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18 Mar

Love in the Time of Corona

The world is in a challenging place. Our lives have been shifted into uncharted territory as the latest Corona Virus, Covid-19, reaps havoc with economies, societies, and global balance. Rather humbling to have the world grind to a halt by a sub-microscopic piece of genetic material. Scientific definitions aside, we are called to respond to a scenario that sources – often the media – deem calamitous at best, catastrophic at worst. Yet I propose a different perspective, one that is not fear driven but, instead, more gracious and magnanimous.

First of all, fear does nothing useful. It numbs the mind and fuels reactive, panic-based self-centeredness. Consider a spark landing amidst a dry pine forest. Fire erupts and undoubtedly must be contained. Fearful responses are like winds that whip the blaze into an unfettered inferno. Reasoned strategies contain, control, and ultimately eliminate the threat. Our behaviors – which arise first in thought – determine whether Corona will gain further destructive power or, alternately, provide opportunities to ennoble us.

The spiritual world is not separate from the physical. It is the subtle canvas upon which the picture of matter is painted. We, however, get to choose and express the color palate it manifests through our thoughts and deeds. One set of choices results in a gloriously expansive masterpiece; another depicts the cruel hues of defeatism, depression, and self-centeredness. Each of us selects our contribution to the painting by how we respond to what’s before us, moment by moment, day by day.

Naturally, I advocate for making this an opportunity to shine. I know times are difficult, especially for those who are ill or economically deprived. Life often isn’t easy but it’s always impacted by choices. Giving in to the temptation to shrink, to withdraw, to focus on “us four and no more” is a perfect recipe for social/global dysfunction that could be avoided by different choices, by conscious opposition to whatever is contractive. Counter fear with courage, panic with calmness, and meanness with generosity.

There is a reason why spiritual traditions discuss proper attitudes and behaviors. It’s because we need how-to-live principles that apply to all circumstances, good and bad. Why is this important? Because we thrive or suffer according to how well we adhere to, or violate, the laws of natural order. Yes, I snuck spirituality into the mix. Ironically, one needn’t subscribe to any faith to acknowledge that harmony is preferable to inharmony; love, joy, and peace more attractive than hate, despair, or violence. This is common sense. Life-enhancing behaviors promote personal well-being and social good. That said, what can we do in the face of the current situation? I’ll make several suggestions yet preface all by this counsel, “Do that which ennobles, expands, and assists. Refrain from that which diminishes, constricts, or deprives.” Hopefully these points will seem reasonable and easily put into practice.

Start with the body/mind. Be prudent and socially responsible, but not fearful. Fear compromises the immune system and, in the case of a contagious disease, is self-defeating. We’ve all read the news to understand issues and responses. Add to these whatever promotes health from the inside out: Proper hygiene, diet, and, as amenable, immune-enhancing supplements. Exercise, get fresh air and sunshine. Yes, breathe deeply. Relax. Stress and tension deplete energy so if you can, practice skills designed to recharge and renew. This may sound esoteric but such are common in yoga, tai chi, or chi gung circles. A genuine smile is said to distribute life force – prana/chi – to every body cell. The happy person is less subject to disease since happiness attracts a greater supply of life energy into the body. Maintaining a positive, joyful attitude is exactly the right thing to do. Fast from worry. Watch comedies, laugh, practice appreciation and gratitude. You’d be amazed how deprivation can highlight the abundance we ordinarily overlook, or help foster insights about things we might take for granted. A grateful heart is a powerful force, as is compassion. Unfortunately, people have been encouraged to stockpile. This generates a mentality that prompts a secondary ‘illness,’ greed. If everyone considered the needs of others they’d re-visit the desire to hoard. We have an abundance of goods that will remain if we don’t participate in frenzied buying. While at the store recognize that excess buying may cause another to go without. Get what you require so others can too. Seem simplistic? It is. This isn’t astrophysics; it’s consideration. Just as a micro-organism can bring the world to a halt, so basic expressions of loving kindness can help the wheels of global order continue moving smoothly.

Lastly, yet most importantly, nourish the inner being. What frees people from suffering? Will money do so? Will toilet paper? Ultimately, nothing material can. Only direct experience of ones’ soul nature provides this. The world perpetuates dramas to enforce spiritual truths. One of these is that faith in Spirit is a divine law. A smooth life isn’t necessarily a victorious life. No matter if sickness or death dance about you, do not be discouraged. Earthly life is an ephemeral existence; lasting reality is spiritual not material. Be helpful and learn to see the Divine in all regardless of race or creed; love everyone as your own. Selfishness cramps the soul in a limiting prison of material desire. Concentrate on the human family without restrictions. Do your part to improve the world but don’t be bound by its troubles or you’ll be ensnared by them; that’s the secret of victory over delusion. And, pray. Thought is a force. When it is focused on the Divine and directed with beneficial intent for the healing of individuals, societies, or the planet, a tremendous power is released. Although subtle in nature, the vibrations of spirituality and healing generated by prayer engender positive changes in the subtle realms that ultimately manifest in positive material outcomes. Whether confronted by a pandemic or not, the right path in life is always to include others in your welfare. By serving all you serve your Self and, in this fashion, emerge triumphant over trials.

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28 Jan

What I Am (and You Are Too!)

I feel I am a conscious entity in which a simulation, constituting of gross and subtle objects/things, is appearing. The gross (aka physical) objects include a body and a world entering through the sense organs, in the form of gross sights, sounds and sensations. The subtle objects include thoughts and emotions (that are also just thoughts loaded with feelings) in the form of subtle sights, sounds and sensations. These objects are appearing directly in me, otherwise I would not have been able to know/experience them. It’s important to note that even though I experience a body and a world directly, I do not experience a so-called mind (which is actually a composite term used for the mind-intellect-memory-ego combo) directly. The mind-composite is only implied by the type of thoughts that appear in me. To clarify, I do not experience any specific object that I can point to and say that is the mind or the intellect or the memory or the ego. The mind is implied due to some of the thoughts being reactionary and habitual, the intellect is implied due to some of the thoughts being intelligent and analytical, the memory is implied due to some of the thoughts being of past remembrances, and the ego is implied due to some of the thoughts containing an “I” or “my” identity. I only experience these thoughts directly, along with the corresponding parts of the brain that feel active or affected during those thoughts, and never the mind-composite directly.

I further feel that the simulation that is appearing in me is just that – an appearance. I am actually untouched and unaffected by it. Even though I experience certain sensations that can be labeled as pleasant or unpleasant, they are just gross objects appearing in me but they do not affect me. Certain sensations are felt in the body like the feelings of hunger, thirst, itch, ache, etc.. And what we call mental feelings are also nothing but physical sensations felt in the brain tissues. E.g. the feeling of stress is just some brain tissues getting overly strained due to lot of thinking and the feeling of anger is just some brain tissues getting overly heated. So all mental feelings are nothing but physical sensations of brain tissues which are also sometimes accompanied with certain bodily sensations like palpitations, sweating, shallow/rapid breathing, etc. All these sensations just appear in me as gross objects and I am untouched by them. I am just a witness of them. I am like a screen that is unaffected by the movie playing on it, irrespective of how pleasant or unpleasant the movie might be.

When the objective appearances vanish and the simulation stops in deep absorption, I experience my real nature as pure existence-consciousness-bliss (sat-chit-ananda). I do not feel any limitation of time, space, object, etc. in that state. This makes me believe that I am actually unlimited and formless but the simulation imposes an artificial feeling of being contained within a body form with all corresponding limitations. Other people also report similar simulatory experiences, but these simulations are not completely independent. They seem to share common gross objects and events which leads to the conclusion there is just one underlying reality. You, I and others are actually that one reality and not separate entities.

So, even though I am one infinite partless reality, I somehow seem to experience countless parallel simulations simultaneously as separate individuals – each forming a different viewpoint of one big simulation called the universe. It seems like the universe is one gigantic stream of events flowing constantly from one moment to another, and that I know everything that is to be known in this universe from different viewpoints. The individual simulations seem to represent different cross-sections of the universe as experienced from the viewpoints of different individuals. Or maybe there are only these individual simulations and the feeling of one universe is only incidental as these simulations seem to be interconnected sharing common gross objects and events. In either case, I am one reality of the nature of existence-consciousness-bliss with an uncanny ability of generating and focusing at countless simulations and experiencing them simultaneously and separately.

But why should I be doing this? Why can I not just remain as pure existence-consciousness-bliss without generating and experiencing these simulations within me?

Here’s the best explanation I have found:

Take the case of the eyes as an illustration. Their nature is to see. Now consider the sky. It’s so vast it cannot be seen in entirety by these tiny eyes. But when you turn your head upwards, the eyes try to see that which cannot be seen in entirety. The result is an error and the sky looks like a hemispherical dome (which it is not) to the eyes. In the same way, the nature of consciousness is to experience, so it tries to experience the one and only reality that actually exists which is itself. But the reality is infinite and not experiencable in entirety. When there is an attempt to experience the inexperiencable, an error is generated in the form of countless interconnected simulations – each with an experiencer, various experienced objects and their corresponding experiences. The consciousness aspect of the reality appears more prominently as the experiencers, the existence aspect appears more prominently as the experienced objects, and the bliss aspect appears more prominently as the corresponding experiences. So all these countless simulations are just an error produced by the very nature of the infinite reality trying to experience itself. These simulations manifest the infinite reality in a finite way so the consciousness of the experiencers, the existence of the experienced objects, and the bliss in the experiences are all finite, of varying degrees and transient instead of being infinite and permanent. Moreover, since infinite consciousness also implies infinite intelligence, these simulations are of very high quality following various types of laws both at micro and macro cosmic levels with lot of systematism and interconnectedness. They are so flawless and well-structured that they appear to be very real. But it’s important to note that these simulations are absolutely harmless as they are not actually real and are just appearances in the one unblemished reality that I am (and everyone is)!

Another question that might arise is that once this understanding of being the one infinite reality dawns upon a particular individual, what makes him/her continue to experience the simulation and act through a body?

The answer is quite simple. The appearance of experience and action is just part of the simulation and going on of its own accord. The infinite reality is not actually doing anything deliberately. The simulations simply appear in it by its very nature and keep going, irrespective of whether the understanding of being the one underlying reality has dawned upon a particular individual or not. The only difference it would make is that the actions of an individual after this understanding has dawned would appear to be in accordance with that understanding.

Note: You can replace all the occurrences of words “I” & “me” with “you” and “my” with “your” in the above article and it will still be true! I am just trying to take a step back from the apparent simulation and revel in the underlying reality which you, I and everyone actually is. I would highly encourage you to try it too. Its extremely liberating!

(This article was cross-posted from happinessjourney.net/post/190519907835/what-i-am-and-you-are-too)

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26 Nov

Giving Thanks and Making an Impact

As you gather around the table with loved ones on Thanksgiving and talk about what you are thankful for, do you sometimes wonder how you might share your abundance in the most impactful way?  Does your family have a charitable mission statement that allows members of all ages to participate in making donations to organizations that speak to your heart and values? Would you like your investment portfolio to be aligned with your views on important environmental and social issues?  

At FMB Wealth Management, we have developed an Impact Planning Program to help you address all of these questions and more.  We start by helping you determine what causes are most important to you and then work to develop a strategy that allows you to make the biggest impact in the most financially prudent way. It’s also a wonderful way to have meaningful conversations with your loved ones about the type of legacy you’d like to leave behind. 

While many of our clients make annual charitable donations and place a high value on helping others and the world around them, we have found that few have a well defined giving plan or know how to go about creating one.  Our Impact Planning Program provides a step by step process to guide you toward creating a true philanthropic vision and action plan.  We walk you through that process together with your CPA and estate planning attorney, so we can help you create the most tax efficient strategy that allows you to support the causes that matter most to you.  

However,  it’s not just all about giving money, it’s also about investing your money so that it supports the companies that are putting their resources toward the environmental or social issues that are important to you.  Our Sustainability Portfolios allow us to apply filters that identify companies with the lowest emissions, fair labor practices and largest resources devoted to green energy sources for example.  

Please reach out if any of these ideas resonate with you. We are very passionate about this area of our overall wealth management process and we’d love to tell you more.  

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

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15 Mar

“Sleepy… Verrrrry Sleepy…”

“You are feeling sleepy… verrry sleepy…” Those are the words that we think of when we imagine being hypnotized. You may have seen a stage show where a hypnosis performer gets people from the audience into a trance, and then gets them to act silly. But could hypnosis really be used to help us sleep better? For many, the answer is a resounding yes!

 

I studied hypnotherapy and got my certification years ago. I’ve found that this is an effective tool to use in many areas of our lives.

 

Hypnotherapy has been used to treat various ailments since the 18th century, although hypnosis itself dates way back to prehistoric days. Hypnosis isn’t magic, or brainwashing, it is actually a heightened state of concentration. There are many times we’ve been in a state of hypnosis and not even been aware of it – for example, when we are engrossed in a really good movie, or super focused on solving a problem. That’s when the rest of the world somehow goes away. We might be called for dinner and not even be aware of it. That’s how hypnosis works.

 

Hypnosis is often performed by a certified hypnotherapist who guides a person into a trance-like state where suggestions can then be given to the subconscious mind to help that person improve a golf game, increase their confidence levels, decrease anxiety, overcome a fear, or attain other goals such as getting a restful night’s sleep. But we don’t necessarily need a hypnotherapist to achieve these results. We can use self-hypnosis, a technique very similar to guided meditation.

 

When we have trouble getting to sleep, it’s likely that we are having trouble relaxing for one reason or another. We may be stressed, worried, or feeling anxious. Self-hypnosis is one way that we can help fix the relaxation response that triggers sleep. Hypnosis helps us to refocus our thoughts by focusing instead on certain words, music, or a soothing voice. In this way we basically retrain the brain to once again relax when it is time to sleep. We provide the mind and body all it needs to calmly drift off into a pleasant sleep state.

 

The benefit, of course, is that when we awaken from a great night’s sleep we feel more energetic and focused. So, we are naturally more productive and motivated!

 

There are many self-hypnosis apps and recordings available and you can try some to see what works for you. Some of these programs use “binaural beats” as a background “white noise” kind of sound. Before sleep the brain must achieve the delta frequency. Binaural beats, a combination of sound frequencies, are used as a tool to help sync the brainwaves to that delta frequency.

 

Autogenic training, also called Autogenic therapy, is one form of self-hypnosis. This relaxation technique was developed by Johannes Schulz, a German psychiatrist, in 1932. With Autogenics, through a series of sessions, we gradually learn to relax the limbs, heart space and breath.  The idea is to induce a feeling of warmth throughout most of the body, and a feeling of coolness in the forehead. It is a way for us to influence our own autonomic nervous system to counterbalance the effects of stress. The Autogenics technique creates a physiological response, preparing us for sleep.

 

To practice Autogenics follow these guidelines:

 

– Practice alone, in quiet, or with soft background music or environmental sounds.

– Wear loose, comfortable clothing, and no shoes.

– Practice before meals so that the digestive process doesn’t interfere with the relaxation process.

– Take your time, do not rush.

– Sit comfortably in a chair, or lie down.

– If you are practicing at bedtime, make sure your room is conducive for sleep, and that your mattress is comfortable and supportive.

– Now follow these six steps:

 

1) Warm -up: Begin slow, deep breathing. Inhale for one beat, exhale for two. With each breath, increase the duration of the inhales and exhales, always doubling the length of time for the exhales.  Breath to six counts in, and twelve counts out. Then reverse the process all the way back down to one count in and two counts out.

 

2) Heavy and Warm – Heaviness and warmth represent muscular relaxation.  Visualize and actually feel your limbs becoming heavy. Mentally say to yourself on the inhale: “My arms and legs are” and on the exhale: “heavy and warm.” Repeat two more times.

 

3) A Calm Heart – Mentally say to yourself on the inhale: “My heartbeat and breathing are” and on the exhale: “calm and steady.” Repeat two more times.

 

4) A Warm Stomach – this helps you to add a central warmth and peace to your body. Mentally say to yourself on the inhale: “My stomach is” and on the exhale: “soft and warm.” Repeat two more times.

 

5) A Cool Forehead – This helps you provide a calm, stabilizing coolness to the forehead. Mentally say to yourself on the inhale: “My forehead is” and on the exhale: “cool.” Repeat two more times.

 

6) Completion. Mentally say to yourself on the inhale: “I feel” and on the exhale: “supremely calm.” Repeat two more times.

 

It is important to memorize this “script” so that you don’t have to spend energy trying to remember the words. Many people find it beneficial to record their own voice with the prompts, and this may be a good way to start. The repetition of the words helps to get the body and mind into a calm, relaxed state, which in turns promotes peaceful sleep.

 

When you are first learning Autogenics, practice this routine three times throughout the day. Before breakfast, before lunchtime, and then right before bedtime so that it helps you to fall asleep. Give it some time to see the best results. Most people notice a big, positive shift in their sleep patterns after a few weeks of practicing Autogenics.

 

Important note: Never listen to any hypnosis recording or try to use self-hypnosis while you are driving or operating heavy machinery. Also, hypnosis is not recommended for those with epilepsy or for those with any kind of psychosis. Always follow the advice of your health professional.

 

Here is a sleep hypnosis recording I made just for you!

Download
References

https://www.wikihow.com/Make-Yourself-Sleep-Using-Hypnosis

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Autogenic_training

https://bebrainfit.com/autogenic-training/

https://blog.nationalgeographic.org/2013/06/24/the-science-of-hypnosis/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_hypnosis

Lissa Coffey is the spokesperson for the Better Sleep Council. More sleep tips at www.bettersleep.org

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14 Feb

A Valentine to Love

Valentine’s Day has us all thinking about love. We can’t escape the ads, the decorations in the stores, the promises of chocolates and roses at every point of purchase. We get caught up in the celebration and romance of this holiday. And yet, we know that there is much more to love than cards and candy.

Love is all there is.

Really. There’s nothing else. It’s what we’re made of. It’s what we live for. It’s who we are. Love is at the source of all creation. It’s something we all strive to understand and that we all have in common. It’s what connects us.

Love is our greatest teacher. It is so big, so all-encompassing, that individually we could study it throughout our entire lifetime, and as a society we have studied it throughout the ages. We can learn about love, we can learn from love, we can learn to love.

Bhakti yoga is the path of love. Bhakti yoga teaches us to love everything and everyone, because all of it is divine. Each small thing is a part of the greater whole, and that whole is divine. So when we practice Bhakti, we experience the feeling of love in the recognition of divinity, with everything we come across.

We experience love the most profoundly through our relationships. Although there is only one love, love is expressed in many different ways. There have been sonnets and songs written about love throughout the ages, yet it is still difficult for us to define, because it is so vast. The Indian sages have come up with terms to help us understand some of the many aspects of love.

-Santa: Santa is peaceful, calm, and slow. This is a love we might feel for ourselves. It is gentle, steady, and natural.

-Dasya: Dasya is the love that we might feel toward a teacher, a mentor, someone we respect and want to serve.

-Sakhya: Sakhya is the love we feel for a dear friend. In friendship, there is a kind of equality, a give and take, an exchange of feelings, a sharing of ourselves.

-Vatsalya: Vatsalya is the love that a parent feels for a child. A baby is so innocent, and we can’t help but to want to give love to that child, without demands or expectations for anything in return. Children are pure and completely lovable. We recognize this without hesitation.

-Madhura: Madhura is the love of our beloved. This is the “in love” feeling when we are swept off our feet, blissful, devoted, and intense.

Bhakti yoga continually reminds us to “love the highest.” When we find ourselves infatuated with our jobs, our cars, any material thing, Bhakti tells us that we are misguided. When all of our human desire for what is new, fun, novel or beautiful is instead directed toward love, we then experience the greatest delight.

In our human experience, love is not all hearts and flowers. Sometimes it’s messy, it can be complicated, and it can hurt. Love itself is pure, simple, and perfect, but we tend to muddy it up with our humanity. We question, we expect, we desire, we need. And in our attempts to understand, we come up with definitions, we analyze, we discuss, and then we filter all of this through our past experiences to come up with what we think love should be, would be, could be. And every one of us is doing the same thing, with oftentimes very different results. Jealousy, temptation, broken hearts and bitter break-ups are the inspiration for many songs and screenplays.

But the basic truth is that love is. It just is. Love is beyond definition, beyond space and time, beyond any relationship. Love is a true constant in this world. It does not need to be created, it is always here, it has always been here, and it always will be here. We have only to know this to notice it. Eyes open, mind open, heart open, love is available to us in all of its myriad forms, essential simplicity and spectacular glory.

“Namaste” is a Sanskrit greeting that means: “The Divine in me recognizes and honors the Divine in you.” That recognition of the divine is Bhakti, or love. On Valentine’s Day, and every day, let’s try to practice Bhakti a little more often. Not just with our valentines, but also with everyone we meet. Let’s love the highest, starting with ourselves. This is where we start. This is where the seed is planted, where love can grow, and thrive, and blossom within each one of us into a delightful bounty that can be shared. We can feed our souls on this banquet of love. No one need go hungry.

Happy Valentine’s Day. Namaste!

For more by Lissa Coffey, click here.

For more on emotional wellness, click here.

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04 Feb

Ancient Secrets of Seduction

“Tantra” means “instrument of the body.” It sounds exotic, but it is actually very simple. Tantra teaches us to use all five of our senses consciously, because our senses are how we are connected with the physical world. And of course, it is with our five senses that we connect with each other, too. If you’re looking to up the romance quotient in your relationship, here are a few tips from ancient India. And for good measure, let’s use the romantic rose in each example. Red roses were said to be the favorite flower of Venus, the Roman goddess of love. Red signifies desire!

Touch (“Sparsa” in Sanskrit)

The skin marks the visible limits of the body; it is where we make contact with the world. Our skin is our largest organ, and 16% of our body weight. With touch we experience much of our environment: temperature, clothes, sheets, shower, etc. Wake up the sense of touch with massage. Use different materials and textures, such as a feather, a velvet hat, baby powder, a silk scarf, or rose petals. Infuse sesame oil, or unscented body lotion with rose petals, or rose essential oil for a wonderful massage oil.

Smell (“Gandha” in Sanskrit)

Women are particularly sensitive to smells. Our pheromones are the scents that we give off without even realizing it. These pheromones train us to recognize and desire our partners. When people stop smoking, they are amazed by how much they rediscover their sense of smell. Studies have shown that the loss of the olfactory sense is often accompanied by a loss in sexual interest, so it is a good idea to keep our noses functioning optimally! Fragrances have quite an allure to them. Roses just smell like romance. Use rose-scented candles, and sprinkle rose petals in the bathtub. Shower together with rose-scented shower gel.

Taste (“Rasa” in Sanskrit)

Is it any wonder that we say we have a certain “taste” in partners? The tongue is super-sensitive. By blocking out the other senses, by closing your eyes for example, you can focus on the taste more fully. Love is sweet — there’s a reason why we call each other honey and sweetie and cupcake! Savor and delight in the tastes and textures of various foods and drinks: whipped cream, chocolate, a strawberry — and, yes, rose! Sweet rose tea is made for romance! It smells wonderful and tastes divine — and it is the perfect way to end a romantic meal. Tulsi Rose Tea has the added benefit of helping you to relax, and de-stress…to get you in the mood for romance! It is easy to make your own blend of rose tea with dried rose petals, or dried rosebuds, steeped in hot water.

Sound (“Sabda” in Sanskrit)

Sounds have a profound effect on the body. Studies have shown that sounds can open up our inner pharmacy and balance our physiology. They can help us to be healthier, and to generally feel better. What sound do roses make? They’re silent. Sweet and soft. Whisper sweet nothings to your loved one. Play soft, sweet music. Dance with the rose between your teeth, let your body move to the rhythm, breathe gently into your partner’s ear.

Sight (“Rupa” in Sanskrit)

For romance, it’s all about lighting. Think pink — use rose-colored light bulbs, so you naturally see things more rosy! Dine by candlelight. Spread rose petals on the table. Make a trail of rose petals that leads to a surprise. Do a few Bollywood shimmies, put on a show. Look into each other’s eyes until you get lost. Feel the intense connection that you create.

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21 Jan

Better Sleep Can Warm Up A Relationship

For couples having trouble under the sheets, improving their relationship could be as simple as getting a good night’s sleep.

Catching extra winks together in bed can significantly help improve a relationship. A good night’s sleep is restorative to the mind and body, gives us energy and improves our mood—all attributes that can make us better partners in romantic relationships. On the other hand, a poor night’s sleep —often the result of a couple’s mismatched sleep styles— can be a major problem for a relationship.

Many couples can live happily together, but they can’t sleep well side-by-side, which can negatively impact their relationship. Sleeping together is an important way for couples to feel connected with each other. And not getting enough sleep can leave us feeling sluggish, cranky and hard to get along with.

If your partner’s sleep style is keeping you up at night here are some tips to bring harmony back to the bedroom and into your relationship:

1.
Problem: Your partner kicks in his or her sleep, waking you up.
Solution: Make sure your bed gives each sleeper enough sleep surface to move around comfortably. For couples sharing a bed, the mattress should be at least queen-sized.

2.
Problem: Your partner likes it hot, you like it cool.
Solution: Ideally, your bedroom should be a cool 60-65 degrees Fahrenheit. But a few simple adjustments can make it possible for a person who craves heat and a person who craves cool to sleep side by side comfortably.
• Double-fold the blankets so there is more coverage on one side.
• Invest in a dual-control electric blanket or a twin-sized electric blanket on one side.

3.
Problem: Your partner snores, keeping you up at night.
Solution: Snoring can be a serious health concern, so make sure to consult your physician. If your partner’s snoring is not a serious health condition, try alternative treatments like investing in anti-snore pillows, sprays or nasal strips that are designed to help people breathe more easily.

4.
Problem: Your partner tosses and turns.
Solution: It may be your mattress. Mattresses should be evaluated for optimum comfort and support every five to seven years.

5.
Problem: Your partner loves to cuddle, but you like your space while you sleep.
Solution: Compromise. Before falling asleep, spend some time snuggling together and then agree to sleep apart.

6.
Problem: Your sleep schedules don’t match.
Solution: Try finding a bedtime that works for both of you. Be considerate if you are a night owl or an early riser compared to your sleep partner. Keep overhead lights off and use minimal lighting while you are awake and your partner is asleep.

A bad night’s sleep affects your mood, work and relationships with others. Sleep, like proper diet and exercise, is essential to overall well-being.

More sleep tips at BetterSleep.org

Sleep Tips video

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14 Jan

More Birthdays: A Reason to Celebrate!

Recent survey results released by the American Cancer Society reinforce, once again, the benefits of a healthy lifestyle, and the findings are definitely cause for celebration. The online survey, which showed a strong link between health and attitudes about birthdays, revealed that people who say they are in excellent health are more likely to consider birthdays special and exciting events.

In addition, the survey found that people who say they are in excellent health are nearly twice as likely to love celebrating birthdays, generally consider them fun and feel more special on their birthday than people who say they are in poor health.

Clearly, these results are another reminder about the benefits of leading a healthy and balanced lifestyle. Not only will you look and feel great, but you’ll also be a brilliant birthday party guest!

The results are part of the Society’s Official Sponsor of Birthdays campaign, which asks people to imagine a world with more birthdays. More birthdays mean more time with our friends and family, and more opportunities to celebrate the important milestones in their lives.

A big part of the American Cancer Society’s effort to create more birthdays is helping people stay well by making healthy choices in their daily lives. Whether you’re planning a party for a child, an adult, or yourself, there are fun and creative ways to make your celebration one that will help create more birthdays for years to come.

Get Active.
To get your guests moving, pick an action-oriented theme for your birthday celebration — pool parties, soccer games, dance parties, or scavenger hunts are great fun for kids and grown-ups alike. There’s nothing like a little healthy competition!

Be Prepared.
If you’re hosting an outdoor party, have sunscreen (at least SPF 15) and extra hats on hand for guests who might have forgotten them. If you’re hosting your celebration indoors, find a smoke-free restaurant or venue or have it at your house and remind guests that cigarettes aren’t welcome.

Stay Food-Smart.
We know birthdays are about celebrating, but you can have your cake and stay healthy, too. There are plenty of healthy and delicious foods you can choose to share with your guests. Consider serving low-fat snacks like popcorn, pretzels, and baked chips and salsa and healthy meal options like grilled chicken or shrimp skewers. You can bake healthier, too, by making your birthday cake from scratch so you can control the ingredients and make smart substitutions like swapping butter for applesauce.

Give the gift of more birthdays.
Joining the movement to create a world with more birthdays isn’t limited to your own special celebration. By giving birthday gifts to friends and loved ones throughout the year with health and wellness in mind, you can help the people you care about look forward to more candles to light. Here are some creative gift ideas to help people stay well:

For cooks or want-to-be cooks
:
Package flavored oils and vinegars in a large bowl made for salads.
Create a basket filled with healthy cooking utensils such as an apple corer, zester, lemon/lime juicer, garlic crusher, ginger, and nutmeg graters.
For the portion size conscious cook (and eater), consider giving a food scale, measuring cups, and/or attractive measuring spoons.

For foodies:
Create a basket with cheese, crackers, and fresh fruit, with perhaps a decorative cheese spreader.
Package dried fruits and nuts in a unique serving dish with pretty cocktail napkins.
Collect your favorite healthy recipes and give them in a recipe journal so they can also record their own.
Give a cooking class gift certificate.
Give a subscription to a favorite healthy cooking magazine.
Give a gift certificate to your favorite local healthy restaurant.

For those wanting to be more active
:
Give a gift certificate to a local athletic shoe and apparel store.
Include a step counter/pedometer with an mp3 player.
Package a jump rope, exercise band, set of hand weights, and/or workout ball for an all around healthy workout.
Make coupons for babysitting so your friend can work out while you watch the kids.
Make workout buddy coupons and commit to get up three days a week to walk before work with your friend, if that’s what she wants to do.
Give a gift certificate for a tennis lesson, packaged with a water bottle and flashy colored tennis balls.
Give a gift certificate for a golf lesson, with a book on the best public courses to play (and encourage your golfing buddy to join the USGA Walking Member Program).
Give a gift subscription to a favorite health magazine such as Fitness, Runners World, Walking, Golf Digest, Bicycling, etc.
Give an exercise mat and workout tapes or CDs for home use.
Volleyball net and ball.
Badminton racquets and shuttlecocks.
A yearly pass to a local or national park.
Croquet set.
Baby jogger.

Thanks in part to the efforts of the American Cancer Society, eleven million cancer survivors will mark their birthdays this year. What’s not to celebrate about that?

To join me and the Society in the movement for more birthdays, visit www.morebirthdays.com.

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07 Jan

Time Well Spent: Volunteering in the Foster Care System

Time is a commodity. It’s been compared with money. We only have so much of it in this lifetime, so time is precious. And how we spend our time says a lot about what is important to us. Recently I’ve had a big change in where I’ve been finding my time spent – and it has surprised me, in many wonderful ways.

 

I’ve done the career thing, a couple of times over in a couple of different incarnations. And I’ve done the mom thing — wholeheartedly: from carpools and karate, to homework and heartache and everything in between. And all along the way I’ve been involved with some kind of service. But it was always secondary to the job, or the kids, because there is only so much time to go around, especially for a working mom.

 

When my boys left for college I found myself with time on my hands. This is something that hasn’t happened since I gave birth. Yes, I’ve still got work, but a person can only sit in front of a computer for so many hours a day without going crazy! I decided to volunteer at a group foster home.

 

The process for this is quite extensive. I had to go through security clearance, including fingerprinting and a TB test. And I also had to go through training. It took a couple of months for all the paperwork to go through, but now I’m officially a volunteer. And I love it!

 

In the past, when I’ve volunteered it was all about making gift baskets for silent auctions, going to lunch meetings, and selling raffle tickets to raise money for the organization. I wanted to contribute in a different way, to actually work with the kids. In one of my work incarnations I was a modeling school teacher, so I have experience working with teen girls. This population is the most “at-risk” in the foster care world and I felt it was a place where I could make some sort of a difference. At this particular foster home, there are 14 teen girls who live on campus.

 

A group foster home is often the last stop for kids. At this point they have nowhere else to go. Most of them are there through no fault of their own. If they have parents, their parents are abusive, addicted to drugs, or in jail. Or they are simply unable to cope with the difficulties that their child is going through. Most of the kids are SED, or severely emotionally disturbed. This foster home has family outreach, and things like parenting classes, with the goal of bringing the family back together again. But the reality is that just about 3% of the kids who arrive at group homes eventually return to a healthy family situation.

 

I waltzed in to the girls cottage thinking this was going to be fun, that the girls would be happy to see me, and that we’d have tea parties and book clubs. I quickly learned to not have any expectations, or any particular plans, and to just be present for whatever needs they had at the moment. One of the staff members told me that these kids are like porcupines. They are withdrawn, and suspicious, and have their spikes up to protect themselves. You need to approach cautiously, and gently. And when a porcupine throws out a spike, you can’t be surprised, or angry, because it’s just the nature of the animal. With everything these kids have been through in their young lives, it is completely understandable for them to be on guard.

 

Where we started to bond was in the kitchen. These girls need their spirits to be fed, and sometimes the best way to do that is by starting with their stomachs. Group homes aren’t known for their gourmet cuisine, and the weekend dinners are the most dreaded of all the meals. By cooking together, good wholesome meals with lots of fresh vegetables, we were able to fill up the cottage with yummy smells that made the place feel much more like a home than an institution. While cooking we can talk amongst the activity, so there are no awkward pauses. And we have a mutual goal that we accomplish together, something tangible to both serve and enjoy in a delicious meal.

 

I’ve been going up there every Sunday to make dinner with the girls. And I find that during the week, I miss them, so I’m up there at least a couple of times in the afternoons just to hang out, help them with their projects, and generally be available. I’ve given them books, and DVDs, and I bring fresh fruit for after school snacks. But what they really appreciate, more than anything, is my time. It’s just the being there that really makes a difference. And as time goes on, I’m discovering that more and more, this is where I am choosing to spend my time. Vedic philosophy says that the three most important things we can give our children are attention, affection, and time. The children in the foster care system are starved for all three. And this is something that any of us can provide without spending a dime.

 

As I learn more about how everything works with foster care, I’m finding more ways that those of us who want to help can really make a difference.

 

Right now there are more than 780,000 children in the United States who are in the foster care system because they are unable to live safely at home. Most of these children are there through no fault of their own, but because their parents can’t, or won’t, take care of them. The children often have difficulty trusting people, and making lasting relationships because so many strangers come in and out of their lives: police officers, lawyers, judges, therapists, social workers, and foster parents. If they are placed in a group home, there is also several different staff throughout the week to watch over the kids. They can be moved from home to home, and school to school, with little or no notice. It can be daunting, and even scary for a child.

 

Thankfully, there is a volunteer organization called CASA: Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children. CASA volunteers are appointed by judges to look out for specific children in the overburdened legal and social service system. These volunteers make sure that the children’s needs are being met, that they aren’t getting lost in the system, or languishing in a group or foster home that is not appropriate for them. The CASA stays with the child until the case is closed, and the child is placed in a safe, permanent home. Because foster kids move around so much, many times the CASA volunteer is the one constant adult presence, the one adult they can count on to care for them, and advocate for them. The CASA volunteer really gives the child a voice, by speaking on the child’s behalf in the courtroom and in team meetings so that the needs of the child are addressed and met.

 

If you have some time to spend, and you want to make a lifelong difference for a child who really needs your help, consider volunteering in a foster home. Or even better, consider becoming a CASA. Last year, more than 68,000 CASA volunteers served more than 240,000 abused and neglected children through 1,018 program offices. CASA volunteers have helped more than two million children since the program was established in 1977. Currently there are not enough CASA volunteers to go around. Statistics show that children with a CASA volunteer are far more likely to find the services and resources they need and go on to lead successful and productive lives. Now can’t we all consider that to be time well spent?

For more information, visit the CASA website: nationalcasa.org

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28 Dec

Michael Jackson: Another Look at The Man in the Mirror

Since Michael Jackson’s untimely death last week we’ve been inundated with stories and speculations about his life. I’m in the generation that grew up with Michael. We watched him as a child singing on TV with his brothers, ABC and Rockin’ Robin, and tried our best to copy his moves. As kids we sang along, mesmerized by the upbeat tunes that played on the radio as we sat in the backseat of our parents’ cars. We went through the awkward teen stage in our own lives, set to a disco soundtrack. And we came into our own just as Michael did with Thriller, finding our groove, and defining ourselves.

Celebrity is a creature all its own. We have a perceived access to these individuals, we feel as though we know them, even though we don’t. I remember getting my dad to buy me Tiger Beat magazine, which regularly featured either the Jacksons or the Osmonds or both on the cover. Today, celebrity access is widespread and instantaneous. We can follow just about anyone on twitter. Websites break news before the news stations can get a camera crew out to the scene.

When I was just two years old my mother was grocery shopping and I was sitting in the cart. One of the managers must have made an announcement that President Kennedy had been shot. I remember my mother getting very flustered, and taking me out of the cart to go home. She was trying to explain to me what was going on — and I could feel that something was terribly wrong. This was such an emotional event that many of us remember exactly where we were and what we were doing when we got the news. I also remember where I was when I found out that Princess Diana died. She and I were about the same age, and we both got married and had two boys at about the same time, so I always felt a connection with her. And now I’ll always remember when I heard that Michael Jackson died. I got an e-mail alert that Michael had suffered cardiac arrest and was being transported to the hospital. I felt troubled, and confused. Then I drove to pick up my mail, and as I got in the car to come home, I heard on the radio an official confirmation that Michael had passed away. The radio station was playing his music in tribute. My heart dropped.

What is it about celebrities that gets us so engrossed in their lives and deaths? My favorite Michael Jackson song, and ironically it is one that he didn’t write, is “Man in the Mirror” and I think this helps to explain a lot of what we are going through.

Whenever we look at another person and feel a strong emotion, there’s something about that person that we see in ourselves. Whether we love it or hate it, people act as mirrors for each one of us. We are examples for each other, of what we judge to be good and bad, best or worst. The qualities in another person that draw us or repel us we can also see in ourselves to some degree, in some way. Celebrities, with a kind of larger than life image, end up being archetypes. Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, and now Michael Jackson might be thought of as the tortured artist. Talented, creative, expressive, and yet at the same time uncomfortable and somewhat out of place. Each turned to various distractions to try to “normalize” their feelings. Both Elvis and Michael basically created their own worlds in Graceland and Neverland. These were places where they could fit in, surrounded by people and things that made them feel at home.

If we are caught up in the coverage of Michael Jackson’s life and death that is going on right now, maybe it is because we have some of that archetype in ourselves. Maybe we feel misunderstood. Maybe we seek to create, and be heard the way Michael was. Maybe we long for our childhoods, for simpler days. What can we do? We can take out own advice, look at that man in the mirror and change our ways… “If you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and make that change.”

In his 50 years Michael Jackson lived a very full life. He had successes and failures; he had conquests and controversies. As much as we feel we might know him from his concerts, albums, testimonies and interviews, we don’t really know Michael Jackson the person. The best we can do is to know ourselves. That’s all we can ever really do.

Michael Jackson’s death reminds us that time is fleeting. Just a few months ago many of the items taken from Neverland were on display in Los Angeles. I heard about this and went. At the last minute I decided to take my camera. I didn’t know if I would be able to take it inside, but I was allowed to, and I made a video of what I saw. It’s very interesting, and gives us some glimpse of insight into Michael Jackson’s life.
Michael Jackson’s Neverland Collection

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