Your Diversion: Permission

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Graphic from Pinterest, attributed To Brene Brown

Permit, consent, allow, let, give

  • Permit ourselves, permit others.
  • Consent to something, consent to someone.
  • Allow yourself, allow another, allow for something.
  • Let yourself, let someone, let something.
  • Give permission, give consent, give allowance. 

This week there’s much from which we might wish to divert ourselves. Rather than remind us all of what is wrong in the world today, let’s look at some good things, even in surprising places.

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And Still She Persisted, mixed media by Jill Jacobs

First, here’s a story of courage.

An 18 year old woman was riding around one night in a car in Brooklyn with two male friends. They were pulled over by NYPD officers in an unmarked van. There was pot in the car. The guys were let go but the girl was detained in the van. They never arrested her nor did they document the stop in any way. She has accused the officers of taking turns raping her in the van and then dropping her by the side of a deserted road.

The case is dragging slowly through the courts. She was deposed for 12 hours over a three-day period by lawyers for the City. Her courage is monumental, because despite all her social media posts since middle school and sex life being examined in the utmost detail for some evidence to discredit her, still she has persisted. The kicker? Her mother took her to an ER and lo and behold, DNA of both cops was found on her person. Dead to rights, right? No! In New York State it is not illegal for police to have sex with persons in their custody! Nor is it illegal in more than half the states in the US. The whole case is boiling down to consent. The two cops, both no longer with the force, claim the sex they took turns having with her, while she says she was handcuffed, was consensual. She vehemently denies this. Read more from Buzzfeed here. And let’s follow her case. If she can hold fast and persist despite the pressure, legal bullying and they-said-she-said applying unimaginable pressure on this teenage girl, she can change our world.

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Whether you are fighting City Hall, literally as we’ve just read, or figuratively in some other way, even if you’re trying to swim against the current in your relationship, your job or your community, you need love. So a meditation to help you feel that love for yourself is a must. Lion’s Roar offers you just the thing with some fine meditation instructions.

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Sarah Blondin, Live Awake

Speaking of meditation, I am totally enthralled with the guided meditations of writer Sarah Blondin. Her Live Awake podcasts are available online on iTunes, SoundCloud, and Insight Timer, among other places. Since we are all about consent and permission in this post, let me share with you her lovely voice asking to give you permission to allow yourself all good things.

And since permission and consent involve giving, the late and much missed Kate Wolf with her hauntingly beautiful voice sings us out.

 

Namasté

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Your Weekly Diversion, Year 2, Week 1

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Starting the second year of this blog, I’m thinking about where we stand. What does that mean? Where I stand is where I am in this moment, sitting in the living room looking out on the small lake to our west, while my husband watches football. Where do we stand as a country? Boy, I wish I really knew. Yesterday people in Hawaii were scared out of their wits when an imminent ballistic missile attack alert came over cellphones, TV broadcasts and from outdoor speakers. It took a full 38 minutes for the official push announcement to come through on cellphones that it was a false alarm. 38 minutes! People were running around like crazy, some even lowering their kids down the manholes of storm drains.

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Photo from Pinterest

Most of us baby boomers can recall the Cold War air raid drills in the 1950s and early 1960s where we had to crouch under our desks with our hands over our heads, preparing for the possibility of nuclear attack. Many still harbor vestiges of those early fears of being attacked by a missile with a nuclear warhead. We learned as we got older that hiding under a desk would have done nothing to prevent our extreme injury or annihilation, as the entire industrialized world knew after Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. Some of us wondered when the bomb was going to get us, and how old we would be when it did. Some families actually built bomb shelters in their back yards. It was a thing. I knew a kid whose family had one. Did you?

Most parents and working adults today have no such memories and only know the recent feud the so-called leader of the free world has been fomenting with North Korea as a potentially imminent threat. No “duck and cover” drills for them. Yet out of fear and chaos yesterday, little kids were dropped by their parents into storm drains! Given that Hawaii is closer to North Korea than the US mainland, within reach of their missiles, and that Pearl Harbor was the site of a deadly attack on Hawaii, this preventable false alarm seems especially cruel.

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Drawing from moziru.com

Now that I’ve scared you, tweaking that old nuclear specter from your unconscious yet again, let’s get diverted! This may seem counterintuitive, but to be relieved of  the torment of this fear, you are going to have to look at it. As a psychologist, I know this from professional as well as personal experience, and although it’s not necessarily easy, doing it really helps. Experiencing fear is a form of suffering. Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh has said that rather than running from our suffering, we can hold it as we would a crying child and we will suffer less. You can read more about this in his book No Mud, No Lotus. Here is an excerpt from Goodreads:

The function of mindfulness is, first, to recognize the suffering and then to take care of the suffering. The work of mindfulness is first to recognize the suffering and second to embrace it. A mother taking care of a crying baby naturally will take the child into her arms without suppressing, judging it, or ignoring the crying. Mindfulness is like that mother, recognizing and embracing suffering without judgement.

So the practice is not to fight or suppress the feeling, but rather to cradle it with a lot of tenderness. When a mother embraces her child, that energy of tenderness begins to penetrate into the body of the child. Even if the mother doesn’t understand at first why the child is suffering and she needs some time to find out what the difficulty is, just her act of taking the child into her arms with tenderness can already bring relief. If we can recognize and cradle the suffering while we breathe mindfully, there is relief already.

― Thich Nhat Hanh, No Mud, No Lotus: The Art of Transforming Suffering

So let’s imagine for a moment the fear evoked by that scary reaper, or descending nuclear annihilation or fire of death or whatever you will.  As you allow yourself to think of this fear, see if you can pinpoint what are you actually afraid of.  Is it pain? Death? Nonexistence? Separation from loved ones? Seeing loved ones hurt or dead? Losing your possessions? Living under tyranny or despotism? Okay, if you know what fear thoughts of a nuclear attack evokes, imagine you can hold it in your arms. Give your fear loving, caring attention. Don’t try to silence it with a mood-changing substance or activity. Just sit with it, if even for only a minute. Breathe deeply as you hold your fear. Breathe in with awareness, and breathe out with gratitude. You might do it for a few minutes longer, but only if you want to and feel you can. Now take a couple of deep, cleansing breaths and go do something else. Good for you!

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Photo from quartz.com

Another diversion for you, more interesting than that first one, I suspect. Former Army soldier Chelsea Manning has decided to run for the US Senate in the state of Maryland as a Democrat. This will pit her against veteran Democrat Senator Ben Cardin, a tough slog due to his strong role fighting for progressive issues and taking on Russian interference in the recent presidential election. Chelsea may not win, but she’s definitely showing her mettle. This Guardian story elaborates and includes her YouTube video.

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Something more fun, you ask? Okay, there’s a new bar in Brooklyn called “Kick Axe” where drinkers can throw axes at a target! Wheee! Can’t wait! Um…

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Photo from #catpusic on Pinterest

More? Love inspiring kitty stories? Me too! Meet a cute black and white cat named Pusic.

Since the prospect of nuclear war arguably spawned some of the best the folk music of the 1960’s, let’s not forget that “The Times They are A’Changin” then and now. And since we heard this anthem from composer Bob Dylan earlier, now we can enjoy Simon and Garfunkel covering it.

 

Namasté

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Your Weekly Diversion, Week 52

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Week 52 has arrived and I’m pretty late in getting to it. I’m not sure why my blogging year is up before January 20th, but so it is! It’s been a busy week for us, nothing worth noting here, but plenty nevertheless. The news continues to create stress and distress, especially the devastating mudslides in Southern California. It’s heartbreaking to see the damage and even worse to learn about the deaths of people and countless pets. Sometimes it feels as if Mother Nature is trying to shake us loose with earthquakes, tornados, hurricanes, fires and floods.

 

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Hillary Brooke (1914-1999) (photo from Wikipedia)

My first diversion this week is a tribute to a woman I knew in childhood, actress Hillary Brooke. She was an actress, first noticed in “New Faces of 1937” and she appeared in Abbott and Costello sketches and even had a role in the ‘70s TV show “Soap” and My Little Margie” decades before that. Her name was Hillary Brooke. I met her as a friend of my godmother, a lovely Englishwoman who worked as a diction coach in the film industry and taught Hillary her distinctive, plummy British accent. She was born in Astoria, Queens, after all! Hillary gave me my set of Mary Poppins books, and took me hitchhiking when I was about 12 years old during a stay at my godmother’s mountain cabin, after walking back from the little town center tired us out. She had a dog, a black Scottie named Barney. Hillary was the most glamorous, fascinating woman I’d met at that time. Growing up in Southern California, I met quite a few people in the entertainment industry, most friends and clients of my father. Hillary was the first, and I remember her with love.

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Photo by Peter Landers, Wall Street Journal

Okay, next I have a weird diversion for you. In Japan an unusual version of Coca Cola is grabbing attention. Called Coca Cola Plus, it contains a high fiber, laxative additive that fans believe allows them to eat unhealthy food and not digest the fat, thereby leading some to dub it “weight loss cola” as opposed to regular or “fat” cola. If you have trouble accessing the WSJ article here, since they have a paywall, TimeOut Beijing has the goods. And the text in the second link is funnier!

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Now, remember Superstorm Sandy? So does the City of New York, and the City as an investment entity recognizes climate change as the result of fossil fuels raising the planet’s temperature. Therefore, the City is severing ties with their fossil fuel investments. This divestiture could be a huge deal in global economics and spur positive change.

And there’s no one like Bob Dylan to remind us that A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall.

Cheers, all, and…

Namasté

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Your Weekly Diversion, Week 50: Merry Christmas to All, However You Mark this Winter Season

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Made with Repix (http://repix.it)

Made with Repix (http://repix.it) by Shielagh

Tis the Season and this is Christmas Eve. On Week 50 we are fully diverted from whatever else is going on in the world. Here’s where my thoughts are today. My spiritual life has taken a circuitous route to where I am today.  Raised a Christian with a British godmother who marked my baptism with a Saint Christopher medal and another with the head of Christ, I was baptized at the age of 8 when my agnostic parents felt I needed direction. I kept for many years the beeswax baptismal candle I received that day, much like the one below.

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I attended parochial school and sang in the choir. I even played Mary one year in the Christmas play. When I went off to a prestigious girls’ prep school in New England, we had chapel every morning, singing hymns and reading prayers from the Episcopal liturgy. I love the hymns still today. An enduring favorite of mine is “Jerusalem,” adapted from a poem by William Blake, a hymn we sang every year at special times, standing, singing in unison, with fire and feeling. Here are the words. and the music follows.

And did those feet in ancient time,
Walk upon England’s mountains green:
And was the holy Lamb of God,
On England’s pleasant pastures seen!

And did the Countenance Divine,
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here,
Among these dark Satanic Mills?

Bring me my Bow of burning gold;
Bring me my Arrows of desire:
Bring me my Spear: O clouds unfold!
Bring me my Chariot of fire!

I will not cease from Mental Fight,
Nor shall my Sword sleep in my hand:
Till we have built Jerusalem,
In England’s green & pleasant Land.

The images in that video of the verdant English hills and of Stonehenge, remind us that our early years as humans were unencumbered by formal theology as we know it but had a developing dogma of their own. For many of us, our ancient heritage springs from a Druid and Pagan beginning. For others of us, the spiritual path comes from the Yoruba tradition brought here from Africa by enslaved humans who have suffered and still continue to suffer from that indignity and racial prejudice that still lurks in the US and elsewhere. And elsewhere on the earth, others mark the winter solstice in their own unique ways, or not at all.

I was married at 20 to a rebellious fifth generation Friend in a solemn Philadelphia Quaker meeting, and they don’t incorporate music in their meetings, or didn’t then at any rate. Alas, a few years later I was a single mom looking for something that was missing. Thus I became a Mormon and spent a number of years active in that church, especially loving the music and always singing in the choir. When I saw this video, I decided to share it here. It touched my heart even as I wished they hadn’t felt the need to include the religious bit at the end. It was filled with loving meaning enough as it was. It brings with it the hope that a lost loved one can return one day. May it be so.

In my later years I converted to Judaism and then found the dharma way, the Noble Eightfold Path. and Buddhism is my practice today. I still observe the Jewish Holidays with my husband in our traditional but mostly secular way. And I practice Buddhist meditation daily.

The Wexford Carol we just heard has a rich and storied history. I was vaguely familiar with it, and then I found this sweet rendition by Yo-Yo Ma and Alison Krauss.

Merry Christmas!

Namasté

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Your Weekly Diversion, Week 48

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Graphic from Wandanalu 2012

As the year 2017 draws to a close, it seems to me that many hearts are heavy. As a therapist I’m hearing about family conflicts, holiday stress and strain with shopping, cooking, wrapping, writing and sending, and nostalgia for the “good old days.” There are some other things dragging at our merriment during this holiday season. The so-called middle class tax cut threatens to send the deficit through the roof, only to be dealt with harshly later on. Its popularity with the people as I write is 29 percent. The “me too” movement is rightly shining a light on sexual impropriety in government as well as the corporate world and entertainment industry. As women and men come forward with credible allegations, people are reminded of their own experiences, some long buried or discounted as no big deal. The breast or butt grab, the unwanted sloppy kiss, the innuendo or outright proposition, the rape, each took a toll and haunted the wellbeing of countless among us.

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Edited image from rainforestferry.com

Here in Florida this week we’ve lit the menorah with good friends, and we’ve made and savored our latkes and matzoball soup and stuffed our faces with jelly donut holes and chocolate. During that same evening we followed the Alabama Senate race and stayed up late to learn the results. We’ve shopped for family and one another and sent off our gifts. We’ve bought some holiday cards but haven’t begun to write them yet. We’ve attended a Christmas extravaganza starting outside with falling snow, a living nativity with cooperative infant, two goats and a little horse, carolers, and then an amazing show with 100-voice choir, orchestra, another living nativity with majestic arrival of the Three Kings, and many carols the 1,800 attendees in the audience sang, and ending with everyone singing the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s Messiah on our feet. The parking lot at this Baptist church was so vast that shuttle trams adorned with holiday lights ferried the elderly, encumbered and infirm to their cars when it all ended. We did truly enjoy it.

This time of year, it behooves us all to remember those less fortunate and do what we can to help. Whether we donate our goods, our money or our time, the need is huge. Yesterday the Guardian published a story that I recommend to everyone, difficult though it is to read and to view some of the photos. Many may be unaware that some 40 million Americans live in poverty in 2017. It is such a problem that the UN sent a reporteur to see the challenges and report back.

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Photo courtesy of The Guardian

The city of San Fransciso has many homeless people living on their streets, but there’s a bright spot in their picture, Saint Boniface Church. The church is open daily for homeless people to sleep safely in the rear pews, even while Mass is being celebrated in the front of the church, a living example of the gospel of ministering to the poor. Social workers and homeless advocates also make themselves available to help connect the homeless with urgently needed services.

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There is reason to hope today, and we mustn’t let the magnitude of the world’s problems drag us down. Everyone can help make the world a better place, each according to his ability, to each according to his need. Next month we will start as volunteers at our local animal shelter. Bloom where you are planted!

 

Namasté

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Your Weekly Diversion, Week 47

 

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Numbers in Graphics Calculated and Designed by Charlie Eppes

Now we find ourselves at Week 47. What to do? Carry on. Pray for peace. Run like hell. Stop and breathe. Do the next right thing. Look for the answer.

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First of all, do you wear an Apple Watch? If so, here’s a diversion you might really need to use. You can track your sleep with the Apple Watch. I downloaded a good app recommended by CNET after trying one I didn’t like. I started wearing it to bed at night. It tells me how many minutes it takes me to fall asleep, how many times I get up in the night, how many hours of light sleep I get, and how many hours of deep sleep I get. After a couple of nights there’s a trend feature to show how I’m doing. I can even tell how long I read before going to sleep. Very helpful.

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The Apple Watch can call emergency services to help you. Oh, you didn’t know that? Well, neither did I. Until the wee hours last night. I had just gotten up for the usual reason and was getting settled back in bed when my watch sounded a sort of siren. Afraid of waking my husband, I hurried into the bathroom only to see that my watch had dialed emergency services, having activated the SOS feature. I immediately tried to hang up. No go. They called me back. So there I am in the john talking into my watch telling the nice caller that I am fine, answering all her questions as to my identity and location, saying it was my watch and her telling me, “It happens all the time.” Assured I was fine, she wished me a good night and I hung up. I tried to get back to sleep. Again no go. I took off the watch and put it in the charger.

I’m lying there wondering what I’ll have to do so this doesn’t happen again. Then I hear a knock on the front door. I struggle into my robe in the dark and go to the door, cursing under my breath. A sheriff is there, asking if I’m okay. I explain it was my watch. Okay, he says and I shut the door. Again I tried to get back to sleep. No go, yet again. I got up and opened my iPad and Googled the issue. I learned how to disable the function. I can see how this could be helpful but I also know now how annoying it can be as well. My husband never woke up during this drama, leaving me with quite a tale to tell in the morning. Still too alert for sleep, I wrote this post.

Cathy McGowan, Adam Brandt, Andrew Wilkie

Australia has just legalized marriage equality, and as Parliament voted in the affirmative, the entire chamber erupted in the national anthem. What a joyful time! Same sex marriages will begin to be performed there in the new year.

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Photo courtesy of Purrfect Pals

Prisoners in the US and abroad are fostering dogs and cats, helping to socialize the animals and prepare them for adoption. The actress Glenn Close and Oprah Winfrey have supported the building of a place for prisoners to train dogs at the famed Bedford Hills women’s prison in Westchester County, New York. The rehabilitation is reciprocal and everyone benefits. Researching for this post, I found that there is a cat fostering program in a prison in Washington state (see photo above). And there are similar programs all over. This diversion was inspired by Xenia Tran’s Whippet Wisdom on a greyhound prison program. What a beautiful idea!

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A friend in Denver just started an Etsy shop selling her beautiful hand knitted items. Since we’re in Florida, we don’t need warm hats, but maybe you do. Here’s a link to the Mad Hatted Boutique. I salute her entrepreneurial spirit!

So that’s it from me, writing to you from my living room, the only light coming from the cable box and a nightlight. Adrenalin level back to baseline. Wishing you all the best for a lovely weekend. You know, it’s all right.

Namasté

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Your Weekly Diversion, Week 46

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On Week 46 there’s so much going on in the world landscape that we all need plenty of diversions. Let’s see, the winter holidays are nigh upon us, with Hanukkah starting the night of December 12 this year, and Christmas and New Year’s not far behind. Managing the holiday cards, whether by snail mail or email, and shopping for gifts, whether you give them on 8 nights or on only 1 day, there’s a lot to do! And of course, we have the political circus with its many fronts. You just can’t make up some of these news stories! We need our diversions NOW,  right?

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Tony Leonard and the team of coworkers who worked together to make his prosthetics (photo courtesy of CBS News)

First, how about real good, feel good story? Like the sound of that? So do I! Honda workers built a coworker a new limb, and it works!

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Next, it’s been reported in Lancet Psychiatry that researchers have found a treatment that helped schizophrenics suffer significantly fewer auditory hallucinations than those not receiving the experimental treatment, even when both groups continued to receive standard doses of antipsychotic medication. It’s called avatar therapy. As a mental health clinician, I’m interested in learning more!

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Now, check out what happened when a GoPro camera was placed in the path of molten lava. Be sure the watch the whole video.

And to wrap up this week’s diversions, here’s a song in Spanish called “I Lava You” from the film “Lava” because, what else?

Namasté

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