A Meditation Journey

So, you’re thinking about trying meditation? It’s a good choice for improved health – physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. Meditation seems to fill up our feel-good tank and cleanse our feeling-not-so-good tank. There are scientific reasons this is true. However, for me at least, it is better to experience the truth than to read facts about it.

I’ve been meditating for about a year, on and off. I require quiet and isolation to meditate at this point in my journey. I’m easily distracted by the movement of others or their conversations. This is okay. I’m just learning how to meditate. I guess I don’t have expectations for how this journey should unfold.

What I have discovered so far is that I slip into meditation easily if I use guided lessons. I find the speaker helpful in the context of my efforts to relax. Once I am relaxed, the gentle voice guiding my thoughts and attention helps me stay in a meditative state.  I find that I’m content to stay this way for up to half-an-hour after the guidance ends.

The benefits are a calmness that permeates my entire being. I am not upset by obstacles or problems that present themselves into my day. I almost feel as though I am walking on a cloud. Life is rosier – easier. My friends have commented on my calmness. While calm is my normal state, the calm induced by meditation is deeper and richer in every way.

I find myself inspired to play, paint, write, draw – all expressions of creativity bubbling up from within. Colors are more beautiful, nature is more intoxicating, life is lovely. The peace is refreshing, yet comfortable. Like wearing a scarf that’s just the right weight for the weather.  I feel as though I have put peace on – but it’s lighter than a veil.

Meditation is taught in Scripture. David meditated, as did Moses and Solomon, and many others in the Old Testament. Jesus meditated for 40 days and nights in the desert before He began His Earthly ministry. I can see why they turned to meditation – it clears the mind and heart for work. Meditation as prayer is unsurpassed, at least in my experience.

I cannot imagine discontinuing meditation any more than I would discontinue prayer. Both strengthen my soul. My resilience. My ability to love. That’s the best part of all – I feel love for others unlike my previous attempts to cultivate the emotion. I feel compassion and empathy for others. Even those whose beliefs and lives contradict mine.

Yeah, I think meditation rocks and I plan to continue practicing until I get good at it!

I’ll Never Stop Loving You…

What can I tell my mother when she’s gone? That I love her.

This morning I almost called my Mom. She’s been gone since July 7, 2016, but I nearly picked up my phone to dial her number. I just wanted to share how alike we are – how like her I’ve become. Even down to the way I take my coffee. Well, I use honey instead of Sweet and Low, but we both prefer half & half.

I stopped myself before I picked up the phone. But this is what I would have said if she had answered:

I’ve wanted to call you so many times, Mom. Wanted to pick up the phone and talk to you about… anything. I miss you. I’m so sorry you were right – you didn’t ever see me again. I couldn’t bear the thought of you not knowing me. I’m a coward, I know. I didn’t come. But I thought about you constantly.

And I do love you. I still think about you often – daily. I see the things I do that you taught me. Like folding a Kleenex down on one corner and using the doubled portion. Like licking all the way around an ice cream cone to catch the melting bits before they drip. Like shaving under my arms before shaving my legs so the razor doesn’t hurt.

You were an excellent Mother to me. I remember you being the room mother for my first-grade class. And baking cakes for the school cake walk. I remember you curling my hair to make it curly. How frustrated you would be when the curl fell right out. But you kept on curling it, night after night. Only rag curls held their shape as ringlets.

I remember you rocking me when I hurt myself. And spanking me for taking off my clothes during nap time. And teaching me my prayers. And reading aloud to me every day of my childhood. I remember you for cutting out paper dolls. For coloring with me when you had chores waiting.

I remember you sitting patiently in the emergency room while I received stitches yet again. I remember you washing the piano teacher’s bathroom to pay for my piano lessons. And I appreciate you for it. Thank you for loving me. For teaching me. For raising me to be a good citizen.

You always did the best you knew how to do. You worked hard at being a good wife and mother. I remember you kept a clean house, cooked nutritious meals, and washed all of our clothes and linens. You never complained about doing it, it just got done. Thank you for teaching me to do those things, as well. You modeled good mothering to me. You never failed me, Mom. And I’ll love you forever!

A wise man loses nothing if he but saves himself. Michel de Motaigne

Life lessons often arrive when we least expect them. Read to find out the life lessons I learned while losing weight.

I have recently lost 44 pounds. This is an exciting and thrilling event for me as I have struggled for many years trying to lose weight. Between medications and self-defeating beliefs, I was unsuccessful until September of last year. I’m not sure what changed internally, or why I was suddenly able to start dropping the pounds. However, I am sure that I have learned two very valuable life lessons through this experience.

First, I have learned that I can do anything if I set my mind to it. Even something seemingly impossible. You see, my bipolar meds cause weight gain. There is nothing I can do about that, short of discontinuing the meds, which I am unwilling to risk. But I can change my diet and activity level so that my body changes. That is what I did. I changed what and how much I was eating, and increased my activity. The pounds started coming off and continue to fall away. I’ve hit two plateaus in the past year. But I never stopped doing what I was doing, which is eating right and exercising.

Which leads me to the second thing I have learned. Just because the path forward is not visible does not mean it doesn’t exist. If I take just one more step, more of the way forward opens up before me. So, the trick is to keep moving forward. One step after another. This is all I can do – step out in faith that the path will appear as I do. So far, it has not failed me. The pounds continue melting off of my body, and I continue to feel better and better about myself. Not just for losing weight, but for growing in faith.

If you are struggling with a path that seems to be invisible, whether something to do with your health, or your job, or a relationship, focus your intention and energy on taking just one more step. Give yourself a little time to catch your breath, then lift that “foot” to take another step. In my experience, the path will manifest in front of your eyes as you do.

Don’t worry about the steps after the next one. Don’t worry about the ones behind. Just focus on taking one step forward at a time. I believe you will be pleasantly surprised to find that the worry and anxiety you are carrying about this step will disappear as you step forward into the present. And really, this is all we can do. We can’t necessarily change the path – we can only change our response to it. By embracing the next step, you release the tension that exists between you and it.

I encourage you to step out in faith. And let me know if you discover a life lesson for yourself in the process. I care very deeply about you and your life. I want to see you shine!

Love,

Mary

 

Healthcare, Part 2

We already have a national healthcare plan that is working… Medicare is already established. Why not expand coverage to include everyone?

Continued from Tuesday, May 9, 2017, blog post…
It’s time to speak up for what is necessary for those who do not have wealth. We all pay taxes – even on our Social Security and Pensions. Our taxes are not paid to support 1% of the population, but 100% of the population. Universal Healthcare is the only sane answer.
 
The funny thing is, we already have universal healthcare for people 65 and older. It is working. Yes, it needs some tune-ups, but it is still proven successful. Starting over with a new healthcare plan makes no sense. Rather, extend Medicare to all Americans. Across the board. Preexisting conditions are covered and exhausted lifetime limits don’t count. No deductibles. 100% coverage.   
 
Make it work like an HMO in preventing disease. Make it work like a PPO in freedom to choose doctors. Make it work by paying back the money borrowed from the program over the years. Make it cost effective by encouraging innovation and research. Make it attractive to healthcare personnel by paying a fair wage.
 
The United States is one of the world’s most powerful and wealthy countries. Medical advances happen daily in the United States. Here, of all places, proper healthcare should be an inalienable right. Provide the proper structure to support healthcare for all Americans. Extend the Medicare program to everyone, regardless of age, profession, or health status. 
 
Support the program through a flat Medicare tax paid by every American over the age of 18. Withhold it from Social Security payments, earnings, or other income. Exactly the way it already works. Provide the same care for homeless individuals, widows, and orphans, at no cost. Provide coverage for children under their parents’ policy. Make sure no one is without protection. 
 
Provide vaccinations at no charge to all Medicare recipients. Provide mental health and substance abuse coverage. Provide maternity and OB/GYN care for women. Provide cancer treatments and nutritional support counseling.  Provide hospitalization and doctor visits, x-rays and diagnostic tests, surgery and physical therapy. Provide palliative and hospice care and home nursing help.  Provide prescription medications. Provide medical transportation. Provide smoking cessation programs. In short, Medicare should cover everything that affects health from conception to death. 
 
Americans should never have to do without medical care.  It is criminal that people die from lack of healthcare in this country. Technology and knowledge are nowhere more advanced than they are in this country. No excuse is enough to explain the lack of proper healthcare for so many people.
 
Only one explanation makes sense for the poor state of our nation’s healthcare – greed. Greedy pharmaceutical companies, who charge higher and higher prices for the same pills. Greedy doctors, who take kickbacks from greedy pharmaceutical companies. Greedy patients, who want more and more pills.
 
We’re a nation of addicts and pushers. We don’t call it an addiction – we call it medical treatment. We don’t call it pushing – we call it prescription medication. But the end result is the same. And the cost is astronomical. Look for a further post on that subject soon.
 
In the meantime, Happy Mother’s Day!
 

Today I talk healthcare…

Today is the day I talk about healthcare. Or rather, my lack of healthcare insurance. I’ve always had health insurance – that is until I retired. The option to continue my health insurance from my employer carried a $1200/month price tag. That’s more than our monthly rent, including utilities. Still, I’m too young to qualify for Medicare.

I contacted the Healthcare Marketplace to enroll in insurance. Oh, my! Our income places us two dollars above the breaking point. So, we don’t qualify for any help with the premium. When I asked how much the premium was, the lady said $2500/month. Talk about flabbergasted!

While I agree with Obamacare in principle, it does not meet my needs. I told the nice woman on the phone that I would have to go without insurance. She seemed nonplussed – as though she had heard that statement many times before.

So, what about Trump care? I’m willing to look.

Hmm. I find out that preexisting conditions are no longer covered. Great. The only things I need to see a doctor for are preexisting conditions. I’m bipolar. So, I can’t see a psychiatrist to get a prescription for my medications. Which means I go without my meds. Not a pretty scene. Suicidal thoughts and attempts dog bipolar folks who do not take medication. No thank you. I am now reduced to buying my medications from a foreign country.

Another issue altogether. I recently bought my Abilify from India. A young man called me monthly to take my order. The price was acceptable (better than the $40/pill I pay here in the United States). But the quality is poor. My American prescription is for 20 mg. 30 mg of Indian Abilify was insufficient. Controls are poor in some countries. India is one of them. At least, the “pharmacy” I did business with sells product with lesser potency.

I also have a second preexisting condition – a congenital heart defect – a deformed aortic valve. The valve is bicuspid instead of tricuspid. This allows blood to leak back into the chamber on every beat. It results in stenosis (hardening of the valve) over time. My heart is strong and healthy otherwise. Oh, except that I have an aortic aneurysm. Who knows when that appeared? All I know is that it is preexisting. My cardiologist said, “You will need open-heart surgery sometime in your seventies. To replace the valve and repair the aorta.” Guess what is not going to happen if I do not have health insurance?

Yes, I will qualify for Medicare in a year. But our current administration is trying to gut that program. I know that I am not alone in fearing the healthcare future of our poor and middle-class elderly population. If we don’t act now to protect our coverage, I fear that we will have no coverage. Of course, those who are in power in our country have no idea what it is like to be poor or middle-class. Their perception of life and their worldview are skewed by their possession of wealth. 99% of the world’s population falls in another category – poor or middle-class. The US is no exception.

It’s time to speak up about what is necessary for those who do not have wealth. We all pay taxes – even on our Social Security and Pensions. Our taxes are not paid to support 1% of the population, but 100% of the population. Universal Healthcare is the only sane answer.

 

Prejudice is alive and well in sunny Southern California

I recently had an opportunity to shop with a friend while visiting in Orange County, California. We shopped in a nice shopping area. But, what I saw while there made my blood run hot with anger.

I am white. This doesn’t make me immune to the realities of prejudice, though. My adopted youngest son is biracial – Mexican and African American. From the age of seven weeks, he has received racial attacks and slurs, often from complete strangers. Though he is now 26, my heart breaks when I see the racism that confronts his every day.

Nothing I have seen when with my son prepared me for the racism I saw on my recent shopping trip, though. My friend, I’ll call her Dominique, is African American. She was on a hunt for granite for her kitchen counters. We went to a large, popular Orange County tile and granite store to look for what she wanted.

From the moment we walked into the office, the salesman, I’ll call him Rick, ignored Dominique. He talked over her and treated her like an unwelcome child, refusing to make eye contact. It was clear that she was the shopper and had the money. She was the one asking questions.

I know he didn’t make eye contact with her because he stared at me the whole time. No, I am not beautiful (nor am I ugly). He stared at me to avoid making eye contact with Dominique. Even when I turned and looked at my friend, he did not look at her. It was as though she did not exist for him.

When it was time to conclude the transaction, Rick looked at and talked to me. It amazed me that Dominique went through with the sale. I brought it up as soon as we were in the car again. She shrugged and said, “I’m used to it.” 

Our next stop was a nice restaurant for lunch. The hostess, a lovely young Asian woman, looked straight past my friend to greet me. This, even though Dominique was standing in front of me. She did not greet my friend. As she took us to our table, I noticed that the hostess talked to me and avoided eye contact with Dominique. By this time, I was beginning to feel anger. When we went to pay, the hostess again ignored Dominique, even though we were splitting the ticket. I fumed silently.

I write about this because it perplexes and angers me. Study science and anthropology, medicine and genetics – we understand today that all humans have common ancestors. Since this is the case, why do we single out people of one color or another for poor treatment? I do not understand why I see discrimination against people of different colors. 

I learned from our Constitution and from my parents that all people are” created equal.” If this is so, then why do whites treat blacks and browns like second class citizens? Why do blacks treat whites and browns like enemies? Why do browns hate whites and blacks? None of it makes any sense! 

I am tired of being quiet while my loved ones suffer the barbs of prejudice and discrimination. I’m not sure what I’m going to do about it yet. But I am not going to be silent anymore. That’s why I’m writing this post.

That’s why you can expect to hear more from me on this topic in the future. Until equality is second nature, I am speaking up. Maybe if enough people speak out against prejudice, we will begin to see some relief.  In the meantime, I am praying for the tongues of the haters to be silent.

Jesus, the Humanitarian

I am Christian. In Sunday School, I learned that Jesus taught His followers to help the stranger. To be kind to foreigners. To help widows and children. He calls for His followers to be humanitarians. To me, this means to welcome them into our country, our cities, and towns. To make them feel at home. To help them get work and homes. To help them get their children into school. The Golden Rule: Treat others the way you want others to treat you.

I have been a foreigner in a strange place. I moved from my home in Tucson to a new home in Spokane when I was seventeen. It was a terrifying experience although the people in my new home spoke my language and looked like me. I knew no one. Being shy and fearful of the unknown, I was without friends for several months. It took a while for me to even venture out to church. I can only imagine what it must be like to speak a different language, to dress different, to worship different from all those in your new home.

I feel great compassion for those who have left home and family behind to flee to safety. These are not easy to make decisions. One must be under terrible stress and threat of harm to leave everything familiar. To flee to another, unknown land. To embark on a dangerous trip with children is even more terrifying. Yet for today’s refugees, to stay in their homeland is out of the question. I think of Aleppo. The nation of Syria.

Refugees are people running from terror, from war, from genocide. They are towing their young and their old, those who understand and those who cannot. They need refuge. We claim to be a Christian nation. Would Jesus turn them away? Isn’t that the measure of our Christianity? Are we doing what Jesus would do? As a Christian, I cannot turn them away.

I get that we are afraid of admitting strangers. They look different. They speak a different language. Their religion is different than ours. But didn’t Jesus welcome the gentiles? He who was a Jew came to save all from the consequences of their separation from God. He did not insist that all become Jews before receiving help. Neither should we insist that others become Christians to receive help. Our calling is to help the downtrodden. To bind up the wounded. To make a place for the poor. To live such a life that others are drawn to Jesus. That’s what I believe.

We are a nation of refugees – many religions, many races, many ethnicities. That is the unique beauty of the United States. We are a multitude of peoples woven into a single beautiful tapestry.  Admitting people who are different from us will not diminish our beauty. It will enhance our beauty just as every strand of a tapestry enhances the others.

I believe what the Statue of Liberty proclaims:

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

The United States is the Home of the Brave and the Land of the Free. She stands as a beacon of hope to those who are under the thumb of tyranny. Let us respond with human kindness and mercy to those who come to us. Let us be humanitarians.