Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Book mentioned on 8/17/11 'Your Life, Your Relationships"

This is the book to buy so you can make sense of how other people function (or don't) in relationships.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Secret Language Code | The Rundown News Blog | PBS NewsHour | PBS

Yes, how you speak, speaks louder than what you say, about gender, status, and success in college, among other things:

The Secret Language Code | The Rundown News Blog | PBS NewsHour | PBS

Lessons from a Murder-Suicide

On Friday afternoon, I was doing some paperwork, which I really don't like to do, so I turned on the TV as a way to distract myself while I did it. As I did, there was breaking news, an Amber Alert (aka child abduction). Usually, those just kind of blow by me, but this time -- I actually knew the guy! 

I knew him because a friend of mine had been dating him for several months. Ella told me about Mourad -- he was an engineer, who'd been working for a long time at Hewlett Packard, a single dad of a 2 year old daughter, whom he adored. He liked to windsurf and kayak. He was divorced from an attorney who was constantly trying to get more from him. At this point, she was trying to get more than the 80% custody she already had of their daughter. 

In California, custody decisions are usually made in the best interest of the child. The presumption is that it is good for the child to have both parents in her life, unless one of them is an addict, a criminal or an abuser. Mourad didn't appear to be any of those. In fact, Ella said, he was a kind, loving, patient father. And Ella would know -- she was not only a mother herself, but also a teacher, so she'd seen lots of parents interacting with their kids. 

Anyway, Ella wanted me to meet Mourad, and so in May, my husband and I had a long, leisurely dinner with him and Ella at an Indian restaurant.  Apparently the restaurant's management knew and liked him -- they brought us some of his favorite dish on the house. 

He was good company, engaging without dominating the conversation. Although he'd been born in Egypt, his parents, both psychologists, moved here when he was 2 to escape religious persecution, as they were Copts,  i.e. Christians, in an Arabic country. He grew up speaking only English, and decided as an adult to learn Arabic, out of curiosity. He'd been to Egypt in his 30's to visit family, and while there, tried to get Egyptian citizenship. He was refused, and was pretty sure it was because he was Christian. 

His eyes absolutely lit up when he spoke of his daughter, whom he called 'the light of my life'. 

As time went on, I heard a bit more. His custody battle got worse. He'd spent a LOT of money on an attorney who he felt had done very little for him, so his brother, also an attorney, advised him to represent himself, which he was doing. 

About a month ago, Ella backed off from dating him, saying that he'd become obsessed with the custody battle, which he felt was rigged against him. They remained friends, though, and were still in touch with each other. 

All day Saturday, as my husband and I were helping his daughter move to new digs for her senior year in college, we saw the Amber Alert signs on the freeway. On Sunday morning, as we drove up to Sacramento to take care of some business, we noticed that the signs were down. And then we heard the news: the bodies of Mourad and his daughter had been found

Ella was devastated, and oddly, so was I. Ella wondered, would it have changed anything had she stayed in a closer relationship to him? Could she have changed it? I did my best to comfort her -- but murders and suicides don't feel like deaths from disease or even accident. And even I was wondering, how did I miss this?

I've been thinking about this for a couple of days now, and here's what I've learned:
  • Desperate people do desperate things - Cornered animals will attack; a trapped one will chew off its own leg to get free (one man sawed off his own arm). 
  • You never know whom you are going to effect - I barely knew Mourad, and yet I am deeply affected by his apparent choice (police have not yet given a cause of death). There are probably many more like me. Further, I'm writing about it, so it affects you. And that's true of all of us all the time. You don't know how your actions will affect others, or even who those others are. (For the story through Mourad's father's eyes, and how it may affect even more people, click here.)
  • You can't change someone else's agreements - When Ella asked me to look at the deaths psychically, I saw that 
    • the father and daughter were fine on the 'other side',
    • it really wasn't hard on the girl, who hadn't been here very long, anyway,
    • they had an agreement to teach a lesson to the mother, who was manipulative and a bully. The lesson: you can't have everything your way,
    • When all three eventually reunite on the other side, they'll shake hands, and the mother will be grateful for the sacrifice they made to teach her that lesson. 
  • You never know what tomorrow will hold - People can leave the earth plane very suddenly and unexpectedly, so clear up all misunderstandings and disagreements as quickly as you can. Tell people you love them as often as you think of it.
  • You can't 'see' what you're not asked to 'see'- When I met Mourad, I met him as a human being. I listened to my friend talk about him, as friends do. I was never asked to look at anything psychically for him or about him, and so I didn't. To do so without being asked, and without it affecting my life, would not have been clairvoyance, it would have been clairvoyeurism. Now I understand all the neighbors who say, after a tragedy, "He was such a nice guy -- how could this have happened?"

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

A Lesson from Giants' Pitcher, Brian Wilson

A friend (thanks, Dennis!) took me to a SF Giants' game on Friday night, where I had the wonderful opportunity, not only to see the game with someone who could explain the nuances to me, but also to see the power of focus in the relief pitcher, aka the 'closer', Brian Wilson.

For most of the game, I watched other pitchers work. From this, I learned that the pitcher is the one person in baseball who really is in charge. Nothing happens till the pitcher lets go of that ball. Everyone else -- on both teams -- is reacting. The batter is reacting to the pitcher's pitch. The catcher, the infield and the outfield are all reacting to the batter's actions.

Yes, the pitcher must take into account the handedness of the batter, along with all sorts of other peculiarities, as well as the wind, and maybe even whether it's day or night. But he can practice in all sorts of conditions and with all sorts of goals -- putting different spins on the ball, hitting different areas of the strike zone, pitching at different speeds. So to some degree, the best pitcher is the one who practices the most.

And what does that take? Focus. 

In his day, the basketball player, Larry Bird, was renowned for his amazing free throw percentage -- .886, which was significantly higher than anyone else's. Why? Practice, practice, practice. He was renowned also for the interminable hours he spent shooting those free throws.

The special talent of the 'closer', that is, the relief pitcher who specializes in ending games in which his team is ahead by 1 - 3 runs, is the ability to perform under pressure. What is that? Focus, again.

You can see it in Brian Wilson. When he's on the mound, it's clear that for him, there is no one else around, except the batter. His focus is on his internal process. He's more into his own core than any of the other pitchers I watched (and there were 3 others, because pitchers get tired after about 100 pitches and so can't pitch an entire normal game).

The evidence is in the statistics:

  1. SavesWhen a relief pitcher enters a game in which his team has a 1, 2, or 3 run lead and this pitcher finishes the game without letting the other team tie or win the game, then he gets a Save. There have been 1095 save opportunities in the National League this year resulting in 819 saves (75%). WIlson has had 35 save opportunities and achieved 31 saves (89%). 
  2. Earned Run Average (ERA). This is how many runs a pitcher gives up, on average, in 9 innings of pitching, so the lower it is, the better the pitcher. League average is 3.90, while Wilson's is 2.77. 

So what is the lesson from Brian Wilson? The power of focus. 

Of what is that focus comprised?

  • Shutting out all distractions
  • Being in your core, very alert to what's going on inside you
  • Practice, practice, practice

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Finding Mr. Right

How do you find the right guy for you? Or the right woman for that matter? It's easier than you think! And I can teach you how to do it, as well as remove internal blocks to finding Mr. Right

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Dealing with Bad Behavior, Part 2

I was right, Jim never called me back. He did, however, send an email apologizing for taking over the group, saying it was 'not like me at all'. (My phone message was very light, very pleasant, asking him to call me. That's all.)

So I was forced to send a return email, enumerating his bad behavior, so that he'd be clear about exactly what he did wrong -- and not do it again.

Dealing with Bad Behavior

Many years ago, when I was beginning to co-lead an Integral Transformative Practice (ITP) group, George Leonard told me that volunteer groups were horrible to manage, because 'the only currency is power' and that there is 'always someone' who is real jerk and difficult to get rid of. George knew, because he was one of the founders of ITP, and a long time board member of Esalen Institute. I know George was right, because one of those people actually drove me from the group about 5 years later.

My husband now organizes a small, informal monthly group of folks who go out stargazing. We've been doing this for a little over a year now. The cast of characters varies from month to month, though some folks are regular, or semi-regular.

We had one of our sessions last week. Jim, who volunteers for the larger, more organized group of which we are a part, decided to come. Jim is not one of my favorite people. A year after he broke the agreement my husband and I had with him (the incident is described in this post), he is still unemployed, still sponging off the person with whom he moved in after he left our home.

Our group hiked out to our stargazing spot, hauling chairs and equipment about 3/4 of a mile, mostly up hill, in the dark. We set up, and Jim sort  of took over, standing in the middle of our circle, expounding and lecturing, though not the most knowledgeable or experienced member of the group. A few people asked quietly for him to sit down so we could meditate. He did not. Then he began to play with his 250 milliwatt laser pointer (the kind you can buy at the office supply store are usually 10 milliwatt), holding it steady as he pointed into the air (you're supposed to move it constantly so as not to blind a pilot), and shining it in the direction of the airport, both of which we told him not to do. Finally, he crossed one of the group members' eyes with it, temporarily blinding her. 

No one forcefully put a stop to this, including me. I take partial responsibility for letting this happen, but I had driven for 5 hours that day, in terrible traffic, and was not even able to keep my eyes open. I know I can't allow it to happen again. How do I prevent it, short of telling Jim he's not welcome in the group?

I know I have to talk to him. In person would be best, but he doesn't live near me, and I'm not willing to drive to him. I doubt he'd be willing to drive to see me, as I'm not one of his favorite people, either. That leaves the phone. (Email is out for two reasons. First, it is so easy for things to be taken wrong, Second, I don't want to leave a 'paper' trail -- who knows how that might be used?)

I have to be specific about what he did wrong, and tell him that this is not only my reaction, but that of others in the group, as well (which is true, btw). Ideally, he'll understand what he did wrong, and agree not to do these things again. If not, I will have to tell him he is not welcome in the group.

I did call him last night, and left a message. I'm quite sure he won't call me back. As I said, I'm not one of his favorite people. So today, I'll call him using my husband's phone -- we'll see how far that gets me.

If he does not talk to me, the fallback position is that he is not welcome in our home or in the group.

The lesson for me? Leopards don't change their spots -- nor do jerks change their ways without good reason. 

Failed the bar exam? Or have other test anxiety problems?

 I can help you pass your bar exam, nursing license exam, chiropractic license exam, acupuncture license exam -- or any other exam.

Usually, when someone does badly on an exam, or a series or exams (maybe even in childhood), he/she develops internal issues that make taking exams, or sometimes, even studying for exams, extremely difficult -- with awful results. I can help with these issues, so that you prepare calmly and walk in to the exam calmly and confidently.

If you'd like to talk with me about this, call me at 888-4-hollis (888-446-5547).