Blog

The Fixers

I’m thinking today about the idea of “self-improvement.” So many courses are available that promise to improve your self-esteem, your ability to market, to clear out issues from the past, and many other tempting possibilities.

In many (not all) of these offerings lurks the suggestion that something in you is broken and that if you take this course, you’ll get fixed. All you have to do is buy the “Inner Mechanic’s Guide.”

This approach resembles the basic concept of Western medicine: that the body is a machine in need of repair. In contrast, holistic approaches to health propose a system of mind-body integration.

Because I, like many of you, grew up going to Western medicine doctors, I’ve been trained in the mechanical approach to the body and have translated it to the emotions and mind. I often find myself thinking I have to fix something about myself. Today, when I caught myself thinking that, I suddenly heard a very definite “No.” And it felt good.

I don’t need to be fixed. And neither do you. Everyone has areas in their lives—thoughts, beliefs, and habits—that may keep them from living the lives they want to experience, but that doesn’t mean we’re broken. We developed the thoughts and behaviors that now seem to be malfunctioning because we thought we needed them to be happy and/or safe.

Once we realize this, we don’t have to blame ourselves for having them. When we discover that we no longer need them, we can thank them for doing their best, thank ourselves for doing our best for ourselves, and move on.

This is much easier to do when we know that we’re not broken.

I’m not.

Neither are you.

Green Merchant Promotion: Part 2

Last week I wrote about the group giveaway in which I’m involved. It means a lot to me to be able to promote positive environmental ideals with other politically and spiritually committed authors. You can download as many as you want.

The giveaway is from June 1 to June 15. Go to http://wildpolitics.co/20authors for more information and to download.

Here are some examples:

Wild Roots: Coming Alive in the French Amazon/Donna Mulvenna

This memoir will make you want to reclaim your life and live out your wildest dreams.

Against the Grain: Phil M. Williams

A tyrannical high school principal. A young anarchist with nothing left to lose. One way or another, this place is goin’ down.

The Heart of a Mouse Mandy Pang
With themes of friendship, and family, this woodland adventure story encourages readers to work through their fears, and find the courage within themselves to follow their dreams.

All Things Breathe Alike: A Wildlife Anthology

Donna Mulvenna, Jessica Groenendijk, and Margi Prideaux
Some believe the natural world is our real home. Could the eternal pull we feel toward the golden warmth of a rising sun, the tumbling waves of the ocean, or the soothing sound of birdsong, be nature’s way of calling us back? One wildlife anthology. Three passionate nature writers. Nine evocative stories.

Junction, Utah: Rebecca Lawton

This WILLA award-winning novel is “A fresh female voice and a bold take on environmental awareness–great read!”

In the coming days, I will list other books.

The giveaway is from June 1 to June 15. Go to http://wildpolitics.co/20authors for more information.

Love Your Planet: 20 Environmental Authors Explore the Natural World

GreenMerchants_NEWSLETTER

Dear reader, I’m not what you’d call an ace promoter. I barely know how to tweet, and the idea of self-promotion makes me want to crawl beneath my desk.

That’s why I was so excited about the idea of joining a group promotion with authors of fiction and nonfiction who explore our relationship with the natural world. Political events of this year are teaching us that defending the natural world means defending ourselves and future generations of all species. To be involved in a group promoting writing that supports these values inspires me.

After visiting the Florida Everglades and falling in love with it, I decided to write about a water dragon who lived in a swamp whose existence was endangered. That’s how The Dragon Who Didn’t Fly, the first book of A Dragon’s Guide to Destiny, began.

All of the books represented in the giveaway are free, and you can download as many as you want.

The giveaway is from June 1 to June 15. Go to http://wildpolitics.co/20authors for more information.

60-second Meditation

We have to start somewhere. And on those days when focusing on anything for as long as 60 seconds seems challenging, this very mini-meditation may help you shift gears.

Even if you meditate regularly and for much longer periods of time, sometimes derailing a runaway train of negative thoughts is the best thing you can do in the moment.

And a moment may or may not be 60 seconds long.

I found that after after doing this meditation, I felt more focused, and in fact I wrote this blog with more ease than usually happens.

So why not visit the url below? It’ll only take 60 seconds.

60-second Meditation

Lambs Do It

The other morning I saw a flock of sheep and lambs. The lambs ranged in age from recently born ones who followed their mothers on very shaky legs to some slightly older ones.

The older lambs were learning that legs were perfect for leaping and bouncing and frolicking through the meadow. They expressed their joy at being alive in bodies with every careless kick of their heels.

Later on, when I was thinking about what I’d seen, I thought, “The magic is that they are whole and perfect. They don’t doubt themselves or lack self-esteem. They don’t hear voices telling them they should be cleaning or writing worrying about the future. They will never know guilt.”

And I wondered why I couldn’t be like that. That question turned out to have its own magic because it sliced away the layers of guilt and “should” and self-doubt and the long list of things I should change about myself. At my core, I’m as whole and as perfect as the lambs—but most of the time, I forget that.

What’s the difference between me—and you—and the dancing lamb or the fawns who raced through my former back yard or the bright-eyed curiosity of baby raccoons? It could be those big brains that humans take pride in. Anyone who has ever upgraded their operating systems knows that each new upgrade creates many chances for error.

Imagination, for example, is a great human gift, and I count it as a priceless upgrade, but it doesn’t discriminate between imagining the best and imagining the worst.

Maybe the biggest problem is that the initial user’s manual we get to go with our big brains is the long set of instructions we get from our parents. Animal parents also instruct their children but mostly about real dangers—like humans. Our parents teach us about dangers that may or may not ever come to pass.

This leads to the unique human mental/emotional state called anxiety. It’s difficult to kick up your heels when you’re worried about what might happen in thirty years.

If I want to experience that I’m perfect, I need to live less in the past, where I learned all the things I should worry about and all the things for which I should judge myself. I also need to stop taking all those worries and judgments and expecting more of them in the future.

That’s called living in the present. That’s what lambs do. We can do it, too.

Photo credit: Keven Law, Los Angeles, USA

Songs That Inspire Me

As a writer, I often find myself in awe at the gift of poets and songwriters to say in a few words what may take me pages.

This week I’m sharing two songs that have recently inspired me.

The first many of you will know: “Dear Prudence,” by the Beatles (from the White Album). The song was inspired by Mia Farrow’s sister, Prudence, who was with the Beatles in India at the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi’s weeks-long retreat in Rishikesh, India. Prudence was intent on learning Transcendental Meditation well enough to teach it and stayed in her room most of the time. The Beatles were worried about her and tried to draw her out. Though they didn’t succeed, they wrote the song. (For more detailed information, see this article.

For me, the song is a hymn to being in the present moment.
You can listen to it here.

The second song, “You’ll Never Be the Sun,” was written by Irish songwriter Donagh Long. This version is sung by Irish singer Delores Keane and American singer Emmylou Harris. Many other versions are around, but this is my favorite. “Life is tough, but you’ll get through it” has rarely been expressed so poetically. You can listen to it here.

Shedding Fur: What We Can Learn from Cats

It’s the season when cats take off their winter coats—all over the place. Being the humble slave of two black cats, I have particular reasons to notice the results of the shedding process.

I notice two things about shedding. The first is that it’s messy for me. The second is that the cats, once having shed their fur, ignore it. They have truly shed it, and it no longer belongs to them.

We humans don’t have the same ease with our own shedding of beliefs and habits. If you’ve ever tried to release a habit, you will have noticed that it doesn’t fall away as readily as cats’ fur. It seems to have a stickiness about it.

Cats know that when the weather gets warmer, they need to get rid of excess fur so that they’ll feel comfortable. Humans, however, even though they may intellectually know that the release of a negative physical, mental, or emotional habit will ultimately make their lives for comfortable, emotionally feel that they need the comfort they’ve come to associate with that repeated pattern.

We can also make the shedding process more difficult when we blame ourselves for not being able to do it. You’ll notice that cats never blame themselves for anything (even when we think they should). Remember, they’re thinking about how great it will be to get rid of that fur. If we can shift our thoughts and feelings to the reward of feeling better, we can more easily shed.

The reluctance to shed can take many forms. I am currently in the process of revising a novel I initially wrote a number of years ago. I know it needs some major—and drastic—changes, but I read so many words that I really like. I hate to push the delete button, but I must if I ultimately want to write a better book.

So, up until now, the process of revising and editing has been emotionally messy. I’ve resisted it and tried countless ways to change it and still hold onto the words I like. It hasn’t worked and let me to a massive writer’s block yesterday.

Instead, I cleaned the house, going after those clumps of fur. Today I have decided to write like a cat. I will look at those words, appreciate them, and know that there are a lot more where they came from. I will shed.

Is Blogging Harmful to the Brain?

I was at an event with friends last night. One said that too much immersion in social media lowers intelligence. Judging by some of the posts that come onto my Facebook feed, I would say the damage has been done.

Here, though, is the irony for a writer. Long gone are the days when you could submit your book to an agent or publishing house and sit back and let them do all the publicity work. (It is quite possible that those days never were.) Even traditionally published authors are now expected to put on their big-girl or big-boy pants and engage with social media.

Some of this engagement is downright soul-sucking, for example decoding Amazon algorithms. What, you might ask, is an algorithm? In its simplest terms, it’s the secret formula that enables readers to find your book among the millions of books on Amazon. For me, though, the word “algorithm” conjures up memories of struggling with math, and that makes me want to curl up into a ball and read the nice book I found at the library.

I have no doubt that trying to master algorithms harms the brain, but I will conquer them. Maybe.

Other forms of social media are somewhat less frightening in the math department but still challenge me. One must always avoid saying “Buy my book” in either a shout or a whimper. One must think of entertaining things to say. This is difficult to do on demand—which brings me back to blogging.

I abandoned this blog in November, 2016, around when I first stepped into algorithmic territory. Having finally figured out how to link my blog to my site, I have returned. I don’t know how often I’ll post here, but I’m aiming for once a week. My aim is not that good.

Still, I’m excited to be writing my first Word Press blog entry, so for me that’s a win.

Post-Election Stress Relief

So many people are stressed out, frightened, and angry. Brain biology teaches us that when the primitive brain, which controls the fight-flight-freeze reaction, is activated, it draws blood from the frontal lobes, which control the ability to think and act with the gifts of intuition, reason, and logic.

With that in mind, I’m offering a list of things you can do right now to reduce stress in your life.

1. Breathe. Stress and anxiety can lead to shallow breathing, which in turn increases these feelings. We need oxygen, and we need to relax the solar plexus muscles. When you feel yourself getting stressed and anxious, stop and take several long, deep breaths.

2. Drink water. This goes along with breathing. Fear and anxiety can create toxic emotions that turn into physical toxins.

3. Take flower essences. Dr. Edward Bach began his work following the horror of World War I and the influenza epidemic. As a world-wide economic depression deepened and fascism began to rise in Europe, he developed the Bach Flower Remedies, which helped countless people restore emotional balance.

They are as helpful today as they were then. I will provide a future post about this and for today will list a few that can help immediately.

Rescue Remedy is one of the world’s most popular Remedies. Combining 5 Bach Flower Remedies, it can help with shock, trauma, terror, numbness, and other emotions.

Sweet Chestnut is valuable for despair. Mustard helps with gloom. Star of Bethlehem helps with shock and trauma.

4. Tap. If you aren’t familiar with EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) or other forms of tapping, this is a great time to learn. EFT Down Under is one of my favorite sites for learning.

5. Be cautious about social media. I see lots of inspiring posts on Facebook, for example, but there’s a lot of negativity, too. I’m not condemning the people who post negative articles, but I’m avoiding the self-destructive urge to click on those links.

6. Reach out to friends. For many of us, this is a time to connect to others for mutual support.

7. Be active. If you belong to groups working for social justice, increase your participation.

8. Practice mindfulness. This may mean meditation, yoga, chi kung, or any discipline that returns your focus to the Now.

9. Cherish the present moment. Mindfulness also means remembering that what we create in the present becomes our future. And fear of the future poisons the present moment.

10. Don’t hate. It’s so easy to do at present. I’m reminding myself that it takes two sides to make a divided country (or world). I may vigorously disagree with people, but to deny their humanity diminishes my own.

Finally, I’m sharing links to two poems that are guiding me through the present moment.

This links to St. Francis’s poem that begins, “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.”

The second is Thich Nhat Hanh’s “Please Call Me by my True Names.” This is a beautiful plea for compassion.

Books

All four books in A Dragon’s Guide to Destiny are now available to read for free in KindleUnlimited, a lending library program through which you can borrow up to ten books at a time and pay only a monthly fee of $9.99. The first trial month is free.Learn more about Kindle Unlimited here.

Get Gone to Flowers here.

Latest Publication: Book of Sorrows:
Book 4 of A Dragon’s Guide to Destiny

Book 1
big dragons

A cunning opportunist incites the people of Oasis to kill the local dragon so that he can convert Druid’s swamp into suburban housing. The would-be dragonslayer also plans to have the Guardian of Oasis assassinated and assume power. Unless the dragon joins a kitten with attitude and a human with suspicious psychic gifts, Oasis is finished.Read more here.

Buy here

Book 2
sky

For centuries, a priestess cult has ruled the land of Dolocairn. Now drug lords seek to take control. As part of their campaign to broaden their power, they use drugs that induce amnesia and death to attack the land of Oasis. Serazina, the Heroine of Oasis, must go to Dolocairn to stop them. Tara, a fearless kitten, and Druid, a melancholy dragon, accompany her. They may not get out alive.Read more here.

Buy here.

Book 3
house of  moon
In the deep desert of Etrenzia, a young scientist is kidnapped. Her sister, Serazina, Heroine of Oasis, braves giant snakes, sandstorms, and invisible enemies to try to rescue her. Phileas, Guardian of Oasis, who has fallen in love with her, shares her ordeals. Neither of them knows they are being lured to the desert for a purpose far more sinister than their worst fears.Read more here.

Buy here.

Book 4
cats in charge

The four stars of the series-a dragon, a cat, and two humans-go to the land of Tamaras to investigate a series of earthquakes. They travel through layers of mystery and deceit to an underground world, where a dragon queen appears to hold total power. Here they discover that invisible forces control the populations both above and belowground through a mysterious force called The Book of Sorrows.Read more about the book here.

Buy here.

More Fiction

cats in charge Written by Tara, a main character in the Dragon’s Guide to Destiny series and a cat who has devoted her life to training humans, this book brings her expertise to answer cats’ urgent questions about choosing the right humans, taking control of the household, getting the best food, toys, treats, and pouncing on a life where cats are truly in charge. Read more here and see your buying choices. gone to flowers Time-travel to the 1960s and enter the lives of four young people living with others in a rural commune. This novel will take you beyond sex, drugs, and rock n ‘roll to their challenges with love, loyalty, and self-discovery.See the top of this page to learn how to read this book for free.

Read more here. Read the first chapter.

Nonfiction: Energy Psychology and More

swamp NEW! Previously taken as a course by people all over the world, this book provides a practical and literally hands-on approach to chakra balancing using crystals and essences. Each chakra is related to a key area of life, such as grounding, sexuality, abundance, love, creativity and communication, intuition, and oneness.Read more here, including a sample chapter. Here you can also see your buying choices. catsanddogs This book incorporates what I’ve learned since becoming a Bach Flower Remedies practitioner in 1990. Much of my practice has been devoted to counseling for companion animals.

Read more here, including a sample chapter.

Available at amazon.com and other bookstores.