I have always been resolute, at least in my belief system, that my personal integrity is something that I hold dear, something that cannot be touched or compromised. I feel so strongly about it that, in fact, it was the subject of my dissertation study, “An Heuristic Exploration of the Effects of Compromise on One’s Integrity.” I can sometimes be dismissive of others who appear to compromise their personal integrity so easily, but if you’re with me, just back up a minute, because it is something we all do, probably every day, without giving it too much a thought. The issue is though, when it REALLY matters, for you or for another human being, do you have the courage to really be true by maintaining your personal integrity? I was just wondering……

I thought a lot about this issue again recently after reading “LITTLE BEE” by Chris Cleave, a powerful story about the struggle of an innocent Nigerian teenager to find physical safety while interfacing with a young professional English wife’s effort to honor herself while she struggles painfully to find herself. Both women, in their own way are struggling with very different issues of personal integrity and they each make some very difficult choices in order to honor their convictions, choices many of us may not have the courage to make.

I am reminded of the Milgram electric shock experiments where volunteers participated in a study in which the true purpose of the experiment was hidden from the participants. While being coached by the experimenter, the research volunteers were urged to deliver over and over increasingly large electric shocks to the subjects in the next room. Despite the subjects’ cries of agony, pleas to stop the experiment, and even screams of fear of death from the electric shocks, the research volunteers almost unanimously continued to deliver the shocks as instructed by the experimenter. Almost none of the volunteers delivering the shocks refused to continue. Among other things, this experiment demonstrated the powerful influence of a fellow observer who spurred them on. This, I believe is when the subject becomes really sticky.

I am reminded of another time when I felt personally betrayed that none of my co-workers stood up for me. I had been out sick for two weeks as my physician had ordered me to rest in order to avoid another hospitalization for a serious chronic disease (one, by the way, which I no longer have, but that’s another whole story). I was working in child abuse at the time and when I returned to work there had been a huge increase in the referral numbers, so a meeting was called to discuss and assign new cases. Now mind you, I was already behind due to my illness, but nevertheless it was determined that I should take two new cases that were not even in my assigned territory. One of my co-workers noted that I had been seen in the grocery store, so my illness was being questioned. At the time I was a struggling single parent with a 7 year old child, and the nearest relative was 600 miles away, so of course, I had to take care of necessities, sick or not. The incident was devastating to me, especially as I considered all my co-workers to be my friends, but not one of them would take a stand to support me at this difficult time for me. I was reminded by a very wise therapist friend that it is a rare individual who will take a stand in the presence of a group.

And that reminds me of a recent film, “Twelve Years a Slave,” when the protagonist, saved from a hanging, but not released from the rope or tree, continues to dangle precariously, balancing delicately on tiptoe from one foot to the next, as the other slaves watched in horror and despair, yet did nothing to release him.

So you see from these examples that maintaining one’s personal integrity can be a very slippery slope. It is often compromised in the presence of a group but even the presence or influence of just one individual can alter the choice we make. It can easily be compromised by fear, fear of physical harm or death, fear of judgment, fear of ostracization, fear of humiliation, and so on.

But even more critical, what happens to your psyche when you do compromise your integrity? Do these instances adhere to us like inner scars? Does it change us in the long run so that we give up, stop worrying about our integrity? Does it make us less true to ourselves? No one can be true to themselves 100%. But when you do have the courage to honor your convictions you will feel better for it. You will like yourself better. It will enhance your self-esteem. I challenge you today to become more aware of your personal integrity, what’s really important to you, and what issues cause you to compromise it. You can begin by just being honest about how you feel. Monitor yourself. Try it. How does it feel? I was just wondering……..

Carriage of Treasures

As my husband and I leisurely enjoyed our late lunch at a Main Street restaurant in downtown Hyannis, our attention was diverted outside the window to a woman on the street.  She was talking to the maitre’d and she was thoroughly decked out in the most colorful garb consisting of pink sneakers and  a heavy blue winter coat with a bright yellow scarf encircling her neck.  She also wore a colorful ball cap and she was bedecked with large dark sunglasses, obviously ready for any weather.  The day was cloudy, but about 62 degrees, so that she was clearly overdressed.  Beside her stood a bright blue baby carriage, devoid of baby but filled instead with all of her earthly belongings.  She was clearly homeless, and I wondered what had brought her to this place in her life; what was her story?  As I mused over this I began to realize that everything that was important to her was in that baby carriage.  As the meaning of this began to sink in I thought of my own belongings and what I truly treasured of them.  Can we fit what we most treasure into a baby carriage?

I was just wondering…….

Some years ago my mother was contacted by someone who thought they might be related to her. The individuals involved were led to her by the meager contents left in an old shoe box by their father when he died.  No one in the family had previously known of the existence of the shoebox, nor its contents, but it was clearly treasured by the keeper of the box and remained a secret until his death. You probably know people yourself who keep a box of treasures.  Many of us had an old cigar box as children where we kept our precious found stones, post cards from faraway places, little mementos and secrets that meant everything to us.  My father had an envelope filled with his secret treasures that we discovered when he died. It was filled with all of his artistic endeavors that were stifled by the demands of the time when he lived, stuffed into an envelope and stuffed inside of him, never again to be released until his death.  Beautiful poems and tentative drawings from his younger self, untarnished by the vicissitudes of life, revealed themselves after years of being concealed.

Then there are those of you who have collections such as cars, dolls, teacups, stamps, comic books, baseball cards, art,  and so on. Maybe you treasure most you house or your car, your jewelry, or perhaps your job or your bank account. Whatever it is, your initial response may be something material.

But what if a disaster were to occur and you had 24 hours to collect your most important valuables into something the size of that baby carriage?  Besides your loved ones, what would you preserve? Or if the time were only hours or minutes, what would it be?  What is most important to you?

As we left the restaurant the homeless woman was still out there chatting away, carriage in hand.  She seemed surprisingly unperturbed about her situation. As the sun broke through the thick clouds above I noticed the smile on her face.  She seemed strangely happy, content. Well, she had no bank account to worry about, no car payments to stress over. I began to think about what we could learn from her.

So what would you pile into that small carriage?  I guess I would have my family photos and some sentimental mementos. But I realized as I left that scene that what is most important is in my heart and cannot be taken from me no matter what happens. What she reminded me of was that the love I feel for my family, friends, and my memories and experiences are what I most covet from this interesting journey called life.  What would be in your treasure box?

I was just wondering……..

The Splendor of September

I love the heat of summer but for some reason, September has always been my favorite month.

I am acutely aware of it now, having just come inside from my deck at my summer home on Cape Cod. The tourists have all departed now and there is a sweet serenity lingering in the air before the cold sets in. I don’t know if it’s the way the sun hits the earth at this time of year, but there appears to be a brilliant glow bathing the terrain that delivers a magical sensory bath of peace. I think it is a love affair I have with this month because for me, no other time quite captures the beauty of life so well. September somehow manages to enhance my sensory awareness so that if I take a moment to relax I can quickly lose myself in the wonder of it all.

Do others have this experience as well, I wondered?

Are you too caught up in your everyday matters that you miss the splendor of September?

I was just wondering……

Take a deep breath and join me in my reverie.

Back on my deck as I sat in the warm silky sun with closed eyes, I heard the comforting sound of the crickets, mingled with a few chirping birds and an occasional caw of a crow. Everything is in order, I mused. This was interrupted with the distant sound of my neighbor’s saw, followed by hammering, not the annoying kind, just the sounds of life on a nice day, when you feel that all is well. I opened my eyes to the clear blue sky to see the sun shimmering through the branches as a tiny green inchworm swung gracefully in the breeze, attached to a barely perceptible glistening strand anchored to the fir tree above. I became aware of the soft rustling of the breeze as the branches swayed softly to the rhythm of the earth below. I noticed the patterns created by their changing shadows and then looked above to see the beauty of the fractal pattern of the treetops against the September sky.

The September sun sprayed diamond encrusted sea awaits as we make our lasts visits to the beach for the season. There are few people there now, but this is my favorite time, devoid of the cacophony that exists in the summer. There are no loud voices, no announcements, no radios blaring, only the sound of the waves as they come crashing into the awaiting shoreline. There are a few dogs running around and my little guy Mocha dances excitedly in the sand as a band of seagulls lands nearby to scavenge for the crumbs someone left in the sand. The sand is cooler now and does not sting the bottom of your feet as in the summer, and we walk leisurely along the shore, basking in the sensations of our surroundings, the briny smell of the sea, the cool wind, the coarse damp sand.

A small plane glides above, and I wonder about the passengers and how they experience the breathtaking scene below. In the summer the ocean sky becomes a billboard for these planes carrying messages for their advertisers, but now the plane above is just a lofty purring passerby, minding its own business.

September is the whole deal. It brings an inviting sense of solitude unlike any other season. It is still part of what has been, but it is the best part, free of the hurry of vacationers and the accompanying chaos. It is also the promise of what is to come as glimpses of fall begin to intrude with nippy mornings, along with an emerging hint of the change of clothing soon to occur for the surrounding foliage as it prepares to dress itself in its brilliant display before retirement for the winter.

So I will spend every last moment indulging myself in the splendor of September as long as it lasts. I hope that you will not miss it. I will be leaving here soon but I will take my memories of sweet September to warm me through the winter.

Will you take the time to immerse yourself in this golden month before it is gone?

I was just wondering…..

These Feet Were Made For Walking

These feet were made for walking

            The other day my husband and I were sitting on the beach enjoying the beautiful day when he began to massage my foot.  He studied it pensively, looked up at me and said, “These feet have walked a long way since you were a little girl,” a simple statement that grew increasingly profound as I contemplated it.  “Yes,” I thought inwardly as I mentally skipped over my journey in life.  As my mind flooded with memories of where those feet had actually been I began to wonder how the journey of my feet had affected me.  Where had those feet taken me and where were they going next?

I was just wondering……..

There have been many metaphors about our feet and walking such as “walking the walk,” a statement about doing what we should be doing, or having someone “walk you through it” when they are showing you how to do something. Then there is “Don’t put your foot in your mouth,” meaning don’t say something you shouldn’t. Those of you who are old enough may recall the lyrics crooned by Nancy Sinatra about her “feet made for walking,”   in this case to “walk right out on you.” All of these metaphors relate our feet to our behavior, or more precisely, define our feet as the instrument of our actions.

So, back to the beach…..Encouraged by my response to his query about my feet, my husband continued to give me fodder for this column I was already writing in my head. “Think of the feet on the battlefields,” he said “and the feet that walk in the ghetto,” as I wondered how the bodies of those feet absorbed those experiences.  I returned to my own feet again, remembering how they used to feel in the freshly mown grass of my barefoot days as a child, how I screamed in pain when shocked by my first bee sting on my foot.  I remembered running with the speed of a bullet to my grandmother’s house when I got a new pair of sneakers, thoroughly convinced they made my feet run faster.  I recalled the gritty feel of the sand and the bumpy, painful rocks as I waded into the cold Lake Erie water and years later repeating that experience into the icy North Atlantic. I recalled with delight the memory of my father tickling those feet, much smaller then and much less worn.

I shifted then away from the physical sensations of my feet to the experiences those feet absorbed from their physical location back to my body. I remembered walking tentatively into my new high school at age 14 when my father’s job transferred us to a new town.  I remembered 4 years of 100 plus steps to reach the main campus from my dorm at Ohio University and many ”side”-walks  of college life throughout my tenure there. I remembered my first tremulous steps after the birth of my son and my years in Boston before his birth when my feet eagerly joined in the “love-ins” in Boston Common. I recalled the first step on the island of the Republic of Kiribati where the native children sat in wait, greeting us with a melodic, haunting melody that brought many of us to tears.  Those feet stood strong in St. Mark’s square in Venice as, surrounded by pigeons, I drank in the wonder of that awesome setting. Those feet climbed the hill of the Parthenon while I was flooded with feelings for those who had lived before me, those who built those marvelous structures that still stand today. These feet have risen from illness and walked me back to health. They have overcome many obstacles with firm determination. They just kept moving along. They have trudged the hills of Thailand to mingle with the people of the hills and they have draped the sides of an elephant while thrilling to the wonder of an elephant camp.  They have sailed the Amazon and walked the tiny villages with the rainforest natives on the rain soaked muddy shore, always to be grateful to be back home.

No, my feet have experienced neither a battlefield nor a ghetto, but they have had their share of challenges.  It has not been “a walk in the park,” but nevertheless, one I would never want to miss. Each misstep was only an opportunity for growth and each correct step has been a gift for appreciation. I would not take another path if I could.  You know what they say, most people would not want to walk in your shoes, but that’s okay with me, I’ll own my own, scuffs and all, as I plod on to my next adventure.  Where will it take me?  I don’t know, but I’m ready to learn more about life.  That’s where my feet have been, deep in the trenches of humanity.  They have affirmed to me that humanistic psychologist Carl Rogers’ quote, “What is most personal is most general,” is so true. No matter how different we may appear, we are basically all the same! Where have your feet been and what have you learned from your journey?  I was just wondering…….

Who Is Your Best Teacher?

customer-experience-theme (1)When you ask yourself the question, who is your best teacher, most of you will most likely recall someone from your school days, someone you liked who imparted knowledge to you in the form of facts or information. For me it brings to mind an English teacher I had in my senior year in high school who was very stern and strict but sure knew her stuff. Then there may be the teacher who you just liked so much because of their pleasing personality and helpful attitude. As you get older you may begin to think of a parent or role model or mentor who has influenced you and is your best teacher in life. These are the people who show you about life, who teach you how to basically deal with life, how to succeed, how to cope, etc. Perhaps religion is your guiding force or just simply your value system or philosophy. Maybe you learn best from reading books or attending classes. So think about it. Who is your best teacher? I was just wondering…..

More recently I have become aware of an incredibly powerful source of learning, one sometimes difficult to use, but one that will speed your growth dramatically if you are brave enough to learn from it. I call it bad behavior. How can you learn from bad behavior, you may be asking. Well, by not engaging in it yourself. The first time I became aware of this lesson was from a behavior of my mother’s. Now don’t get me wrong, I love my mother and I have learned lots and lots of good stuff from her, but her gift receiving behavior left a lot to be desired. As a child I would get very excited about getting her Christmas, birthday, or Mother’s Day present, but she, invariably would open it, look at it strangely, and then make some kind of comment about how it wouldn’t fit, or she didn’t use those, or she didn’t wear that color, or some such thing. Year after year we had to return those gifts and it soon became a family joke. We just accepted that she wouldn’t be satisfied with the gift. Eventually we got wise enough so that we all started to take her shopping before these celebrations so that she could pick out her own gifts, try them on, and then on the holiday she would exclaim with great pleasure and feigned surprise how pleased she was with her gift while the rest of us would roll our eyes and chuckle inwardly. It worked!

A few years ago I unwrapped a gift from my son and daughter-in-law, looked at it with puzzlement and asked, “Why did you get me this?” I immediately felt my mother’s words being channeled through my voice and I was horrified, stricken with feelings of shame and embarrassment. I quickly apologized, noted my bad behavior, and believe me I have NEVER done THAT again. I have also learned from a friend who beats a dead horse not to beat my dead horse so much, from students who talk too much in class not to raise my hand so often, and from chronic complainers to try to keep my woes to myself (still working on this!). I am also learning to become less reactive as I have had many teachers who have made me crazy while demonstrating their reactiveness to me. I have learned to be less judgmental from those who annoy me pouring out judgments of others. So for me at this stage of my life, my best teacher is my unpleasant response to someone’s bad behavior followed by an internal check for signs of it in myself. If I’m honest and I can find it within myself, then it goes on my to-do list for self-improvement.

So, who do you think is your best teacher? Is it someone who teaches you what to do or do you learn more or equally well from someone’s bad behavior, someone who teaches you what NOT to do? We are used to learning from those who teach us good things, but it takes a courageous person to learn from someone’s bad behavior. Maybe you don’t have to keep avoiding those people who make your skin crawl. Perhaps the next time you cringe because you can’t stand someone’s behavior it’s time to take a quick inventory to see if it echoes internally. Do you ever do this? Perhaps that is the real reason for the skin crawling cringe. Is personal growth important to you? Do you have the metal to face yourself? I was just wondering…….

Unblocking A Block

I’ve been having a hard time lately about my blog.

You see, I’ve been moving for the last several weeks from a home I occupied for 26 years.  My office was also there.  We’re sort of homeless; residing in a temporary space I’m calling the Headquarters, meaning the place out of which we are operating.  I have things here, there, and everywhere until we can finally move in two more days to our new home.  Every day it is a new dilemma.  I can’t find my red stacked heels, I need some Tums which are currently in Neverland, my husband can’t find his spare glasses because the ones he’s wearing broke, but worst of all, is that I seem to have displaced my writing mojo.  So, the question at hand is, what do you do when you’re blocked and can’t do what you need to do?  I was just wondering………

Every day since my last posting I’ve obsessed over what to write about next.  For a while I thought about writing more specifically about the move and the crazy keystone cop drama that has ensued from a real estate agent’s error.  I even started a paragraph.  Thankfully you have been saved from that sorry piece of whining because I had enough wits about me to hit the delete button on purpose!  I lay awake at night thinking of things to write as the pressure to do so mounted and mounted.  While I had lots of ideas in mind, each day was filled with more complications of our crazy “living in limbo situation” so that my body just never found the time to place itself at the microsoft word site on my laptop.

Never mind that I’ve been more than overwhelmed with moving years of confidential records out of my home office to my other location.  Forget about the fact that I am suffering from self-consciousness over my eyebrows which are overgrown with wild grey sprigs because I can’t locate my tweezers.  These are just sorry excuses.  I was grousing about my writing block to my good friend today when she asked what I would do if someone else blocked me from something.  She already knew the answer, but it was one I needed to realize myself.  I generally become very determined if I think someone else might be preventing me from doing something.  In that momentary epiphany, I realized that I was the block; not the overgrown eyebrows, not the Headquarters, not my missing Tums, NOTHING that was related to my temporary fix, but simply put, ME, MYSELF, and I!

“How utterly exasperating!” I thought, as I now turned my attention to how I would get myself out of my way. “It’s like trying to force yourself to go when you’re constipated,” my friend said laughing.  “Yes,” I enjoined, “Or having to make a presentation when you have stage fright.”  “Yes,” she continued, “Or how you obsess about food when you’re on a diet.” “Yes,” I agreed, “Or like when my friend who has harmless heart flutters worries about getting heart flutters and creates them from anxiety.”  We were on a roll now.  I began to put it all together.  Anything you fear and/or worry about gets worse the more you think about it. While there are various solutions to the above problems, I now became more focused on how to unblock myself so I could write again.  “I know!” I finally said with great relief.  “The way to unblock my writing block is to write about it!”  And so began this blog.

But what is the point to this you may be asking?  Is it doing what you want when you feel you can’t?  Is it about facing your fears?  Is it about not making excuses?  It’s all of that and more.  It’s about having the courage to dig deep inside, stop making excuses, face your demons and just take action.  It’s about taking that leap off the high board when you’re not sure where it will lead.  It’s just about taking that first step, which leads to another and another and another and pretty soon the puzzle is complete. So for me to unblock my writing block I had to write about my writing block.  How will you respond the next time you are in a blocked situation? What will you do the next time you get in your way?  How will you dismantle your blocks?  Think about it.  How will you solve the puzzle?

I was just wondering………..

Double Loss

I was just wondering…….When you lose something, how much do you really lose?

I started to ponder this question more after a recent event with my son and daughter- in-law. For weeks, we had been awaiting their visit to our winter escape hatch in the south. Just hours before their departure on Amtrak I received an urgent call from him declaring with hopeless certainty that they would not be coming.

Now worried myself, imagining the direst of possibilities, I shot back, “What’s wrong?” while attempting to control my rising panic.

“Carey lost her purse,” he countered,” and we won’t be able to get on the train.”

I calmed down now, relieved that no one was injured or sick, and was able to provide a more rational viewpoint to his loss of perspective.  After a few investigative questions, it appeared that the purse was most likely left in a cab.  Besides their concern over the items in the bag, such as the camera, her cell phone, some cash, as well as numerous personal items such as credit cards and driver’s license, he had convinced himself that they would not let her on the train without an I.D.  I suggested they check with an Amtrak official and they learned they would be admitted.

This only solved the trip or no trip dilemma, however, and they both continued to obsess over where the purse was, who would find it, what the finder would do with it, perfectly natural considerations under the circumstances.  After they had boarded the train, my son reported his wife was still crying so I asked to speak with her, hoping to take her focus off the purse so she could enjoy the trip.

As I gingerly attempted to comfort her, she replied petulantly, “Well, you would be upset too!”

“As a matter of fact, you’re right,” I responded, remembering our trip with them to Alaska when we took the White Pass Yukon sightseeing excursion. I had just purchased a new camera, and as the train made a brief stop to left off some hikers, I went outside on the platform to take a scenic picture of Skagway.  Just at that moment, someone pushed the door open which bumped my arm, and I watched in horror as my camera slipped out of my hand, onto the platform and slid down between the cars of the train, right in the center of the track. As the train slowly began to move forward my camera disappeared from sight.

I have never forgotten my reaction that day, because it was one of those times when circumstances in life present you with an opportunity to learn something, to grow, to mature.  Nothing like that was about to happen then, however, as I lamented over and over to my husband between sobs,“All of our pictures are gone, my new camera is gone,” as miles and miles of spectacular scenery passed me by.

Next, I would fix my attention on the conductor, plotting with him ways to retrieve my camera.

“I know just where it is,” I’d say. “Can I hike to the spot when I get back?  Can the next train retrieve it?”

Trying to be reassuring but also realistic, he would patiently answer that yes, the next train would look for it- they had already been alerted, but more than likely it had slipped off the side of the hill. My family tried to comfort me, but I was singularly focused on recovering that camera!  When we made a stop at a lovely garden, I was more interested in looking for other train officials so I could grill them about ways to retrieve my camera. While a number of people expressed sympathy, I’m sure the majority onboard wished that I might have met the same demise as my camera.

Here I was, supposedly an adult, having a meltdown over a CAMERA!

Remembering these events, I reminded my daughter-in-law of them, acknowledging that while yes, I would be upset,  being upset like me may not be the best course of action.  Her sobs began to turn into a chuckle, as I reinforced her change in attitude by reminding her that she was capable of being better than me.  She began to relax and settle into the trip, grateful now that they were able to get on the train.

The irony of both stories is that both the camera and the purse were recovered, fully intact, with all contents. The next train spotted my camera exactly where I said it was and it was waiting for me at the station at the end of the trip, and my daughter in law’s purse was turned into the police by the cab company.

This is a reminder that there are many people out there who can still be trusted, who will perform a good deed. Sadly, however, so much time wasted on worry, projection of disaster. But the question to ask yourself is what happens to you when you lose something?  Is it an immediate calamity?  Does it interfere with other situations? Does it ruin your day?  What else have you lost by your focus on something that may not even come true?

I was just wondering…….?

Do You Love Cutting Your Carrots?

I was just wondering…..

Years ago I had a boyfriend who claimed he couldn’t make a commitment because I didn’t love the carrots while I was cutting them.  He was experimenting with macrobiotics and according to its founder, Michio Kushi, fully engaging yourself harmoniously with your food preparation is as important as the food you choose to eat. I got a lot of mileage about this over the years when I would laughingly complain to my friends what a crackpot he was. But many years later, armed with a lot more experience and knowledge, I’ve begun to wonder if maybe there might be something to it.

More than likely, like me, most of you are probably scratching your heads wondering why you should love your carrots while you chop them.  After all, most of us are in a rush, and if we are cutting carrots at all, we should be awarded. These days most of us are throwing dinner together quickly, which usually doesn’t even entail cutting carrots, perhaps while juggling a few other things at the same time.  Who cares how we feel about the carrots, or for that matter, what we are thinking about while we are doing it?

In recent years we have learned more and more about the concept called mindfulness. Mindfulness is the process of being fully engaged in whatever you are doing, whether it is driving your car, watching a movie, eating your dinner, brushing your hair and yes, even cutting your carrots.  It is the practice of learning to live in the moment, each moment of your life. This is not such an easy task, because our consciousness is usually focused on something other than what we are doing for the moment. This is why there are so many books available on the subject today. My personal favorite is Eugene Gendlin’s Focusing, but a more contemporary read would be Eckart Tolle’s The Power of Now.

Research indicates that practicing mindfulness is beneficial to our health. So how do we do it and what does it have to do with cutting carrots?  It is simply a matter of refocusing our awareness, moment to moment ,in order to enjoy what is happening in the now. It is learning to luxuriate in your morning shower, fully appreciating the warmth of the waterflow at the same time enveloping yourself in the clean scent of your soap. It means really listening to friends and family while enjoying their presence. It’s about fully attending to your driving rather than thinking about how you’ll handle your boss or what you will wear to the theater. It means you will slow down so that you are able to appreciate everything around you, to become aware of what you don’t usually see, to hear all the sounds surrounding you.  And yes, it means loving the carrots as you slice them, noticing the bold orange color, being thankful for the flavor they will add to your meal.

So, maybe you still don’t care. Maybe you think it’s not such a big deal. But here is what you might miss—–a spectacular sunset, your child’s sweet smile while he’s watching tv, the feel of the brisk air as you take a morning walk, the comfort of your favorite room, the softness of your towel as you dry yourself, the strong pungent aroma of your morning coffee, a tender touch or glance from a loved one, and the taste of those carrots in your dinner. So the questions is, what did you miss today because you were not mindful?  I was just wondering……

Our Changing Brains

I was just wondering……

We have become so reliant on technology today that in some ways we may be losing our ability to think.  I myself am guilty of the instant google and I admit I am addicted to obtaining an immediate answer about anything I wonder about. While we are able to obtain information quickly, are we losing something from this immediate indulgence to our love of instant gratification and reliance on a computer brain?

Also, what is the effect of the computer age on childhood play and imagination? My adult son and I had a conversation about this the other day. He still enjoys playing video games, which exasperates me to no end, but he feels that the play of imagination can be learned to some degree through the computer and video games.  Perhaps some element of it, but it is definitely not the same kind of vibrant, spontaneous play that children of my generation enjoyed in our youth.

This leads me to further musings. For instance, what will be the long term effect, from the point of evolution, of our current technology on the structure of our brains?  Of even greater concern is what will be the long range effect of how these technologies are training us to react immediately, at the expense of everything else in our lives, to a simple beep? In one sense we are being conditioned like Pavlovian dogs.  When the phone beeps, we immediately rush to view the message.  I know, because I again plead guilty! Beep, react, beep, react. How will this rewire us and what will happen to the spontaneous sense of play and contemplation that arises out of pure imagination that doesn’t provide an immediate answer?

The new field of neuroplasticity has arisen to begin to look at the ways our brains change, now that we have become aware that they are so malleable.  What we are fast learning is that what we expose ourselves to is what we become. Our brains create new neurons and new pathways to enable these new activities. This idea has tremendous implications for us individually and for our future as a human race.  What kind of person do you want to be?  How do we want ourselves to be as a human race?

The really good news is that we then have a choice, a choice of what and how we want to be.  Once we have made that choice, then all we have to do is to expose ourselves to those ideas.  Kind of reminds you of brainwashing, doesn’t it?  The beauty is that we have control over this!  In brainwashing, someone else has made the decision what to implant as a belief system, but now that we know our brains are plastic, we can decide with careful thought and planning to what we should expose ourselves.  While this sounds like a simple undertaking, it is not as easy as it appears.  We may consciously plan to learn some things, but a lot of learning is going on all the time unconsciously and we are not used to paying attention to everything we do, everything we think.  Mind you, this means we are influenced by the news we watch, the movies we view, what we do for work, the company we keep, and how we spend our spare time, both in action and rumination.

For those of you interested in learning more about neuroplasticity, I would highly recommend the book “The Brain that Changes Itself” by Norman Doidge.  Meanwhile, let’s all start to become more aware of how we spend our time and to what we expose ourselves. As you review the events of your day will you be able to express satisfaction with the way you have trained your brain today?

Will you be able to include contemplation and thoughtfulness as methods employed to make your decisions?

Or will you spending too much time being trained by your technological appendages?

I was just wondering….


The Truth…Or Not the Truth

I was just wondering………when should we tell the truth or not tell the truth?  Most of us like to believe that we are always honest and always tell the truth.


I think the truth is a little fuzzier than most of us believe.

While I was lost in thought the other day writing my first column, a friend phoned me.  I shouldn’t have answered, which was confirmed immediately as I heard her ranting hysterically about a pair of boots. This friend is great fodder for amusement, however, so as she interjected that the present situation was like a Seinfeld episode I began to listen more carefully.  I soon realized that this may be good! So, my interest now piqued, I listened intently as she related her story.

It seems as though several month earlier a woman in her apartment complex offered her a pair of second-hand boots she felt that she no longer wanted. My friend went on to explain at length how she resisted, with questions like “Are you sure you don’t want them?” and so on. Having been duly assured, my friend took the boots, claiming them now as her own.  After she wore them a few times she decided they hurt her feet and they were no longer useful to her.

As my friend is wont to do, anything that she finds useless soon makes a trip to the consignment shop. My friend actually has a part time job there.  No, not as a paid employee, mind you, but as the recipient of the money we all pay to acquire someone else’s clothes.  She does all right for herself and it has become almost an art form for her.

Anyway, I digress.  So, back to the boots.

As I continued to listen to her ravings, I came to realize that she was, in fact, driving full speed toward that very consignment shop. I expressed a brief concern about her ravings while driving, but when my friend is in one of these states the listener can barely get in a word, let alone be heard, so I gave up on this idea, put the phone on speaker and let her rant.

Sometimes it’s just better to keep quiet and this was one of them.

What I was able to assemble out of this mumble jumbo were things like, “When someone gives you something, it’s yours, right?” “Once they give it to you you can do whatever you want with it, right?” You probably have guessed by now, but it seems as though the giver of the boots left her a message that she would like to borrow them back now to wear somewhere special.

At about this time my friend arrived at the consignment shop and after a rapid appraisal of the current stock she exclaimed in a state of horror, “They’re gone!” It seems as though she hoped she could still salvage this mess, but now all hope was gone. To further complicate this dilemma, she now would be the recipient of profit from her action.

My friend’s thoughts quickly shifted to what lie to tell about the boots, things like: she spilled nail polish on them, she lent them to someone else, she lost them, they’re at the shoemaker’s being reheeled, and so on. She asked me which story would be most suitable, and at first I demurred, noting that only she could answer that question for herself.  Finally, unable to withstand her pressure anymore, I shouted in exasperation,

“How about the truth?”

This seemed to come as a refreshing surprise to her as she mulled it over.  “Maybe I will,” she replied, but I heard enough “maybe” in her response to know that the solution was still under question.

A simple moral dilemma, another little joke on the human condition.

What should she do?

What would you do?

I was just wondering….