Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Should You Forgive? If So, How?

          Are you ready to forgive Lance Armstrong for doping or Charlie Sheen for ranting or the Boston marathon bombers? Perhaps you can forgive Lance but not the bombers. Perhaps it’s not that we can’t forgive as much as we don’t want to forgive.

From m_bui via Flickr

          In a nationwide Gallup poll, 94% of Americans surveyed said they aspire to forgiveness, but only 48% said they usually tried to forgive. This represents a huge disconnect between what we say we want to do and what we actually do. Why is this? Do we see it as a weakness to be forgiving?

          All month long I’ve been focused on the issue of forgiveness. It’s been the spiritual practice of the month at the Center of Spiritual Living. This focus has given me the opportunity to examine more closely my beliefs about forgiveness and see what’s working and not working for me. One of the first things I discovered about myself is that I forgave some but not others.

          This month-long forgiveness practice has taught me, however, that true forgiveness has nothing to do with others and everything to do with myself. While it benefits both giver and receiver, it is a colossal gift we give ourselves. The only true benefit I can get from forgiving is if I use it across the board, without the judgment call of who deserves it. Why is that?

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Want More Fun? Show Me the Basket!

          I have a magic basket. It is filled with fun activities. Some of these activities cost money and many don’t. I go to my magic basket when I am sad, bored, and/or when I need to reward myself for something. While I am going to share with you MY basket and its contents, please begin to think of what might be in YOUR basket should you decide to create one. And don’t laugh at mine!

          Before I retired, I thought long and hard about what I would do with my time once I didn’t have to report for work everyday or when I wasn’t waking up in the middle of the night with solutions to work problems or when I wasn’t involved in all the myriad tasks related to going to and being at work, i.e. buying and maintaining clothes, making lunches, doing my hair, nails, etc. That adds up to A LOT of time! So, I wanted to be sure I had creative and fun activities to fill that time…not just to kill  time but to enjoy time.

          When I go to my basket, I try to pick an item that bests suits my emotion. If I’m feeling a little bored between tasks, I may decide to pick the ‘floss my teeth’ item out of my basket. Okay, I can hear you laughing at me behind my back already! But, seriously, sometimes just doing a simple thing like flossing or reorganizing a junk drawer can shift me out of one emotion into a completely different one, like feeling a sense of accomplishment or feeling cleaner or less like a procrastinator.

          My basket contains three main places to go and they are:

Thursday, April 18, 2013

When Bad Things Happen: 5 Ways I Cope

          Ok, let’s just say it:  school killings in Newtown (and elsewhere), horrific fires such as the fertilizer plant in Texas, acts that terrorize, including Boston on Monday and, of course, 9-11. It can be a scary and dangerous world out there. And, if we over-embrace the idea of bad things happening, our lives will be fearful and not very fulfilling or joyous.

          When the bombs exploded in Boston at the marathon on Monday, I was surprised by my own feelings. For the first time that I can remember I didn’t immediately turn on the TV to soak up all that I could about what had happened. I felt even at peace a little bit. Now, don’t get excited, I’m not that crass that I didn’t feel profoundly sad and concerned about the loss of lives and other injuries. But, what I didn’t do was drop everything and plug in. I didn’t start talking to my friends and conjecturing about who and what. And I didn’t start that familiar tape in my head that says, “You should be scared. Bad things happen all the time, so you should be vigilant about what might happen in your town.”  Then there’s also the other tape that says, “Don’t get too happy because something bad can take away your joy.”

          I'm a sponge instead of a filter. When I hear bad news, it doesn't just register and then pass on through me. It stops in my body, my mind ... my soul. And I can't shake it off. But I've worked hard over the years to get the information I need without getting so much that I couldn't function in the rest of my life.

          I got the main points of what happened in Boston via the headlines on MSN when I logged onto my computer. Then I didn’t pay attention to the news or anything else about the event on TV or in the newspapers until this morning when Obama gave his speech at the interfaith prayer service. When that was over, I turned the TV off again. I know I’ll check back in at some point when the perpetrators have been captured and a motive is presented. Then I checked in with a friend who lives in Boston and I made a donation to One Fund Boston, but that’s it. Life goes on for me. It does no good for me to stay stuck in sorrow and angst and fear.

          I remember that the world is a good place, a safe place, an abundant place. Sure, bad things happen, but I’m not willing to let those things – either events in the past or the possibility of events in the future – mar my knowing of the goodness that exists nor interfere with the quality of my current actions. My staying sad and curtailing my activities because of sorrow in no way assists the victims or anyone else. Am I sad about what has happened? Yes, I am, and I’m not tossing that wet blanket of sorrow out into the universe to dampen the spirits of others.

          So how did my new-found calmness develop? Something has shifted and I believe it started while I was focusing on forgiveness. A lot of forgiveness for me is about letting go. There’s that popular saying, “Forgiveness means giving up all hope for a better past.” To me, letting go melds right into a calmer reaction to things that go wrong. I realize I have no control over these scary events but I can control how I respond to them.

          I have identified five things that worked for me in dealing with all the recent tragedy in our world:

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Technology: Friend or Foe? Part 2

     Let’s say you’re one of those seniors who has resisted the march of technology. Let’s say you eschew computers or fancy new phones and you can only minimally navigate the TV remote. Would you be inclined to try to learn more about modern electronics such as computers and Smartphones if, for instance, you could use them as an EKG or to test your blood sugar or urine right in your own home without going to the doctor’s office? Overcoming the fear of technology may prove to be the best thing you ever did in terms of enhancing your life medically.

          I recently saw on “Rock Center” with Brian Williams a fascinating program about the advanced uses currently and soon to be available on a Smartphone or iPhone in the medical world. His report made me think there’s at least one more reason to embrace new technology. And I’m not talking about 10 years from now, I’m talking about now.

         We’ve all heard of applications (apps) on newer phones that allow you to listen to music, forecast the weather, learn foreign languages, track weight loss and exercise and thousands of other things. New apps are being designed and tested to diagnose ailments, as well. There is a cell phone modification that sells for $199 to doctors that performs cardiograms. This can be done in the doctor’s office, thereby saving the patient the time and $800 lab cost of an EKG. Phone attachment sensors are allowing for all kinds of lab tests such as saliva, blood, urine and sweat to be performed by doctors and patients remotely through testing applications or apps.

          At the forefront of this wireless medicine movement is Dr. Eric Topol, a prominent cardiologist from southern California. He says humorously but truly, “These days, I’m prescribing a lot more apps than I am medications.” Even ultrasounds can be conducted through cell phones with the use of the appropriate attachment. Also, an exterior sensor worn on the skin over the stomach signals to an app on your phone constant blood sugar information for diabetes testing.

          A new project, sounding almost too futuristic to me, is the use of a nano-sensor which is the size of a grain of sand. It is injected into the blood stream and senses when cells are being shed from the artery lining, which is a precursor to a heart attack. If these sloughed cells are detected, you get a distinct signal/ringtone on your phone warning of a possible heart attack to come in the next week or two.

          And think of the cost savings to you and the medical industry as a whole. Dr. Topol points out that $350 billion is spent annually on prescription drugs and a third of those drugs aren’t effective, which is a total waste. As we all know, doctors often make an educated guess at what medications might work for us based on mass screening information rather than patient-specific data. He sees this as a sort of dumbing down of the medical profession in treating everyone the same.

          With the use of modern technology available through phones, you and your immediate data drive the medicines and treatments tailored just for you...and at a greatly reduced cost. Dr. Topol, who receives no financial gain by encouraging the use of these kinds of new phone and computer products, believes we should track our own conditions through our phones and use that data to see patterns and warning signs of illness.

          I’d say this is some pretty exciting stuff available with new electronics. Would this make overcoming the fear of technology easier for you?

Check this post out too:
     You Know You're Getting Older When ....

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Technology: Friend or Foe? Part 1

          Do you have iFear? Do you shudder at the thought of having to buy a new computer or replace a dinosaur cell phone? If I was to say “zebibyte” or “disambiguation” or “polymorphism” would you have a clue what I meant? Do you own a computer and/or a cell phone but never really use them? Do you feel almost proud of the fact that you don’t (won’t) rely on electronic gadgets that could enhance your life?

          Well, friends, you are not alone. I have found that, as seniors, how much new technology we embrace depends on a number of factors. How much techie stuff was involved in your job and how much have you wanted to get away from it now that you’re retired? How much do you need/ desire to play games or listen to music anytime anywhere? How important is it to stay up with your kids and grandkids who purchase and rely heavily on the latest technology?

          I have also found it’s not an ‘across the board’ kind of resistance. Some people refuse to have anything other than the most basic cell phone but will purchase and learn all there is to know about Kindles and like products in order to more easily and cheaply acquire and enjoy books. Some people have the most advanced iPad available but never own and/or use a computer at all. Many seniors, including me, get to a point and say, “Okay, this is as far as I’m going with new electronics. I don’t need nor will I purchase another computer or cell phone (because you know they come out with new ones every few months!) unless I’m forced to.” All the learning, expanding one’s mind in the electronic arena, and, yes, frustration stops at the current level. We make do from then on.

          Not too many of my friends who avoid new technology want to admit it is daunting. Sure, we probably don’t need electronics that automatically sync our calendars with our computers/ iPads/ iPhones now that we’re retired. Just trying to figure out some of the newer (and even older) gadgets can require a PhD it seems. Visiting dealers like the Apple store, AT&T, Verizon, Best Buy or taking classes at the JC often times doesn’t seem to help much in really increasing our understanding of a product. Doing this can merely increase our frustration with how little we are able to grasp the concepts of  how to work these expensive electronics. My mind works linearly and some of the concepts and applications aren’t structured that way. Multi-tasking younger people don’t need to understand an A + B = C thus B = C - A concept in order to get the most out of new technology.
          And don’t even talk about the cost.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

How to Let Go of Attachments

          We get stuff and then we don’t want to let it go. By the time we’re in our senior years, we’ve accumulated a fair amount of things.

          There are boxes of unread books, that old salt and pepper shaker collection that you started 40+ years ago, dried flowers and other memorabilia from proms a cabillion years gone by and pictures. I’m not talking about digital pictures, but real pictures that were developed and printed at the local drug store. When my sister died 6 years ago, her two sons, while going through her belongings, were aghast at the volume of printed pictures she had saved over the years. “Why would she have all these pictures?” they wondered. They were just floored that anyone would keep albums and albums of pictures when they could easily be carted around on a computer or cell phone.

Christine spring cleaning
         My girlfriend in Southern California sent me an email yesterday saying she was in the throes of spring cleaning. While she joyously exclaims how much she loves doing it, there is always an issue of letting go of things to which she has become attached, items that bring back memories of events and loved ones.

          We can quickly get attached to things and their representation of good and bad past times. There are even reality programs dedicated to people who just can’t let go of all this stuff. It can kill you! We also develop and maintain strong attachments to people and emotions and habits and feelings and judgments and theories and falsehoods and history…I could go on.

          These kinds of less tangible attachments take on a different significance. Like possession of real things, they can be helpful or harmful but many times on a deeper psychological level. I must admit, there’ve been times when I was completely unaware of any emotional attachment I harbored until it popped up in some form of sadness or depression or even aberrant behavior.

          Attachments can spoil a healthy sense of spirituality, too. Where we can get into trouble is when we experience a feeling but then don’t let it go. It’s likely a negative feeling. We roll it around in our souls for a day or a year and by then we don’t want to let it go. It can be, for example, a perceived personal transgression, say daughter Janette doesn’t respond to that dynamite gift you sent her last week. If we cling to this as a hurtful event and make a ton of negative assumptions based on this one incident, we’re screwed; we’ve become attached emotionally to an unfounded theory. This kind of diligent clinging to less-than-uplifting vibes can cause a negative manifesto in our souls.