I like swimming and used to go to an outdoor pool on the oceanfront many years ago. It had been a very special pool in the 40s and 50s as it had 1-meter, 3-meter, and 5-meter diving boards.
It was a really special event for anybody to dive from the 5-meter board. The gate to the staircase leading up to this high board was kept locked. A special announcement was made over the speaker when somebody was going to be allowed up to the 5-meter board to dive. Everybody would watch intently to see who it was that was going to participate in this great feat of strength and courage. The anxiety would rise, but all would watch closely in support.
The diver would take position. Breathe and breathe again, then would take that dive. For those of us watching, it was a recipe for a panic attack. The diver would hit the water, come back up, and swim to the pool edge. Relief would take over the very nervous crowd.
One day I asked permission to be accompanied by a lifeguard to go up the special stairs and just be able to look from that 5-meter board platform to see what the distance looked like. I was duly assisted to accomplish this with the help of the lifeguard. I went on the platform and looked around and down and felt sick with fear to the point of almost paralysis. I had to step back slowly and edge my way back down the stairs. I just was not ready for what I saw. It looked to me like dropping from the top of the world.
As I have watched some of the great divers in the Olympics complete their dives, it has reminded me of the fears I once experienced that I do not experience today. No, I still don't dive but I am not afraid of heights anymore. It is surprising how much inner strength each of us has if we want something enough. If you have not put your own inner strength to the test maybe you should. You will never know what you are made of unless you push your own envelope.
The Olympic Games Have Begun
Friday was a very big day in London with the grand opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympics taking place.
The mood was high and so many hopefuls were there, well-prepared and ready to start the competition process. I cannot even imagine what it must be like to compete at this level, contemplating the many years of sheer dedication, discipline, and relentless repetition. The anxiety and fears have to be blocked and controlled by the confidence of knowing how well prepared you are. It always amazes me how being equipped and prepared is like a poison to anxiety and a relief to stress.
I have heard the expression that life is 50% ability and 50% bluff. This always made me feel some hope as I often felt I did not have the ability of others. I came to find out what was really true is life is 50% ability and 50% passion. Passion is a very interesting emotion and one of the most powerful forces on the earth. People that succeed are people that have a passion about something and like to keep their focus in life tightly connected to their passion. When I see the competitors at the Olympics, it is the power of their individual passions that I see and feel.
I love the gymnastics events and was a great fan of Olga Korbut back in the 70s. It is the sheer precision focus and concentration on the floor, bar, box, and rings that fascinates me. It is not so very different from navigating the obstacles of life. If you train yourself, maneuver the obstacles, and start to think of them as pieces of equipment, you should take control as the whole perspective changes and your confidence grows.
I know I will never be on an Olympic team but I am an emotional Olympian at home. You can be to.
Eyes in the Back of Your Head
On a walk along the beach during the early morning sunrise, I could see something moving on the sand but could not quite see what it was until I had a closer look. Much to my surprise, stranded on the sand was a seahorse. There is something about a seahorse that is just fairytale in nature. They immediately create a mood of anything is possible. Their official name is Hippocampus, but with its equine beauty and this unusual ability to swim upright most of us are fascinated by this unique fish.
These lovely fluttering creatures usually mate for life and have a daily little ritual of bonding by spiraling around each other for up to an hour each morning reinforcing their commitment to the partnership. I don't know that there are many fish that I could have rescued on the beach and would have known instantly what it was. Yet part of the intrigue of this fish is that its appearance is unmistakable. I scooped up a whole handful of sand with the seahorse on it and placed it into the ocean so the fish could swim flutteringly away. I felt elated that I had been the one that was part of this very special rescue mission. As if watching a sunrise was not enough to lift the mental health of a person, this event was enough to take the mood to the highest level.
The glorious and gentile seahorse also has the most special arrangement for having babies. It is the male that becomes pregnant; the female transfers her eggs to him which he then fertilizes and carries for between two weeks and a month in his pouch. The babies are left to their own devices once they are born.
Most interesting to me though is that each of the seahorse’s eyes works independently, meaning they can see to the front and the back at the same time.
I have said on many occasions 'I don't have eyes in the back of my head'. But I do have my eyes of experience to learn from my past and plan for the future. Learning from experience is very powerful in taming anxiety and moving uprightly into each new day. Owning one day is owning everything.
Sick and Tired of Sick and Tired
Mental illness and addiction in some ways seem to be an enigma. When you go to therapy or to a psychiatrist appointment a common question is, “so, how do you feel?” A response I often hear, and am guilty of having said to people at times, is “I’m so tired,” or “I just feel sick,” or “I don’t feel well.” Most people have probably heard the cliché of feeling sick and tired of feeling sick and tired. My response? Stop feeling that way. It’s a prescription that is simple to say, but much harder to do.
There are many skills to use to change sick to well or change tired to energized. The first skill that comes to mind is opposite action. If you’re feeling down, depressed, or unhappy then smile, sing, dance, or compliment someone. The worst thing to do would be to withdraw and isolate even though that’s what you may crave. If you’re feeling tired, make the bed, get up and shower, and leave the house. It doesn’t matter what you do, but do something besides lay down and sleep.
Feeding into the cravings of feeling sick and tired only perpetuates a never-ending cycle. It’s similar to fanning or blowing on a campfire. You’re not going to put the fire out by fanning it. By providing it with more oxygen, you’re actually feeding it. If you do nothing to the fire and just wait, it will eventually go out on its own but that could take over 24 hours for it to go out and the embers to cool down. If you feel sick and tired and you just sit around waiting for the symptoms to improve, they eventually will. But it may take weeks or even months. Even though it’s exceedingly difficult to get out of bed when you’re completely exhausted and feeling poorly, you will feel better in a much shorter amount of time.
Another strategy is to stop thinking about feeling sick and tired. The phrase “fake it ‘til you make it” comes to mind. We attract those things we think about. If we focus on feeling depressed and think we’re always going to feel bad, then we will be more likely to attract negativity to ourselves. If we feel depressed, it is important to recognize how we’re feeling but putting a more positive spin on our thoughts will help bring more positivity our way and allow us to pull ourselves out of the doldrums a lot faster. For example, even if you think at first that you can’t do anything to help yourself feel better, pretend you can. Imagine what it is to be ‘better.’ How do you know when you’re ‘better?’ What would you do when you’re ‘better?’ After you have a solid idea of what it would be like, do everything you can to put the vision of ‘better’ from your mind’s eye into practice. You will soon feel better just by faking being better. Don’t believe me? Try it!
Kudos to Paula Dean
I am sure we have all been through denial in our lives of one kind or another. Sometimes facing the truth is a painful and humbling experience that can be pushed to the back burner. The very thought of having to make sweeping life changes is enough to keep anxiety permanently on the boil. All kinds of emotions become stirred up from anger to melancholy, disbelief to shuddering reality. How can you embrace a major health issue with anything other than depression and sadness? We all love a fighter don't we, but sometimes fighting for ourselves is the hardest fight of all. So many women can defend their children, their parents, and their partners; but when it comes to fighting for themselves there is often huge resistance. The good thing is you are not alone, as even the strong and famous have struggled with taking a stand to protect their health.
Paula Dean is the perfect example of a woman of great resourcefulness having fought though being a single parent, personal struggles, and providing for her family the only way she could. Yes, through her wonderful food.
To be able to look your issues straight in the eye when you do not want them to be true takes enormous courage. Paula took this step with her diabetes, although saying it took her three years to do that. It takes time to come to terms with the fact that nothing is going to change by doing nothing. Of course Paula wanted her medicine to work, but medicine is part of a solution not the whole solution.
The changes Dean made to her diet and her exercise routine brought great rewards. The photographs we are now seeing are of a woman who conceded to the basic truth, you have to take care of yourself.
I find it inspiring that a woman who has built a whole “brand” on a certain type of cooking has been able to continue sharing her love of food, but has also become an educator. Her mood must be ecstatic each day when she knows she had strength far greater then she may have ever known.
All good health takes discipline. Your health is your wealth. There is no meaningful wealth without health.
With 22% humidity, it felt like 107 degrees at Brookhaven Retreat on the first day of July. However, it was only 103 degrees. Time to share a summer meditation!
Begin with eyes closed, listening to the sound of your own breath. Contract the diaphragm with four belly breaths by allowing the abdomen to expand but not the chest. Breathe in through the nose and slowly relax the diaphragm releasing the acidic CO2 and tension into the atmosphere. Give it to the trees and plants that require it as much as you require the oxygen they are offering you. Take four more belly breaths, but this time contact the abdomen in a steady manner to force out every last breath. By doing this the diaphragm will automatically begin bringing oxygen into the bottom of the lungs for full stress relieving breaths. Control the breaths; count if it helps, keeping the outward breaths almost twice as long as the inward breaths.
Begin to let your mind hear the sound of seagulls off in the distance and let your memory recall the smells of the salty ocean. Look out to the horizon where the sky meets the curved watery edge of planet Earth; our home…the home we share with all creation…the creation that accepts our very DNA with every exhaled breath…the creation that gives us sunshine for food and Vitamin D to help replenish our calcium stores necessary for calmness. Let the cool gentle waves rush up over the tops of your feet and then let them slip away back to the sea in perfect rhythm as our bare feet sink firmly into the cool wet sand. Let your mind take the time to watch the sunset and the moonrise. Ponder the never-ending rushing sea like the pulse in your veins and the watery path of light reflecting on the sea like a beacon to your very feet. Feel the quietness of your heart. Be refreshed to make a new start.