Tuesday, December 21, 2010

I WIsh You a Merry Solstice!

I wish you a Merry Solstice
I wish you a Merry Solstice
I wish you a Merry Solstice
and a Happy New Year!

(sung to the tune of 'I Wish You a Merry Christmas')

Our winter solstice traditions come from the millenia before we had electricity, which is to say, before there was electric light, let alone radio, television, or the internet, and before there was central heating. That meant that in the darkest, coldest time of the year, about all there was to do in the long winter nights (and if you live in the far north, night goes on for weeks) was gather around the fire, talk, sing, eat, drink and have sex. So all our traditions come from that -- candles on a tree for more light, carols and stories to entertain us and the kids, good food and drink, mistletoe. 

Enjoy your solstice tonight!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

A Baker's Dozen of Tips for Pushing Stress Away at the Holidays

A few years ago, I was privileged to be part of a conversation of wise women about how to manage the holidays so that you can actually enjoy them. It turned out that there were common themes -- that we'd all gradually discovered the same things. Here they are:

1)    Know what’s important to you about the holidays -- For one friend, it's the spiritual aspect of this season, so that she can constantly remind herself of it and put the rest into perspective. For another, it's simply time with the family, to enjoy each other, so that they have happy memories. Be clear about what’s important to you and build traditions around what you value.

 2)    Find opportunities to serve other families and help other people -- Research shows this will increase your happiness, as well as others. I know one family who adopts a family to help each year. Their children are a part of this too, and they say it adds meaning to their celebration of the holidays.

3)    Keep it simple  -- One acquaintance says, "When our children were growing up, Our tradition was to give each of our children 1 new outfit of clothes, 1 book and 1 toy for Christmas. Now that our children have their own families they tell us that they now understand and appreciate their own childhood traditions even more."

4)    Make a list and stick to it  -- Do what you say you’ll do and don’t be tempted to do more than you’ve agreed to.

5)    Keep a binder of resources in one spot -- The binder could include a gift list, recipes, task list, projects, mailing list for holiday cards, directions for making decorations, locations of stored items.  It also helps to keep special things you use for the holidays in one place (e.g. linens, pans, decorations).

6)    Plan ahead – Do as much as you can during the days before your celebration. Only do what absolutely has to be done at the last minute on the day of the celebration. Having a written plan is essential. 

 7)    Do what works -- There’s no need to reinvent what you do every year for the holidays. If something you’ve done before has worked (e.g. a recipe, a seating arrangement, decorations) keep doing it. Include what works in your written plan. Having components of your celebration that you repeat becomes a part of the tradition and people look forward to traditions and annual “rituals”.

8)    Delegate wherever possible -- As the old saying goes, “many hands make light work.” Everyone wants to help and be a part of the celebration, even small children. Other people have talents and skills that you don’t. You really can't do it all -- at least not if you want to be healthy, sane and have some fun yourself! If you need babysitting so you can shop, ask for that. If you need help moving furniture, ask for that. One particular case of this is:

 9) Have others bring food -- Even if you’re not hosting a potluck, others enjoy contributing food to a holiday celebration. They feel more a part of the celebration if they've contributed -- and food is a particularly primal way to contribute.

10)  No One Cares What Your House Looks Like  -– Who is looking at whether the floor has been vacuumed? No one -- they're too busy with each other and the food and presents. Would you even want to hang around anyone to whom a clean floor is more important than the celebration? Again, an old saying works here: “The people that matter don’t mind and the people that mind don’t matter.”

11) Get support -- take care of yourself. Do something to feel supported, whether that's a massage or just time alone.

12) Set Good Boundaries -- What anyone thinks of you is none of your business. Stay away from people and places that stress you.

13)    Breathe -- Remember to breathe. Breathing brings you back into alignment.

Friday, December 10, 2010

The cancer in your soul

Every now and then I read something that says what needs to be said in such a clear and elegant way that I wish I'd written it myself. This is one such piece:

The cancer in your soul | The Intention Experiment

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Relatives for the holidays? Here's help!

We all know that being with our families, especially if we're going to our childhood home, or if we're going to be on 'their' turf, can bring up old feelings, old ways of being, that we've outgrown. We feel uncomfortable, or even miserable. We begin to wonder what's wrong with ourselves, and why we aren't acting like the person we know we've become.

You know, you go home, and your mother makes a comment about your clothes, and all of a sudden, you're 15 again, and resentful. Or your uncle is drinking again, and everyone rushes into their old enabling ways -- and you now see them for what they are.

And maybe you blame it on them.  Remember -- all relationships are two way streets. As the old saying goes, it takes two to tango.

Here's what you need to know to cope:

  • It's not about the present, it's about the past -- Because you have such a long history between you, you automatically fall into old patterns. These have been hardwired into your brain through long practice. 
Research shows that anything you do regularly creates neural pathways in your brain, and then you automatically run down those paths. A good analogy is lots of people walking between the same two buildings across a grassy field will literally create a dirt pathway, which new people then follow. 
Don't beat yourself up about this, just notice it and consciously choose a new path. This is work -- go easy on yourself.
  • They're not evil, they're just being who they are - If you've changed, and maybe even if you've just gotten some distance and some new reference points, you'll see dysfunction in things that just used to be normal
Judgment is singularly unhelpful here -- acceptance is a much better choice, even if you choose to set some boundaries for yourself around the dysfunction. At one point in my life, I decided that when I didn't want to hear an elderly relative's racist comments, I would just get up and leave the room, as quietly and unobtrusively as I could. There was no point in trying to change her, and no point in hanging around and feeling angrier and angrier. BTW, going to the bathroom is a useful 'excuse' in this situation. (PS - no one ever noticed.)
  • They expect you to be who you used to be - Why wouldn't they? They haven't been with you when you've had transformative experiences -- and unless you're extraordinarily close, you probably didn't mention them over the phone, either. 
My mother still thinks my favorite cheese is Jarlsberg, even though I've discovered I'm mildly allergic to cow's milk, so my new fave is Manchego, a sheep's milk cheese. Yes, I've mentioned it, but why would she remember? I'm gracious, as I thank her for trying to remember my preferences, as I remind her -- and then I eat a sliver, because I do still like it.  
  • You expect them to be who they used to be - This is the same thing - you may be surprised to find out your relatives have, in fact, changed. You could make a game of noticing - or asking - what their biggest discoveries have been since you've seen them last. In that spirit of rediscovery, you might find it easier to change the old annoying ways of relating. 
Armed with  these tactics -- have fun! Something new may await you.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

The impressionyou manage appears to be your own!

We all know that when we try to stage manage ourselves, to appear in a certain way ("I'm confident", "I really know what I'm doing"), things feel a little weird. Here's evidence that your own perceptions change when you try to manage those of others:

BPS Research Digest: Trying to create an impression can alter your perception of others

Are some people more likely to get SAD -- just because of when they're born?

Season of birth may have long-term effects on personality, study suggests

Think of the Devil...

Most people know to call me on my land lines, not my cell phone, so my cell phone doesn't ring much. 

Last night, I was at a lecture where Marilyn Schlitz, the head of the Institute of Noetic Sciences, was speaking about their project on worldviews, based on her book, Living Deeply , and taking that into the schools. I thought strongly of a friend of mine, who is a middle school teacher in inner city LA, because I knew it was just up her alley. We were really good friends in college, but we don't talk all that much now -- we're both busy with work, family, etc. We hadn't spoken, in fact, since August. I actually wished she were there with me, listening to the lecture, so she could get fired up about it. 

During the lecture, my cell phone rang -- my friend in LA!

As I explained to her, telepathy needs two participants -- a sender and a receiver. I'm a powerful sender, and I guess she's a pretty good receiver. 

I really want to hear from you -- does this happen to you? When? Why? How?

PS - The title of this comes from the old expression, "Speak of the devil and he appears." I am in no way calling my friend the devil.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Official Book Club Selection: A Memoir According to Kathy Griffin

I got this because I love her stand-up comedy, enjoy 'My Life on the D-List', and figured it would be good light reading. And it is -- it's fun, although you can skip the first three chapters, which were so boring I almost quit reading. (Sorry, Kathy -- and I know you're reading this, because you google yourself obsessively every day.)

The reason I'm writing about it here, though, is because there's a deeper message. Kathy describes very bluntly and clearly how show business works, and how deeply and completely committed you have to be to succeed, even when you're talented. She had plastic surgery to succeed (as did Lisa Kudrow, apparently). She reinvented herself many times. She paid for her own billboard in Hollywood in her campaign to win an Emmy. The list goes on from there.

This would be a great book to give a star struck teenager (Kathy's pretty blunt, it's definitely PG-13) so the teen knows what show biz is really like, and can decide if it's really for him/her.

But you should read it, too -- you'll find yourself laughing, and really liking Steve Wozniak.

Ignore at Your Own Peril

I reached a major milestone last Thursday, at least major for me -- I've now completed everything I need to do to be really on top of things, so I can move forward to new projects. I have renewed my CA real estate broker's license, cleaned out my files, reorganized them and shredded what had to be shredded, caught up on the bookkeeping, cleaned out the garage, overseen a few large real estate maintenance projects, dealt with the death of a beloved cat, and the exit from our home of my stepson. All of this, of course, on top of my usual reading/coaching sessions, and responsibilities to my business and our home. It feels great! :)

So when I finished my client work that day, I wanted to celebrate by -- okay, I know this doesn't sound like a celebration, but for me, on a weekday, it is -- going grocery shopping. Grocery shopping sounded like heaven! I could stop in at Trader Joe's and have a snack before I bought the 3 items I needed. I could wander around Costco and window shop before I bought my groceries. I could take my time, because there was nothing I really had to do.

But my sense of duty to my business said, "No, you have to send out your ezine. The main article is written, it will just take a few minutes to do the format changes to send it out, get it out."

So of course, iContact lost the work I'd already done, and refused to accept changes when I tried to start over. I spent an hour and half on the phone with a techie at iContact, who couldn't help me, and in the end just filed a bug ticket. (I'm doing someone else's QA again!) So there went 2 hours -- with less to show for it than before I began.

I should have just gone shopping!!

Many years ago, someone (wish I could remember whom) said, "Sometimes God speaks to us through our desires." Or maybe it's our guides or angels. Whatever. I should have listened to them last Thursday.

What did I learn? Ignore your guides' advice at your own peril.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Give the Gift of Clarity & Get Something for You, too!

Do you have a friend, or a family member, who is having a hard time in a relationship, or a business? Who just can't sort out which path to follow? Who can't decide whether to stay or go? Who can't see the forest for the trees?

This holiday season, rather than giving a quilted frog, or a book your friend might or might not read, give them what they really want -- clarity! One session with me will often help someone make huge changes. Here's what my clients say (posted on LinkedIn):
  • “After my very first session with Hollis, I felt vibrant and vibrating, as if I could power the lights of an entire city. Through her amazing insight and remarkable accuracy, I achieved a sense of calm and purpose, as well as usable tools. I was able to feel the results of our session immediately, and in fact, the tools came in handy that very evening. Much gratitude and looking forward to our continued work.” Sharon King, Real Estate Agent
  • “An hour with Hollis gave me the equivalent of two years of psychotherapy. Her insights are outstanding. I would not hesitate to give her my highest recommendation.” Ethan Hay, Educator
  • “I was facing a tricky career situation before I contacted Hollis. This situation left me with great uncertainty and worry. But after only one session with Hollis, she provided me with much greater clarity and understanding of where my direction should be. I noticed an almost immediately increase in self-confidence and have been able to forcefully move in this my direction. Hollis helped me visualize my current state, and then gave me some exercises to help me continue to move in my new direction. I had never had a reading before and was a bit skeptical. But, Hollis took away all that skepticism and replaced it with confidence....and a new direction.” Jay Lipe, Marketing Consultant & Business School Lecturer
  • “In less than an hour, Hollis helped me access and easily let go of my biggest unworkable habit, the need for approval. Since then, I've felt confidence and peace. I no longer have the need to please authority figures or certain other people. Letting go of that has made a huge impact! I can now speak up for myself, for what I want. I really appreciate the session we did, and am looking forward to more. I highly recommend Hollis Polk as a coach to get past blocks to success, joy and a better life. Great job!  Patricia Ogilvie, Web Marketer/Coach
To make this a bit easier, I am offering an holiday only special of 20% off for sessions of an hour or more paid for by Dec. 25, 2012. And along with this, I'll offer you this same 20% off for your next session of any length, completed by Feb. 28, 2013. Call me at 888-4-hollis (888-446-5547) to set this up, or send me an email at hollis@888-4-hollis.com.

(This offer is not to be combined with other programs, offers or discounts.)

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

With Much Love and Gratitude

I'm really grateful for everything in my life -- the good, the mundane, and even the so-called bad, because I get to learn and grow from it -- and I reflect on that daily. A partial list of what I'm thankful for includes:
  • you, for reading and supporting me, today and throughout the years
  • my friends and family (even if they're not reading this!)
  • my guides, without whom much of my life would not be possible
  • nature, without whom none of our lives would be possible
  • technology -- where would we be without electricity, radio, TV, the internet, automobiles, transit, etc.?
As I said, I think about this every day, and Thanksgiving is a good opportunity to speak about with  you.

Gratitude is important for two reasons. The first is the simple, "What you focus on, expands". If you appreciate things, you get more of what you appreciate. The second is that it is actually good for your health! According to research at the Institute of HeartMath,

"...true feelings of gratitude, appreciation and other positive emotions can synchronize brain and heart rhythms, creating a bodywide shift to a scientifically measurable state called coherence. In this optimal state, the body’s systems function more efficiently, generating a greater balance of emotions and increased mental clarity and brain function.

"Sustained feelings of gratitude have real benefits, including the following:
  • Biochemical changes – Favorable changes in the body’s biochemistry include improved hormonal balance and an increase in production of DHEA, the "anti-aging hormone."
  • Increased positivity – Daily gratitude exercises can bring about a greater level of positive feelings, according to researchers from the University of Miami and the University of California, Davis who studied this process in 157 individuals over 13 days.
  • Boost to the immune system – The IgA antibody, which serves as the first line of defense against pathogens, increases in the body.
  • Emotional "compound interest" – The accumulated effect of sustained appreciation and gratitude is that these feelings, and coherence, are easier to recreate with continued practice. This is because experiencing an emotion reinforces the neural pathways of that particular emotion as it excites the brain, heart and nervous system. The downside is that you also can reinforce negative emotions."
Actually, I suspect that the coherence is what helps generate what you choose to create, so the first statement could more accurately be, what you focus on coherently, expands.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Siblings Share Genes, But Rarely Personalities

This is a good article, which details 3 theories about why siblings can be so different. It leaves out a fourth possibility, however, which is that we are born different (doesn't every parent know that their children were different from each other from the moment of birth?), because of either innate soul differences and/or experiences in different lifetimes.

NPR.org � Siblings Share Genes, But Rarely Personalities

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Meditation reverses aging in brains

Yet another addition to the long list of meditation's benefits:

Meditation reverses aging in brains

We ARE all one!

If these particles are entangled at the quantum level, how is it possible for atoms, and molecules, and cells, and organs, and whole beings not to be entangled? 

Physicists demonstrate a four-fold quantum memory

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

City Life Is Hard On The Brain | Apex Global Network Solution Inc.

When I lived in Manhattan and worked in midtown, I used to walk to work through Central Park. I wonder if that counts?

City Life Is Hard On The Brain | Apex Global Network Solution Inc.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Meeting Jessica's Mom

There is a moral to this story, but I don't want to give it away, so please read all the way to the bottom.

If you've ever been out with me, you know that I'll pet anything on four paws that will let me. I look to see if they're friendly, and if they are, I get into rapport with them. Part of getting into rapport is getting down on their level and letting them smell my breath by almost touching my nose with theirs.

Yesterday, I was on my usual walk, when I came upon a woman walking 2 small white dogs. They were both friendly, wagging their tails as they approached me excitedly. As I got down on their level, both came even closer. I reached to pet both of them, and then let them smell my nose. The Jack Russell terrier began to bark and growl, so I rocketed back up to standing position.

Their human apologized, saying that Woody had been a bit aggressive since, well, "I lost my daughter recently."

"I'm so sorry,"  I answered.

Then, before I could say anything else, she said, "Jessica died in the explosion", that is, the PG&E gas line explosion in San Bruno about a month ago. And then it hit me...

Woody didn't know what happened -- Jessica died suddenly, outside Woody's presence -- and he was a little freaked out. These were partly Jessica's dogs -- she walked them often and was home with them during the day when mom was at work. So now Woody is alone during the day, and he's wondering, what happened to Jessica? Why isn't she here? and perhaps feeling a bit abandoned.

I told Jessica's mom that she needed to explain to Woody what had happened. She could do this by sitting quietly with him (even waiting till he was asleep if necessary) and telling him, or telepathically showing him pictures of Jessica going into the light.

So the moral of the story is this: you never know when -- or how -- you'll be of service.

'Be Here Now' is Still the Best Advice

Mind is a frequent, but not happy, wanderer: People spend nearly half their waking hours thinking about what isn’t going on around them

Thursday, November 11, 2010

4 Ways to Deal with Death and other Losses

My sweet Creature, my faithful companion of more than 18 years, aka 'the reading kitty', left her body a week ago. She loved nothing more than literally being on me, sitting in my lap while I did client sessions (An animal communicator once told me that Creature thought she was getting a healing each time.) She was fine till two days before she checked out (the vet gave her an AOK about 3 weeks previously), then suddenly had a hard time walking and finally didn't want water. I knew the end was near, and she breathed her last while in my arm, immediately after a reading. [If you're reading this on Facebook, many thanks for your thoughts, stories and prayers. I'm not rehashing old ground, rather, I'm sharing what I've learned from the experience.]

The experience got me thinking about the human experience of loss, what makes it so difficult and how to make it easier. I see four issues/remedies. The first two are for just about any loss of a person/relationship -- a romantic or marriage breakup,  a child going off to college, going into the military or just moving out, the ending of a friendship due to betrayal, and of course, your garden variety 'death', that is, one of sickness or old age, or even accident. [Murders feel very different -- trust me, one of my friends was murdered a while back.] The second two really relate only to 'death'. 

Issue 1 - Cords:  When you have an intense and/or long-term relationship with someone, your energy bodies (that is, the electromagnetic fields we all have) create electromagnetic connections with each other. These are  called 'cords' because they literally look like cords of energy between the two of you. This is why we say things like "my heart goes out to you" -- we have created an energy cord between our hearts. When one of you drops your physical body, or ends the relationship abruptly (even if it's planned), the cords, and their connections to your energy body are abruptly torn, leaving holes in your energy field. This is generally interpreted as emotional pain, though in truth, it's quasi-physical (one of the layers of the electromagentic body is emotional). This will usually heal in time, because bodies do know how to heal themselves. You can also intentionally heal the holes through visualization (call me at 888-4-hollis if you want help).

Issue 2 - Triggers: When you see your pet's favorite chair -- now empty, or hear 'our song', or catch the waft of a familiar cologne on the breeze, or taste Grandma's madeleine,  it can trigger a strong memory of the relationship you used to have. What you do with that memory, how you compare it to what exists in the present, and how often you access that comparison affects your experience of the loss. If you only compare what was (which you liked) to what is -- and label that change 'missing', you are probably going to be miserable. One really simple solution to this: if you are constantly experiencing the comparison, and finding it unpleasant, just 'Be here now" -- focus your attention in the present.

Since memories are carried holographically in our energy field, you can change them. What you do is  change yourself, your energy field, to match what is, not what was.  (Again, call me at 888-4-hollis if you want help, because there are specific NLP ways to deal with triggers).

Issue 3 - Beliefs: Many people have the mistaken notion that mourning, feeling bad, somehow honors the dead. Nothing could be further from the truth. Why would someone you love want you to suffer? This is the experience of one of my clients, who is also a medium. He says he's had multiple encounters with those on the other side, who say, 'please tell my loved on to move on -- I want him/her to be happy.'

If you truly believe your loved one is in a better place,  then you should be happy for him/her -- and the only person you are feeling bad for is you. And you can change that -- see (1) and (2) above.

Issue 4 - Transcommunication:  Which brings us to communication with the other side. Yesterday, I 'got' that Creature wanted to show me how much she loved me, and I could feel her little paws on my thighs as I sat. Now that I know she's fine, I'm fine. So do your best to communicate across the veil, and if you need help to do it, get help.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Whining can be fun! & So can listening to it!

Next time you catch a regular complainer in the act -- even yourself -- try this great technique:
  1. Set a timer (most cell phones have them) for 2 minutes. - This limits the amount of time for the whining to something you actually have time for.
  2. Complain for a solid 2 minutes. The catch is that the only word you can us is "blah"
Frustrated? Blah BLAH blah blah blaaaaaah blahblah blah blah blah.

Annoyed? BLAH BLAH blah BLAH blah blah BLAH!


And go on for 2 minutes. Run out of rant on one subject? Switch to another: blah blah blahblah blah!

If you're listening, then respond as you usually would -- but again, only using the word, "blah": a soft blah blah blahblah.

You'll be amazed at what happens! I don't want to tell you, because I want you to try this for yourself, but there were 2 main reactions in the group of 40 or so people with whom I learned this, and both were good. Try it, post a comment here, or send me an email, and I'll let you know how you compare to the group.

[Big thanks to Suzi Smith, who taught this technique at last weekend's NLP conference.]

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Death & Halloween

The current merry celebration of Halloween -- the costumes, the candy, the decorations with simulated ghosts and skulls -- belies a deeper truth. I'll get to that in a minute, after a brief detour. 

What we call 'death' is simply the release of the eternal soul from the physical body. That is, the soul doesn't die, it just continues on without a physical instrument. If you aren't yet convinced, then go here, read some of the info (there's a lot!), and follow some or all of the links. Another great source is here. A great, easy to read book is Twenty Cases Suggestive of Reincarnation, by Ian Stevenson, M.D (Stevenson found over 2500, but only 20 are chronicled). After you look at all that info, it's pretty hard to deny the reality of an eternal soul.

That soul, without a body, may or may not be able to perceive things in physical reality -- we don't really know, and it may vary from soul to soul. The lack of a body also makes it really hard to communicate with most humans, because the emodied humans aren't capable of non-physical perception. So you can think of the 'death' of a loved one as a change of state. You miss that person more because of a lack of communication skills on your part than anything else. 

Back a little more than a century ago, if someone moved from the 'old country' to the US, or from the Eastern seabord to the frontier, that person might never see his family again. If that person or his family were quite poor, he might never speak to them again, either. So today, communicating across 'the veil', is not so different from communicating across the Atlantic back then. In fact, we can use technology to communicate with those on the 'other side

What does his have to do with Halloween? According to Wikipedia, the word, Halloween (or Hallowe'en), comes from All-Hallows-Even ("evening"), that is, the night before All Hallows Day. 

Further, Halloween is 

"linked to the Celtic festival of Samhain, whose original spelling was Samuin (pronounced sow-an or sow-in)".The name is derived from Old Irish and means roughly "summer's end"...   The festival of Samhain celebrates the end of the "lighter half" of the year and beginning of the "darker half", and is sometimes regarded as the "Celtic New Year".

"The ancient Celts believed that the border between this world and the Otherworld became thin on Samhain, allowing spirits (both harmless and harmful) to pass through. The family's ancestors were honored and invited home while harmful spirits were warded off. It is believed that the need to ward off harmful spirits led to the wearing of costumes and masks. Their purpose was to disguise oneself as a harmful spirit and thus avoid harm. In Scotland the spirits were impersonated by young men dressed in white with masked, veiled or blackened faces. 

"Another common practice was divination, which often involved the use of food and drink.

So if you're going to try to contact a loved one who is 'on the other side', this weekend would be the time to do it! 

(And if you're really missing a loved one, I can help you with that. I'm not a medium, but I can help you with the 'missing' part, the longing. Give me a call at 888-4-hollis, which is 888-446-5547.)

Monday, October 25, 2010

Yes, Virgina, ESP does exist!

Although scientists can't explain it using current models, a meta-analysis of empirical scientific studies for over 150 years shows that extrasensory perception is real. My favorite line is

"traditional cognitive and neuroscience models, which are largely based on classical physical concepts, are incomplete."

Entangled Minds: Extrasensory Perception and Quantum Models of Cognition

Friday, October 22, 2010

Evidence of changes in human mass consciousness

This is really stunning:

"... the number of people in Western society experiencing a lucid dream has increased by up to 40 per cent in the last 30 years.

In fact, current estimates are that most of us — eight of every 10 people — will experience a lucid dream at some point in our lives."

There is a lot more in this article, including info on how lucid dreams differ from 'normal' ones, and from waking consciousness, as well as info about the personalities of lucid dreamers and geomagnetic effects on human capacities.

In all our dreams | The Intention Experiment

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Quick: Would you rather be liked or respected?

Yes, I know, you want to be liked and respected. But if you had to choose only one -- because sometime you may have to -- which would it be? Your answer to that question could change the course of your life.

Confession time: I was 9 years old, in sixth grade, and in a new school for the third time in 3 years. That alone, being the new kid, 2 years younger than everyone else, made me different. Furthermore, this particular school had a very, um, developed culture, one which I neither knew nor understood. To make matters worse, I quickly ended up on the 'wrong' side of a political discussion, that is, taking the opposite point of view to everyone else (I'm pretty sure we were all parroting our parents' beliefs, and my parents just thought differently than the other parents).

To my parents' great surprise, I instinctively framed the question as one of being liked (for agreeing with everyone) versus being respected (for backing up my opinion with research, which I did). I held my ground in arguments for a week or so, during which time I was ostracized, and then the whole episode faded away. What I took from it, though, was the knowledge that I could stand up for my point of view -- and live.

Wanting, or needing, to be liked is natural, and inculcated in us as toddlers. If we act in ways that please our parents (aka the adults who control our lives), then we get fed and held and smiled at and other treats. If we don't please our parents, we're punished in a variety of ways. So we learn to please others as a way of getting what we want, or at least avoiding what we don't want.

But it often goes too far, and becomes co-dependence, a state in which you deny your own needs to the point of not even being able to recognize them any more. You value others' approval of your thinking, feelings and behavior over your own. This people-pleasing behavior may even attract (or allow) abuse. Eventually, you no longer know who you really are. You go along with the crowd, you think inside the box, and you wonder why you're unhappy.

Choosing being respected over being liked, on the other hand, means following your own conscience, even when it leads you to do things that others don't like. That can get you ostracized, which can mean feeling mighty lonely.

The upside of this is that you're clear about who you are, and what you want. You're free to learn what you want, think what you want, to say what is right and appropriate, to stand up for yourself. This is very difficult as a kid, because you are truly stuck -- you don't get to choose your neighborhood or your school. But as an adult, you can move, you can change jobs, or even fields -- or you can just find new friends!

Now: which do you choose, being liked or being respected?

Monday, October 18, 2010

Love means... never having to feel pain?

Intense feelings of love use the same parts of the brain that pain uses. So preliminary research shows that when you're feeling madly in love, you are less likely to feel physical pain.

Love takes up where pain leaves off, brain study shows

Maybe this is why a break up hurts so much? Because you're now feeling pain you haven't felt in a while?

The study also shows that distraction alleviates pain, too. This is something you can use. Next time you feel pain, enumerate sports that don't use balls -- or think of your favorite food, or your happy place.

Book Recommendation #2: "Crowdsourcing"

What do iStockPhoto, Barack Obama's 2008 Presidential campaign, "American Idol" and Wikipedia have in common?

They're all crowdsourced, which means that a vast number of people contribute, either information, opinions or money. This is the wave of the future, and is already changing a number of industries, from journalism to publishing to entertainment. More than that, it's changing society, back from a consumer culture to one where the line between producer and consumer is blurred (think about it, before mass production, a small group pretty much consumed what it produced).

The rewards that drive the crowd are not, primarily, monetary. They are, instead, the ability to create, to share what they've created, to learn, collaborate and to have a good reputation among their peers.

The book has a clear history of crowdsourcing, and why it works, as well as a first take on the 'rules of crowdsourcing' -- how to make a crowdsourcing effort work. Oh, and a great investment tip, too!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Book #1: This Isn't the Story You Think It Is

If you have ever tried to stick to your spiritual beliefs (like staying positive) in a crisis, this book is for you.

It's a beautifully written memoir, by a woman navigating a crisis that threatens to tear her life and her world apart. She writes clearly and candidly about what she sees, like this:

"...here's what I am convince of. In fact, I think it's the key to a relationship. Any relationship:

"If you get out of someone's way, they will fight and they will kick, but eventually, there's nothing they can do but look at themselves and get real. Very, very real. Or totally self-combust in a life of lies. Or that dear opiate, denial."

She holds her ground, using Buddhist principles (though she doesn't mention Buddhism till about page 200, and then only in passing). She uses the situation to look at herself, learn lessons, and shift -- an example for us all.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Reading and Writing

I read a lot. Really a lot. Usually at least one book a week, often two -- and I've done that for most of my life. When I was a kid, my dad used to refer to me affectionately as Connie, the Constant Reader (he inculcated the habit in me). I've even been known to read while walking. It was a big relief that at Harvard Business School, other people were doing that, too -- I was no longer the only one!

I've been wanting to share the really good books with you -- the 'keepers', the ones that either make a big impression on me, or the ones that I know I'll be referring back to with some regularity. Now Amazon has made that easy! I can't promise that I'll have a book of the week, or even a book of the month, because I read a lot I can't strongly recommend. I do have a backlog, though, so there may be more than I think...

As an aside --

I credit reading with any writing ability I have -- William Goldman (author of The Princess Bride, Marathon Man, and many others) taught me to write. I was captivated by his first book, Boys and Girls Together, which my dad shared with me when I was probably way too young for him to have done that, maybe 13. So I searched out other books Goldman had written, and loved that he told stories not in any fancy language, but as if he were literally talking to me. (The Princess Bride is really amazing for this. Although the movie depicts the fantastic story-within-a-story very colorfully, it pretty much leaves out the real world part, which was my favorite part. If you loved the movie, you should still read the book.) Adventures in the Screen Trade and Which Lie Did I Tell? are two more 'write as you'd speak' books.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

My Life in Pictures

If you are my friend on FB, you know that I post a photo just about every day (courtesy of my iPhone). It started as a way to share the amazing things I saw each morning when I walked. Then I realized it was a way to show up without having to think of anything to actually say. Because there are lots of days when I don't have anything special to say.

Now I realize it's a photographic diary of my life. Because all those photos of flowers and dogs and rabbits and turkeys and mountains and beaches are my memories. When I look at one  of them, I can recall exactly where I was standing, and who, if anyone, was there with me, maybe even the conversation that happened. It's a full 3-D recall, partly in my body, looking at the phone's screen as I framed the photo, and partly outside my body, looking down from the sky. Looking at a photo, I can reach back into that morning, and maybe even recall a bit about how the rest of the day would unfold.

Does that happen for you?

I don't think it happens for everyone. In fact, my teenaged stepson has a kind of inverse reaction. A few months ago he told me that the only thing wrong with last night's party was that no one had taken his picture. The gist of the conversation was that if he wasn't in anyone's photos, then somehow, he wasn't quite there.

I'm rarely in the photos -- I'm usually the one taking them, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

Depressed? Get out the sneakers and the yoga mat.

The Real Cause of Americas Mental Illness Problem

Thursday, September 30, 2010

In Praise of Doing Nothing

We live in a culture that prizes busyness -- as if, the more busy we are, the more important or valuable we are. That's a fallacy.

There is a difference between being busy and being productive. You can be busy doing almost anything. I know one woman who managed to make cooking and cleaning a 3 bedroom apartment a full time job -- for over a decade. And that worked for her.

But if you are continually doing something, and you'd rather be doing something (anything?) else, then you need to compare how you are spending your time, to see if it matches what is important to you. Try keeping a diary of how you spend your time for a couple of normal (i.e. non-vacation) weeks. You can do this easily by keeping a small (2"x3") notebook with you, and noting the time that you changed activities. You might learn some really interesting things about yourself.

At a minimum, you might figure out what to let go of. Do you need to change the sheets every week? Would every other week be okay? Do you have to do the laundry? Can someone else do that?

On the other hand, productivity can look very lazy. Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network, TV's The West Wing) recently said that when he writes, he spends a long time, months even, pondering all aspects what he's going to write before he puts pen to paper. And that pondering can look like a lot of watching ESPN.

Even when you're not pondering, sometimes there's just nothing to do. You've done all the prep you can, you've made all the calls, and you have to wait for an answer, whether it's from a huge potential client or the universe. You can make yourself crazy while you wait -- or you can relax and do nothing.

So what looks like doing nothing can be a precursor to something big.

Learn Different Models of Communication

Today's workplace demands more communication skills than ever before. 

Considering the sheer quantity of information, communication media, generational and cultural factors, and pace of change, communication competence is crucial.

Traditionally, how we communicate has been seen as a function of our culture, personality, upbringing, and maybe even intellect. We have informal models of how to communicate, as well as formal models we may have learned along the way.

While businesses have long recognized the need to improve communication and develop people, and have used a variety of approaches to do so, few know how to leverage Communication Modeling to serve their enterprises.

Intended for both users and providers of communication modeling, this panel lays a foundation for thinking about modeling communication and highlights the benefits and distinguishing features of several widely used models, including Compassionate / Non-Violent Communication (NVC), 5 Dynamics, and Neurolinguistics.

This is in Santa Clara, CA on Oct. 4, from 6 - 7 PM. Sign up at www.sbodn.com

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Future of Privacy

Are you upset about the lack of privacy on the web? About how current or potential employers can see those photos of you from college, or worse, high school, of you doing the stupid things you still can't believe you did back then? Perhaps a little historical perspective is in order.

Back when humans lived in small clans, and even when we lived mostly in villages, everyone knew everyone else's business, all the time. You couldn't have an adulterous affair, and expect not to be branded with the letter A. If your acts were too outrageous, you had to leave the tribe or clan, which in some cases meant certain death. Consequently, people moderated their behavior to suit the norms of their society.  Yes, it was stultifying, and you can read about that in countless Victorian novels. (There are still places like this, places where entire extended families sleep in the same room, and so nothing is private, not even sex between a husband and wife.)

Towns and cities grew. More people moved away from their farms and small towns to live in these cities. Living alone in a city, you began to feel that what you did was private, and largely anonymous. (Please note that anonymity is often conflated with privacy here.) The result of this privacy/anonymity is the feeling that you could indulge in all sorts of debauched or nefarious behavior without anyone knowing, which is to say, without consequences. And you feel the strongest privacy/anonymity within your own home, your refuge from the outside world. (In the US, this is partly because of the 4th Amendment to the Constitution, which states, in part, that "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated".) 

Along comes the Internet, and especially Facebook, which has made it ridiculously easy for you to document your own life if you have access to a computer and/or a smartphone. Unfortunately, all your friends can do this, too. So now, any unguarded, embarrassing behavior, even done in your own home, can now be opened up to the scrutiny of the entire world. Global village, indeed! We are, in fact, coming full circle. Or as Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, says, "If you have something that you don't want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place."

Now imagine that the internet is a precursor for humanity's development. Envision a world where the internet is unnecessary because everyone can tap into the same knowledge base, where everyone has internal access to all knowledge all the time. Envision a world where everyone has fully developed intuitive abilities -- especially external clairvoyance (the ability to see everyone's energy fields), clairsentience (the ability to feel other's emotions) and telepathy (the ability to know what others are thinking). This is where I think we're headed.

You'll have to modify not only your behavior, but also your thoughts, which cause your feelings, or everyone will know. The good news is that you'll know everything about everyone else, too, so they'll have to modify their behavior and thoughts, as well. This will result in more fair trade, because everyone will be aware of the consequences of their purchases. It will also result in a lot less crime, as it will be intuitively obvious to everyone that a crime is about to be committed, and people will choose to intervene gently. People will eventually be easier on themselves, too, because they'll have example of how to change their thoughts, so they don't have to beat themselves up.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

A Prayer for the Year

The Jewish New Year, 5771, begins tonight at sunset. Beginning the year in the fall, when the harvest comes in and school begins has always made more sense to me than when we celebrate it on January 1. Anyway, a few years ago, I came across the following prayer, and want to share it with you. Please read all the way through -- the good stuff begins at the fourth paragraph. 

Rosh Hashanah Prayer

On Rosh Hashanah it is written 
And on Yom Kippur it is sealed:

How many shall leave this world; and how many shall be born; who shall live and who shall die, who in the fullness of years and who before; who shall perish by ire and who by water, who by sword and who by a wild beat; who by famine and who by thirst, who by earthquake and who by plague, who by strangling and who by stoning; who shall rest and who shall wander, who shall be serene and who disturbed, who shall be at ease and who afflicted; who shall be impoverished and who enriched, who shall be humbled and who exalted.


Each of us is an author
Writing, with deeds, in the Akasha
And each of us has the power
To write lines that will never be lost.

No song is so trivial,
no story is so commonplace,
No deed is so insignificant
That it is not recorded.  

No kindness is ever done in vain
Each mean act leaves its imprint
All our deeds and thoughts, the good and the bad,
Are noted and remembered in eternity.

Remember always
What you do lives forever.
The echoes of your words
Resound until the end of time.

May our lives reflect this awareness
Mar our deeds bring no shame or reproach
May the entries we make in the Akasha
Be ever acceptable to You.

[Note: I have changed a the words "Book of LIfe" to Akasha and "Him" to "You" to make it feel more personal.)

Monday, September 06, 2010

Work Ethic on Tour

Q: What do you do when you're the headliner at a music festival, and you're sick?

Yesterday was my annual day of being a roadie at the Sausalito Art Festival, which actually has a huge stage and features live performances by formerly huge acts. This year's lineup included The Bangles, The Fixx, Pablo Cruise and Dave Mason. Dave Mason was the headliner yesterday, filling the last slot from 4:30 - 6PM. I heard that Dave Mason wasn't feeling well, that he was recuperating from some bug.

I was working security to backstage, which basically means making sure no one goes back there without a pass. This is a bit tricky, because the performers have to walk back and forth from the real backstage across a public walkway to the dressing room area, they don't wear their passes because that would look silly on stage -- and although I know the music, I wouldn't know any of these people if I fell over them. In addition, the bartenders keep their booze back there, but are not given backstage passes. So you have to watch faces, and I do.

Right before Dave Mason was supposed to start, one guy without a pass, muttered "I don't wanna go to work today" as he walked from the dressing room area to the true backstage. I figured it was one of the musicians -- who else would be saying that?

A few minutes later, I was watching the show from back stage -- and the guy who 'didn't wanna go to work today'? Dave Mason.

A: You show up, give it your all anyway -- and leave the crowd happy.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Does Your Language Shape How You Think? - NYTimes.com

Anyone who has ever studied another language has probably wondered about this. I remember thinking about the English word, 'well', which is translated into 'bien' in French. 'Bien' has many more shadings of meaning than the adjective or adverb 'well' -- and 'well' is also something you get water from in English, while the French word for that is 'puits'.

Does Your Language Shape How You Think? - NYTimes.com

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Intentions, Affirmations, Decisions

Do you set an intention before you do something? I often do. I like to ask participants in my classes to set an intention for the state that they'll be in during the class, or for what they choose to get out of the class. I've noticed that when people do this, they tend to get more out of the class.

Have you ever done an affirmation? If you have, you probably know how powerful they are. In case you've never done one, it's a positive, present tense statement of something that  you want, that can be controlled by you, as if it already existed. I'm a huge believer in affirmations, because a few of them have really changed my life, including the one that brought my wonderful husband to me. (Want to know how that can work for you? Call me for a session.) Others have changed my relationship to time and to myself. 

Just today, though, a very wise woman pointed out that there is something even more powerful -- a decision. Normally, we think of decisions as being choices of what to do or not do. She was talking, however, about deciding what to think and what to believe. Yes, you can choose your beliefs, that is, you can choose what you take as real. You can decide what to believe about the world -- and about yourself.

No matter how cavalierly we use them, words have actual meanings -- meanings which carry the energy from their root words, and from the billions of times the words and their roots have been used.  So it's important to pay attention to the distinctions between these words:

Intention is from Latin intendere, to stretch out for or aim at. So when you intend something, you are saying, 'this is my goal -- but I might not make it'. You are allowing the possibility of failure.

Decision is from Latin decisio, a cutting short. The implication is that you are cutting off all choices but one. This manifests in reality. When you decide, you are only allowing that one thing to happen.

Affirmation is from Latin affirmare, to present as fixed, or make firm. So in order for an affirmation to work, you must first decide that this is so.

It seems from these definitions that you can have a general intention, but for actual results, it's best to make a decision, which you then restate regularly in an affirmation.

Neurolinguistics teaches us that nominalizations, which are nouns made from frozen verbs, rather than real things you can touch, are less powerful than the verbs that spawn them, because they hide lots of information. That is, you can 'make a decision' and it's a complete thought, but if 'you decide', that is not a complete thought. It requires you to state what you decide. Similarly, you can 'have an intention' while you must intend something in particular, and you can 'do an affirmation' while you must affirm something specific.

To get results then, what works best is to decide something, and then to affirm that decision regularly.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Watch your Metaphors!

The words you use really do matter, because your unconscious mind, and your body, hear every word you think, and take them much more literally than you can imagine -- along with all their (less tan obvious) implications.

I especially like the part about the 'knight in shining armor'.


Tuesday, August 17, 2010

How NOT to Serve Customers

You may or may not have noticed that I've been a little slow to post lately. It's due to external circumstances, including the upgrade of my financial software. My Credit Union upgraded their website, which required that I upgrade my Quicken software, because they no longer support the version I was using.

The latest version is stripped of many features, so the one before that is actually better, as it is more complete. (How ridiculous is this? Is Quicken's owner just trying to get me to upgrade to the more expensive QuickBooks, which I don't really need, to get the features that used to be in Quicken? Note to self: anything entitled 'Essentials' means stripped.)

When you download Quicken for the Mac, you then have to download 2 patches! (Why couldn't they patch the program so you just have to download it?)

After I downloaded the software and installed it, and the patches and installed each of them. I was ready to use it. Worked fine with my other financial institutions -- just not with the Credit Union.

So I called the Credit Union, and input all my information into the phone tree system, only to have to give it all again when I got a human, who still had to direct me to another human, to whom I had to give all the information again. (If I give this information once, why do I have to give it two more times? Can't your computer system keep the info with my call? Or at least my name? Or my customer number?)

When I finally got the real technical support, I told them I thought this was their problem, because the software worked with every other institution but theirs. I even gave them the error number on the software. Of course, they made me go through a bunch of things to prove that I wasn't stupid and just doing things wrong. And each time, we came up with the same error number. Surprise, surprise.

So they said they had a problem, and would call me in 24 - 48 business hours, which sounds okay, but since they're only open 10 hours/day, that means 3 - 5 business days. (Does 3 - 5 business days sound like good customer service to you?) As that was the best they could do, I accepted that. (We'll call this Day 1.)

They called me on Day 5, and said that they still didn't have an answer for me, but would within 5 business days. They never called me again.

So on Day 11, I called them. (I should not have had to do this.)

I went through the whole phone tree and explaining my problem 3 times again -- even though I gave them the case number at the very beginning. The techie was useless. Worse than that, he told me that my case number had been labeled 'satisfied'. This infuriated me, as no one ever talked to me to give me information or find out if I was satisfied! (Don't ever label a customer trouble case satisfied without talking to the customer.) I asked to speak with his supervisor.

The supervisor was also useless, and told me it was my problem, and I had to work it out with Quicken. I told him it was a problem between their institution and Quicken, and suggested we all get on the phone together to resolve it. He told me it was impossible to call Quicken, so I should just do chat with them to resolve it. (Do you really believe that it wasn't possible for a corporate customer to call Quicken? I don't. And don't lie to your customer about what's possible -- see below.)

Chat is unbelievably slow, but there is actually an option on Quicken's website for them to call you, so I chose that, on Day 12. (It says they'll call within an hour, but it's actually two hours. (Don't promise what you can't deliver.)

A very nice Indian guy (in New Delhi), who said his name was Sammy, called me. We went through every possible thing that could be wrong with the software (bad data file, bad download, bad installation, etc.) for 2 hours, only to determine that this was not my problem, nor was it Quicken's. We even explored to see if there was a way to download the information from the Credit Union's website. Unfortunately, all that's possible is a spreadsheet download, and Quicken can't import spreadsheets.

I suggested that we call the Credit Union, which Sammy got permission to do from his supervisor. He conferenced me to a third line, dialed, and then I went through the whole rigamarole with all my info 4 more times, till I got to yet another useless tech support person. When I asked for his name, all he'd give me was his first name. When I asked for an extension, he wouldn't give me one. When I asked to speak to his supervisor, and his supervisor's name and extension, all he said was that his name was George, wouldn't give me a last name, or an extension, and George wasn't available, so could he put me through to voice mail? (Don't stonewall an obviously irate customer.) I said no, we were going to stay on the line until we got George, because I was on the phone with the Quicken guy from India, and this was the only way we could all talk, at least according to George. At this point, I'd been on the phone with Sammy for 3 hours. Mr. Stonewall just asked again to put me through to voice mail, at which point, I asked if he was even in the same building as his supervisor, so he could flag him down. More stonewall. At this point, I told him that if I were not on the phone with George in 60 seconds, my next call would be to the President of the Credit Union to complain, naming names. It took so long to get George that while Sammy and I were waiting, I used another phone to call the Credit Union, went through the whole phone tree, and was on the phone with the head of Customer Service (the President's assistant not being available) by the time George got on the phone.

Sammy politely explained, at least 3 times, that we'd been through every possible way that it could have been my fault, so he was completely sure that it wasn't my fault, or Quicken's. George actually heard this, and at this point, admitted that they knew this was a problem they were having! He told me he had no idea when it would be fixed. (!!!) When I pushed him, he told me that it was a '1', or highest priority to fix, and that it had been assigned to a team. (Since he didn't know when it would be fixed, he should have volunteered this info as a way to reassure me.)  He promised me daily updates on its status. He did not call me the next business day, but someone did call me this morning to say that it should be fixed within 48 hours, which would make it Day 17.

Sammy had been on the phone with me for almost 4 hours at this point, and I asked to speak to his supervisor to praise him. (I'm also sending a copy of this to one of my clients who works at Quicken.)

The Credit Union's head of Customer Service told me he'd follow up and make sure things were resolved within 2 -3 business days. We'll see if that happens. If not, you know who I'm calling -- the President of the Credit Union.

So, to sum up:
  • The new, upgraded version of software should actually work better than the previous versions. If it's not as good, the company is just ripping you off by withdrawing support for earlier version and thereby forcing you to upgrade.
  • Software you download from the company's website should work without patches.
  • You should only have to give your information once when reporting a problem.
  • Good customer service should have a reasonable time frame, like 24 hours, not 11 days.
  • Keep your promises -- if you say you'll call back in a day, do it. 
  • Do not label a customer problem satisfied without talking to the customer. Do not hope the customer will just go away if you do nothing.
  • Don't make the customer wrong when you know it's your problem. 
  • Don't lie to your customers about what's possible.
  • Don't stonewall an irate customer -- it will only enrage that customer more.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

But Will it Make You Happy?

If your money (beyond survival) isn't making you happy, you're not spending it right. (Hint: Buy experiences, not things, because you get accustomed to the things. And don't buy anything fast -- you'll get more enjoyment if you anticipate it more.)

Consumers Find Ways to Spend Less and Find Happiness - NYTimes.com

Monday, August 09, 2010

Compassion and Boundaries

My husband and I have a friend, whom I'll call Jim, whom we met about 18 months ago, as part of our volunteer work. Jim had time for this volunteer work because he'd recently been laid off from his software job. He was happy being a stay-at-home Dad to 2 small kids, and didn't seem too worried about finding another job, as his wife was making very good money as an attorney. We liked him -- he was outgoing, smart and perceptive, had lived many places and done a number of things for work, so he had all kinds of stories.

Then last October, Jim's wife decided she was done with him. While he was out of town, visiting his elderly parents, she emptied their bank accounts, packed up all their stuff of value, moved, and didn't pay the rent for that month.  Then she instigated one of the uglier divorces I've seen. That left Jim unemployed, broke except for unemployment checks, and homeless.

A mutual friend, Joe, who lives in the Central Valley, let Jim stay rent-free in a Bay Area studio apartment that Joe rented so that he could be near his Peninsula work place a couple of nights a week. The idea was that this living arrangement would give Jim the stability to look for work, without overly inconveniencing Joe. The lease on that studio was up at the end of May, and Joe decided not to renew it, as the timing of his work had changed enough to render it unnecessary. So Jim was now homeless again. It's not clear that Jim ever looked for work, but in any case, he was still unemployed, as well.

Jim, however, had volunteered to do a big computer project for the organization through which we'd met him. Because we believed in his abilities, as well as the organization's mission,  we agreed to let him move into our spare bedroom long enough to do it. Jim worked his butt off -- pretty much 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, with enough time off to sleep and see his kids. We felt like supporting him while he did this work was our contribution to the organization.

When the project ended, my husband and I were unsure of what to do. We didn't want to just throw Jim into the street -- that didn't seem like the compassionate thing to do. On the other hand, we didn't want to let him live with us rent-free indefinitely, either, as there were very real costs to us (decreased privacy, increased cleaning and cooking for us, and increased utility bills). So we had some boundaries, as well. Jim couldn't afford rent, thanks in part to Congress, which was not funding unemployment. So we hit upon the idea of Jim doing handyman work in exchange for rent. (There were a few small things that really needed doing, and I maintain a list of improvements, which would be nice, but never seem important enough to either do myself or to fund.) Jim agreed to this as a fair trade. I gave him my prioritized list, and told him to work down it, asking questions as he went.

But then, for two weeks, he barely did anything at all. He put up a towel rack, nailed in a loose board on the deck, watered half the potted plants once (to be fair, I never asked him to water the plants). I had to nag him to put some things on freecycle, to measure the house for insulation and to shop for the best price online. This was not my idea of of how this was supposed to work.

Meanwhile, my husband, who dutifully goes to a job every day, was getting more and more agitated at Jim's lack of progress. He never seemed to be looking for work; he resisted calling the VA, or even a contact of my husband's at the EDD (CA unemployement folks), for help finding work. My stepson, whose job is triaging PC help calls for the Geek Squad, offered to steer IT work Jim's way, if only Jim would sign up as a provider. Jim never bothered to sign up.

On top of this, we went out of town one Saturday night, and Jim had an, um, overnight guest -- who was still there when we arrived home at 3PM -- without asking in advance if this would be okay. This was the last straw. 

We knew we had to confront him. My husband spoke for both of us when he said he felt betrayed. [As a friend, who is expert in Transactional Analysis pointed out, a broken agreement is a betrayal.) I was left to give Jim a choice: either figure out how he was going to make up all the time he hadn't worked for us, and give us a schedule, or move out. He chose to move out, saying that were he in our position, he'd never have asked for a trade. To his credit he did move out within 24 hours, whining at the end that he'd just 'find the local homeless shelter'! (Actually, he found someone else who was willing to host him within 24 hours, too.)

Even though both my husband and I know we did the right thing, it was still hard. So here are my take-aways:
  •  compassion, feeling for someone else, is part of what makes you human (although this turtle might disagree), so you should offer help to those in need
  • compassion without boundaries allows people to take advantage of you, so you have to know when to stop offering
  • you can't help someone who doesn't want to be helped
  • some people just feel they are entitled to be supported, and those people will continue to get kicked till they figure out that they have to contribute, as well

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Good Connection Really Does Lead to Mind Meld | Wired Science | Wired.com

Neurolinguistic linking! When someone tells a story, the listener's brain literally synchs up with the storyteller's -- fMRI evidence:

Good Connection Really Does Lead to Mind Meld | Wired Science | Wired.com

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Dances with Ducks

I've been hanging out at the American River lately to escape the heat in Sacramento valley. Almost every late afternoon, you can find me sitting in the shade, with my feet in the river. I'm often accompanied by a flock of mallard ducks, who nest nearby.

The ducks are teaching me, just like every other part of nature. Here is some of what I'm learning:
  • You are made for your surroundings. Ducks are perfectly suited for their environment. Their food is everywhere -- under water (algae and other aquatic plants, tiny fish) and on land (insects and seeds). They are built to swim both above water and under water (those webbed feet are so efficient that ducks can even run short distances on the water), to fly in the air, and even to walk a bit on land. The transitions between these different ways of traveling are seamless and beautiful. (Have you ever seen a duck land on water? It's kind of like watching someone waterski). Their feces fertilize the areas to feed other plants and animals. 
 Humans are no different.  Each of us is made for the specific niche in which we find ourselves. It may not be obvious, because it may feel awkward -- but the duck is as nervous about predators as you are about that next meeting or next job.  Think about all the ways in which you are suited to your circumstances. At the very minimum, if you are reading this, it's because you are interested in your own self-development. You have therefore surrounded yourself with opportunities for this, whether that's through your work, your family, your friends, your health or your hobbies.
  • When you have nothing else to do, take care of yourself.  Ducks spend a lot of time grooming their feathers, in the same way that cats do. All that feather maintenance must keep them waterproof and optimally aerodynamic, both of which are necessary to their safety and finding food.
Humans are no different. You need to maintain your physical body so you can hunt later. Maybe you need to exercise aerobically, or stretch, or do strength training, or sleep, or do any of a million things you know will help you perform better when it matters.
  • Stick close to your mates -- they'll keep an eye out for you. Ducks seem to sleep, or at least nap, in groups, and one of their number always has his eyes open.
Humans are no different.  Even though we no longer live in clans in our society, good friends will look out for you. No single one of us can keep our eyes open all the time, and no single one of us can see in all directions simultaneously. Stick close to your friends, appreciate when they look out for you by covering for you with the boss, or finding a bargain for you -- and look out for them, too.
  • Just because your mates are looking out for you, doesn't mean they're not looking out for themselves. When humans show up with bread treats, the same duck who was keeping an eye out for the group will still elbow (wing?) her way to get to the bread first.
Humans are no different. Your best friend will likely tell you about that hot new guy, or the person who's looking for your services -- but only if she's not interested.
  • Each duck is unique, and no duck is truly different.  If you sit with the ducks long enough, you begin to notice that each duck's feathers are subtly different. This one has stripes under his tail, that one has only white feathers there, the other one has an adorable curled feather on top of her back. And all are covered in feathers, have a head, two wings, two webbed feet, and a heart and other organs that support all of this.They are all governed by the law of gravity, and the fact that their specific gravity is less than that of water. Do they feel the same inside? Who knows?
Humans are no different. You may feel alone, misunderstood, like you are the only person in the world with your beliefs or your history or your problems. And we all have a head, two legs, skin without feathers or fur, and organs to support it all. Perhaps we do feel differently inside, as we each have a different history, and yet all of us are subject to the law of gravity, the laws of man, and the fact that our bodies will some day wear out.

    Monday, July 05, 2010

    Try This @ Home -- How Psychics Have Fun, Part 3

    The West Coast Dowsers' Conference was wonderful! Not only did I get to change a few lives by teaching how to access intuition without tools, but I got to have fun. As one of the old time dowsers said from his podium, the dowsers, as a group, are the best psychics he ever met, they just don't necessarily want anyone to know that. So I got to hang out with lots of other psychics for a couple of days and learn some things, too.

    One presentation was on orbs, which are energy phenomena that no one can exactly explain. (For more orb photos, see here.) Some theorize that they're angels, or devas, or extraterrestrials, or spirits of one sort or other, but no one really knows. (Yes, someone talked for 1 1/4 hours on orbs; where else but a dowsers' conference would that happen?) They seem to like good energy, including nature. They show up on digital photos quite easily, though only rarely on film. I learned that orbs' 'social distance' seems to preclude them from hanging out in rooms with standard 8' ceilings, and that they like to hang out in good energy if the ceilings are at least 12'. The room was a sort of bowl, with about a 16' ceiling at the bottom, where the presenter stood, so I aimed my camera at the ceiling and took a random shot. Guess what? if you look at the photo above, you'll see a clear orb at the top center, with a fainter one immediately to its right.

    Another presentation was so much fun -- we got to use our minds to hold dimes to our foreheads (no spit, no tools, nothing, believe me). Try this yourself -- if you just put a dime on your forehead (without tilting your forehead back), it'll fall right off. Then try imagining your forehead as a giant magnet and see what happens. The photo at right is what happened for me.

    Then we held spoons to our heads in the same manner. Yes, it works! You have to begin with your head tipped back a little, and concentrate a little more, but it does work.

    Then we had a spoon bending party. The presenter handed us cheap spoons that she got from the cafeteria, and told us to put the bowl of the spoon against the fleshy part of our left hand. Then we were supposed to push on the handle and it would bend. Well, you can't just push and have it bend. However, if you run energy into the handle, it will twist with almost no pressure.

    Almost everyone could do it. The woman next to me, who told me that she used to do it regularly, but had 'lost' the ability in the last few years did several full revolutions. At left is what my spoon looked like. Please note that this is not a 180 degree bend -- it is a 540 degree bend. See the loop at right?

    Then I got to do something I have wanted to do since I was a teen. I got to be part of a group of five who took turns lifting each other with just 2 fingers each.  One sat in a chair. The other four each clasped our two hands together with our paired index fingers pointed forward. Two of us were stationed with our paired index fingers under the seated one's arm pits, one person on the right and one on the left. The other two were stationed with our paired fingers under the seated one's bent knees, one person on the right, and one on the left. When I was seated, they couldn't lift me -- until I thought of myself as being held up by a helium balloon. Then they lifted me a good 18 inches off the seat -- with just 2 fingers each! And I was the smallest person. Two of the guys easily topped 200 pounds, and we lifted all of them! For the last 2 people, I could actually see their energy bodies lift up above their physical bodies from what they were visualizing, and they they were quite easy to lift, where it had been impossible before.

    And yes, you can try all of this at home! (Don't try the lifting if you have any physical issues.) It will help you develop your own psychic abilities. Let me know what happens.