Monday, 30 March 2015


Stepping out of the ordinary to experience a little of the extraordinary has numerous benefits, both personally and professionally.   A change of scenery and environment, no family or business obligations, unplugging from the world of electronic devices, time for deep reflection and renewal of mind, body and spirit is simply luxurious.

This is a gift you can give to yourself, perhaps with some encouragement and support from others.  It can be close or far away.  What is important is that the conditions are optimum for the best results with the least number of distractions from the focus and purpose of the experience.  It can be done solo or with a small group of like-minded individuals.

My most recent “retreat” was in Colorado Springs in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains and although my residence is similar, at 7000 feet in beautiful northern New Mexico, a different and unfamiliar locale gave me a sense of something entirely new, and open for discovery.  That in itself set the stage and provided the context for the experience.  Here are my seven dividends from the investment of three days away.
1      -  Time to read and think about a topic in some depth.
2      -  Restful and relaxing accommodations in a comfortable, beautiful setting.
3      -  Simple, nutritious and tasty meals.
4      -  Physical exercise via walking (or cycling).
5      -  Mindful meditation in stillness or via a labyrinth.
6      -  Exploration of future possibilities without commentary.
7      -  Deep gratitude for the opportunities afforded.

Most of these benefits can be achieved wherever you are.  However, you have to commit to making them part of your daily or weekly routine; otherwise, work, people and worldly distractions will consume your time, attention and energy.  In the retreat setting there was no urgency to get on to the next thing whatever it might be. As Pico Iyer put it, “In an age of acceleration, nothing can be more exhilarating than going slow.”

For me, it was a kind of Spring housecleaning - mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually – and some rearranging of my own priorities.  If you’re in the southern hemisphere, it could be a Fall housecleaning.   It is not about where you are geographically but where you are at this particular time in your life.  And the truth is that most of us are in a transition of some kind or another in our work, our families and in the world around us. Give yourself the gift of a personal retreat and put those three days away on your calendar now.   Go ahead, it's easier than you might think.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015


People worry daily about everything from their work to their finances, about their children or their parents (or other family members) about their present or future condition, including health and wellness, and in some places about where they are going to live, what they are going to eat or how they might end up.  One of the better definitions of anxiety that I have heard is “prolonged worry over matters we can do nothing about.”
Perhaps it would help to understand the continuum of anxiety, not unlike the continuum of fear.  You can experience mild fear or stark terror as extremes on either end.  Likewise, there are the little worries that are not all that upsetting, concerns of one kind or another that you can do something about and take action to erase it.  There is also the enormous anxiety that can leave you feeling helpless and ultimately depressed.  That’s probably why the diagnosis in the DSM-V has tried to separate some of the related “anxiety disorders” from each other.
Much has remained the same in the areas of anxiety and depression, with refinements of criteria and symptoms across the lifespan. Some disorders included in the broad category of anxiety disorders are now in three sequential chapters: Anxiety Disorders, Obsessive-Compulsive and Related Disorders, and Trauma- and Stressor-Related Disorders. This move emphasizes how each category has its own distinctions while still being interconnected. What is clear is that being in a state of stress for very long produces a level of anxiety that will most likely upset your equilibrium.
The term “anxiety” is a catch-all term.  Louis Menand says, “people describe themselves as excited, nervous, apprehensive, tense, stressed out, bugged, worried, panicky, vapor-locked, scared shitless, sick to their stomach, and feeling like they’re gonna die.”   Sometimes it helps to give the feeling a name rather than keep it suppressed and hope that it will eventually go away.  It is what you cannot talk about that will come up and bite you in the backside.

There are numerous ways to alleviate stress and anxiety and as many people have discovered, drugs and therapy don’t always work.  There are those who have made enormous changes in their lives whether in life-style, locations, changes in significant relationships, or in the approach to solving the problem instead of doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results (the classic definition of insanity). There are many people who have experienced a reprieve from anxiety that is most welcome and mentally healthy.  There are those who turn to a variety of physical, mental and emotional exercises for relief. Those who find these techniques effective tend to make them part of a daily or weekly routine.  Such activities may include working out with a regimen of physical exercises, or less strenuous activities such as meditation, listening to music or some creative activity like painting or writing.
What seems to be an obstacle to making a life change is the unwillingness to take a risk and step off into the unknown. That can be a stressful experience itself and some people would rather be in a state of stress-filled security than live in a situation without knowing the outcome.  Stress indicates the need for change and change can produce stress.  In the end, it boils down to choices.  You can consider and even create some options.  It is your opportunity to take control and decide whether to accept the status quo and keep things as they are or shift gears and invest in a thoughtful process to produce needed and welcome change. 

Friday, 20 March 2015


When the Julian calendar was established around 45 BC, a date in March was fixed for the vernal equinox, that time and moment in the Spring when night and day are of equal length. It has to do with the tilt of the earth toward the sun and at this time it's approximately zero.  But the hours of night and day are not really exactly the same. George Greenstein, an astronomer had this to say: "There are two reasons. First, light rays from the Sun are bent by the Earth's atmosphere. (This is why the Sun appears squashed when it sets.) They are bent in such a way that we are actually able to see the Sun before it rises and after it sets. The second reason is that daytime begins the moment any part of the Sun is over the horizon, and it is not over until the last part of the Sun has set. If the Sun were to shrink to a starlike point and we lived in a world without air, the spring and fall equinoxes would truly have ‘equal nights.’”

In the northern hemisphere, we celebrate the return of the light, actually beginning at Winter solstice but even more so in the Spring with the advent of new growth that we can see and smell.  In the southern hemisphere, not so, as it's autumn there and the amount of daylight is descreasing.  While we may spend more time inside than outside in the winter, we are now glad to be outside again, except of course for some miserable Springtime allergies.  And the closer you are to the earth, the more enhanced the senses.  I usually remember at this time of the year that Easter (Eostre, pagan goddess of Spring) is the first Sunday, after the first full moon, after the vernal equinox, a moveable feast to be sure.

What can we learn from Mother Nature?   Photosynthesis is as natural to plants as eating is to humans.  In fact, there are some similarities with several significant exceptions.  One is that plants seldom overeat.  They take what they need, water from the ground through their roots, CO2 from the air and sunlight to turn water and CO2 into oxygen and glucose.  The way they do this is called photosynthesis which means literally “putting together with light.”   

Lessons from nature abound.  The rhythm and dance continue in their annual display of new growth, especially that green, green, green of newness.  Here are some 10 lessons to consider.

1      Eat what you need to sustain your vitality.
2      Save resources for leaner times.
3      Add some color to your life.
4      Figure out what you don’t need and let it go.
5      Prepare well for the next season.
6      Wait and don’t try to rush the process.  Let it work.
7      Embrace and celebrate inevitable change.
8   Know that what is not seen is often more important than what is seen.
9   Drink enough water to help the flow and grow
10 Remember that too much sun may be more damaging than not enough.

Today, March 20, 2015, the vernal equinox takes place at 22:45 UTC, (Universal Coordinated Time). You can calculate your time zone accordingly.  Mine, MDT, will be 4:45 PM.