Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Take a Break: Get ready for the 4th

The 4th of July is one of my favorite holidays. For starters it’s a “day off,” a “take a break day” for everyone. As a kid, my father would take brother, my sister and me to a local drug store where we could pick out a summer present. As I got older, it was BBQs, Boston Cream Pie, hours spent boating on a tributary of the Chesapeake Bay, and fire works on the beach at Fort Warden in Port Townsend, WA. Our current tradition, except for the year we were in Rome and forgot to celebrate it all together, is attending a BBQ at a friend’s house, which culminates with fire works being set off by my husband and his buddies.

Today’s Take a Break, is all about planning some fun for the 4th.

• Read what happened to the signers of the Declaration of Independence. Note, there is an e-mail circulating with a lot of incorrect information.

• Make a project suitable for the weekend. Martha Stewart has about 40 different patriotic crafts you can try.

• Seems Martha missed this one-Make Safety pin flags to wear or give to a friend.

• What a 4th of July be without food? Experiment with a new recipe today so you’ll know if it will work for Sunday. For some reason, I have it in my mind I need to try a different Cole slaw recipe.

• Write down your memories of your childhood 4th of July and share them with family and friends.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Holding Life Consciously

Arthur Zajonc, a professor of physics at Amherst College, and the author of Meditation as Contemplative Inquiry: When Knowing Becomes Love,” was diagnosed with stage one Parkinson’s Disease earlier this year. He will be featured on this week’s program “Speaking of Faith,” - Holding Life Consciously- that airs on Public Radio (local schedules vary). You can also go to the Speaking of Faith Website and listen to it or download to your MP 3 player. A transcript will follow next week. The website has some interesting things to read including a piece “A Culture of Availability to Everybody But Yourself?”

Some other sites relating to Zajonc:

Zajonc’s Blog Meditation and Mortality: Practice and Parkinson’s

The Center for Contemplative Mind in Society: Zajonc is the Director and the site includes two meditations as well as meditations with others.

The Tree of Contemplative Practices: The Tree illustrates some of the contemplative practices that have been used for thousands of years.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Take a Break: Play with Sand

Today’s post was inspired by a video my husband told me to watch. “It’s the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen,” which is saying a lot since he is an artist and taught at the college level.

While I will include the link for the video, it’s the idea of making art with sand that I find most interesting. In the past, I’ve blogged about making a desk top Zen garden, which involves sand. This is great fun and you can spend hours making different shapes and designs using a “rake.”

Since it’s summer and beach time, take a break at the shore, if there is one near you, and make a sand castle. If that’s not a possibility, use sand as a drawing tool.

Find a tray, empty picture frame or something that allows the sand to stay somewhat contained, yet provides enough space to move it around. Now sprinkle a thin layer of sand and start making designs and shapes. Use the sand similar to how you would use finger paints. Don’t have any sand handy? Try salt.

You can do this on-line at Sand Painting. Turn on your favorite channel on Pandora Radio and see how this affects your art.

And now for the video that inspired this post. Kseniya Simonova, the winner of Ukraine's Got Talent, tells stories through sand animation. In this video, she recounts Germany conquering Ukraine in WWII. She begins by creating a scene showing a couple sitting holding hands on a bench under a starry sky, but then warplanes appear and the happy scene is obliterated.

It is replaced by a woman's face crying, but then a baby arrives and the woman smiles again. Once again war returns and Miss Simonova throws the sand into chaos from which a young woman's face appears.

She quickly becomes an old widow, her face wrinkled and sad, before the image turns into a monument to an Unknown Soldier.

This outdoor scene becomes framed by a window as if the viewer is looking out on the monument from within a house.

In the final scene, a mother and child appear inside and a man standing outside, with his hands pressed against the glass, saying goodbye.

The Great Patriotic War, as it is called in Ukraine, resulted in one in four of the population being killed with eight to 11 million deaths out of a population of 42 million.

One art critic said: "I find it difficult enough to create art using paper and pencils or paintbrushes, but using sand and fingers is beyond me. The art, especially when the war is used as the subject matter, even brings some audience members to tears. And there's surely no bigger compliment."

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Discharge From the Hospital

This morning I came across an article in the New York Times, “Aftercare Tips for Patients Checking Out of the Hospital.” It struck a note with me since one of the most frustrating things I’ve witnessed in the last 15 years is the poor discharge planning that happens at some hospitals. Patients are being sent home with information that is so confusing they could never figure it out. Others shouldn’t be discharged but have no one to advocate for them and aren’t in a position to do so. In the effort of cost containment, patients are sent home when they and their caregiver-if they have one-are ill prepared to handle the situation.

The New York Times article recommends the following actions:

CHECK THE DRUG LIST Medication errors are a frequent cause of readmissions…Ask for an up-to-date medication list and then double-check the information with the hospital pharmacist. Make sure the patient knows when and how to take new pills.

You can print out a medication form from, a Web site created by the nonprofit United Hospital Fund that offers free guides to help patients learn how to make the transition to a different care setting.

MAKE A DISCHARGE PLAN Most hospitals provide a discharge plan in writing, but it may be incomplete and difficult to decipher. Compile your own plan that can be a guide for the patient, the caregiver and other doctors.

The document should include a precise diagnosis, future appointments, a contact list and whom to call if new symptoms arise.
You can download the Boost program’s one-page Patient Pass form from the Project Boost Web site at A similar form tailored to your situation — for example, for discharge from hospital to a home or to a nursing home — is available at

A patient ready to leave the hospital may not be ready to go home. Physical therapy, occupational therapy or wound care that would best be administered at a rehab facility or a nursing home may be needed first.
Talk to the doctor and the discharge planner about what location would be best for the patient. “A good transfer requires that care needs match the care setting,” Dr. Coleman said.

CONTACT THE PRIMARY DOCTOR Urge the discharge planner or the hospital doctor to contact the patient’s primary care physician and set up required future appointments. Ideally, the primary care doctor will take over where the surgeons and specialists left off.

“Research shows that the sooner patients see their P.C.P., the less likely they are to be readmitted,” said Dr. Barry M. Straube, chief medical officer of the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. If the hospital staff is not making that connection, then pick up the telephone and make the call yourself.

I would add to this list Assess caregiver and patient’s ability to be at home/handle discharge. All too often this is overlooked. I’ve been in a situation where I begged the hospital not to discharge a patient because they were clearly unable to care for themselves and no one was available to do 24/7 care. I could write several posts on this type of situation.

The Time’s article mentions several websites that are excellent. Next Step in Care has an array of excellent materials to download, that will make discharge, as well as hospitalizations, much easier. These include:

Personal Health Record

Medication Management

Hospital to Home Discharge Guide

The Boost Project’s Patient Pass, is a good form to fill in and complete before discharge. It has all the information you’ll need in one sheet.

Many hospitals will provide a discharge summary of the hospital experience, including what procedures were done, diagnosis, who the treating physician(s) were etc. Make sure to keep these summaries in one place, preferably a Personal Health Notebook.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Store Brands are Okay

Consumer Reports Health has an article in their July edition on the cost of store brands versus name brands. The bottom line is that for over the counter medications, the store brands are just as good but significantly cheaper. Read the article at the Consumer Report's Health Blog.

It's always a good idea to check with your medical provider about what over the counter medications you are taking.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Take A Break: Do something for the Dads

Father’s Day is this coming Sunday. So today’s post is all about ways to help the men in your life have an enjoyable relaxing Father’s Day while you “take a break” today.

Even though you have about five days, there is still time to make a card and send it. The following links might inspire some new ideas for cards:

Clip art for Dad’s

• Make a “shirt” card for Father’s Day using directions for making a folded shirt from a dollar bill. Use a legal size sheet of paper ( 81/2 x 14 1/2) for best results. Regular paper works but it creates a shorter shirt.

• Ideas for cards from Enchanted Learning

Gifts can be a bit of a challenge- they have everything they want or need, you can’t afford a present they’d like, or you haven’t a clue what they’d like in the first place. Maybe one of these DIY’s (do it yourself) will

• Make a CD of music he will like, or download music directly to his iPod.

• What are his favorite foods? Make him his favorite candy and tell him he doesn’t have to share. Don’t have the time to make him something now, make him a personal card redeemable for his favorite meal, dessert, candy etc.

• Make him a coupon book or card, which he can redeem at a later date, of things you will do for him.

• Clean his car, workspace or office. Cut the lawn so he doesn’t have to.

More gift ideas

Things to do on Father’s Day
• Make the day all about him. Ask him what he’d like to do and do it.

• Plan a picnic

• Go for a hike or walk

• Give him a foot massage, backrub or whatever might appeal to him.

• Rent a movie and watch it together.

• Play his favorite game with him.

• Take in a ball game or whatever his favorite sporting event might be.

• Arrange for Dad and his buddies to do something fun, like have a poker afternoon followed by a BBQ.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Why Don’t They Respond?

At any given time, I’m following multiple people’s progress via websites like Caring Bridge, CaresPages or Lotsa Helping Hands. Several weeks ago, someone asked me why so few people were signing up to help at one of these sites. While the answer turned out to be simple, the site wasn’t being moderated as well as it could be, the question begs a bigger one-why don’t people respond when there is such a clear need?

The reasons could be as varied as there are people. Keep in mind that these are tough times for many. While they maybe very concerned about their friend/family member, their own issues, such as health problems, loss of a job, reduced income or some other reason, keeps them from being an active participant. For the most part, if people know you are having problems, they are going to be less likely to tell you about theirs. Try not to make assumptions about other people’s lives, or project what you would do if the roles were reversed. You aren’t them and how you would respond isn’t necessarily how they’ll respond.

Below are some additional reasons why people don’t always respond:

• People react well to a crises but as the situation continues, few can maintain their initial response. The fact that people can live for many years in a compromised state, requiring help and support, is a fairly new occurrence and one that society as well as the health care and social service systems are trying to figure out how to respond to.

• We make time for things that are relevant to us –both positive and negative. It is challenging to let go of one’s own needs long enough to see what is important to someone else.

• People are busy. If they can put off a task to a later date they do. If there are two months of activities, which people can sign up for, it’s easier to think that you’ll “sign up later.” Unfortunately, “later” turns into “I didn’t get around to it.”

• Research indicates that by having more people involved, or observing a situation, it somehow inhibits helping behaviors. While this research was done in response to situations where someone is being harmed in front of a large group of people, it has relevance to this discussion. All too often a community is aware that a family or neighbor is having problems but no one comes forward to help. Sometimes it was because they thought others were already helping, “the family or state agency is taking care of it” or “they’ll let me know if I can be of help ” or they didn’t know what to do. “ I don’t want to interfere” is extremely popular.

• Depending on the circumstances, people might be afraid of seeing the person that is ill or injured. It doesn’t mean they don’t care.

So what can you do to help increase responsiveness?

If you are coordinating a response for a family member or friend, whether you are using a web-based model, such as Lotsa Helping Hands, or another strategy, keep in mind the following:
• Be honest with the volunteers about the situation. You need to strike that balance of sufficient information to garner support but not too much to overwhelm them. If you continue to say how well everything is going, people may not understand what the true needs are. At the same time, if it’s all doom and gloom people will check out. Strive for a balance about what the needs are, and letting them know what a difference their contributions are making.

• Being a moderator/organizer can be a lot of work. It may be best to have several people, who are directly involved with the person(s) coordinate this activity.

• Update information about the person(s) in need on a weekly basis. If an emergent situation, such as a hospitalization or surgery, keep people informed more frequently.

• Send e-mails, which specify unmet needs, how things are going and a note of thanks to those who are helping. Not everyone is going to check the website on a regular basis, but most people check e-mail at least daily. If you aren’t using a web based approach, distribute weekly lists of who is doing what and how the person(s) is doing.

• Keep your “chore” information as up to date as possible and let people know it. No one wants to bring over dinner only to learn another person had dropped off a meal an hour before.

• Limit requests; too many and people become overwhelmed. Four weeks at a time is usually sufficient. Keep it simple. Create steps/projects that people can easily do to achieve a much larger goal.

• Be clear about what you need. Be as specific as possible. For example, instead of saying lawn care, write.- lawn needs to be cut, hedges trimmed.

• Prioritize your projects and be realistic in your expectations. Many years ago, a neighbor was temporarily homebound due to an injury. The local PTA organized meals and was helping with childcare. When identifying what her needs might be, she asked if people could finish some of the projects she had started a while back. There was resentment by some of the volunteers as they felt she was taking advantage of her situation.

• Recognize that not everyone can give of their time, but they’d like to be involved. Provide other options, such as sending money to help with gas for those volunteers who are providing transport. Identify a place where money can be sent for a specific purpose. When that goal is met, let people know.

• People like to work together. If you have a variety of tasks that can be done at once, such as winterizing the house, set up a workday. Many hands make light work.

• Be careful about cancellations. There are always extenuating circumstances, such as the person has to go into the hospital, and the meals planned for that week wont be needed. If you need to cancel, be specific about why. Keep in mind that the more times you cancel the less people will be willing to sign up to help.

Several years ago, I attended a conference on Parkinson’s Disease, a chronic disease, with episodic periods that can render someone completely disabled over time. The speaker wondered how friends and family should respond when they learn of such a diagnosis. “Does this mean it’s a 10 time lasagna dinner?” “Is it enough if I drop off one pan or should I do that every week?”

How long can you expect people to respond? I don’t know of a specific rule of thumb in this regard. If there is a crises situation, people do respond and can be helpful for quite a long time. Someone undergoing chemotherapy for six months, or even longer, can expect support, particularly if it’s well organized. People are better knowing there is a finite time period that their support is needed. However, in the even of a life altering injury or illness, where continual care and support is needed indefinitely, you’ll need to work with a case manager to help identify local resources to support the person(s).

There are a number of organizations affiliated with schools and colleges that provide free help for specific tasks, i.e. winterizing a home; yard work etc. Websites such as Lotsa Helping Hands can still be useful in coordinating visits, keeping people aware of how things are going and asking help for seasonal activities. However, it’s not realistic to think that a community will be able to supply dinner for the next 10 years. This is what "Meals on Wheels" programs are for.

It’s very easy to build up resentment when people don’t respond, particularly when you set up a system to help make it easier for them to do so. Let it go. Focus on the generosity of those who are present and don’t dwell on those who aren’t.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Take a Break: Picnic

Today it’s all about the art of picnicking.

This tradition seems to have come from Europe during the medieval times where there were hunting feasts and all sorts of outdoor “foodie” events. According to the Oxford English Dictionary (2nd edition, volume XI, p. 779) A picnic originally means “a fashionable social entertainment in which each person present contributed a share of the provisions; now, a pleasure party including an excursion to some spot in the country where all partake of a repast out of doors: the participants may bring with them individually the viands and means of entertainment, or the whole may be provided by someone who "gives the picnic".

There are lots of ways to picnic, including your living room if need be. Step one, after you’ve decided on who you want to share this with, is pick a location that you’ll enjoy. It could be a beach, wooded area, area park, stream, a park bench in the city or even your backyard or balcony.

Step two-plan the food. The simpler the better. If you are going to use mayonnaise, or something else that spoils easily, make sure to have a way to keep it very cold. You can purchase cooler bags in the freezer section of your store. The night before, take a container, fill with water and place in your freezer. The next morning it should be ready to slip into your cooler.
Since I have several friends that swear by the Barefoot Contessa and Giada, here are some of their recipes and menus for picnics:

Beach Volleyball Picnic
Picnic at the Pond
Picnic at Work
Picnic in the Park

Step three is the drinks. While a bottled of wine chilled with real wine glasses sparks up an event, it maybe easier to bring cans of your favorite drink or ice water in stainless steel water bottles.

Step four-packing. Some people have picnic baskets, but canvas bags work just as well. The main objective is to keep the items that need to be chilled cold and to keep the rest of the food from getting soggy. Layering food and double wrapping sandwiches works well. One friend brings all the fixings for a picnic separately and makes the sandwiches once they arrive. That way, no soggy bread.

If you’re having a total “Martha Moment,” you can always try her Origami Picnic Basket made from the tablecloth you will be using.

There are a variety of crafty items you can make for your picnic at Martha Stewart Living. If Fido is your date for the picnic, check out these directions for making portable dog bowls.

Step five-enjoy your picnic!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

What Can We Pass On?

This is the first time I've written something that has relevance to all of the blogs I write.

Because of my role with the Cavendish Historical Society, I’ve been in a unique position to study not only how people responded to the Great Depression in the 1930’s-that was the focus of the Society this past year- but am also collecting stories of how our town is being impacted by the current recession. In compiling the Business Directory for May 2010, I couldn’t help but notice how many small home based businesses are gone. Considering they are the backbone of our economy, that’s a very telling sign.

As co-director of Chronic Conditions Information Network, I spend quite a bit of time helping people deal with their respective health care crisis. The combination of the two roles has made me think a lot about our current situation.

Many are having a rough time. While the economic situation is a major contributing factor, so too is the aging of the “baby boomer” generation. It’s a “perfect storm” for frustration, anger, fear, anxiety and “just what going to happen next?” You know it’s bad when NH Public Television is continually showing “Living through a Personal Crisis” almost round the clock as part of its current fundraising campaign.

I’ve been looking at things through a 1930’s lens. Interestingly, there was a study released in September 2009 that showed that longevity actually increased during the 1930’s. Why would that be when so many were without jobs and there were few public service agencies compared to today?

While there was no definitive answer, the authors guessed that it was more about the lifestyle of the era: people walked everywhere as they couldn’t afford a car (they got their 30 minutes of exercise every day).; alcohol and cigarettes were a luxury so these health negatives were significantly reduced; people slept in because they didn’t have a job to go to; little money was available for entertainment so people created their own fun; and gardens sprung up in everyone’s back yard, everyone went hunting and fishing, which ultimately resulting in people eating “whole foods” and not relying on “processed” items.

As the depression eased, and people returned to work, life expectancy decreased. Why? Again the authors can only guess. They think it related to the stress of working long hours in a new job.

In Cavendish, people didn’t have a lot to begin with. If you worked in the mills, you had the risk of being laid off, but you could still tend a garden, hunt and fish, which certainly made things a bit easier than if you lived in a city. If all else failed, there were the wild blackberries and raspberries of August. I’ve met more than one Vermonter who refuses to eat them because that constituted a large part of their diet in the 30s.

Life was hardly easy and there was even a “Hooverville,” shanty town, located near the old Fitton Mill area of Cavendish. People did what they could to help each other. Their ideas of renew, reuse and recycle make the best of our green living practices look like beginners. In short, trying to live a 30’s lifestyle today isn’t practical. However, we can learn from them just as future generations will learn from our experiences.

With that in mind, below is my take on thriving during these difficult times thanks to those people from Depression era Cavendish. What are your ideas? The more we collect, the more helpful it maybe to future generations.


1. Turn off the TV and computer and only listen or read the news for about a half hour each day. In the 30’s there was no TV or computer. Most of the folks in our town only had a chance to listen to a little bit of radio in the evening. If you were lucky to have electricity, and not have to hook the radio to a car battery, you could listen to “The Shadow Knows,” and the birth of the Big Band. Keep in mind that our news today has the philosophy of “If it bleeds, it leads.” The more frightening and upsetting the story, the more likely it will make headlines and the various TV programs will devote hours to it. You can make yourself nuts in short order on this stuff.

.2. Cook. Avoid the processed stuff and enjoy what’s appearing at our local farmer’s markets or from your garden. Share your extra with friends, family, and neighbors.

3. Walk or ride a bike. Leave the car at home whenever possible. If you want more exercise you can help the Historical Society with their Cemetery Preservation project by cleaning stones. You’ll get a good workout, learn some interesting history, and help the town at the same time.

4.. Invest in your friends and neighbors and create social opportunities. When I interviewed Sophie Snarski, a fiddler, who graduated from high school in 1933, she said she played three nights a week. There were “kitchen hops,” dances that rotated among the various farmers, plays, movies, and town dances that took place weekly. Because they weren’t competing with TV, Netflicks and various activities in other towns, people turned out for events. When I first asked Sophie about the 30’s, she talked a great deal about the good times they had and how much better the community was connected than today. It was only when I asked specific questions about the depression did she relate how strapped her family was for money. In this difficult era she created positive memories that have lasted her a lifetime.

5. Churches and the Grange played a major role in the lives of people in the 30’s. My take on that is join something. Those that belong to a church, Rotary or any other such group have a built in strong social network. If there is a problem, people know about it and can help. Having a spiritual belief-not necessarily a religion- is very important for most people. It helps to have a bigger picture to support you through the rough spots.

6. Do something enjoyable that engages you. It might be going to Six Loose Ladies on a Thursday night to work on knitting-again that social piece. However, anything that fully engages your mind, and gives your brain a break is going to make things a bit easier. Reducing cortisol (the stress hormone) levels in the brain is a real plus.

7. Hang out with people that make you laugh.

8. Less is more. Enjoy what you have and don’t obsess about what you don’t have. It’s not “stuff” that makes life worth living. Make time for the important things-a hot cup of tea with a friend on a cold winter morning; a hike up Hawk’s Mountain with your kids; a pot luck at a neighbors; helping an elderly neighbor with snow removal or putting in their garden; and watching for shooting stars on a warm August night.

9. We’re all connected. The more we obsess about world hunger, free Tibet, the BP oil spill (the 30’s also had the Dust Bowl), the lack of work or any other cause, and ignore the joys in our own community, the more challenging life becomes. The Buddhist concept of a mindfulness meditation on all centennial beings is a wonderful idea. Do it once a day for whatever time frame you can and let it go. If you can afford to send money or go to help, do it. Keep in mind that the more we work to generate joy and happiness in our own lives, the more it spreads among us and beyond.

10. My final point really comes from working for many years in AIDS and with people who are closing out their lives. Warren Buffett probably said it as well as anyone when he was asked to measure success, "When you get to my age, you'll measure your success in life by how many of the people you want to have love you actually do love you. That's the ultimate test of how you've lived your life."

Since I wrote this initial post, I would add one additional point, Be flexible and willing to change. Cavendish had to make a lot of adjustments in the 1930s, not only due to the economy, but also because the town was inudated with men from other parts of the country as part of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). Some of these men stayed, married local women and helped the town grow in new directions.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Triumphant Survivors

Our local PBS channel is running a program called “Living Through Personal Crisis” with Ann Kaiser Stearns, a professor of psychology who specializes in understanding resiliency. I watched part of it, and found it interesting. Her focus is trying to understand why some people experience incredible crisis-death of a child, life threatening illness, loss of a job etc. and come through full engaged in living. She explains that only a third of those who experience such devastation become “triumphant survivors.” Below are the traits she has found to be common in these individuals.

People who go beyond brokenness, overcoming tragedies and hurts, do some things differently in a grief and healing or transition process. Triumphant Survivors think and behave in ways that lead to recovery. So can you.
• You can establish positive memories, loving moments shared with others.
• You can search relentlessly for answers and find whatever help is needed from friends, family, experts, helping professionals, your church or synagogue, books, healing activities, or support groups.
• You can develop survival strategies such as dealing with pain in small segments.
• You can make an early decision to go forward and actively reinvest in living.
• You can learn to live with the past by getting whatever help is needed to face life squarely and to live in the truth.
• You can remind yourself that prior to recovery it is necessary to deal first and fully with the pain and that your healing process may take longer than you and most others expect.
• You can fight off and resist feelings of helplessness by deciding not to remain passive and powerless, engaging in active learning or decisive action when the time seems right.
• You can leave encumbrances behind—old resentments, grievances, axes to grind, remembered injustices—the harbored memories that grow increasingly heavy. You can decide not to waste your life by permanently losing yourself in sorrow, defeat, anger, fear or guilt.
• You can decide that you want to learn and grow.
• You can look for inspirational role models.
• You can associate with and learn from people who have the ability to laugh, enjoy, and see humor.
• You can make a firm decision that you want things to work out well, want to recover, want to build a new life for yourself.
• You can consciously decide to be in the company of life-giving, positive-thinking, hopeful, nurturant, kind, and understanding people.
• You can decide that meaninglessness is intolerable and set out to make sense of things and construct a meaning for your life.
• You can reach out to help others while you yourself are still hurting.
• You can accept the best life within reach.
• You can do the best that you can.
• You can go forward, knowing the sorrows and hardships you've had to come through—but looking ahead far more than looking back.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Forgiveness Heals You

Recently I was talking to someone, who, shortly after completing extensive medical treatment, experienced an enormous emotional blow from a significant person in their life. In their words, “What they did is unforgivable!” Feelings of being hurt, angry and emotionally distressed were running rampant. While understandable, these aren’t emotions that foster health and well-being.

The neuroanatomist Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor, author of My Stroke of Insight, describes something called the 90 Second Rule. Basically, when you feel a strong emotion, such as anger, fear or even joy, it takes the circuitry of the brain less than 90 seconds to process and then let go. We all know what it feels like when we suddenly move into fear. Something happens in the external world and all of a sudden we experience a physiological response by our body that our mind would define as fear. So in my brain some circuit is saying something isn’t safe and I need to go on full alert, those chemicals flush through my body to put my body on full alert, and for that to totally flush out of my body, it takes less than 90 seconds.

So, whether it’s my fear circuitry or my anger circuitry or even my joy circuitry - it’s really hard to hold a good belly laugh for more than 90 seconds naturally. The 90-second rule is totally empowering. That means for 90 seconds, I can watch this happen, I can feel this happen and I can watch it go away. After that, if I continue to feel that fear or feel that anger, I need to look at the thoughts I’m thinking that are re-stimulating that circuitry that is resulting in me having this physiology over and over again.

When you stay stuck in an emotional response, you’re choosing it by choosing to continue thinking the same thoughts that retrigger it. We have this incredible ability in our minds to replay but as soon as you replay, you’re not here, you’re not in the present moment. You’re still back in something else and if you continue to replay the exact same line and loop, then you have a predictable result. You can continue to make yourself mad all day and the more you obsess over whatever it is, the more you run that loop, then the more that loop gets energy of it’s own to manifest itself with minimal amounts of thought, so it will then start on automatic. And it keeps reminding you, “Oh yeah, I was mad, I have to rethink that thought.”

Taylor’s neurological perspective is that you have a choice to stay stuck in your anger, and the longer you stick with it, the more likely it is to stay. The Buddhist concept of forgiveness has the same idea that you need to forgive as the longer you hold onto harmful thoughts the more likely they are to impact you negatively, “creating bad Karma.”

Ultimately, holding on to anger and resentment contributes to ill health. Anger produces the same physiological and psychological effects as stress. This means that dysfunctional or unhealthy anger can impact on every aspect of our life in exactly the same ways: fatigue, sleep disturbance, lowered sex drive, withdrawal, lowered tolerance threshold, increased alcohol, tobacco or drug dependency and weight issues (elevated cortisol levels cause a slower metabolism and weight gain).

Anger is a systemic phenomenon, with chronic anger having the potential to lead to disease and ill health in every bodily system. For example:
• cardio-vascular: heart disease, stroke, blood pressure
• musculo-skeletal: general aches and pains, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia
• gastro-intestinal: IBS, ulcers, certain cancers
• auto-immune: arthritis, lupus, diabetes

Keep in mind that as long as you delay forgiveness that person has power over you. The sooner you can forgive, which doesn’t mean forget or feel the need to reinvest in them, the sooner you regain control. "Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for it to kill your enemy." - Nelson Mandela.

If thou art pained by any external thing, it is not this that disturbs thee, but thy own judgment about it. And it is in thy power to wipe out this judgment now. Marcus Aurelius

So how does one forgive and stay on the healing track?

A helpful place to start is recognizing that forgiving includes grieving. The hurt that has been done carries with it loss. You may no longer trust the person, or you find that they created such anxiety for you that they can no longer be part of your life. The grievance may change how you perceive yourself or your relationship to the other person.

Dr. Theresa Rondo’s Six Rs of Mourning/Processing Loss is relevant to helping processing the loss so that you can do forgiveness.

Recognize: Acknowledge what has been done to you. Understand why it happened. Your feelings are valid. However, recognize that the more you dwell on the feelings the more you are imprinting them.

React: Feel, identify, accept and give some form of expression to the loss.

Re-experience: Remember realistically what happened. Sometimes by being as honest as you can be in remembering you’ll find that the person may not be all wrong. You may even understand what your role might have been in it.

Relinquish the old attachment to the person and all the assumptions you might have made about yourself or them. Lay down your weapons. Anything you can do to “hurt” or “even the score,” such as name calling, being passive aggressive is a weapon.

Readjust: Develop a new relationship (consciousness) with the person and yourself. Form a new identity (one who is not a victim)

Reinvest: Forgive. "If we haven’t forgiven, we keep creating an identity around our pain, and that is what is reborn. That is what suffers."

There are many views on how and why forgiveness is important. The suggestions posted above may or may not be relevant to you. Tap into your own spiritual traditions and seek professional help. Just keep in mind that the longer you harbor ill will, the more it keeps you from healing whole.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Take a Break: Interact with Art

Since I created this “take a break,” some of the links no longer work. On the plus side, there are new activities to explore, such as Drips.

If you or your kid’s were/are fans of “Where’s Waldo,” you’ll be amused what one artist did as their graduation project. Called “Where on Earth is Waldo?” this artist set out to stimulate an intriguing viral game. She created a painting of Waldo on a roof top somewhere in Vancouver in the hopes that it would appear on Google Earth.

When was the last time you visited a museum or art gallery? Not possible for you to get to there? Check them out on line. Many museums offer virtual tours.

Some links to get you started interacting with art:
Metropolitan Museum of Art: They have a daily feature on a work of art from their permanent collection.

National Gallery of Art

The Art Zone from the National Gallery of Art

Art Pad

Mr. Picasso’s Head