On Facts vs Beliefs

As a current data analyst, and a data analyst as a major role in most of the professional positions I have held in the past 13 years; I am quite accustomed to people questioning data. 

Most of the time compiled data is unquestionably passed along and used for managerial decision making. Sometimes after someone looks at it, new parameters need to be put in because either more information is needed or there was a miscommunication about what was wanted. And on occasion I may have made an error in inputs or pivoted an incorrect field. It happens. To avoid a circumstance of error, my co-workers and I usually do a second review of one another’s work to ensure that we pulled and compiled an analysis correctly. 

Once it’s sent out, we often answer questions about parameters, assumptions, categories, etc. No one has ever accused us of being biased. If something seems wrong or the requestor doesn’t like what the data shows, there are other people who can run the same thing. When the same results are shown over and over by different groups whether or not it’s within my local organization or around the country – it ends up being facts that don’t have a “belief” on whether or not one agrees with them. 

On some rare occasion a manager or physician will find one or two lone people who will run data to support what they need. Or they unknowingly asked someone who doesn’t do it often enough to know what to put in, and they just happen to get results that support a new position, that supports a clinic is more full than it really is, or some other result the individual wishes to be true. 

However, there are measures in place to ensure that when other results overwhelmingly outweigh a small number of results; what the vast majority has found is what is used. This is also true in clinical research which I’m also very familiar for obtaining data for as a side job. 

Peer review is a common practice in professional papers, journals, and research. In my first job at the VA before any data analysis, the physician I worked for was a peer reviewer for several medical journals in her field around the world. The process is blind – meaning, you have no idea who wrote the paper or pulled the data in the paper. And the writer has no idea who reviewed it. The reviewer makes suggestions to the editor and writer about whether or not the paper has validity, if more information is needed, etc. It’s a brilliant process that has worked for decades and lead to serious advances in all areas of life. 

That is what I have found disturbing about COVID. COVID isn’t the first thing that is indisputable but ends up becoming a “belief”. But it does seem now like things questioned in the past are now forums for long angry discussions, some become political points, and others are ripping apart family and friends. I really don’t understand this. 

The facts and data shows- 

  • COVID isn’t made up
  • COVID numbers aren’t made up
  • Climate Change is a real thing
  • Racism is real
  • Sexism is real 

At some point – where the bell curve flattens (around 98% or so; or arguably even before) it’s time to believe the majority. When something is new – such as the world is flat, I really understand that it can be hard to believe. But when 98% of the studies show the world is indeed round, it’s kind of time to flip the flat earth viewpoint. 

No actual data or studies show most of the poo that is tossed around about political candidates or parties. Some clown (or brilliant jokester) either in the US or a foreign country is probably laughing in their garage about Americans eating up whatever nonsense they drummed up hook, line and sinker. These are rinky dink memes and articles and unvalidated data. Even articles and opinion columns in well respected news media are not backed by any studies or data. We would hope they stay neutral (but they clearly don’t); so our only real hope for good information is from the professionals who do this for a living. 

You can have an opinion, but when it conflicts with overwhelming data – I have to side with the person who posted this on social media. 

Beliefs are not facts. And that is a fact. 

Namaste 

On Why This $600 Unemployment Check is so Important

I want to start by saying that there are a LOT of lazy people in this world that want something for nothing. There are a lot of people who as my step-brother put it are “cry babies”. Americans around the world are sort of known for being cry babies. At the moment our country is a the butt of so many jokes – and for good reason.

 

Corona and politics aside – this $600 is an important issue that shouldn’t be taken lightly.

 

When so many Americans lost their job and the $600 weekly check (CARES) became a thing – there were two reactions – both that started with What!! $600?

  1. For some – even dual income families that sentence ended with “How can we possibly afford to live on that”
  2. For others the sentence ended with “Wow, that is more than I was making, now I can afford to live!”

 

The deadline for the original agreement for this check is July 31 (today).

 

What is really on the table here is a living wage.

 

I grew up poor. Welfare poor. I watched my parents literally break their backs. Both of them actually had bad backs from manual, constant labor. We didn’t have health insurance. I watched them fight, struggle and cry opening or behind closed doors about finding work and providing food for us 3 kids. No time or motivation to tend to our needs, ask about our day or homework. Forget college or anything. We couldn’t even get to the doctor when we were sick.

 

I found a way out with the military and subsequently putting myself through school. Once I left – I felt like I made it in life. I had a job that paid the bills and healthcare in case I or then later my children became sick. A bonus to that was time off in case I got sick! And just for pure joy  – vacation time. Wow! I didn’t want for a thing more. I felt secure.

 

But now I need to question why “making it” for me meant just to live with basics – food/shelter/clothing. I believe in the value of hard work. It not only contributes to a better society – but it feels so good to be able to do something yourself. Everyone should contribute.

 

But there is a point when you lose hope. You lose hope when no matter what you, do you cannot afford food/shelter/clothing for yourself and/or your family. There is no amount of hard work that can get the a LOT of people out of a bad situation. There are so many places around the world yes – but even in the United States where there are zero opportunities for upward mobility. Period.

 

When you lose hope, you lose motivation. Motivation works when there is a gain from doing something that you put effort into. If you can’t make a living wage – there is no motivation.

 

I felt secure at the moment I had a livable wage and health insurance. When you don’t feel secure and motivated, you don’t want to work – you want to riot because it doesn’t seem fair that some people have it and you don’t.

 

Again – it’s not the $600 on the table here, it’s the living wage.

 

We should be fighting for a living wage. Other countries have figured it out. Why can’t we?

 

This isn’t a great America for a lot of people. My own family included, up until this very day. The slogan “Make America Great Again” gave people hope. But it can never be great when we can’t provide our own citizens with life’s basics that motivate them to get out of bed in the morning.

 

United States inequality has risen to Gilded Age levels….

https://inequality.org/facts/income-inequality/

 

Tell me all you want about a growing GDP, job rates, etc under Presidents So & So’s leadership (insert any president here) – but none of that matters if it’s not being distributed equally.

 

I don’t think the cry babies are the ones who put in 60-80 work weeks in 2 or 3 jobs just to feed their families. The cry babies live amongst the upper class (pretty much all the media shows) and have no idea what it means to struggle or not be secure. They “cry” the moment life just doesn’t meet their unrealistic expectations that had been consistently handed to them.

 

If you want to make America great – we have to ensure each citizen can make enough to live.

 

It’s not a handout, it’s what will motivate the masses to get up out of bed. Lying, cheating and stealing (and now rioting) comes from despair. And despair happens when no matter what you do you know you will not have the security of life’s most basic needs.

 

It’s not the solution – but this fight for the $600 Unemployment check is the start to a better future. It’s a moment to understand and seize.

A decent article explaining a little more about what is on the table right now: https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.cnet.com/google-amp/news/extra-600-cares-act-unemployment-benefit-ends-july-31-heres-where-things-stand/ 

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On Cancel Culture & How No one can “Win” right now

Our country is divided. It’s a sad fact, not an opinion. A new phrase has emerged: “Cancel Culture”.

 

I had to look that one up the first time I saw it a few weeks ago. According to Wikipedia it’s a form of Online Shaming and is defined as:

 

The act of canceling, also referred to as cancel culture (a variant on the term “callout culture“), is a form of boycott in which an individual (usually a celebrity) who has acted or spoken in a questionable or controversial manner is boycotted.

 

I am going to begin by stating I do not believe in cancel culture. I believe in understanding. In healthy debate. In trying to see where the other party is coming from. I cannot accept that people/groups/etc simply have different opinions, and end it there, when they are at odds, are competing for the same resources, and have to live or work together harmoniously to benefit the greater good.

 

For the majority of my professional life, I taught and practiced the facilitation of teamwork and how to use neutral tools to make collaborative decisions. I find it difficult to believe our nation’s leaders (all parties included) try to undermine one another and don’t use these types practices on the Hill to work amicably for the common good. As a citizen, it is what I expect from elected officials making decisions on policies for We the People.

 

We have a national leader that consistently refers to “Us and Them”, “My people and them”, “Us and the ‘bad’ people”. Cohesion is not possible when the viewpoint is that there is a winner and a loser. At the end of the day it’s likely that we all want the same thing. Food, safety, shelter, clothing, opportunities to grow, and to be understood. If we start from the perspective of a great divide, no one will actually be understood, and the food/shelter/clothing/opportunities will only go to the winner.

 

When all parties do not benefit– no one benefits. Hatred, animosity, and the idea of being at war with one another continues.

 

It doesn’t have to be this way.

 

Cancel culture does not provide the party who is being “cancelled” a chance to explain. Even if they are by the majority’s belief completely wrong, that person or those who quietly side with him/her will never have the opportunity to understand why others believe they are wrong. The canceled party(ies) will not feel heard, and we may never have the opportunity to learn why they think as they do – what their own hopes and fears are – and perhaps even have the opportunity to learn something from them.

 

Others will listen to us if we listen to them. The late Steven Covey explains being understood akin to air. When you don’t have it and cannot breath, it is the ONLY thing you can think about. When you have air, you can do other things such as listen. You can’t throw your opinion out there, say it just is and expect anyone to fully respect you. That doesn’t make you a leader, it makes you a bully.

 

Habit #5 of the famous Seven Habits Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood. Those who feel understood will be more likely to listen to another point of view and reciprocate understanding.

 

Until we listen and hear the pain of someone, even if you think they are wrong; no amount or type of explaining on your part will help them want to hear your point. More often than not, when you JUST listen you will quickly understand why someone or some group is doing what they are doing. From there, a facile leader or facilitator can create a common bond based on the ultimate goal both parties are seeking.

 

It takes a more enlightened person to listen first. Someone who has mastered the other 4 habits. The first 3 pertain to gaining control over yourself first.

 

Think Win-Win (Habit #4 actually!). Nobody wins unless everybody wins. That means ALL opinions belong at the table for consideration, no matter how crazy or wrong they may initially seem. You have to master your own demons and fears to be able to believe this and actually work with and listen to people you do not agree with. Cancelling suffocates those you don’t agree with.

 

It is possible to do things a different way. History does not have to repeat itself. Through technology and innovation, we have enough land, food, and resources on the earth for every human to thrive. We do not have to be at war with one other at all – EVER.

 

For dozens of reasons we are on the cusp of change as a human race, so why not join the crusade of knowledge that it is very possibly to live cohesively and for every person to have their basic needs met? Every human has the same right to life and the same right to be heard. We are all the same.

 

We all have that glimmer of light inside of us that, when not repressed, can shine and thrive into the most beautiful expression of itself. Knowing that, what is the point of creating divisions or holding anyone back through cancelling them out?

 

It is hopeful on this side of the fence.

 

That light inside of us… you can see it in others when you let your guard down and look.

 

Namaste

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On Weeds and Pseudo Humans

I love to garden. I spend a lot of time outside puttering around. I find gardening and having my hands in the dirt to be peaceful. I feel connected to the earth. I feel accomplished because I witness the fruits of my labor.

 

I prune lifeless or waterlogged leaves. I deadhead. I water. I cut back things that start encroaching into other areas. And I weed. And I weed. And I weed.

 

Weeds can be tricky. A few years ago I wrote a blog “On Lessons from the Garden”. I wrote about how initially going out in the dirt to garden it can be confusing to determine which life popping up out of the ground is legit, and which are weeds.

 

I’ve thought about this concept a lot through the years. One of the first times I spent significant time weeding and tending to the dirt was in 2002. I was only 26 years old and I had my first condominium with an incredibly small patch of dirt in front of it. I was astounded as to how many things looked like they were bona fide plants, but actually weeds.

 

While removing buckets of rocks and weeds from this tiny garden area in the spring of 2002, I learned that weeds tend to mimic what they are coming up near. At the time I thought about heaven and hell. I contemplated how people might look like good people but really are not. If you don’t remove the weeds from the beautiful place you are trying to create – they may take over and possibly kill the garden. It is not too dissimilar to any battle between good and evil.

 

Over the years I’ve thought about Carl Sagan and his famous lines about how we are made of star stuff. I’ve thought about Yoga and the 5 sheaths of the koshas. I’ve thought about Taoism and balance. I’ve related all of this to the garden and where weeds fit in.

 

Another quote I’ve always thought about in conjunction with weeds is “As above, so below, as within, so without, as the universe, so the soul…” ~Hermes Trismegistus

Not too surprising these days I’m thinking about and often feel confused over the news, the state of the world, what “friends” post on social media, and fellow humans that just don’t seem to get what loving on another really means. Flowers and plant life come in all shapes, colors and sizes. With the right conditions and care, they are able to be all that they came into the world to be.

 

The inherent property of a weed is to mimic what it is near, so it appears similar the product that is alive & well, and attempting to thrive alongside it. Impersonating is often the only way a weed can survive above ground for any length of time unnoticed. If you aren’t paying attention as a caretaker, you will inadvertently allow it to flourish. I often wonder if weeds actually know (not to say they are consciously thinking this) that they are not like the life they are trying to imitate. I do not think they do.

 

Intrinsically, the genetics of a weed is different from that of the flower it is trying to look like. Outside of initial appearance, the weed will eventually grow faster and from an aesthetics point – uglier than the flower. It may eventually stand out but at that point it also may have done some significant damage. Additionally, some weeds do not do any harm and live peacefully alongside the intended botanical it is near.

 

If the laws of nature are in the same in the unseen world where the weeds and humans simply appear from as the material word, (As Above, So Below quote above) who is to say that some humans are not really inherently human? Perhaps some, like weeds do not possess the natural beauty and radiance they were intended to deliver here in the material world above the ground and amongst the others. Perhaps like weeds, they have no idea they do not have the intrinsic properties of those they are trying to mimic.

 

So if weeds come right through the dirt into the world without any prompting, can pseudo humans as well? Like weeds, they likely don’t even know they are not real. Could it possibly be that the case with some people we know and/or in high places making decisions on our behalf?

 

Just some super crazy food for thought ❤

 

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On Where to Go from Here

Seriously….

 

White men get it the least from the possible perspective of any kind of human that roams this planet.

 

Anyone who knows me or has been following my blogs knows that 2012 was a really transformational year for me. I won’t post my long story yet again, but a Franklin Covey class about the Steven Covey book “ 7 Habits” really transformed my thinking. I was just in a place in my life where it hit me at the perfect time. Then 4 years later I started Yoga Teacher training, and again I was hit with change. Change that this time I had to actually take steps to make. It caused anxiety to a point where I got a reasonable accommodation at work and was able to transform my whole life for the better. I couldn’t support the world as I knew it even unintentionally for a second longer.

 

Then in 2017 I took the CT state 50-hour mandated reporter training required to teach yoga at domestic violence shelters. Another training that rocked my world. My two greatest learning points were about white privilege and that I had PTSD.

 

I write this now because I’m not stupid. I have an MBA, but I didn’t know a thing about white privilege or that I had PTSD and was regularly triggered. How could I? It’s the same way a white man doesn’t understand and wouldn’t even comprehend until a woman told him about walking down the street with a key under the index finger – you know, just in case. Or how it feels when you are just going about your business and some man tells you to smile. Smile??? WTF. First of all, who walks around smiling? And secondly there is no good response to that. If I smile I am encouraging this stranger. If I don’t the stranger seems to just judge me as “Who does this bitch think she is?”

 

Most men that hear this are not those who tell women to smile and don’t get it. But I don’t know a woman who hasn’t heard that. Or “You look really nice today” (from someone you’ve never met). This is harassment because no matter what I do or say, I don’t feel comfortable – so how about um… you don’t say anything? I’m not going to feel better about myself because someone I don’t know tells me I look nice or to smile.

 

And why do I write this?

 

Because our world is dominated by white men for some reason. Most boss’ I have were white heterosexual men. Though I’ve had male boss’ that are not heterosexual or disabled, and they still might not get this blog. Most of the things I’ve had to put up with came from the perspective of a white man’s world. It’s not the norm and no one should put up with the insane perspective of “normal” any longer.

 

Perhaps I thought some things were normal. I grew up as the only female child in an immigrant Italian American household. Women were subpar. I didn’t believe it, but I was taught by my mother that it’s something women just put up with.

 

In a similar (thought NOOOOOooo comparison) way black people are taught about what is “normal” to put up with.

 

As I’m becoming older and more educated, I’m realizing how NOT normal it all is. How ‘un’ OK this is. It’s not OK that anyone male, female, black, white, red, yellow, gay, trans – whatever is not equal and should ‘put up with’ ANYTHING other than 100% respect for being a living being and having the privilege of life on earth with everyone else.

 

In the same way at 41 years old I suddenly learned and began to comprehend the term white privilege – it’s time for men, any non-minority and even women who don’t think for themselves to understand what they take for granted and are either purposefully or inadvertently supporting. I didn’t know. I also didn’t know how much sexual assault was prevalent until this training either. I took this in May 2017 when the budgets were just getting cut for such things and learned that they were using leftover funds for public awareness campaigns about these two things. #Me Too and the term white privilege came into play right around that time. It was the social justice funding that raised awareness and it needs to keep going. We need as a society to SUPPORT and not mock these things.

 

That is what these protests are trying to teach. I don’t support looting and shooting or any of that – but I CAN understand being FED the “EFF” up with so few understanding how poorly you’ve been treated. It’s not OK, but hate and wrong do not justify hate and wrong. Though – AGAIN, being a child abuse/domestic violence survivor – I understand (I really really really do) that at times the mind snaps and you are taken to a place where the only thing your body is doing is trying to survive something that may not even be real at the moment. I’ve been there. I’ve snapped… . I’ve dealt with the horrible consequences of it. But if the public is even more aware of how one could snap from being treated poorly due to these social justice issues (NOT to play down BLM at the moment) – perhaps folks like me wouldn’t snap and the public wouldn’t have to pay for the results of me being human and cracking under the pressure I’ve been put under. If I were black and experienced the same thing ON top of being black and what that must feel like every day… I can’t even tell you – I would have spun myself off the planet by now.

 

I know I can’t be the only person who understands this. I feel alive when I see similar stories and posts. But a piece of me dies inside EVERY time someone who is white, or male, or has never been raped or has never been abused in anyway replies in some way to tell me I’m crazy or that it’s BS. Once way back in the day when Facebook was new I wrote “I’m either an insane person living in a sane world, or a sane person living in an insane world”.

 

I didn’t have a platform or reason to point to why I felt like I did. But I know I felt like the world didn’t understand at the time. And I now know for sure that it’s the world that’s insane and not me. And even though I wrote that previous sentence and can erase it before I post it. I’m not going to. The humans in this world who were all born equal as the bible and all spiritual text tells us have been systematically trained to think in a certain way. And we can not only be systematically untrained, but we can then teach a new more loving and comprehensive norm to the younger generation – who will then do the same.

 

We have to invest in social issues. Invest in our youth. It’s the only way out of the mess we are in. We have to know at a cellular level that we are all equal. That we all want the same thing for ourselves and our kids and our pets no matter where we stand by the outer color of our skin, or genitals in our underwear, or political party that we check off at the DMV. We all want love and to be loved. It’s not a crime to understand that by accepting another viewpoint of getting there is a loving viewpoint and something those spiritual teachings we point to would want us to do. It’s ONLY by that example that the viewpoint of others who think there is only one way to get there would consider doing the same.

 

This blog might seem a bit all over the place – but the point is that we are not all equal right now. By acknowledging this FACT, changing the conditional way we’ve been taught to think, and by just letting go and accepting that as humans we all want the same things (and have an equal right to get them) BUT have learned by society different ways of getting there -we can make a difference.

 

Friends, we are in a strange time and have the ability to change history to make a difference. I want our kid’s kid’s kid’s…. to read about how in 2020 humans transformed rather than ‘effed’ up again. We have the power to do that! Are you in?

 

Please say you are… ❤

 

Because the light and humanity and all that is love in me, sees and honors the same you.

 

Namaste

 

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Despair at 3 months into this Pandemic

11:30am

I log off my work laptop and stare at my personal one. I’m unsure what to do. I start typing. I don’t know how this blog will turn out, but I do feel the need for catharsis.

 

The world seems to be going down in flames. Our country literally is.

 

Each morning I wake up and feel compelled to open one of many news apps before I even get out of bed. The last few days have been another round of evening lootings, protests and fires. I feel safe in my home in my little neighborhood, but I want to help – don’t know how and feel helpless, depressed and anxious most of the days as a result.

 

I take a few deep breaths and get up oh so very slowly. Since not having to physically go into the office the mornings have been so much less rushed. It’s a welcome change to feeling harried from trying to get out the door. But it came at a price of lives, justice and the perceived feeling of safety and peace. Maybe it’s a good thing to expose what wasn’t really there as a safety net.

 

COVID-19 seems to have split an already divided society. I literally unfriended quite a bit of friends and family members from social media after reading such a barrage of insulting things about stereotypes of people. Yes, perhaps it could be seen as funny; but in a time like this and with working in healthcare – it’s not something to joke about, question or start putting up hoax flags about. I felt it to be utterly disturbing.

 

The past week since George Floyd has been even more disturbing. My husband has taken to looking up how to be a good leader during these times. He is prefacing each meeting he hosts by saying that silence is it’s own terrible statement, and then provides meeting members a platform to voice what is on their mind. After almost every meeting whether I’m working or not, he has been coming over to me and talking about feeling the need to connect. It’s kind of what is missing from society – connection. Not just because of COVID, but because people have all seemed to put “others” in a box and through the power of the Internet and social media have been able to only view what they’d like to in their own “special” box. Instead of all this advanced communication bringing us closer and able to understand one other as a human race, it’s driven us apart.

 

The riots and looting are not too much of a surprise. I’m white but I cannot express how much I feel for my fellow human black souls. While I don’t agree with destruction of property, I empathize but never understand the overwhelming feeling of being silenced for so long. How can they NOT be angry about the injustices that are all around us? It’s not as if it went away with the abolition of slavery or the 60’s movement for civil rights. Has it gotten better? Yes. But we are far from any place that is really equal. How long should anyone stand by quietly and accept a crappy reality?

 

I never even heard of white privilege until I was mandated to attend a class in 2017 to be able to volunteer to teach yoga at domestic violence shelters. It came as a shock. Not because I am ignorant, but because it has never been brought up to me in any format. In a way I feel guilty that I never understood the societal safety and validation I feel. It makes me want to cry for others that don’t feel that. We are all just so human in the same way dogs are just dogs and they have different fur colors. What does it matter? And why did humans along the way somewhere decide that it did?

 

COVID has exposed so much of what is wrong. Back in early March I wrote a blog about how Social Justice is not Socialism. What is wrong with national healthcare? Was our system working? Did it ever? I was seeing too much of this meme on Facebook and thinking that my friends were losing their minds.

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Little did I know that a week or so later our entire system would be put to the test. It just exposed how much it wasn’t. And instead of coming together as humans to determine what seems to be a fact that it sucks that people can lose their jobs (hence healthcare) in a heartbeat, that our black communities were more at risk because of their access to dependable news/sources/jobs, and that the country was not exactly booming when after two weeks into a pandemic many individuals and families alike had any savings to count on – we as a country DIVIDED! I’m still scratching my head about how. I know we all agree it sucks, but how did we turn that into a division of beliefs and political ones at that yet again?

 

Then throw in Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd…

 

I’m sorry, at no time and ESPECIALLY during these times should any leader be promoting violence, egging on protestors for a valid international health initiative (masks) and scorning peaceful protests for justice. It’s disgusting and I’m embarrassed to be considered a human with equal rights to some of our leaders. Not all opinions should count if they are hurtful to anyone else. Leaders do not have the right to say or do hurtful things because of their position.

 

I want to help but I don’t know how. I’ve been wanting to. For today I’m going to just put my despair out there via this blog; and perhaps weed the garden before it rains. And think. Think about how little ol’ me can help my fellow humans, because the light in me sees and honors the light in each and every one of them. Namaste.

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Was COVID-19 Inevitable?

Was something of this magnitude such as COVID-19 inevitable?

 

The current rate of change has risen exponentially in the 20th century. Because of the scale and how close recent time could show on a graph, it’s nearly impossible to see the impact of the rate of change since the industrial revolution because it is nearly vertical.

 

Recently something crazy happened on here….

 

After the Internet and Genome Project we became mobile. There isn’t even a place to put Mobile because it has changed the world so quickly that it’s almost as if they curve needs to go backwards to show the rate of change with population growth. It’s scientifically impossible for time to go backwards. On a flat graph it is a mathematical impossibility if the Y axis literally cannot go anywhere but up (so change can’t move) but the X axis must go on (time). Perhaps that is where we are in time – coming back to a state of being able to keep up.

 

As a society it’s imperative that we do more with less and back off from the expectation of instant gratification. Is any layperson suffering without Amazon packages arriving the next day? Does it hurt to plan grocery deliveries a few days ahead? Far more quickly than our ancestors who harvested and planted months ahead of time had to plan!

 

Societally our expectations are unrealistic.

 

These expectations are raping the earth and our resources at a rate that we cannot keep up with. Furthermore, the disbursement of resources over the human population is implausibly skewed. We are living unsustainably.

 

Yesterday I watched an interview from 1957 with Carl Jung. Over 60 years ago Jung stated that man is his own greatest enemy. Our minds, our fears, and the pursuit of more is a danger to the world. All we need to do is change our minds, our attitudes, and our expectations. If we live in gratitude with what we have, we would cease to take more than we need, and we would be part of the tipping point to bring the planet back into balance.

 

Humans couldn’t do anything about it, so maybe nature did. Let’s work with nature and give more than we receive for the greater good. Something will prevail. Let it be nature – because if man does, there might be nothing left.

 

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Demystifying Yoga: Movement over Exercise

When I meet anyone and they first learn I either do or teach yoga, for some reason they feel compelled to tell me about their own experience with it. They tried it in the past and it was awful, they love it now, they have a friend or relative who likes it or teaches it… and/or more famously something along the lines of “I’m not flexible” “I had some sort of injury/surgery/etc” “It’s not for me”. One of my favorite funny lines is from the owner of the studio where I used to teach who said something to the effect of Saying you are not flexible enough to do yoga is like saying you are too dirty to take a shower. 

 

If you’ve never done yoga or are a newbie to it, how can you already know it’s not for you? It’s kind of an everybody thing. AND it’s probably not what you think it is.

 

Myth buster:

You don’t have to be flexible or even “in shape” at all. I wouldn’t sign up for anything called “Power Yoga” or the hot yoga classes if you’ve never done it. If you read the description of the class and it says all levels are welcome, they mean it. If it says experience needed (which most don’t) those would be the ones to initially stay away from.

 

So what happens there?

You bend yourself into a pretzel of course… OH I CAN’T EXPRESS HOW MUCH I’M KIDDING. But I do feel like that is what people think when I tell them I do yoga.

 

You stretch and move. Often slowly and mindfully. You breath in a way that you control the breath and can notice and appreciate it. Nearly anyone can keep up. Most of the classes I’ve ever taught were to an older, less flexible population who tends to come back regularly because they start to feel a positive shift within themselves. Micro changes in their body, minds and spirits that become macro changes over time.

 

Folks with all kinds of injuries or past surgeries often attend. In fact, many a student finds yoga after surgery because their surgeon recommended it as helpful and one of the initial few activities the patient can engage in. Unless you are a well-practiced yogi I wouldn’t attend if you are pregnant, have osteopenia or osteoporosis. There are special classes for those students. If you are worried about a medical condition, don’t hesitate to call ahead of time or let the instructor know before class begins. He/she has heard it all before and may often some advice to modify. However the bottom line is always, if it hurts don’t do it.

 

It’s Movement rather than Exercise.

 

Yoga is not really exercise as we know it. It will not be as if you are in a group gym class spinning on a bike or doing aerobics, and if you lose pace you have to work to keep up. The teacher is not going to yell at you to keep it moving (high tail it out of there if they do). Most students in yoga classes understand that everyone is at a different level and will not become frustrated if someone is falling behind – if there was even a way to ‘fall behind’. It’s not that type of thing.

 

Yoga is about listening to your own body. The instructor is providing direction, but you ultimately decide how far you want to go in a pose or stretch. Yoga should never hurt, burn, or pinch in any way. If it does it’s vital to pull back from whatever just created that feeling and either ease into it another way or stay where you were a moment ago. A good teacher will create a space where students are not looking at one another or judging anyone else. Once you understand how the practice works, you will learn there is almost no reason to look past the bounds of your mat (except occasionally to view the teacher). The practice is about you, in your own space, on your own mat – connecting movement and breath.

 

That’s all you need to do. Move and breath. Then magic happens. Just from doing that somehow all types of benefits begin to occur.

 

From The American Osteopathic Association and Yoga Journal some benefits include

 

Physical:

  • increased flexibility
  • increased muscle strength and tone
  • improved respiration, energy and vitality
  • maintaining a balanced metabolism
  • weight reduction
  • cardio and circulatory health
  • improved athletic performance
  • protection from injury
  • improved posture
  • prevention against cartilage and joint break down
  • better bone health
  • increased blood flow
  • enhanced balance
  • decreased blood pressure
  • regulates adrenal glands
  • boosts immunity
  • eases pain
  • supports connective tissue

 

Mental

  • manage stress
  • maintains the nervous system
  • releases tension
  • improves sleep
  • increase body awareness
  • sharpens concentration
  • helps to center attention
  • provides peace of mind
  • gives you inner strength

 

If you already engage it in you likely know this. And if you don’t – give it a try!

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On Being in the Dark

A light breeze blew in from across the street when I opened my blinds and cracked my bedroom window while it was still dark this morning. The noise of the roaring Long Island Sound across the street filled my ears, as the semi-salty draft infiltrated the space in which I was standing. A bell buoy chimed in the distance. A nearby bird sang a melodic tune. The feeling of the cool, damp air felt refreshing in the otherwise still sleepy space and my skin. I took a deep breath to let it all in; to appreciate this moment in the dark.

 

I went about the morning routine and onto my morning meditation practice. Since we changed the clocks last week it is now dark again in the morning, and for a few weeks more we get to watch the sunrise on the horizon a bit earlier.

 

It rained last night. The world felt just a bit more crisp… renewed. I opted to practice in a different space this morning. I turned off the lights and opened all the curtains to allow the darkness in while it turned to fresh morning light.

 

I stumbled around the dark to find my meditation pillow while carrying lemon water. My animals staggered around me, a bit confused and excited about my unanticipated movements. I felt around for the door stopper to prop open the front door. I was having difficulty finding it. I had to put down my pillow and water to crawl around to find the doorstop.

 

Yikes… was that sound of my cup just knocked over? Is that the dog walking through it? Did the water wet the nearby pillow?

 

I sat down on the floor, slightly defeated. I chuckled as I felt wet paws on my legs and then doggie kisses on my cheeks. My mood lifted. Was there a lesson here? Yes – there is a lesson everywhere if we look for it.

 

We can’t see in the dark. We can feel around for what we know, but we cannot use that sense of sight very well. We don’t really know what is there. We only know what we saw when it was light.

 

Nature ensures we are in the dark half of the time. Depending on your location on this beautiful planet; that half could be an even 12/12 hour split daily, or anywhere to 24/0 split as the time of the year changes. Either way we can be assured we will be in the dark exactly half of the time.

 

Everything that happens in nature is mirrored in the non-material world. Or should I say our physical world that manifests to what we see with our visual sense and “know” is born from the non-physical world that created it, and what we experience is actual a mirror of our creator. Another way to put it is something one of my favorite yoga teachers (Crystal) likes to say “As above, so below”. Half the time it is dark.

 

Our minds and the non-material world work similarly to nature. It is not possible to know everything there is to know. When we don’t know something, we are in the dark. We don’t even know what it is we don’t know.

 

However, the humbling part is that to navigate better – we have to accept that we are often in the dark. That we will not be able to see or know everything we need to in any given moment. When we think we know something, but it is unfamiliar; it may be best to proceed with caution and understand we are in the dark.

 

How does this translate to the world?

 

Perhaps accepting that to feel, say, or move about in a world with absolute certainty about your opinion/religion/etc is a set up for failure. We should accept that what we believe and the paradigm we operate in is not always what we think it is. We should stay open to other opinions, even if (or I might even say especially if) those opinions ignite something inside us that resists. There is a reason you feel so strongly about a topic – be it gun control, womens rights, or just something a friend said that rubbed you the wrong way. Why? Because the other opinions are from equal humans too, and they have a paradigm that is just as real as ours is to us. We are in the dark half of the time, and it’s a misassumption to believe that we know everything we need to know.

 

More real world….

 

Apple News has woken me from a deep sleep twice this week. The first was to inform me about who won the Democratic Primary Tuesday night, and then again to relay that Trump declared a travel ban.

 

Did I need to be woken for news I didn’t ask for? No. It could have waited. Side note: the alerts are now turned off. The point is, someone else decided what is important I know in a given moment. But more importantly, these are topics that are clearly split between the masses in current events. Political party divides and jokes about how COVID-19 is overblown vs. preparing to not leave our homes for a few weeks.  Who is right?

 

No one. We all have valid points. Every opinion matters. The best way to move forward is to accept that we do not know everything. We may have shut down to other opinions by only watching or reading one-sided news. Even you! The one who thinks their ‘News’ is the Right one and the ‘Others’ are idiots for reading/watching/streaming (insert name of media here).

 

If we didn’t listen to the other side how could we really know or understand their paradigm? When we don’t accept someone else’s humanity and paradigm we create walls (tangible and intangible) and de-humanize one another. This not only goes for the other guy to understand you, it goes for you too. Maybe the other guy is that way because of similar treatment from paradigms like yours.

Not only may we not know how the other half thinks, we should understand that even if we do and stay open to all opinions; we will still not know everything we could possibly know about any given topic.

 

There are too many studies, media outlets and channels, people/universities/groups/countries who know something very important and cannot get the word out to the masses efficiently or fast enough. There are individuals blocking content from themselves and governments blocking such from their people. We have to accept that we operate in the dark as often as we operate in what we think we know in the light.

 

I did get up from the floor and navigate (in the dark) to find a towel. Knowing I was in the dark was comforting because I knew I’d stumble and probably not get all the water off the floor. It was more important to me at the moment to accept that I can’t do what I want in the way that I want when I can’t see properly. Metaphorically, since I can’t know all there is to know – it would be a misnomer to traverse through life with absolute certainty based on my limited paradigm. It’s freeing to accept that I may be missing the mark at any given moment, but it’s ok because I’m doing the best I can.

 

I made my way over to where I intended to mediate. My 3 cats and dog sprawled sleepily around me. I had a slider cracked and continued to feel the cool air on my skin.

 

I listened to the seagulls. The birds. The Long Island Sound. The buoys. A car in the distance. My dog breathing.

 

I couldn’t see well, which heightened my other senses to appreciate and grasp what is normally missed. Unless my intention was to purposely look for them, in the light I would have overlooked the feel of the air on my skin and the music of nature in my ears. These ‘other’ things are so beautiful and have the power to help me to understand my surroundings more completely. My eyes are important; but in a way, they create blindness.

 

The rain began again. A new sound emerged as the water hit the earth and the various objects between the sky and ground. The darkness began to turn to light.

 

As the grey sky filled my home with a grayish tint, my other senses began to take a back seat to my eyes. Unless I closed my eyes, it became more difficult to appreciate noise and the sense of touch. If I solely listened to my loudest sense (sight), I would continually miss out on so much other beauty.

 

My cats and dog were excited when the routine changed up this morning. Spilled water was fun. They accept the world just how it is and enjoy it. They accept they cannot understand it all and just try to work with me when I talk to them. They understand the nature of life better than we do.

 

Why not take a message from nature? Accept what is and enjoy it for what it is. Recognize that we can’t know possible everything, hence we cannot possibly think we are right with absolution. Once we are comfortable with not knowing, other senses will come into play in order to compensate and reveal to us things we would have otherwise missed.

 

The only way to do that is to let go and acknowledge that it will always be dark half of the time.

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It’s Through the Heart

It’s through the heart where our light comes from.

Our heart is in the middle, between our head and the ground.

It’s the connection between our body and mind.

It’s the way to the middle path.

Through the middle is where liberation lies.

Liberation is pure love.

 

This morning while practicing sadhana (a spiritual routine) I had an inspiring thought. While engaging the 3 bandhas during some breathwork, I thought about keeping my heart open and full of light. These three bandhas are energetic locks at the perineum, naval area, and throat area. The heart is automatically not locked. It’s open.

 

It’s Valentines Day so I thought a bit more about the heart as I moved through my practice and into meditation. Suddenly so many random ideas I’ve had, spoken about, and written about began bubbling to the surface.

 

What is the right thing to do? How can the heart lead us?

 

Society puts us on a confusing path by teaching us from a young age that there is good and bad. Our brain learns how to navigate this world through comparison and opposites. It would stand to reason, as many of us do, that good and bad are opposites. If they are opposites that means if you are not good, you must be bad. Growing up Catholic, I also took that to mean if I am not good, I am a sinner. Then guilt and shame rise up. A quick road to a slippery slope.

 

The first time I felt an absolute true spiritual connection through words, quotes and teachings was surprisingly in a two-day work seminar I took in March 2012. It was the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. The instructor went through a spiral notebook we all received as we learned about the habits working from the inside of ourselves outward. Never [to me] were such true words spoken. I felt connected with myself in a way I never had before. I realized I have paradigms, the inner power to change my thoughts, and can root to my true self so deeply that my values and morals will guide my decision making. I walked away from that training a different person.

 

Several weeks later I was on work trip in Maine. We were on a mandatory outside walking break. Since I didn’t read the memo, I was trotting around in my stilettos along a scenic mountainous path in Portland ME. Since the 7 Habits training I started to change my life. I was walking alongside a colleague who had also been at that training with me a few weeks back, so I asked her if she enjoyed it. She replied that she absolutely did! And not only did she enjoy it; she wasn’t sure why, but she and her husband started going to yoga on Saturday mornings since then. Additionally she is a physician, so the email list that generated from the class targeted her to learn more about the heart.

 

The heart, here it is again.

 

She was involved in a series of live online classes that focused on physical and spiritual heart health, and how to work with patients on things they connect to in order to motivate them toward better health. She explained to me that she’d never thought about it before, but the heart is the only thing in our body with an electrical impulse. Where does that electricity come from? It’s the link between our inner and outer worlds. Interesting right?

 

Electricity is light. Light comes from our heart from the netherworlds.

 

I’ve also been reading and re-reading Michael Singer’s “The Untethered Soul”. Chapter 6 is all about the heart. What it is. How our life ends when it stops. How when we keep it open, we experience life fully. Why we close it and how we can choose not to. It’s fascinating.

 

 

2 Corinthians 4:6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.

On a slightly different (yet related) tangent, several years ago I took a Yin Yoga Teacher training. At one point our instructor drew a Yin Yang on the white board and explained the dark and light side in a way I had never before considered.

 

Most of us have the understanding that the white side is Yang. Lots of energy. Pure light. The sun. Male. Loud. The dark side is Yin. Stillness. Darkness. The moon. Female. Quiet. Knowing this I’ve always considered one side good and one side bad. Yet it semi-bothered me that what I considered the “good” side or the Yin side, was the dark part of this circle.

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I copied the white board drawing with fascination. Yang represents the warrior. Yin the healer. We need both. But we cannot just be one or the other. The warrior will destroy everything in his sight if left alone. The healer will never move and be destroyed if left to her own devices. The balance is in the middle. We need to be activated with Yang power when needed. Getting lit by your inner fire in order to make change and do our work in the world (the visionary). But also knowing when to step back and be in the place of love, peace and acceptance of what is (the teacher). Balancing the Teacher and Visionary is the middle path. A little of both as needed. Not too much, not too little. Neither side being “good” or “bad”.

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The “right” path is through the middle. The “wrong” path would bring you around and around the circle. The true way is right in the middle in the path between both. In the Yin Yoga world it’s the Tao (the way).

 

 

The middle way. Buddha said that!

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How do we get to the middle? It’s up to us. We can do it with our own energetic light if we keep our heart open.

 

Why the heart?

 

Because it’s the middle. It’s the 4th chakra right down the middle.

 

Our brain, heart and gut all have neurons that are in constant communication to keep our autonomic functions running smoothly. We have 3 parts of ourselves that govern decisions and how to be in the world. In the physical body these parts reside in the upper, middle and lower parts respectively. We also have 3 levels of brain function. The reptilian brain, the limbic brain and the neocortex. The neural connection between the three is well developed. Our psychic apparatus consists of the id, ego and superego.

 

If we listened to our lower selves only where our gut, bowels and reproductive organs live; we would live in a world where it’s all about food, sex and waste. It’s the primitive side of us. The lower brain that all creatures with a brain on this planet have. It is the basis of evolution. To do what it takes to survive. The reptilian brain. It would be the id in our psychic apparatus. It would be the Yang in our Yin Yang.

 

If we listened only to our mind on the other side of the body, the part we consider in our heads we might get nothing done. For one it’s noisy in there. The mind never stops talking! It contradicts itself constantly. It’s all about learning, growth, creativity and is never happy just where it is. It seeks more. It’s calculating. Only humans have this part of the brain. It would be the superego or the neocortex. We take what we learned from others as right and wrong, and operate from there in a confused state of mind about what actually is right from wrong. This part seems to believe that loving one another, helping others, and giving is how to make the world a better place.  But using that alone, we would never be activated by the fire in the belly to get up and do something when we see the world in a state of injustice and disrepair.

 

The heart balances these two out. It’s the emotional center. The limbic system as mammals all have. The part of the brain that if left alone dwells in balance with nature and the cycles of life. Values and morals come from this part. This parr’s decisions are based on the greater good without taking more than needed. Animals do not hoard. They don’t kill if they aren’t going to eat. They live in and with nature as one.

 

Since we are human, we will always have the metaphorical devil and angel on our opposing shoulders. The mind and gut are both very loud and seem to have (no pun intended) “minds of their own”. Our bodies are built that way. Perhaps our heart, right there in the middle hearing both and having a subtle intelligence of its own, is where the answers to our inner and outer dilemmas reside. We just need to quiet the other two and listen.

 

I’ve tried to follow the advice in The Untethered Soul and purposefully keep my heart open. It’s hard! It’s a habit we all have to protect ourselves. But if we trusted our hearts to listen to our lower selves when we sense danger or our higher selves when we sense creative energy, we wouldn’t need to protect it. We would use the heart’s intelligence to put the other two to work when they are most needed.

 

The heart is special. It is the only part of us that generates it’s own electricity. I ask again, where does that electricity come from?

 

It comes from a place we cannot identify. A place that gives life. A place that the path we seek would lead to. In sadhana this morning while energetically holding the bandhas at the throat, gut and base; with my heart open I realized it’s the part of me that I want open and to be my guide through this world. I want to take care of it, love it, and listen to it.

 

It’s through the heart where our light comes from.

Our heart is in the middle, between our head and the ground.

It’s the connection between our body and mind.

It’s the way to the middle path.

Through the middle is where liberation lies.

Liberation is pure love without attachment.

Unknown

Namaste

 

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