Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Change: Can You Teach an Old Dog New Tricks?

          As a Californian, I view change the same as being in one of our frequent earthquakes where the ground underneath me shifts unpredictably. I’ve never been a big fan of change. It used to irritate me that, just when things were exactly where I wanted them, bam! Everything would change!

When it comes hard and unexpectedly...

          I also resented change when it came so hard and unexpectedly in my senior years. I laughably thought after I retired, got my house just the way I wanted it, with the best friends around me that I had cultivated over the years plus my resources, financial, in particular, were lined up, it would all stay that way. Well, remember 2008? I was newly retired after working for 40 years. Millions of people, me included, could do little but try to keep our heads above water as we watched our savings dwindle, homes and jobs were lost along with a general reduction in the quality of our lives. I finally had to concede that change happens and that it’s going to happen for the rest of our lives.

          There is change that happens to us through no action on our part and there is change that we consciously choose. When I chose to move out from my spouse, I knew things would change, and I was willing to be open to that change because I wanted it to help strengthen my relationship with him, which it did. It’s the change I didn’t choose that, over time, caught me off guard and has been the most difficult to embrace.

I've learned to buckle up and meditate

          With a lot of reflection and work over the years, however, I’ve learned to accept change and see it more and more as an opportunity to learn and grow. I don’t love it, but at least I know that something good will generally accompany any discomfort that it entails. I’ve learned to buckle up and meditate my way to the next thing change brings forth.

          As the mature adult I've grown to be (don't laugh!), I now treat change like a boo boo, and you can too. Here’s my prescription for dealing with change:

          1)  Be shocked at the change, whatever it is.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Being Awake - guest blog by Randall Friesen

Randall Friesen
          Great spiritual leaders share a common calling: to wake up their students. Using words such as "enlightenment," "salvation," or "self-realization," teachers through the ages have urged us to wake up to an awareness of the Divine. This awareness, they tell us, is all we need in order to begin a new life, one that will ultimately lead to the fulfillment of our highest potential.

          It's a difficult concept to get, though. Ironic even, because for the most part we don't realize that we are asleep! It's like that moment of epiphany, when you read something or hear something spoken, and you see for the first time something that was there all along. You wonder how you could have missed it. How could you have had the answer right in front of you and not seen it? Those are the moments in which you understand the message of "Wake up!" You see in living color how you were asleep and weren't even aware of it.

          Throughout my career in spiritual philosophy, I've continually asked the question, "How do I wake up?" How do I keep aware of Truth at all times, in all my life's circumstances? I realize that I fall asleep so easily, and so frequently. So I am always searching for techniques to keep my mind alert and aware of the presence of God. It takes work. I found that, for me, I must continually expose myself to new ways of thinking. I scour bookstores for fresh perspectives on spiritual issues. I attend lectures and churches that present a variety of religious beliefs. I speak with people who show me new ways to see ancient truths.

          My new favorite "alarm clock" is my Kindle. I have loaded it up with books that inspire me and remind me who I am, where I fit in the universe, and how to grow to even greater heights. My Kindle fits in my back pocket, and I take it with me whenever I go out into the world. Then, when I suddenly find myself in a weird situation, or facing a challenge, or simply waiting for the subway, I can pull it out and, wham, I wake up!

          Truth permeates everything. It is all around each of us at all times, but is often so difficult to see. But with great minds and ideas at the tip of my fingertips, I have fewer excuses for not being awake.

Find out more about Randall and his work here:

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Does 'We The People' Speak for You?

          Some people feel the American system of government is broken because of our obsession with Constitutional obedience. I know personally I’ve felt the frustration with recent events such as the fiscal crises and gun control controversies that get bogged down because of feeling shackled to unflinching doctrines that were created in a bygone era.

Some of Our Greatest Leaders Ignore the Constitution

          Louis Michael Seidman, in a recent editorial on CBS Sunday Morning and in an article in the New York Times, points out that some of our greatest leaders have been ignoring the Constitution since its inception. John Adams supported the Alien and Sedition Acts, which violated the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of speech. Even FDR in his Constitution Day speech in 1937 spoke of devotion to the document, but as a statement of aspirations rather than obligations.

          I don’t think we should ignore the whole document. As Seidman states, “This is not to say that we should disobey all constitutional commands. Freedom of speech and religion, equal protection of the laws and protections against governmental deprivation of life, liberty or property are important, whether or not they are in the Constitution.” But here is the most important part of what he says, “We should continue to follow those requirements out of respect, not obligation.”

          In the Fall 2010 issue of the Chicago Law School Alumni magazine, David A. Strauss talks about a ‘living’ Constitution, a document that “…evolves, changes over time, and adapts to new circumstances, without being formally amended.” The amendment process is in itself a cumbersome exercise that might have difficulty keeping up with changes over the years. Opponents to the concept of a living Constitution feel this document should be the rock solid foundation of our most fundamental principles and, therefore, should not change and evolve over time.

Shouldn't We Create guidelines for Tweaking the Constitution?

          As our nation has changed so much over the last 2+ bicentennials and will certainly change significantly in the coming ones, shouldn’t we create a document, a standard set of guidelines, that allows for tweaking without a process that pits party against party and sucks the life out of any productive governmental activities? Without changing, the Constitution, I fear, runs the risk of being seen as a relic…a document that over time gets ignored more and more. The issue of who and when the Constitution changes would require a major discourse after all options are identified.

          I certainly didn’t intend to present a complete analysis on the longevity of our current Constitution but instead to make us think about change and the possibility of doing things differently and, hopefully, better.

This is Our Country! 

          Seidman sums up in his editorial, “This is our country. We live in it, and we have a right to the kind of country we want. We would not allow the French or the United Nations to rule us, and neither should we allow people who died over two centuries ago and knew nothing of our country as it exists today. If we are to take back our own country, we have to start making decisions for ourselves and stop deferring to an ancient and outdated document.”

          It’s an interesting discussion and I wonder, as “We The People….,” what will happen in the future.

          [Note: As this blog post is appearing, PBS has just begun airing Constitution USA with Peter Sagal. In this series, he asks the questions about the relevancy of the Constitution with  residents across America. He probably got the idea from me! The first episode this week dealt with Federal power being the master over state power. Interestingly, we are seeing this exact conflict relative to legalizing marijuana. If you are interested, check your local listings for times and channels.]

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

What Causes Senior Moments?

          It’s normal as we age to experience some memory loss. This is due to decreases in neurotransmitters or the chemicals that communicate information throughout our brain and body. Generally these kinds of changes don’t affect daily functioning or the ability to live independently. In people who experience Alzheimer’s disease, these decreases are significant and injurious to brain function. For the purpose of this discussion we are NOT talking about the latter kind of devastating losses.

          People of all ages experience momentary memory loss and many, even those who are not senior citizens, refer to these lapses laughingly as ‘senior moments’ or "brain farts" or "spacing out' or having a "blond moment." Many jokes are made and sometimes the humor exists to mask our terror when we head into the next room and get there only to forget what we were going to do. Or how about paying for a purchase and walking out of the store without it. Been there, done that!

          The brain actually uses forgetfulness as a way to avoid confusion and to inhibit cognitive overload. It is selective and remembers more important information and sets aside similar and less-used information. Forgetfulness, if viewed from this perspective, is therefore beneficial, and a sign of proper brain functioning. But why do we experience these kinds of lapses at all?

          There are lots of reasons for experiencing a blank in memory. The cause of senior moments can be found in fatigue, stress, medication interference, and extensive multi-tasking. Sometimes women experience more lapses when they are pregnant. It is reported that anemia and thyroid disease can also affect temporary memory loss.

          But I’m not stressed or tired or pregnant. What’s MY excuse? As long as the lapse is temporary and not more debilitating as mentioned at the beginning of this piece, my answer to this question is “Lighten up.” One little episode of forgetfulness and we’re ready to schedule an MRI to check our brain function. My tendency is to laugh and make a joke when I’m with others but, in actuality, the less fuss I make about it, the faster it is I remember what I was going to do or say.

          There are a few tips to reduce the incidence of senior moments if they’re bothering you:
                         - Try to do just one thing at a time.
                         - Be sure to get enough sleep and maintain a healthy diet.
                         - If you’re stressed, develop some management techniques (check out
                                 online resources).
                         - Reduce your need to multi-task, if possible.
                         - Quit relying on just your memory and use some of those excellent
                                 electronics that keep track of dates and act as personal digital
                         - Replay memories in your mind to reinforce them.
                         - When trying to commit something to memory take it in with all your
                                 senses. Notice how things smell and feel as well as how they look.

          I think there are life lessons to be learned in this discussion of senior moments. I say let’s have ‘em! Let’s experience as many of them as we need in order to get the message to slow down and smell the flowers. Let’s not be embarrassed when we do something silly like trying to remember where we parked the car at the mall.  Let’s create a place where we have the luxury to do one thing at a time. For those of us who are retired, we’re done being show offs, multi-tasking our little hearts out and showing we can manage a myriad of tasks simultaneously. There’s a bigger bonus awaiting us when we take more time and that bonus is joy, the kind of joy that appears when we look out into world and see, really see, something different than before.
          Learn to see memory lapses as a gift; a pause to take a break and enjoy what’s happening around your; a reminder to be present in the moment.

You might also enjoy:
          Ten Things to Make Your Senior Moments Happier
          Must We Always Act Our Age?