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A Song For When You Feel Alone

Here in Houston, Texas, where my flock and I live, we as a city haven't done very well at staying home during the coronavirus outbreak.

Just when the whole rest of the country (and world) was starting to open back up again - even New...


Yoga Mentors

4 Strategic Breathing Techniques That Never Fail


"Never" is a big word.

But then again, so is "oxygen."

And when it comes to oxygen, we all need it.

It is awfully hard to take in too much - more frequently today we have exactly the opposite problem.

This is true whether you look at it from the standpoint of air pollution or from the perspective of our ancient reptilian brain, which somehow has decided holding our breath is a great thing to do when we get stressed out.

This is why I say that these four breathing techniques never fail.

They all reliably deliver more oxygen than you were likely getting before.

Plus - a bonus just in case you needed one - they give your mind something constructive and repetitive to do, which (at least if your mind is anything like my mind) distracts it from whatever destructive, repetitive thing it was doing before that.

And even though breathing feels relevant every day for obvious reasons, strategic breathing feels particularly relevant right now.

As we continue moving into and out of crisis mode on so many levels in nearly every part of the world, breathing is the one constructive thing that helps us all. It helps us help ourselves and that in turn helps us to help others.

Happy breathing!


Death & Grief

4 Steps to Navigating Conflict: Calm. Clear. Connected. Kind.


Calm.

Clear.

Connected.

Kind.

I am attempting to multi-task as I prepare my Neti pot (it is allergy season, after all), start the coffee brewing, dish up parrot and turtle breakfast and scope out today's to-do list.

I wish that last was shorter.

I wish it included a beach trip and an adult beverage with a colorful little umbrella instead of a straw.

Sigh.

Instead, I head for my email inbox, with its usual assortment of work assignments, bill pay reminders, spam and other breaking news I really wish could wait.

Calm.

Clear.

Connected.

Kind.

I feel sad.

What is missing from my life right now is that shared sense of being human....of being fundamentally more alike than different.

I am grieving because I was born white and don't understand. I am grieving because I was born straight and don't understand. I am grieving because I was born female and don't understand. I am grieving because I was born in America and don't understand. I am grieving because I was born homo sapiens and don't understand.

I am grieving because I have somehow become part of the problem and I still don't understand.

It would seem there is a lot of work to be done, yet again, in our broken and bleeding world, with its millennia of divisiveness and power struggles and perpetual inequity we can all so easily relate to yet cannot seem to come together to share and thus collectively ease and heal from.

By that I mean, this will be my 50th year living here on this small round blue planet.


Animal & Nature Mentors

Free Cuteness and Comfort For All


As my city and so much of our world is slowly trying to reboot after the pandemic shutdown over the last few months, I am noticing a disturbing new trend.

There are fewer bicyclists pedaling by outside my window. The foot traffic (both human and canine) has similarly decreased over the last couple of weeks.

Perhaps this is just because our traditional three-digit sub-tropical summer temperatures have arrived in earnest. As usual, the mosquitos are the size of small fighter jets and every single one of them acts like they've missed their last several meals the moment I walk outside.

Yet, still.

We seem to be retreating indoors again, back to our action-packed online lives and, consequently, up into our heads, where peace is all too easily edged out by seemingly more pressing matters.

Us versus them.

Me versus you.

Old versus young.

Black versus white.

Straight versus everyone else.

Women versus men.

Partnered versus single.

The haves versus the have-nots.

First-world versus third-world.

Republicans versus Democrats.

Fat versus skinny.

The lists go on and on and on and on and on.

It is enough to make me see quarantine through a set of oddly rose-tinted glasses.


Relationships

5 Tools to Get Out of Your Mind and Into Your Heart


I don't know about you, but I have been extra-careful lately about my consumption of breaking news, mainstream media content and so-called "popular" culture.

It all just feels too intensely painful. Too overwhelming.

I get it. We all live here together, crammed into one increasingly overcrowded space, and in that hot pot of often unwelcome (if temporarily socially distant) togetherness, we are sharing a whole lot of stuff none of us really wants.

The kind of things that are going viral right now - hate, discrimination, disease - make me think fondly of last month's still-active quarantine orders. Sometimes COVID even seems nearly benign in comparison.

Anyway, I knew my self-imposed mass media (ahem) diet was starting to work when my neighbor shared a tidbit about a certain awful news item I had not yet heard anything about...and then expressed shock at my ignorance.

I gave myself a gold star.

Then I went inside to pat my precious 21-year-old cockatiel's grey and white neck feathers so I could calm down from the awful news my neighbor had decided I needed to know, should have already known, anyway.

Sigh.

Maybe it is no accident I've been spending my newfound media-free time meditating, doing yoga, working on a new song, and populating my creator habitat over on Mammalz, where any and all breaking news is only and always about beings with feathers, shells, scales, fur or fins and the Homo sapiens who care so much about them.

Refuge.

Speaking of refuge, one of my favorite mentors is an intuitive author and teacher named Sonia Choquette. She has been sharing free livestreams on Instagram and I tune in whenever I see one.

In Sonia's latest livestream, she hones in on the single most vital lesson we all need to remember right now.

It is....drum rollllllll.....to love ourselves.

What do you think?

It doesn't sound very glamorous. Perhaps even a touch anti-climactic.

But it is deeply personal.


Animal & Nature Mentors

Introducing the Reptilian Brain to the 21st Century


Do you ever stop to think about how odd it is to have a large prefrontal cortex and a limbic and reptilian brain stem all crammed together inside your skull?

Talk about opposites attract.

The two couldn't be more different.

In theory, this is a good thing. What is that saying about "keep your friends close and your enemies closer?"

The reptilian and limbic brain is all about survival - as in, I get that you're hungry but I'm not on the menu.

This is the part of the brain we need to deal with the pandemic threat from COVID-19.

In contrast, the prefrontal cortex is all about evolution - as in, survival is so last year. I want to thrive!

This is the part of the brain we need to deal with current racial tensions, gender tensions, age tensions, sexual orientation tensions, socioeconomic and cultural tensions, interspecies tensions.

So one part of our brain - arguably the most ancient part of all - is simply trying to get us from one minute to the next, one day to the next, still all in one piece.

To do this, it needs to notice everything, catalogue everything.

Every tiny difference, from size and shape to species or skin color - it notices. And it tells us about it. It tells us with the inherent bias that "this could be life-threatening - it probably is life-threatening - if you ignore it and it ends you, don't blame me."

Truthfully, this attitude - unpleasant though it sometimes may be - is probably why our species has made it this far. Over the millennia, the reptilian and limbic brain system has become very good at what it does.

Then there is this other part of our brain - the prefrontal cortex and its systems, which is arguably the newest part - that is working overtime to help us learn how to make the most of this extended survival our reptilian and limbic brain system is providing us with.

To do this, it needs to learn how to see similarities - first impartially and then preferentially - to differences.

It needs to overcome the tendency towards seeing life as us vs them, with prejudice, discrimination, and even outright fearfulness of surface differences - it needs to dig down and get detailed about which of these differences actually still matter (aka still help us survive another day) and which no longer matter at all.

In other words, it needs a system update. Or rather, a massive operating system overhaul.

As you like already know if you've ever caught yourself watching one of your devices verifying an update for hours and hours (never mind actually uploading and installing it) - this is actually quite hard work!

It can take a long, long, LONG time.


Music

A Song For When It Feels Like There Is Too Much Pain In the World


I'm not going to lie. I don't really feel like blogging right now.

Some days, these days, I don't feel much like doing anything.

Who knows when it started - years or decades (or perhaps centuries) ago.

#metoo came first (I have blogged about one of my many personal #metoo stories here).

#coronavirus #quarantine came next.

While we were still reeling around the world from that, #blacklivesmatter exploded with the senseless, incomprehensible murders of #georgefloyd, #ahmaudarbery and #breonnataylor, all in quick succession.

It is enough to make a mind stop. Forget a mind. It is enough to make a heart break and a spirit flee.

So I don't really feel like blogging right now. Anything I might type will fail to adequately encompass the fiery trauma engulfing our world right. this. minute.

I am white. I am female. I live in Houston, where the funeral of George Floyd just took place. I am on the threshold of entering my second half-century of life here on our small round blue planet. I want to be part of the solution, the healing, even as my skin color (if not my gender) places me firmly in problem territory.

So....music.


Animal & Nature Mentors

Cultivating Respect for Our Bodies


My mom recently sent me an intriguing link.

The post attached to it is dated 2016.

The title of that post is "how much of your body is your own?"

If you are anything at all like me, you immediately thought, "um, all of it?"

Then you thought, "oh that's right - microbes."

After all, the new science of gut biome (as well as a fab new book called "The Body: A Guide for Occupants" by stellar author Bill Bryson) tells us that we may also share the skin we are in with as many as 40,000 microbiota species.

The way I figure it, as long as they don't crowd the rest of me, they can stay.

So back to this post. I clicked the link and it took me to a page to enter my age, gender, height, weight and birthdate.

Then it spit out more numbers than I've seen all in one place since my last (disastrous) calculus test in college.


Relationships

Being White In a Time of Black Lives Matter


I realize posting about this topic may be unwise (to put it mildly).

But pretending like it isn't happening feels even less wise as well as, well, inhuman.

Oh, and I am white, just in case you are new here and don't already know this.

I am also female, and right after hurricane Harvey ripped through my home city of Houston, TX, and flooded my elderly parents out of their home, I decided to break my silence and post just one of my many #metoo stories.

Why didn't I do this many years ago, before #metoo was even a thing? Honestly - because I didn't think it would matter. I wasn't "somebody." I didn't think anyone would care or listen and that would be more painful than just staying silent. I thought it might even put me in harm's way to share my story with no real context around it - I didn't feel safe.

But when powerful public people started speaking up and the #metoo movement gathered steam from their collective acts of brave, I started to feel differently. I thought, "Maybe now I can share and feel safe and supported by a community. Maybe we can be brave together. Maybe now someone will care and it will matter. Maybe now if I share someone else who has been silent far too long might also choose to break their silence and we can be healing together instead of silent apart."

But while there I felt it was at least legit to craft a public post and add my voice to the nationwide (international, really) #metoo chorus, with #blacklivesmatter I feel far less sure. Or clear.

Say something? Don't say something? Say something and risk what I say being imperfect or even the wrong thing, regardless of the underlying intention to offer support?

I chose option C. So here goes.

As Lady Gaga sings, I was born this way. I popped out white.


Animal & Nature Mentors

Pandemic Lessons from Pets


The other day I found myself complimenting - complimenting! - a stranger on her choice of masks.

Masks.

In all fairness, her cloth mask was covered with cute stitched turtles. I wanted one. For a moment, I forgot.

I forgot why we are wearing masks in the first place.

It seems like so long ago and just yesterday when I first realized that my initial casual disregard for "that coronavirus thing" wasn't going to just go away like so much media hype. Rather, it was coming. It was coming here, to my country, to my state, to my city, to my community.

It came first, and then the gloves, and then the masks, and before long I was teaching my mom how to order her groceries on Instacart.

How does life change so fast?

And so, with this pandemic, I haven't really been able to look to mentors from my own species for guidance.