Archive for the ‘Health’ Category
Moving on to happiness.
Whatever one’s view is about the significance of CO2 levels in the Earth’s atmosphere, this blog is about integrity. As the byline states, “Dogs are integrous animals. We have much to learn from them.” Regular readers (and thank you for being one) know that this blog ranges far and wide in pursuit of stories, essays and examples of integrity, all the more better when they involve a dog!
All dog owners know that one of the prime things we can learn from our dogs is the ability to remain in the present. No, more than that! To value and cherish the present. Dogs manage this in an effortless manner, in a way that humans can only dream of achieving.
This came to me as a result of a recent post on Damn the Matrix, Mike Stasse’s fascinating blog. The post was about what we humans regret at the end of our days, which I will come to in a moment.
Bronnie Ware is an inspiring and creative soul from Australia.
Through her work Bronnie weaves delightful tales of real life observations and experience. Using gentleness, honesty, and humour, Bronnie celebrates both the strength and vulnerability of human nature. Her message is a positive and inspiring one.
Bronnie is the author of the full-length memoir, The Top Five Regrets of the Dying - A Life Transformed by the Dearly Departing, released worldwide, with translations in 27 languages. She also runs an online personal growth and songwriting course, has released two albums of original songs, and writes a well-loved blog called Inspiration and Chai.
A quick visit to that blog site reveals:
Every challenge brings its own gifts. Sometimes though it is not always easy to see those gifts at first. Suffering and wounds can blind us. We have all been there. It is at times like these that Inspiration and Chai is needed. Inspiration to soothe the heart. Chai to soothe the body.
Even during happier cruising chapters, being inspired is still a beautiful thing. It keeps us going. It reminds us of what we already know.
Inspiration and Chai is an ongoing journey. The aim of this site is to share inspirational stories and motivational thoughts and for it to reach more and more people in need, seekers on their path. It is a positive environment to revisit whenever you feel it calling. It is also somewhere for me to share my love of story telling and to share memories of life.
Jean is no stranger to the death of a dog. Over her many years of rescuing dogs Jean has seen far too many deaths. I have been living with Jean since 2008. In that short time five of our dogs have died.
Of course, we have no idea of what goes through a dog’s mind in those last stages of life. Dogs appear to embrace death in an uncomplicated way but we will never know for sure.
What about humans? On Bronnie’s blogsite there is a post under the title of Regrets of the dying. Whatever age you are, read what Bonnie wrote and ponder:
REGRETS OF THE DYING
For many years I worked in palliative care. My patients were those who had gone home to die. Some incredibly special times were shared. I was with them for the last three to twelve weeks of their lives.
People grow a lot when they are faced with their own mortality. I learnt never to underestimate someone’s capacity for growth. Some changes were phenomenal. Each experienced a variety of emotions, as expected, denial, fear, anger, remorse, more denial and eventually acceptance. Every single patient found their peace before they departed though, every one of them.
When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently, common themes surfaced again and again. Here are the most common five:
1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
This was the most common regret of all. When people realise that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honoured even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made.
It is very important to try and honour at least some of your dreams along the way. From the moment that you lose your health, it is too late. Health brings a freedom very few realise, until they no longer have it.
2. I wish I didn’t work so hard.
This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship. Women also spoke of this regret. But as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence.
By simplifying your lifestyle and making conscious choices along the way, it is possible to not need the income that you think you do. And by creating more space in your life, you become happier and more open to new opportunities, ones more suited to your new lifestyle.
3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result.
We cannot control the reactions of others. However, although people may initially react when you change the way you are by speaking honestly, in the end it raises the relationship to a whole new and healthier level. Either that or it releases the unhealthy relationship from your life. Either way, you win.
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
Often they would not truly realise the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying.
It is common for anyone in a busy lifestyle to let friendships slip. But when you are faced with your approaching death, the physical details of life fall away. People do want to get their financial affairs in order if possible. But it is not money or status that holds the true importance for them. They want to get things in order more for the benefit of those they love. Usually though, they are too ill and weary to ever manage this task. It is all comes down to love and relationships in the end. That is all that remains in the final weeks, love and relationships.
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.
This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realise until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called ‘comfort’ of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content. When deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again.
When you are on your deathbed, what others think of you is a long way from your mind. How wonderful to be able to let go and smile again, long before you are dying.
Life is a choice. It is YOUR life. Choose consciously, choose wisely, choose honestly. Choose happiness.
I hesitated to write anything more because that last sentence should be the one that continues to resonate.
So just a reflection on how easy it is for a dog to wag its tail – dogs so easily choose happiness.
How libertarian ideology is holding back our liberty to change.
Martin Lack, he of the popular blog Lack of Environment is taking a small break from his writings. In his own words,
I am afraid this may be the last post on this blog for a while because – what with the all the willful blindness and ideological prejudice that seems to stop people from recognising what an Eff-ing mess humanity is in – and my as yet unresolved employment situation – I am feeling somewhat emotionally drained. However, please don’t cancel your subscription (as who knows how quickly I may recover).
So what a pleasant surprise when less than a day after those words in came an email that read, “Since I have told readers of my blog that I am taking a rest, I offer you the text appended below to post on your blog instead (or not – as you see fit).“
On reading the text I most certainly ‘saw fit‘ to publish it!
It is a very interesting approach to climate science denialism resulting from an analysis of conspiracy theories.
So over to Martin.
Libertarian ideology is the real road block
I have recently been catching up on a bit of reading – focusing on the recent work of Professor Stephan Lewandowsky (and others). Following in the wake of James Hansen, Ben Santer and Michael Mann, Lewandowsky has recently been the target of hate-mail campaigns by climate change sceptics. Unlike all the others, however, Lewandowsky (formerly at the University of Western Australia but now at Bristol University in the UK) is not a climate scientist. This is how Bristol University announced his recent appointment.
Steve is an internationally renowned cognitive scientist who has joined us from the University of Western Australia. His research has already revolutionised our understanding of human memory and cognition, and he now stands poised to build upon his impressive body of work with a project as ambitious as it is timely. In particular, Steve’s intention to improve our understanding of how people choose to acquire information, and to use this understanding to help create a more informed populace, is a unique and much needed undertaking. Thus, this research offers enormous benefits in the fields of experimental psychology, climate research and the wider public engagement with and understanding of scientific research.
I must admit that, until recently, I had not sat down to read either of the papers by Lewandowsky et al ( ‘Motivated Rejection of Science’ [PDF] or ‘Recursive Fury: Conspiracy Ideation in the Blogosphere’ [PDF] ) – I had only read about them.
However, now that I have read them, the thing that strikes me most forcefully is not the stupidity of conspiracy “ideation”, the invocation of conspiracy theories, it is the fact that, as Lewandowsky et al acknowledge, their work confirms the findings of many previous studies; that climate change scepticism is associated with prejudicial adherence to libertarian ideology. Also key is that climate change scepticism can be predicted by that prejudicial adherence to libertarian ideology.
Amongst many other things, this explains why EU sceptics are climate sceptics and why the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) do not like Wind Farms. I had understood this for some time. However, I had not fully realised its importance; it was just one theme among others. Anyone who has read my blog recently will probably have noticed my post about New World Order (NWO) conspiracy theory, in which I acknowledged that I had not realised just how significant such thinking is, and how subliminal and subconscious it may be.
Although adherence to free-market economics and libertarian ideology were themes I highlighted in my MA dissertation and in my subsequent book, and mentioned on my blog numerous times, everything I have read in the last few days points to one conclusion: We will not succeed in communicating the urgency of the need for radical changes in energy policy until we can convince people that climate scientists are not trying to perpetuate their research funding or halt human progress.
Professor Lewandowsky’s research shows that little can be achieved by simply telling people they are wrong. Far better is pointing out to people that Limits to Growth and Peak Oil have already halted the progress of globalised Capitalism, as recent times prove dramatically. In other words conveying facts to people rather than ideology.
I must admit that this has been a tough pill to swallow. I am not naturally progressive and certainly not naturally “liberal”. On the contrary, I am socially and politically conservative. However, the reality of anthropogenic climate disruption is a game-changer. Therefore, unlike members of the Flat Earth Society or Young Earth Creationists (YECs), I do not refuse to accept what scientists tell me simply because I don’t like the message.
We cannot defeat such obscurantism by telling people they are irrational; we can only defeat it by focusing on the evidence that suggests strongly that they are mistaken. To this end, I think the words of St Augustine of Hippo are an important consideration; words going back over 1,400 years before anyone started to question the Age of the Earth or the Origin of Species! Words echoed by Thomas Aquinas, (often quoted to those YECs):
“… since Holy Scripture can be explained in a multiplicity of senses, one should adhere to a particular explanation only in such measure as to be ready to abandon it if it be proved with certainty to be false, lest Holy Scripture be exposed to the ridicule of unbelievers, and obstacles be placed to their believing.”
– Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica (1273).
In the last 150 years or so, most Christians have now come to reject conspiracy theory explanations for fossils, for example, and have realised that it is inappropriate to treat the Bible as a scientific text book. Regretably, the main source of ideological blindness today is not conventional religion; it is adherence to free-market economics.
Therefore, it is important that we acknowledge the ideological nature of the communication problem we face. That is that the research by Prof Lewandowsky and others has discovered a tendency for libertarians to prefer conspiracy theories to reality. Perhaps, therefore, not surprising that he has been attacked; no-one likes to be told they are deluded.
Roadblocks to policy change will not be cleared by social and political scientists telling libertarians that they are deluded. All that will do is confirm their suspicions and reinforce their prejudices! No, what is needed is for climate scientists to be bolder in stating the facts.
The majority of climate scientists seem content to continue to soft-soap the issue; afraid of “telling it to people straight” because it may induce despair.
No, it is not too late to prevent an ecological catastrophe but I am certain that we are now very short of time and, as everyone from the International Energy Agency, the Pentagon and the IMF agree, further delay will not be cost-effective.
At the same time, I think social and political scientists need to focus on debunking the ‘New World Order’ conspiracy myth and pointing out the logical fallacy in the idea that all Greens are Communists in disguise (the so-called ‘Watermelons’).
The environment has become a political football when it is nothing of the kind. It is our life support system and we have pushed it near to the point of collapse, as E.F. Schumacher once said, by mistaking Nature’s capital for a form of income. Therefore, if we do not change course, bankruptcy would seem inevitable.
Having read and reflected on Martin’s essay, a couple of recollections surface. The first is Guy McPherson’s book Walking Away from Empire that I reviewed earlier this year then referred to in a recent republication of a George Monbiot essay:
So very difficult to pick out the sentence that carried the most power, for the essay is powerful from start to end. But this one did hit me in the face, “The impossibility of sustaining this system of endless, pointless consumption without the continued erosion of the living planet and the future prospects of humankind, is the conversation we will not have.“
Finally, I can’t resist reminding you, dear reader, of the point made by Prof. Guy McPherson in his book Walking Away from Empire, which I reviewed on March 6th. particularly in the first paragraph of the first chapter; Reason:
At this late juncture in the era of industry, it seems safe to assume we face one of two futures. If we continue to burn fossil fuels, we face imminent environmental collapse. If we cease burning fossil fuels, the industrial economy will collapse. Industrial humans express these futures as a choice between your money or your life, and tell you that, without money, life isn’t worth living. As should be clear by now, industrial humans — or at least our “leaders” — have chosen not door number one (environmental collapse) and not door number two (economic collapse), but both of the above.
The second recollection comes most recently; from yesterday’s The story of carbon. A story that showed the power of academic, peer-reviewed, properly conducted, rational science!
I will close with a repeat of the closing words from yesterday:
“By my calculation, we have a 5–10 year window to avoid the catastrophe. It won’t be easy — we’re past the point where any transition will be smooth — but we can make the transition and survive as a civilized species, humans in a recognizable world.”
Nothing counter-intuitive about that!
Something inspirational and encouraging (for a change!)
As regular readers of Learning from Dogs will know, I subscribe to news items from The Permaculture Institute of Australia. It is much recommended.
Well just the other day, this item came up:
Off the coast of Honduras, on a small island called Utila, lives a guy called Shane. Shane has broken away from all the social restraints and has built his own house. He is now building his own garden. However, he is doing it slightly different from most people — he uses cardboard boxes! This short film by Serena Aurora talks about Shane’s key concepts and tips on permaculture.
It’s a deeply moving film.
I can remember everything, except the things I forget!
Today’s post is about something that at it’s heart is no laughing matter; loss of memory. But the opportunity to open in a slightly frivolous manner is simply too tempting!
Because I admit to not remembering when I started to lose my memory!
But somewhere along the way during the last 5 or 6 years others around me, especially Jeannie, started noticing that my mental recall wasn’t so good. In November, I shall be 69 and have been told (I forget by whom!) that the sort of life changes that these last few years have delivered would be classic causes of declining memory in a person in their sixties.
OK, on with the show.
Some time ago, I received an email from a Daniel Strauss. This is what Daniel wrote:
I’m a contributor to an education improvement resource and I recently published an article providing many tips about improving your memory I think you would be interested in. I found your site and your item, Let’s do nothing, during my research and would like to invite you to take a look at my published piece.
Please let me know if you would be interested in taking a look and possibly sharing with your readers.
My reply was to query Daniel’s motivation before saying ‘yeah’ or ‘nay’. A further email subsequently arrived:
I am one of many contributors on a research project and recently completed work on resource that provides quick and easy tips to keep your mind sharp and be able to remember things you’ve learned. I reached out because I thought you and your readers would be interested in my resource. Here is the link to the resource. Take a look and let me know if you would consider including it among the other resource links that you’ve provided on your site.
Look forward to hearing from you.
Thanks for your help.
I was happy to feature these memory tips.
The 75 tips are on a website that is called the Open Education Database, from which one learns “We’ve compiled the Open Education Database (OEDb) to help ambitious or prospective students find the most convenient, valuable, and relevant education programs to fulfill their academic and career objectives.“
Not entirely sure why a feature on memory is part of the OEdb website, but so what! The tips strike me as fabulous advice.
The memory feature is called The Memory Toolbox: 75 Tips and Resources to Go from Amnesic to Elephantic, and is introduced, thus:
Many people expect increasing memory loss as they age, but this memory loss can be reduced or stalled with some simple memorization techniques, physical exercise, and a reduction of stress. In fact, impaired memory has more to do with chemicals that are released in the brain when an individual suffers from chronic stress. But, you can reduce the obstacles and increase your memory capacity with the seventy-five tips and resources listed below. In fact, you can go from amnesic to elephantic within a few short weeks.
Some of the tips you may already know, but we’ve repeated them because they may have slipped your mind. Other tips are from recent news stories that contained information you may not have heard. The links will take you to those news items and to other resources that you can use to increase your capacity to remember anything you deem important.
The 75 tips and resources are sorted into 10 groupings; here are some of the recommendations:
Be in the Moment
You can’t remember something if you’ve never learned it, so focus on learning.
It only takes about eight seconds to process data through your hippocampus into the appropriate memory center, so it doesn’t take long to absorb information.
To learn how to stay in the moment, don’t focus on the past or worry about the future while you’re learning.
Don’t multitask, as you create a “brain drain” when you focus on more than one activity.
Create a Learning Environment
Create a learning environment at home. This is crucial for adult learners who will be taking online courses, while balancing work, family, and other factors.
Use All Your Senses
If you’re learning something, involve as many senses as possible to help retain the experience.
Drawing and writing includes the use of motor skills that help you to remember information as you stimulate motor pathways.
If you utilize these motor skills in a task, don’t try something new for a few days. Instead, repeat some of the exercises listed immediately below a few times during the first week so that they become ingrained with your learning habits.
Talk with another person about the information you’ve gathered. This action will incorporate more than one sense and it will help you to categorize information as well.
Attach your ideas to an inert object for your learning process. For instance, connect the introduction of a speech to the entrance of the house, move on to the next room to connect the introduction to the next idea, and so on throughout a building.
Use Mnemonic Devices
Mnemonic (the initial “m” is silent) devices can provide clues to help you remember things. For instance, you can use visual images to memorize names, places, and events. If you wanted to remember Tom’s name, think of a tom cat and connect that person to that image. Or, use something more obvious, like Queen Victoria for Victoria. Just place an imaginary crown on Victoria’s head and you might remember that person’s name the next time you meet them.
“Every Good Boy Does Fine” is a sentence that many musicians use to remember the lines in a treble staff (E, G, B, D, and F). Medical students use silly sentences to remember anatomical features. Try this tool when you need to memorize a sequence of difficult words or a series like the biological taxonomy (Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species): “Kids Played Cards On Furry Gray Skins.”
Connect new data to information you already know. For example, if you already know how to cook a turkey, use that information to relate to how you might cook a goose. You’re merely building on information you’ve already retained and relating it to a new recipe. The new recipe will be easier to remember.
Disorganized people report more memory problems than those individuals who are accustomed to organization. This ability to organize is external as well as internal…External organization can free your brain up for more creative endeavors. Internal organization requires a less stressful lifestyle.
Write things down, but write them down in appropriate places. For instance, write addresses in address books, and write grocery lists in a special notebook that you’ve designated for that list. Accordingly, use specific places in the house for certain items. For instance, if you hang the keys on a hook by the door when you enter, you won’t need to sap your time or brain power to find those keys.
Use online or paper calendars to remember important dates. This will help you to be more social, on time, and employed. Plus, you can free up your mind for more creative endeavors.
Keep a pad, pencil and small flashlight by your bed to write down ideas that you have at night. If you forget these tools, just move something out of place so that you’ll remember that idea in the morning (just throw a tissue or book on the floor so you see it in the morning – those items will trigger memories of the previous evening).
Increase your scholarly productivity with tools that will help you stay organized online.
Spend some time with new material a few hours after you’ve been introduced to it. Review notes and try to consolidate the notes into a broad concept or idea.
Review notes and other information at intervals throughout the next few days. This is called “Spaced Rehearsal” or “Spaced Repetition,” and it’s a more effective method for learning than cramming.
When you use overlearning, you improve recall speed.
Retain a Positive Attitude
Tell yourself that you want to learn and that you can learn and remember the information at hand.
A positive outlook and positive mental feedback sets up an expectation for success.
Exercise increases oxygen to the brain, and oxygen is important for brain function.
Physical exercise reduces the risk for many disorders that relate to memory loss, such as dementia and cardiovascular disease.
The hippocampus is especially vulnerable to age-related deterioration that can affect how well you retain information, so it’s important to maintain an exercise routine as you age.
Walking is not strenuous (unless you power walk), so your leg muscles don’t take up extra oxygen and glucose like they do during other forms of exercise. If you find yourself stressed, take a few minutes to oxygenate your brain with a leisurely walk.
Cortisol, the stress hormone secreted under stress by the human adrenal gland, near the kidneys, can damage the hippocampus if stress is unrelieved.
Physical exercise can help to relieve stress. Even a simple walk can help to clear the mind.
Jokes, soothing music, and even a short nap can help to break the stress.
On the other hand, arousing, exciting, momentous occasions, including stressful ones, get filed away very readily. If you can remember your first date, your first job, 9/11, or when Kennedy was shot, these examples prove that some stressful occasions can create vivid memories.
Other Good habits
Quit smoking – smoking constricts arteries that deliver oxygen to the brain. Research has proven this memory loss in smokers.
Relaxation through meditation, tai chi, yoga, or other techniques that slow respiration, slow metabolism, and release muscle tension can make a huge difference in your overall health and stress levels. Invest about ten to fifteen minutes per day with these techniques.
Staying properly hydrated can do more for your body and mind than eating, at times. Drink your recommended 8-10 glasses per day.
So if you, like me, find the loss of one’s memory to be frustrating, or worse, make a note of the Memory Toolbox website and work your way through all 75 excellent tips and recommendations. It’s a fabulous resource.
I’ll shall be adding the link to my ‘blogroll’ – so long as I don’t forget!
A personal journey
In some ways, it is surprising that I haven’t written about my own counselling experiences before. Perhaps it has never felt like the right moment.
But the guest post from Peter Bloch that I had the honour of publishing yesterday so strongly resonated with the ‘Fergus’ inside me that I was compelled to offer my own journey. So if you are not into bouts of personal introspection, look away and come back tomorrow!
The fickle finger of fate
I was born in Acton, North London, just 6 months before the end of World War II. Nothing remarkable about that. Just another one of the millions of soon-to-be post-war babies. My father was an architect; my mother a teacher. Indeed, at the age of 93 my mother is still teaching music!
In 1956 when my father was 55 years-old he developed lung cancer. I and my sister were blissfully unaware of our father’s terminal condition until the evening of December 19th, 1956. That evening Mum came into my bedroom and said that father was very ill and may not live for very much longer. To be honest, it didn’t really register and off I went to sleep. I was 12 and looking forward to Christmas in 5 days time.
My father died in the night hours of December 19th/20th. I had slept through not even wakening when his body was removed from the house. On the morning of the 20th he was just gone!
It was felt by the family doctor, who had been attending my father, that it would be too upsetting for me and my younger sister to attend the funeral. That funeral was a cremation and therefore no grave.
The good and the not so good.
The only obvious effect of the trauma of my father’s death was that I bombed out at school. I had passed my ’11+’ exams at my primary school and in September, 1956, become a pupil at Preston Manor County Grammar School near Preston Road, Wembley where we were living; Wembley Stadium could be seen from the back windows of the 2nd floor of our house.
I struggled with schooling, the victim of much bullying as I recall, sat 8 ‘O-level’ exams, passed 2, struggled to get another couple of ‘O-levels’ but it was clear that a University place was not going to be for me.
From then on, in stark contrast, I enjoyed a wonderfully varied life, working as a business salesman, freelance journalist and ending up starting my own company in Colchester in 1978 which became surprisingly successful.
But when it came to relationships, that wasn’t so successful. If I tell you that Jeannie is my 4th wife, you will get the message!
A little more background.
When running my own business back in the 1980s I had a network of overseas distributors. My US West Coast distributor was Cimarron, a company owned and run by Daniel Gomez out of Los Angeles. Dan and I became good friends and still are some 35 years later. I’ll come back to this highly relevant relationship with Dan.
I sold my business in 1986 and went overseas for 5 years, actually living on a boat based in Larnaca, Cyprus. (The boat was a Tradewind 33 named ‘Songbird of Kent‘.)
In the early 1990s upon returning to England I chose to live in the South Hams area of South Devon, ending up in the small village of Harberton, pop. 300, near Totnes. Once settled I took up business mentoring. In previous years, I had gained Chartered Membership of the Institute of Marketing. In addition, I became a youth mentor with the Prince’s Youth Business Trust, a really fabulous organisation that does so much good for young people.
One of my personal mentees was Jon Lavin, the founder of The People Workshop. (Yes, and Jon is aware that his website is a tad out-of-date!)
Out of sight, but not out of mind.
In time I became married to wife number three. Seemingly happy living in a tranquil part of rural Devon, keeping busy, not thinking too much about life.
Pharaoh became an important part of my life in 2003. At the time, I had no idea how important!
On the evening of December 20th, 2006, 50 years to the day that my father died, my wife announced that she had met another man. The implications of this casually delivered bombshell were obvious and catastrophically painful.
I will spare you the details but, trust me, the next few weeks were tough!
High on my priorities were letting close friends know what was happening. Dan, in characteristic Daniel fashion, said over the phone, “Hey, Handover, you get your arse over to Southern California pronto! Like now!” I replied that it was much too difficult to do that now but maybe later on in 2007.
Realising that I might need some psychological support, I spoke with Jon Lavin. However, Jon made it clear that as we already had a working relationship with me as his mentor, he couldn’t now, in turn, be my psychotherapist. I pleaded with Jon. He said he would only work with me on the strict understanding that he would terminate the counselling relationship if our past workings interfered. Of course, I agreed. [See footnote.]
Finding one’s true self after 50 years!
Jon, quite naturally, started into understanding my past experiences. Right back to that fateful day in 1956 when my father died. And, guess what!
Unbeknownst to me, the lack of time to adjust to my father’s cancer, his sudden death, being unable to ‘say goodbye‘; all had been emotionally interpreted as acute and profound emotional rejection. Buried deep within me with both strong positive and negative emotional consequences. Negatively, making me very vulnerable to emotional rejection; positively, causing me to strive for outward success in so many ways. Those sessions with Jon brought it all to the surface bringing with it deep and peaceful calm.
Yet, the true implications of finding myself were still to come.
In the Summer of 2007, I took up Dan’s offer to ‘get my arse to Southern California!‘ I had a fabulous time with Dan and his dear wife, Cynthia. It also included a visit to Dan’s sister, Suzann, and her husband, Don, in their home in Los Osos, California. Su fussed over me restoring my sense of self-worth as Dan and Cynthia had been doing.
One morning over breakfast Suzann said, “Hey Paul, what are you doing for Christmas?“
I replied, “Oh, give me a break, Suzann, it’s the middle of June. Long time before I have to think about dealing with Christmas!“
Su then made the offer that was to change my life irrevocably. ”Don and I have a house down in San Carlos, Mexico where we shall be at Christmas. Why don’t you come and have Christmas with us in Mexico?“
And I did. And it was in San Carlos, Mexico that I met Jean. Suzann and Jean were great buddies. Jean had been living there since she and her late husband, Ben, had moved there many years ago. Ben, an American, and Jean had been married for 26 years with Ben, sadly, having died in 2005.
Jean and I spent hundreds of hours chatting and getting to know each other, including the fact that she and I had both been born Londoners within 23 miles of each other. Jean had been rescuing Mexican feral dogs for years and there were 14 dogs in her house in San Carlos. So many of those dogs loved me from the start. It seemed like the most beautiful Christmas I could have wished for. In such stark contrast to just a year ago.
In September, 2008 after selling the house in Devon, I moved out to San Carlos, Mexico. Just me and Pharaoh who had been such a devoted friend, companion and confidant over the previous months.
In 2010, we moved to Payson in Arizona, some 80 miles NE of Phoenix. On November 20th, 2010 Jean and I were married.
Releasing the Fergus in me and all of us.
What Peter Bloch wrote yesterday was so true. A dog can only be a happy, fulfilled dog, if allowed to be the true dog that is in him or her. Despite the fact that humans are primates and dogs are canids like wolves, coyotes, and foxes, it still holds as true for us humans as it did for Fergus.
We can only be happy, to put it in the words of Fergus, “happy, energised, purposeful and fulfilled in every way.” if we are given the freedom to be our self.
So if you find that you, like Fergus, suffer from digestive problems, possibly have skin disorders and sometimes behave a little strangely take note – you need to find your healer!
Back in 2008 when Jon Lavin was working with me, I would take Pharaoh and he would lay on the floor behind my seat. On one occasion Jon was talking about the findings of Dr. David Hawkins and his Scale of Consciousness; from falsehood to truthfulness. (See here and here for more details.)
Anyway that fateful day, Jon mentioned that Dr. Hawkins had measured dogs as being integrous animals. That notion stayed with me and later I registered the domain name learningfromdogs (dot) com leading to – yes, you guessed it – this blog. Funny old world.
I’m clearly not the only one to believe we really can learn from dogs!
Last Friday, I published a post under the title of The healing power of dogs. This is how that post opened:
How dogs offer us humans health and happiness.
Many months ago, I was contacted by a Peter Bloch offering to write a guest post on the subject of the healing power of dogs. Peter had read a post that I had published in July last year which prompted the email dialogue between us.
Not going to say much more at this stage except that today I am republishing that post from last July. On Monday, I will introduce Peter and his guest post. Then on Tuesday, I will speak of my own experiences both as entrepreneurial mentor and as a ‘customer’ of a wonderful psychotherapist back in Devon during 2007.
So, as promised, here is that guest post from Peter.
My dog Fergus is a philosopher, and the nature of health and happiness is his area of special expertise. When he learned about Paul’s blog he became very excited because he has always been convinced that dogs have so much to teach humans about life. As much as anything to have a little peace from his continual philosophical musings, I agreed to set out his theories here for the benefit of everyone who loves dogs.
Fergus would like it to be known that when he is free to pursue the activities to which his particular breed is most naturally attracted then, as a dog, he feels happy, energised, purposeful and fulfilled in every way. Fergus has also observed that when he is able to participate as a co-operating member of his ‘pack’, he feels safe and secure, is clear about how to proceed with his life, and at night he sleeps like a dog.
But Fergus says that when these conditions do not apply, he can be quite remarkably miserable. As a Greyhound, he loves to run very fast, and he is not at all interested in things like retrieving balls, or wallowing in water.
However once he was in the care of someone who Fergus thinks we should just call ‘Sarah’. Sarah has a Labrador and thinks that all dogs really ought to be like her dog, resulting in Fergus being put under considerable pressure to enjoy activities that he could not understand.
That lead to Sarah telling Fergus’ owners that he was a difficult dog when in fact he was just a misunderstood dog. He was amazed how, in just one day, he went from sleeping ‘like a dog‘ to ‘living in the doghouse‘!
Indeed, within a week he was suffering from digestive problems and skin disorders, despite an identical diet, and was found to be engaging in several bizarre neurotic behaviours. Fortunately, when more congenial conditions were restored, Fergus returned to feeling safe and secure.
Fergus often expresses surprise that people often do not understand that the freedom to be himself, the true dog that he is, including living in unifying solidarity with his pack, is a fundamental requirement for his health; in all meanings of the word.
For instance, Fergus noticed that Sarah has a son called Henry, who really wanted to be a designer. But his mother thought that it would be better for him to be a lawyer. In fact, Sarah was so certain that in the end Henry became a lawyer. Fergus observes that Henry is always suffering from digestive problems and skin disorders and sometimes behaves a little strangely. Doctors have not been able to find out what is wrong with him, despite all sorts of diets and medicines being tried.
But here’s the rub. When Henry goes out for a walk with Fergus, Fergus always runs as fast as he can and his resulting happiness always makes Henry feel so much better.
Henry is convinced that Fergus is a healer! Who could argue with that?
Trust me, when I’m feeling a little down the dogs all know. All of them allow me to come and bury my face in their fur, or rest my face alongside their face. Perhaps one of the most powerful gifts from our dogs is their wonderful, unconditional love for us funny humans.
I have no connection with Peter other than being delighted to have this guest post from him (or was it from Fergus??). Peter offered this brief summary of his work, which I am pleased to include:
Peter Bloch has developed a form of existential and person-centred psychotherapy through touch. In this therapeutic model, health is defined as the ability to be true to oneself and open to genuine relationships with others – qualities that he finds in abundance in his dog.
A most heart-warming story! Beats the heck out of murders, politics and terrorists!
This was sent in by John Hurlburt for Jean who has been a bit of a ‘horse lady’ in her times and is devoted to the two miniature horses we have here in Oregon.
Molly is a gray speckled pony who was abandoned by her owners when Hurricane Katrina hit southern Louisiana . She spent weeks on her own before finally being rescued and taken to a farm where abandoned animals were stockpiled. While there, she was attacked by a dog and almost died. Her gnawed right front leg became infected and her vet went to Louisiana State University (LSU) for help.
However, LSU were overwhelmed and Molly became a ‘welfare’ case. You know where that goes, don’t you!
Then surgeon Rustin Moore met Molly and changed his mind. He saw how Molly was careful to lie down on different sides so she didn’t seem to get sores. He saw how Molly allowed people to handle her. She protected her injured leg. She constantly shifted her weight and didn’t overload her good leg. She was a smart pony with a serious survival ethic.
Surgeon Moore agreed to remove her leg below the knee and a temporary artificial limb was built. Molly walked out of the clinic and, in a very real sense, that’s where her story really begins.
“This was the right horse and the right owner!” Moore insisted.
Molly happened to be a one-in-a-million patient. She’s tough as nails, but sweet, and she was willing to cope with pain. She made it obvious she understood that she was in trouble. The other important factor, according to Moore , is having a truly committed and compliant owner who is dedicated to providing the daily care required over the lifetime of the horse.
Molly’s story turns into a parable for life in Post-Katrina Louisiana. The little pony gained weight and her mane finally felt a comb. Then, amazingly, a prosthesis designer built her a leg.
The prosthetic has given Molly a whole new life, Allison Barca DVM, Molly’s regular vet, reports:
And she asks for it. She will put her little limb out and come to you and let you know that she wants you to put it on. Sometimes she wants you to take it off too. And sometimes, Molly gets away from Barca. “It can be pretty bad when you can’t catch a three-legged horse,” she laughs.
Most important of all, Molly has a job now. Kay, the rescue farm owner, started taking Molly to shelters, hospitals, nursing homes, and rehabilitation centers. Anywhere she thought that people needed hope. Wherever Molly went, she showed people her pluck. She inspired people, and she had a good time doing it.
“It’s obvious to me that Molly had a bigger role to play in life,” Kay said. “She survived the hurricane, she survived a horrible injury, and now she is giving hope to others.“
Allison Barca concluded, “She’s not back to normal, but she’s going to be better. To me, she could be a symbol for New Orleans itself.”
Wherever Molly goes, she leaves a smiley hoof print behind. Literally as well as metaphorically.
Leave you with that wonderful feeling of love for Molly? Feel free to share it with all the animal lovers that you know.
Something else we really can learn from dogs.
I’m not sure that I should admit that my dearest Jeannie is my 4th wife! Long story that goes back to when I had just turned 12 years-old, back in 1956. I suffered an event that I interpreted as emotional rejection and promptly buried that deep into my subconscious where it stayed for over 50 years.
Then brought to the surface in 2007 (thanks Jon) after the failure of marriage number 3. I met Jean some 6 months later, in December 2007, and we were married in Payson, AZ in November, 2010. Being with Jean has been the happiest days of my life!
Inevitably, while being married to Jean seems such a natural relationship, one is curious about what makes for a happy, lifelong relationship. Let’s face it, divorce is not uncommon. In fact, the Divorce Rate website reveals that in 2012, the divorce rate was 3.4 couples per 1,000 population in the USA; the sixth highest in the world.
So it was fascinating to listen to a recent radio programme broadcast under the BBC’s Point of View series. Just 10 minutes long, this particular programme was a talk by Adam Gopnik: The secret of a happy marriage 29th March 2013. (Adam Gopnik is an American commentator and writes for The New Yorker.)
You should be able to listen to the programme by going here. Or you can download the programme by going here, and following the instructions. (Not sure how long the programme will be available to listen/download, so don’t delay.)
The programme was also featured on the BBC News Magazine Website. From which I quote:
A Point of View: Is there a secret to a happy marriage?
Nobody can explain the secret to a happy marriage, says Adam Gopnik, but it doesn’t stop people trying.
Anyone who tells you their rules for a happy marriage doesn’t have one. There’s a truth universally acknowledged, or one that ought to be anyway.
Just as the people who write books about good sex are never people you would want to sleep with, and the academics who write articles about the disappearance of civility always sound ferociously angry, the people who write about the way to sustain a good marriage are usually on their third.
Nonetheless (you knew there was a nonetheless on its way) although I don’t have rules, I do have an observation after many years of marriage (I’ve promised not to say exactly how many, though the name “Jimmy Carter” might hold a clue).
Later, Adam Gopnik speaks about Charles Darwin whose marriage to Emma he describes “as something close to an ideal marriage.“
So what is it we learn from dogs?
So, marriages are made of lust, laughter and loyalty – but the three have to be kept in constant passage, transitively, back and forth, so that as one subsides for a time, the others rise.
Now Adam writes about the special form of loyalty that dogs offer us:
Be lit by lust, enlightened by laughter, settle into loyalty, and if loyalty seems too mired, return to lust by way of laughter.
I have had this formula worked out – and repeated it, waggishly, to friends, producing for some reason an ever more one-sided smile on the face of my beautiful wife.
Until, not long ago, I realised that there was a flaw in this idea. And that was that I had underestimated the reason that loyalty had such magnetic power, drawing all else towards it.
For I had been describing loyalty in marriage as though it were a neutral passive state – a kind of rest state, a final, fixed state at the end of the road of life.
And then, against our better wishes, and our own inner version of our marriage vows, at our daughter’s insistence we got a dog. And this is what changed my view.
“The expense and anxiety of children” indeed. Our daughter’s small Havanese dog, Butterscotch, has instructed us on many things, but above all on the energy that being loyal really implies.
Dogs teach us many things – but above all they teach us how frisky a state loyalty can be.
Dogs, after all – particularly spayed city dogs that have been denied their lusts – have loyalty as an overriding emotion. Ours will wait for hours for one of its family, and then patiently sit right alongside while there is work to be done.
Loyalty is what a dog provides. The ancient joke-name for a dog, Fido, is in truth the most perfect of all dog names – I am faithful. I am loyal. I remain.
Dogs are there to remind us that loyalty is a jumpy, fizzy emotion. Loyalty leaps up at the door and barks with joy at your return – and then immediately goes to sleep at your side. Simple fidelity is the youngest emotion we possess.
The loyalty of a dog. No more to be said.
Please take two minutes to read this now.
Back over two years ago, when Jean and I were living in Payson, Arizona, I wrote a post called Tara’s Babies. Here’s a flavour of that post:
Many who follow this Blog will know that my beautiful wife, Jean, is totally devoted to dogs, especially rescue dogs. Over the years that she and her previous husband Ben lived in Mexico, Jean must have rescued at least 70 dogs. Even today, we have 11 ex-rescue dogs enjoying a fabulous life in our mountain home here in Payson, Arizona.
So it was a big surprise to come across a dog rescue organisation called Tara’s Babies and find that their sanctuary is in our neighbourhood.
Here’s a description of the organisation taken from the local newspaper from September 9th, 2009.
By Alan R. Hudson
It has been nearly five years since Tara’s Babies Animal Welfare began rescuing animals displaced by Hurricane Katrina. Tara’s Babies operates a no-kill animal rescue and sanctuary “off the grid” at the Ellinwood Ranch, near Young.
Anyway, Alan Hudson left a comment a few minutes ago to the effect that Tara’s Babies is closing. Confirmed by going to their website.
The reason why this post is being published straightaway is because of the urgent need to find homes for 24 dogs. Take a look at those dogs; please!
I’m republishing what you can read on the Tara’s Babies website – please share this news as far and wide as you can. These dogs need good homes.
Tara’s Babies Animal Welfare
No Kill Animal Rescue and Sanctuary
Practice kindness, save a life…change the world
Tara’s Babies began in 2005 as a desperate cry from New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina left thousands of dogs and cats, homeless and suffering. Our founder sent a crew of volunteers to search the flooded buildings for animals in need. We rescued 17 dogs and a kitten. and thus began Tara’s Babies Animal Welfare (TBAW).
While down there, we paired with Best Friends and arranged an airlift to bring 150 dogs and cats from Tylertown, MS to Phoenix, AZ. Waiting at the airport when we arrived was a cattle transporter, volunteers and SUV’s to take the animals to Dakini Valley, AZ.
Our sanctuary at Dakini Valley is located on 157 acres in the remote Hell’s Gate Wilderness. Here the dogs and cats were cared for with love and attention three full-time volunteers until every one of the Katrina dogs were re-homed or found forever homes, with the exception of 15 dogs who were non-adoptable needing lifetime sanctuary. As the original Katrina animals were placed, we found our true mission evolve into saving animals from death row.
Since then we have worked tirelessly networking with other rescues, shelters, and sanctuaries to continuously save dogs from death row. Connections were made as far as Taiwan! Pipi, a Taiwanese dog, was brought to our sanctuary through this connection.
We have had as many as 71 dogs at once at the sanctuary. Even those dogs considered non-adoptable, who are human or dog aggressive, have benefited from the peaceful surroundings of the land and our love. These dogs have demonstrated good behavior with their caretakers and some have even been paired with a companion dog.
Due to unforeseen medical and other issues we lost our director and several volunteers bringing the number of volunteers down to only one. Out of concern for the safety of the dogs coupled with ongoing financial difficulties, the Tara’s Babie’s board made the difficult and heartbreaking decision to close our doors.
We will continue to lovingly care for each of the dogs until ALL are placed.
Please help the remaining dogs at the sanctuary. Click HERE to see them!. If you can help us with adoptions or placement in another sanctuary please contact us at email@example.com or call 928-301-1392. You can also visit our Facebook page for photos and stories.
(Tara’s Babies sanctuary is located outside Payson, Arizona. Most administrative and support operations are in Sedona Arizona. The telephone number is 928-301-1392. Leave a message.)
Once again, if there is anything you can do, please be in direct contact with Tara’s Babies. Feel free to leave any comments or news here.
Thank you so much.
New world order goes to ramming speed!
We spent some enjoyable time with neighbours Dordie and Bill yesterday afternoon from where my sub-heading quote comes. Perhaps, a tad tongue-in-cheek, but only a tad!
Yesterday, the bulk of my post The new tomorrows consisted of a powerful essay from William deBuys ‘Phoenix in the Climate Crosshairs‘, courtesy of TomDispatch. It painted in very stark terms the impact of climate change on the metropolitan city of Phoenix in Arizona; a city of over 4 million people, indeed home to more than two-thirds of Arizona’s population.
So, today, I wanted to wander through some other aspects of this new world order.
Here’s a recent item on Climate Crocks examining the changes in March’s weather, 2013 vs 2012. From which I quote:
Much Different March. Same Reason?
Dittohead reasoning: “So when it’s warm, you blame it on climate change. When its cold, you blame it on climate change. It can’t be both.”
Well, yeah, it can, kinda.
Meteo people weigh in.
I think we’ve passed the point of tolerance with these ceaseless storms. Gone are the days when viewers would flood our inboxes with pretty pictures of their pets and kids frolicing in the snow. Constant cleanup has made us snippy and short – even a few plow guys have hoisted the white flag. The holidays are long past, the winter is stale, and the people just want spring…
…and accountability. Instead of pictures, I get questions in my inbox. “Why are we getting so much snow? Why did it turn on a dime? And when will it stop?”
Those are fair questions. But with the limits of the long range (10-14 day) forecasts, I’m not ready to answer the last question. We may sail out of this in April, but so far the first week of the month isn’t looking much different from the first week in March. The ultimate question is why.
The jetstream has taken on an odd path. [my emphasis]
Now just look at this:
Later on that article says:
Recent research suggests that rapid Arctic climate change, namely the loss of sea ice cover, may be contributing to blocking patterns like we’re seeing right now. That rapid decline in Arctic sea ice since the beginning of the satellite record in 1979 may be altering weather patterns both in the Far North and across the U.S.. Some studies have shown that sea ice loss favors atmospheric blocking patterns such as the pattern currently in place, while others have not shown statistically significant changes in blocking patterns across the Northern Hemisphere, at least not yet. Arctic sea ice extent declined to a record low during the 2012 melt season.
The last Winter in North-West Europe has been ‘interesting’, to say the least! A follow-up to that Climate Crock’s essay reports:
A study published in 2012 showed that by changing the temperature balance between the Arctic and mid-latitudes, rapid Arctic warming is altering the course of the jet stream, which steers weather systems from west to east around the northern hemisphere. The Arctic has been warming about twice as fast as the rest of the Northern Hemisphere, due to a combination of human emissions of greenhouse gases and unique feedbacks built into the Arctic climate system. The jet stream, the study said, is becoming “wavier,” with steeper troughs and higher ridges.
A new study published in the journal Environmental Research Letters shows that reduced sea ice cover can favor colder and stormier winters in the northern midlatitudes
Did you fully take in that paragraph? The one about “The Arctic has been warming about twice as fast as the rest of the Northern Hemisphere …“?
The other great ‘river’ in the North Atlantic is the thermohaline circulation or to put it in more familiar terms: The Gulf Stream. Has that been changing? You bet! In more ways than one might expect.
Here’s a snippet from an item from last October’s issue of Nature journal:
Recent changes to the Gulf Stream causing widespread gas hydrate destabilization
The Gulf Stream is an ocean current that modulates climate in the Northern Hemisphere by transporting warm waters from the Gulf of Mexico into the North Atlantic and Arctic oceans. A changing Gulf Stream has the potential to thaw and convert hundreds of gigatonnes of frozen methane hydrate trapped below the sea floor into methane gas, increasing the risk of slope failure and methane release.
How the Gulf Stream changes with time and what effect these changes have on methane hydrate stability is unclear. Here, using seismic data combined with thermal models, we show that recent changes in intermediate-depth ocean temperature associated with the Gulf Stream are rapidly destabilizing methane hydrate along a broad swathe of the North American margin.
As the diagram below shows all too clearly, the cold waters from above the Arctic circle directly affect the Gulf Stream.
From the website of the National Snow & Ice Data Center:
Average sea ice extent for February 2013 was 14.66 million square kilometers (5.66 million square miles). This is 980,000 square kilometers (378,000 square miles) below the 1979 to 2000 average for the month, and is the seventh-lowest February extent in the satellite record.
Less ice means more cold water. QED!
OK, moving on.
We met recently with Wayne over at Rogue Valley Firewood here in Merlin. Not to buy more firewood but because Wayne has started into hugelkultur. Jean and I hadn’t heard of the term before. Come back to that in a moment.
In musing with Wayne about how rapidly life is changing for us all, he spoke of the consequence of rising fuel prices and the rising costs of putting petrol (OK, he used the word ‘gas’!) in one’s car. Wayne pointed out the obvious. That the inevitable effect of those rising costs would be to steadily reduce one’s range for ‘affordable’ car journeys. Many people will no longer be able to afford to drive longer distances.
In other words, local will increasingly become more relevant to daily life. Or to use a better word than local, community will return to the centre stage of our world. And of all the things important to a community, none is more so than access to food.
Back to Hugelkultur. Watch this video:
Wayne is committed to seeing just what can be grown for the local community of Merlin using this form of raised garden bed. You can read more here.
Is this just a piece of fun? Most definitely not!
Here’s a recent item from Grist.
This sobering map shows you all of America’s food deserts
By Sarah Laskow
The USDA’s new Food Access Research Atlas is a map of all the places in the country where people live in food deserts — places where it’s difficult to access fresh food.
More details here.
The message that hits me from that map is the consequence for millions of people, especially those in rural areas or unable to afford a car, when it comes to getting hold of fresh food. Another reason why community food programs are going to be a feature of the new tomorrows.
Finally, take a look at a recent item on Paul Gilding’s blogsite.
Paul is an independent writer, advisor and advocate for action on climate change and sustainability. He recently published Victory at Hand for the Climate Movement? From which I offer:
There are signs the climate movement could be on the verge of a remarkable and surprising victory. If we read the current context correctly, and if the movement can adjust its strategy to capture the opportunity presented, it could usher in the fastest and most dramatic economic transformation in history. This would include the removal of the oil, coal and gas industries from the economy in just a few decades and their replacement with new industries and, for the most part, entirely new companies. It would be the greatest transfer of wealth and power between industries and countries the world has ever seen.
To understand this incredible potential we first have to step back and understand the unique structure of this social change movement, which may rank among the most influential in history. It is simplistic to characterise it as an alliance of grass roots organisations and activists pitched against a rich and well connected adversary. While that is part of the story, it is more accurately understood as an idea whose tentacles reach into every tier of government, the world’s largest companies and financial institutions, and throughout the academic and science communities.
Because of this, it is winning the battle from within: Its core arguments and ideas are clearly right; being endorsed by the world’s top science bodies and any significant organisation that has examined them.
Read the full article here.
Strikes me that in one very important way, we will be reverting to how our ancient hunter-gatherer ancestors lived. I mean reverting to living our lives as relatively small interdependent communities almost exclusively at the local level.
Guess what! Yet another aspect of learning from dogs. In the wild, dogs live in groups of about 50 animals with clear boundaries to their territory. Just like the ancestors of the domesticated dog and the wild dog: The grey wolf Canis Lupus.
See you all tomorrow!