterns and to create new patterns. But it can be done, if we really want to. And we should want to, because when we don’t our fear and conditioning get to run the show.

Why do we usually wait until things are really difficult to break out of our patterns? Can we train ourselves to be aware and more pro-active in our lives? Yes we can. We can do it through simple mindfulness of our breathing, by pausing and choosing an action consciously, by really listening and building solutions, rather than just defending our opinions.

The first step is to pay attention and notice our conditioning. When it tells us to withdraw, strike out, or submit/placate is the time to pause, take a breath and make a conscious decision whether to follow its advice, or not.

We always have the power to override conditioning, but we usually wait until extreme circumstances occur to do so. Suicide and self-sacrifice are two obvious extreme examples of consciously overriding our survival instinct. We override survival signals when we decide death is better than what is happening now. We also override survival signals when we perceive a problem, value or goal larger and more important than our individual survival.

Sometimes we do not consciously override our conditioned survival patterns; instead, due to an overloaded/disengaged nervous system, we default to a “nothing left to lose” mode. An overloaded/disengaged nervous system no longer provides consistent self-defense triggers or signals. Circumstances that typically overload/disengage nervous systems are prolonged life-threatening situations such as imprisonment/torture, war, and deprivation of basic needs. Such extreme conditions generally lead to depression, numbness, and withdrawal from life. Occasionally they lead to transcendent states or acts of uncommon bravery, but this depends on the individual's interpretation of their circumstances.

Most of us have systems that are hypersensitive/reactive, overloaded, numbed, or stuck in unhealthy patterns. But just because you can’t undo the hurt, redress all the wrongs, and alleviate the suffering you witness and feel doesn’t mean you can’t help yourself and others. As tempting as it is to try to run away or hide, life is so much more full when you stay aware and engaged. Pick a focus: a cause or problem you are passionate about, or the pain and suffering encountered in your daily life and address that. The meaning you attach to your experience and observation of pain and suffering is key to allow you to override and integrate your survival instincts to help yourself and others. You can consciously choose to affirm positive aspects of life rather than just surviving. You can align yourself with a larger sense of purpose that helps break through the conditioning. The conditioning isn’t bad and has its place, but it also isn’t complete. You include it, but are so much more than it. You can start right now. And you can start again anytime.

Warm Regards,


Sunday, April 26, 2009

You Call This Vacation?

I have found the best way to stay stressed on a family vacation or outing - treat it like a job or duty and think it is all up to you to make it good for everyone. Take all complaints to heart and try to fix them immediately.

Remember in order to make it nice and stressful, have an inflexible check list of things to do. Hurry to see all the sights (or relatives) that you can, and get through as many as possible each day with a big fake smile on your face and wonder why no one is appreciating all the work you did to make it happen. Constantly take pictures and video. Buy memorabilia you have to carry around with the camera, snacks, jackets, hats, sunglasses and credit cards. Buy and eat a lot of overpriced junk food while exhausted and grouchy from long lines and crowds just so you can get everyone to stop complaining for a minute.

Sound familiar?

How has this become our idea of vacation time? Why are we doing it? Where happened to cultivating your passion, learning new things, exploring new places and trying new activities?

When a long family vacation comes around, we set ourselves up for stress and disappointment. If you feel desperate and in a hurry to squeeze the vacation for every last drop of fun, and expect the vacation to make up for all the hard days you've had, you are bound to find ways it isn't doing that. You will start to focus on what isn't working, rather than what is.

You can break this pattern. Go do something you enjoy with your loved ones, and also do something they enjoy. Spend time with each other, walk, talk, play, sit around and take in the sights, and have spontaneous adventures. The way that you do things is just as important as what you do. Ask everyone to pitch in when packing, cleaning up and doing chores on vacation. Play music, dance and be silly while you do the chores together.

Vacation Stress Prevention Tip: Don't wait until vacation and try to cram in doing things you enjoy. Every day take a vacation or outing from your daily routine for at least 15 minutes. Do something you love. Be with someone you love. Sit in your hammock, soak your feet, get creative, feed your soul. Simplify. Create the vacation you want to have, at least a little bit, each day.

Warm Regards,


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Why Meditation?

Meditation is the practice of training yourself in constant observation of your mind. You practice being aware of your emotions, sensations, and thoughts without jumping into judging, ignoring, or indulging them. Increased self-knowledge is the goal of meditation. With self-knowledge, you are better able to be fully conscious and present in all aspects of your life. One of the best benefits of increased self-awareness is the ability to work with your conditioned reactions to stressful stimuli. In meditation, you learn to see yourself more and more clearly by exercising your internal observer muscle. When the internal observer gains strength, you can begin to make more frequent conscious choices, so that while your history always informs you, it no longer always leads you.

There are many types of meditation and varying techniques, but there are basic principles that are the foundation of most meditation practices. These essential components are:

1) Learning to focus your mind on a chosen point, for example observing your breath, and then bringing your wandering mind back to that focus whenever you catch yourself (which you will) following something else and

2) Simply observing everything that you are thinking and feeling. Notice everything happening through your senses, as well as the accompanying thoughts and emotions.

Basic meditation is not about quieting or stilling the mind, and is not all mysterious. Meditation is quite simple, but is not a natural activity. We operate on autopilot most of the time, so it is challenging to learn to exercise conscious awareness. It takes consistent practice to cultivate and maintain this ability. Most people experience discomfort, boredom, restlessness and internal chatter when first begin to meditate. They think that because their mind and body are moving all around it means they are a failure, so they quit meditating. This is too bad because being able to observe all your internal activity is a good thing and means you are succeeding in increasing your awareness! Brains think, bodies feel, and nervous systems relay messages. All that natural activity is always happening, but with meditation you learn to be aware of it. What you are aware of, you can intentionally direct and use for positive purposes. What you are not aware of operates without your intention. In meditation, you are training yourself to pay attention differently than you ever have before. Instead of life happening “to” you, you start to see your life happening “because” of and “with” you.

I highly recommend at least 15 minutes a day of meditation with a breath focus alternating with meditation with a simple observation focus. Even a few minutes at a time is helpful throughout your day. Meditation is an amazing tool for self-growth and improved health.

Warm Regards,

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Just Say OUCH!

When you get hit, physically or emotionally, it hurts. The weapon can be words, fists, or body language - they all hurt when you receive them. And, they hurt even more when they are attached to thoughts that diminish and victimize you.

Most people don't want to admit it hurt, or get entirely wrapped up in how much it hurts so we inadvertently make the blow even harder by thinking there is something wrong with us - that we should have seen it coming and avoided it, that it shouldn't hurt so much, that we somehow brought it on or asked for it, that we are being wimpy because it did hurt, or wondering what was wrong with us that it happened at all. REALIZE THIS- Just because what someone said or did hurt doesn't diminish me, and just because I took on the hit didn't make me a victim...unless I decided it did.

Reminder: whether the person meant to hit me or not, I received their action as a hit. Regardless of their intent and whatever their reason was, I took an imprint of the action as a blow to my physical and emotional integrity, or as a threat to my sense of identity. Later, when I find out that maybe it was an accident, not intended to hurt, I misunderstood or misinterpreted the action, it helps me to repair and recover more quickly and give less power and meaning to the incident. If, however, the person really did intend their action, it was personal, it has the likelihood to become an even stronger imprint as my defensive conditioning is triggered.

So just say Ouch! If you couldn't prevent a hit, didn't see it coming, then you minimize damage, learn from it, and begin to heal. Remember to stop adding to the pain by beating yourself up because it happened. Ask yourself what was really threatened, what was really damaged and what it really means to you. The meaning you attach to the blow is what adds to or diminishes its impact. The meaning you give it is what makes you a victim rather than an survivor. The meaning you give it can be an opportunity for growth or cause for despair. You didn't choose to get hit, but you can choose to move on.

Warm Regards


Friday, January 23, 2009

Telling the Truth – A Tool for Communication or a Weapon for Control?

There is truth that feels good and truth that feels bad. Today we are going to focus on the “hard” truths, the ones that are difficult to give or receive.

We have all heard the sayings “The Truth Will Set You Free” and “Truth Hurts,” and depending on the delivery and the circumstances, both statements are indeed…true! Giving or receiving hard truth is both liberating and painful. When illusions are stripped, a void is left where a new foundation needs to be built, but at the same time there is more clarity to build the new foundation on.

Whether giving or receiving, the truth is a powerful tool that demands responsible use. The most responsible way to face truth is to ask yourself three things:

  1. What is the intention of the communication?
  2. What is the effectiveness of the method that conveys that intention?
  3. What is the expectation (desired results) of the communication?

Intention: Our intention for using the truth can range from attempting to build understanding to attempting to control behavior or circumstances. Unclear or hurtful intentions will dilute or negate any potential positive effect that is hoped for. If you know your intention when giving and receiving someone's truth, then you are more able to keep to your positive goals and purpose in the interaction.

Method: The truth is powerful, no denying it. How it is delivered as well as the state of mind of the participants make a huge difference on how it is received. Our relationship with ourselves at any given moment always impacts our relationship with others. Hard truth can be delivered with compassion, with force, with tentativeness, or indirectly, depending on the skill and emotions of the individual. It can be received with compassion, defensiveness, confusion, or denial. This does not make it any less or more true, but it does make it more or less heard and more or less acted on! Think about your triggers, what makes it harder and easier for you to give or receive difficult feedback.

Expectation: The expectation is the desired result of the communication. Is it gratitude, understanding, change, participation problem solving, or just seeking understanding? Watch yourself and your triggers if when giving or receiving truth you find yourself getting hooked into wanting someone to share the pain and suffering you are feeling. You will likely get what you want in this goal for the short term, but this tactic can destroy the potential for creating long term solutions that also may be a mutual goal. If you think more expansively when faced with your triggers, remember we are all trying to avoid pain and suffering and be happier (even if we choose dysfunctional ways to try to achieve it). What do you really want to achieve here? Keeping your bigger picture in mind helps keep the hard truth from being denied or becoming the only thing in your mind.

Remember, you are always more than your emotions, thoughts, and meanings you attach to them - you are also the energy which directs it all. You are both the observer and the observed. Aligning these aspects to work together for your growth and goals...that's a wonderful thing.

Warm Regards,


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