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!

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.

 

BiPolar Disorder 1 & 2

BiPolar Disorder 1

What is the dark shadow side of my soul?

I perceive it as a dark presence hovering just above and behind my shoulders. It gives me the creeps.

What I’m afraid of is the darkness within me – the dark part of my soul. The darkness that lurks just below the surface.

The darkness is selfishness. But it’s also madness. An uncontrollable squeal of evil I must suppress at all costs.

I accept the dark side of my soul. Though I choose to live in the light, I acknowledge the dark side of my soul. I listen to learn what it will teach me.

Insane madness is easiest to control by remaining calm at all times; by denying hysteria and rage. I have learned to control my inner demon, but I would rather make peace with it.

Better yet, send it away forever.

 

BiPolar Disorder 2

What is the good of this little pink pill? It keeps me on an even keel. It melts my moods into a slurry of good and bad, all watered down and safe.

It takes away the rough edges of my personality. The highs and lows. The aha moments and the omg moments.

It makes me mellow, like a nice glass of wine. I don’t become upset any more. I just float along on a cloud.

What is the bad of this little pink pill? It takes away my creative edge. Oh, I still create, but it feels false. Words, paint, music – all succumb to the pink pill’s magic.

I never yell. I never become flush with anger. I rarely cry. I laugh even less often. But I never have an outburst. That’s a mercy.

I can’t even remember the last outburst. It was a long time ago. Years ago. Not since I started the little pink pill.

 

The stigma of mental illness…

Mental illness carries a stigma. Society needs to accept that differences in perception are a normal part of life.

Mental illness still carries a stigma. Even in families – in fact, perhaps most in families – those who suffer mental illness are often ostracized for being different than their family members. They are often treated as though mental illness is a personality trait to be weeded out and replaced with something more normal. “If you were just normal, we could get along. Stop being so weird.” “Why can’t you just be like everyone else?” “It’s all in your imagination.”

 

No, it’s not in our imaginations – but it is all in our brains. Mental illness is all about the way our brains work. Yes, some mental illnesses can be treated with medications that help the patient live a more normal life, but often at the expense of feeling any emotion at all. So, the trick becomes, how much better do I want to feel, and therefore, how much medication should I take? There is no simple answer. Many sufferers struggle along for years without finding a medication and dosage that helps more than it hurts.

 

Unfortunately, science is not yet able to explain why some people who are highly creative suffer mental illness – in particular, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. It seems the difference in the way those with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia think and the way their brain works is pronounced. But don’t we all have differences in the way we think and perceive? Isn’t it possible that the differences are just locations along a continuum that includes some heightened states of creativity and some depressed states of creativity? Don’t we all swing from normal to not-so-normal at times? Don’t we all possess the stirrings of what we call mental illness?

 

Until society acknowledges that mental illness is not something evil to be done away with, and instead is a difference in the way our brains work, I think people with mental differences will continue to be treated like village idiots and made to feel unwanted. Not that everyone does that, but as a society, we do not try to understand and help. We just want the weird to go away.