Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Sweet Peace #15: Learning Opportunities Galore!

   

Cider Fizz


    I’m in Santa Barbara, working on a project I believe in, enjoying time with a dear friend, and away from my daily routines. Niggling below these lovely days is a frustration: this is day 23 of a sugar fast, however, my blood glucose is seriously elevated. This is confusing as I try to figure out what I’m doing wrong.

    The sugar fast is actually going well, I even managed to make it through a birthday party which featured an excess of cookies, candy and champagne. The search for a bubbly and champagne-looking, non-sugar and non-alcoholic drink resulted in Cider Fizz … club soda and apple cider vinegar … which is amazingly refreshing, especially when sporting a strawberry as shown above.


Somehow, though, my blood glucose doesn't seem to have gotten the word that I’m not doing sugar. Logically, I’m still consuming too much sugar in the other things I’m eating so I’m doing a food diary to see if I can identify the hidden-sugar culprits. The obvious carbohydrates have already been eliminated, so there’s something else going on.


Another factor is that, it has been rainy so I haven’t had a real walk for a couple of days. Today looks sunny so we will see how that changes the equation. I’m thinking about ordering a constant glucose monitoring device to see if I can fine tune which foods are the source of the issue.


In the meantime, the study of the complex system of appetite, hunger, and metabolism continues to fascinate me. Fortunately, there are amazing sources of science-based information and terms like dopamine, grehlin, leptin, insulin and cholecystokinin (CCK) are gradually making sense. One of my favorite information sources right now is Andrew Huberman’s podcast. He manages to make complex information understandable and focuses on what we can do to have better results in mental and physical health and performance.


So ... off to another week of learning and loving life. I am so grateful to be healthy and energetic as I explore ways to be healthy and energetic. ;-)

Thursday, March 24, 2022

Been There Voices - Anita Perez Ferguson - A March Poem

 

A March Poem


In a world of sorrow, thank you for planting flowers.

When you plant and water, you are a midwife in the birth of delicate creations.

Flowers give evidence of God’s wondrous creation, season after season,

even in the midst of turmoil and pain.

Take heart, see their beauty, join in the process of renewed joy.

You are God’s partner creating colorful miracles with your own hands;

plant, tend, kneel.

Let your garden balance the pains of our troubled days.

Let the flowers be a banner of God’s love waving in a war-torn world.

Let them comfort your sorrow.

May your flowers bless all who see them, drinking in dew, dancing in the sun.

They are fragile as you are fragile.

They are God’s beloved as are you.



** Anita Perez Ferguson, PhD
, Santa Barbara, CA, young adult historic fiction author
Books; Twisted Cross (2020), Women Seen & Heard (2019)

https://www.amazon.com/Twisted-Cross-Adventure-World-Mission-ebook/dp/B08GCXKS9F


Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Sweet Peace #14: Sticker Tarot

Sticker Tarot

"Time and reflection change the sight 

little by little 'til we come to understand." 

-- Paul Cezanne


Celebrating the first 13 weeks of Sweet Peace gave me a sense of progress and an acceptance of and settling into this journey. Recently, in order to make my Gratitude Mojo journaling more fun, I bought a bag of 800 stickers. I’ve never been much of a sticker person but the graphics on these captured me. 


At the end of every week in the journal, there is a space to celebrate the week so I sorted through the larger stickers and found one. When I stuck it on the page, it made me laugh and  swear I could feel a surge of dopamine, one of those lovely molecules that motivates us and makes us want more. I began to find other places for those stickers. 


I even created Sticker Tarot. Somewhat like Tarot cards, without the official guidance, I would choose a sticker at random and then find some connection to the image. Sometimes it was a bust, however, often it made me think about things in a new way that probably wouldn’t have shown up otherwise.


So, it wasn’t a surprise when stickers started showing up in Sweet Peace. It had been several days since I had written in my Sweet Peace journal and I was facing the dreaded BLANK PAGE. Things were going along, not swimmingly, but not badly. Nothing dramatic to report. I almost put the journal away when I decided to pull a sticker. (The one shown above.)


Suddenly, words started flowing:


The Universe of Sweet Peace:

    I had an idea ..

and I’m implementing it.

    The more I invest in it,

the bigger and more impactful it becomes!


    Just like this image, there are thousands of

thoughts

emotions

experiences

outside sirens calling

circumstances.


All swirling me this way and that,

competing for my attention,

seeking love.


But I am holding true to myself.

Action is the power.


That led me into summarizing the lessons from the first 13 weeks:


Starting the day is critical:

- recommit to a plan

- review my objective

and the pitfalls of failing

- nourish myself with Mojo Cookies 

(inspiration)


The first “justification decision” opens the door to FAILURE

- close the door IMMEDIATELY

(or as soon as possible)


Know thyself; love thyself

- be kind and try to find out what’s missing

and deliver a peaceful solution


Think NFTT (non-food tiny treats)

- make a list to have when needed


Not a bad outcome for starting out with a blank mind looking at a blank page.


Addendum: I am on Day 16 of a 30-day sugar fast … and I’m headed for Santa Barbara where there will be sugar lurking and a birthday party. That is not a justification. I've made a commitment to myself and I intend to keep it.

Thursday, March 17, 2022

Love Letters to My Life: #45 The Gifts of Solitude and Uncertainty

Turkey Feather - after the fight


(We know the day we were born, but most of us do not know the day we will die. This love letter to my life is written on the day I've designated as my death day: the 17th of every month, and reminds me to be grateful for my joy-filled life.)    

“To live a spiritual life we must first find the courage to enter into the desert of our loneliness and to change it by gentle and persistent efforts into a garden of solitude. The movement from loneliness to solitude, however, is the beginning of any spiritual life because it it is the movement from the restless senses to the restful spirit, from the outward-reaching cravings to the inward-reaching search, from the fearful clinging to the fearless play.”

― Henri J.M. Nouwen, Reaching Out: The Three Movements of the Spiritual Life 


In 2009, two years after Richard died, I finally wound up alone. I had delayed the approaching unknown for two years by living with family, but now the walls reverberated with the silence of an empty life. A friend reminded me that I needed to learn to live alone without feeling lonely. It wasn’t a new thought, but suddenly I understood that it wasn’t going to be easy.

    In the thirteen years since then, I’ve moved ten times. While each move made sense at the time, I now wonder if the fear of loneliness was a factor in that constant unsettling and resettling, as if the loneliness would disappear somewhere else.

    Many things shifted during all that movement, and perhaps the fear of loneliness finally quieted. In 2019 after I had been in Mexico for two years exploring that beautiful land, I had an overwhelming feeling that I needed to come “home,” so I moved to Reno, which was a bit odd since I had never lived there. However, what little family I had was there, just a few months later COVID hit. Suddenly, I was locked down. Meeting new people was almost impossible and, other than seeing family occasionally, I was truly alone.

It was different this time, I began to savor it.  

Tuesday, March 15, 2022

Sweet Peace #13: My BMW Lesson

Turn My Ship Around

    Yesterday, in a conversation with a dear friend, she noticed that we pronounced BMW differently. Hers ended with a “you” sound and mind ended with an “uh” sound. She is a California girl; I’m from the Midwest. We’re both language oriented, careful about words and grammar; she perhaps more of a stickler than I am. She’s the only person I know who can say, “It is I.” Both of us were raised in poor, under-schooled families and being “educated” was important to us.

The point of all of this is that when she noted my “accent,” a minor flood of emotion swept through me. I was offended and instantly defensive. My immediate efforts to “be right” surprised me. Fortunately, our relationship is such that we unpacked it and wound up laughing about backgrounds and how we got here. (And, by the way, there is actually a 24-second YouTube video on the proper pronunciation … and, as is usually the case, my friend was right.)


The surprising reaction, however, stayed with me. Where did that feeling come from? What triggered that flash of not being perfect, of being attacked? In general, where do emotions come from?


Recently, I’ve been on an intriguing journey into the chemistry of bodymind, assisted by the amazing podcasts from the Huberman Lab and LifeSpan with David Sinclair. While they both do an amazing job of simplifying the complex world of biochemistry, I’m still just scratching the surface of understanding how all of this works. 


However, it’s clear that our emotions create molecules which go racing through our bodies creating all sorts of reactions. After my BMW experience, I started wondering what starts the process, what creates emotion? I found this definition from the Behavioral Research Blog:


Different networks in the brain can create the same emotion. And yes, emotions are created by our brain. It is the way our brain gives meaning to bodily sensations based on past experience. Different core networks all contribute at different levels to feelings such as happiness, surprise, sadness and anger.


So, if I have this right, I heard a comment about the way I pronounced a word and my brain interpreted it as a personal attack and generated a mild form of anger. Remember, I was completely safe, sitting in my own comfy chair talking on the phone to a friend, still my brain was picking up danger signals.


Of course, “the brain” isn’t simply one thing like our tonsils, conveniently located at the back of our throats for easy removal (at least in my day). The brain is more like a city with endless streets and alleyways connecting all the buildings and structures that make up the operation. There are a zillion people running this way and that, cleaning up, rebuilding, carrying messages, many operating on memos sent out a hundred thousand years ago, more or less.


I no longer think I’m running the show. It feels more like I’m a fan sitting in the bleachers watching a basketball game, waving my hand and saying, “May I make a suggestion?” That may be an understatement, maybe I’m more like the coach who can call time, motion the players into a huddle, and offer encouragement and a new play.


And what, pray tell, does any of this have to do with Sweet Peace as we approach the end of the first quarter of this 52-week game? It’s clear that I’m trying to tweak a long established, highly complex, not particularly interested in changing system. It’s a bit befuddling because “I” am the one trying to change the system and also the one fighting for status quo, i.e. the comfort zone of safety.


These are fresh thoughts and I don’t have answers. However, I do have increased respect for the complexity of my brain systems and why changing them seems to be such a difficult task. My brain has been doing its job pretty darn well for many years. It’s set in its ways and grumbles when I ask it to change. 


The question for the next quarter is how to find gentle ways to work with it, make it feel safe. Maybe it’s time to redefine Sweet Peace:


The Sweet Peace I’m looking for is a loving and gentle relationship with my body, respecting its health and strength, willingly nourishing it with health-promoting foods and activities, listening to its needs, and trusting its incredible ability to heal itself, and accepting it unconditionally, grateful for the life it has given me.

Monday, March 14, 2022

Spring for Ukraine

Spring for Ukraine

a grandmother carries her old dog into exile
a man puts on a heavy mantle of leadership
13 Davids stand up to a Goliath warship
a pianist plays a last song amidst the rubble
a farmer pulls a tank away from a battle scene
mothers carry their children into a foreign country
fathers cry as they put their families on trains
a little girl stands and sings to refugees in a basement
a convoy of enemy tanks, forty miles long, halted
a pregnant mother and baby die when a bomb hits
teenagers with skateboard kneepads march off to war
a BMW convertible, machine gun mounted,
driver sitting at the ready,
Mariupol: 400,000 children, women, men,
no food, no water, no electricity.

I awake to an almost spring day in a warm bed,
gratitude spreads like the morning light
momentarily softening the horror
that we're
doing
this
again.

-- joyce wycoff

Tuesday, March 8, 2022

The Center of the World brought me to tears

The Center of the World

    Expectations are always interesting. I live on the edge of the Anza Borrego Desert which is dotted with places that attract misfit artists who create amazing, colorful art out of society’s debris. Places like Salvation Mountain/Slab City/East Jesus where creativity is as abundant as demolished cars, left over buckets of paint, endless old tires, and a haunting profusion of empty television screens.

When I found out my power would be off for two days while crews upgraded power poles, I decided it was time to visit a place that had intrigued me for over a year … Felicity, California, also known as the Center of the World. I had dropped the information about it in the same “weird places” file as the other outlaw artist places that had so engaged me. It didn't take long to realize it didn't fit.


I have always been intrigued by “center of the world” stories. It seems to be a trait of the human species to tell and retell our origin stories. The ancient cultures always seem to have a story about where the world and the people began and, interestingly, that place always seems to be a mountain, cave, rock or even tree that happens to be just around the corner, somewhere in their own neighborhood.


So when I discovered Felicity and found out that it was “officially” designated as the “Center of the World,” I had to know more.


As these things often do, it started with a man with a vision. In this case Jacques-André Istel, who happens to be the mayor of Felicity, population 2. Somehow, the vote was 3-0. Mayor Istel says the third vote was cast by a dragon. The election investigation is ongoing.


And who is Jacques-André Istel? 


Wikipedia describes him as a French American recreational parachutist and investment banker and later in life, historian, widely responsible for popularizing parachuting in the United States. He is considered "the father of American skydiving. That fits as I was invited to return this weekend for a day of skydiving … with the main participants being women in their 80s and 90s. (Obviously, I’m not old enough... let alone gutsy enough.)


The word that stood out for me was “historian.” However, if I were writing Wikipedia, I would change that word to Renaissance man. It took only a minute or two to explode my expectation of a colorful bit of amusement into a monumental place that brought tears to my eyes.


To back up just a bit. Istel served as a Marine during the Korean War, leaving as a Lt. Colonel. Roadside America says Istel told them he had a habit of purchasing land, and in the 1950s he bought 2,600 acres in the Sonoran Desert. “I told my wife, ‘I don’t know what I’m going to do with this bare land, but it has to be entertaining.'"


Maybe he was just going to enjoy skydiving in an open land. Maybe he didn’t have a vision until a dragon entered his life … or did he bring the dragon to life to serve his vision? One way or the other he decided to build a town and make it the center of the world. 

Of course he did. 

And, his first step was to write a children’s book about a dragon. 

Of course it was.


Anyway he wrote Coe the Good Dragon at the Center of the World and then convinced Imperial County to declare Felicity as the official center of the world. I bet you didn’t know Imperial County, California was in charge of things like that, huh? They have to do something in those hot summers there.





So there it is now, a desert mirage honoring humanity with a museum, a 25-foot staircase going nowhere, rescued from the Eiffel Tower, a pink pyramid marking the exact center of the world and which grants visitors a wish if they promise never to tell (and pay their $3 for a certificate), and a perfect chapel on a hill … which he built with 150,000 tons of dirt because a church should be the highest spot around.


While all of this is whimsical and fun, that’s not the part that took my breath away and made me teary. Between the pyramid and the chapel there is a monument to humanity, titled Museum of History in Granite. It’s more like a maze of over 500 beautifully incised triangular granite billboards spelling out our history, our geology and biology, our laws and wars, our art and literature, our religions and our wisdom. It was like seeing a family reunion portrait when everyone was young and loved each other.



Mike Anton, in an article for the Los Angeles Times, captured the scope of this monument:

  ... eight horizontal monuments spread out like spokes of a wheel between the church and the pyramid. When completed, it will serve as a Cliffs Notes of life on Earth: 416 kitchen-counter-size granite panels etched with words, timelines and drawings.

The Greek philosophers. Early music. Buddhism. The Han Dynasty. Early timekeeping. Ireland's golden age of scholarship. The evolution of math. Our sun. The night.
Nomadic tribes and barbarian invasions. Volcanic eruptions. Early concepts of law. Early India. Metallurgy. Sages from China. The development of bread and cheese.
The rise and fall of the world's empires over 5,000 years required five panels. An etching based on Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel ceiling, the hand of God giving life to Adam, stretches over three panels. The Renaissance will fill at least 110 panels, Istel estimates. The 20th century will need a bunch as well.

     Mike was obviously taken with Istel and left us with this quote from the New Yorker magazine in 1959: "He has the unabashed drive of a young adult gorilla in especially fine condition." It is worth reading his entire article if this amazing man interests you.

If archeologists of the future find this treasure trove, they will believe us the wisest of peoples. Some people write books, Jacques-André Istel has created a monument to all of us. In this time when we seem to be hell-bent on destroying humanity, I can only hope we find our way to live up to his work.


And, I wonder if this guy will still be there?



******

Wikipedia: In May 1985, the Imperial County Board of Supervisors designated Felicity as the Official Center of the World.


Official Center of the World website.

"See it now: the center of the world, The History of Humanity is being etched in stone in the California desert. The real story is the builder,"  by Mike Anton,  April 16, 2008, Los Angeles Times.

Sweet Peace #12: The power of foreshadowing failure

   

Manzanita in spring snow

 Over the past week, I’ve spent about 12 hours driving to and from Santa Barbara, mostly in the company of Andrew Huberman through his neuroscience-related podcast Huberman Lab. I’m definitely in over my head but he does a great job of presenting the information clearly without going too far into the weeds. I appreciate his approach of tying everything back to real world issues.

Dr. Andrew Huberman is a professor of neurobiology and ophthalmology at Stanford School of Medicine and the almost two-hour podcast that has stimulated many more hours of contemplation is Episode #55 The Science of Setting & Achieving Goals. 


Huberman’s lens is neurobiology and the sea of chemicals running through and running our bodies much more than I ever imagined. Much of what we read in personal development and management literature has been studied to see what’s actually going on at the biological level. A great deal of time the biology and the behavioral recommendations are in sync; however, occasionally they’re not. And that’s where it gets interesting.

Tuesday, March 1, 2022

Sweet Peace #11: The Placebo Effect and Ghrelin

Protea, also known as Sugar Bush

This week has been a high-learning time. I’m starting to recognize that I may be a better learner than doer, however I hope to find balance soon. The idea and research that captivated me this week was finding out more about the placebo effect and how it might contain seeds of behavior transformation.

The main sources of this line of thinking include an article in Harvard Health Studies which states: “Your mind can be a powerful healing tool when given the chance. The idea that your brain can convince your body a fake treatment is the real thing — the so-called placebo effect — and thus stimulate healing has been around for millennia. Now science has found that under the right circumstances, a placebo can be just as effective as traditional treatments.”

The placebo effect is a fascinating and powerful example of the mind/body connection and stimulated the work of Alia Crum, an expert on mindsets and beliefs and how they shape our responses to stress, exercise, and even to the foods we eat. Dr. Crum is an Associate Professor of Psychology at Stanford University and the Principal Investigator of the Stanford Mind & Body Lab.