Sunday, January 30, 2011

On Again Off Again

Sometimes I look around at my house and think, "Oh, its so... outdated." I start to get dressed but nothing looks good or feels right. Caller ID tells me a stranger is calling and I have to answer it because it might be business, but I don't really care that much. I eat, doesn't matter what. I feel... off my oats, as horse people say. It's not that things seem wrong, they just don't seem... quite right.

I am a huge believer in Life -- with a capital L. I practice what I teach in classes and to clients... that despite our own hopes and desires and goals and dreams, there is a greater Plan -- with a capital P -- I'm not a big Bible person but there is certainly wisdom to be found there, such as in Jeremiah 29:11 where we can read in the King James version, "For I know the thoughts that I think toward you. Thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you an expected end," and in the New International Version, "For I know the plans I have for you. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future." It's all good.

However, Taoism teaches in all good there is bad and in all bad there is good, and these messages from disparate cultures reconcile when you look not at but into them. If in your belief system God is good, then the Devil is bad, and both are at play in our lives, like it or not. I personally prefer to believe that on the path of Life, moving in the right direction is good. When we step off that path to head in the wrong direction, it can get... bad -- to varying degree.

When you're feeling "not quite right," this is Life letting you know you need to look around you, reassess your decisions and reorient yourself. Regardless of the best intentions, none of us travels our path alone, and our interactions with others affect us, sometimes for the good, sometimes not, and often without our realizing it. Until we get that feeling... the whisper that is Life saying... "Wrong..."

Our awareness isn't always instantaneous. There might be a hint of unease that we ignore, even more than once. Like a breeze that seems harmless -- until red flags start fluttering, then flapping fast and furious saying "Look at me! Look at me!" Unfortunately, these are easier to see in retrospect than at the time you are caught up in a relationship with someone who isn't being open, honest and honorable. Life is about change. Sometimes even something that starts out right, can turn wrong. This is Life keeping us on our toes.

But we pride ourselves on using good judgment, so we stubbornly hold on when the wiser option is to let go. Sooner or later though the relationship cracks or snaps or shudders and crashes into disintegrate parts that cannot be put back together again with any semblance of sanity. This too is part of the Plan... the part that sooner or later gets us back on track, back heading in the right direction, back ON our oats. Ahhh.... yes....

When this happens to me I look around at my house and find it charming and homey. It doesn't matter what I wear, I feel like I could sashay on any runway. When I answer the phone it's with a smile that can be heard, and my tummy feels fine with any food or no food at all. This is Life saying to me, "Don't be too hard on yourself, mistakes are part of the Plan. You've learned from yours. Good job. Welcome back."

Friday, January 21, 2011

An Exciting (I Think) Announcement

In the seventies, while earning a degree in psychology, I found myself being held back by my hatred of math. Statistics was a required class, and I couldn’t bring myself to study. If I tried to wing my way through it (as I had with Algebra and Geometry in high school), I knew my GPA would suffer – a price I wasn’t willing to pay. I went to Dr. Irving Roy, a local psychologist, and asked him to use clinical hypnosis to help me move past my mental block.

With just one session I found myself eagerly attacking assignments, studying at every opportunity (including reading my text book while I soaked in the tub), and asking for extra help in order to gain a clear understanding of the course. Not only did I earn an A in the class, but when our instructor diagrammed the results of our final exam on the board, there was one grade in the 98th percentile -- surprisingly, mine. Need I say that I was unequivocally sold on the power of hypnotherapy?

Upon graduation, however, I married; and when my first child was born a year-and-a-half later, I dedicated myself to being a stay-at-home mom. Circumstances eventfully led me in a different direction -- toward a 20-year career as a legal secretary. When the time came for another change, I revisited my love of psychology and eventually earned my PhD, augmenting an interim doctorate degree in Clinical Hypnosis. I opened the first Evergreen office in 1992, my husband joined me in the practice in 2000, and in 2003 I was named Stockton’s Small Business Person of the Year. I immediately modified that title to reflect on our business, rather than on myself as an individual.

I loved helping clients, and the business flourished. A look at the bigger picture of hypnotherapy, however, disturbed me. I saw a growing number of schools of hypnosis “certifying” anyone and everyone who paid the registration fee, regardless of their actual prowess. I saw too many people practicing with little, no, or poor quality training, with no sense of professionalism, and with questionable ethics. (Hobbyists, dilettantes, and part-timers, I feel, are a disservice to the discipline.) In short, I watched the bar gradually being lowered -- until it reached a level where I decided to turn my focus from helping clients, to mentoring other hypnotherapists who wanted to follow in our footsteps to achieve the same level of success we experience, meeting the same standards we have set for ourselves. Mentoring was not a money-making endeavor for me, but my attempt to raise the bar, one practitioner at a time. This remained my area of focus until I co-authored a book dear to my heart, Charming Children, after which in January 2011 I chose to return to directly applying my training and skills in the clinical setting.

This is the long way around to my exciting (I think) announcement -- which is that I have officially come out of what might be termed semi-retirement. I am once again practicing psychology within the context of hypnotherapy, and am helping clients to the best of my abiity.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Let's Talk Politics!

Move over, Shirley McLain, I’m going out on a limb to discuss politics. Please hang in there with me; you may be in for some surprises.

Sarah Palin caught my attention and earned my admiration when she landed like a meteorite upon our national scene, as a presidential running mate. Though highly impressed by Barack Obama’s spectacular speech at the 2003 Democratic convention I, as an ardent supporter of our military and a believer that experience trumps charisma, sided with John McCain. Not an easy choice. Although I preferred his straight talk and spontaneity to Obama’s impressive rhetoric tempered by his reliance on teleprompters, I was also concerned about MCain’s advancing age, which became more apparent as the campaign wore on. (It is because I admire McCain that I was somewhat relieved when he lost. I’d rather see him survive as a Senator than be done in by the pressures of a higher office.) As for Sarah, I found her delightfully refreshing in an arena dominated by starched and stuffed shirts.

Although I feel extremely proud of our country for advancing a non-white to our highest office, I am less than favorably impressed by President Obama’s performance to date. All else aside, what will stick forever in my craw is the blatant public disrespect he showed Senator McCain with his totally uncalled for the campaign’s over John, I won remark. No way to treat an American hero, whether you’re in the oval office or sitting at the right hand of God, for that matter. It was so far beneath a sitting president that it spoke volumes (to me) about his character.

As for Sarah, I have moved from awestruck to objective observation. It does not bother me that she is folksy as opposed to refined, and feisty as opposed to diplomatic. What does bother me is that these traits that once felt to me like a breath of fresh air are beginning to feel forced. Come on Sarah, you can do better.

Recently she has come under fire (sorry) for using the same warlike metaphors that others in both parties have used unabashedly, and for releasing a televised statement that many feel was unnecessary and demonstrative of her poor judgment. Please. Her goal was not to heal the nation. It was to defend herself. A human instinct. If she had not released her statement, most of these critics would be whining, “Why isn’t Sarah speaking up? Sure proof of her guilt!” The fact is the media has from the get go laid in wait to pounce upon her like vultures circling red meat. (As for the infamous Katie Couric interview, anyone who knows anything about editing knows a person can be made to look either foolish or brilliant, depending on who's doing the cut-and-paste job.)

Celebrities have piled on Sarah to snipe, and the tackier the better. Joy Behar of The View exemplifies this with petty tirades and asides so ongoing they’ve become monotonous. When Sarah’s first book came out Joy muttered, “She didn’t even write it.” Stupid is perhaps an adjective better applied to Joy than to Sarah; along with one of Joy’s own favorites… bitch. For “new material” she stooped low enough to attack Crystal Palin for advocating teen abstinence and appearing on Dancing with the Stars. Joy, like other Sarah haters, states her opinions as though they are fact. Does The View pay her extra for being bitter and mean spirited?

My oldest son shudders at the sound of Sarah Palin’s name, and we literally cannot carry on a conversation about her without his face turning an angry red. On the other hand his daughter adores the woman and in August when I sent her a calendar from Alaska with twelve months of Sarah, you would have thought I’d sent her twelve gold nuggets! The thing is, I don’t believe that anything anyone says or does will budge either my son or my granddaughter from their opposing positions. They are entrenched in their respective convictions, which makes me smile as only a loving mother/grandmother can.

Personally I like Sarah. Her persona is more in sync with my personality than is Obama’s. Yet I can and do give the president credit when he shines in the spotlight of a prepared speech such as the one at the recent memorial service in Arizona. And I can and do feel disappointment in Sarah when I suspect her of toying with the public primarily to sell a book. Do I think she will run for high office in 2012? No, I do not. Despite the fact that she is not a graduate of some elite ivy-walled university, I consider her an intelligent woman, and certainly smart enough to realize that the power of the media (adamantly against her) outweighs the power of the tea party (commoners who relate to her). She knows that, at least as things now stand, she cannot win. If she did run, would I vote for her? Maybe, maybe not. I voted for her as VP because, as backup to McCain, I found her no less qualified to run our country (surrounded by a carefully sculpted administration) than Biden (who, by the way, has made as many political gaffs as has Sarah, though they are not as widely publicized).

In my opinion (which I realize is not fact), Sarah Palin has found her niche as a high profile cheerleader for her team, earning big bucks in the process. More power to her. As for Barack Obama, I believe that if he decides to implement his campaign promise to unite rather than divide us, and to act in the interest of his country rather than pushing his own agenda, the man will be unbeatable in 2012. He stands tall, smart and handsome at a pivotal place in history. Let's see what, in the end, he does with that.

Will I vote for him? Maybe, maybe not. I’m more interested in his actions than his words, and one small thing I’d like to see is a body language adjustment. Check it out next time he’s on TV. His head is almost always tilted upward, like someone reading through bifocals. Of course this can be considered “keeping his chin up” or “looking down his nose,” depending on interpretation. I recommend an open mind… view it as worthy of note, and watch for larger movements from him that indicate a deep seated shift in one direction or the other – toward arrogance or humility.

Politics can be both inspiring and infuriating. As a follower, I feel compelled to point out that we who watch from the comfort of our living rooms see only what the media wants us to see. They act as censors and relay to us only what supports their agenda. A person or event covered in one context can bear little or no resemblance to the same person or event covered in another. Unless we see or hear something firsthand, what reaches us is always tainted. When we pass it on, even we modify information based on our own perceptions. This is the nature of cummincation.

To borrow from the wisdom of Zen: If a master points upward in answering a question, we must not mistake the finger being pointed, for the moon being pointed out.

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Loves of My Life

I've never been a regular viewer of the Oprah show, but I do admire the way she so generously invests her money in improving/enhancing the lives of others. I also like the fact that she makes no bones about being wealthy. She is not a pretentios person. Neither does she sugarcoat her personal history or her character flaws. She seems honest and humble, two worthy qualities that are too rare.

I did catch one show years back when she walked out on stage wearing a long skirt and the oddest ... things... on her feet I'd ever seen. "Ugs," she explained to the audience, and I assumed that was short for ugly. "Incredibly comfortable," she went on. "Totally dreamy." Sales of the boots, of course, exploded. (Dare I say I now own a pair? And LOVE them!)

Trust me, I'm no Oprah. But there are some things other than my ugs that I LOVE, and who knows, you may want to give one or two of these a try:

I LOVE lavender-scented epsom salt. My tub has spa jets so I can't use anything bubbly, but epsom salt is an awesome addition to my bath water. This is the year I turn 70 and I'm pretty active for an almost-70-year-old, so I'm no stranger to aches and pains. After a soak I feel ten years younger. No kidding. And the entire house smells like lavender, which is relaxing in itself.

I LOVE watching little kids perform in front of an audience. If you don't have a child, grandchild, niece, nephew, friend or neighbor's kid inviting you to a show they're in, invite yourself. Sure, parking usually sucks and some audience members take doting over their darlings to a crazy height, but that's part of the fun! If some of them have toddlers with runny noses squaking during the performance, so be it! These are budding young stars just waiting in the wings for their own time to shine. Smile, smile, smile, until your cheeks hurt. THAT's what it's all about!

I LOVE heavy whipping cream, unwhipped. I manage my weight by ljmiting my carbs rather than counting calories. (It works for me.) And as it happens heavy whipping cream has zero carbs. If I catch myself feeling hungry or craving something sweet (both of which are unusual), I have a cup of decaf coffee with heavy cream and Splenda. It's filling and delicious and a harmless self-indulgence that's great served hot or over ice.

I LOVE the little 3-1/2 x 4 inch tablet my daughter gave me lat year. It's cover is brown metal, with a silhouette of a horse in white. It is held closed by a small silver pen. I keep it on my coffee table, and use it every morning to list the things I want to do on a given day, lining through each item as I complete it. Yes, I have a desktop computer, a laptop, and a Blackberry. I know they each have a place to list tasks and a program to organize them. Not my style. The little tablet looks cute in its place, feels good in my hand, (I call it my palm pilot) and reminds me of my daughter every time I use it.

I LOVE to hear my cell phone ring. I adore John Denver, I adore Jennifer Lind ( ), but I couldn't use any of their songs as my "ring" because the intros were all too long before arriving at voices. So I found a track on my Horses of the Wind CD that begins with the sound of wind blowing through a canyon, then the sound of an eagel's call, then, best of all, the sound of a wild horse neighing. Sometimes I phone myself, just to hear those sounds. Sigh...

I LOVE heroes. Not the sandwiches, but the individuals in my life that have inspired me, and allowed me to worship them from afar. Hero worship doesn't work well up close because everyone has flaws and some of them are best left unnoticed from a distance. I can pick anyone apart and put anyone down, but doing so takes me down as well. Placing someone on a pedestal means looking up to them. Hero worship (healthyy hero worship) is... uplifiting.

I LOVE the musical Les Mis. The lyrics are... well, they defy description. They are amazing, on more levels than can be named. I have seen the production three times on the stage, and have enjoyed outtakes from it on our DVD periodically over many years. I never tire of it. It tugs at my heartstrings every time. There will never, can never be a another musical to equal it. Like the tiny bubble in beautiful blown glass, it does have a tiny glitch though (in my opinion). There are two women in love with the male lead, and it has always bothered me that his true love is the weakling, while the strong, gutsy one perishes with only his passing appreciation directed her way. Just as well, I suppose. He's a bit of a wimp himself.

I LOVE really good wine. It spoils you for the just okay stuff. Enough said?

Monday, January 10, 2011

Today's Economy - More or Less

Never thought I'd thank my parents for not letting me have everything I wanted, yet grateful I am, in retrospect. I rarely shop, couldn't care less about styles, trends or fads, and in today's economy I (oddly) find it fun to think in terms of what I can do without. This harkens back to the way I was raised and, as an adult, to my enjoyment of camping and backpacking. With a lighter load to carry, a hiker is more mobile, more agile, and more enveloped by a wonderful sense of freedom.

Most people today are held captive though, in light of an ailing economy -- by marketers trying harder than ever to make a living -- which relies essentially on transferring funds from your budget into theirs. Consumers are accustomed to having it all (or at least having what it seems everyone else has). This is much more fun than doing without, and so they mindlessly buy into the action -- the transfer of funds. If there isn't enough money, they run up their credit cards and/or work even harder to make more money. This allows everyone to maintain their comfortable-as-ever lifestyle, even though it's the marketers who are profiting, and the public that is being duped into running themselves ragged, trying to make ends meet.

I like to say: Remember, even if you win the rat race, you're still a rat.

On some jobs multi tasking is a must, but it isn't the way the brain functions at its best. On the subject of brains, imagine a brain surgeon, who has trained assistants. Why? So that (s)he can focus on the one, single, most important task at hand. A brain surgeon trying to do everything at once would demonstrate how doing more does not equal doing what's best. Lives depend on a brain surgeon not multi tasking. It's how they become successful, and make big bucks in the process. In less pressured positions, however, some of us create stress, by confusing quantity of our tasks with quality, buying into the myth that we must always and forever earn more and spend more and give more and have more.

Stress does not equal success, which is known to be harmful to our health. Some runners in the rat race are so caught up that they don't, perhaps can't, stop to view their lifestyle objectively. They either (a) don't notice they are looking older than their years, downing pills or potions to mask aches and pains, holding weight around their middle due to cortisol (stress-related), sleeping poorly, and working way too hard at relationships that should free-flow, or (b) they don't care. An ongoing stream of new purchases distracts them from the true measure of success - good health. Without it, what is life worth?

Marketing masterminds are like movie makers. Their goal is to draw others into whatever it is they're promoting, and to influence folks to buy it (or buy into it). They use with the public many of the same techniques that are used on the big screen, which means most people are being influenced continually, without even realizing it. These are the shoppers and buyers who believe they must have whatever it is that promoters are selling, and the followers who believe they must think, feel and behave in a particular way.

There are two ways to watch a movie. Most commonly people relax, mentally and emotionally melding into what is happening on the screen. A part of them knows (on a conscious level) that none of it is real, but they're willing to play along and pretend (subconsciously) to not only "buy" it, but to be right in the middle of it all. If this is you, when the bad guy has set a trap for the good guy, it's all you can do to keep from shouting, "Watch out!" When the leading lady has her heart broken, you feel it -- more or less, depending on how much of a romantic you are by nature.

The other way is to watch a movie as a professional critic would -- remain alert, intellectually noticing every detail of the production, carefully considering the storyline, analyzing techniques and evaluating results. Not as much fun, but applied to daily life, a mindset worth adopting.
Viewers are either in or out of a light state of hypnosis. When in, they are in-fluenced by the film. Its message, whether obvious or subtle, changes the way they think, feel, and perhaps even behave. When out, they walk out and get on with their life apart from the influence of some far removed money-making mogul.

Children are especially vulnerable to influence. This is why they want everything they see or hear about. They then do the best they can to influence parents to buy it for them, using techniques that, whether obvious or not, almost always work! Especially with harried parents who confuse indulgence with love. Not only are our children generally over stimulated, they're also over burdened -- by materialism. As soon as the newness of a this wears off, they move right along to wanting a that. Round and round go the laps on the well worn track.

And we wonder why everyone is so stressed out.

So what do these concepts have to do with you? Without leaving your couch, I challenge you to try staying out of societal hypnosis. Take back control of your thoughts, feelings, behavior and budget. Try thinking in terms of what you can do without. There'll be more money in your coffer when you give less of it away to marketers, and in this day and age more money can equal less stress -- which means a better health, a longer life, and a wonderful sense of freedom along the path .