My New Satirical Novel is Out … WHAT?

Okay, admit it. You are used to thinking of me as a warm, vulnerable, touchy-feely sort of blogger who shares her deepest stuff. Right? And yet …

I’m also a novelist who writes quirky, funny, page-turning spy thrillers

Along with my collaborator, Jack Harvey, we created a series called Transformed. In it we like to highlight unusual characters in uncommon situations with intricate plots. Like this – – the third in our series.

Transformed: POTUS is a funny satire the takes on the US presidency. In it the first post-Trump president is a sex addict to likes to spend his time off not in Camp David, but in Vegas.

Problems ensue when it becomes clear that our president can’t seem to hang onto the nuclear biscuit with the gold codes on it. He just keeps losing the damn thing.

The action centers on Charley, the spy who’s assigned to keep bad actors out of the President’s midst — and who seriously has his hands full.

Want to read a free tidbit? Click here! And you can check out the full book here.

Viva … Las Vegas?

Yeah baby!

Will I Be a Sorceress or a Priestess?

I put the deck of Goddess Guidance cards in front of me, shuffled them, and drew three cards – one for the past, one for the present, and one for the future. Since Teal’s death in 2012, I sometimes pulled these cards from her deck just as she once did.

I like to imagine Teal’s energy is still in these cards, subtly aligning with the goddesses whose names are written on each one. After she died, I found a worn spiral notebook in which she’d carefully transcribed the guidance she received from her own readings in the last few years of her life.

While I really didn’t understand this whole ‘goddess business’ while Teal was alive, now I paid rapt attention. As it turns out, the goddesses always seem to have an eye out for me, as well.

Over the last five years, the readings had been soothing, helpful, and surprisingly accurate. Now as I laid out the cards, I prayed about the unfolding work I have been given.

What was on my mind, specifically, was how to remain true to my cause.

The fact was that five years ago at the peak of my success I was lost. I was delivering good enough work as a ‘spiritual marketing’ coach, but my feet weren’t on the ground. I was too sucked into a system that was all about pushing, striving, and selling through whatever means necessary. This was training I’d paid tens of thousands of dollars to receive.

At the time, I’d conveniently forgotten about my values. Instead, I turned over my personal responsibility to a whole lot of magical thinking. After all, this was ‘spiritual’ marketing … right? So as long as it ‘felt guided’, anything seemed fair game – even wildly overcharging people.

It was amazing what passed for ‘guided’ in my psyche back then.

Now I’ve uncovered the magic of simply being real, honest and allowing the Universe to meet me however it does. Here, it seems, lies the true spiritual work. Gone is my ambition, my striving, my overwork. My greed.

Instead, I am gently shown the way, day after day, by simply surrendering to what is.

Now I value kindness, compassion and generosity. Instead of manipulating people into buying high priced programs, it feels much better to give freely and to honor each person I meet. As it turns out living simply isn’t so bad.

Just enough really is enough.

This is why I haven’t launched a program or attempted to sell my work, beyond my books, for the last four years. I’ve been getting grounded in these new values, and letting them take root and blossom in my life.

Holding such tender space is the gift of Teal’s death. Yet, at the same time, I know the time has arrived for me to step up and actively lead groups of people again. Hence the question I put to the goddesses.

How can I show up and lead fueled by purpose and service instead of ego and grasping?

The answer was swift. And, as usual, goddesses did not disappoint. In the position of the past was Rhiannon, the ‘Sorceress’, and she was upside down. “You are a magical person who can manifest your clear intention into reality,” read the card.

Yup. I was pretty magical then, and not in a good way. I manifested all sorts of crazy s**t including six figure weekend sales events and the massive tax issues that came with them.

Interestingly, the card was upside down, indicating something was off or there was a big lesson to learn.
In the Present position was Dana, High Priestess, and she, too, was upside down. “You have Divine knowledge that can help others through your spiritual teaching.”

Ah. Okay – yes, it feels like there is more teaching for me to do. And the card is upside down because I’m still holding back, afraid that once more I will fall into the trap of ego and overreach. Can I remain humble and still stand in front of the room?

In the future position was Aphrodite, the Inner Goddess. “Awaken the goddess within you though dance, self-care, and appreciating your divinity.” Happily, this time the card was right side up.

And what am I to teach people? Healing work that begins with self-care.

Clearly, the goddesses are telling me trust the path. It’s all there, and I have nothing to fear. I’ve learned the key lessons, and my awareness is great. Not only that, I have Teal standing by in the ethers, guiding me as I go.
Can I teach again? Can I share my work once more, and this time keep my feet on the ground and my heart open to the world?

Yes, yes. A thousand times yes! I know I can. For with each person we heal, Teal and I live our life purposes just a little more completely.

This is what feels right and true.

And so it must be.

 

 

 

Are You a Wounded Decision Maker?

Throughout most of my life, I made decisions based on one thing: how I felt in the moment.

Turned out to be a bad idea.

Back in my early twenties, when I was starting out as an advertising copywriter, I chose to work for an abusive jerk in one of the most notorious hack agencies in New York. It was the place that invented that American icon, Madge the Manicurist. And working there was hell.

At the same time, I ignored an invitation to interview with Ed McCabe, the grand circus master of creative boutique agencies. He was the guy every young writer wanted to work for. He was fun, engaging and swept every awards show. But I blew off his entreaty.

Why?
Because I had no idea what I was doing. Blithely, I assumed I should just go on instincts, so I made a very bad choice.

The bottom line was that I didn’t know how to ask for help. Nor did I even know I needed help.

At age 20, I thought I knew all the answers. “All ad agencies are alike,” I told myself, which couldn’t have been further from the truth. So I chose rashly, with no preparation.

Thirty-two years later, I discovered I was still making the same mistake. Fresh out of a 25-year marriage and newly out as a lesbian, I was in no mood for circumspection.  I dove headfirst into a love affair with an unstable person.

A month later I came to my senses and walked away – only to return to her a month later on an impulse. A friend at the time advised me against it.

“You’re scaring me,” he said. But I ignored him.

After all, I always knew the correct answer … right?

Wrong.

Only in the last several years have I learned to make decisions slowly and with a great deal of thought. The bigger the decision, the more thought goes into it. It feels like an act of Grace.

Conscious decision-making has taught me that I am not alone. That it’s best to get feedback from trusted friends. So I’ve come to think of these wonderful advisers as my personal ‘board of directors.’

Friends talked me off the cliff of compulsive overwork when it was time grieve my daughter’s death. Others advised me to walk away from a potential abusive relationship, and run towards the woman I was really suited to.

Still others kept me from snuffing out my pain with an impulse to buy a painting I couldn’t afford.

In the end, each choice I’ve made has always been mine. But I’ve learned to make them with eyes open and all the options on the table.

In this way, conscious decision-making has saved my bacon many times in recent years.

Here’s the part I really love: this Zen-like approach to decision making is fun. The pressure is off!

Especially when I regard each decision as an experiment – one that may work beautifully, or, instead, become a ‘learning experience.’

No longer must I be the swashbuckling hero of the moment, swooping in to make a big decision with no forethought or research. No longer must I save the day the way I used to as a child in an alcoholic family.

Instead, now I can take my own sweet time. I can decide when I’m damn good and ready, and not a moment sooner.

Not surprisingly, the woman I am now married to is a beautiful decision maker. She vets every choice thoroughly, turning it over from all angles. She’s not interested in seizing every opportunity, but instead, in exploring the potential downsides as well.

She takes her time, and she is teaching me to do so, too’.

At times, it’s still uncomfortable to peel myself away from a rash decision. The old buzz of pheromones and the thrill of the adrenal rush sometimes beckon.

But I stop to reflect before I choose. Because I know that on the other side is excellent self care, which is far more sustainable than the sugar rush of a fast choice.

Do I still honor my instincts? Absolutely. It’s just that now I know how to sit with them.

The world will not end tomorrow if we don’t act today. We can act in good time, slowly and consciously, and so enjoy the warm glow of satisfaction from a decision well made.

May you choose well and slowly.

If you like this conversation about how to avoid making knee-jerk reactions, you might love my latest podcast with Chel Hamilton. She has a lot to say about overcoming ‘knee-jerkery’.

The Value of a ‘Why Not’ List 

One of the big illusions about life is that somewhere out there … it’s better. Someone other than me is working harder, delighting more readers, and generally looking a lot hotter.

And so, presumably, they are on track to be the so-called winner. Maybe they even get to take home a big stuffed bear.

A part of our brain often gets fixated on how our lives should be … as opposed to how perfectly satisfying and wonderful they are right here and right now.

My friend Jon calls this sad habit ‘shoulding on yourself’.

As in ‘I should be working 50 hours weeks building my empire,’ or  ‘I should have a massive list by now’. And let’s not forget that perennial favorite, ‘I should be ten pounds thinner.’

If you’re like me, you slip into shoulding without even thinking about it. I notice I get particularly should-y when thinking about my work, no matter how much I’ve accomplished. And no matter what’s going on in my life.

I’m thinking about my wedding six months ago. These were the days of wine and roses! Yet my mind was squarely parked on how much work I could cram in before the guests start arriving … purely out of should-i-ness.

But was I actually getting it done? Not really. I was too distracted! I wanted to take a champagne bath, and try on my wedding ring fifteen more times. I want to call all the family and friends who were showing up for the big day.

I wanted to hold my love and look dreamily in her eyes.

Which I would have done … except for that taskmaster, Should, in my head. Silently, she tapped her stick against her hand.

Here’s the supreme irony of it all. We don’t actually get that much done when we are being all ‘shouldy’. We’re much more likely to really rock the results when we let go completely and honor what’s happening here and now.

Jon, who is a very wise soul, reminds me that even a state of inertia can be God’s will for us.

Think about that … even a state of inertia can be God’s will for us.

Wow.

After all, God’s not standing around, tapping a foot and impatiently waiting for results, right? We’re the ones who do that.

Instead, God, or the Universe, or Spirit (or whomever you recognize that great guiding Force to be), invites us all to let go and slide into the great slipstream of love. Here we flow from one task to the next, effortlessly.

Here we let go and surrender and find our way to whatever would feel right next.

So instead of a ‘To Do’ list, may I humbly suggest a ‘Why Not?’ list.
Why not take a walk and watch the clouds for as long as you want? For if you do, some inspiration will surely descend.

Why not call someone you love and tell them so. Then your heart will expand just a little more greatly.

Or why not take a chance and submit a story to that hot media outlet you’ve been craving because suddenly … it feels right?

That’s flow, baby. I highly recommend inviting it into your life.

When we get ball-and-chained to our To Do lists, there is no room for us to breathe. So we forget the very core of our aliveness. This is how we get so very, very tired. We can’t keep up, and the strategies we’ve invested our time, our money, and our belief in begin to crumble.

This is when the ‘shoulds’ begin in earnest. And rightly so because (gasp!) … we rall behind. And we know in our hearts we will never catch up.

This is how we wind up soundly parked in self-doubt.
Which is exactly where I was when I spoke to my friend Jon. I needed to hear him say that that there is no ‘there’ there. There really is nothing to push towards.
There is only the here and now, one beautiful day at a time.

May you join me in embracing what is, for all of its warts, bumps and obvious gaps. They, too, are God’s will … just as you are.

You have been given a sacred job of simply being, my friend. So the question remains: is that good enough for you?

Me? I say yes!

 

 

P.S.

Do you want to learn more about walking away from the to-do list? Listen to the latest episode of Before the Afterlife, How to Walk Away from the To-Do List – with Jen Riday

 

The Thirty-Minute Exercise That Helped Me Forgive and Forget

There are people in this life who make me weary.

You know who I mean — the lover who discarded me; the boss who denigrated me. Even the kids who relentlessly bullied me in grade school. For many years, there was an entire cast of characters in my psyche I thought I was done with.

Except that I wasn’t.

They still chimed in from time to time, simply as disembodied voices in my head. And why? Because again and again, I invited them in.

The truth is I longed to let them go. Fie on those bully kids and that impossible-to-please boss. And what about the toxic lover? I longed to get rid of her, too!

How I craved some much-needed space in my head. Once I had it, then all kinds of kind, lovely, nourishing things could grow in my mind instead.

So I decided to set these angry rants free.

A book I was reading at the time suggested it would be as simple as writing a letter to each person I was still resentful with. I would never send the letter, of course, but instead simply write it. And that alone would free up space in my heart.

Okay. Fair enough. At this point, it was three years after the toxic relationship, 31 years after the obnoxious boss, and 46 years after the bully kids … so why not let it all go? I’d had those negative voices in my head far too long already.

I sat down to write each person a letter and a very surprising thing happened. I began with my former lover, a person I felt had done me wrong in many ways. I really let it all hang out as I wrote.

Spiritual bypass was not allowed — I scrawled every last one of my petty, crude, pissy thoughts. I gnashed my teeth on paper. I told her exactly what I thought of her … and then half way down the page, the tone suddenly shifted.

All of the sudden a small awareness of my role in the relationship became clearer. I found myself writing, “Of course, I invited you into this dynamic by being a vacant, pliable victim … so we acted out our little drama just like actors in a play.”

Whoa. Really?

Yes, really. The fact was I was being so nakedly honest gave me no recourse but to be honest about my own responsibility, too. Did she mistreat me? Did she use me? Did she manipulate and control me?

Absolutely! And did I manipulate her right back?

I certainly did.

Every time I was silent and let my former lover abuse or control me, I fed our off-kilter dynamic. Every choice I made that didn’t serve me merely cemented the unhappy lockstep we both found ourselves stuck in.

As I continued to write my letter to her, I discovered what a great thing our break up was. It was actually a great relief when she dumped me. Now I could actually see how critical this relationship was to my personal growth.

As a direct result of that break-up, I found my way into work that helped me become humble again. I learned to live in a far healthier way and found a new, far deeper connection to God.

Out of this work, I also found the truly happy, deeply loving marriage I am now in.

Our greatest teachers often show up as irritants in the path – the rock around which we must flow. The bully kids taught me to protect my most sensitive self, and let her only be seen in ways that are safe and whole.

The obnoxious boss taught me how low my standards were, and how to aim higher with the next job I got – and then the next, and the next after that.

Again and again, life conspires to bring the very best teachers our way, whether we like them or not. I say our souls demand it – for how else can we really grow?

By finally telling the truth, I owned the entire picture of what had happened. Here was my safe forum to truly express myself, and so discover the lessons buried behind the grief. Now I found I truly was ready to let go of the hurt, the pain and the anger.  

At the end of the letter, I was filled with compassion, empathy and even gratitude for this remarkable woman I had once loved. I knew that part of me would even love her for years to come, whether or not we ever spoke again.  

I had been reborn — simply because of one small, thirty-minute exercise.

If you are carrying resentment towards anyone in your life or your past, why not lay your burden down? All that you will lose is the artificial crutch of your resentment.

There is an innate joy that awaits all of us. It lives on the other side of humility, honesty and willingness.

I invite you to write a letter of your own – a letter you never send. For, if nothing else, it will be a supreme act of self care.  
As it turns out, all this letting go of resentments is part of becoming truly happy. If you’d like to find your own innate happiness, listen to our new podcast with happiness expert Andrew Matthews.

 

 

 

 

The Healing Power of a Good Long Walk

It’s not about the dog.

Really.

I walk because my body tells me it’s time to move … and because I have a thousand things to think through. So I let the dog take me for a walk.

Walking is this wonderful movement that requires almost no thought, no particular skill, and really nothing more than a little time and some comfortable shoes. The very reliability of it makes it soothing.

Walking was an essential piece of my self-care when I was recovering from the loss of my daughter. In those raw days of grief, just the simple act of putting one foot in front of another saved me in some basic way. The promise of a walk got me up and out. So I emerged, blinking, into the sunlight.

At that point, even twenty minutes was a triumph.

But as my grief healed, I began to relax into this walking thing more and more. I found the feeling of the breeze on my face, and the dirty under my feet was consoling. There was something simple and real about it.

Unlike my forays to the gym, I didn’t have to look good. In fact, I cried a lot as I walked the trails at a local park, and no one seemed to mind a bit.

That’s when I discovered I needed to walk, even in the rain. And that’s when I discovered walking in the mud.

Now, walking in the mud is a particular pleasure all its own. You put on some big rubber boots and you just have at it. And if the mud is thick and gooey, or full of mud puddles, you can splash. You can slop. You make a great, big glorious mess, and it’s actually a lot of fun.

Then when you get back home, you leave your boots outside the front door, and you look down at your mud-spattered jeans, and you think, ‘I’ve done something today.’ Your heart beats with a little more vigor, your soul feels refreshed, and you enjoy the glow of accomplishment.


This is why I walk, in the rain and in the sun. The very reliability of the Earth to welcome me, comfort me, and provide a little interesting scenery as I go puts me back together.

Nothing is expected of me as I walk, and so I get ideas and find sudden inspirations. It’s like shaking hands with life again, every time.

And yes, the dog doesn’t mind one damn bit.

Want to know how your brain actually ‘cleans house’ when you take a walk or do any kind of exercise? There’s real science to this. I found out when I interviewed personal trainer Will Belew on my Before the Afterlife podcast … check it out here.

You can find this episode below, or subscribe with any podcast player.

Here are the links to iTunes and Google Play!

 

 

 

Self Care For Post Menopausal Women

An interesting thing I’ve noticed since I’ve been tangoing with menopause. Everything is different and I do mean everything. Even how I approach exercise and chocolate has changed.

I had to do a radical rewrite on my own self-care playbook. If you’re a woman of a certain age, perhaps you relate?

For one thing, I need copious amounts of self care now more than ever. And I don’t just mean the massages and the pedicures. I mean emotional self-care as well.

The good news is this level of self care actually works. I am happier, healthier and at far greater peace than any other time in my life.

Here are a few of my own road-tested self care favorites.

A dedicated spiritual practice. I used to think If I worked had enough, and pushed hard enough, I would get what I wanted. As I age, I now believe in the power of a guiding force more than ever, and BOY does that make my life flow with far greater joy and ease! The drama has literally disappeared. Like … completely.

I put my practice into motion in a regular way, every day. For me, this means sitting in meditation as soon as I wake up, and reciting a collection of beloved prayers. One is my own version of the metta prayer, from Buddhism.

May I be happy
May I know my true worth
May I know I am lovable
May I love and be loved with ease

Brain.fm. Focus is a bigger problem than it used to be. I’m not retired and still work quite happily, but sometimes my brain just refuses to play along. I get distracted. I forget stuff. I call a backpack a pancake. That kind of thing.

When I’m working, a web-based app called Brain.fm has been a huge help. There are tracks for sleep, relaxation and focus. I pull up the Focus track, plug in my headphones, and find myself able to work along happily, easily, getting much more done.

Brain.fm plays binaural beats behind your choice of ‘cinematic music’, chimes and bowls, or sounds in nature like thunderstorms or beach waves. EEG’s have shown the beats work as effectively as meditation. I agree! Click here for a really good coupon that makes an annual subscription quite reasonable.

Chiropractic, Physical Therapy … and podcasts. When the simple act of waking up in the morning started hurting, I turned to my trusty favorites, a good chiropractor and physical therapy. A regular routine of stretching immediately helped, and I was grateful. But then I was told I had to ‘keep it going’, essentially forever.

My inner child stamped her foot and rebelled. I stopped. Not surprisingly, I started waking up in pain again. Then I found podcasts … a glorious way to stay completely entertained for the chunk of time it takes to do my daily stretches and exercises. Now I feel limber, and I get to learn things at the same time.

Smart phones are a great way to listen to podcasts, and many come in with built in podcast apps. Here are instructions for listening on an iPhone … and for an Android device.  You can listen on a computer as well.

You may even want to listen to my own podcast, Before the AfterlifeIt’s about healing, spiritual guidance and how to be happy before you go.

Flax Seed oil every day. I used to have hot flashes until I started eating my salad every day with a dressing of flax seed oil, lemon and a bit of lemon pepper. Hot flashes be gone! It also does some very nice things for your digestion. Buy your flax seed oil at a health food store, or a good grocery store. It comes packaged in an opaque or dark glass bottle, and must be kept refrigerated. You only need a few teaspoons mixed up fresh every day.

Note — I also sprinkle ground flax seed on my yogurt every morning. It has lignans, which have plant estrogen and antioxidants, and are just plain great for you.

MinChex. One thing I noticed as I hit menopause is that my ambition has completely changed. As I went through a sweeping life transition, I lost interest in a ‘million dollar business’. Now I want lasting love, peace, serenity, authentic work and ease.

And yeah, I still have to get things done. So in order to get a bit fired up, yet remain balanced and serene, I’ve been taking a supplement from Standard Process called MinChex.  It helps support the nervous system, so you can move through your day efficiently, yet without stress. PLEASE NOTE: You must order these through a chiropractor or other health provider.

Superfood Smoothies. One of the great joys of my day is having a ‘milkshake’ made entirely of fruit, veggies, superfoods, and things like coconut milk and coconut water. The twist is I get my recipes from a fantastic cookbook that makes the smoothies taste absolutely delicious – even the green ones, which become very indulgent flavors like Mint Chip. If you avoid sugar, these can become your daily treat. And if you’re like me, you MUST have your treat. It’s sacred!

Limiting alcohol. This suggestion may not be popular to those who love their nightly Chardonnay as much as I did at the end of my first marriage. But there actually is a whole new world on the other side of the nightly cocktail. It includes increased vim and vigor, better sleep and fewer pounds.

It can be a push to get there even if you consider yourself a casual ‘just a glass each night’ drinker, but honestly, the rewards are so worth it. Try it for a month. You may find, like me, that you simply lose interest. I have now found my happy medium in one or two good glasses of wine per week.

Regular ‘me’ time. Even though I recently remarried, I still need my glorious pockets of time alone. Every morning I sit in my own little inner sanctum and tune in to me. What do I need today? Will this be a day to swim or take a hike? Which friend am I feeling moved to call? What issue do I need to call my Congress-people about? And what about that weird dream I had last night? All of it gets addressed when I sit with myself. Journaling figures in, and creative list making, too.

Yeah, I’ve always needed this. But somehow, earlier in life when I was rearing kids and working outside the home, that need receded. Happily … it’s back!

A good night’s sleep. Sounds impossible, right? I know! But lately, my sleep has been coming back. I attribute a lot of that to a wonderful little book I read called ‘Say Good Night to Insomnia‘ by Gregg D. Jacobs. I read this book a few years ago, and had to work with its various suggestions to figure out what worked and what didn’t. My top suggestions are keeping a sleep log, and using Sleep Restraint to retrain your bio-clock. Read my much more extensive blog post on this — 12 Great Drug-Free Solutions to Insomnia.

These are just a few ideas to get you started crafting your own Menopausal Self Care Plan. And do please let me know a few of your own favorite menopausal self-care goodies in the comments below.

Thanks, as ever, for being a part of my life.

How To Stay Calm in the Trump Era

teddy bear on roadI didn’t vote for Donald Trump and I’m scared. I feel vulnerable and shaky … and really uncertain what the future brings. Some days I can barely work because I’m so distracted and worried.

And yet … this is the chaos that often happens before a very big shift in the public consciousness. It’s the breakdown before the breakthrough. But in the meanwhile …

Here are some things we can do to stay calm and be more effective as the chaos unfolds.

We owe it to ourselves and … really, at this point, we owe it to the world at large.

  1. First, go on a news diet. Pull away from the steady, alarming, adrenaline pumping news. Put down the Times app. Turn off the TV. Remember much of the media is on repetitive 12 hour cycles, so once you’ve got the basic news for the day, you can turn away. The world will still go on. Your central nervous system will thank you for it.
  2. Show up and protest. Don’t march because it will necessarily make a Washington sit up and take notice (though reports are that Congress has begun to pay attention.) Do it because it will give you a feeling of control.Actively protesting makes you feel remarkably better. You stop feeling so alone, and you get inspired. Put on your pink hat and march, loudly and often.
  3. Feel your grief and fear. Have you had a good cry yet? Listen … you deserve it. We all do. Let yourself cry and an amazing wave of relief and peace will follow. If Chuck Schumer can do it, so can you.
  4. Remember that every four years there is an election in the US. The current state of duress many of us feel is only going to last so long. Trump can be voted out just like he got voted in. In the end this is a democracy in the US … and so far, it’s been working for more than 240 years.
  5. Think of this as the division before the healing. Nothing brings people together like chaos and stress. Remember the aftermath of 9-11. And take note of the fact that Democrats and Republicans have, together, been doing clean up on Trump’s missteps with foreign leaders. That, alone, is a small miracle. The more our internal conflicts escalate, the more opportunity there is for us to come together.
  6. Meditate … and do a little yoga, too. 5000 years of global practice say they work. Even scientists agree the combo reduces worry, doubt, and increases overall happiness. Consider this an excellent time to begin … even five minutes a day of sitting quietly with eyes closed will help.
  7. Give money to causes directly affected by new policies. Citizen action has proven at times to be more effective than government policy. Give to Planned Parenthood, the Southern Poverty Law Center, The Sierra Club, and other conservation organizations. Join the more than 335,300 people who joined the ACLU in the last week – and donated more than 24 million dollars. Even making a small contribution per month will increase your sense of well-being.
  8. Sign online petitions and letters. SumOfUs.org, MoveOn.org, The Daily Kos and others make it one-click simple to lodge a protest with your elected officials. Getting on the email lists of these organizations will put almost daily petitions into your inbox that you can sign with a simple click. Calling Congress has been proven to be even more effective – and so you will feel that much better after you do. Simply dial 202-224-3121. Here are some handy instructions.
  9. Sleep with a bear. Call it primal … but a teddy bear makes you feel ever so much better. It really will.

Don’t worry, keep breathing. Not only are will the US get through this … we’re going to be a more respectful, awake, conscious country. One that ultimately will prove worthy of respect.

Feel free to add ideas of your own below. After all, we’re all in this together!

The Eight Secrets of Emotional Self-Care

item-img1You hear a lot about self care out there – the massages, the meditation apps, the healthy walks. The apple a day.

But what about your emotional life? How do you live so your emotions generate less stress and more happiness?

Here are eight simple guidelines I find invaluable as I focus more and more on my own self care. May they serve you well …

1. Honor your emotions. Feel them, listen to them and let them naturally cycle through you. This is one of the wonders of the human organism. We are designed to constantly cleanse our psyches by allowing our emotions to move through us. But first, we have to allow them to do that.

Delaying, ignoring or ‘stuffing’ your feelings does no one any good. (P.S. This does not mean going off and dumping those emotions on someone else, willy-nilly. See # 3 below.)

Reminder: your anger and your fear are here to protect you. So let them do their job.

2. Realize it’s all about you and your mother. We are always processing emotional sludge, most of which we think has nothing to do with us. But actually, all of it has to do with us — and the gigantic filters we have that constantly trigger memories from our past.

When something challenging or even joyful happens, these memories pour through our subconscious. They can make us euphoric, just as they can render us mute with anger when, say, someone snaps at us.

Believe it or not, that oversized, white-hot rage you feel when a car cuts you off is a flicker from your past, albeit a strong one.
You can tell you’re triggered because the event usually does not warrant the huge reaction you have.

Good self-care means gently reminding yourself you are triggered. Then allow your feelings to flow in the quiet of your own private space, until eventually they resolve.

3. Become humble. It’s hard to be a humble human, and yet, when you are, you set yourself free. Humility means you don’t need to be perfect … nor do you need to be right.

In fact, you don’t have to be anything other than just good old you, as you are, right here and right now.

Humility also means everyone else gets to be the equally flawed creatures they are, as you remember we are all in this together.

Ironically, humility insists you give yourself the self-care you need first, so you can then turn your eyes in service to the rest of the world. It means listening with curiosity, then learning.

Always … we are learning as we go.

4. Know (and express) your boundaries. Being clear on your boundaries and setting them in a kind way is a great life skill.
Sometimes we don’t get to do that as kids, so we are learning now as adults. Which is great!

The key is to honor our emotions (see #1 above) and then find the courage to speak up kindly. Requests work well here.

If you feel shy about this, keep this in mind. People often appreciate it when you are clear about your boundaries. Then they don’t have to awkwardly wonder, guess and try to accommodate you anyway.

5. Own your own stuff … and nothing more. Good emotional self-care would include only being responsible for ‘your side of the street’. Take note if you come from an abused background, and you tend to say you’re sorry a lot.

You don’t have to apologize to someone who dumps on you for no good reason, any more than you have to apologize for inclement weather.

That would be someone else’s business … not yours.

By the same token, always be honest when conflicts happen. So if you actually do need to make an apology, you do so.

This is how you find your way back to true ease and freedom –- which is the heart of emotional self-care.

6. Forgive and set yourself free. That sticky pile of resentments you’ve been carrying around is a massive energy suck. Within those upsets is usually a piece of you, also waiting to be forgiven.

The fact is that conflicts are seldom one sided. It takes two people to make a snit. But once your issue forgiveness yourself and the other person … and you own your own part as well … your heart can relax. And your soul can breathe once more.

7. Stay out of harm’s way. Your emotions are always on, like finely tuned radar, reading the people and places all around you, scanning for safety.

So it’s worth noticing when you find yourself feeling a bit uncomfortable or even mildly frightened by someone else, or the place you are in. That’s when you may need to leave. Or, if you can’t, simply pull down your ‘invisible shield’. That would be your inner protective armor, which is always at the ready waiting to help.

Also bear in mind that you can still love someone, and even respect them, though you may not want to spend much time with them. (I’m thinking of difficult family members here.)

Above all, be true to yourself. Your guidance system is on for a reason.

8. Be patient with yourself. Did you know that you are a work in progress until the day you die? But then, isn’t the point of life to learn, evolve and grow?

That means you won’t ‘get it right’ the first time, or maybe even the fiftieth. But you might just do it the fifty-first time.

Here is to your tender heart.

If you serve her well, she will most abundantly serve you.

12 Great Drug Free Solutions for Insomnia

older-woman-with-sleeping-mask-350I have had chronic insomnia for nearly five years. It was triggered by an unstable relationship followed by the sudden death of my daughter, both of which collided with menopause.

OB/GYN’s say insomnia is the most common complaint of the menopausal women they treat. They also report chronic insomnia can be set off by intense PTSD and grief. Only now, after several years, am I starting to get more and more consistent good sleep.

Here’s what my insomnia looks like. I wake up three to four hours after I fall asleep. I’m so wide awake I could play a hand of cards, compose a business letter, or go organize my closets. It takes hours to fall back to sleep.

I’ve tried nearly every remedy and read every book out there, some of which work better than others. I even took a seminar for health professionals about insomnia and the ‘over stimulated brain’.

I’m not one to turn to sleeping pills, sedatives or even medical marijuana as they only mask the problem. Once you stop taking them, your insomnia is still there … waiting patiently for you.

To that end, here’s the drug-free list of alternatives that have worked for me so far.

1. F.Lux. Mounting evidence says the blue light from phone and computer screens can keep you awake. The light tricks the brain into thinking it’s daytime, even when it’s not. However the F.Lux app automatically removes the blue light from your phone, computer or other iOS device on a schedule that you set. This actually works! (And it’s free for Mac users.)

2. No simple carbs at night. Simple carbs like cookies, candy, cereal, potatoes, white bread and baked goods can wake you up in the middle of the night when consumed in the afternoon or evening. “Reverse meals,” advised one doctor. Eat a big lunch and just some light protein and veggies, soup or fruit for dinner.

3. Keep a sleep log at night. This helps you track just how your behavior affects your sleep. Make columns for date & sleep percentage, time to bed, time you fell asleep, number of times you woke, total time awake, final time awake, time you got out of bed, and quality of sleep from 1 to 5. At the end leave a column for notes on what varied from day to day.

Update your sleep log each morning. Then calculate this:

# of minutes slept ÷ # of minutes in bed

Keep your log for a while, then track that sleep percentage each day relative to how your behavior varies. When you get at least five days of sleep over 90% you’ll know what’s working.

4. Create a dark cozy sanctuary with an eye pillow. Removing light pollution from your bedroom is often a key to a good night’s sleep. The best way I’ve found is with a small silk bag that’s like a beanbag filled with flax seeds. Eye pillows lay across your eyes keeping the light out from, say, a partner who likes to read after you go to sleep, or light pollution from the street.

5. Write down your worries. Keep a worry log and you’ll find out just how worried you actually are. If you write these thoughts down at dinnertime and put them away, you will naturally move them through your brain more easily at night. It also helps to schedule a time when you will resolve some of these concerns.

6. Exercise daily. Even a 20-minute walk can help … but don’t work out just before bed. I find exercise takes the edge off of my natural anxiety and helps me chill out. Then I’m truly tired by bedtime.

7. Avoid alcohol. Yeah, we all know this one … personally I find it very true that when I have a glass of wine it will revisit me in the middle of the night and mess with my sleep.

8. Eliminate caffeine completely. One M.D. told me that we become more sensitive to caffeine as we get into mid-life. Furthermore, caffeine has been found to have a ‘half life’ that stays in your body an average of 5.7 hours after the buzz is gone. Certain genetic variants can keep the buzz going far longer so you sleep far more fitfully.

9. Take ground flax seed and flax seed oil for hot flashes. I avoid hot flashes most of the time by avoiding sugar. If I do, I double up on ground flax seed in yogurt. I also use a nice salad dressing of meyer lemon juice, lemon pepper and flax seed oil at lunch.

10. Keep your window open at night and use ear plugs if you need to. Simple but true. The body rests more deeply if slightly chilled. If you have ambient noise outside, silicone ear plugs are actually very effective.

11. Practice sleep restraint and keep a consistent sleep schedule. This is the single most effective remedy I have found for my insomnia. By keeping a sleep log (see #3) you will come to learn how much sleep you actually need to feel good. (Note: By mid-life, most of us tend to need less sleep than when we were younger. The average for people over 50 is actually 6.5 hours.)

Sleep restraint is modifying how long you stay in bed each night. It means getting up within three minutes of naturally waking up … whether you want to or not. So if you go to bed at 10AM and you wake up at 5:30 of 6AM, you get up, turn on the lights and start your day instead of rolling over. By the same turn keep yourself awake at night until your consistent bedtime arrives. If you have trouble staying awake, go for a brief walk. This will be uncomfortable at first but give it a few days and your body will adjust — and you’ll begin to stay more consistently.

Much of good sleep has to do with learned habit and association. So this teaches the body to use more of its time in bed actually sleeping.

12. The Relaxation Response. When my mind is racing in the middle of the night, I lie in bed and use Herbert Benson’s ‘Relaxation Response’. It’s basically a way to methodically calm the mind and relax the body. And it’s often the last thing I remember when trying to fall back to sleep.

May you find something helpful here in your quest for a good night’s sleep. I’d love to hear what has worked for you, so please leave any thoughts in a comment below. Thanks.

Why Is It So Difficult to Know What You Want?

woman standing by gauzy curtainsIt is said that the greatest guide to living a prosperous, happy life of love is to listen to your heart.

Just follow its guidance and you’ll be all set. At least that is the conventional wisdom that drives us to eschew the ordinary life and set off on the road less traveled.

And yet … there seems to be a design flaw.

I don’t know about you, but I have one hell of a time hearing my heart. I know its wisdom is back there somewhere. But it’s lodged behind the ranting of my incessant, worried mind, a million to-do’s, and a cacophony of mid-life emotions.

It’s also buried behind the subtle over-layer of apps, texts, emails, phone calls, appointments, traffic jams, calories, doctor appointments, instant messages, chats, whether to eat chocolate or not, and the frenetic microcosm of social media.

Bottom line: I can’t frigging hear my heart!

And yet … I know if I just stop and listen, like really stop and listen, I can hear it.

The fact is I don’t want to listen.

My heart will tell me that my constant ‘doing’ must end. That I must be willing to let go and hang out with the mystery of life for a while. If I really want to feel my feelings, I must stop being so busy-busy-busy.

My heart will say that far more urgent than anything on my ‘must do’ list is my own – our own – continued healing.

Many of us are all in a state of subtle emergency most of the time. But we proceed as if this is the human condition. And yet … it’s not.

Underneath all the furor of modern life, we are calmly rational. Furthermore, we know exactly what to do at any given moment. In fact, our nervous system is always ready to chime in with its intuitive hit to set us straight. But really … we just can’t bear to hear it.

Then change might be required. Change for which we feel ill prepared. Change that might lead us to failure.

At least that’s what the ego thinks in its protective, if misguided way.

So it is that we hang out there in vagueness … longing for something but unable to say exactly what.

So I have been quietly learning that I have no choice. If I want to be happy, I have to follow the directions of my heart whether I like it or not. Really, my heart’s the only sane driver on board.

Because when I slow down long enough to listen, life calms down. Then my faith returns and I remember I’m not alone. Instantly, I feel stronger, wiser. And somehow, I know what to do.

Bear in mind this: your heart will not ever try to set you off course. Nor will your heart ever try to hurt another. Instead, it only wants to lovingly steer you onward to become your best, every day.

That’s all that happens when you make enough time, and create enough peace, to finally listen.

What is your heart trying to tell you today that you may be avoiding?

How to Keep the Faith When All Hell is Breaking Loose

For a seed to achieve its greatest expression, it must come completely undone. The shell cracks, its insides come out and everything changes. To someone who doesn’t understand growth, it would look like complete destruction.

               – Cynthia Occelli

seed breakDo you know this place of complete surrender? Life happens and you are swept along with it. You stand in the wind and feel nothing beneath your feet as you are buffeted here and there. Yet … if you look … you will find there is something beneath your feet.

That something is belief. — you know it in your heart . As the wind rattles everything around you, you distantly recall platitudes about ‘this too will pass’ and windows closing and doors opening.

But belief’s a slippery bugger, and it’s so hard to hang in there when life seems to threaten your very existence.

Here are some things you can do to keep the faith while your own seed is breaking open.

  1. Remember that nothing is permanent. Whatever is happening right now really will pass. In a year’s time it will be a memory, perhaps sooner. And with that remembering comes perspective. Right now is possibly the worst this experience will feel.
  1. You might as well embrace reality. Trying to duck it is basically like trying to swim upstream against an impossible current. You will eventually get pushed back to that inevitable truth. So make life easy in the end by opening that letter, making that phone call, having that conversation now. Then just let the chips to fall where they may – no matter how painful. By honoring the flow of life, you will ultimately be rewarded.
  1. Enjoy what there is to be enjoyed. There will be strange little flickers of joy (and even big ones) along the way. They are Spirit’s way of saying, ‘It’s OK, you can take a break from all of this heaviness.” I saw it all around me in that terrible week that my daughter lay dying in the hospital. At the time I couldn’t understand the joy, but now I do. There is divinity even in great pain and loss. By recognizing it and even savoring it, you give your heart a little relief.
  1. Take time for yourself. Whatever is challenging you, you can allow space and time to comfort yourself. You must if you are ever to get to the gold buried deep within the fire. (Did I mention there is gold there?) Take a walk, write in a journal, listen to soothing music, read something comforting. Close the door on the rest of the world and allow yourself to actively feel what you need to feel. Then breathe, and know in the end everything’s going to be okay. This is where the magic healing happens.
  1. Ask Spirit to show you the way. Know that this, too, is part of the divine plan, no matter how heinous or difficult your circumstance. Who said life was meant to be easy and free all the time? Where would the growth be if it was? Above all know that God has your back, now and forever, and nothing that happens is without reason. Whenever you need to understand more, or get more guidance, simply ask. The answer is there.
  1. Create a bed of support. No one says you have to cross the desert alone. It wouldn’t be in your best interest to suffer excessively. So ask for help. Call a trusted friend or five. Reach out to family. Find a good therapist. Go to a support group, like  hospice grief groups, or even 12 Step recovery groups. These are people you can learn from and support, in turn. People understand and they genuinely want to help you. They really do.
  1. Trust the process. You may feel excruciatingly alone. You may feel like you are so lost you will never recover … But here’s the thing. This is all happening for a reason, and you will never be the same again. So allow the magic of life to do its work and set you free. Your soul will thank you for it, and you will emerge stronger and better for it. You really will.

How do I know this? I was given this truth after my own seed exploded into the Universe with nary a trace left behind. It is only in complete surrender that you can know the most profound joy.

Believe it or not, there is magic here, friend. But you must let go to let it in. And so it is.

What the LGBT Murders in Orlando Taught Me About Love

Rachel & SVF. Pride 2015For the first time in my adult life, I feel scared – and at the same time defiant and even joyful – about who I am.

I am a lesbian who did not come out until age 52. So I lived my first half century as a content member of the mainstream straight world, complete with husband and kids. I felt safe, a little smug, and protected by society.

Now, in the wake of the horrific mass shootings in Orlando targeted at the gay community, that security has been shot to hell. I feel my vulnerability like never before.

Just as so many generations of LGBT people have before me.

Yet, just as dark is always followed by light, I feel my courage, my resilience and my spirit rise up. Just like all my gay brothers and sisters who lived and died before me.

This is what LGBT Pride is all about.

Here, on the edges of social norms, we live and love more intensely than we ever could have in the straight world. We do this because we need to. And because it’s our right.

Every time I walk down a street, holding the hand of my fiancée, I still feel a small swell of the pure joy of being out, proud and uniquely me. Even after six years as a lesbian.

I hope I always will.

Those who would call us infidels and push us from tall buildings, or walk into night clubs and gun us down in cold blood, or even pass laws barring us from bathrooms, have forgotten something.

Because we are outliers – the so called ’10 percent’ – we have gotten very, very strong. And we have built a community that is like a force field.

At this point, after Stonewall, the murders of Harvey Milk, Brandon Teena, and Matthew Shepherd, decades of AIDS and HIV, and hate crime after hate crime, it would have to be.

Not only is the community incredibly creative and resourceful, it’s rock solid. And it will not quit.

Ever.

My fiancée tells me stories about what it was like when marriage was legal, then it wasn’t, then it was, then it wasn’t in California. It was a situation that wreaked havoc. Still the community pressed on, until the Supreme Court’s historic decision came down legalizing same sex marriage in the U.S..

When my beloved and I marry in October, we will joyfully celebrate not only the joining of our lives – we will stand up for all people everywhere who honor their personal bliss.

No matter how unique. And no matter how potentially dangerous.

We will also remember the 49 victims who died and the 53 who were wounded in Orlando, just because they were dancing, enjoying life and honoring who they were.

In the end, only one thing is certain.

You can’t kill love.

 

Is Letting Go the Key to Happiness? (Absolutely!)

releasing flower petalsQuestion: what do you long for, dear friend?

What, in your heart of hearts, do you know you could have if only …

If only, what? You won the lottery? You had more time because you didn’t have this %$%#$&amp**
[INSERT PERSON, PLACE OR THING] that holds you back?

If so, then it could be time to surrender — but only if you are willing to let go. (And I do mean completely.)

Here’s the catch.

Innate to the human condition is a certain level of suffering that is just … there. We somehow have it wired up that we must suffer on some level. Perhaps people were not kind to us when we were young and we think we deserve a certain amount of pain. Or perhaps we made a karmic decision before we entered this life that we would have all sorts of lessons, usually delivered through harshness.

Whatever the case may be, we are mere babes as we move through this life and subject ourselves to a huge amount of suffering. Yes, we think we are all powerful, wielding credit cards, cell phones, tight schedules and big demands. Yet behind all of that posturing is our fear.

We are afraid that our suffering will catch up with us. That we will lose our steely grip on control and be brought to our knees by circumstance. Or that we will lose everything, and so we will crumble to the ground and die.

What we don’t see is that when we have nothing, when we finally let go and fall apart, then we are finally free.

In that moment, we become surrendered enough to acknowledge the truth – that all of this resistance and suffering we’ve cooked up is unnecessary. We start to see that we can have anything we want … if only we will allow ourselves to trust the Universe to bring it our way.

Ranier Maria Rilke wrote: “Will is of little importance, complaining is nothing, fame is nothing. Openness, patience, receptivity, solitude is everything.”

If we can allow ourselves to relax into that receptivity and stop the incessant striving and pushing, then life can finally, truly turn our way. Perhaps for you that critical surrender means losing a treasured client or contract you’d wanted forever. Without that guaranteed source of income you think you will never make it. You believe you will simply dissolve, and cease to be the glorious You
you keep trying to be.

Ah, but friend, what if …

What if the real You is actually waiting behind all the letting go and the chaos? What if the Universe has something even better prepared for you? Can you let go and surrender into that infinite possibility? This is when your heart opens, your love for the world expands and you are finally set free.

When I gave up my 23-year marriage, my big showcase home, my identity as a nice straight lady, and then, subsequently, the woman I thought was the love of my life, I began to surrender and truly fall apart.

For a while I roamed around, staying with friends here and there, not sure exactly what to do. And then, incredibly, my daughter suddenly died. And so, in a curious way, I was reborn. Now my life has finally come into an amazing alignment in which every day I feel more confident, more powerful and stronger than ever before.

And all I had to do was let go. Completely.

There is something unexpected and sweet about this state of non-attachment. The usual supports are gone; unusual taboos are being lived. And in the chaos you realize you are made of unique and beautiful stuff. Above all, you discover you are loved and supported in ways you’d never imagined.

For in that ultimate moment of self-reliance, devoid of all your usual props, you can finally know what you are made of. And what you are made of is love. You are not your judgments, your hurts or your long list of to-do’s. Nor are you your self-criticisms and your relentless drive for perfection.

No, dear friend, you are nothing more than your big, beating heart. The degree to which you can know and live this love is the degree to which you will set sail and honor the path you have been given.

There is no valor in holding back in the name of practicality. Do that thing you have been given to do in the small of your heart – the one that propels you forward with an ‘if only …’. That is where the magic is.

If it means some carefully constructed structures must dissolve as you face your worst fears, then so be it. On the other side of all that loss is simply freedom.

You will survive – and, in fact, you will thrive; I can promise you that. That dream of yours is like a great beam of love waiting to pour out into the world and light your path as it lights others. And in that divine consciousness is all the magic and power in the world.

Why resist, dear friend? Why not just dissolve? For I can tell you right now with a smile and an arm around your shoulders: Not only do you deserve it … we all do.

We truly do long for your gifts.

So will you just surrender?

 

Healing Grief With a Memorial on Wheels

IMG_0359In the last four years, I have learned a lot about how to process grief.

You know grief.

It’s that terrible, black sadness after loss that consumes us when we let it. It’s also the reason so many of us drink, shop, drug, and chew ourselves into oblivion.

We think we can’t handle our grief – so we do anything to avoid it.

I say we can handle our grief; that we’re biologically wired to process it. My proof is that unprocessed grief sticks around. Our grief is always back there, simmering in the background, until the fateful day we finally take it on and deal with it.

There are things we can do. Studies indicate creating an altar, memorial or shrine is one of the best ways – even for a loss that happened years earlier.

I know I’ve found this a tremendous comfort since Teal’s death. In her memory, I turned my Teal-colored car into a moving altar.

Tealster plateI bought the car six months before my daughter died. The first time I drove her around in it, I proposed we call it ‘The Tealster’ – her nickname from childhood, long since outgrown. “Great idea!” she said with a laugh. “Then you won’t call me that anymore.”

My Teal Memorial on Wheels just naturally happened after her death. The first thing I did was put a sticker on the back window; it’s of the Hindu goddess White Tara, who symbolizes sensitivity . Teal was tremendously sensitive and a lover of all things relating to Goddesses, so it seemed a good fit.

Then I had a license plate made that said ‘TEALSTR’.

People often think it means ‘Teal Star’ – and I don’t disagree when they ask about it. I simply tell them about Teal and what an angelic, thoughtful, compassionate presence she was.

Worded on the license plate holder was a phrase she received in meditation one day: ‘Give Fearlessly and You Shall Never Want.’

A tiny tray of origami stars in varying shades of teal fills part of the console. And on the dashboard is my ‘Goddess of the Month’ – currently Lakshmi, goddess of prosperity and abundance. Though the Hindu goddesses were new to me when she died, I have studied them extensively since her death. It’s a way to stay connected to all things Teal.dashboard Lakshmi

Not surprisingly, I often feel her around me when I drive. So much so that driving has become a critical part of my healing.

For the first two years after her death, I always had a box of tissues in the front seat, and I cried freely as I drove. As I felt Teal’s energy swirling all around me, I allowed myself to surrender to life as it is, in spite of the pain.

And so I learned that grief is not to be feared, but is simply the way back to a whole and healthy life.

Lately, I’ve been thinking I will buy a new car – not immediately, but pretty soon. I take this as a sign that my heart has healed a great deal. For sure, my life is the happiest it has ever been, even after the worst loss imaginable.

Perhaps this is why. For by allowing myself to have this little sanctuary on wheels – one I was sure to visit at least once every day – I allowed myself to literally sit with my daughter’s memory for many, many hours. So I could embrace my grief and cry for all I was worth (and yes, I pulled over a lot when crying on the road.)

If you’re struggling with someone or something you have lost, I recommend creating a mobile altar on wheels that allows you to get the peace, and privacy, you may need to really let go. Drive to the beach, a park or a favorite place, and bring your memories along for the ride. If you need to pull over to cry in peace, do it.

Give yourself all the time in the world to  enter that most sacred of spaces – your emotions. In letting go you will embrace what is, and so find your way back to peace.

Namaste.

PS. Want to talk to me live about altars, grieving and such? I’ll be on Facebook Live, Tuesday, March 22 at 10AM PT/1PM ET. You can find me on my profile page — A recording will also be posted on my fan page. See ya there!