Friday, September 30, 2011

Open Up and Get Moving

I woke up today feeling stronger, younger and more alert. This may not seem like news to you, but anyone who has seen me in the morning (prior to my infusion of coffee) would find this a minor miracle. The difference is I had a rolfing session yesterday and the invigorating effects spilled over and hopefully will help launch me into a more energized weekend.

For those of you who are not familiar with rolfing, it is a technique of deep muscular manipulation and massage for the relief of bodily and emotional tension. Rolfing is like electricity. I don’t understand it but I enjoy its rewards.

I heard about rolfing when I was attending Arizona State University in the 1980s. The young man I sat next to in my Jazz in America class had great posture and we had a conversation about it. He was learning how to be a rolfing practitioner and he was undergoing rofling sessions as well. Two decades later I learned my sister-in-law went through the rolfing treatments and had yearly tune-ups. I suspected one day I would give the modality a try, but it wasn’t number one on my list of things to do.

One day I was waiting for a client at her office and I started leafing through some magazines. I saw an ad for Rihab Yaqub, a certified East Valley Rolfer. She looked like a kind, compassionate soul, so I decided to shoot her an email and make an appointment.

I am glad I did.

I am no stranger to body work. I’ve experienced (and enjoyed) massage, acupuncture, gua sha and reiki. I have a rudimentary understanding of stagnant qui and lymph and I strive to keep things open and moving. I don’t even know if these terms apply to rolfing, but I think the idea is basically the same. Anyway, after my appointment (my fourth of 10) I discovered that I wasn’t as “open” as I felt I should be. Rihab offered me a few tips on how to “open up” but also encouraged me to not be too hard on myself.

Which brings me to my point (I always have one, sometimes I just take a while to get there.)

While I pride myself on some areas of openness and vulnerability, there are other parts of myself that I prefer to keep tightly shut. Of course I wasn’t even aware of this. I suspect it’s that way for a lot of folks. Whether it’s energetic vulnerability or an open mind, shutting the door is often the safest and more automatic response. Of course it is not the best way to live your life if you want to grow, improve and become happier. But it is easier.

When Jackie and I wrote Erase Negativity and Embrace the Magic Within, we wanted to help folks sponge away negativity from their lives. Both of us offer tips on the topic, write articles, give workshops and conduct seminars. We have found that most people acknowledge there is a lot of negativity in the world, but not everyone sees that they are often unknowingly contributing to the problem. Negativity is safely ensconced in our collective bodies and souls. Releasing the garbage and opening up to a happier life may not seem practical, or even possible.

In our book we write:

It is impossible to go through life without encountering difficulties. From a baby’s first cry to the last dying breath, the human experience involves a series of struggles. While encountering challenges is an inherent part of life, it is not so much the problems, but the attitude you take while facing these difficulties that shapes how you view the world.

If it were simply a matter of flipping a switch to receive a positive or negative attitude, most folks would opt for former. Unfortunately, many of us grew up in a negative environment, or suffered physical or emotional trauma that tainted our outlook. Bit by bit, negativity became a way of coping with life. Many pessimistic individuals claim that while a negative outlook may provide fewer positive results, it also protects them from disappointment. Unfortunately, negativity is more like a cancer than a protective shield. It starts small, and may seem innocent enough at first, but if not kept in check the negative mindset can spread and wreck havoc in all aspects of life.

I would like to invite anyone who is reading this article to consider practicing a few minutes of optimism every day. Of course I hope folks will buy our book or attend one of our seminars, but we are not so arrogant as to think we are the only ones with a guideline to happiness. There are many paths that will lead you toward a joyful life. However, we do believe your happiness is important and we will provide discounts and even free workshops to those who want our services but are experiencing financial hardship. If you want to make a positive change, contact us through our website and let us know how we can help.

The important thing is to do something, anything. The biggest obstacle to happiness is taking that first action. But as Confucius said so long ago: “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

So open up and get moving.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Sally Has Her First Oscar!

I got my first Oscar last week. I’ve been writing screenplays for years and envisioned the golden statute residing proudly in the music room. Other times I thought I could have a special shelf made in my office. However, when Oscar came into my life I never expected that he would spend a lot of the day sitting proudly on the bottom shelf of an end table in the living room. I especially never thought that the floor under the table would be littered with poo balls.

Oh, I guess there is a detail I forgot to tell you. Oscar was not the result of an award-winning script. Oscar is our new pet bunny.

Our last bunny recently passed away. None of our bunnies ran to greet us at the door and wag their tails, or jump into our laps demanding attention. But life without a bunny was strangely sad and quiet. We missed the pitter patter of bunny paws, the slurp, slurp slurp from the water bottle and the clanging of toys being tossed around the cage. My spouse, CB, probably would have grieved longer after the passing of Tinkle Toes, our last bunny, but there are so many pets that need homes, I didn’t see the point in waiting. We adopted Oscar from the Bunny Rescue in East Mesa, AZ. I applaud the owner, Angel, and her devoted staff of volunteers. If you are looking to adopt a pet bunny or cat, or you are looking for a charitable organization to donate to, this is a very worthy cause.

But back to our bunny tale.

Oscar is quite the character. At times he stands up on his haunches and looks around, pokes his nose into anything new and occasionally makes us laugh when he jumps straight up into the air. Other times he seems quite content to sit quietly, wait until we are lulled into a false sense of security and sneak a nibble on the carpet or throw rug.

I have always enjoyed having a pet, but usually the animal of choice has been a dog. When I was a child we had both dogs and cats. But CB is allergic to cats and we travel too much for a dog, so bunnies have been our companions.

There isn’t anything cuter than a baby bunny, but this time I felt an adult rabbit, one who was friendly and enjoyed human interaction, would be a better choice. Oscar fit the bill.

Even though we have had pet bunnies in the past, I went online to read up on bunny care. I learned a few things. However, I didn’t feel too bad that I wasn’t an expert. I have two grown children and there are things that were acceptable for babies raised in the 1980s that are not in vogue today. One example is those cute bumper pads in the cribs. I had bumpers for each of my daughters and it even came with a matching baby quilt and curtains. Who would have expected that these cushy pads could become a choking hazard? So my granddaughters did not have bumper pads in their cribs and their mom didn't eat sushi during her pregnancy. Who knew? The point is there is always something new to learn, whether it's child care of bunny care, do your research.

I don’t want to make this an educational piece. If you google bunny rescue and include your state and city, you will find adoptable pets as well as information on pet care. The same is true for other critters such as dogs and cats and even ferrets.

Having a pet is an important responsibility and not something that should be taken lightly. However, if you have done your research, have realistic expectations and have room in your heart for a new pet, please consider adopting one from the humane society, animal shelter, or one of many rescue organizations.

To my friends and family members who saw the headline to this story and thought I earned the coveted “Golden Boy” for Best Script, I apologize. But don’t despair (I’m still hopeful.) My screenplays may not have earned a gold statuette (yet) but now that I have my Oscar in the house I have created my own wonderful story and we pleased to report that are all living “hoppily” ever after.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

We're All In The Same Boat

Our nation recently commemorated the 10-year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. It is a day that is forever etched in our collective consciousness. Who doesn’t remember where they and what they did when they heard the shattering news and saw the painful and horrifying images?

There have been a myriad of plaques, memorials, flags, news clips, speeches, prayers, rants and outbursts surrounding that fateful day. There are stories and video clips denoting the pain and suffering, others of respect and gratitude for the heroes who worked to save others, narratives of the few survivors, as well as stories of the family and friends who lost a loved one in one of our nation’s worst tragedies.

What I would like to see in the next 10 years are more stories of healing and humanity. While I believe we have to take measures to ensure our nation’s security, I worry that the most fundamental step, recognizing the importance of our oneness as a people, needs to be fostered.

We so often focus on how we differ from one another that it creates an artificial barrier. We all want to take pride in our uniqueness, but when we use this as a measurement of how we are somehow “better” than someone else, it creates problems. When something or someone is perceived as dissimilar, it becomes so much easier to use that difference as a reason to hate.

Sometimes that hate becomes violent.

Shortly after 9/11 2001, a Sikh man wearing a turban was gunned down. The gunman, Frank Rogue, believed his target was an Arab. The victim, Balbir Singh Sodhi, was a gasoline station owner who emigrated from India. Ironically, the Sikhs are known for their peace-loving nature and beliefs. What makes this even worse, at least for me, this violent act happened in my home town of Mesa, AZ.

As a Buddhist, I believe in the interconnectedness of humankind. Individuals are a microcosm of all of humanity and in the larger scheme, the universe. What we do to others we do to ourselves. Therefore, our actions of healing, compassion and understanding are needed far more than our acts of anger and hatred. While force may have a temporary effect to keep harm at bay, it does little to solve the inherent problem.

Since most of us identify with the things that set us apart from one another, it is difficult to imagine how inner connected we are. One example that illustrates our connectedness is pollution. If there a nuclear accident, the fallout is not contained to that given area. Radiation seeps into the earth and ground water, travels through our rivers, streams and ocean, as well as traveling hundreds and thousands of miles by blowing winds.

In a more humorous analogy I remember a story I heard years ago. A father was trying to bond with his son and decided to take him fishing in a small fishing boat. The son was in the front of the boat and the father in the back. When they were in the middle of the lake they hit a rock and water gushed near the father’s feet. The son seemed undeterred and even laughed about the situation. The father asked why the boy thought the situation was funny and the boy responded, “Because the leak is in YOUR part of the boat.”

In the next few years I hope we will spend less time focusing on past hurts and put our energy into solving problems by engaging others in heart-felt dialogue and recognizing the humanity in one another. We cannot root out all evil, but we can take steps to heal our planet by recognizing our similarities rather than dwelling on our differences.

A quote by Mushrif–ud-Din Abdullah, a Persian poet wrote a poem that graces the entrance of the Hall of Nation of the UN Building in New York.

Human beings are members of a whole,
In creation of one essence and soul.
If one member is afflicted with pain,
Other members uneasy will remain.
If you have no sympathy for human pain,
The name of human you cannot retain.

Before the 11th anniversary of 9/11 I hope we can report several instances where we were a source of hope and light for humankind and our planet. We share this world with others and it is in our best interest to try to get along. After all, we are all in the same boat.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Goodbye Tinkle Toes

Our pet bunny, Tinkle Toes, passed away this morning. Even though we were expecting his death was eminent, the reality of the inevitable did not diminish our sadness. Thankfully, our pet seemed to die peacefully in his sleep. We buried him in the forest this morning before CB had to go in for work.

Tinkle Toes was a small, black, Lionhead bunny. We got him when he was about six weeks old and could fit in the palm of my hand. CB went into the mall for new glasses and the pet store was right next door. The litter of fuzzy lionheads was just too tempting and we both returned the next day to add another pet bunny to our household.

We had hoped that Tinkle Toes was a girl as we already had a male bunny and two males do not get along (unless they are from the same litter.) We looked in between Tinkle’s legs to determine his gender. We couldn’t tell, nor could any of the folks in the pet store. However, when we brought him home our other bunny, Romeo, knew instantly and wanted to bite him.

This behavior was unusual for Romeo as he was a very good natured bunny, but instincts are instincts. We had the bunnies in separate cages, but one time Tinkles poked his nose a little too close to Romeo’s and got a quick nip in the schnozola. However, CB, patiently introduced the bunnies to each other a little at a time and eventually they not only tolerated each other, they became best friends. When Romeo passed away, Tinkle Toes was right by his side.

Tinkle Toes traveled more than the average lagomorph. He loved to go camping. He had a cage in the back of the camper that rested on a shelf, but when we were driving he had a “bunny bin” and sat between us in the cab. Whenever we stopped at rest stops or campsites, we had a special travel bin (a mesh-like laundry bag) with two dinner-plate sized holes cut out so Tinkles could be in a safe, enclosed pen, but could still chomp on the grass. And chomp he did. Eating green grass was one of his favorite past times. He especially liked the little white flowers from clover. As sick as he was, he still managed to eat a couple of the flowers before he passed away. I brought in a couple more of the tasty tidbits, but those lay untouched in his cage that I cleaned this morning. But at least he died among his favorite things.

Losing a pet is a sad thing, even when you know death is near. Tinkle Toes did not seem to be suffering and I’m thankful for that. He brought a lot of joy to our lives and we have many happy memories. Feeling both the joy and pain of loving someone is part of what makes us human. It reminds me of a quote by Anatole France, "Until one has loved an animal, a part of one's soul remains unawakened."

After we buried our bunny, the morning light filtered through the trees and created a bright spot on the ground very close to where Tinkles was laid to rest. There are many times when I bumble about and forget to notice the beauty of the world around me. It brought this quote by St. Francis of Assisi to mind.

"Ask the beasts and they will teach you the beauty of this earth."

I felt the luminescence was a sign that our little bunny’s spirit was in a better place and if I shifted my consciousness, I could be in a better place as well.

I cannot truthfully say that this moment in the sun erased my sadness. I will miss our little pet. I will remember how he would stand up on his back legs to eat a treat, the way he would sneak out and make me chase him through the house, and how happy he was plop down in the grass and eat dandelions and clover. It’s okay that I am sad. It’s okay that I take this nostalgic trip down the last five years of our fur baby’s life. I agree with Lacie Petitto who said,

“A pet is never truly forgotten until it is no longer remembered."

And I intend to remember Tinkle Toes and all the wonderful pets who have shared their lives with me. It is ironic that is the love and devotion of animals that best teach us how to be human.

I do not have the funds to add a wing to a pet hospital or create a refuge for animals. However, I can do what I have always done, respect the earth and its creatures, make environmentally sound choices, support “no kill” shelters, the humane society and PETA.

One day, I’m not sure when, we will adopt another bunny or two. Even though I feel the loss of our bunny, it would sadder still to punish ourselves further by refusing to allow another pet to enter our lives. I believe Gary Kowalski, author of The Souls of Animals, said it best.

"It is not just that animals make the world more scenic or picturesque. The lives of animals are woven into our very being - closer than our own breathing - and our soul will suffer when they are gone."

Good bye Tinkle Toes. You will be missed, but never forgotten.