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"A revelation of insight into the foundations of human suffering & transcendence. It not only lays out essential steps for inner freedom and joy but illuminates the way to true human potential." Paul Rademacher, author: A Spiritual Hitchhiker's Guide to the Universe

"The masterwork of a profoundly gifted healer of the soul. Dazzling, challenging, wondrously useful." Peggy Rubin, author: To Be and How To Be, Transforming Your Life Through Sacred Theatre

"Rewiring the Soul is one the best introductions to the spiritual life I've ever read. Not esoteric but real-world and practical. The implications are profound." Peter Shepherd, author: Daring To Be Yourself

Friday, June 29, 2007

Book Review 4 - Finding Flow

Award-winning photo of orchid. Photo Credit
I've written previously about finding a meaning in your life (see my June 2006 Newsletter), or talked about Joseph Campbell and his by now world-renowned statement: follow your bliss, and so I thought that today's book review could focus on Mihaly Csikszentmihaly's Finding Flow.

The New York Times published this brief review of the book:

By JACQUELINE BOONE

In 13th-century French villages . . . the most common leisure pursuit was still that of picking lice out of each other's hair,'' Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi wryly observes. ''Now, of course, we have television.'' In ''Finding Flow,'' Csikszentmihalyi, who teaches psychology and education at the University of Chicago, discusses how ''flow experiences'' - those ephemeral ''flashes of intense living'' that by seeming happenstance illuminate the ''dull background'' of everyday routine - can be consciously evoked to infuse everyday work, leisure and social activities with new meaning and significance. Csikszentmihalyi eloquently argues that living fully in the here and now requires that one heed the lessons of the past and acknowledge that today's most seemingly trivial acts inevitably have an impact on the future. Although the assertions occasionally smack of hyperbole and overgeneralization, Csikszentmihalyi's message encompasses an inspiring and challenging truth: that ''it is how we choose what we do, and how we approach it, that will determine whether the sum of our days adds up to a formless blur, or to something resembling a work of art.''

Interestingly, we find the author himself writing this about the book in Psychology Today which you can read by clicking on the link.

Previous Posts in the Book Review Series:

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Don’t Let An Old Person Move In

The Mirror Labyrinth and Strahov Monastery, Prague
You’re no longer in your 30’s, maybe not even in your 40’s anymore. Or more: So you’re getting older. But think of this: don’t let an old person move in. I heard that the other day on a CD by the perennial Wayne Dyer. What he was saying was this: don’t let your mind-set become that of an old person. Don’t buy into the cliché that says that when you’re older you’re no longer productive, that you no longer have an agile mind, that you no longer function the way you did when you were younger. Above all, don’t let mass thinking cloud your mind and cause you to believe that you have to age.

Now let’s be clear: you will age chronologically. You will also get wrinkles and grey or white hair. You will furthermore notice that people of an age you once considered old, are now younger than you are…but that does not mean you should let an old person move in.

Move in where? Into you. This addresses your whole outlook on aging. Your aging paradigm. The way you think about aging. If you decide that aging means slowing down, no longer producing and functioning in a vital way, well then that is what you will have. If, on the other hand, you greet each passing chronological year as a new challenge to continue growing as a human being, who is constantly learning something new and continuing to contribute to society, or the neighbourhood, or his personal environment, then you do not age.

Much developmental and life-span research has been completed in recent years about what is being called the third and fourth age, those periods of life that comprise somewhere between 65-85 and 85 and upwards respectively, and this is what has been discovered, much to the surprise of Western empirical thought: wisdom in chronologically older persons equals if not outweighs the speed and agility of thought in younger people. In other words, while it is true that people lose some of the swiftness of thought as they grow older, if they remain mentally active, the quality of their thought, called wisdom allows them to perform on a highly functioning level as compared to younger people. Some of their brain cells may no longer be around, but the connections, or dendrites between their existing brain cells are so numerous, that they make up for possible losses. Remember this as you consider your own aging.

Aging consciously is a process that allows you to recognize that while you have lived a great many years, and while you are no longer physically young, you are, however, and continue to be - if this is your choice and you actively follow it - young in your inner self, in your mind and spirit.

This is truly your choice. Decide now, no matter what your current age, that you will not let an old person move in. Decide now that you will always be young in that part of you that is important: your thoughts, your feelings, your soul.




Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Dream Symbols 7: The House Part 2: The Kitchen

Georgian Manor Kitchen. Photo Credit
Each room of the house carries symbolism due to that activity that naturally takes place in it. On this basis, much sense can be made out of our being in specific rooms in our dreams.

The kitchen is a room of the house in which we prepare meals. We bring basic elements there in order to cook them and turn them into dishes of varying types. In other words, the basic elements are transformed into something else. There is a process of transformation that takes place in the kitchen, an alchemical laboratory, and this process of transformation is similar in nature to the alchemical process in mythology and imagery, whereby a base metal such as lead is turned into gold.

So when we dream about being in a kitchen there is a symbolism of transformation in some part of our lives that is taking place. Being in the kitchen in the dream points to the fact that in waking life something is being changed from one state to another state.

Mexican Kitchen (Colonial) Photo Credit
Because kitchens used to be the realm of women, if in the dream kitchen there is a woman busily going about the business of food preparation, she symbolizes the part in us that is nurturing and motherly.

Kitchens can point to the process we undergo when we wander along a higher and higher spiraling spiritual path, and kitchens can symbolize – due to the nature of objects held within it, especially in kitchens of another time – our sexuality. Some of these objects are mortar and pestle, black chimney opening, the fire hole in a cooking surface, and so on.

If you are interested in looking at a list of recommended books about dreams or symbolism, please visit the related areas on my website on the Books page under those respective subject areas.

Previous posts in this series are:

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Who Are You?

Fiji. Photo Credit

Ever asked the person closest to you that question? Ever realized that the person closest to you is actually a stranger in some ways? Ever come to the conclusion that what you believed about that person has nothing to do with reality? Ever decided that if the person you are with, whom you are now seeing with totally new eyes, is not the way you thought he/she was, then you don’t want to spend any more time with him or her?

What a realization! What a nightmare! What freedom! Each case is different.

But what is true is that this happens more often than not. We start out our relationships believing that the person we are falling in love with is one way, but in reality they are totally different. No, they did not pretend to be what they are not (or at least, that is not the rule). And no, they did not change during the course of the relationship from what we thought they were to this new person (or at least, that is not the rule). And no, it’s not that you are a total loss at judging a person's character (or at least, that is not the rule).

So what is it that happens?

In a nutshell, it’s projection. We are attracted to, and fall in love with, that which we want, that which is missing in our own selves, and thus we find a good hook for it. (See also Committed Relationships: Use Them to Grow Towards Self-Understanding and Real Love). We also neglect to heed all the warning signs we receive. These include:

  • What the other person actually tells us
  • What we feel in our solar plexus at the beginning that seems to warn us against this person (a twisting in the gut, might be one way of phrasing it)
  • All the little clues we readily ignore, casting them aside in the desire to get what we want, which – as stated – often has little to do with the person we are faced with, but with our own projections.

So of course after a time, after the first glow is gone, after the powerful draw of chemistry is no longer so strong, we begin to feel disappointed in one thing or another, these add up, and we gradually see another person than the one we fell in love with. But, again, this is not because the other person has changed, but because we are no longer seeing them through the projection.

So we ask: Who are you?

It is at this point that we may actually begin to see the real jewel in the relationship, the real value this has for our future growth and freedom. The process that is now possible is the true reason we were initially attracted. It is now that we can begin to polish the diamond and come away with something of far greater value than that which we thought we were getting when we fell in love. If we are capable of persevering now – at least for a time – in the understanding that the gift is only now beginning to unfold, we will come out of this far richer, far greater persons, than we can even begin to imagine.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Authentic Happiness - A New Link

The Great Sphinx at Giza, Egypt. Photo Credit
I've added a new link to the list: Authentic Happiness, which is a website based on the precepts of Positive Psychology, an innovative way of looking at psychology that chooses to reinforce a person’s good points, positive emotions, strong character traits, and to build on them, rather than rummaging in childhood traumas, in order to support the individual in his/her quest for growth and freedom.

Martin Seligmann, author of a number of books, including the bestselling one by the same name as the website: Authentic Happiness, is the psychologist responsible for this new wave of positive thought in psychology. Drawing on groundbreaking psychological research, Seligman shows how Positive Psychology is shifting the profession’s paradigm away from its narrow-minded focus on pathology, victimology, and mental illness to positive emotion, virtue and strength, and positive institutions. Our signature strengths can be nurtured throughout our lives, with benefits to our health, relationships, and careers. Seligman provides the Signature Strengths Survey along with a variety of brief tests that can be used to measure how much positive emotion readers experience, in order to help determine what their highest strengths are. The life-changing lessons of Authentic Happiness help us identify the very best in ourselves, so we can improve the world around us and achieve new and sustainable levels of authentic contentment, gratification, and meaning. (Source)

On the Authentic Happiness website numerous tests are offered to help you figure out where you stand on the happiness, relationship, strengths, optimism, and many others. The Resource section of the website also offers numerous link to many other websites well worth visiting in order to better understand the concepts of PP (Positive Psychology).

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Wayne Dyer - The Power of Intention 2/12




Here's the second part of Wayne Dyer's Power of Intention. This one is just under 10 minutes. Well worth listening to. Part 1 was posted several days ago.

Wayne Dyer: Power of Intention 1/12

Saturday, June 23, 2007

And Once Again: Happiness

Chinese Double Symbol of Happiness. Photo Credit
Suppose happiness were a gift like art, something that requires imagination rather than acquisition. Suppose it were something whose value lay in giving rather than receiving.

The above sentence is not mine, but it caught my interest, as I read - in my usual haphazard fashion - the end of an article in The Globe and Mail before the beginning.

Here's the article:

MARK KINGWELL
From Saturday's Globe and Mail
June 22, 2007 at 5:00 PM EDT

Can happiness be quantified? Philosophers usually say no, but of course they would: Quantified happiness would probably put them out of business. Consider instead their more hard-headed cousins, economists. Measuring happiness is actually the holy grail of economics, because all that math and profit-motive analysis is in the service of understanding what we want and how we can get it.

But they don't call it the dismal science for nothing, and the happiness in play is a muddle. What economic models mostly succeed in measuring is unhappiness. Hundreds of papers and books on subjective well-being have been published in the field since 2000. Ironically, the most influential tool in that spate is the so-called U-index, devised by a pair of Princeton number-crunchers. It measures happiness as an inverse function of the time people spend doing unpleasant things. For this model, happiness is a blank margin – the mere absence of unpleasantness.

Another recent study, from the U. S. National Bureau of Economic Research, falls prey to a different fallacy. The paper argues that there is a significant correlation of low blood pressure with happiness. Countries with higher reported rates of happiness also showed lower national levels of hypertension. “[I]n constructing new kinds of economic and social policies in the future, where well-being rather than real income is likely to be a prime concern,” the authors say, “there are grounds for economists to study people's blood pressure.”

But which came first, the calmness or the happiness – and why? Social policy is indeed important, but how exactly do we get there from blood pressure?

These failures should not be surprising, since the very idea of quantifiable happiness obscures the most interesting problem. No matter how precise the rulers, the subjects being measured are humans, in particular their notoriously variable affective states. Who in their right mind would expect meaningful numbers to emerge from that? This is where economics meets psychology, and both march off happily together, building on dubious assumptions, ignoring the fact that happiness is elusive precisely because we are elusive from ourselves.

Humans, for example, are competitive creatures. This explains, in part, why somebody with $100,000 a year can still be unhappy – if he is surrounded by friends with $150,000. It also explains why most people believe they would finally be happy with a 20-per-cent increase in income. We all say money doesn't buy happiness, but keep acting as if it did. (A recent book about American billionaires shows they are deluded on a grander scale: The subjects said happiness would come if they could just double their incomes.)

Ultimately, our desires, which get tangled up in seeking happiness, are complex and strange, ruled by envy and overcome by their own satisfaction. Desire's vectors are self-defeating: The more we have, the more we want. And getting what we want is almost never as good as we thought it would be. The upside is that not getting what we want usually isn't as bad as we imagined.

Even when economic models take account of such nuances, they still operate on a basic presupposition of market scarcity. That is, they assume that certain goods are by definition rare and therefore available only to a happy few. These goods can be material or non-material, or a combination of both, but they are structurally scarce, not factually. You can't generate more happiness by giving everyone a BMW, because then a BMW ceases to be a status symbol and becomes just a car.

What other assumptions, and other kinds of economy, are possible? First of all, we ought to distinguish well-being from happiness. Evidence shows that beyond a certain level of material comfort, humans do not exhibit higher degrees of subjective happiness. In fact, because the wealthiest societies are often the most competitive ones, generating ever-new kinds of scarcity and envy, the opportunities for negative affect tend to multiply with wealth.

One conclusion to that is a condemnation of our shallow consumerist selves. But see it instead as evidence of a positive duty to bring everyone to the baseline of well-being. It is not enough that we are happy; others must not be miserable. Amartya Sen, the Nobel laureate economist and philosopher, has articulated the most persuasive general list of necessary components, all more tangible than blood pressure. Some of them – litres of potable water per day, for example – can indeed be measured and met.

We could go even farther in shifting away from the thickets of subjective happiness. In his landmark 1979 work The Gift, Lewis Hyde analyzed what he called “imagination and the erotic life of property.” The trouble with economics, Mr. Hyde suggested, is that it assumes everything operates according to a single economy, the one ruled by capital and reason. But in fact humans engage in multiple economies, including ones that ignore capital; that is why market models have such a hard time accounting for “irrational” behaviours.

Gifting is one of these, where the act of passing something on, rather than acquiring it, is what generates value. Art is a gift, even when it is bought and sold, because it comes from a place, the imagination, untouched by capital and it generates a reception likewise resistant to purchase. Suppose happiness were a gift like art, something that requires imagination rather than acquisition. Suppose it were something whose value lay in giving rather than receiving.

I'm not sure what such artful happiness would look like, exactly, but I do know you couldn't measure it any more than you could sell it. I can feel my blood pressure going down already.

Mark Kingwell is a philosopher at the University of Toronto and the author of Better Living: In Pursuit of Happiness from Plato to Prozac, recently translated into French and Portuguese.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Book Review 3 - The Edge Effect

Tobago Cays, Windward Islands
The next item in the posts about book reviews is The Edge Effect by Dr. Eric Braverman who is one of the foremost experts in Integrative Medicine - the combination of Conventional, Alternative and Holistic therapies recognized as the paradigm for the 21st Century. He views every patient as a whole, with recognition of the brain's global impact on illness and health.

He indicates that many common conditions have their origins in brain chemical imbalances. Each of the four main lobes of the brain has a primary biochemical, called a neurotransmitter that is responsible for a specific brain function. When you are ill, physicians prescribe a medication, which restores a specific brain chemical to restore health. Natural substances however can do the same thing, because each of the primary brain neurotransmitter has a precursor, which the body used to manufacture each of the four brain chemicals.

Total Health In The 21st Century—“The good news from the world of medicine is that in the very near future you can expect to live to be 100 years old or maybe even longer. The bad news is, the odds are that if you reach that age you won't even know you're alive. Unless you do something about it now.” Source

The book discusses a proven program to reverse and prevent aging that will be a must-have for all "baby boomers," by a leading figure in the medical field This could be as close to a fountain of youth as mankind will ever come, the truly scientific answer to how to reverse or prevent the debilitating effects of aging, including memory loss, weight gain, sexual dysfunction, and Alzheimer's. Dr. Eric Braverman, a leading figure in the practice of brain-body health care, reveals the dramatic impact that proper brain nourishment can have on the quality of our lives. His key to longevity and well-being is balancing the brain's four important neurotransmitters. A simple test determines which of the four is dominant in you, and what you can do to maintain the right balance, by modifying your diet with both foods and natural supplements. Proven effective for thousands of patients in Dr. Braverman's practice, this groundbreaking approach will help anyone make the most of his or her life, free of the major illnesses (such as cancer and heart disease) and minor ailments as well. Source

Essentially Braverman theorises that an imbalance in the four key chemicals humans produce which regulate the functioning of the brain: serotonin, dopamine, gaba, and acetylcholine (also known as neurotransmitters) can trigger certain illnesses, including depression, obesity, sexual dysfunction and Alzheimer's. Hence, restoring balance, especially via natural substances, is imperative if we want to live to a good age and continue feeling well at the same time.

This is where the anti-aging doctors (andrologists) that I like to talk about so much come into the picture. Please, inform yourself, and one of the ways you can do this, is reading books such as these and those of Suzanne Somers mentioned in my posts about bio-identical hormones.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Dream Symbols 6: The House Part 1

Continuing in the dream symbols series, today I want to start a multi-part post about the rooms of the house.

Dreaming of a house often symbolizes dreaming about the self, the identity, the current life situation, or the current inner situation coming out into the external life by virtue of some element of the quality of the dream house.

Imagine, for example, that you dream of entering a relatively modest or humble house. Its exterior promises little, it is small, and not particularly attractive. Nevertheless, as you enter through the unprepossessing front door, you are amazed to see an enormous entrance hall. As you have not yet even begun to get over your surprise at the size of this hall, thinking to yourself that it just isn’t possible that such a large hall exists in such a small house, you see a number of doors, each of which leads to a more opulently appointed room than the one before. Costly Persian rugs, old masters on the walls, Bohemian crystal, antique Chinese floor vases, Biedermeier chairs…you are floored. How could something so beautiful be found in this small, humble little house?

Then to your amazement you see an elegant staircase that leads to the next floor. It is curved and broad, and you are even more astonished that such a small one-storey frame house could have room for a second floor.

The point of this entire description is to demonstrate how the symbolism of a house in a dream of this nature may point to the dreamer’s growing inner life (the hugeness of the house inside), which the dreamer, however, may not yet have consciously assimilated.

Conversely, a dreamer who enters a fantastic mansion, and finds it poorly furnished inside, or totally bereft of furniture, lacking rugs and curtains, chipped paint, and so on, might need to consider what it is that is lacking in the dreamer’s inner life. Is he/she pompous and pretentious on the outside, and totally lacking in substance and beauty inside?

The house contains many symbols, and in the next post about this I’ll begin discussing the rooms of the house. First: the kitchen.

Previous posts in this series:

Dream Symbols 1: Pregnancy and Birth
Dream Symbols 2: Death
Dream Symbols 3: The Snake
Dream Symbols 4: The Butterfly
Dream Symbols 5: Flying

Photo Credits:

Top Photo: Icelandic Turf House with kind permission of Danny Yee

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Talk, Talk, and Talk To Those That are Important To You

Chinese Symbol for Love. Photo Credit (buy this poster there)
Where would we be without real conversations with our loved ones? How can you sustain a relationship of any kind with a person you care for without communication that breaks through the barriers of social distance and gets into the parts of you that are totally real?

We need to know that our verbal and physical contact with those people in our lives that really matter to us is more important than many other things. If we are unable to connect at levels that delve deep into ourselves, we are living at the surface of life, of the relationship with little hope of becoming profoundly intertwined. (See also an earlier post: Crossing Thresholds).

Some people talk about energetic connections between people who are important to each, between lovers, between parents and children, and it certainly appears that these connections exist. Something traumatic may happen to one part of the relationship, and the other part, even though that person may be thousands of miles away, knows something happened at exactly the same moment in time. Countless stories tell us about the veracity of this.

What I am talking about here, however, is the connection that exists between two people who speak their truth to each other, and who connect - among other things - through their conversations. This can happen if you talk, and talk, and really talk to the other person, and it can happen if you open yourself, not only to the other person, but to your own inner truth. (See also my April 2007 Newsletter: Losing the Connection: You Still Love Each Other but No Longer Connect).

What does talking to another person have to do with your own inner truth? Quite a lot. (See also Expressing All Your Emotions). If you aren’t aware of yourself, if you aren’t honest to yourself about yourself, it will be quite difficult to talk to the other person at the levels I am describing. Your conversations with others – even with important others – will not touch the rock bottom of your truth. And hence will not connect you to that person in a way that leads to true communication.

So talk. And talk. But above all, become aware of yourself in order to be able to really talk.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Transparency in Relationships

Saharan Star Gazing. Photo Credit
Who hasn’t lied in a relationship? Maybe not about something as shattering as having an affair on the side, but perhaps something more light-weight such as pretending to like football or opera at the beginning so you can be with the football or opera lover, when it actually nauseates you. And who hasn’t been lied to in a relationship – and felt the results: lack of trust and a general sense of malaise that permeates everything from that point forward, because you just don’t know anymore whether the person that lied once can be trusted to not lie in future.

Transparency and the lack of it in relationships, is a condition with consequences whose insidious tentacles extend much further than pure and simple lying. Transparency means saying what is really inside of you. Transparency means not equivocating about what is important to you. It is not pushing your opinions or likes and dislikes on others, but it is being honest about them when they become part of what is happening in the relationship.

Being transparent implies being vulnerable, because the transparency…the visibility of your inner self...is now out in the open, for your partner to see, to palpate, to react to, to comment about, and possibly, to reject. Clearly, this latter reason, coupled with the fear most people have of being vulnerable (see also “Leaving Your Comfort Zone: Fear of Emotional Expression”), causes many to avoid the issue of transparency. If I allow him or her to see the real me, or so one reasons, he/she will not want to be with me, or will think I am too this or too that. And yet, if you do not allow the other to see the real you, how will they ever really get to know you? And therefore, if they fall in love with you, what or who are they falling in love with??? A chimera, evanescent by nature, since it is not real. Is it not better to risk possible rejection by being transparent, and thus eventually be loved for one’s real self by someone who appreciates it, than to be loved for what one is not?

Wayne Dyer: Power of Intention 1/12



This is Part 1 of 12 of Wayne Dyer's "The Power of Intention" for those of you who are not familiar with it. Watch it. It's well worth the 10 minutes of your time.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Don’t Let Anyone Talk You Out of Your Dream!

Big Sur Bridge, California. Photo Credit

Did you have a dream when you were a kid? You wanted to be a rock star? A painter? A sailboat owner living in the Caribbean who rented out the boat to tourists? Be the proprietor of your own company? Invent a new way to floss so that there would never be any more periodontal disease? Discover the cure for cancer? Write a bestseller that is made into a box office success that wins five Oscars? Be the next Larry King? Coach a football team? Teach at Harvard? Build your own cabin up at the lake? Design costumes for the theatre?

Did you get there?

Or did you get talked out of it?

OK, maybe you were tone deaf, so being a rock star would not have been viable. Or maybe you were color blind, so becoming a painter wouldn’t have made a lot of sense.

But what happened? Did somebody tell you couldn’t do it? That it was too hard? That it was impossible? That you had to be more sensible? That it wasn’t the right thing to do?

How did you feel when you gave it up? For that matter, how did you feel while it was still part of your dream? (Also see my June 2006 Newsletter: Finding a Meaning For Your Life). Did the mere thought of whatever it was that your dream consisted of, make your solar plexus feel full of pleasurable, exciting butterflies? And did the giving up of your dream make life seem a bit more gray, a bit less filled with possibilities? Did it suddenly make your future appear less thrilling?

Your dreams are connected to the purpose you have in this life that gives it meaning for you, and that makes life worth living. Certainly there are other important elements that make life worth living as well, but your dream is a major part of it. That’s why you can’t let anyone talk you out of it. That’s why, if you did let them talk you out it, even if it was 50 years ago, you need to re-capture it, and go after it again. It’s never too late. Never.

(Also see my radio show Life Begins at Retirement under the "Aging" Section).

Older…older…no longer so old…

Sunset over Gaucin, Andalucia, Spain
Posts about aging, conscious aging, gracious aging, happy aging have sprinkled this blog, and today I am reminded once again of Jane Fonda, an icon to me as I was growing up, because she proved – in an era when a 35-year-old woman was considered (and often looked like) a matron - that forty is beautiful! From the vantage point of my teenage years, I remember a certain amount of relief when I saw her saying that, recognizing that she was offering up some kind of freedom for the rest of us. And of course after raising that cry to the heavens, along with the idea that women could also have toned and muscular bodies (yes, girls, that didn’t really exist in the pre-Jane era), we soon saw that 50 could also be beautiful. And we are edging up to 60, with wonderful – natural – role models such as Helen Mirren, Meryl Streep, and Julie Christie. And of course Jane Fonda herself, whom I saw recently in an advertisement in a glossy magazine, now 69, as per the ad, and looking wonderful!

At first it began very slowly, and very gently. In the late 90´s and at the turn of the millennium, a few ads could be seen in some world-class magazines, of women who were no longer in the first blush of youth. Sexy women, but women who had some wrinkles (hey…it happens...men get them too, and we don't tend to think of them as being over the hill). (See also my radio program: Men are Sexy at 70, Why not Women? in the “Aging Section”). Then it gained some momentum. And now we have women “of a certain age” as this article from the NY Times that I include below, puts it, showing up more and more regularly on prime time TV.

It’s about time. And much more is coming. Read my lips. This is only the beginning!

June 17, 2007

In the Prime of Their Time


BOTOX and plastic surgery allow actresses to look younger. Television is permitting them to act their age.

Older stars who once had to resign themselves to playing frustrated spinsters or docile moms are suddenly flaunting their ripened sex appeal on television. Its not “The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone” anymore. This season marks the summer of hot cougar love.

Kyra Sedgwick returns this week for her third season as Deputy Police Chief Brenda Johnson, the sexy and single-minded detective on “The Closer.” At the moment Brenda is dating someone close to her own age. But the success of that TNT series has emboldened other networks to showcase 40-plus female protagonists who like to date young.

The older woman-younger man dynamic, which once seemed so bizarre and pathetic that Tennessee Williams built whole tragedies around it, has a new sparkle.

On “Saving Grace,” a TNT series that begins next month, Holly Hunter (“Broadcast News,” “The Piano”) plays an Oklahoma sheriff with a ravenous appetite for cigarettes, booze and sex with younger men. Lili Taylor (“Mystic Pizza,” “Six Feet Under”) plays a successful therapist with family troubles of her own on “State of Mind,” a Lifetime series that begins in July. She catches her husband, also a psychiatrist, in flagrante with their marriage counselor, then quickly finds a much younger lawyer to take over her husband’s office, and perhaps his place in bed.
Starting in July, Glenn Close will star in “Damages” on FX, playing a rapacious top litigator who terrifies her opponents and her subordinates (the devil sues Prada). Ms. Close could turn out to be the exception to the rule, because at least in the beginning her character is married to an age-appropriate businessman. But he does go out of town on trips. All of these series permit actresses with narrowing options in Hollywood to broaden their range on the small screen by tapping into baby boomers’ reluctance to sit back and let a younger generation take over the dance floor. Youth seeks out youth on reality shows and on MTV and VHI, cable networks that serve the YouTube generation. Older viewers, particularly women over 30, gravitate to the kind of dramas and conventional sitcoms found on TNT and Lifetime.

This isn’t entirely new of course. Television has always offered fading movie actresses a second chance, from Lucille Ball, Ann Sothern and Doris Day to Candice Bergen in the days of “Murphy Brown.” More recently Mary-Louise Parker landed in Showtime’s “Weeds,” as a pot-dealing suburban mom; Minnie Driver moved from “Will & Grace” to “The Riches.”

But comedy has long been more hospitable to older women than drama, if only because it more easily allows a transition from romantic heroine to character actor.

Aging has worked better as a laughing matter. Cybill Shepherd and Christine Baranski hammed it up as an over-the-hill actress and her martini-swilling best friend on the sitcom “Cybill,” a watered-down version of the British hit “Absolutely Fabulous.” Wendie Malick played a promiscuous former model on “Just Shoot Me.” And of course Kim Cattrall was a polymorphously perverse cougar on “Sex and the City.”

That HBO hit stirred an appetite for series about women’s sex lives that hasn’t yet been quenched. ABC’s “Desperate Housewives,” which tried to follow in the footsteps of “Sex and the City,” was hailed because it dared to cast actresses in their 40s as sex symbols, but that was always part of the joke. (“Grey’s Anatomy” tried to fill the “Sex and the City” gap by mixing a playful approach to sex with a swoony look at love, and ended up taking adult romance so seriously that it veered into ludicrous melodrama.)

Until recently most crime shows and hospital dramas wedged older female characters into broader ensembles, reserving romantic subplots and sex scenes for younger players. On “Boston Legal” Ms. Bergen’s character has had a few farcical stabs at a love life, but it’s the young lawyers in the firm — and the bimbo clients — who have the steamy moments.

That is beginning to change. Calista Flockhart, the romantic heroine of “Brothers & Sisters” on ABC, is not in her first blush of youth. Even Sally Field, who plays her mother, a widowed matriarch and grandmother several times over, has romantic interludes.

Female viewers like sex, but they really love “Law & Order.” One reason “The Closer” has resonated so well with female audiences is that it’s a classic “Law & Order”-style procedural, only centered on a female detective who is single, not so young and still desirable: a boss who is also a babe, whose jagged love life is as much part of the story as her interviewing technique.
Inspired by Detective Superintendent Jane Tennison, the middle-aged heroine of the acclaimed British series “Prime Suspect” played by Helen Mirren, Ms. Sedgwick’s character is not a cougar per se, but she is certainly no ingénue. She had an affair with her married boss, and this season is still sleeping with an F.B.I. agent whom she loves but doesn’t really have time for.

And newer copycat series like “Saving Grace” and “State of Mind” take their heroines’ dating options a little further, sometimes to the cradle. That’s a license that echoes real life, at least in show business, where celebrities like Demi Moore and Katie Couric consort with younger men without much censure or ridicule.

Nothing is a trend, of course, until there is a reality show about it.

On Monday NBC begins “Age of Love,” a dating competition like “The Bachelor” that divides the women into two teams: the Cougars, whose ages range from 39 to 48, and the Kittens, all in their 20s. The older women compete with the younger ones for the affections of a 30-year-old Australian tennis player, Mark Philippoussis. “He’s my son’s age,” Jennifer, 48, purrs on camera. “But I could definitely see myself falling for him.”

Mr. Philippoussis, who was not warned ahead of time that half his bachelorettes were old enough to remember typewriters, looks stunned but not horrified. The women all have impressively taut faces and figures; only their deeper, more commanding voices give their ages away. (The next big thing in cosmetic surgery: the larynx-lift.)

Movies have not ignored the phenomenon. When Rene Russo got a second wind as a thinking man’s sex symbol in the 1999 remake of “The Thomas Crown Affair,” it seemed like a fluke. Then Diane Keaton, sixtyish, made a comeback with AARP romantic comedies, from “Something’s Got to Give” to “Because I Said So.” Meg Ryan had a Mrs. Robinson moment with Adam Brody in “In the Land of Women.” And in this summer’s hit movie “Ocean’s 13” Ellen Barkin is wooed, albeit unscrupulously, by Matt Damon, who is young enough to be Ms. Barkin’s nephew.

But Hollywood still tends to box its female leads, whatever their age, into secondary roles as the hero’s girlfriend, or in some cases the girlfriend’s mother. Television has more leeway to let female characters lead — as detectives, surgeons or psychiatrists who have boyfriends, and sometimes boy toys, on the side.

The strangest thing about this trend in women’s programming is that Oxygen, the cable channel that Geraldine Laybourne helped found in 2000 as a high-minded alternative to Lifetime, isn’t part of it. It instead seems hellbent on becoming the channel of choice for Paris Hilton. Having struck out in its pursuit of the high road, Oxygen is competing for the lowest common denominator.

Last Tuesday Oxygen began “Bad Girls Road Trip,” a reality show that stars foulmouthed young women who roam the country, get drunk, party and fight. “Fight Girls,” which also began last week, is not much different, except that the women are taught Thai boxing.

Compared with Oxygen, TNT and Lifetime seem quite dignified and at the cutting edge of feminism’s third wave. But they too have a built-in fear of straying too far from convention. All these new series fall far short of “Prime Suspect,” a drama that not only was ahead of its time but still stands out. Ms. Mirren’s lonely, workaholic, alcoholic heroine was far more prickly and flawed than any American equivalent — and far more compelling than any of her successors.

Ms. Sedgwick’s Brenda can be abrasive and socially gauche, but she is also pretty, feminine and endearing, more Chris Evert than Billie Jean King. American producers and writers seem unable or unwilling to push a female character to the personality extremes allowed their male counterparts, be it Sgt. Andy Sipowicz of “NYPD Blue” or the lovably unlovable grouch Dr. Gregory House.

In the season premiere of “The Closer,” Brenda is under pressure to enforce budget cuts and lose one detective from her squad, and adamantly refuses. When told that the lab work she ordered has been delayed to avoid overtime, she turns confrontational. “Look, I’ll pay for the expedited blood work myself,” she hisses at her boss and former lover. “But my team stays put.”

Nobody gets fired of course, and Brenda manages to solve the murder and keep her team intact. When her boyfriend, who recently moved into her too-small apartment, insists they house-hunt for a bigger place, Brenda balks at first, but finally gives in.

Unlike Tennison, Brenda balances, however teeteringly, the demands of her career and love life; she doesn’t drink vodka to ease the pressure either. Her worst vice is candy.

Holly Hunter, on the other hand, is not the least bit ladylike on “Saving Grace.” The premiere episode opens with Grace, naked, having vigorous sex with her married partner, a strapping young buck who seems far more missish than she about their sexcapades. “I can’t do this anymore,” he says. “Its over, it’s the last time, I mean it.” No does not mean no to Grace. “If it’s the last time,” she replies, out of breath, “can’t we at least finish?”

She dates younger men, smokes, drinks heavily and slugs mashers who hit on her too aggressively. But unlike the real-life bad girls who are prodded by MTV and Oxygen reality shows to behave as badly as possible, Grace is held accountable by TNT for her excesses. As the title portends, “Saving Grace” involves spiritual rescue. An angel, in the form of a redneck named Earl, is sent to set Grace straight and give her one last chance at redemption: “The Closer” meets “Touched by an Angel.”

Cougars are wild, but eventually even they have to be tamed for television.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

The Ozone Layer and our Gadgets

Taj Mahal. Photo Credit

You may find a post about energy conservation out of place in this blog, but I will be posting the occasional article about technology, blogging, and sundry other subjects that strike my fancy, as I firmly believe that it is not only important to seek inner growth and inner freedom, but to do so, remembering that we live in a physical world, where much else is happening, that can also help bring us closer to our transcendent goals.

This appeared in the NY Times several days ago:

June 14, 2007

Putting Energy Hogs in the Home on a Strict Low-Power Diet
By LARRY MAGID

I THOUGHT I was pretty good about energy conservation, but it turns out that I’ve been a bit of a hypocrite. I drive a reasonably fuel-efficient car, I work at home so I don’t use fuel to commute and I am replacing incandescent bulbs in my home with energy-efficient fluorescent bulbs.

But I am also a prodigious computer user, and it looks as if that makes me an energy hog. I started checking how much electricity my electronics were consuming when I wasn’t using them. I used a Kill A Watt EZ energy meter (available online for about $25) and began measuring. My PC was continuously drawing 134 watts all night.

The more devices I checked, the worse it got. My TiVo digital video recorder was sucking down about 30 watts when it was not playing or recording a show. A Comcast digital cable set-top box made by Motorola that I tested was drawing about 40 watts. My DVD player was drawing 26 watts while idle, and my audio system — which I rarely turned off — was using 47 watts. This was in addition to the numerous power adapters and chargers, each drawing 1 or 2 watts, not to mention several other devices sipping energy to keep clocks running or to be ready to turn on at the push of a button.

I’m partly to blame for the audio system and DVD player. They do have on/off switches that I was failing to use. I had falsely assumed they were using relatively little power. But I tested DVR’s from Comcast, Dish Network and TiVo, and none went into a low-power mode. All of this wasted power was costing me money and pumping unnecessary CO2 into the atmosphere. My PC alone was contributing 2,000 pounds of CO2 annually. The DVR. was adding another 543 pounds.

Indeed, the Department of Energy estimates that in the average home, 40 percent of all electricity used to power home electronics is consumed while the products are turned off. Add that all up, and it equals the annual output of 17 power plants, the government says. In an effort to address that, a consortium of Intel, Google, PC makers and other technology companies this week announced their intent to increase the PC’s overall energy efficiency to 90 percent.

Products that idle in what the industry calls low-power mode, or lopomo, consumed about 10 percent of total electricity in California homes, according to a 2002 study prepared for the California Energy Commission by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. A few of those devices, even those with Energy Star ratings that signal that they are less wasteful, still use a lot of power. “Some of the larger big-screen TVs consume as much energy each year as a new refrigerator,” according to Noah Horowitz, a scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

You do not have to use an energy meter to reduce your consumption. If you don’t turn off your PC when it is not in use, make sure it goes into a low-power sleep, suspend or hibernate mode. That doesn’t always happen automatically. Windows XP has both a suspend and hibernate option, but it isn’t always turned on by default. Computers running the Windows XP operating system can be configured by clicking on Power Options in the Control Panel to set the number of minutes before Windows will turn off the monitor and hard disks or put the system into standby or hibernate mode. (Hibernation uses the least amount of energy). If it is a notebook PC, there are separate settings for when it runs on the battery and when it is plugged in.

Microsoft says that it has overhauled energy management in its Vista operating system so that machines, by default, should go into a low-power state after 60 minutes of inactivity. The PC sips only a few watts until the user touches the mouse or keyboard. To configure a machine with Vista, type “Power Options” in the search box at the bottom of the Start menu and click on “Change when the computer sleeps.”

All of this, of course, assumes that the systems are working correctly. When I first installed Vista on my PC, I configured it to go to sleep after 30 minutes, but it has been unreliable. Sometimes it fails to go to sleep, and at other times it fails to wake up. Sometimes I experience the worst of both worlds: the drives and fan are spinning, but the monitor is blank, and I cannot get the machine to come back to life without powering it down and turning it back on.
I spent numerous hours trying to fix the problem, including updating the BIOS, installing up-to-date versions of all my device drivers, checking to make sure there were no unnecessary applications running in the background and, of course, scanning for spyware and viruses. The results were encouraging. After all that fiddling, the machine went to sleep most nights and woke up most — but not all —mornings.

I then installed Co2 Saver (co2saver.snap.com), a free program for Windows XP and Vista that seems to have solved the problem. It gives you a simple control panel to specify when to turn off monitors and disk drives and put the machine to sleep. It also adjusts some hard-to-configure settings. One option forces the machine to “Initiate sleep mode if system doesn’t sleep automatically.” This feature, according to its developer, Lee Hasiuk, defeats Windows attempts to keep a machine awake if it thinks (correctly or otherwise) that it is detecting a background task other than mouse or keyboard activity. Now my machine sleeps and wakes properly almost all the time.

Whatever machine you’re using, consider having it go into sleep, standby or hibernate after about a half-hour of inactivity. The shorter the period, the more energy you save. Graphic-intense screen savers can actually waste power.

Unplug unused external power supplies because they can draw energy even when they’re not connected to a device.

If you’re shopping for a new PC, be sure that it meets Energy Star requirements, ideally the ones that go into effect July 20. The new standards require that 80 percent of the power consumed is actually used by the PC.

Use an L.C.D. screen instead of an old-fashioned cathode ray tube monitor. L.C.D.’s are as much as 66 percent more efficient than C.R.T.’s, according to the Energy Department.

Consider buying a notebook PC, rather than a less-efficient desktop. Because notebooks are designed to run on batteries, they’re equipped with chips and drives that draw less power. Seagate’s 160GB 2.5-inch drive uses one-fourth the energy of the equivalent 3.5-inch drive, according to a Seagate product manager, Joni Clark.

And because the screen is integrated on notebooks, there is only one power supply. I tested several notebooks, and all consumed under 30 watts except when charging the battery.

Consider a machine with a low-voltage processor like the Intel Core 2 Duo or one with A.M.D.’s “Cool and Quiet” technology. Trim desktop models also tend to use less energy. The new Hewlett-Packard Slimline models use about 45 watts, which is considerably lower than many larger PCs.

Comparing Apples to Apples, the $1,199 2-gigahertz iMac with a 17-inch monitor uses only 45 watts, and the 20-inch model uses 80 watts. (Apple’s high-end Mac Pro desktop workstation consumed a whopping 220 watts, without a monitor.) The iMac, according to Steven P. Jobs, Apple’s chief executive, is optimized for energy savings because all the computer components are housed in the same chassis as the monitor, allowing for more efficient power distribution and cooling.

Tweaking can pay off. Annually, my desktop PC is now using 73 percent less energy — saving me $119 a year and depriving the earth of 1,405 more pounds of CO2.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

The Morphing Woman




This video has music, so turn up your speakers and watch an incredible show of morphing women in art. Just under 3 minutes.

Leaving Your Comfort Zone: Fear of Emotional Expression

Bald Eagle Photo Credit
Dedicated to W: may you find your way out of your comfort zone!



Who doesn’t know someone who seems to be afraid of showing their emotions; who may be very caring and giving on other levels, but who just can’t manage any real “feeling” words and actions?

Often these are men and women who may hide behind the cover of continual work commitments, who have a multitude of friends (generally of their own sex) with whom they insist on spending a great deal of time, or who simply always maintain a veneer of reserve, even with their closest and dearest.

So you can never really get close to them. They simply don’t let you.

And it’s almost impossible to have a conversation of any emotional depth; it may feel like struggling to grasp a slippery, wet fish if you try talking about emotions with them.

If you are feeling a vaguely uncomfortable twisting in your solar plexus, or a prickly tremor of warmth running through your chest and heart region, or your face heating ever so slightly, you might recognize yourself as one of the people that remain in the emotional comfort zone.

Any comfort zone exists in order to maintain the status quo. That is, you keep it up so that different areas of your life remain under control, that nothing changes, and that you feel secure. As you leave your emotional comfort zone, you start getting twinges of fear because you are entering unknown territory where you run risks, most particularly of becoming vulnerable and getting hurt.

What is actually happening is that by braving out into the unknown territory, by feeling the trepidation and fear, you are granted an invaluable opportunity to discover new facets of yourself, to enrich yourself, and to stretch and grow beyond your present limits. So did Columbus discover the New World, so did man step on the moon, and so can you begin to express emotionally.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Become Independent of the Good Opinion of Other People

Cancun, Mexico. Photo Credit

Can you imagine the kind of inner freedom you might have if you did not feel that you needed to have the good opinion of other people?

You might answer that you don’t need other people’s good opinion, only that of your family, friends, and colleagues, and that it’s quite logical to want their good opinion. You know, in the way we normally look at things, that actually appears to be true, but looking at it from the point of view of inner freedom, it’s not true at all.

As long as you need the good opinion of other people, you not only are not free to behave in the ways you believe are correct, but you are also not free to be yourself. So that means that you are constantly behaving in ways that put you into a strait-jacket – even if it is a very loose, and nearly comfortable one. But it’s still a strait-jacket, because your behavior is being dictated by what you think it should be, rather than by what you want it to be.

I’m not talking about laws, and politeness, and general consideration with other people. I’m talking about trying to make sure that others will have a good opinion of you, rather than trying to make sure that however you behave has to do with your inner self. (See also my May 2007 Newsletter: Tending Your Inner Garden). You inner self will feel stunted if you act out of a desire to get others’ good opinion. You inner self may make itself noticeable physically, perhaps in one of your chakras, for example, in your solar plexus, by giving you a tight, knotted sensation there, when you act in ways that are meant for the outer world rather than acting in accordance with your true self.

The phrase that is the title of this particular post comes again from one of my favorites: Wayne Dyer. Think about it. When you need the good opinion of others for your world to be right, something is out of balance. It literally means that depending on whether you have that good opinion or not, you may or may not feel good. Should feeling good depend on something external to you?

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Dream Symbols 5: Flying


Flying is one of those fascinating dream symbols that appears to crop up more frequently in the dreams of persons who have lucid dreams. Lucid dreams are those dreams in which the dreamer is conscious of the fact that he or she is dreaming and is frequently capable of actually changing the tenor or direction of the dream. Lucid dreams have even been used in therapy, and I will be addressing this subject more deeply in a future post about dreaming.

So what does it mean when the dreamer is flying in the dream? The first question is whether the flying is done under your own steam, or whether you are flying in an airplane. The airplane type is much more similar to any other vehicle type of dream, where the vehicle may represent the dreamer’s life, and it is important to understand the physical positioning of the dreamer in the vehicle (are you the pilot, or a passenger; are you in the cockpit, in the galley, in the hold, or seated), another important element is to know whether you are flying smoothly, or there is turbulence, or whether you are flying up or coming down, or perhaps even nose-diving.

However, when the dream is of a dreamer who is flying himself, i.e., his body is flying through the air, then it has another possible panoply of symbolic meanings. First of all, take into account the possibility of the lucid dreaming as mentioned. Flying symbolizes a certain measure of freedom from earthly ties. It also symbolizes the possibility of a heightened sense of spirituality, or an increase of spirituality in the life of the dreamer, or a seeking of such spirituality by the dreamer.

It’s also important to get a feel for the ambience or atmosphere of the dream. Was the flying process enjoyable, or did it frighten you? Did you have a measure of control over the process, or was it all out of your hands? Were you keen on trying new stunts, or flying yourself to new places, or were you more interested in determining how to get back to the ground safely?

As with all dreams, it is important to make a note in your dream journal about the type of situation going on in your life during the day or two prior to the dream, as well as your feelings immediately upon awakening with regards to this dream in particular.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Happiness and Finding a Meaning in Life

Sayil (Mayan Ruins), Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico. Photo Credit
Continuing with the subject of happiness, because I believe, and most positive psychologists believe, that happiness is a goal well worth striving for in the search for inner peace and inner growth and inner freedom. Happiness is not the jumping up and down happiness we associate with the exuberance we may feel when something extraordinary occurs in our lives, but the 24/7 state of contentment and feeling that one's world is good, that can, however, only be achieved if one chooses to live along this kind of a continuum.

This has a lot to do with having a meaning in your life (see my article about the same subject in my June 2006 Newsletter). Without meaning in your life, meaning that comes from within you, rather than from something or someone you have, something or someone external to you, it is very hard to find contentment, because essentially you are not connected to your innermost self (see also Tending Your Inner Garden). Without that connection, it's hard to feel a true meaning in some part of your life, and without the connection it's hard to feel happiness, other than the evanescent, transient, and fleeting kind described earlier, that most of us have mistaken for real happiness.

With that in mind, I found the following article in eurekastreet.com today, that I felt expresses precisely this, in eloquent terms. See also my previous posts on happiness, by searching the labels on the right side-bar (scroll down and then click on joy and happiness, or click on the label under today's post).

Happiness and the Inner Self
14-Jun-2007
By Clive Hamilton

We all want to live a happy life. But what do we think of when we think of our own happiness? If asked, most of us would talk about having loving and supportive relationships with family and friends, and of having fulfilling and stimulating work, whether paid or unpaid.

Yet in today’s society, dominated by the techniques of marketing and the culture of consumption, we are being persuaded to think of our happiness in a quite different way — as the gratification of our desires. We can be happy by maximising the number of physical and emotional highs and limiting the lows. Increasingly, we think we can find happiness by buying new clothes or a new car, by getting a pay rise, or by taking some drugs that lift our mood or by having better sex.

Enormous resources are devoted to persuading us that gratification of our desires is the path to happiness. The culture of marketing, while designed to sell us particular products, also contains a deeper and rather insidious message — that money and what it buys is the key to the good life.
But the truth is that seeking to gratify our desires can never be the path to happiness. If it were, then we could all take happiness pills and float through life on a cloud of euphoria. So the promises of the consumer society are false. Although we are told that having more money and consuming more will make us happy, the truth is that this sort of society can reproduce itself each day only by making us feel dissatisfied with what we have. It has to make us feel deprived and restless and always yearning for more. In this way it creates new wants for the next thing — a plasma TV, a bigger house, a better-paying job. In such a society our happiness depends on us being made to feel unhappy.

Actually, this idea is not peculiar to those living in modern consumer society, but applies to everyone who stakes his or her happiness on superficial notions of gratification. At around 50 years of age, Leo Tolstoy was at the height of his career. He wrote that, by any conventional measure, his fame, family life and success should have made him "completely happy". Yet he confessed that his life had become flat and without meaning. "I felt", he wrote, "that something had broken within me on which my life had always rested, and that I had nothing left to hold on to, and that morally my life had stopped. An invincible force impelled me to get rid of my existence, in one way or another."

Tolstoy took the inner journey, with all of its twists and turns until, one day, he realised that what he was seeking was with him all along. "I gave up the life of the conventional world," he wrote, "recognising it to be no life, but a parody on life, which its superfluities simply keep us from comprehending."

In contrast to the superficial self that we seek to gratify — with all of its superfluities — the only way to find true happiness is to find and live according to our true selves. We cannot be happy if we do not know who we are, or if we are trying to create a new self according to fashion, or to impress others or because of some belief about how to become happy that we have read in a book.

But if we are to live according to our true selves, we must first discover who we are. This may not be easy; it could be a long and arduous task. We cannot discover who we are from our CVs or by a sneak preview of our obituaries.

We cannot discover who we are by asking other people; they will describe aspects of our personalities and our bodies according to what they like and dislike. We cannot discover who we are by looking in the mirror; we can only see the surface layer in the glass, and we interpret what we see through our conditioned eyes, which can deceive us. A skilled artist may be able to paint a picture of us that reveals something deep within that we have refused to see, but such shattering experiences are rare.

We can really know who we are only by casting off all external forms and going inwards. We must go in search of the inner self. If we do make this journey, what are we likely to find? The 19th century German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer observed that our consciousness is at its brightest as we focus our attention on the external world, the world of things. As we turn our attention inwards, our consciousness becomes clouded and our vision becomes obscure.

If we press on and follow the path to our innermost recesses, darkness envelops us and all knowledge seems to cease. This is where we find the inner centre, the true and unchanging self. On this journey the superficial self is left far behind and we begin to understand that at this "root point of existence" the individuality that we prize so highly is nowhere to be found and seems no more than a chimera. We realise that, at its deepest level, our inner self joins us to all things and is common to us all.

In contrast to the frenetic striving of the everyday world — the world of our exterior selves with its successes and failures — we discover at this root point of existence the “profoundest peace”. As we learn about our true selves, it slowly dawns on us that our superficial self’s pursuit of happiness — satisfying our craving for money, beauty, success and so on — is no more than a trick played on us, a deception in which we collaborate. And we come to see that it is a mistake to devote ourselves to our own happiness; that we are not here to try to live a happy life but a meaningful one.

This may be very difficult to accept because we have a strong attachment to our superficial selves. A meaningful life may appear impossible, scary or even self-indulgent. But it is simply what happens when we make that inner journey. In reality, whether we realise it or not, our lives revolve around the true self, the unchanging essence. Even the pursuit of happiness by the superficial self can be understood as a mistaken attempt to respond to the pull of the true self, an outer journey that serves as a pale substitute for the inner journey.

For some who have found the inner core, it is tempting to stay in its warm embrace; like returning to the womb to escape from the world. After all, who wants to go back to the trials and stresses of everyday life? But we cannot stay there and must return to the mundane world. Yet we return with a new understanding, one in which we recognise that the pursuit of our own happiness is in vain.

This may seem like a paradox, for if the inner journey is not in pursuit of happiness what is its purpose? It is to find purpose itself. Having found it, the task is to express it in everyday life through a vocation or calling that seems right. It may take a long time to discover what that calling is and it may not be much consolation to realise when you have found it that the ‘wasted’ years were in fact a necessary part of the journey.

It doesn’t mean that when you have found your niche then life will be blissful, at least not on the day-to-day plane. All lives are full of struggle and doubt; they are never blissful, except fleetingly. But there is a deeper level at which contentment does flow from finding one’s niche; it is the sense that one has found one’s place in the world.

This is an edited version of a talk to the ‘Happiness and Its Causes’ Conference to be given in Sydney on June 15, 2007.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Relationship Pain

Machu Picchu, Peru. Photo Credit
Who hasn’t been through relationship pain? Who hasn’t curled up into a ball (even if it’s inside your head) with the pain that some element of a relationship has caused? Who hasn’t wished that a portion of the life lived could be erased, could be forgotten, that by magic some form of amnesia would take over the brain, just to not remember whatever it is that is causing the pain?

So what can be done? How does one deal with this?

Alcohol, recreational and prescription drugs, religion, praying, meditating, panic attacks, hyper-ventilating, shopping, gambling, sex, frenzied social activity, numbness sought in movies, books, etc., are some of the methods people use to self-medicate in times of such relationship pain.

None of it really takes you anywhere. None of it is really of any lasting use. Oh, it may get you through the worst of your pain, but it doesn’t really help you deal with whatever the underlying issue may have been. The issue is not so much that there is relationship pain that was apparently caused by the actions of another person, but that you are reacting with such pain (See also my July 2006 Newsletter: I Need You…I Need You Not).

You see, when another person behaves in a way that hurts you, or does something that goes way beyond hurt, and that leaves an indelible mark on you in such a way, that you feel that you will never be the same again, then there is something inside of you – beyond the pain caused by the other – that needs attention. Basically what that means is that a good portion of your pain has to do with bits and pieces of yourself that have not yet been worked on, and that is why the actions of the other hurt so much. (See also my April 2006 Newsletter: Committed Relationships: Use Them to Grow Towards Self-Understanding and Real Love).

One of the things that needs looking at is your awareness of yourself and what it is that brought you to the place you are currently at. Another piece of the puzzle has to do with the choices you make at every step of the way: choices that you make when you act, react, feel, and think. (See also my June 2007 Newsletter: The Mirror of Relationships. This newsletter is not yet up on the website, but if you go there, you can sign up for the newsletter and the article will be emailed to you). Awareness and making choices are two of the most important tools you can have in the quest for your own inner freedom, although there are others, that will be dealt with in other posts on this blog in future, such as keeping healthy boundaries and choosing happiness.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Dream Symbols 4: The Butterfly

Butterfly Photo Credit
I wrote a brief post about this subject about a month ago, Butterflies & Symbolism, but since the butterfly is such a powerful symbol in dreams, and indeed, in life, and since I am doing these weekly posts on dream symbols, today’s symbol is the butterfly. I’ve rooted out some information from other sources, although in some instances I no longer have the url.

a. Spiritual Evolution: The butterfly exists in four distinct forms. Some consider that so do we: The fertilized egg is planted in our mother's womb. From our day of birth we are like the caterpillar which can only eat and creep along. At death we are like the dormant pupa in its chrysalis. After that, our consciousness emerges from the cast off body, and some see in this the emergence of the butterfly. Therefore, the butterfly is symbolic of rebirth after death.

b. For Christians, the butterfly's three steps of metamorphosis -- as caterpillar, pupa and then winged insect -- are reminiscent of spiritual transformation. The caterpillar's incessant crawling and chewing reminds us of normal earthly life where people are often wholly preoccupied with physical needs. The chrysalis (cocoon) resembles a tomb and empty, can suggest the empty shroud left behind by Jesus. Therefore, a butterfly represents the resurrection into a new condition of life that is free of any material concerns. In images of the Garden of Eden, Adam's soul is symbolized by a butterfly, or drawn with butterfly wings. In paintings of Mary and her Child, the presence of butterflies stands for their care for human souls. The Gnostics depicted the Angel of Death by showing a winged foot stepping on a butterfly. Since the insect is so fragile it can be torn apart by a hard rain, the butterfly stands for human frailty, both moral and physical. Also, as its life is not a long one, it is also a symbol of the ephemeral nature of physical existence. A butterfly with a torn wing is the icon for a North American charity that benefits disabled children.

c. Transfiguration: In America among the Aztec and Maya, the god of cosmic fire, Xiutecutli, is symbolized by a butterfly. Fire is considered the element of transformation, as in cookery and the smelting of metals. This association is borne out in traditional psychoanalysis where a dream or drawing of a butterfly is taken as a symbol of the client's imminent transformation. En este caso no habido ni sueño ni pintura, pero si la sincronicidad jungiana de la aparición de una mariposa en tu ventana en pleno sand storm…

d. The ancient Greeks depicted the spirit of a person as a winged stick figure. Interpretation of that symbol gave rise to the idea of the "soul" or psy.cheh as a butterfly.

e. Later, long-suffering Psyche, bride of Cupid (Eros,) was compared to a butterfly. It was her use of firelight to get a glimpse of the true nature of her mysterious sleeping husband that led to her downfall, and a series of dire trials that eventually led to her transfiguration.

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The butterfly is a powerful symbol for transformation. It leaves the safety of the cocoon in it's new form. This is an excellent image for anyone contemplating, or in the midst of a major change. A butterfly is a strong symbol of metamorphosis, with distinct stages. The butterfly is a reminder to make changes when the opportunity arises. Change and transformation are inevitable for us all, but it does not have to be traumatic. Butterfly symbolism is also closely tied to the idea of spirits and souls. It has been used in many religions and cultures. Psyche is the Greek word for both soul and butterfly. The belief was that butterflies were human souls searching for a new reincarnation, which gave the creature uncanny and sometimes ominous connotations. This symbolism was also used in early Christianity as a symbol of the soul. Celts thought that women became pregnant by swallowing butterfly souls. These butterfly-souls flew about seeking a new mother. Other cultures believed that spirits of the dead took the form of white butterflies. In northern Europe to see one flying at night was a warning of death, and some said that the soul-butterfly's ability to leave the body in sleep accounts for dreams. Source

The butterfly has long been a Christian symbol of resurrection, for it disappears into a cocoon and appears dead, but emerges later far more beautiful and powerful than before. Source

In Japanese culture, butterflies have a slew of meanings. Their most obvious symbolism is metamorphasis or transformation. This symbolism of transformation is taken one step further to represent those who have died (or that they 'carry' the recently departed souls). Sometimes, butterflies are interpretted as messengers, and following them will lead to a mystery's (or problem's solution). Since butterflies have a very obvious cycle of transformation, birth, and death, it's easy to see why they have been used to represent spirits. Butterflies are also very popular in Japanese motifs. Many Japanese family crests (Kamon) use the butterfly in their designs. Butterflies also symbolize spring, maidenhood, and happiness within marriage.Source

Departed souls
Round the world, butterflies are seen as the departed souls of our ancestors. Native peoples recognise the chrysalis as the soul trapped inside in the body. The emergence of the adult butterfly symbolises the freedom of the soul upon death. Source
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As I've said in the past, visit the Recommended Books on my website, and check out the Dreams & Dream Interpretation Section, as well as the Symbolism Section. One book in particular is to be recommended: The Penguin Dictionary of Symbols by Jean Chevalier. It's not your typical dream symbol cookbook type of book, rather, it is a cultural symbol book, which delivers a lot of value for its cost, and many entries are as extensive as we have cultures. Frequently by reading through a section that pertains to your dream, you will find the famous aha reaction that shows you that you have found somethihg connected to the true meaning of your dream.