Category Archives: Meditation

Retreats, Yoga….and

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I went location scouting for a place to hold my first retreat yesterday and ended up at a cool place in Damascus, Oregon.  Scenic location…beautiful sanctuary, dining hall, great vegetarian catering…many many good features.  This might be the place.  Still looking. screen-shot-2016-09-20-at-12-53-49-pm

Started a new yoga class last night that was unlike any I’d participated in previously.  Really enjoyed it.  The theme was focused on gratitude, which we talked a little about as participants, and tried to integrate it into our practice.   I have so much to be grateful for in this life, and it seems to just get better and better, as I settle into this heartfelt happiness.  All areas of my life have improved over the last year.  My friendships/relationships/the family I have here….all so good and better and   best.  Really. I am so thankful.

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The yoga was an hour and a half, and by the end of it, I had begun to feel slightly nauseated. Thankfully, I live nearby, so rushed home and no sooner walked in the door when I got very sick. I investigated why that would have happened after yoga, and it said that sometimes the liver is prompted to release toxins during yoga. I threw up because I was poisoned by these toxins. Today, I feel a little “meepy” (as my old friend, Peggy Spott used to say), but better.

So today was a productive day, work-wise.  I fulfilled some interesting writing orders about various subjects….”the dangers of Aspertame”, “coping with loss,” “how drones can be used in the construction industry…” Just enough to earn a few bucks and get my brain charged up.

Anyway….namaste….and until next time…be sweet now.

Brain Training & Other Ways to Improve Brain Function by Stacy Alexander

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Human health depends largely on the brain’s ability to function properly. The brain is the most important organ in the body, as it controls all functions, including the ability to heal. However, when it comes to health, the brain is largely ignored. There are certain things one can do to help improve brain function, including nutritional intake, brain training, meditation and other brain exercises.

Nutrition

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According to an article published by Harvard Medical School, what one eats directly affects the function and structure of the brain and, ultimately, one’s mood.

Like a precision-built luxury car, the human brain functions optimally when it gets only the best, high-powered fuel. Consuming high-quality foods that contain a lot of minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants, serves to nourish the brain and protect it from oxidative stress.

Just as that precision-built luxury car will not run well on inferior fuel, the brain can actually be damaged if one ingests anything other than premium fuel. Eating refined sugars and highly processed foods can harm the brain. In addition to harming the body’s ability to regulate insulin, they promote oxidative stress and inflammation.

Multiple scientific studies have found a relationship between a diet high in refined sugar and negatively impaired brain function. Additionally, there has been a worsening of the symptoms of certain mood disorders, such as depression.

Exercise

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Exercise prompts the human brain to work at optimum capacity by prompting nerve cells to multiply, which strengthens their interconnections and protects them from damage. When one exercises, his or her nerve cells release neurotrophic factors, which are types of proteins. One of these proteins in particular, triggers numerous other chemicals that promote brain health and that positively benefit cognitive functions, including one’s ability to learn.

Exercise also results in:

  • The production compounds that protect the brain’s nerves
  • Increased blood flow to the brain
  • Improved development and survival of neurons
  • Decreased risk of cardiovascular diseases such as stroke

Sleep

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Sleep is essential for creativity and problem solving. Another study conducted by Harvard Medical School suggests that people are as much as 33% more likely to infer connections between distantly related ideas after sleep, but that most people do not realize their performance has improved. Sleep can enhance memory and help improve brain function with regard to challenging skills. The study found that one night’s sleep lasting from 4 to 6 hours can positively impact one’s ability to think clearly the following day.

Brain Training

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One of the easiest ways to boost brain function is to continually strive to learn new things. The structure and size of neurons, as well as the connections between them change as one learns.

Learning is not limited to things one necessarily learns from books. It can also include such activities as traveling to new places, learning how to play, write or sing music, learning to speak a language other than one’s own or becoming a part of community and other social activities.

Challenging the brain with various mind training activities and exercises can keep the brain fit as one ages. These exercises do not have to be elaborate. They can be as simple as trying to recall the names of all of the states, or attempting to recall as many names as possible that begin with a certain letter of the alphabet. Crossword puzzles are great ways to exercise the brain, as are playing the types of board games, such as chess, that require contemplation.

Research suggests that even surfing the Internet activates specific regions in the brain that are related to complex reasoning and decision-making. Unlike passively viewing television, surfing the web is more engaging and can actually help improve one’s brainpower.

Stacy Alexander

MS Psychology

The Writing Life

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The Mills Brothers  released their hit  “Too Many Irons in the Fire” in 1946.  70 years later, this song could be designated my theme song. Yet, how many irons are too many?  I suppose that much is subjective.

I live a multi-faceted existence and always seem to have a lot of irons in the fire.  With the onset of the new year, however, I find myself busier than ever, but I am also happier than ever, and with great hope for the future.

I am working on opening a new business and have been developing workshops and programs for that, gathering partners and finances, and creating a dynamic endeavor that may take a couple of years to get off the ground, so  I continue to work on other things as I focus on getting this done.

A friend, who is a former celebrity client from a decades-ago stint I did with an entertainment law firm, contacted me over the holidays to ask if I would be part of a $25 million capital raising campaign with a view toward producing 5 new independent films.  I will be working in the capacity of a consultant, designing social media promotions and campaigns, but won’t know many details until some time next week. This will be my first MOIP-related, salaried work I have done since I received my masters degree, and while I’m excited about the work, this is not what I’ll be doing professionally, in the long run, but that is another story for another time.

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In addition to my art work, a large part of my vocational time is spent writing.  I have my various creative writing projects going on….my cookbook, my novel, my poetry and short stories, all of which take the back burner too often in favor of the writing work that I get paid for.

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Over the last 48 hours, I have written essays on the world-renowned Monte Pascoal cigars, Missouri fly fishing, eyeliner, the Bakken oil fields, Maternity photo shoots and the merits of portable ballet barres.  I have written essays for a graphic design company, two criminal law firms, a judge, an artist and a physician whose specialty is the treatment of diabetes.  I have a long list of articles to complete today, and another list of articles that I will have to complete from our retreat at Lake Tahoe.

I have honed article writing down to a fine art and can knock out what my editors designate as “high quality” writing in a very short period of time.  My research skills were honed to perfection while I was in graduate school, and I am able to produce many articles in a short period of time.  All this, is in addition to writing the Chinese fashion catalog that provides an endless stream of work.

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Admittedly, I do not feel a lot of passion about the paid writing that I do.  My heart lies with my creative work, but the paid work provides a good income, and I rather enjoy it.  It isn’t what I intend to do over the long run, but for now, it is fine.

I work through a number of different agencies.  Over the years, my ranking has risen to the top with many of these agencies, and I have received a more noteworthy status than I once had as a hack writer.  Today, I am frequently notified by editors and former clients, so that the majority of the work I do is for private clients or special projects.

My work involves long hours and intense concentration, and, therefore, results in my having to make a special efforts to exercise and stay healthy.  This work can be all-consuming, and it is as easy to forget to eat and exercise as it is to breathe.  There have been days when I have started work before the sun came up, and ended it well after midnight.

In this new year, I shall endeavor to moderate my writing into a more manageable enterprise.  I vow to place my health first, and to exercise twice a day, beginning each morning with  yoga and a long walk, and doing a concentrated aerobic effort each afternoon. I have been doing this three times a week, but I am going to up the ante.

This freedom to arrange my schedule as I want it is the primary reason I continue to pursue the writing life.  This freedom to travel.  This freedom to begin and end work when I want.  The freedom to take off a half hour when my best friend calls, or the freedom to stop what I’m doing to pick Ingrid up from school.  These are the reasons that I write.

Tomorrow, as my friends go to their offices and get snagged in rush hour traffic, I will be departing for Reno/Tahoe.  THIS is why I engage in the writing life.  This freedom to leave when I want or to sleep as late as I want …..although I am an early riser….this freedom is why I write.

 

 

 

Lavender for Migranes

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Lavender has been studied recently for several purposes including treatment of mood and anxiety disorders, as well as a number of other things. Its analgesic effect, however, its painkiller effect, is one of the widely studied properties. Surprising, then, that there hasn’t apparently been a single documented clinical trial to study lavender for the treatment of migraine headaches that affects tens of millions of Americans every year. Until now: “Lavender Essential Oil in the Treatment of Migraine Headache: A Placebo-Controlled Clinical Trial.”

Migraine sufferers were asked to—at the early signs of headache—rub 2–3 drops of the lavender essential oil onto their upper lip and inhale its vapor for a 15-min period of time and score the severity of their headache for the next two hours. In the control group they did the same thing except they used drops of basically unscented liquid wax. Neither group was allowed to use any painkillers. In the lavender group 74% of patients had an improvement in their symptoms, significantly better than placebo. Though in the study lavender wasn’t directly compared to more conventional treatments, lavender appears to stack up pretty well compared to typical drugs. Lavender helped about three quarters of the time, high dose Tylenol only works about half the time, and Ibuprofen 57% of the time. The #1 prescription drug, generic imitrex, is effective 59% of the time, and then the hardcore treatment they use in emergency rooms where they inject you under the skin, 70%. All of these work better than the original migraine therapy, known as trepanning, where doctors drilled a hole in your head to let the evil spirits escape.

Conclusion: The present study suggests that inhalation of lavender essential oil may be an effective and safe treatment modality in acute management of migraine headaches.

You can buy pharmaceutical grade lavender for $21 HERE.

Day #20 – Equal

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Day #16- Clean

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Simple Pleasures

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I woke with a smile on my face this morning, feeling a very deep, quiet happiness that comes with being contented,  and with knowing who I am.  Things are right in my life…good….just as I want them to be.  Things are peaceful, brimming with creativity and possibility.  Are they perfect?  Of course not.  Perfection is a myth….but I prefer to think of the positive, rather than the hand that I want to hold that is miles away, or the soft little baby head that I want to kiss right now but can’t….yet.

I meditated this morning, ate steel cut oats with walnuts and bananas and then did some work.  When I’d finished, I went into the living room with my first cup of coffee and sat on the sofa facing the window.  My heart took a little leap when I saw the beautiful orchid plant that my family gave me for Mother’s Day.  It is beyond description in its beauty.  Big, gorgeous blossoms unfolding so gracefully.

Just beyond that, on the other side of the window, my little hummingbird friends kept me company amidst the brilliant green backdrop of the Hawthorne hedge as I sipped the morning beverage.   I watched the tiny little creatures for a long time.  They are such wonderful little animals…so delicate and fast, zipping in and out with their funny little whirring sound.

I called my mother and had a long talk.  We speak almost daily now, and I am so enjoying these long talks.

I have said this before, and I’ll say it again.  I have been unbelievably blessed.  I have so much to be thankful for.  This is what makes me smile.  I had so many sweet phone calls yesterday, and spent quality time with my family.  My husband, my bestie….my friend in Seattle….so many nice messages.

It can be hard to balance emotions with all of the negativity that is going on in the world right now.  I can count my lucky stars and be grateful that I have been as blessed as I have been with this wonderful combination of people that I have in my life right now.  I am completely, head over heels in love, and I am happy.

Yes, folks.  Life IS good.  Believe it or not.

Day #9 – Peaceful

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Day #8 – 4 Things

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Day #1- Want

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Original photography by Stacy Alexander.

© 2015 – All rights reserved. 🎸

I Am Light….and so are you.

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This beautiful song by India Arie was performed by Dr. Wayne Dyer’s daughter, Skye, acapella, at the recent “I Am Light” seminar that I attended with my friend, Shannon Kringen,  here in Portland.  I thought of another of my friends as I listened to these words… and was grateful for his teaching and his loving light.  As I listen to this song, I am thankful for the love that I receive each day, and I am reminded again, of how lucky I am.  There is only one spirit and one mind, and we are all part of this collective intelligence and love.  We are one.

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Day #18-Fluffy

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The Earth Laughs in Flowers

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The Earth Laughs in Flowers

I walked this morning, just after the rain, and I thought of you each time I looked at a flower…its color, its shape, its delicate fragrance.   It is beautiful here…..and it is beautiful in your eyes.

7a

Kaleidoscope eyes

A world of change
Round and round 
Unfolding-
My heart of envy and gold,
The birth of a new stone
Hazel room, vibrant lilac sky, 
Deep orange haze in a warm place 
Arms of sapphire and cornflower blue
Fuchsia beauty drip 
All colors drift
The day we met
Visions of dark slate-gray
Fading away
Lighting the new age gem
Turning and creating different stars
Magic mint skies
White antique petals follow the wind
Opal dreams, clouds embedded with impurity
My heartbeat produces flashing colors 
The palest amethyst bluebonnet forever fields
Flawless tear drop streams
Diamond shaped love
Ruby red promises to keep 
Falling into the deep
Every color spins new
The day I fell in love with you
Peridot lime green shade 
A love as old and gray
Olive brownish sun
Honeydew skin
Our future clear as aquamarine 
Every day you turn fresh new seasons in me
Changing the sequence in my colors and event
Kaleidoscope Eyes
Reflected by the mirrors of you
Crystallizing everything
6a
Earth laughs in flowers....~Ralph Waldo Emerson 

4aAnd it is too bad this following Neruda poem is 
gender-specific.  It was written for
a woman...but I think  you'll catch 
my drift.  :-) 
neruda
3a

Raise your words, not voice. It is rain that grows flowers, not thunder.”  Rumi

2a

Hear blessings dropping their blossoms around you. ~Rumi

1a

Love’s secret is always lifting its head out from under the covers, “Here I am!” ~Rumi

10a

I love being able to share my day with you in this way, for you to see these beautiful flowers through my eyes.  This is my gift to you.

Orange Aromatherapy for Anxiety

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The following article is by my nutrition guru, Dr. Michael Greger.  Each year, this Cornell medical physician conducts a search of empirical medical literature and publishes all the new findings on his website at http://www.nutritionfacts.org.  Viewers can search the site by topic.  He has  plethora of scientifically substantiated information about nutrition.  It is the most comprehensive website of its kind on the Internet.  The man knows of what he speaks!  Have questions?  Take them to Nutrition Facts dot Org!

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Aromatherapy — the use of concentrated essential oils extracted from plants to treat disease — is commonly used to treat anxiety symptoms. Anxiety disorders are the most prevalent class of psychiatric disorders in the general population. However, their treatment is challenging, because the drugs used for the relief of anxiety symptoms can have serious side effects.

Thankfully, credible studies that examine the effect of essential oils on anxiety symptoms are gradually starting to appear in the medical literature. However, in most of these studies, exposure to the essential oil odor was accompanied by massage. This makes it difficult to draw firm conclusions about the effect of the aroma itself.

A typical example includes this study where patients in the intensive care unit the day after open-heart surgery got foot massages with orange-scented oil. Why not back massages? Because they just had their chests cracked open so they have huge sternotomy wounds. Patients showed a significant psychological benefit from the aromatherapy massage.

But how do we know the essential oil had anything to do with it? Maybe it was just the massage. If that’s the case, then great—let’s give people massages! I’m all for more ICU foot rubs. “There is considerable evidence from randomized trials that massage alone reduces anxiety, so if massage is effective, then aromatherapy plus massage is also effective.” One study where cancer patients got massaged during chemo and radiation even found that the massage without the fragrance may be better. The researchers thought it might be a negative Pavlovian response: the patient smells the citrus and their body thinks, “Oh no, not another cancer treatment!”

More recently the ambient odor of orange was tested in a dental office to see if it reduces anxiety and improves mood. Ambient odor of orange was diffused in the waiting room and appeared to have a relaxant effect—less anxiety, better mood, and more calmness—compared to a control group where there was no odor in the air. No odor, that is, except for the nasty dentist office smell. Maybe the orange scent was just masking the unpleasant odors. Maybe it had nothing to do with any orange-specific molecules. More research was necessary.

So in another study, highlighted in my video, Orange Aromatherapy for Anxiety, researchers exposed some graduate students to an anxiety-producing situation and tested the scent of orange, versus a non-orange aroma, versus no scent at all. The orange did appear to have an anxiety-reducing effect. Interestingly, the observed anxiety-reducing effects were not followed by physical or mental sedation. On the contrary, at the highest dose, the orange oil made the volunteers feel more energetic. So orange aromatherapy may potentially reduce anxiety without the downer effect of Valium-type drugs. Does that mean we can get the benefits without the side effects? I’ve talked about the concerns of using scented consumer products before, even ones based on natural fragrances (Throw Household Products Off the Scent), and there have been reports of adverse effects of aromatherapy.

Alternative medicine isn’t necessary risk-free. For example, there are dozens of reported cases of people having their hearts ruptured by acupuncture. Ouch.

But the adverse effects of aromatherapy were mostly from skin irritation from essential oils being applied topically, or even worse swallowed. Certain citrus oils can also make your skin sensitive to sunlight.

Lavender may also help for both anxiety (Lavender for Generalized Anxiety Disorder) and migraines (Lavender for Migraine Headaches).