Category Archives: Uncategorized

Happy Leap Day…well, I think…

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On this, the last day of February, I recall how I used to pity those poor kids who could only celebrate their birthdays on the actual date, every couple of years.  I felt uncomfortable about the ambiguous nature of the leap year birthday. I mean, those poor kids had to hesitate and figure out an understandable response to the question, “How old are you?”.

I have always had a distaste for ambiguity.  Therefore, I ask a lot of questions.  (Liars HATE it that I ask a lot of questions.  I catch them off guard, it seems…)  I ask people a lot of questions, not because I’m nosy but because when I have all the facts about a given situation, I can make better decisions for myself.  It isn’t a judgement issue.  It’s more like:  “If you’re going to do this….then I’m going to do that.”   “If you are going to call back later, I’ll leave my phone on.  If not, I’ll turn it off so I won’t be disturbed while I work.”  It isn’t that I’m asking someone TO call back.  Whatever their decision about this is, will be fine with me.  I just want to know one way or the other so I can take action accordingly.

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Turns out that science has now substantiated why ambiguity bugs me ( or all of us) as much as it does.   The phenomenon  actually screws with our heads.   According to a study published in the Journal of Science, the reason lies in how the brain responds emotionally, and sometimes, even illogically, when forced to make decisions based on conflicting or little evidence.   These so-called ambiguous decisions are different from decisions that we think of as risky decisions.  No wonder the person who is being lied to, for example, appears so nutty to the rest of the world. That person is being fed conflicting information.   The heart hears what it wants to hear, but the head says, “Um….hold on there just a minute….That doesn’t make sense!”

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Wait….If it looks like a duck…then, it IS a duck….but it also looks like a rabbit.  Which do I choose?

When faced with a risky decision, one  is not sure about the outcome of a particular choice but can have a notion about the probability of success. In an ambiguous decision, a person is ignorant of both factors.  Thus, the uncomfortable feeling….the uncertainty, and sometimes illogical and absurd behaviors.

Brain specialists  would say ambiguity is the discomfort from knowing there is something you don’t know that you wish you did.  This probably stems back to the fight or flight area of the brain, the hippocampus, and is a matter of survival.   In the previously mentioned experiment,  subjects were given the opportunity to place  ambiguous bets while their brains were scanned using a functional magnetic resonance imager (fMRI).  In this part of the experiment, participants  were given the choice between placing a monetary bet  on the chances of drawing a red card from a “risky” deck that had 20 red cards and 20 black cards…that is, where the probability of choosing either color was 50-50, and making the same bet with an “ambiguous” deck where the color composition of the cards was unknown.

In the majority of  cases, the participants  decided  to place the risky bet. Logically, however, both bets would have been equally good because in both cases, the chance of pulling a red card on the first draw was 50-50.

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The brain scans taken during the experiment revealed that ambiguous betters were often accompanied by activation of the parts of the brain known as the amygdala and the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC).  These are  two areas of the brain that are involved in the whole emotions processing thing.   The  amygdala has been found to be closely associated with fear, which, again, harkens back to being in survival mode.   If you think about it, a correlation between aversion to ambiguous decisions and activation of emotional parts of the brain makes  perfect sense from an evolutionary point of view.  Do I go into that dark cave or don’t I?  Well, first, I need to know if a saber toothed tiger is in there, right?  And I’m going to be a little nervous about it until I find out.  Should I leave my boyfriend or not….Well, first, I need to find out if he really IS cheating on me.  In the modern human brain, this translates into a reluctance to bet on or against an event if it seems at all ambiguous.

The results of this study could help those of us in the field of Psychology,  understand how humans make decisions in the real world, because the choices people make are often based on very limited information.  (i.e…..All signs point to cheating, but he denies it….or I’m not going to walk into that dark cave if there’s a tiger in there, because it will eat me alive. )

Makes sense to me.

Anyway….Happy Birthday, Leapers…er…Leap Yearlings…um…people whose birthdays are on leap year.  Here’s a nice mug.  Have some coffee.

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Thank you…to my beautiful friend.

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A special friend sent me this video this morning.  You can see his reflection in my glasses.

Rene Best musician                                       Rene Best guitarist
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Rene Best musician

Seattle Here We Come!

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Late this afternoon, I completed my final assignments for Personality Theory class and now have a 4 day break before the new term begins. Man!  That class was difficult!  I’ve never written so much in my life, but I’m happy to say that I have a 4 point and my professor just recommended I publish my last paper, so I’m pretty pleased that all my hard work is paying off.

Tomorrow, I shall turn off my computer and put my phone away and hit the road for a couple of days of sweet R&R!

My daughter, Sarah and I are going to take 4 yr. old Ingrid to Seattle for 2 of those 4 days, in order to see Maya, my 17 year old granddaughter, shown here at Seattle’s famous Pike’s Market, fiercely armed with a pineapple!

ImageRene Best musician                          Rene Best guitarist

 

We’ll be leaving in the morning.  She is so psyched about this, and so are we!   On Friday night, we’re going to have a “slumber party” at one of my best friend’s beautiful house.   Sheryl, (shown here with our mutual friend, George, who now lives in Mexico) and I have known one another since we both lived in Texas….20 years?  Something like that.  She and her partner, Dylan, are metal artists.  Sheryl specializes in patinas.  Dylan welds.  They both do amazing work!

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Sheryl and  Dylan, have created the coziest, most fabulous  living space.  Their house is full of plants and art and is …well, just perfect, really… Comfortable, beautiful and with much character.   It is in a remote-ish area and there is plenty of time to spread out and relax while we bask in the pleasure of one another’s company.  This is Dylan with their now-deceased boxer, Buddha.  Image

Sheryl and Dylan now have two beautiful black boxers, Ella and Able.  Our little Beatrix will be no match for these two big guys.  I’m planning to keep them apart.  These two dogs are like thoroughbred racehorses, and every bit as graceful.  They’re both brilliant, too, and have no idea that they are dogs.

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 It has been a long time since I’ve had the time to just hang out and have fun.   Maya is bringing a friend, and we’re just going to relax, eat pizza, play cards, watch movies and have a good time.  I SO look forward to spending this time with my family there!!

 The coming school  term is going to be difficult.  Two complex classes, lots of writing and much time and energy will be expended.  This will give me time to relax and unwind a little…to recharge, as it were.  My daughter Sarah needs this, too.  It will be good.

Can you see the smile on my face??     Can’t wait!

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Don’t Shoot the Messenger! – The Psychological Purpose for Denial

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Are any of you familiar with the Tom Stoppard absurdist  play, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead?   It is about how two servants (that had minor roles in Shakespeare’s Hamlet)  were so naive that they walked into a situation that ended them, just because they delivered a message that someone didn’t want to hear.

Ring a bell?

Have you ever known anyone that would attack the messenger rather than face news that he or she didn’t want to hear?

A prime example is that of a couple of friends of mine.  He cheats. He has ALWAYS cheated….and even though she knows it,  rather than face the reality of it, the wife (my friend) will blame the women with whom he cheats, hanging on to the marriage as though her life depended on it.

In her eyes, the WOMEN are “bad” because she is sickly emotionally dependent on her husband.  He has always been disloyal to her behind her back, and he continues to be to this day.  She KNOWS about it, yet continues to cling .  She will get drunk, pick up the phone and call up the women that he cheats with, claiming that he doesn’t love them….that he is “afraid of” them…or that he has said terrible things about them.  The women sort of roll their eyes, because he has already warned them that my friend is crazy and to expect her to call.  He warns them that she will demand a 3-way phone call and insists that they ignore the request.  This is how smooth an operator he is….and how he convinces his wife that the women are lying.

The person that is actually telling the lies and committing the cheating continues along these lines indefinitely while the person that speaks out about it gets labeled the “bad one”…the “slut”…”evil”… because the recipient of the news has dependency issues that keep her in the relationship regardless of how unhappy he or she is.  She demands he throw out anything the lover has given him….which, of course, he doesn’t really do.   She demands he block her from his telephone….which, of course, he doesn’t do either.  He simply gets a dedicated phone for the purpose of calling the lover more than ever. In other words, my friend spends all of her energy trying to make misidentified “problem” go away.  She believes that if she can make the other woman “vanish” her husband will be faithful.

Ain’t gonna happen.

My friend’s husband has been unfaithful to her repeatedly.  This man is CONSTANTLY  “trolling for women” and telling them that he and his wife are on the skids.   Oh, the lies!

This poor woman has plans to spend the rest of her life with this man and she refuses to embrace the truth no matter how many times she comes face to face with it.

When well-meaning friends have tried to warn her,  she will either get mad at them for having delivered the message, or she will attack and belittle the women with whom her husband entangles himself…but she will NEVER walk away from the relationship, because she is too insecure.  She makes excuses for her husband every single time.  Does he stop cheating on her?  No.  Does she vilify the women that he cheats on her with?                           René Best musician

Yup.  Every.  single. time.

It is always THEIR fault (the fault of the other women)  and never the fault of the cheating husband.  They want him.  They throw themselves at him.  They stalk him.  He can’t beat them off with a stick!  And when caught, he declares that these other women are fat…or ugly…or crazy….and the wife falls for it every single time.

cageRene Best musician       Rene Best guitarist

Meanwhile, the other women that this man flirts with, sleeps with and swears his undying love for,  are all lead to believe that they are the special ones….that the marriage is so bad that it excuses his cheating behavior.

 The wife denies and denies it and cooks up all kinds of unsavory stories about the WOMEN….but not about the man that is stirring the pot!  She will upload photos of herself and her husband in strained, deliberately posed positions that are intended to convey their “happiness” together…but the husband instantly dispels this theory.  “She MADE me pose in that picture!  I didn’t want to do it.  She was just trying to piss you off…..”  on …and on…and on….

This action takes place because of her own dependency issues. She is desperate to convince the world…the same world that knows how miserable they are…how “happy” they are, completely ignoring the fact that he has ruthlessly cut her down to virtually everyone that knows him.   She would rather have a man that she KNOWS in her heart, is cheating, than not have a man at all.  So she remains  in total denial….even when these women occasionally reach out to try to help her.    Big mistake. Huge.


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 Is there an apple in the picture below?  I don’t think so…yet according to some people, it may very well be one…because they WANT to believe it is an apple, whether it is or not!  How sad is that?   Some people do not base anything on actual reality.  They base everything on their insecurities and needs….(…not that anyone NEEDS to be with unfaithful men. )

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Denial is an internally-generated defense mechanism that goes into action when someone is not able to face reality.    It is the refusal to admit or to even recognize that an event such as an affair (or other traumatic event)  has occurred or is currently going on.   We most often hear about denial as it relates to  alcoholics or drug addicts.   However, these are not the only times when denial kicks in.  People that  are traumatized or who  fear trauma will go into denial rather than even see the truth.    In many cases, there might be overwhelming evidence that something is true, yet the person will continue to deny its existence or truth because it is too uncomfortable to face.   Ask how things are going, and they might respond with, “GREAT!!!”  and a big, happy smile.     Why does this happen?

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Denial  protects one’s ego from things and events with which the individual cannot cope.  While this may save that person from anxiety or pain, being in denial  requires a huge investment of psychic energy. Because of this, other defenses are also used to keep these unacceptable feelings from consciousness.  One of these defense mechanisms is displacement.

Have ever had a really bad day and then gone home and taken out your frustration on someone else?  This is displacement.  Displacement involves taking out our frustrations, feelings, and impulses on people or objects that are less threatening.   This, too, can result in the wrong person getting the blame.   In the case of my friend, her husband is clearly the one that is doing something wrong, but my friend, instead, blames the other women….or blames her ex husband, or blames her upbringing, her parents, her boss….ANYONE AND ANYTHING other than her husband….because if she admitted that he was unfaithful, there would be no reason to justify her staying with him….and she is very insecure.  She needs a man, even one that cheats on her, to create the delusion that her life is something that it isn’t.  Convincing people on the outside that things are, “GREAT!!” is her top priority.

The type of denial that my friend has goes far beyond grace and forgiveness and into the realm of stupidity.  I guess that was unkind.  She is not stupid.  She needs help, actually….but a lot of people just view her as stupid, because THEY can see what is going on, even if she does adamantly deny it.  A defense mechanism that K. needs to develop is sublimation.

ImageSublimation allows people to act out unacceptable impulses by converting them into more socially acceptable forms of behavior. For instance, when K. experiences the uncontrollable rage that causes her to attack the messenger or, worse yet, to attack the women with which her husband carries on, she might, instead, take up gardening or join a dance group to vent her frustration.  I agree with Sigmund Freud, who  believed that sublimation is a sign of maturity that allows us to function normally in socially acceptable ways.   Going on the attack against the wrong people?   That just sucks.   Living in denial of my friend’s husband’s infidelities only makes my friend appear pathetic.  EVERYONE knows that he cheats….and she does, too, at some level, yet she continues to skirt the issue.  Living in denial is a debilitating mental illness.  It makes the person in denial look mad as a hatter while everyone else comes out smelling like a rose.

 

Day One of…..

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2 days

Soooooo…..Over the next two days, I must reread the literature review that I wrote last week, and turn the information into a 15 page paper that outlines my own leadership theory.  AND….I have to figure out how to do advanced ANOVA research designs, write a paper about that, analyze a data set and explain how the results make sense.  ugh.  Hard work!    This is going to be two sure days in hell….but once I emerge, I shall never look back…and  I will have learned something new….so here I go!

When I’m 74

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When I’m 74

John Lennon would have been 74 today.  I saw him play with the Plastic Ono Band back in the day, at Madison Square Garden.  I saw him play with the Beatles when I was a kid.  I wonder what kind of old man he would have been….not that 74 is old…but what if he had lived to be 94 or 104?

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I miss his intelligent subversive self.

Happy birthday, John-o.

 P.S.  to Steve M. – May I interest you in a John Lennon memorial bloody mary?  <—(Still embarrassed…but thanks for the reminder.  🙂  )

 

Lesson For the Day

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4 Joy – by Stacy Alexander

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Here is a little something originally created just 4 you.

 

4 Joy by Stacy Alexander

 

To My Best Friend

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Bread and Honey

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Bread and Honey

For now, mornings are my favorite time of day.  I got up very early this morning and took little Beatrix for a long walk before the city awoke.  It is great fun for me to watch her explore the world.  Now that she has turned a year old, she is very enthusiastic about life and less afraid than she used to be.  She wants to sniff everything and is so happy to greet passers by.  This little dog has a sweet, gentle nature and is such a comfort to me.  I love how she now knows our route, and how she automatically turns the corner with such confidence.  I love how she bounds up the steps to the house when we return, with such great assurance.

Before our walk, I made myself a big breakfast of fresh bread and honey, a poached egg, some veggie bacon and some hot, spicy hash browns with red peppers.  Don’t know why I woke up as hungry as I did, but I scarfed it right down.  Made the perfect pot of coffee to go with.  I’m always so glad when the coffee turns out just the way I like it.  It is sort of hit or miss with me. John always makes perfect coffee when he is home.  I tend to get it too strong…almost muddy….and he laughs at me about that.

My morning walks are when I think about things….really think about things…about my family, about my best friend…about little Beebs.  I think about what I will do that day…plan, organize my thoughts.  I feel good about life, albeit am very stressed out right now.  I know that this is a temporary state.   This will pass.  I will get through these classes and everything will be fine.

The sky takes on a beautiful blue-gray cast in the early mornings here.  It is as though the sun is sleepy and isn’t ready to wake quite yet.  I recall the contrast from when I lived in Texas and would open the door to that first hot blast of bright sun in the early morning.  Here, everything is gentle.  I have said that about Portland before.  It is a gentle city.  I love it here.

I decided yesterday, to give up my studio.  At this point, it really is just a luxury, and I do not have the time to justify paying the rent.  I spend virtually no time there at all, any more, since I’ve started grad school, and it takes too long to drive there.  I would rather wait until summer and find a studio closer to me or even convert the garage into a studio, if I can.  I will have to talk to John about this and see what he thinks.

Going to hop into the shower now.  It is almost time for the veggie delivery to come and I will spend the next hour processing the food so that it will last longer.  Then, back to the books.  School is quite stressful at this time and I am not getting much sleep….but at the week’s end, I will only have four more to go, so I’m just going to take it a step at a time….

 

Monday, Monday…

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Today is a sunny 73 degrees.  I finally feel caught up on my sleep and have made a decent start to the week’s school tasks.  My yard crew came this morning, which is unusual for October.  I usually have one big end-of-summer cleanup done in mid-September, but this year, it has been uncharacteristically warm and sunny, so all of the plants are still thriving. I had the big hedge trimmed back, the rowdy blackberry bushes cut away, the English ivy topped off and edged, some stepping stones set into the ground and some gravel laid beside the steps to help with water drainage. It was a big job and expensive, too, but everything looks great.  The back/side yard is so pleasant.  John did such a beautiful job on it, and before he left this year, he installed a really nice screen door for me on that side of the house so I can leave the door open now without worrying that Beatrix will escape.

I let the workers help themselves to as many figs as they wanted from my tree.  They seemed very happy, but didn’t take all that many.   What a harvest this year!  I have never seen a tree produce so much fruit!  It has been fun finding and trying out new recipes to use them in.  Fig jam, stuffed figs, fig butter, et al…

This week, I have two papers to write for my leadership class.  I thought this class might be a drag when I first signed up for it, but am learning so much that will help me develop my new business.  The research class is the real challenge.  For most of it, I have no problem at all and really enjoy it.  However,  on those weeks when we have to analyze data sets and apply statistics…ugh.  What a headache!  I just have a natural aversion to it, but am trying to find some artistic value in it.

I told my best friend when he called yesterday that I was really struggling with a problem.  His response, “Channel Einstein!”  He always makes me laugh, and I think the laughter was what cleared my head and helped me finally work that last difficult problem.  I did manage to get though it and finished before the 9 p.m. deadline…but this morning, I discovered we had a whole new concept to learn and even more difficult problems.  I’ll do it….a step at a time.

Meanwhile, I just got back from a walk with Beatrix and think I’ll relax for awhile and try not to push myself as hard this week.

Autumn Vegetarian Dinner

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You know, I am so excited that autumn has arrived at last.  I love the cool air and the muted Pacific NW light.  I love how the leaves change into a million different colors.  I love the changes in activities and in the food that is available.

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I had never cooked sunshine squash (AKA winter squash) before.  By virtue of its exterior resemblance to a small pumpkin, I had no reason to think it would taste any different.  However, when I sliced it open I discovered a fruity aroma, deep and saturated.  I thought to myself, “How can I bring out this fruity goodness?”  and then it occurred to me…..booze!  I cut off a quarter of the squash and cleaned out the seeds.  Then, I rubbed it with a small amount of olive oil and salted it liberally with Himalayan sea salt.  After that, I grabbed a bottle of Cointreau, a good, orange-flavored liqueur, which I drizzled over the top.

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I put a light dusting of organic cinnamon on it, then placed it in the center of a piece of tin foil.  I made a tent out of the foil so that the squash could steam in its own juices.  Then, I placed it on a cookie sheet, stuck it in the oven at 350 F for 40 minutes and let it cook until it was soft…like mashed potatoes.

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I have no idea what variety these beets are. They, along with the other vegetables that I prepared tonight, came in my organic produce delivery box.  I think they’re beautiful!  I prepared these by cutting them into sizeable chunks (quarters), drizzling them with a bit of EVOO and sprinkling on a mixture of sea salt, dried garlic, parsley and pepper.  I made another aluminum foil pouch and placed them inside.  Just before I sealed the pouch, I drizzled them with a high quality balsamic vinegar. Then, I tightly sealed the pouch.  The idea was to allow the vinegar to reduce as the beets cooked.  It worked!

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To prepare the Yukon Gold spuds. I quartered them, added sea salt, freshly ground pepper and herbs de Province.  Again…tin foil pouch and a spritz of olive oil.   I placed the potatoes and beets on the same cookie sheet as the squash.  While these vegetables were cooking, I chopped some Swiss Chard and placed it into my bamboo steamer.  I let it actively steam for 1 minute and broke and egg on top.

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I added a couple of small corn muffins that I made yesterday, and let the whole thing steam until the egg was done.  Added a little sea salt, pepper, and that was that.

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The whole thing plated up very nicely.  The colors, textures and aromas were quite pleasing.  I slapped a little pat of Earth Balance onto the top of the squash and left everything else as it was.  I must say.  Eating food such as this is definitely a favorite aspect of autumn.  Mmmmmmmm!

Another Beautiful Breakfast

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Yesterday, my friend and neighbor, Jeremy, went out mushroom picking.  I felt so grateful when he gave me a heaping helping of these beautiful Chanterells!  They are my favorite kind of mushrooms…subtle and rich at once, and so beautiful to behold!

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Then, this morning, my organic produce delivery came.  Mind you, these vegetables are the most delicious I have ever had!  This is week #3, and I couldn’t be happier.  I get them from Organics 2 You, here in Portland.  Everything is locally grown.  The staff is friendly.  The company is very personalized and competent.  I can’t recommend it highly enough.  In addition to their delectable produce, they also offer a few extras, so I ordered some cheese, eggs, coffee and yoghurt this week.  It has been a long time since I’ve eaten dairy and since I just ran out of my calcium supplements, I thought I’d eat some.  I rarely do that.

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This photo doesn’t even begin to show you everything that was in it.  There are fresh carrots, more peppers, fruit galore and beets underneath what you see here.  I added the chanterelles to the nice bag of shiitaki mushrooms that I got in the delivery, and am trying a new kind of coffee as I type this.  Delicous! Received another package of kiwi berries, too, which I really love.

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So…..for breakfast this morning, I chopped up both kinds of shrooms, a de-seeded habanero pepper and some Tuscan kale and tossed it very lightly with a little EVOO.  (extra virgin olive oil)  I cooked that for about a minute and a half, and then added an egg.

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I let that cook through for about 20 seconds and then scrambled it together with the vegetables.  Then I added some high quality, raw, sharp cheddar cheese….just a little sprinkle, and a tablespoon of my homemade artichoke/pepper bruschetta and stirred that all around and let it cook for another minute or so.  Added sea salt…pepper….

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Served it up with a cup of hot, black coffee and some riper-than-ripe organic pears with a light dusting of fresh ground cinnamon.  I practically inhaled this breakfast!  It was one of the best I’d eaten in a long time! Made me feel like dancin’ a little jig!

 

Does Meditation Affect Cellular Aging? You bet it does!

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This is reason enough for every single person who sees this to meditate.  Really.  EVERYONE can benefit from meditating only 12 minutes a day.  This link goes to an important video:

http://nutritionfacts.org/video/does-meditation-affect-cellular-aging/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=does-meditation-affect-cellular-aging&utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=does-meditation-affect-cellular-aging

 

Here is the transcript from Dr. Michael Greger’s site nutritionfacts.org:

Transcript: Does Meditation Affect Cellular Aging?

In my Research Into Reversing Aging, I highlighted Dean Ornish’s landmark study showing that low-fat, whole foods, plant-based diet high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, along with walking, stress management, and support could not only reverse heart disease, open up arteries without drugs and surgery, and potentially reverse the progression of early-stage prostate cancer, but was the first intervention ever shown to increase telomerase activity, the enzyme that builds and maintains these caps at the tips of our chromosomes called telomeres which appear to slow the aging of our cells. Yes, this new finding was exciting and should encourage people to adopt a healthy lifestyle in order to avoid or combat cancer and age-related diseases, but was it the diet, the exercise, or the stress management? That’s what researchers have been trying to tease out in the five years since this study was published.

Let’s look at stress first. In the film The Holiday, Cameron Diaz, exclaimed “Severe stress … causes the DNA in our cells to shrink until they can no longer replicate.” Did Hollywood get the science right? Do people who are stressed have shorter telomeres? To answer that question, researchers measured the telomere lengths in mothers of chronically ill children—what could be more stressful than that? The longer a woman had spent being the main carer of her ill child, the shorter were her telomeres. The extra telomere shortening in the most stressed mothers was equivalent to that caused by at least a decade of aging.

We see the same thing in caregivers of Alzheimer’s patients, and those suffering severe work related exhaustion. Even those abused as children may grow up with shorter telomeres. Not much we can do about our past, but if we manage our stress can we grow some of telomeres back?

Well if you go off to on a meditation retreat and meditate for 500 hours you can indeed boost your telomerase activity. 600 hours of meditation may be beneficial as well, but come on, there’s got to be a quicker fix, and this exciting new study delivers.

Caregivers of family members with dementia randomized to just 12 minutes of daily meditation for 8 weeks, just about 10 hours in total experienced significant benefit. Better mental and psychological function accompanied by an increase in telomerase activity suggesting improvement in stress-induced cellular aging.

I highly recommend signing up for Dr. Greger’s videos.  http://www.nutritionfacts.org

 

Breakfast as Meditation

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Breakfast as Meditation

Food prepared lovingly, mindfully and with positive energy,  has the optimal ability to nourish us both spiritually and physically.  This is my new mantra .  Whereas I used to begin the day with sitting in a meditative state for a prolonged period, I now practice by mindfully preparing nourishment, carefully preparing the chopping board and contemplating each slice of my blade as it finds its way through the vegetables and fruits and ends at the wood with a practiced *thunk!  I think about each tiny square or rectangle that I make,each semicircle or circle, each random shape.  I think  about the colors and textures of the food.  I focus on its transformation as I cook it and feel thankful as I slowly enjoy every morsel, while I give thanks.

This practice is changing me in ways that I cannot describe.  It not only empowers me and fuels my body and mind. It makes me calm and teaches me lessons each time I cook.

Today’s breakfast was chopped cyklon peppers, Yukon gold potatoes, Tuscan kale, tofu, sweet Hawaiian onion, crimini mushrooms and garlic cooked with a spicy, fragrant black bean sauce with slices of sweet, crispy Asian pear slices on the side.  I ate every bite very slowly and appreciated the honor of having food at all.  I appreciated the complexities of the flavors and noticed every crunch and smooth texture of the bountiful feast.

As I ate, I thought about how fortunate I am on so many levels and for so many things…my family, my friends, and in particular, my best friend. I thought of an ailing family member who is getting better each day, and how events have unfolded around her to reveal the truth to other members of my family.I thought of my husband’s voice over the phone, and of my best friend’s infectious grin.  I thought of the way my grandchild squeezes my hand when we walk and of how my little puppy loves to snuggle with me when she naps. I thought of my other granddaughter, now far away working her first real job.  I thought  of my tiny grandson who is observing the world every day through innocent eyes, and I thought of the ripe figs on the two trees outside my window.

This type of meditation is the best way to begin the day.  It centers me and orders my brain to prepare it for the arduous tasks at hand, the ones that mount daily as I progress through school with my eye on the prize.  It gives me strength and energy and helps me understand the world much better as I sort through the different events that are transpiring in my life at the moment with, perhaps, more confidence than I have ever had before.

I am at peace.

koi

Roy the Koi
Watercolor on paper
© Stacy Alexander – All Rights Reserved – 2014

A Different Order

Standard

My  friend, Tom, recently said, “When your life falls apart, it’s an ideal time to put the pieces back in a different order,” which is true…but what about when your life isn’t falling apart?  Is it still ok to reassess and do things differently?  My life is not falling apart in the least. Negative aspects of it are falling away…and that part is good.    No one can deny that  I am certainly doing a good deal of rearranging. I should have done this years ago.

I look at it like sorting socks or organizing a kitchen drawer.   I am rearranging  things as I go….my priorities, my habits, my choices and making things smoother and more functional than they have been in 40-something  years.  I am accepting what is and am continually taking inventory, letting go of that which does not serve my higher purpose, and moving forward.  That is what I have done in a big way this week. I have taken huge steps emotionally, legally, familial-y, and am steaming forward on the path I have forged for myself and those whom I  truly love.

A week or two ago, I posted an amazing  quote by Meryl Streep that characterizes exactly how I feel . It remarkably seemed to  fall out of the sky for me the day I needed it most, and it keeps cropping up, even as I go through research papers to complete this week’s school assignments.  It’s almost as though God or the universe is sending it to me, over and again.  Today, it means more to me than ever before…so I am going to post it again…because this is really how I feel.  I have never been as resolved as I am today, and I have never been stronger.  I know I’m right about this, and I will never again, walk the painful path of eggshells that I used to be on, not ever.

I will never deprive my loving daughter, Sarah and her daughter, Ingrid another ounce of my energy that used to be directed toward ungrateful, manipulative people. My granddaughter, Maya, will have a better, stronger grandmother and will know my devotion in new ways and my husband will have a wife that is more determined than ever to make our remaining years together everything good they can possibly be.    I am strong in my friendships, (one more than others) in my school work and on the path to a fantastic adventure.

“I no longer have patience for certain things, not because I’ve become arrogant, but simply because I reached a point in my life where I do not want to waste more time with what displeases me or hurts me. I have no patience for cynicism, excessive criticism and demands of any nature. I lost the will to please those who do not like me, to show love toward those who do not love me and to smile at those who do not want to smile at me. I no longer spend a single minute on those who lie or want to manipulate. I decided not to coexist anymore with pretense, hypocrisy, dishonesty and cheap praise. I do not tolerate selective erudition nor academic arrogance. I do not adjust either to popular gossiping. I hate conflict and comparisons. I believe in a world of opposites and that’s why I avoid people with rigid and inflexible personalities. In friendship I dislike the lack of loyalty and betrayal. I do not get along with those who do not know how to give a compliment or a word of encouragement. Exaggerations bore me and I have difficulty accepting those who do not like animals. And on top of everything I have no patience for anyone who does not deserve my patience.” _ Meryl Streep