I’m part of a lot of organizations. That happens when you’re committed to the power of community. You get into communities for business, communities for health and wellness, communities for personal growth, communities for healing, communities for recreation. The communities I’m part of all love commitment. They think it’s awesome. Some of them have it in the rules, about committing, and some of them don’t. But the idea is that you’re here and you’re not going away.
You know, like family.
Except that one time.
And that uncle.
And when I look around at all those communities, the ones stuffed full of amazing and beautiful and wise people, they have something in common. Whether it’s in the rules or not, a lot of people take time away.
I’m one of those people, when I join up I always think, “I’ll never do that. I’m going to be in this for good, for life, for ever. I won’t need a break.” And for whatever reason, I have incredible staying power. I don’t usually need a break. I can withstand a lot of things and still keep my seat.
But even then, sometimes I’m better when I take a break. I have more resources. I have more grace. I say fewer things I regret later. I have better ideas.
And then I was listening to this Abraham-Hicks recording this morning ) , where she says, “Stop beating the drum of the problem…the solution cannot come when you are beating the drum of the problem….”
And I thought, wait. What if this is what happens when we get into a community where we believe a problem lasts forever and we keep beating the drum of that problem?
What if our continued focus on the problem keeps us from moving forward?
And what if the only way out of that trap is to allow time away?
What if we need to step away so we can learn to focus on something else, so we can really allow the wound to heal? And what if, once healed, we can come back, healed, with a perspective that looks beyond the problem that brought us through the doors? What if this is how we find the path forward?
What if we need time away? What if as leaders, as elders, as family members, as just PEOPLE we all need our rumspringa, our time to step outside the context of our usual frame? What if that stepping away lets us focus on being more whole?
What if that is the way to bring wholeness to the group?
PS: if you’re thinking of some community you’re a part of and your first reaction is to say OH NO! WE CAN’T DO THAT! I ask you to breathe and really LOOK at the leaders, and ask yourself if any of them have taken sabbaticals. And then ask yourself how insular or wide-reaching the group is. And I don’t do flame wars.
If the Law of Attraction works, why are people still homeless?
That’s the gist of a question posed to me recently. I think it’s an important question. Why? The basic idea of the law of attraction is that your energy and beliefs and behaviors create and/or attract what happens in your life. Believe in prosperity and it comes. Believe in poverty and it comes. Believe in your health and you’ll be healthy. You can see how this becomes problematic, because, misinterpreted, the LOA could be construed to mean that everyone who has something bad happen to them must have attracted it, must have somehow wanted it, must have caused it. It makes the individual into their own omnipotent-model god. (Not all gods are omnipotent in all theologies, void where prohibited, not available in all states.)
I have a few problems with this.
One, hello victim blaming. This is the spiritual equivalent of, “If you didn’t dress so provocatively you wouldn’t have been raped.”
Wrong, wrong, wrong.
Two, this is incompatible with my version of the power that moves in the world, which I experience as benevolent by association. I don’t think the power itself knows (or cares) but the humans who interact with it give it moral leaning and force. That world doesn’t make people sick or make people suffer on purpose. That’s just not my theology (yours may vary). Mine is a theology of beneficence and pleasure, wrought primarily through human nature.
Three, we are part of a giant interactive system; you are not the only being in the universe. This is the biggest, most key part of my answer. There are other forces at work, things other than the law of attraction, and also competing needs and forces, not all of which are nice, and not all of which are good for you even if they are objectively morally neutral or morally good. In with Law of Attraction we have politics and capitalism and fear and uncertainty and the industrial revolution’s cultural backwash. We have seasons and bad decision making and while none of that negates what the law of attraction may be doing, it also doesn’t make it smooth sailing. NO proposition of attraction proceeds in a vacuum. It’s all about context. And in that context the things that lead to bad stuff (including homelessness in a country where we have enough vacant houses to give each homeless person six) are sometimes overwhelming. Love wins in the end, but the path between here and the end isn’t always easy. Or, said another way (stolen from a Facebook meme), “When one door closes another one opens, but these hallways are hell.”
We’ll get there. LOA is part of my toolkit but definitely not all of it. Everything else exists too, and we need to play in a complete context. It’s a big world out here.
Can you get better too fast?
Not really. Ask anyone in pain how much longer they’d like to hurt, given a choice.
There’s this thing.
When you are sick for a long time (I’ve had depression for decades) and then the fog starts to lift, it leaves you with a bit of a dilemma. You don’t know that at first. At first you’re all,
WOOOHOOOOOOOO!!!!!! I’m FREEEEEE! (picture me running around in circles on the lawn, flapping my arms.)
Because holy shit, the transformation is incredible. My brain started functioning again after years of scraping by. I didn’t even know I WAS scraping by. I knew I was mildly muted by my depression, but holy hell.
At first, between homeopathic treatments, I had one, glorious, clear-brained day. It was like the sun coming out after a Seattle winter. I had energy. I wanted to run a thousand miles. I had ideas, and plans, and I got ALL THE THINGS done. I was fucking superman.
Not every day has been like that, but I’m having more of them. And I had NO IDEA how much the depression was hampering my ability…even just my ability to THINK. It was amazing to emerge from the equivalent of pea soup fog and chest-crushing oxygen deprivation to run along the ocean in the sun.
But about a week later, I had a thought. It went like this:
Who am I without depression?
It stopped me in my tracks. As long as I have been forming an adult identity, depression, or the spectre of its return, has been part of my identity. I’ve been Person (With Depression) or Depressed Person or Person (Trying To Be Happy) or Person (Probably Happy For The Moment).
The idea that I might have found a combination of treatments and experiences (homeopathy, hypnosis, etc) that had the potential to change my brain structure such that I might no longer be as vulnerable to depression, and that adding therapy, diet, exercise, reiki, touch immersion, extra sleep, creativity, etc would only enhance my quality of (not depressed!) life…stunned me.
If I am not depressed, I thought, can I just make plans and assume I’ll be functional? Can I exert myself and only run the risk of sleeping well that night? What have I assumed was not possible for me, that is actually possible? What is my identity without the sisyphean overlay?
Who am I when I am not pushing that boulder up the mountain all the time?
Ordinarily, if you’re getting treatment under the old models, you change slowly. It’s like walking to your destination. You have time to adjust to the idea of being in the new place, and your body keeps pace with your brain.
Now, though, we can literally fix it in an hour, sometimes. Certainly we can create dramatic change in the time it takes to cook and eat a single meal. When you get there that fast, there’s a transitional period. Most people will resist, be disoriented, try old things and find they no longer fit. Most people will need time to adjust, even though the problem is actually gone right away.
that’s ok, we just need to know that. We just need to give ourselves time and space for that. We need to grow into the new version of ourselves. And we need to give people around us that kind of slack as well. We’ll get there, we promise. But first, we need to breathe.
WANT TO HEAR MORE? I’m doing a call with Marcia Baczynski, called Embodiment for Brainiacs, about how intuition and energy make sense in a geeky, logic-oriented context. Join us!
As I said recently, I’m a geek. And I tend to run experiments on myself, which is a time-honored tradition among psych researchers (and others; see also: hemlock).
Recently I’ve been making seven-league-boot levels of progress in therapy and related places. Why? Because a whole bunch of techniques are gaining legitimacy and visibility, and they are much faster and more efficient than the old methods. As one researcher said on a recent webinar about neurofeedback, “We used to have to go through the mind to get to the brain. Now we can go directly to the brain.”
Most of the research and techniques that are emerging relate directly to trauma treatments. Some, like hypnosis, have been around for a while but are becoming more accepted. Some, like neurofeedback, have been in development for a while but are just coming to a useful maturity. All of them have varying results, because the people who are the subjects vary, but the conclusion is that they are worth trying.
One of the things that makes psych research different from other fields is that even the industry standard treatments, like antidepressants, are a best-guess-shot-in-the-dark that don’t work for everyone, and don’t have the same effect on everyone for whom they do work. If you go to your psychiatrist and decide that you should be on antidepressants, you could well spend months testing drugs on yourself–get a PGT test to see if anything is clearly not going to work, and then take one, see how you do, if it works, great, but if it doesn’t then titrate back off of it and try another one, lather-rinse-repeat until you find something that really helps…and hope you don’t build a tolerance or develop an adverse reaction.
I can tell you from personal experience: doing this while depressed is one of the most exhausting things ever, especially since side effects can include things like lethargy and low sex drive, and sometimes you get all the side effects with none of the benefits.
Why does this matter? Because with statistics like the ones for Zoloft and Wellbutrin, the odds of effectiveness for hypnosis or neurofeedback or homeopathy suddenly look downright gorgeous, and with the timeline for standard meds involving weeks of titration up and down, it might even make sense to try the alternative treatments first.
I was staring down the barrel of traditional antidepressant treatment recently. It seemed like nothing was going to work. Then I saw a naturopath and started homeopathic treatment. Changed. My. Life. Your mileage will vary, so be careful. This is just my experience.
Time to adjust to a homeopathic treatment: typically 1 week. Time to antidote if it’s having an adverse effect: in me, 4 hours.
Time to full effectiveness of hypnosis: varies, as fast as right away, as long as several months. Time to reverse the effect: almost immediately, usually.
Cost for any of these treatments: usually about $150/hour, more for neurofeedback, less for others. Cost of homeopathic remedies: varies, but generally under $30 for a one-month dose.
If it doesn’t work, you can still try the pills.
But paying attention to how your body feels you can often get faster and more effective treatment without using anything from Big Pharma at all.
nota bene: 1) I am not a doctor. Do not take any of this as medical advice, because it isn’t. 2) don’t change your treatments without consulting with the appropriate professional. That would not be me. 3) there is a place for traditional antidepressants. for those for whom they are the right treatment, they are literally a lifesaver. But if that isn’t feeling like the right solution for you, you have some other options. 4) alas, insurance doesn’t cover most of this
NEXT TIME: I will talk about what happens when you suddenly fix what’s wrong with you after years of having a problem.
WANT MORE? Marcia Baczynski and I are doing a call, Embodiment for Brainiacs, on November 1st. We’re going to jam about bodies and intuition and gut feelings and how that all fits in our geeky and logical brains. Sign up here.
This post is the second in a series about geeky mysticism. The first post is here.
You’ve probably heard the story about the starfish-throwing little kid, who is busy throwing stranded starfish into the sea. An adult comes along and says, “There are so many starfish on the beach! Why bother? How can you possibly make a difference?” And the kid bends over to throw another starfish and says, “It made a difference to that one.”
That’s how I think about all the tools in my toolkit. It only has to make a difference to one person to be worth learning, investigating, and keeping around. This is how I figure that out.
Traditional scientific method has a series of steps. You probably remember them from 5th grade science class: you write down what you think is true or what you’re going to test. Then you write down what you plan to do to test it. You make a list of your materials. You do the experiment and make notes about what actually happens and any new thoughts or changes you needed to make. And then you write your conclusion. In the real world, 98% of conclusions seem to be, “Well look, there’s some stuff we didn’t anticipate that merits further study.”
Then they redesign and run the experiment again.
And in the world of pharmaceuticals and medical study and other things that deal with people and not, say, chemicals or rocks, there’s this thing called a controlled double-blind study.
What that means is that you have a group of people who don’t get the treatment you’re testing, to see what would happen if you did nothing. And no one, not the researchers or the participants, knows which participants aren’t getting the treatment and which ones are. So, for example, if you’re testing a new medicine for depression, half the people get pills that will not chemically interact with the body and half the people get the medicine, but the researchers don’t know who is who until they start analyzing the data.
And then they look for what they call a statistically significant result. They’re looking to see that a more-than-random number of people (usually above 5%) had a result.
But my world is a little different.
Because all experience is data, and people vary.
And magic and energy work and prayer are all basically the same thing, the effects of which have been investigated (both well and badly) for thousands of years across all or nearly all cultures.
So what that means is that if it works for one person, I’m interested. I don’t need 500 people in my study, and I don’t care if it’s double blind, especially since the focus and energy of the person matters so much. Your belief matters when it comes to magic.
Here’s where my process deviates really really far from standard scientific process. Because most scientists don’t usually act like a result matters unless they saw a lot of the same result. Fifty percent of study participants, or seventy-five. Five percent barely meets the test for statistically significant. Below statistically significant it might not have happened at all. It might be a mathematical error. Now the issue of how a recorded data point can become a mathematical error (and therefore nonexistent) aside, in my world if something works for me, even if it’s just for me, even if I only tried it twice, it goes on the list of things that work for me, and the result is real.
It means that one time that reiki helped my cramps was enough for me.
It means that one month when I kept pulling the same tarot cards was enough for me.
I share my experience and I make no promises. But testing doesn’t have to be a giant formal study, because if it works for me, I will use it regardless of whether it works for other people, and I will tell people about that, and invite them to run their own experiments. I don’t care if I’m in a small population that’s a fraction of 1 percent. What I care about is whether I have seen results. And I encourage all the people around me to do the same.
Want to find out what kinds of stuff I do, and why I do it? Join Marcia and me on Embodiment for Brainiacs, Nov 1, from anywhere! Sign up here: embodiment-for-brainiacs
I’ve hinted about this before, here and there: I’m a critical-thinking, logic-oriented intuitive mystic who believes in magic. In other words, I’m a geek and a mystic and a mage. This makes some of my friends crazy (thank goodness they love me anyway!) because for them, geek and mystic are mutually exclusive–you can’t be one if you’re the other. Mysticism and intuition and magic are the realm of religion and imagination, and geekery and science are the realm of logic and fact and never the twain shall meet.
I used to believe that. My father is an engineer, my mother is a mathematician, my brother is a computer engineer and scientist with a specialty in artificial intelligence, and my best friend from childhood is a seismic geologist. And don’t get me wrong, I have great respect and admiration for science, its learnings and processes, and the gains we’ve made from them. But I’m also mindful of two important principles: people vary (expressed so succinctly by Havi Brooks over at fluentself.com) and all experience is data (for the grammar mavens: all experiences are data.)
What makes a geek get into energy work and take magic from the fantasy books to the real world?
When I have an experience that supports something I was previously skeptical about, I have to rethink it. That’s the geeky scientist child-of-an-engineer in me. When I was SURE there was no higher power, and then I started to have the felt experience of connection to earth and trees and water…I started to pay attention.
And now there’s research showing that plants are aware when they’re being eaten (http://www.wnd.com/2014/10/study-plants-can-tell-when-theyre-being-eaten/). There are kinds of awareness that we don’t know about yet; things we’re still learning. Since my sense of a higher power involves a kind of interconnection of awareness of all things, this supports my experience.
When I was highly skeptical about reiki, I had really bad menstrual cramps that nothing but reiki would help. So I got trained and then I felt the energy in myself. I had to rethink my skepticism. When I don’t think something is hot, and then I put my hand on it and I experience it as hot, I don’t wonder if my experience is real. I pull my hand away to avoid being burned. To me, these experiences are as real as that one.
My most recent experiment has been one of the most surprising for me. Despite all this, I was still very resistant to things like tarot. It seemed too far from my experience, too close to the edge of impossible.
But I kept thinking about it. So finally I bought myself a deck and started drawing cards every day.
There are 78 cards in a standard tarot deck. Drawing three to five cards a day and very careful about being random, over the first month I drew about 12 cards over and over and over, and when they changed, they progressed in a logical manner based on the card meanings. (From the 8 of swords to the 9 and then the 10, for example.)
There may be an explanation for this, but I can’t think of one.
I don’t have to be an expert in calculus or statistics to know that that’s highly unlikely to happen randomly.
I don’t think everything works for everybody. But I do thing my experiences are influencing my thinking and my future choices. That’s how science works. More on that next time
PS: Embodiment for Brainiacs! Marcia and I are going to hang out and jam on how we make intuition go with geekery. We’re both geeks with a huge body component to our work, and we’re going to talk about how exactly that makes sense. Signup page here: embodiment for brainiacs.
Who am I?
My name is Leela Sinha. I’m trained right across the board. My first job after college was in computer tech support. I’ve also taken a boatload of programming classes. I have a BA in American Studies and an M. Div. (Masters of Divinity) and ordination AND coaching training from CTI and sex ed training through the UUA and and a massage therapy license. Biology and theology and the neuroscience of change and pleasure…I am a huge believer in research and learning and study. And I’ve got my Level III reiki (Shinpiden) training and training in energy clearing.
Usually, I post here about pleasure, because…well, because yummy and awesome and so useful. Because pleasure makes us clear and whole; because pleasure gives us direction; because pleasure makes the difference between drudgery and service, between weariness and joy.
There’s more to life, and this has been bugging me for a while.
I have depression. It was in remission for about 2 years, but recently it has been back (in spades) (and very unpredictably).
As in previous episodes of depression, the well-meaning advice has come pouring in: you need to focus on yourself more, get out more, get exercise, have you seen a therapist? maybe you should make some new friends, learn a new skill, just eat better, take a supplement, take a pill, get a hobby…
and really, at root, you need to love yourself first.
With all due respect.
I do love myself. I didn’t, for years, but I do now. My self-esteem is really quite solid. When my brain is working properly, I know I’m smart. I know I’m skilled. I know I’m well-trained and that my work makes a difference to the people I work with. I know I have incredible capacity to see systems for what’s really going on and help their leaders adjust so they waste less energy on the way to their goals. I know I see people’s current realities and the potential they have. I know holding the vision of that potential and helping people plan to fulfill it makes a difference to them and to the world.
I know that. I know I learn fast. I know my love is incredibly strong. I know.
I have depression. It’s like having a cold in my brain.
When the depression is active, it takes over the circuits that relate to how I see myself in the world. It’s like an alien mind control game. What I know when I’m not having a depressive episode is NO LONGER RELEVANT.
Using the cold metaphor: my nose is stuffed up. I can’t use it to breathe. This doesn’t mean I need a new nose or that I never had one. It means the mechanisms that let me breathe are obstructed.
In real terms this means that I can’t access my brain’s pleasure mechanisms. They are still there (although they can atrophy over time–use it or lose it!) but I can’t use them. The circuits are circumvented or shut off. The less use they get the harder it is, but they can also be rebuilt with time and practice and sometimes medical or diet or exercise help.
So back to self-esteem and self-love: if you or someone you love has depression, self-esteem MAY be the problem, or it may not. But you cannot assume that just because a depressed person says hateful things about themselves when they are experiencing a depressive episode that they actually believe those things when their brain is their own.
If you have depression, ask yourself, honestly, when you’re not having an acute episode:
– am I smart?
– am I capable?
– am I loveable?
– am I interesting?
– am I strong?
– am I creative?
If you kinda think mostly yes, then I’m going to go ahead and say that while you HAVE DEPRESSION your self-esteem is just fine. What you need then are tools to not listen to the depression when it mounts a hostile takeover in your head. That’s a different set of tools than changing how you feel.
You wouldn’t send someone with a stuffy nose to a reconstructive surgeon.
I’m @leelasinha on twitter. Find me there and let’s talk!
Today’s guest post is by the lovely Heather Rees, a career change coach with a strong sense of the value of presence in the body. Please welcome her!
Go Back to What You Are: a Body Of Wonder
Your body is not gross, ugly, misaligned or any manner of wrong.
It is not too fat, too skinny, too tall or short.
It is not five pounds away from perfect or in need of hiding behind clothes.
Your body is this: Gorgeous.
It is perfect and miraculous and worthy of revelry.
It deserves to be licked, tickled and caressed.
It wants adoration and your deepest respect – so give it.
Listen to your body as you would a dear friend and, just like that, play with and love and care for your body with a heart full of abandon.
You want this.
I know you do.
You want this wild freedom to love openly that which we’ve been trained to abhor.
Deep down, deep within, there are places that call you back to this freedom. You once had it, back when you were young. Those sunshine days of wonder when the length of your limb was as worthy of love as the stalk of grass held between young fingers. What happened to those days?
We grow up.
We learn that such love is too brazen, to sure and not enough of everything that they tell us is worth accepting. We learn that our bodies are not that (whatever that may be), and therefore, and assuredly, not enough.
Underneath the nonsense, the rabble of violence, your down deep place still knows your beauty – revels in it! – and all the pleasure your body can feel.
Let’s get back there. Let’s buck the system. Be a revolutionary.
Decide to not worry for an hour or a day what exactly your body is (or isn’t) and tune into what exactly it feels. The rhythms, the shifts, the openings and aches.
Decide to notice what comes and goes: the breath, your pulse and all that you hear, see and smell. Touch and taste, too.
Decide on pleasure. Ditch the pain. Yes, you may have reasons to complain (pain is no lightweight) but what you feed will grow. Grow pleasure.
Pleasure comes in through our senses – those impeccably crafted inborn centers of pleasure making, and pleasure taking.
As small as a hair dancing on our neck. As big as a merlot. The sense you connect with gives back what you seek: Love, pleasure and down deep feeding of that place that knows how perfect you really are.
Heather Rees is a career change coach and strategic ally for women who want to do work that is meaningful to them. She is also the creator of the newly released Soul Revival: a Return to Your Senses – an exploration of the senses to spark creativity and reconnect with the soul. Read more here, or connect on Facebook and Twitter.
Just took a nap on the beach. That makes two hours today on the beach, one lying down. Here’s why that’s important: outdoors is not the enemy. It is awesome. Some days it is more nap-worthy than others but it is not a bad place to be. If, like me, you have made it your gym of choice, you need to love it as a general thing. Whatever your gym is, you should love it as a general thing. Not all the time but enough that you think, oh yay! I get to go to the [gym].
Because this is not about weight. This is not even about fitness. This is about pleasure.
I have an amazing friend who is working their tail off right now to recover from a back injury. They are partially paralyzed. That is .courage. yo. Also a definite fixation on pleasure. Like, the pleasure of tying your own shoes.
Walking three miles on the beach is awesome. It brings me back to joy and gratitude. That’s what it’s about.
Keep your focus on pleasure. That way you will be happy about doing your movement and play. Two, that happiness makes your body chemistry better. Three, beauty makes your life better. I’m always on twitter posting about how #mygymdoesnotsuck. I post pictures. Because it is gorgeous. Now i want to see who else does it.
What is your beautiful workout place? Gym? Park? Mountain? Use your gorgeous children as weights? Share on Twitter! I want to see. hashtag #mygymdoesnotsuck and #iamanathlete
I went swimming today.
Which might be no big deal.
Let’s start with the complicated: I had drowning dreams as a child. I used to wake up choking, mouth clamped shut.
And when the swimming teacher threw me in the pool to “teach” me to swim, I held my breath and let myself sink to the bottom.
That was it for swimming lessons, pretty much.
Despite all that, I love the water, love being in the water, lakes and pools and ocean.
I used to spend Far Too Long in the shower and in the bath.
I love being in the water.
And when someone very close to me discovered that, she bought me a wetsuit. Why? Because Maine. Specifically, Maine. Is. Cold.
Or at least the ocean is often cold. If you wait for times when the water feels good, you could be down to about six or eight weeks of swimming a year.
The first time I wore it, it was like magic. Just like the first time I wore Vibram five finger shoes, I suddenly felt like I had a new superpower. I could go in the water and Not Be Cold! Amazing. A-mazing.
But after that summer, by this and by that I didn’t get it out again for a while.
And then today happened.
I got up, got dressed, got to the beach by seven. Walked/ran three miles (out and back) and felt like I wanted to swim. But about half a mile from the end of my route, the air changed. It got chilly. I knew I couldn’t swim without being chilled for the rest of the day. I put a bookmark in it, remembered I had a wetsuit, and…
came back in the afternoon. With the full wetsuit, not the halfsie one. I wore my version of a bikini (thank you, Moving Comfort bras!) and pulled the wetsuit on, zipped myself up (love those long zipper pulls!) and headed into the water.
Shock, shock, bliss.
The way a wetsuit works, it allows water through but then it traps water in the neoprene. That water warms up and insulates you from all the rest of the water. So those first few minutes are cold, but then you’re fine.
I also had my brand-new, so-excited-to-have-them, made-in-Italy, gee-these-really-fit open water goggles. They’re like a cross between regular goggles and a dive mask, with a big silicone seal that goes all the way around your eyes, but it leaves your nose exposed.
I stayed out there for maybe 30 or 40 minutes, backstroke, floating, playing, bouncing. The surf was strong, there was a storm coming in, but there wasn’t any riptide to speak of and I was so, so happy.
The ocean lifts me up.
The ocean sets me back on my feet.
What a gift.
There’s one caveat: if you are like me, the biggest risk is that you won’t notice how tired it makes you until you get out of the water and are shaking a little. That not-noticing can be fatal if you’re not super careful. If you’re thinking about heading in to shore, it’s time to head in. If you think it might be time soon, it’s time now. Play safe out there.
That said, everyone near a body of water should own a wetsuit and use it.
I swam in the ocean for 30 minutes. After I walked for an hour this morning. I loved it. It was a joy. I am an athlete.
What is your favorite thing, so good you can’t resist? Tell us! Tweet #Iamanathlete.