July 20, 1969 – I remember…

I was with my family in front of a TV at my aunt and uncle’s house in Guilford, Connecticut. It was the evening/night of Sunday, July 20, 1969 – a little less than a month and a half from my 18th birthday. And a month or so from my High School Graduation. Together we watched the Apollo 11 Commander Neil Armstrong step onto the Moon.

Hearing the words of JFK calling us

“my fellow citizens”

space research science astronaut
July 20, 1969 – Apollo Moon Landing, American Men on the Moon

I watched the documentary Apollo 11 and the feelings that struck me were the unity of us as American People. We achieved something as a nation through Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins along with all of NASA that allowed us a feat in modern exploration. The shots of the people that watched the launch, hearing Walter Cronkite, anchor of CBS News brought back a feeling of solidarity.

It was the solidarity that ended the war in Vietnam, the solidarity that ignited the Civil Rights Movement, that supported Unions and hope and made us all feel that anything was possible.

Hearing the words of JFK calling us “my fellow citizens” in his 1962 speech about putting men on the moon and returning them safely reminded me that we are not cogs in a predatory capitalist machine but a part of a greater community striving for democracy. The Merriam-Webster dictionary lists citizen as:  “an inhabitant of a city or town; especially : one entitled to the rights and privileges of a freeman” I would add “free person” to include everybody beyond just men.

Seeing the films of the ticker-tape parades for Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins and the pride and love of the people for the astronauts and how we supported them as a people and a nation. I felt once again that we were the United States of America.

Let’s begin to engender those feelings of unity again.

This is my vision.

blue and white planet display
Spaceship Earth – Home – Stop Climate Change

This is my wish.

 

I took a stand with Starbucks and lost – or maybe not

adult attractive background beautiful
Photo by Tirachard Kumtanom on Pexels.com

 

I go to Starbucks to buy iced tea mostly because they are located less than a mile from my house. I have a rewards card and they recently bumped the required number of points for a “free reward” a drink up 25 points without any warning.

I have an allergy to wheat – but not wheat gluten. I also am lactose intolerant and eat very little meat.

Because of the bump in points I decided to unload regarding the no-food choices and the bump in reward points even though I didn’t expect any satisfying results. What I didn’t expect was to be treated as a non-person:

In the first email to them I enumerated the wheat allergies etc. I did write that I could eat wheat flour made from ground wheat berries but that regular wheat flour caused an allergic reaction of bloating, an energy crash and at least 24 hours of a depressive mood. In the second email I bemoaned that they had misunderstood my first email by misreading that I was allergic to wheat gluten and had not read all the way through to read and understand the lactose intolerance and almost no meat in my diet.

The second email was worse than the first. They obviously had been trained to see any wheat allergy as a gluten allergy and ignored the lactose intolerance and the meat. They treated me like an idiot. They wrote that the Greek Yogurt was gluten free – duh, but because they didn’t read / acknowledge the lactose intolerance issue, after all Greek Yogurt is made from dairy products.

I receive emails about “members” deals once, twice of three times a week. Because they are all about marketing and greedy capitalism and less about customer service. I felt demeaned by their communications. My new strategy has been to take an opposite anti-capitalistic stance and buy only ice tea and skip the occasional soy decaffeinated mocha. Also, I stopped hanging out there, although I like the staff.

I am weaning myself off of them and transferring my business to maybe Peets and just reducing trips out.

Starbucks didn’t understand me and showed their true colors of marketing to me as just a consumer instead of a person. I didn’t fit into their capitalistic marketing system and I am glad of it. Regarding their emails – now I ignore 90 percent of them because I don’t want to feed their market-greed values.

Rant done. Copy to blog. Link to Starbucks, maybe…

 

Road-Map Eyes

red and black abstract painting
Photo by Alex Montes on Pexels.com

 

In my twenties I lived in a cooperative house, almost commune-like in some ways. I arrived home from a long road-trip and one of my housemates said of me: “the man with the Road-Map Eyes”. I didn’t think much of it has the time except that I laughed.

~

In April of 2008 a student invited me to come see the Dali Lama in a five-day celebration in Seattle. We attended a few seminars and a dialog between the Dali Lama and Dave Matthews before thousands of people.

We’re lost

My student drove me around in his BMW – we were taking a short-cut through a neighborhood where all the houses and streets looked the same. I hadn’t been paying close attention to where we were. I was idling gazing at the neighborhoods.

“We’re lost,” he said frustrated. I immediately looked at his GPS read-out.

“It’s not working,” he said irritated and embarrassed. “I guess we’re going to be late,” he said resigned to it all.

Is this where you want to be?

I shifted my position in the passenger’s seat and looked at the street.

“I think I can get you to where you want to go,” I said.

“Okay,” he was hesitant.

a matter of trust and surrender

I gave him a series of directions:

right, left, drive 300 yards to the end of this street, go left and take your first hard right.

From-Google-Earth
Google Earth screenshot of Seattle, Washington neighborhood streets

As soon as we were on the “main drag” I asked:

“Is this where you want to be?”

“Yeah. How did you do that?” He was flabbergasted.

“I don’t know. I’ve always had a good sense of direction. When I was in my 20s one of my housemates said I was ‘the Man with The Road-Map Eyes’.”

“But how did you know this is where I wanted to end up?”

“I don’t know. I sensed it, I guess.”

“Amazing.”

“Not really. I’ve been doing it all my life. It’s a matter of trust and surrender into something I think we all know.”

 

I just read:

Scientists Prove That Humans Can Sense Earth’s Magnetic Field

acknowledging the sense that I have had and probably you too…

3 Commentaries – Politics

wethepeople

On Recent Income Taxes to be revealed to Run for President in some states:

Requiring that any candidate running for President release his/her income taxes is about the stupidest idea (with the best of intentions) that could ruin the elections. Here are the reasons as at least one has already been stated:

  • It’s unconstitutional – the stated one;
  • Trump has not protested one bit about it;
  • Trump has not protested one bit about it because it falls under his agenda why? –
  • If it looks like he is losing it gives him an immense amount of time to challenge the laws all the way to the Supreme Court if necessary – maybe 1 to 6 months extending his presidency into April (at the latest) of 2021 during which time:
  • He could call off the elections for a do-over;
  • Claim the elections are rigged against him – he’s very good at playing the victim card; inciting riots;
  • Declaring Marshall Law; or any numbers of scenarios; and on and on…

 

Die-hard Bernie supporters voted for Trump in 2016 (according to Newsweek)

The people that don’t vote – are one of the largest blocks of potential voters. They don’t vote because they don’t trust government, are cynical etc. They believe government is for the rich and that government doesn’t care about them (they haven’t been wrong). Hoping they will vote may be the same as believing that Angels will save us from corruption. Some Liberals I know are still angry at Bernie Sanders in 2016. A lot of the people who were going to vote for Bernie turned and voted for Trump. Both Bernie and Trump at that time represented outsiders that were going to take on establishment government, that’s why they turned away and voted for Trump. Fear and anger when whipped up into a frenzy makes people do things that they may later regret.

 

Trump Supporters and the Top 1%’s notion of the Divided States of America (DSA):

I know a few people that are Trump supporters, some highly educated, some simple people – they do not go to Trump rallies and are not part of his perceived “base”. The common element between these Trump supporters in my opinion are:

  1. They want a leader that will take care of them and mirror back to them the ideas of s simple government;
  2. In the face of an increasingly complex world and the threat of climate change they want a simple world based on the romanticism like their youth – based on the ideals of a strong, rugged individualistic type that believe in loyalty, a clear sense of right and wrong, a sense of family values;
  3. They are afraid of what the future brings and cling to conservative values and ideas of the past;
  4. They believe in “the American Dream” and if they are wealthy Trump supporters see Trump as their savior and those who are not so wealthy may believe they can achieve wealth on the backs of those who are oppressed and poor and “don’t deserve the American Dream because they want something for nothing”.

To call a Trump supporter stupid is unproductive and stops conversation between people that we may have called friends that are now enemies for what they believe – a quality that social media encourages because of the anonymity of our responses. Would you call a friend stupid for their support of Trump if you were face to face with them? How would you feel if someone called you stupid for being a Biden supporter face to face? You disagree.

Denigrating someone’s intelligence without exploring this point of view is a discounting of them as a person. I stop seeing them. This is what the Corporate dollars and the top 1% want – a Divided States of America, one way to further their agenda.

Isn’t part of being liberal an ability to tolerate opposing points of view without condemnation of the “other”?  What if we applied our social / public behavior with others to how we express ourselves on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, etc.?

Exclusion, condemnation and vitriolic rhetoric makes for increasing divisions – how can we begin the healing?

.

The Ultimate Sleep Hack – so far…*

woman sleeping
Photo by Craig Adderley on Pexels.com

taking the pressure off of going to sleep by going for optimal rest.

 Introduction

You’ve probably noticed the incredibly stressful world we now are required to function within at our best. There’s no way to maintain a stress-free life all together unless you engage in a prolonged meditation retreat – maybe. One of the best ways to cope with stress, anxiety, sadness or any other negative emotion is a multifaceted approach:

  • Tolerance – building a tolerance to stress and anxiety
  • Cultivating a compassionate neutral witness within
  • Meditation for an anchor to peacefulness / mindfulness throughout the day
  • Paying attention to and heeding our bodies

We put pressure on ourselves constantly. Some of this pressure is good when we need it to accomplish tasks and goals. Pressure becomes counterproductive when we threaten ourselves and our bodies with too much of it. This could be true of when we get ready to go to sleep at night; the pressure we’ve put on ourselves during the day spills over into the night and sleep becomes difficult and sometimes impossible. If we have chronic difficulties falling and staying asleep we may reach for prescription pharmaceuticals / supplemental sleep aids to fall and stay asleep, or we may use street drugs.

Taking downs to get off to sleep
And ups to start you on your way
After a while they’ll change your style
I see it happening every day

Oh spare your heart
Everything put together
Sooner or later falls apart
There’s nothing to it, nothing to it

From Everything Put Together Falls Apart © 1972 by Paul Simon

The downs can easily translate into alcohol or a prescribed medication at night and coffee and/or energy drinks throughout the day.

After I became caffeine free the first time and my energy level balanced out I saw that coffee didn’t give me more energy, it just took the energy I had and bunched it up because there was always an inevitable crash. My sleep patterns were the worst for it too. Working swing shift and nights didn’t help either.

Then I began taking control of my sleep which meant taking control of other aspects of my life too:

The Ultimate Sleep Hack So Far 

Change the name of going to sleep to Optimal Rest instead of pressure for sleep. If you fall asleep during your optimal rest period it’s a good bonus.

caffeine can disrupt your sleep up to 11 hours after you drink it

I’ve worked for over 20 years in the mental health field facilitating groups on relaxation, meditation, and sleep hygiene (no, this does NOT mean washing yourself while you sleep).

Sleep is part of a daily cycle. Children and teenagers need more sleep sometimes up to 10 or 11 hours. Adults average about 8 hours up to the age of 55. Those over the age of 55 can get by with less sleep – about 6 hours, yet 8 hours is still optimal. These figures are not set in stone and there are always exceptions to every “norm”.

Your bedroom should always be slightly on the cool side

Since the time of the industrial revolution mainly the advent of electric light and more recently television, computers, smart phones and the internet the natural rhythms of our bodies have been disrupted due to light pollution.

 

Immediate Preparations for Optimal Rest

woman sleeping
Photo by Ivan Obolensky on Pexels.com

Before Sleep – The Experts Report Our bodies adjust to light dark cycles so if you’re having trouble sleeping at night you may want to consider making changes to your daily routine:

Exercise – in the morning or afternoon. Avoid exercise in the late evening especially when its dark (absence of sunlight). Exercising after sunset or in the dark can signal your body to become more awake or alert. Exercise is important for a good night’s sleep even if it is a short or long walk in the morning, afternoon or early evening.

Caffeine – The experts report that caffeine can affect your body and disrupt your sleep up to 11 hours after you drink it. This can affect your ability to fall asleep and your ability to stay asleep. If you’re on a daytime work schedule consider stopping all caffeinated beverages at 11 am. Some keen observations of the effects of caffeine backed by science basically report that stimulating the body takes the energy that one ordinarily has and pumps it up leading to an inevitable crash if too much is ingested.

Television, Smartphone or Computer/Tablet use – excites the brain. Sleep experts recommend to stop using these devices at least 2 hours before retiring.

Snacking – Sleep experts recommend that you wait 3 hours after eating to go to sleep for a better night’s sleep. Two factors are implicated in this suggestion. Because your metabolism slows at night our bodies have difficulty digesting food and sleeping. Also there is a nighttime body metabolism at work and eating right before bed can effect this metabolism and disrupt sleeping patterns.

A Technique – If you do sleep poorly and assuming your morning is sunny you can re-set your body clock by sitting in the sun from 40 to 60 minutes soon after you rise.

Sleeping Timing – experts suggest going to sleep at the same time each night. I have observed that this has to do with body memory. Disrupting body memory where we experience a burst of energy hurtling passed our ordinary bedtimes usually comes from caffeine or a late-night snack of sugary foods or refined carbohydrates.

No Alcohol Before Bedtime – I almost did not include this because many people already know that while alcohol can put you to sleep it can often wake you up several times during the night. A drink or a glass of wine or a beer with an early dinner is okay.

Minimize Electrical Gadgets in your Bedroom – a lamp is good with an incandescent bulb and is best for reading and a feeling of warmth. An alarm clock without excessive lights if you need one is okay but not an alarm on your electronic device. Watching television in-bed, surfing the net from your smartphone or tablet is bad for your sleep hygiene. Best to turn off your cell phone or tablet if you are keeping them in your bedroom.

Light and TemperatureYour bedroom should be as dark as possible, no light at all. But if you startle waking-up in a dark room, a light in a different room or a very dim nightlight is okay. If you have equipment such as a CPAP machine prescribed for your sleep then of course that’s okay. Your bedroom should always be slightly on the cool side, in summer and winter. Our body temperatures drop at night and by cuddling with ourselves under the covers we warm to an optimal sleeping temperature.

muse on your day, begin the letting go process

Sleep Position – The best positions for optimal rest and/or sleep is sleeping on your back*, left and / or right side. Sleeping on your back is best for your spine, neck and head less likely to experience pain. It helps lessen acid reflux with your head elevated on a pillow. *People with sleep apnea – sleeping on the back could be dangerous and lead the tongue to block your esophagus. Sleeping on your side is the popular position  and reduces acid reflux. Snoring is reduced as well. Sleep on one’s side are the best positions for those with sleep apnea.

One to Three Hours Before Sleep  – These are nightly rituals, that when I use them, they assist me in getting a better night’s sleep. Admittedly I don’t use them as much as I could. Before you begin Your Wind-Down sit with a pad (not an iPad, Tablet or Smartphone) and make a list of what you want to do tomorrow (if that’s your thing). Writing pen to paper is a way to disconnect from electronics and their effects.

Your Wind-DownBegin with a hot beverage – an herbal tea, or warm milk, or A-Non-Alcoholic-Hot-Toddy-for-Sleep while sitting on your couch or in a favorite chair. As you begin to enjoy your beverage muse on your day, begin the letting go process. I spend at least five to ten minutes feeling the relief of putting the day into perspective and allowing the anticipation of surrender into sleep. Then I may engage in reading a book and / or listening to soft music, though this can also be done after bathroom prep – while in bed.

Bathroom Prep Before Bed and What Remains to do: Next take care of brushing your teeth and all those to-do things before lying down to engage in optimal rest. If you take medications or supplements that aid in you in resting / sleeping more effectively know that there is a 30 to 40-minute period of digestion before they take effect. If you take sleep aides and push yourself beyond the 30 to 40-minute digestive cycle the medications will either be less effective or won’t work at all.

By getting in bed at least during 30 to 40-minute period before closing your eyes, plan on reading, listening to music or doing some breath work, but ideally this should occur after taking medications and/or supplements.

LET GO AND BREATHE

 

Immediate Preparations for Optimal Rest

I may first intend that I will let go into sleep and sleep straight through the night without waking up, feeling refreshed in the morning upon awakening.

background beautiful blossom calm waters
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

These other techniques can be used in preparations just prior to closing your eyes or if sleep doesn’t come.

The Body Clenchthis is a systematic clench of muscle groups and their release in your body. Begin by scrunching up your feet and clenching your toes. Don’t let go. Next tighten your calf and thigh muscles, then tighten your butt muscles, your chest and abdomen. Next make fists and tighten the muscles in your forearms and biceps, stretch your neck by moving your head towards your chest and scrunch up the muscles in your face.

Then LET GO AND BREATHE.

The idea is to make your body tighter so you when you release the tight tense muscles also release and allows your body to move into a more relaxed state.

Don’t beat yourself up because you’re supposed to be sleeping.

Close your Eyes(30 to 40 minutes after taking your medications and/or supplements) When you close your eyes there may be an automatic response for you to think about everything your worried about, or to criticize yourself in some way. Worry may manifest as thinking about something repeatedly (obsessing) – trying to figure it out. Or maybe you’re trying to solve a problem or review something that happened that day.

Let yourself do this for a few minutes. Make it okay. Don’t beat yourself up because you’re supposed to be sleeping even it goes on for five to ten minutes or so. Also you might want to engage in some soothing self-talk such as: “I’m a gentle person”, “I’m applying compassion towards myself first and then others” “I like _____ about myself” or think of a peaceful scene in nature – a sunset over a lake or behind a mountain, floating or flying over fields, seeing waves at the beach.

It’s okay… it’s okay… I’m safe. I can let go.

Then tell yourself that it time to dive deeper into optimal rest.

This process uses your attention to scan your body for any areas where your holding tension and imagine breathing them out (with your out-breath). Let go. Try being soft and easy with yourself as if you were holding an infant in your arms.

Next, focus on your breath. Usually, what happens when we begin to focus on our breath is that we take control. That’s okay. Breathing in this way soon becomes work. When you start to realize that it’s work, then begin to watch your breath as it moves in and out of your body without trying to control it. You’re just matching your thoughts with what’s happening in your body automatically, that can be a lot easier.

I may just practice watching my breath achieving optimal rest

Your mind may wander back to your negative or problem-solving thoughts without you realizing it. If this happens let them go and move back to your witness mind watching your breath. Sometimes a peaceful symbol – like looking at a mountain or waves crashing on a beach can be useful in releasing a worrisome thought. The rhythm of your breath is similar to waves coming to shore. As you imagine your breath like the waves you may feel the peace of waves as you picture them in your mind.

Focus on your breath in this way for at least 20 to 40 minutes. Usually what happens for me is I fall asleep, but I only know this has happened when I awaken the next morning. I realize I have released and fallen asleep.

Sometimes it doesn’t happen and I catch myself on the edge of letting go and pull myself back into a wakeful and circular thought process – a knee-jerk response. Here I may do some soothing self-talk (silently saying to myself):

“It’s okay… it’s okay… I’m safe. I can let go. I can be a deep diver. I can let go. I am letting go, letting go…”

If after 40 minutes to an hour and I’m awake I may just let myself be satisfied with continuing to watch my breath and drop into a deeper level of meditation. Or I may get up and go to the bathroom and return to bed and matching my thoughts with my breath.

Try being softer with yourself. Allow your mind’s awareness to meet the automatic rhythm of your breath. In, out, in, out…

* so far – meaning that as new information for a better sleep hack becomes available it will become an on-going ultimate sleep hack…

goodnight