Friday, April 29, 2011

Meditation May Have Anti-aging Effectsw

Meditation increases the amount of activity of telomerase, which protects genetic material during cell division. If I remember correctly, the telomeres degrade with age, which would mean that improving telomerase activity would decrease the effects of aging at a cellular level.

UC Davis: Center for Mind and Brain : Overview of the Shamatha Project

Monday, April 25, 2011

Why aren't there any good men/women out there?

If you haven't asked yourself that question at least once in your life, surely you have a friend who has asked it. The answer is surprisingly simple -- and still requires a bit of an explanation.

You have probably heard of the concept of attachment, the idea that we are biologically wired by evolution to become attached to certain people.  This conveyed survival advantages -- prehistoric humans who went it alone, without mutual dependence on others, often didn't survive long enough to reproduce. There is actually a system of emotions and behaviors, called the attachment system, which is designed to ensure we stay close to our loved ones, thereby staying safe and protected.

Most early studies of the attachment system were done on infants. Children 12 - 18 months old were put into a new environment, which they began to explore on their own, but with their mothers present. Then the mothers left. The kids' reactions were grouped into one of three categories:
  • Securely attached - When Mom leaves, the child becomes distraught. When Mom returns, the child wants to be held by Mom, but is quickly reassured, and then goes back to exploring the environment.
  • Anxiously attached - When Mom leaves, the child becomes extremely distraught. When Mom returns, the child is ambivalent, wanting to be held and angry simultaneously. The toddler takes longer to console, and even then, it's temporary.
  • Avoidantly attached - When Mom leaves, the child acts as though nothing happened. When Mom returns, the child ignores Mom and continues to play. However, researchers have found that the babies heart rates and immune systems react just like the other children. That is, they are just as upset, even though they don't show it.
Turns out adults fall into the same categories! Secure people (about half the population) are comfortable with intimacy and don't obsess about their relationships.

Anxious people (about 20% of the population) are desperate for closeness and intimacy, but are very insecure about where the relationship is going. Right now, I have two anxious clients. They freak out when their 'boyfriends' (these women are both over 30, so I hesitate to use that word) don't return a text message. They call me regularly to check in on their boyfriends -- because even though these men say and do all the right things to tell these women that they are highly valued, the women don't quite believe it.

Then there are the avoidants (about 25% of the population). They are uncomfortable when they get too close to someone, and find ways to back off. Check out this FaceBook comment from a 'friend' of a 'friend' (I don't know him, and fwiw, he is most likely in his 50s). It speaks volumes, and says it much better than I ever could:

"... for the man, at least, there is no reason at all to get married these days. The whole marriage ceremony is set up for the woman to feel like a princess for one day. The man it set off to the side...

"Then you get a woman that is not ready for f@*king, but is ready for children. And who wants one of those f@*kers? Screaming, unruly shits... Then you get a life of not being able to f@*k any one else, without being able to f@*k your tired (for whatever reason) wife. 

"Then, when the whole thing goes south, as it inevitably does, you get a woman that's out for revenge--that's out for the very shit you spent your whole life accumulating. Just because she gave you some pussy for some years. It's not worth it. The pain is not worth it. The loss is not worth it. Shit, I'd rather get rid of my stuff on my own via EBAY than cede it to some cunt that had nothing to do with it, just because she tricked me into believing she wanted my cock forever... My hand is my wife, forever, just like my pan is my wife in the kitchen, and my toilet is my wife in the bathroom."

If you want to identify your own attachment style more clearly, try this test. It's enlightening, and at the end, there's a link to research into adult attachment.

To learn about your partner's attachment style, or how to identify the attachment style of a potential partner, check out the book, Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You Find -- and Keep -- Love.

Now, why aren't there any good men/women out there?The simple answer is that the avoidants are in fewer relationships, which don't last as long as those of people who are secure or anxious. That is, they're on the dating scene more often and longer than the people with whom who you'd actually want to be in a relationship. They are overrepresented in the dating pool.

The good news in all of this is that attachment style is "stable but plastic", that is, it can change over time. In fact, the book's authors say that about a quarter of people will change their style in 4 years. So, with some conscious choices in both your behavior and your partner, you can become securely attached, and at peace with your relationship.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Life on the Plateau

I typically greet friends with the question, 'What's new?" Of course, they tell me, and then ask me the same question.

I am often stumped because, at least on the outside, there is not much new. I've been married to the same man and lived in the same home for more than 10 years now. Nobody's died -- or been born. My business has its ups and downs, but basically, it's the same business. No family or close friends have gotten married lately. A couple of friends are getting a divorce, but that's not mine to discuss. Depending on the week, I have more or less time for hobbies -- and those haven't changed much either. I can't talk about exotic trips I don't take.

Most of my changes take place on the inside -- and I can't share those with many people. And sometimes, there aren't many of those, either.

That's the real plateau -- when nothing much is new, even on the inside.

Often, this is a good thing. We need to catch our breaths from all the change. So much is going on around us, if not to us -- births, deaths, marriages, divorces, jobs ending, jobs and businesses starting, illnesses and recoveries, moves of home and/or workplace. Then there are all the societal and political changes, too many to mention.

Sometimes we even need breaks from internal change. I know that when a client does a big piece of change work with me, that client needs to let it integrate, often for a couple of weeks, before becoming completely comfortable with who (s)he has become.

As a culture, we are fixated on what's new, what's changing, rather than on the deeper truths. Maybe a better question is, "What have you learned lately?" Because learning goes on, even on the plateau. In fact, I suspect that is what the plateau is for -- to help us deepen our learning. If you keep on doing what you're doing, practicing what craft or skills got you to the place you are, learning new things, you'll improve -- and new opportunities will come, and with them, change, starting the cycle again.

[For more on life on the plateau, check out George Leonard's classic,  Mastery -- a wonderful short book on the virtues of practice for its own sake, and loving the plateau.]

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A New Type of Gratitude

This blog is called "Change Your Life in 10 Minutes a Day" -- and I found a new technique, a new practice, that really can do that.

It's a truism in the New Age community that the 'attitude of gratitude' helps power the Law of Attraction, which simply says that what you focus on expands. So if you're focusing on what you are grateful for, then you'll get more of that.

The problem with this is that if you are only focusing on things you are grateful for, you tend to sweep the less positive things under the rug. And what you ignore, endures. That is, by not dealing with it, by leaving it there in your psyche, your energy body, it attracts more of itself to you, too.

A couple of months ago, I happened upon Melody Beattie's "Make Miracles in Forty Days". Beattie is famous for her books about co-dependence, which are very clear. This is completely different. In it, she talks about how, by admitting how bad things are, you can start to turn things around.

Her process is very simple. Each day, you spend 10 minutes writing what you are grateful for. The twist is that you are also grateful for seemingly negative events and circumstances, as well as the emotions around them. For example, here is part of what I was grateful for, as I wrote in the first post in my gratitude journal after learning the process (Jan. 29, 2011):

  • I am unable to lose weight
  • I’ve mostly given up trying to lose weight, because I exercise and I've tried everything (low cal, low fat, low carb), stuck to it, and nothing's worked.
  • I dislike my body at this weight

Now it's been more than 40 days, and I've been losing a pound a week for about 8 weeks. Yes, there is a real world mechanism here, which I'd rather not go into, and it is still a sort of miracle. 

More than that, though, is that there is a sort of peace from admitting this stuff, even if only to myself. I'd say the process works. Try it for yourself and see!

Here's the process:

Take 10 minutes every morning (I set a timer) and write the date and then:

"Today I am grateful that:

[Insert the good and bad here. Beattie used bullet points, and within each one could use multiple sentences.]

"Thank you for all that!"

That's it -- that's the whole process.

Obviously, in her book, Beattie elaborates more than this -- and it's still a very short book. It might take an hour and a half to read. Makes great bathroom reading, too, as it doesn't go overly deep.
If you try it please let me know what happens.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Dealing with Betrayal

Last week, I found out that someone I thought was a friend neglected to refer me for a consulting gig with another manager at her workplace. It would have been part time for about 12 weeks, and highly lucrative (probably $20,000 or so). Ramona knew I wanted --- and could have used -- the work, and that I am highly qualified. I might not have gotten the gig, but the fact that she didn't refer me -- and didn't even tell me of the gig's existence so I could apply, despite the fact that I had mentioned looking for exactly this sort of opportunity, really feels like a betrayal. A minor betrayal in the larger scheme of things, perhaps, but a betrayal, nonetheless.

To be fair, I had coached Ramona through difficulties with this particular manager in the past, and she probably just didn't want to deal with the fallout from my interaction with him. Still.... she was acting in her own self-interest in a way that showed in how little regard she holds me.

Everything has its positive aspect, though: it got me to reflect on how to deal with a betrayal. Here are a few tips for how to act in the short run:
  • Be gracious - Keep your cool as you find out you have been betrayed -- words once said can't be unsaid, and in this day of electronic replication, may be sent far and wide, without context. You may not understand the whole picture at this point. Take the high road. Nothing good ever came of revenge.
  • Admit your feelings - Of course, you're angry. You have every right to be -- you were betrayed. Your trust and/or expectations were violated. Anger is normal in this situation, in fact, anger exists to alert you to violations. Talk to a trusted confidante, or write everything out in a journal. If your journal is in your computer, do NOT put it anywhere it could be accidentally sent out in an email. Don't put it online. Again, in this day of electronic replication, what you write (or worse, damning excerpts) may be sent far and wide, without context.
  • Know that karma will take care of it - Know that people do get what they deserve -- even if it isn't in this lifetime. This is the concept of karma, a universal balancing out of energies. YOU  are not in charge of karma; the universe (or God, or Source, or whatever term you prefer) is.
  • Pay attention to your ROLE (Return on Life Energy) - Does it serve you best to focus on revenge? Or to focus on your own life? There's an old saying that 'living well is the best revenge', so focus on what YOU are choosing to create in your own life. The betrayer may not be part of what you are choosing to create, or at least not in the ways you expected -- and you should thank that person for showing you that. (Hat tip to Susan Bernstein for the concept of ROLE - to hear our discussion about this, click here and listen to the 3/30 show from about 10 minutes in.)
  • Ask yourself what you might have done to contribute to the situation - Did you excuse bad behavior in the past? Or willfully ignore what you already knew at some level? Was this a learning experience your soul wanted you to have? 
Here are some questions to help you decide what to do from here:
  • Was this a pattern of behavior or a one time thing? A spouse having a years-long affair is quite different from a 'friend' failing to disclose a job opportunity. If there is a pattern of betrayal, getting away is probably your best course of action. If it's happened only once, though, perhaps the betrayer didn't realize what she was doing, or perhaps he was in a situation where there were no good solutions.
  • Was this maliciously done to you, or were you simply collateral damage? Did the betrayer do this to hurt you intentionally, perhaps out of jealousy? Or was the betrayer just acting in self-interest, without thinking of you? If it was done maliciously, run in the other direction, as fast as you can. If you were the unintentional victim of self-interest, well, you know where you stand going forward. Act accordingly. 
  • Has the person apologized? Accepted responsibility? Offered to make amends? And to avoid this behavior in the future? All of these things are necessary to repair a relationship, and they will mostly likely take time and effort.
  • How valuable is this relationship to you? Is this someone who used to hang out with because it was convenient, and that was the extent of the relationship? You can let that one go easily. Or was this someone you trusted with your inner life, a close confidant? Or something in between? Are there parts of your relationship you can save?
 So here's what happened with Ramona: I was gracious -  I listened to her tell me what happened (she was at a point where she knew I'd soon find out, and was mature enough to step up at that point and tell the truth). I kept my cool, saying very little as she told me. I do know that she and her colleague will get everything they deserve, good and bad, and so I am moving on. I spent a few painful hours grokking what had happened -- and then I started to write this. That feels much better than wallowing in self-pity and anger. I did also look at what parts of my Self might have created this situation.

Here's how I assess the situation going forward: What happened was a one time thing, and I was collateral damage to her own career aspirations. I know where I stand, and I'm grateful for that clarity. Ramona neither apologized (or maybe I was too upset to hear it), accepted responsibility, offered to make amends nor to avoid this behavior in the future.

I value her talents and insights, as I still believe she values mine. That is definitely the basis for a limited relationship, one where we give each other professional advice. It is probably not the basis for a true friendship, but who knows? Life paths have many twists and turns, and our paths may grow closer in the future.