I Boycott the NFL and I Support Free Speech

This article also appears on the Huffington Post

footballLast night I walked by a sports bar on my way home from work and thought, “Oh, it’s Monday night. There’s football on!” For a moment I was gleeful, my mood lifted and then I remembered – I don’t watch the NFL anymore and feelings of sadness and loss came over me.

Sports were a central part of my upbringing. They were the activities that we did together as a family, they were our shared entertainment, and they were a point of conversation and of income and a reason to travel. Indeed one of my fond childhood memories is of sitting on the sofa with my father and watching football on a Sunday afternoon in the fall.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not a zealot about my boycott, I will still gladly sit on the sofa on a Sunday afternoon and watch football with my father. However, outside of that I will not engage in following, cheering, or watching the NFL.

I know my boycott means nothing to the NFL and its franchises, but it is meaningful to me. I do not want my time and actions to promote an activity that knowingly harms another human being’s life. The NFL has long been aware of the seriousness of head injuries and has actively sought to cover up this topic. I’m not an expert in this area, but have found these credible sources:

Also, this beloved game is full of sexism. We can start with the most obvious: the cheerleaders who dance on the sidelines in revealing outfits for the entertainment of the fans. Many have been paid below the minimum wage in stark contrast to the riches the men in the organization receive.

I’m not writing this to try and convince you to participate in this boycott. Though I think it is worthwhile, I recognize how deeply engrained this sport is in our culture and how it is a lifeline for so many.

I’m writing this because I want you to know that I love football and I miss it, but I’m voting with my time and money by not participating in it as a fan. If you join me in this, I thank you. If you don’t, I completely understand.

Perhaps, someday, our entertainment and the long-term health of the athletes, and respect and equity for all individuals, can exist in harmony.

Until then, you’ll find me outside raking leaves and hiking this autumn.

 

Note: I do not support the boycott of the NFL because players want to point out racism in their country. I support all people’s right to peaceful protest as outlined by the constitution.

 

 

 

Let it go

This post also appears on The Huffington Post.

let it go
Photo by Janice E. Lodato

“I have something to let go of,” I said out loud in my sleep waking myself up from the most intriguing dream. As I laid still in the dark, under the covers but wide-awake, I wondered at the statement I heard so clearly. What was it that I need to let go of?

As I reflected on this the possibilities seemed endless. Here are just a few of the ideas that first came to mind.

I could let go of the:

  • Need to be right
  • Expectation that I’m interested in everything
  • Drive to try to be good at everything
  • Expectation that I have to do things by myself

“Wow,” I thought to myself, “that would be a lot. That would be so liberating. But would I still be me?”

I started from the bottom of my list and worked up. “Let go of the expectation that I have do things by myself.” I developed a simple intention: Ask for help.

Now this may sound simple if this is not something that you carry with you – if you naturally ask for help and rally others around you, but, honestly, for me this is difficult. Often when I ask for help I do so in an incredibly awkward way. With people I don’t know very well I may appear overly eager or overly aloof. With my family members I often only ask for help when I’m at the end of my rope. Sometimes literally crying and crazed for someone to dig me out of the hole I’ve gotten myself into. Here’s an ugly example:

It’s Sunday afternoon on a hot and humid summer day, I’ve worked a full week at a new job with a long commute. I’m exhausted and overwhelmed by my weekend to-do list. I feel the list of responsibilities is all mine. I’m kneeling in our backyard pulling weeds that seem endless. Pulling, pulling, until my hand hurts and I start lashing out at my family. “How can you do this to me? If you loved me, you wouldn’t let this happen!” I literally cry out to them. They rally to help me, but I’m left feeling incredibly guilty about my outburst and my lack of ability to ask for help to begin with.

Where did this drive to be so independent come from? Is it something innate in my introverted personality? Was it fostered by birth order? Or did it stem from those elementary school teachers who poured accolades on me for my independent project work? To me, it really doesn’t matter where it came from. I’m here now and this is how I act and react. Now, how do I change it?

Because I’m not proud of any of these incidents of crazed independence and isolation and the results are often filled with regret and guilt that lingers over days. I ask myself, “How can I head this off before it happens?”

I repeat my intention: Ask for help. And, I add: Do it now, do it often.

The other three ideas to let go of seem closely related to each other. Of course, the one at the top of the list: the need to be right is a big one. It is so wrapped up in my ego. My sense of self sometimes seems to hinge on it. However, when I let it go. When I don’t need to be right. When instead I focus on my relationship with the other person – on the love and kindness and a being of light that I am and they are and that I want to nurture in the world, the need to be right drops away.

A few weeks ago, Carl Richards wrote in the New York Times about “The Cost of Holding On”. He noted:

‘The faster we learn to drop our emotional dead weight, the more room we create for something better. I’m talking about everything from stewing about the guy who cut you off in traffic this morning to still refusing to forgive an old friend for an event 20 years ago. …

My question for you is, “What’s one thing you can set down this week?”’

I’ve been working on this lately – the letting go, the liberating myself from these restricting and toxic approaches to life. I’m replacing them with the following:

  • Ask for help right now.
  • Focus on my true interests and skills.
  • Love

It’s a practice and sometimes I fail at it. I am hoping that the more I follow these the better I’ll get at it and the more I’ll be liberated from the grips of false expectations.

Wishing the same for you: abundant freedom, love, and light.

If these thoughts resonated with you, please join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook!

The Suffering of the World

suffering of the worldOne morning while reading the news on my way to work, I felt overwhelmed by the suffering of the world. I arrived at my stop, exited the L, and walked the streets of Chicago and saw suffering all around me: the homeless man with the deep, open gash in his leg; the elderly woman limping slowly along the sidewalk; the child crying and clinging to her mother’s leg; the frowns on faces of my fellow walkers – stressed about the day.

Sometimes I feel the suffering of the world so fully that it stops me in my tracks. As a Reiki practitioner, one of the things I hope to do is help people decrease their own suffering. However, sometimes it feels impossible.

I help one person only to turn around and hear the story of another person’s suffering, and another, and another.

I feel it and it nearly overwhelms me.

How can this be? I’m a Reiki Master of Masters. I help people. I offer up the universe’s energy through my hands and I can even do this without directly touching someone. So, how can it be that I feel so overwhelmed and helpless?

I really did not know how to address this or what would be helpful and then, this thought came to mind: “You made a difference for this one and that one. It’s the most you can do. You must keep doing it and you must include yourself in this healing.”

And then, of course, I remembered the story about the starfish, which I’ll share with you here:

“Once upon a time, there was a wise man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach before he began his work.

One day, as he was walking along the shore, he looked down the beach and saw a human figure moving like a dancer. He smiled to himself at the thought of someone who would dance to the day, and so, he walked faster to catch up.

As he got closer, he noticed that the figure was that of a young man, and that what he was doing was not dancing at all. The young man was reaching down to the shore, picking up small objects, and throwing them into the ocean.

He came closer still and called out “Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?”

The young man paused, looked up, and replied “Throwing starfish into the ocean.”

“I must ask, then, why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?” asked the somewhat startled wise man.

To this, the young man replied, “The sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them in, they’ll die.”

Upon hearing this, the wise man commented, “But, young man, do you not realize that there are miles and miles of beach and there are starfish all along every mile? You can’t possibly make a difference!”

At this, the young man bent down, picked up yet another starfish, and threw it into the ocean. As it met the water, he said,
“It made a difference for that one.”
Loren Eiseley

Go out there today and make a difference, even if it’s just for one person. It matters.

A Vow to Myself

Wedding VowThis article also appears on The Huffington Post

My abs are tight, stomach flat, legs and arms strong and fit, I haven’t had a cold in months – I’m beautiful. I love myself. This body, she is wonderful and I feel so much love for her.

But then . . . something changes. A cold sneaks up on me and I’m sneezing, stuffy, and coughing – feeling miserable. Or I’m busy at work and haven’t done any crunches in weeks and my abdominal muscles return to their womanly shape. Or time has simply marched on and my muscle tone and skin tone have changed – not so tight anymore. I show my age.

How can I love this body? She’s not pleasing me right now. She doesn’t allow me to maintain the façade of youth. She gets sick – sometimes very seriously sick. How can she do this to me?

Can I love my body in sickness and in health? Can I love her unconditionally?

Honestly, that has been difficult for me. When things aren’t just right with my body, I notice my thoughts are not as kind, not as gentle. I hear my mind say, “How could this have happened?” As if I’m immune to all illness, injury, and aging. Then I hear, “If I don’t look great, I’ll lose so much in my life: work, relationships, attention.” Now, really mind is that true?

Let’s take a moment here for The Work from Byron Katie:

  1. Is it true? (Yes or no. If no, move to 3.)
  2. Can you absolutely know that it’s true? (Yes or no.)
  3. How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought?
  4. Who would you be without the thought?

This thought is pretty easy to deconstruct:

  1. No
  2. [Skip]
  3. I’m mean to my body. I don’t treat her well. I’m judging her negatively and I want to hide her.
  4. I would be a being of love and light. I would love her unconditionally.

Ah, love unconditionally. Can I love my body as I love my beloved? Can I treat her the way I treat those I love the most in my life? Why is this so hard?

For me, I know that my expectations for my body are unrealistic. I also have habits of mind, deeply indoctrinated by our culture that are not kind and loving toward my body.

Lovingkindness extended to my body, just as I love my beloved. From this day forward I’m resolving to love my body . . . in sickness and in health. And so I’m offering this vow to my body, my beloved in this earthly realm:

I promise to be true to you in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health. I will love and honor you all the days of my life.

Wishing you an abundance of love that fills your being: body, mind, and spirit.

Everyday Mindfulness

This post also appears on The Huffington Post

“If you really want to be a rebel, practice kindness.”
The Kindness Rebellion by Sharon Salzberg

Stop. Notice. Or don’t stop. Keep going AND notice. It’s all here for you right now.mindfulness meditation

Lately, I’ve been putting a focus on everyday mindfulness as a way to increase kindness and calm in my life. For me this means not just the mindfulness of the meditation cushion and the Reiki session. It also means the mindfulness – the deep awareness – of the ordinary.

An example of everyday mindfulness is feeling the water while I’m washing my hands. Noticing its temperature and the sensation of the water on my skin. Seeing the bubbles of the soap and smelling the scent of the soap. Hearing the sound of the water flowing from the faucet and into the sink. Still . . . only washing for 60 seconds or less, though in those moments – those seconds – completely mindful of washing my hands.

This exploration allows me to experience the sacred in the ordinary. It takes me deeply into all the gifts of this abundant life . . . the water, the soap, the knowledge, the care, the ability . . . to wash my hands. So ordinary, so divine.

You may be reading this and saying to yourself, “How can you revel in such an ordinary and mundane task when the world is imploding upon itself?! When we’re faced with constant violence and hatred. Wake up and fight.”

And, yes, I hear you. I can’t read the news or interact on Facebook without crying. I hear you, my heart breaks constantly and I speak up as I can. And my path is one of peace. My path is one of the warrior of peace. I will stand calmly in the face of violence. I will be a source of love, kindness, and calm.

In order to do that, I need to cultivate it. To create calm in me, I need to practice it. To be able to smile and reassure those who are suffering, I must be sincere in my peacefulness. To be able to listen calmly and provide helpful guidance, I must be calm. I must be able to be present. Here in the ordinary of everydayness and in the extraordinary face of violence and upheaval.

I’m not saying that this is your path or should be your path. I’m simply saying this is the way for me. The path to peaceful presence and kindness for me is through everyday mindfulness.

I’m able to access that through the practices of Reiki and meditation and ongoing, daily, moment-to-moment reminders to be myself, to be here – not in the past and not in the future. Here at this red light, this opportunity to breath, to notice my hands on the wheel and my feet touching the floor, and the sensation of a small smile that comes over my face that reminds those around me that I am safe, I am calm. I am.

Reiki, Empathy, and Proof

Yesterday, an article was published in the Boston Globe called, “Easing a Patient’s Pain – Even Without Proof it Works.” The article discusses the use of acupuncture, massage, reflexology, and Reiki at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. It reports that, “The hospital soon will start a nearly $2 million project to convert the first floor of one of its buildings into a new

complementary therapies at Dana-Farber
Photo by Pat Greenhouse / Globe Staff

center for ‘integrative therapies,’’ which eventually could double the number of patients it can accommodate. More than 3,000 patients scheduled appointments for acupuncture and massage last year, a 25 percent jump over 2014.”

This is indeed excellent news for patients at Dana-Farber and for the promotion and acceptance of these complementary therapies. The article says it’s an “unusual” move but actually this is not so unusual as in 2008 over 800 U.S. hospitals, or around 37%, offered Reiki according to the American Hospital Association and that number continues to grow.

The article also points out that Reiki was rejected by MD Anderson because there is no definitive proof – it’s just a placebo that’s as effective as speaking to an “empathic person” according to Lorenzo Cohen, director of integrative medicine at MD Anderson. I find this a fascinating statement because in the U.S. we spend large amounts of money on talking to empathic people called psychologists and social workers. If Reiki is as effective as psychotherapy, doesn’t that elevate its status?

Also, the “just a placebo” line has been used so many times. We all know that placebos can be very effective. Yes, we don’t know the biomechanical mechanism involved in Reiki but that’s because we don’t really know how energy interacts in our biomechanical selves and we don’t really know how the mind/body/spirit interact. However, we do know that people who experience Reiki leave a session more relaxed, with less pain, and that they often experience accelerated healing.

As Lissa Rankin, M.D., writes in Mind over Medicine, “What I found is that nearly every clinical trial demonstrates a placebo effect, but some health conditions appear to be more placebo-responsive than others. Placebos seem to be most effective when given to patients with immune-systems conditions . . . mental-health condition . . . nervous-system disorders . . . cardiac symptoms . . . , and most effectively, pain disorders.” She goes on to point out that the placebo effect is not found in clinical trials for cancer, heart attacks, stroke, liver failure, and kidney disease because that would be unethical as a sole treatment.

Dr. Rankin goes on to discuss complementary healing methods and writes, “I’d like to make the argument that perhaps nontraditional healing modalities work not so much because of the modality being practiced as because of the potent combination of positive belief in the healing method, the nurturing care offered by the practitioner, and the relaxation responses these treatments induce.” (page 54)

Indeed, positive belief can be a very powerful prescription and I applaud the important step that the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute is taking to assist their patients in mind, body, and spirit.

I look forward to the day when we fully embrace the role of the mind and the spirit in healing our bodies.

 

Self-love: Calling my body, “she”

This post also appears on The Huffington Post.

Photo by Janice E Lodato Calling my body she

One day as I entered a bathroom stall at work, I was thinking about my body. “It’s tired. It’s old. It aches.” — were the thoughts that went through my head. Then I stopped myself, both mind and body, and thought, “Why don’t you call your body “she”?” After 50 years on this planet this thought arrived as a revelation. I’ve always called this body, “it” and, unfortunately, there have been times I’ve treated it with disdain. Like many others I have struggled with liking and loving myself, especially my body.

For me, I clearly identify my body as female and calling her “she” makes sense. I know for others that perspective is not as clear and the words may be different for them, but I invite all of us to at least address our body with an animate pronoun or a name.

These bodies are pretty amazing. Let’s start with a few examples.

  1. Your Body, She is a healing machine. Our bodies are constantly working toward a state of health and equilibrium.
  2. Your Body, She enables you to do so much. To see the beauty of a sunrise, to hear the sounds of uplifting music, to walk in the woods – to name just a few. She is an enabler, not a burden.
  3. Your Body, She provides you with awareness. Not just body awareness, but also emotional awareness. As we tune-in to our bodies they tell us the truth about how we’re feeling and provide us with instinctual awareness about situations and the people in our lives.

Why would you not call your body, “she”? Because she gets sick and dies? Because she gets fat or thin with no rhyme or reason? Because she is subject to scrutiny and criticism by others, especially doctors and our inner self-critic? But she is just having a human experience. She is a human body with all its wonderful aspects and all of its imperfection. If she were your friend, would you treat her the way you treat your very own body?

So, is calling your body, “she,” really helpful? I have found that when I’m talking about my body as a “she” my thoughts and actions are gentler. For instance, the other day my knee hurt – maybe from running too much or too fast or from stretching too little. My mind said, “Go running anyway, you’ll be fine.” But my body . . . she said, “Please rest. One day off and a little extra stretching would do me wonders.” So, because I respect her and her innate wisdom, I rested. I stretched. The next day I felt great and was ready to roll again. She showed me how appreciative she was and I ran with ease and comfort.

This body, she really is wonderful. She accompanies me on great adventures, is a guiding force in so many of life’s pleasures, she shares her wisdom (often so quietly that I have to stop and listen and just breathe and sometimes with such force I’m startled by the sudden clenching of my stomach or how my breath is taken away). She is a kind companion on this journey of life and I bow in honor to her – my first best friend.

Uncertainty

uncertainty, question mark“Uncertainty” is a word that keeps coming up in various contexts for me lately and it seems so appropriate in the face of acts of violence that surround us. As we try to believe that we are safe in this world, as we try to convince our children of this, we are faced with the fact that the future is uncertain. Tied in with that uncertainty is the reality that we lack control over so much of our lives.

There is a book that sits on a shelf in my living room called, “Uncertainty: Turning Fear and Doubt into Fuel for Brilliance.” I should say it sits there mostly unread. I’m not sure I’ll ever read the whole book at this point as I’ve had it for almost five years – lets just say, I’m uncertain about it. I’m a big fan of the author, however, Jonathan Fields, writes many inspiring blog posts and hosts a series of videos called, “Good Life Project.”   My problem with the book is that on the one hand he makes statements like, “Uncertainty causes pain” and on the other hand welcomes uncertainty as a way to be more creative. (pgs 197-198)

From my perspective uncertainty is not painful, though it definitely is a fear generator. When it becomes its own point of focus it can be crippling. However, when we accept uncertainty and put our focus on positive action instead, then we can live with this ambiguity.

For instance, I have faced times of uncertainty around paying the bills. Sometimes I have wondered how it will all work out. How will I possibly stretch that one dollar to cover those five dollars worth of bill? If I can drop the fear and analyze the situation, then I’m often able to come up with creative solutions to the situation. However, if I focus on how uncertain and tenuous the situation is, then I become paralyzed and unable to move forward.

My other recent encounter with “uncertainty” was in a discussion with a colleague who is also a grief educator. We were talking about the grief experiences of some of our clients who are cancer patients. I was talking about the anxiety that many of my clients are living with on a daily basis and she honed in on the profound uncertainty of their lives. As our discussion continued we started to delve into ideas around workshops where cancer patients could creatively explore living with uncertainty.

When we create grief workshops we do this as a way for people to examine an emotion. This examination often brings about a resolution or acceptance that allows one to move forward. This does not mean that the emotion will never be encountered again. It just means that you have faced it and decreased its power over you. In this way, you can live more fully and move out of the stuck place that grief and its related emotions often place us in.

Uncertainty: there is so much of it. We find it in the face of violence, terrorism, unemployment, illness, and daily living. It is the truth of our lives and yet by accepting it, maybe even dancing with it, we can live our lives to their fullest potential.

Worry or Don’t Worry

worry about trafficSeveral years ago I was traveling on business from Los Angeles to Tucson. I had a flight to catch from LA and was getting ready to leave my company’s office in the afternoon, drive to LAX, return the rental car, and fly out. One of the managers on my team was encouraging me to leave so I could make it there on time and get ahead of the afternoon rush hour traffic. I told her I was getting ready and would leave soon. She looked at me incredulously and said, “You’re not worried, are you?” To which I replied, “Worry, don’t worry. The outcome is the same.”

I don’t think I invented that phrase and I know for sure that I don’t always embody that point of view. However, when I can be there – that place of not worrying; of allowing things to enfold – then I feel calm and free to experience things as they are without being consumed by anxious thoughts.

When I worry, that’s all that is going on. I become consumed by it. When I worry, I’m less thoughtful, more rigid, less creative, and more likely to slip into anger and even rage.

In the travel situation, leaving the office early enough might eliminate the worry but it would not necessarily help me make the flight on time. Who knows how much traffic I would encounter? Who knows if my car would breakdown? Who knows if the rental car shuttle would leave promptly? All these things, and more, are out of my control. I did leave at a reasonable time to catch my flight, but with fewer cushions for traffic delays, etc.

By pushing away the worry, I drove more safely, spoke more clearly, and addressed people more directly and kindly. Indeed, I did make my flight, returned the rental car, and didn’t set any speed records on the highways. But, most importantly for me, my state of mind, and for how I want to live my life, I didn’t worry.

I didn’t allow my mind to go through a litany of “Oh my God, I’m never going to make it on time. Why is that person driving so slowly? Oh no another red light! I’m not going to make it. Will I be able to get on another flight? Why did that meeting run so long? I’m terrible at managing my time. Everyone expects too much of me. It’s not fair. Oh my God, a traffic jam! I’m never going to make it!” And on and on my mind would go. I know this because my mind has done this many times. I’ve worried so much that it has tied my stomach in knots and paralyzed my actions.

When I release worry and move to a place of acceptance, I have freedom to experience my world as it is and enjoy what is being presented to me. In order to release worry, I use breath awareness, Reiki, meditation, and exercise to deeply experience my body and mind in a calm state. Then, when stressful situations arise, I can call up that state of calmness, release worry, and choose how I will act and think in this moment – all the while enjoying what is happening right now.

Wishing for you the calm of not worrying because worry or don’t worry, the outcome is the same.

 

 

 

Half marathon: I did it!

runnerI did it! Yes! Three cheers! High-fives! And all that! I completed my first half marathon this month! I also did it in a respectable finishing time and was still able to hike around the park in the afternoon and walk down the stairs at home the next day!

The preparation definitely paid off. For instance, I didn’t question my gear too much because I just went with what I normally wore during training runs. I knew in advance that my running buddy would be going for a personal record and we wouldn’t run together much beyond the first mile, so I added music to my plan. I normally run with others and talk or just listen to nature and my surroundings if I’m by myself. But, let’s be honest here, I was afraid I’d psych myself out if I didn’t have some music for mood management and distraction. So I started listening to the music at about mile 7. I had also been using Reiki and visualization the week prior to the race, which kept me calm and positive. My mantra, “I can,” was always there as was the knowledge that I had completed the mileage already in a training run.

The race itself was wonderful, on a beautiful course along the Illinois River. We were serenaded by frogs at one point, saw several great blue herons, and I even saw a bald eagle riding the significant winds around mile 10.5. The camaraderie on the run was great. It was an out and back and the people who hadn’t made the turn yet cheered on the others. It was inspiring to see the fastest runners speeding by as we trudged through the first part of the race. Then after I made the turn people would call out my name (as it was on my race bib), give high fives or just general cheers. It was great. That must have gotten me through at least 2 miles right there.

Writing about running seems almost to be a cliché in the blogosphere. As there are so many stories out there where people draw parallels between running and other of life’s challenges. Well, it’s all true – in running and in life:

  • set a goal,
  • create a plan,
  • make a commitment,
  • get other people’s help,
  • talk about what you want to accomplish with others who will support you,
  • think positive thoughts,
  • do the things that are on the plan,
  • engage in lots of self-care,
  • do it, and
  • celebrate!

It sounds so simple, right? Does this always work?  No way. Where does it fail? Well in life, things are often not as simple as in running. There are often way more factors involved and more things that are out of your control. However, I think it’s a wonderful place to start and there is a great boost from completing what you set out to do, even if you didn’t save the world in the process. Celebrate the successes, no matter how large or small and for the rest of it: just do it!

Wishing you abundant success in running, life, and whatever your heart desires!