Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Brain that Changes Itself

This is an amazing book!

The Brain that Changes Itself
Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Scienc

by Norman Doidge, M.D.

The brain can change itself without operations or medications.

Chapter 1 ... A Woman Perpetually Falling ... Rescued by the Man Who Discovered the Plasticity of Our Senses

We have a sixth sense we don't often talk about but it is critically important to our well-being ... balance.  Here's one story:

Paul Bach-y-Rita, a pioneer in understanding brain plasticity worked with Cheryl Schiltz who had lost her vestibular system and her sense of balance as a side effect of gentimicin.  She is a Wobbler, as people who have this condition call themselves; she lurches as if drunken, falls down and is exhausted by trying, and failing, to keep herself balanced.

Bach-y-Rita developed a hat with a sensor that detects movement in two planes connected to a plastic strip which Cheryl places on her tongue.  The sensor fizzes in various places dependent upon the movement and she begins to walk without wobbling.  The device works but the marvel occurs when, even after the device is turned off, she is still able to balance herself.  After the first usage of the hat for two minutes, the after-effect lasts for 40 seconds.  The next time, she wore the hat for twenty minutes and they hoped for an after-effect of 7 minutes but it lasted for a full hour.  The next time, the twenty-minute usage produced an after-effect of 3 hours and 20 minutes.  The training-effect continued to expand and over the next year, Cheryl wore the device more frequently and now no longer wears it at all and no longer "wobbles."

This did not fix her vestibular system, it created an entirely new way of replacing the lost capacity.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Guardian Angel: My Angel

I close this series with my main angel ...

My Angel (center center) -- with golden wings she flies, unrestricted by mortal time and space.  She is free, graceful and golden in her nature and presence.  She is strong and solid in her self ready to protect me from anything that comes my way.  She tells me to go where I want, do what I want, to follow the yearnings of my heart and that she is always beside me, always there to give me what I need.  She reminds me that I need have no fear.  She helps me do what I came here to do.

And bringing you this wish from all of them ...

The Trail Blazer's wish for you is that you always have your North Star clearly in sight.
Wisdom Woman sends you synchronicities that remind you of the magic of the Universe.
The Dancer wishes you music that stirs your spirit and leads you into Dance.
The Twin Souls enfolds you in unconditional love and help you embrace your Shadow.
Spirit Woman surrounds you with the eternal mystery of Beauty.
Black Beauty invites you feel the deep connection with the Earth.
My Angel touches the yearning in your heart and whispers, "Fly!"

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Guardian Angel: Black Beauty

Black Beauty (upper left) -- he is power, grace, freedom and acute sensitivity.  He dances with life and does not fear danger because he is fast and strong and knows he can easily outrun it.  He follows whatever calls him and loves the beauty of the earth and the feel of wind on his face.  He reminds me that I am here as a physical animal loving the connection with and beauty of the earth.  He helps me travel fast wherever I want to go.

Yesterday I was living out of my car wondering where home would be.  This morning I'm in a funky cabin on the lake listening to birds sing as I drink my morning tea.  It's funny, this was my third choice, the make-do possibility, the "just for a little while" option but it's homely charm is working on me and it feels perfect.  Last night Ryan brought my granddaughters up and we walked down to the lake and explored the boat dock where I'll keep my kayaks.  After dinner we played ping-pong in the converted garage and made "weedies" on the deck.  I didn't know what "weedies" were but they turned out to be part pine needles, multiple parts tape and the imagination of a 4-year-old.

It was a perfect first evening in my new place and I'm not sure it would have been as perfect in the spectacular house that I fell in love with.  Life, once again, is perfect and right.  Sometimes it seems like life is Black Beauty and I am riding on his back, doing my best to just hold on and enjoy the ride.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Guardian Angel: Spirit Woman

Spirit Woman (upper right) -- she sees what others can't through a mystical veil of color and beauty.  She proudly wears the gem that marks her spiritual journey and, through her deep silence, she has much to say and knows when and how to say it.  She teaches me to retreat into beauty, to hold my own mystery and explore its depths.  She helps me understand the eternal mystery and my place in the worlds of both spirit and the waking dream of reality.

On March 8, I left Colorado for what I thought would be a brief excursion into spring.   Fifteen days later, I'm sitting in a motel room in Oakhurst, CA, basically homeless and on a completely new path.  There is an old sports proverb that says you can't steal second without taking your foot off first base.  I've taken my foot off first and am now in that middle distance headed toward second, trying to watch all the players and where the ball is and be aware of any opportunities that might occur.  Adrenalin is up.  Time slows as my mind races. 

And, in this silent space of the moment, I turn to my Guardian Angels for advice.  Spirit Woman reminds me that this is a waking dream, an illusion of my own making.  It matters not which house I take ... or don't take.  I don't particularly like that advice as I have found a spectacular house that I can imagine being in for a very long time.  I can see the views of the Sierra in the distance and feel the presence of friends and family in the great room.  And, that might happen ... or it might not.  And, if it doesn't, another possibility will move forward in the dream and it will be life being perfect.  And, that is the reminder I need.  Life is perfect even when it doesn't seem so at the time.  My job is to find the perfection in each moment and honor it ... and, be grateful for it ... even if I get tagged out at second.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Guardian Angels: Twin Souls

More guardian angels:

Twin Souls (lower center) -- they are unconditional love, accepting both the light and the dark, connecting on all levels, physical, mental, emotional and spiritual, feeling the force of love without boundaries and without artificial limitations.  They teach me to connect through feelings, to deeply feel the connection between all of us, to strip away the clothing and barriers that create the illusion of separation, to stand naked in my brightness and the brightness of all around me.  They remind me to connect with and love my shadow self and the shadow of others.  They help me love everyone who comes my way.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Guardian Angel: The Dancer

Rudolf Steiner, an Austrian philos-
opher and social thinker who founded Anthro- posophy and the Waldorf School movement spent much of his energy trying to find a synthesis between science and mysticism; and to build a connection between the cognitive path of Western philosophy and the inner and spiritual needs of the human being.

Steiner spoke of guardian angels and other spiritual beings as a reality. Their existence, he said, is a spiritual and scientific fact that can be researched and studied by clairvoyance. One of his aims was to enable people to connect again with these spiritual beings not only for their own benefit, but also for the benefit of the other kingdom of nature and the whole destiny of the earth's evolution.  In his book Guardian Angels, Connecting with Our Spiritual Guides and Helpers, Steiner states  "... people actually only notice a small part of life.  A large part goes unnoticed, and because they do not notice it, they believe this part of life does not exist."

Several studies show that most Americans believe in angels.  A article states,
Randall Balmer, chairman of the religion department at New York's Barnard College, says  "Americans live in an enchanted world," and engage in a kind of casual mysticism independent of established religious ritual, doctrine or theology. "There is," he says, a "much broader uncharted range of religious experience among the populace than we expect."
The Dancer (lower left) -- she dances through life freely and with abandon.  She is at home in her body and in the natural world.  She is sensuous, passionate and communicates her true self through her physical self with generosity and grace.  She teaches me to be more open and free and helps me honor and understand my body.  She reminds me to dance!  She helps me truly love my own body and honor the physical act of making love.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Guardian Angels: Wisdom Woman

Wikipedia says this about Guardian Angels: 
A guardian angel is an angel assigned to protect and guide a particular person. The belief in guardian angels can be traced throughout all antiquity. The concept of tutelary angels and their hierarchy was extensively developed in Christianity in the 5th century by Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite.

The theology of angels, and tutelary spirits, has undergone many refinements since the 400s, and belief in both the East and the West is that guardian angels protect whichever person to whom God assigns them,[1] and present prayers to God on that person's behalf. The Catholic Church's calendar of saints includes a memorial for the guardian angels on October 2.
I can't say that my guardian angels were assigned to me by God because I have know way of knowing.  The ones I have chosen however came to me in their own way.  Images torn out of magazines; carried around in a box of thousands of images for years, they leaped into my consciousness while I was looking for an answer.  The more I think about the particular wisdom of each one, the more important they become. I know they are aspects of myself ... but then, if I think about things from a metaphysical point of view, isn't everything ... and aren't I an aspect of everything else?  A drop in an ocean; an ocean in a drop.

On the lower left of the image is Wisdom Woman -- she knows.  She knows herself and she knows others.  She is compassionate and strong, flexible and grounded.  She has an inner humor that bubbles over easily.  She is easy going but never loses touch with herself.  She is generous to others and also to herself.  She reminds me to honor myself and loves to find new ways to make me happy.  She brings great synchronicities into my life.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Guardian Angel: the Trail Blazer

A few weeks ago, I was trying to make a decision and kept spinning in a circle getting nowhere.  So I decided to get help from my guardian angels.  The only problem was that I didn't have any ... or rather I didn't know any of them so I set off on a journey to meet them.  It wasn't a long journey ... it meant going into my everything room and pulling out the large box of images I'd collected over the years.  It did take awhile though as I went through thousands of images pulling out the ones that spoke to me with no thought of why.

After a couple of days, I had seven images that had raised their hands, shouting, "Me! Me!"  So I sat down with them and asked them what they wanted to tell me.  And, they did.  I made the decision that closed one door and almost immediately opened another one that beckoned me onward.  (For a beautiful post about doors, go to Almost Paradisical ).

So I thought I'd introduce you to each of my guardian angels ... there are seven of them so we'll meet one each day.  I'm trying to make a decision about where to live so I'll once again ask their advice.

The Trail Blazer
(lower right hand corner) -- fearless, balanced and strong, he sees perfectly and clearly everything ahead of him.  He is one with nature and senses the slightest shifts in currents, winds and conditions.  He guides me flawlessly toward my North Star.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Circles of Intention

This morning I am pondering the warp speed of life as I sit looking out over the Santa Barbara Mission, the ocean and the Channel Islands in the distance.  The morning is pink and warm, exactly what I thought I wanted when I decided two months ago to spend six weeks soaking up the green California spring.  Sometimes it seems, though, that life has its own plans which makes me wonder about the inner workings of fate and free will.  How much of the unfolding of our lives is already written and how much do we hold in our own hands?

In some ways it seems like a playful dance of inertia and momentum. Once we start to move, there seems to be grooves we slip into that lead us almost effortlessly to places we never expected. Two months ago I was in Colorado yearning for spring.   That yearning started the motion that now seems to be rolling my life onto a completely new path toward a new place to live and new work.

Last Friday I met with people from a company I've been associated with for the past three years.  They write educational master plans for community colleges and three years ago I was involved in a small way with the writing of a plan for a new, public high school in the Sierra foothills.  It was one of the most exciting projects I had worked on but when it was finished, there was no thought of doing anything more with them or the project and I moved to Arkansas thinking that was my "happily ever after" life.

But, the school got built and is now rapidly becoming an exciting success story and I was invited to come back and look at what they created, partially by using our master plan but mainly by the shear energy and vision of the school leaders and community.  As we talked, ideas began to flow, energy surged and by the end of the day, a tangible trajectory was in place.  We are starting the process of documenting the successes of this school with the idea of being able to share the processes and principles with other schools. 

It's a fledgling project but enough to pull me back to California and into the world of "work."  I've been studying the world of intention for the past several months but sometimes I wonder which is more powerful ... our conscious "intending" or our less conscious "yearning."  As I watch my own life morph into new shapes, it seems like if I just follow my yearnings, wonderful new things appear which I wouldn't even have thought about intending.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Sierra Spring

A Moment in Spring

by Joyce Wycoff

Sometimes there is a moment in spring
When tender shoots of grass
Turn an achingly innocent green
And flowers swirl wild and blue.

Birdsong brightens the soft, southern breeze
Honeyed by orange blossoms
While sun and shadow dance a light show
Through clouds heavy with new rain.

At that one moment, the flood of spring
Crushes the pale breath from my chest
And spins my mind into a mute daze
Filled with stunned anticipation.

I yearn to capture it, control it,
Make it mine . . .  but then it’s gone;
Passed on to another moment in time,
Leaving me shaking with a need unfilled,

Knowing I can only wait and watch
For that next moment in spring.

(c) Joyce Wycoff, 1996

About the Image:  There were a whole flock of lambs on this bright spring day but this was the only one who was curious enough to come close enough to have his picture taken.  There is a whole gallery of Sierra Spring pictures available here for those of you who are craving spring.


Some patterns play themselves over and over through our lives.  One that seems active for me right now is the fall rite of passage for Lucy and Charlie Brown.  It is as reliable as carved pumpkin faces that sag and slump on stone cold porches long after the last bit of Halloween candy has disappeared.  Lucy assures Charlie Brown that this year she'll hold the ball steady for his triumphant kick. "Trust me," she says and offers ever-ingenious reasons to believe. But, true to form, at the last minute she pulls it away and Charlie winds up flat on his back.  Why does he believe her even when we're screaming at him that it's a trick?  And, what is the fiendish power that makes her continue to torment her friend?

I find myself, like Charlie Brown, wanting to believe, grasping at each new reason to trust, desperately wanting to kick that football, even when everything inside shouts "Stop! Don't do it! It's a trick!"  But, on I go, and the inevitable result is ... well, it's own inevitable self.  So, as I lie here flat on my back once again, I wonder:  is it better to keep giving Lucy a chance or should I give up the dream of that perfect kick?  Lucy is a cartoon character and she will never change her stripes.  But, people are real and they can and do change.  In the real world, Lucy could decide to stop her game ... or Charlie could decide to quit handing his power over to someone who can't be trusted.  But, if Charlie Brown stops trusting, does he run the risk of hardening his soul, losing that precious innocent belief that people do change?  If he forever gives up his dream of that triumphant fall kick, is it one step toward the loss of his youth and passion and possibility?

So, I get up, dust myself off and decide it's time to take myself outside the black-and-white world of cartoon and find a new option, a third possibility other than to kick or not-kick, trust or not-trust.  It's obvious that Charlie's yearning for the glory of the kick is clouding his judgment, so he can choose to refocus that yearning onto a new goal ... or he can find allies to help him determine the reliability of Lucy's change-of-heart promises.  Either way breaks the cycle but it also allows for the possibility of real change in Lucy, a possibility that always exists in the human species, a possibility that, if it did not exist, would make life unbearable.

So, bring on the football, Lucy.  My allies and I are ready to listen to your siren song again.  And, this time, for your sake, let's hope you're playing a new game.  As for me, I can play this game with you ... if it's real ... or I can move on to a new game.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

I'm going to need a pink bus.

Did you ever have an idea that truly grabbed you?  One that came from who knows where, niggled into your brain and crooned it's siren song over and over?  How did you respond?  Did you heed it's call and take action or did you put it away till another day?  Did you take one step at a time until the idea became a reality ... or did you listen to reason, take note of all the ways it was impossible and resist until the song slowly drifted away?  Most of us have resisted songs that have come our way and, as we get older with more things to lose, it becomes easier and easier to find the "why nots" and harder to justify making a leap into unknown territory.

Maybe that's why eleven-year-old Amiya Alexander had no problem waking her mother up at 1:00 in the morning saying, "I'm going to need a pink bus."  Not I want but I need.  A demand that led to Amiya's Mobile Dance Academy.

Amiya is a dancer and she wants to help little kids learn to love dance as much as she does.  She sees dance as a fun way to exercise and fight the obesity epidemic.  Her idea was the pink bus ... a traveling dance school that would go to where the kids are: schools, childcare centers, summer camps, churches and private parties and charge half the rate of most dance schools.  Amiya found a lot of help along the way ... from her mother who listened to her business plan and surprised her with a birthday present of a 1998 school bus, painted pink and transformed into the mini dance studio that Amiya sketched out as part of her plan ... to her great-uncle who drives the bus.

But that's what happens to an idea that has passion, energy and a motivation to serve others behind it.  Perhaps the real question behind this story is ... if an eleven-year-old girl can take an idea from concept to reality, why don't we follow our dreams more often?

Amiya wants to attend Harvard Medical School.  I wouldn't bet against that happening.   Here's her press video.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Stand Still

This is one of my favorite poems from David Wagoner.


Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you.
If you leave it, you may come back again, saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
Where you are. You must let it find you.
From the book "Traveling Light: Collected and New Poems" published by the University of Illinois Press in 1999

Monday, March 1, 2010

The Pilgrimage Is You

A little over a month ago, I wrote about a young friend of mine who was having a hard time and how I felt that I had not shared my spirit with her as much as I could have.  I made a commitment to her, and myself, to send her one reading every day from "Notes from the Song of Life."  This morning I finished that 30-day commitment and the reading included this passage:
You sometimes act as if you were carrying the torch out to the great unknown.  You are wrong.  Others have carried the torch out.  Now you are carrying it back.  You are returning.  Accept your homeless home.  Give up any other ideas.  You are not a stranger in a foreign place.  There is no place that is more your home than where you are now.  You are a stranger in your own homeland.  The earth beneath you knows you.  Heaven above you knows you.  All that is around you is welcoming you.  There should be no strangers here.  You and the grass are one. You and the bird are one.  You and the path are one.  You and the wagon train are one.  You and the rhythm are one.

You are the pilgrimage.  The pilgrimage is you.
My young friend has made a remarkable step on her journey.  She has kept her commitment to herself and also embraced her own spirit.  She's beginning to realize that she is "not a stranger in a foreign place."  It is beautiful to watch this flower blossom and to be part of this incredible pilgrimage of life.

About the image: "and the time came" started with a perfectly round cactus in the Sedona desert and then merged with one of my favorite quotes ... "And the time came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom." -- Anais Nin