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Answering YOUR Questions!

I’ve got an exciting update! I read each and every comment, email, and question. However, don’t always have time to respond back to them all. To make things more efficient, I’m going to start answering your questions in my videos!

To Everyone Who “Can’t Meditate”

Mindfulness and meditation have been a big part of my life for several years now. I’m always happy to share with people how helpful meditation is for me.

Unfortunately almost everyone I talk to about meditation “can’t meditate”.

“I wish I could meditate. My mind isn’t made for that!” or “I can’t stand being still”, a few of the most common excuses why people tell me they “can’t meditate”.

People assume meditation was always easy for me, while in reality, nothing could be further from the truth.

I started meditation because of a deep internal need for change.

My twenty-fifth birthday was coming at me like an out of control locomotive with a sleeping driver. The number made me uneasy and it was coming too fast. Like a doe, hypnotized by the headlights, I felt helpless to stop it.

Something was wrong, missing, empty and completely inexpressible. I’d been searching my entire life for something. . . peace, stillness, answers, meaning maybe?

In my mid to early twenties, I was very out of touch with my own feelings and emotions.

At first, my meditations were distracted, plagued with racing, unwanted, thoughts. When the goal was to count to five without allowing your mind to wander off, sometimes I only got to two or three before starting over, and over, and over.

It was hard, but as I kept on it things got easier.

Finally, with Buddhism, I was beginning to unlock the tools needed to understand and shape my own mind. Somedays progress crawled along at what felt like a snail’s pace, but every week as I continued to practice it got easier.

As I’ve grown older and incorporated mindfulness into my life over the years, things have greatly improved. I still meditate every day but the way I meditate has changed.

I meditate all the time. At times I may meditate for only a few minutes or seconds, whenever I need to calm and relax my mind, think more clearly, or gather the words for an important conversation.

Meditation has become the tool that I use to recalibrate my brain. Sitting tall I close my eyes and bow my head as I take in a deep, slow breath. As I breathe in I focus on the feelings of my feet on the ground or my butt in a chair (depending on where I am).

As my lungs expand I shift my focus to the feelings of my breath. With eyes closed, I listen and feel, asking myself – “what’s happening now?” Depending on available time I may stay for a while, eyes closed, nose pointed at the floor.

This micro-meditations can be as quick as a few breaths. I’ve even learned to meditate with my eyes open, although I wonder if I have a blank stare when I do this.

I take the time that I need and if I get flustered I remind myself not to rush, gently whispering in my own ear “relax, stay in the present”.

Every day I am needing to remind myself less and less, thanks to a very conscious choice I made years ago to change my life.

Dear people who “can’t meditate” – keep trying.

Life Before Mindfulness – The Best Things Come From Hard Work

Reflecting back upon my life before mindfulness, I am always amazed at how far I’ve come despite life’s constant reminders that my practice is always in need of some work.

Having the mind of a student is a virtue. It allows you to be open to new information. I pray I never allow myself to lose my sense of wonder and curiosity about the world. Worst of all would be to become someone who thinks they know everything.

The truth is constantly changing because our world and our understanding of it is always evolving. (Yes, I am also a lover of science.)

When we think we know everything we become blind to new truths as they appear before us. Too many people close off their minds. This is a huge part of what is wrong in the world.

All the most rewarding things in life require patience and hard work.

Like many people I can be very focused when working on a project that I enjoy. When an idea is in my head I won’t stop even when things seem to move at a snail’s pace. Persistence, baby steps, some things take years. The best things are worth every minute.

It’s always easier to work on or study something that interests you. Mindfulness, yoga, and then Buddhism had me hooked like nothing else. As I studied I tried to incorporate more and more of the techniques listed out in the Buddhist texts into my days.

I’m not sure what sparked the decision to start adding these mental practices to my life. At the time I had no idea if any of it would even work. It was a leap of faith. Inside I knew I needed something. I loved Buddhism. Maybe this was it?

As I mentioned earlier some things can be so gradual that you don’t notice them until you catch a glimpse of your life in the rearview mirror – only looking back over the entire distance you can see how far you’ve come.

There are a lot of lists in Buddhism and I really love lists. Checklists, keep me organized. Skills I want to learn, things I need to do, what to buy at the store. They are everywhere in my life and keep me on top pf my game.

I approached my new goals like a “better human checklist”.

Memorizing new routines and habits takes time. Having reminders in front of you can be a great tool when trying to keep things on your mind.

The hardest thing to conquer (and I am always working on this) was my mouth. I’m generally a pretty straightforward person who prefers direct communication. I also have a strange sense of humor. As a teenager, these traits were always getting me into trouble.

When in doubt listening quietly always seems to be a great option. Listening opens a doorway for knowledge and gives me something to do when I’m not sure what to say.

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“Mind whirling like a washing machine, carelessly flinging thoughts and words around endlessly like dirty socks. It was all such a mess before mindfulness.”

I’m shocked as I flip back through the pages of my book. Five years ago, ten years ago, back, and back. Mind whirling like a washing machine, carelessly flinging thoughts and words around endlessly like dirty socks. It was all such a mess before mindfulness.

Seeing that improvement fuels my desire to learn more. I’ve  discovered a beautiful place while on my journey and never want to go back to a life without mindfulness.

 

The Stories We Tell – The Legacies We Leave Behind

Whether you know it or not you are writing a book.

We all tell stories; if not in the text and in words than we tell them with our actions. The things we do in life are the legacies that we leave behind. Choices we make become our influence on the world even after we’re gone (especially now in the digital age where people argue freely online).

It is easy to be careless but it is essential that we exercise caution over our actions. The person you choose to be in life is a book you write. What will be written on the pages of your life?

What inheritance will you leave the earth? Will you leave it better than you found it? Will you make your story a gift to the world – or will you be a curse? How do your actions impact those around you and those you never see?

When you toss the soda can rings in the ocean you may never see the animal tangled as a result. You may not see the agony of your dog on the days you spend too many hours at work. Often our actions have consequences that we are completely unaware of.

Sometimes we are fortunate enough to experience our bad decisions first hand. These times we are lucky because we have the opportunity to learn from our mistakes – if we so choose to.

Life is full of choices. Good one’s bad ones. Unfortunately, it is easier for people to remember your bad choices over the good ones.

Those of us who would rather be remembered for our good deeds over the bad ones have our work cut out for us. We must work extra hard to be mindful of our actions so that we can more efficiently manage our time.

Cleaning up our mistakes is much more work than avoiding them, to begin with – learning lessons, working not to repeat our failures, trying our best to do as little harm as possible, but there can be no balance unless you give something positive back.

I am aware that driving my car to work is most likely doing harm to bugs and other tiny creatures along the way. However, living somewhere with little to no public transportation, it would be in practical for me to walk.

Some harm is unavoidable. Do not turn away from these unfortunate truths or avert your eyes from those who are suffering. These things are the realities of the world and turning a blind eye is the least helpful thing you could do.

When you write your tale put something worthwhile in your publication. Goodness knows there’s enough garbage in the world these days.

What is Neurodiversity? Does it Exclude People with Severe Disabilities?

Neurodiversity – the idea that neurological differences (Autism,  Tourette Syndrome, ADHD, Dyscalculia, Dyspraxia, Dyslexia, and others) are natural variations in the evolution of the human genome.

Neurodivergent people have brought many great things society.  Attempting to “cure” future disability by preventing neurodiverse people from being born would be tremendously harmful to humanity.

Opponents of neurodiversity argue that neurodiversity conveniently ignores people on the spectrum who need extra help and cannot live on their own or are more severely handicapped by their neurological differences.

First off, many of us aren’t high-functioning enough to benefit from depathologizing autism. The neurodiversity movement doesn’t have much to say about lower-functioning autistics, who are decidedly less inspirational.

Gwendolyn Kansen – Pacific Standard

I want to clarify here why Neurodiversity does NOT ignore or exclude anyone.

What about people who are severely affected? How can that be a natural variation?

Thing’s aren’t that simple and I feel a strong urge to clarify what I’ve uncovered on this topic.

Neurodivergent people, myself included, tend to be more sensitive to chemicals and other environmental contaminants than the rest of the population.

Science suggests that autistic people may have weakened blood brain barriers, allowing toxins to flow into the brain during development.

People who are chemically intolerant often have serious reactions to common chemicals and some become too sick to carry out routine functions. Chemical intolerance affects about 10 percent to 30 percent of the U.S. population. Developmental disorders such as autism and attention-deficit disorder affect one in six children in the United States.

Read the full article here on Science Daily

This puts autistic children at greater risk for chemical brain injury than typically developing children.

Though exposure to chemical may not be the leading cause of brain injury, it can be dangerous to healthy brain functioning. It is not easy to accept the fact that by just being expose to chemicals which are available in the places where we work, in the house, in the garden and in almost every place where we go.

There are different classes of chemicals that could produce substances which could be lethal on the brain.

Full article here at the Brain Injury Institute 

Mothers with chemical intolerances are 2-3 times more likely than other women to have a child with autism or ADHD, according to a 2015 study.

If you’ve been following autism research in recent years, you have probably read—many times—that familial, or inherited, risk is seldom the whole picture. A few inherited genes are sufficient by themselves to cause autism. But most so-called “autism genes” only increase the risk that an infant will go on to develop this developmental disorder. As is the case in many complex diseases, it appears that autism often results from a combination of genetic susceptibility and environmental triggers.

This is where epigenetics comes in. Epigenetics is the study of the factors that control gene expression, and this control is mediated by chemicals that surround a gene’s DNA. Environmental epigenetics looks at how outside influences modify these epigenetic chemicals, or “markers,” and so affect genetic activity.

Alycia Halladay, PhD, Autism Speaks director of research for environmental sciences

People with traumatic brain injuries often develop symptoms of Autism and other comorbid conditions such as sensory overload. The similarities are undeniable and the effects look very similar to autism and other natural neurological differences (although they tend to be more severe).

What does it all mean? 

Some supporters of neurodiversity argue that people who are truly disabled by their brain differences pulled the short straw and are just unlucky in the neurodiverse spectrum, but this theory has never felt quite right.

Being neurodivergent does seem to be genetic and it may put you at a greater risk of chemical intolerance and brain injury. Neurodiverse children may be extra sensitive to chemicals in their environment – this could explain why some children develop more severe complications and comorbidities than others.

Only time will tell as modern science uncovers more and more information regarding the human brain and how it works.

So why do we need neurodiversity? More thoughts on the importance of this concept here in a post titled Why theWorld Needs Neurodiversity.