Nature’s Natural Antidepressant

Photo of black/white border collie with Ray Ban sunglasses and beach hat

Going to the beach may not be a bad idea if proper distancing can be maintained, but this post is about our lovable pets — in and out of the coronavirus quarantine.

I am an unabashed, self-proclaimed Dog Lover. That’s Capital D, Capital L. Still missing my beloved Bess, and more than ever during this pandemic, I long for the phenomenal comfort only a pet can provide. Besides her love and sense of humor, I miss Bessie’s joyfulness for life. Her translation of shelter in place would undoubtedly mean endless adventures, Frisbee and gardening time! I can feel her enthusiasm even in sweet memory, and tears still fall from the tender hole in my heart.

Tendrils of canine yearning began in February when discovering Potcake Place during my Turks & Caicos adventure. Completely run by volunteers, this puppy shelter offers outsiders the opportunity to walk and hold the puppies. People line up before 10AM for the chance to savor some love. There is nothing, absolutely nothing like holding a puppy or puppy breath. (Dog lovers know what I mean. Cat lovers maybe not so much.) The purpose isn’t to entertain tourists but to socialize the pups. What an awesome idea! Of course, Potcake Place also hopes you will courier a pup or better yet, adopt.

I hadn’t actively been seeking Bess’ successor at that time, thinking I’d use the chasm of emptiness to honor her memory and travel more. But, then the coronavirus came along cancelling my spring walking tour in the Cotswolds, and heightening my craving for canine companionship. (I do have a cat but it’s not quite the same to me. Sorry cat lovers.)

Now, friends and I circulate canine videos more often to give our coronavirus spirits a lift. I’ve also learned an abundance of dogs now need adoption or fostering due to the coronavirus. 

Whether you do or don’t have a dog, cat, horse, bird, bunny, or any other pet, may you celebrate the comfort, love and joy these special creatures so generously offer. Support a shelter, adopt or foster if you can, and mark your calendar for National Pet Day on Saturday, April 11th this year.

Here’s more than a dozen places to show the love. Feel free to add your favorites here too:

  1. American Humane COVID Relief Fund – Feed the Hungry Fund for abandoned animals
  2. Stay Home and Foster – 2-6 week emergency fosters needed
  3. The Animal Rescue Siteclick for free to feed
  4. Best Friends Animal Society – national no-kill sanctuary for companion animals
  5. Clear the Shelters – nationwide pet adoption drive
  6. Petfinder.com – take the quiz to find a good match for you (and matches of course)
  7. National Mill Dog Rescue – rescues, rehabilitates and rehomes discarded breeding dogs
  8. American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals – promotes kind and respectful treatment of animals
  9. Cheltenham Animal Shelter – urgent care appeal in UK due to the corona virus
  10. Borders Pet Rescue – finds loving homes for abandoned and unwanted pets in the UK
  11. Maruthy Dog Shelter – gives handicapped, injured, old and abandoned dogs a home in India
  12. Gouves Animal Shelter – provides care and protection for stray and injured animals in Crete
  13. Rescue Me –  international map of breeds and animals available for adoption

Remember, they never forget us.

Photo of a smiling black/white border collie with the inscription

 

Refresh

Woman relaxing on a park bench holding a book and breathing in Spring air

Tired of hearing about the Coronavirus? Tired of hearing about my smartphone dilemma? With the National Day of Unplugging ending last weekend, I’m ready to close my Diary of Dates with a Smartphone — at least for another 11 months. So, before I get too heady with spring, here’s the last few entries (continued from March 8th…):

March 9, 2020 – Getting Smart with the Smartphone

Black and white yin and yang symbol
Taijitu

Although a self-proclaimed Neo-Luddite, I am open-minded. Sounds like an oxymoron, I know — at least until you understand my perspective. Like the Tao’s Taijitu, nothing is 100% positive or negative, good or bad, black or white, all or nothing.

I’m receptive to smartphone lovers who state their phone is a helpful tool in life; that they can control their device. These smart users view their phones as mini portable computers. That simple psychological switch in terminology generates a slightly friendlier feeling toward my Pixel 3XL. After all, I don’t want the phone telling me what to do.

Photo of various types of tools such as hammer, measuring tape, wrench

A carpenter friend barely contains his grin while telling me how he uses his smartphone. “After installing a dishwasher in a customer’s house, I sent them a photo with the bill on my smartphone. Within minutes they wired money back to my account.”

“WOW!”

That IS an awesome capability. I get it. Yet, that same tradesman refuses any temptation to use his phone while socializing. He leaves it in his truck. Sounds smart to me, and considerate.

March 10, 2020 – Something IS Wrong with this Picture and it’s Not the Camera

Five people sharing a meal together but interacting with their smartphones rather than each other

Seeing the masses blindly tethered to smartphones and not interacting with each other in person alarms me. While the numbers* and terminology vary, smartphone addiction or problematic use IS valid. I often say don’t jump in if you don’t want to jump out. Similarly, why would I try heroin knowing it’s addictive?

*Almost 21 million Americans have at least one addiction; two million are to prescription opioids. The availability of addictive sources baffles me. Until I follow the money.

A friend in AA recovery tells me, “Most coming to Twelve Step meetings these days are heroin addicts. I see them glued to their phones, scrolling, scrolling, during the meeting…not paying attention to the speaker.”

How effective is that? “Does it mean they are doubly-addicted?”

“Well, I see it as disrespectful for one thing.”

He says current day addicts revolve through the rehab’s door. “It’s big business today.  And the users wear it like a badge saying they’ve been through rehab 10-15-20 or more times…”


*TWO OUT OF EVERY THREE  people are addicted to their phone

*60% of U.S. college students have a cell phone addiction

*47% of people have tried to limit their phone use, but ONLY 30% of them SUCCEEDED


March 11, 2010 – If smartphones are so smart, why didn’t they learn any manners?

Sign indicating no cell phones and to talk outsideSigns posted at the bank and dairy store request cell users to converse outside. Sad that they have to tell people this, but at least they do. (Personally, my HSP characteristic would banish blaring TVs from waiting rooms — particularly doctor’s offices — as I find quietly reading more calm and healing.)

Yes, I admit, I’ve glared at someone loudly conversing on their phone in a medical office because I couldn’t concentrate. But, I haven’t glared at the driver sitting next to me at the red light who presumes I also want to hear their BOOM – BOOM – BOOM bass that is vibrating their car (and mine). No need for road rage, you know.

Concert attendees holding up smartphones
Photo by Nicolas LB on Unsplash

Unabashed concert attendees blind everyone else while holding up smartphones to record — or even watch — the live stage performance. Why not just stay home if they want to watch it on a screen? Didn’t I buy a ticket too to view the live performance?

 


A kindergartner on a smartphone at the school bus stop was asked, “What color is the sky?”

The child responded, “I don’t know.” (And didn’t bother to ask Google.)


March 12, 2020 – Slippery Slopes

Caution sign for slipping
Photo by Skitterphoto on Pexels

A Neo-Luddite country store owner relates her recent experience to me. “When I walked into a church meeting everyone was looking down at their smartphones. I asked them, ‘Do you realize a shooter could have come in and taken all of you out — that quickly?’ For a minute they looked dumbfounded…then returned to their screens.”

Feeling that chilly possibility, we acquiesce that all of us have a hand in this. From parents entertaining their toddlers with smartphones while glued to their own device, to us not (politely) commenting to store clerks interacting more with their phones than customers. Groaning together, we ponder a future ruled by a brainwashed techno culture.

“So, where do we go?” I asked.

Shrugging, then gesturing to her right she offered, “The Amish community down the road…?”


If you don’t ask, the answer is always no.

∼Nora Roberts


March 13, 2020 – No Voice, No Choice

Rants about global human issues pervade the web but common consideration in close proximity is missing. I must remind myself to let it begin with me in saying what I mean, meaning what I say and not saying it mean. That goes for glaring too. If we can’t practice common courtesy on the local level, how will we ever get to global…much less world peace?


Awareness is the first step to change because we can’t make a change unless we are aware that one needs to be made in the first place. We can then begin understanding why we are doing what we are doing.

∼ Madisyn Taylor on Daily OM


What’s so Great about a Smartphone

Oh, I did say I’d include the yang side of smartphones, didn’t I? Well, here are 20 qualities that smart users shared which I’ll admit are attractive:

  1. Graphic drawing of a red ribbonSecurity
  2. International friends (communicate for free and freely)
  3. Note-taker
  4. Map
  5. Camera
  6. Traffic information
  7. News source
  8. Tell time
  9. Calendar
  10. Track packages
  11. Text friends (although I’m concerned about eradicating the human voice)
  12. Search restaurants
  13. Learn information
  14. Watch movies
  15. Radio
  16. Flashlight
  17. Communications
  18. Music device
  19. Instant communication (not wait to get home for laptop)
  20. Numerous features, all in one place

March 14, 2020 Eggs in a Basket

Photo of wooden basket overcrowded with eggs
Photo by Rebekah Howell on Unsplash

That last attribute reminds me of the old adage “don’t put all your eggs in one basket” which, in modern times, means “don’t put your life on your smartphone.”

My walking partner called in a panic. “You’ll never believe what happened to my son today. He’s sick about it.”

“What? You don’t sound so good.”

“He was standing on the dock at the lake when his smartphone fell in. He had everything on it. And I mean EVERYTHING. His personal contacts…but worse, ALL of his business information.

“Oh no! What’s he going to do?”

“He called a skin diver. The guy tried three times. But, it’s gone. Everything’s gone. He lost his orders, billing, suppliers, payroll…”

“Doesn’t he have that at the shop?”

“It wasn’t backed up yet to the new system.”

“Oh…”

We both felt sick but not as sick as her son did. I do not understand this risk to reward ratio. Why would I hand over my life to a one-stop shop device with loitering hackers? It’s enough warding them off my PC — must I do battle on all tech fronts?

March 15, 2020 – Retraining and Playing Games

In revealing my precarious initiation with a smartphone, I’ve discovered through reviews that my Pixel may actually be faulty (repair diagnosis pending).

Smart users say they don’t do everything possible on their device, using it only for necessities. That scenario could possibly work for me — at least after it’s repaired or I get more educated. (Long, exasperated sigh.) Having to take time to learn something that was once simple — like using a phone — is a pebble in my shoe. But, by renaming the smart phone to mini portable computer, I’m more willing to get educated on a mini portable computer. No matter what, though, it has to stop bombarding me with things I don’t want or need!

Who’s Doing the Thinking?

Dark side of a planet
Photo by Drew Rae on Pexels

Now, for the yin side. If you’re unaware of the dark side of smartphones, don’t ask Alexa or Google. Ask yourself, honestly, if any of these ring true for you:

  • Feeling impatient, fretful, angry, tense, irritated, depressed or restless when not with the smartphone, or when the cell phone network or battery is low.*
  • Thinking about the smartphone even when not using it
  • Giving the cell phone more time and attention than relationships*
  • Lacking interest in other activities and hesitating to interact with people
  • Missing work due to smartphone use
  • Low concentration or productivity due to smartphone use
  • Digital eye strains and discomfort from extended periods viewing a screen*
  • Wrist, neck or back pain or problems due to excessive cell phone use*
  • Constantly checking the smartphone for fear of missing conversations on social media such as Twitter or Facebook
  • Memory decline
  • Using a smartphone for more time than intended*
  • Others notice you are using a smartphone too much
  • Refusing to give up using a smartphone even when daily life is adversely affected by it
  • Inability to be without a smartphone*

Outsmarting the Smartphone

Reclining man surrounded by technology
Photo by Ola Dapo on Pexels

*I confess to these offenses when using my PC or the internet. Personal experience burgeoned my Neo-Luddism like the reformed smoker touting the evils of their former addiction. (I am a long ago reformed smoker who can’t have just one.)

My sincere aspiration is for people to stop and think. Consciously think — for themselves about their lives, their values, and relationships, rather than mindlessly be distracted with the superficial glories of advanced technology. If I add another layer of electronic distraction, what time will be left for the garden, hand drumming, reading books, cooking and sharing with people I love?

Many addicts assume it will happen to someone else but not them. Shakespeare knew what he was talking about when he said, “To thine own self be true.” That’s best accomplished by getting quiet, away from distractions. If you fidget in silence, try walking outside (without the device) for 15 minutes a day. Then listen. Really listen — to nature, your surrounds, but most importantly that voice of truth within your self that is probably begging to be heard.

Neon sign indicating
Photo by Ivan Bertolazzi on Pexels

A Love Hate Diary of Dates with a Smartphone… (part 4)

Are you long-time smartphone users happily married to your phone — or did you take a leap, unplug this weekend (for the National Day of Unplugging) and go it alone? How did it feel? Was the silence deafening or a reprieve? Did you feel like you lost your best friend? Truthfully. Maybe you couldn’t let go…

March 8, 2020 – Separation

I left the house today

And soon realized

I forgot the smartphone.

An automatic alert almost crept in — Should I go back?

But I automatically responded, “No. I’m glad to not have it here.”

And then I felt even happier to realize not only didn’t I want it

I didn’t need it.

Blue victorian house with slate roof and cupola on the corner of a street with mailbox and one-way tree-lined street sign in front
Photo by Sandra sierra on Unsplash

Walking outside, loving the fresh air, sights of nature, and friendly hellos from those I don’t know in this other neighborhood, it is quiet enough to contemplate why I don’t need or want a smartphone or android or whatever you want to call this thing that wants to incessantly dictate my life, my time, my attention. My thoughts.

 

I feel content today. Well-rested. Productive. I woke up early, fed the cat, read the Tao, felt the circular Qigong flow, wrote, blogged, read and commented on some other blogs, began a load of laundry, read and answered some e-mails, cooked (not microwaved) and ate breakfast, took a 35 minute walk in the 40 degree cold… I never turned on the phone. In fact, I’m not sure where it is or if it’s charged. And I don’t care. At least for today. My HSP self loves the pace of days like this.


The Only Cure for Overexposure is Reducing Exposure

I discovered some surprising wisdom about technology in the Tao te Ching. Credited to Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu from the sixth century BCE, his twelfth verse warns of over stimulation. This can easily be applied to  smartphones and devices today:

The five colors blind the eye.
The five tones deafen the ear.
The five flavors dull the mouth.
Racing through the field and hunting make the mind wild.
Searching for precious goods leads astray.
Therefore, the sage attends to the belly,
And not to what he sees.
He rejects the latter and chooses the former.

In The Tao of Joy Every Day, Derek Lin interprets Lao Tzu’s message to “care for the stomach and not the eyes” to mean “take care of the basic necessities of life and turn away from too much sensory input.” Lin further suggests “going on an information fast. Shift more of your time spent consuming content delivered electronically to simpler, more basic activities in life. Instead of indulging in virtual reality, spend more time in the actual reality of the physical world.” Makes sense to me.


I flip back through my smartphone diary that ended on January 25th…

January 27, 2020 – The Big Blow-Up

Firey explosion extending into and darkening the skyI’ve wasted the last two days before leaving for Turks & Caicos trying to understand and get this device to cooperate – take a photo, upload a photo. Get a call. Make a call. Instead the Google Pixel 3XL alerts me with dings, pings, news, e-mail, and unwanted ads. I think I’d rather be bit by a rabid dog. I can’t stand it…my brain screams aloud!

January 30-31, 2020 – Incompatibility?

The Pixel does what it wants when it wants. There is no arguing or web-based solution I can find to stop it’s pounding on my door. “Go away,” I say. I think we are incompatible. “We are too opposite and set in our ways.” I value my independence, free spirit and ability to think for myself.

Man and woman turned away from each other on park bench, holding their heads in anger and frustration
Original photo by Vera Arsic on Pexels

It’s 5PM now…I need to pack. De-stress. Get away from this. Live real life. Pick a book to read on vacation. Forget about passwords, codes, locking and unlocking. Forget the devices — at least for now. I need to get some things done. I’ve never been one to throw things but — if it didn’t cost so much, I feel like throwing this phone against the wall or in the trash. Now I’m becoming the monster!

I want to be productive!!!

 

A friend tries to cheer me with this video. Laughter is good medicine. And so are human friends with hearts.

February 1, 2020 – Mediation

It’s the day before I fly out. I don’t want to overload the phone’s memory with photos but I don’t want my photos in “the cloud”…especially knowing Google plans to hold me hostage in a few years by charging me to store my stuff in their cloud. I bought the cord that says it’s Pixel 3XL compatible but it’s not working…

Waiting in line 15 minutes for my turn with the Geek Squad, I’m behind a woman who could be my grandmother. We’re both patiently waiting while a middle-aged couple is being helped at the counter (see video above).

“Hi,” I smile, when it’s my turn, happy the grandson-like Geek is waiting on me again. I suppose he remembers me, the selfish middle-aged woman who doesn’t want to share with Google. But, I refresh his memory that he set up the phone and ask if he’d show me how to transfer photos from the Pixel to the laptop.

“I have to charge you $100 for that.”

What? “Just to give me instructions? It was $40 last time.”

Unsympathetically he shakes his head. “Sorry. It’s because data is involved.”

Disbelievingly, I shake my head. “No, I’m not paying $100.” My mind calculates the cost of this phone, the extra cables, protective case, glass shield, monthly service, programming… Do I really need this thing? I am paying a lot for this intrusion into my once manageable life…and that doesn’t count the expense of my emotional well-being or blood pressure meds I may end up needing. (Sigh.)

Leaving the store dejected, and feeling somewhat desperate, I remember there’s a PC shop down the road. It’s 15 minutes til closing time but the guy is friendly. He loves his Google Pixel. Finally, someone can help me! He patiently goes through the steps (a few times) and waits while I handwrite notes on what to do. Bless this man. He doesn’t even want to charge me and it’s a Saturday.

“I can’t leave without paying,” I say.

Slight pause, then, “Whatever you think.”

I hand him $25 and rush home to finish packing. I feel a bit lighter. A bit freer. Maybe, just maybe, this phone and I will become friends on this trip. I’m hopeful.

February 6, 2020 – Hopes Dashed

The endless Turks & Caicos sky mirrors turquoise waters. I think I’m taking photos to remember this bucket list trip. Back at the hotel, I swipe to see the photos. What? They are mostly shaky, pulsating videos. Have I mixed up the buttons? Apparently. I take more photos each day. Most I’ve deleted. Some accidentally. No need to download to the laptop. (I return home with a handful of pitiful photos.)

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February 10, 2020 – Being Difficult

My friend calls.”How was your trip?”

We are in the midst of talking. I no longer hear her voice. I try calling back. No answer. My Pixel rings. I try to answer it. I hear her talking but she can’t hear me. She leaves a voice message. I pick up my landline and dial her number. We talk. Normally. We are not disconnected. The screen does not go black. I LOVE my landline.

February 15, 2020 – How Many Boomers Does it Take to Operate a Smartphone?

In the flooring store, I’m calling my installer for measurements. Hmm, good thing I have this phone — at least until it goes black. The phone rings and I can’t answer it. Two other boomers nearby try to help but none of us can get the call. One whips out his Samsung to make the call for me. A fourth person (younger store clerk) does the 1-2-3 swipe on my Pixel, touches my installer’s name in the contact list and voila’ the calls goes through. What?

Seeing my frustration, the boomer cashier says, “I hate these things. My daughter made me get one of these and I don’t know how to use it. I use to have a flip phone…”  I smile back sympathetically.

I approach the younger store clerk. “Remember the last time I was here I just got this phone?” He smiles. “I still can’t use the darned thing. Could you show me how you got the screen back?” Again, he does the 1-2-3 swipe thing and says there are instructional videos on YouTube… Really? Does this “smart”phone have to be so complicated that I need instructions for the most basic tasks? I only want to make a call. Get a call. Take some photos… I am probably mumbling to myself at this point.

February 22, 2020 – Faster than…a Snail?

Finishing errands, I think I’ll use the smartphone to pull up movie selections on my way home. Wrong. The titles running quickly across the screen won’t allow me to select one. At the same time, I’m bombarded with flashing ads and annoying requests to download the movie app. Finally, I’m ready to give in — just to make them go away — until I see the app’s two star rating. Oh. (Groan.) I don’t need another problem to fix. I decide to not get involved.

I turn to YouTube for a tutorial. Halfway through it’s overtaken by another video that has nothing to do with what I was viewing. Really? This thing is“supposed” to save me time? I drive to the kiosk faster than getting the answer on the smartphone.

Most people tell me I have a calming presence. And I usually do. But the time this smartphone wastes raises my blood pressure. I’m afraid to see how high.

February 27, 2020– Limited Contact

The Pixel is charged but I ignore it. I resolve to turn it on for emergency calls only and hopefully better photos. I decide it will be my now and then, some of the time date. I think I can handle that.

February 29, 2020 – Misery Has Company

In sharing my vulnerabilities and frustrations with the smartphone world, I discover numerous others in my camp. Including my Tai Chi instructor.

Her “e-mail” reads “I have to laugh. My phone is back in its box on the counter. It’s been 30 days so I can’t send it back.”

She too, was forced to give up her flip phone for the supposedly “smarter” variety. I wish I could laugh about this. I’m also past the return date (and I suppose I would have to pay someone another $40-$100 or more to delete my personal info before returning it anyway…and then I have all those accessories too). What a dilemma. And a pricey one at that.

I feel a slight solace from others sharing the complexities of their smartphones or as another blogger prefers to call it the “dumb” phone. I’m gravitating toward this term.

March 2, 2020 – The Stand Off

Angry face on smartphone

Sadly, I realize if I don’t spend time with the smartphone I won’t be able to use it even for the basics — make a call, get a call, take a photo. Yet, my arms automatically cross when thinking about turning it on even for 15 minutes of “learning.” My mind shuts down foreseeing frustration. In honesty, I loathe the phone and it knows it.

March 5, 2020 – Imprisonment

I got along fine without a smartphone in my life before. Actually, I felt healthier. More calm. My life was manageable. I was efficient and productive. While the saying, “If you don’t use it, you lose it,” keeps returning in my head, the smartphone retorts, “If you don’t use me, you won’t learn how to, and then what? You can’t go back to the flip.” I feel trapped.

I don’t want the smartphone to think for me. I don’t want a smartcar to drive for me. I’m a great parallel parker and I back up just fine, thank you. Must I give up my independence? I’m feeling depressed. Maybe I’ll ask Google for a job so I can show them how to make a smartphone that boomers can use and actually like. Now I think I’m really losing it.

March 6, 2020 – Who’s at Fault?

Considering myself a logical, practical person, I question if the phone is really this complicated. Particularly when many tout the convenience of their phones while mine “wastes” my time. My flip phone would make a call, my camera took a photo. Maybe I got a faulty phone. Is it the Pixel or me? 

March 7, 2020 – Lovin’ Life More than a Device

Photo of sink plunger
Original image by Beverly Buckley on Pixabay

The National Day of Unplugging won’t be ending for me tonight. I’m so HAPPY without the phone. Doesn’t that say it all? And I think some others are too as evidenced by their dreams of unplugged time. I’m wondering what you did in 24 hours of unplugging. And I’m not talking about the sink drain…

I inplug to make the most of my time

A Love Hate Diary of Dates with a Smartphone… (part 3)

Mark your calendar, set your alert notifications for the National Day of Unplugging which begins at sundown this coming Friday (March 6) and ends (only if you want it to) at sundown on Saturday (March 7). This mini diary on my smartphone experience explains why I’ll be unplugged too!

Continuing from Part 2 that ended on January 15, 2020…

January 16, 2020 – Warming my Heart

Using my brand new android smartphone, I attempt to photograph ceramic tiles in the Lowe’s home improvement store to coordinate with cabinetry. The 20-something clerk sees my difficulties and offers to help.

“I just got this,” I nervously chuckle while handing him the phone.

Quickly he swipes one way then another.

“I started with a flip phone in my teens,” he says. “Even I had to get use to a smartphone. But, you’ll love it,” he assures me. “You can get stock quantities. Use the calculator to determine your costs. Access your bank account to pay for it…”

Oh, not my bank account. But, he makes it look so easy I’m feeling slightly optimistic. I just need practice. I leave the store, my heart warmed more from human kindness in my moment of vulnerability than the possibility of being able to operate my smartphone.

January 17, 2020 – “If You Don’t Use it, You Lose it”

That wise sentiment has survived generations. Because it’s true.

Hand holding a device with cars moving down a main street
Photo by Matheus Bertelli from Pexels

Traveling to a town I haven’t seen in a decade, I momentarily feel lost on an unfamiliar street. Almost instantly I think you have that phone. Pull over and use the GPS. Instead, I look ahead several blocks and see enough moving cars that it appears to be a main road. I decide to use my own skill and think for myself instead of relying on Google for the answer. My instincts are right. I find my way. And I feel all the better for it.

Again and again, I consider the term “smart”phone. Are these phones so smart they make people do stupid things like walk into traffic? Some users can’t even name the street they are standing on. Employees know nothing about the company that employs them or products carried…deferring to the “smart”phone for the answer — or worse yet, telling me to ask a smartphone for the answer.

When phoning my state’s Attorney General because of a telemarketing scam, their Office of Consumer Protection could not explain the difference between a credit freeze and a credit hold. She had to Google it. If 81% of Americans now own a smartphone, I wonder how many can still think for themselves…assess a situation, then think deeply to find a solution without resourcing the phone.

January 18, 2020 – Pushiness Does Not Win me Over

If my android smartphone behaved like my PC where I turn it on, use the programs I need then call it a day, we might get along. But, this smartphone is like a braggadocio date constantly pummeling me with hype. Groan. I don’t look forward to our time together. Instead of extending a hand in friendship, this lurking, slurping, berserk monster tyrannizes me with snarls and bites.

Menacing monster snarling with jaws open to bite
Original photo by Adam McIntyre on Canva

January 20, 2020 – Isn’t Swiping for those Tinder People?

Swiping left — right — up — down makes my head spin. Finally I discover how to change all the swiping to buttons. Yes, I can deal with buttons. I think. But mine are getting pushed.

Fifteen percent of Americans interrupted sex to answer their cell phone. Really? I presume they were swiping. The woman in the restroom stall answering her cell phone was raunchy enough… Sheesh. I’m afraid to ask what’s next.

January 25, 2020 – An Unhealthy Relationship

Today, I’ve decided devices are NOT healthy or friendly and especially for HSPs who can already be too easily overwhelmed. Today, I’m not horrified, just frazzled. While my reasons are different, I definitely feel the link between tech devices and anxiety (and I barely engage with social media). The tracking-tracking-tracking and attempted reprogramming feel like I’m corralled with sheep for slaughter. I refuse to be a clone of whatever SM (social media or techno sado masochism — you decide) or the Evil Tech Sextet (Google, Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, Twitter, Amazon) tell me to believe.

Far-reaching orange and brown monster
Original photo by Adam McIntyre on Canva

“We increasingly miss out on the important moments of our lives as we pass the hours with our noses buried in our devices.” 

— the National Day of Unplugging website

I prefer burying my nose in the rose bushes or sun-warmed tomatoes and basil, thank you.


I’ve learned that I often get what I need. So, in a way it was no surprise to read the following message in The Five Invitations – Discovering What Death Can Teach Us About Living Fully by Frank Ostaseski:

“…we end up addicted to busy.

“The smartphone, our most constant companion, is a shining example of this mentality. A recent survey of San Francisco residents found that on any given day, most people interact with their smartphones more than they do with other human beings. Half of the people surveyed admitted to using their phones to escape social interaction, and nearly a third said they felt anxious when they didn’t have access to their phones.

“Remember when computers were sold to us based on the idea that they would create more leisure time and greater human connectivity? I want my money back.”

I agree with Frank. Big Tech’s given me no reason to believe their phones are for my “convenience.” Remember the promise of a “paperless society”?

Ever stack up your junk mail? It all sounds great on the surface (marketing propaganda usually does)…but in reality I have wasted more time from companies breaching my data and it being sold on the dark web, to deleting phishing e-mails, to avoiding spam calls, and on and on. Why would I want to give up any more precious time and privacy, or put myself at further risk? This is why all the extra “capabilities” of a “smart” phone do not make sense or appeal to me. Seeing a family sitting together with each person’s eyes glued on their own smartphone saddens me.

The Natural Rhythm of Life

Frank Ostaseski quotes a late friend, Angeles Arrien, who often commented that “Nature’s rhythm is medium to slow. Many of us live in the fast lane, out of nature’s rhythm. There are two things we can never do in the fast lane:  we can neither deepen our experience nor integrate it.” He says she encouraged others to walk outside for an hour every day and spend at least a half hour in silence every day. “When we lose touch with the rhythms of nature, we become unbalanced,” she said. “To be fully present within our nature, we must be in balance with the land around us.”

Stream running through a forest
Photo by Eberhard Grossgasteiger on Unsplash

I think Angeles was on to something. Surely, I am not the only one in this minority of Neo-Luddites (or partial Neo-Luddite as I’m not an all or nothing gal, or maybe just group of self-reliant persons). This sentiment rings true with me when observing smartphone users:  “A cellphone signals my whole world is me and it excludes everyone else.” Remember the old tagline, “Reach out and touch someone”? Try it for real while you unplug this coming weekend. Your smartphone can’t hug you like a friend.


IUnplug-Live

 

 

Nature Teacher: Coexisting

Billions of snowflakes

grace the air

together.

Like fingerprints,

no two are alike.

Separate

characteristics, individual traits,

attributes

make each one

unique.

Original.

Yet they all share

one Source

and peacefully coexist.

One

is no better than the other.

Different, but equal,

is perfectly natural.

 

Fertilizers for the Mind…

Colorful vegetables and fruits composting to nourish the garden

With the New Year beginning, I’m adding a new page called “Fertilizers for the mind & spirit.” Based on the miraculous results compost produces in the garden, I believe the same holds true for enriching our minds. Please feel free to add some of your own tidbits to that page for all of us to turnover, stir and nourish our perspectives…

 

Opening the Door to Transformation

Photo of long hallway with door at the end

Synchronicity delivered timely and profound guidance to me before my mother’s passing. Surprisingly, it originated from a talented Spanish guitar musician (and yoga instructor) whose concert I attended just months earlier. Johannes Linstead’s message radically shifted my thoughts about death and erased any long-held fears. Since that time, it’s become my mainstay. I’ve included his epistle in sympathy cards and received numerous responses that his message also eased their grief and sorrow. In asking this guitar guru for permission to share his words of wisdom, he kindly replied:

Thank you for reaching out. I am so touched that my writings helped you through such a difficult time. To have experienced 15 deaths in such a short time is not easy, especially losing your brother. So sorry. I would be happy for you to share my writings as hopefully it can help others. By the way, my writings are being compiled into a book which I hope to release next year.

Thanks and blessings,

Johannes

Single chair in barren room with bright lights and windows above and bright and dark entrances and exits
Original photo by Alessandra Onisor on Unsplash

May this original message from Johannes help anyone else experiencing loss and processing grief:

“The End is Transformation”

All that is here and within you is sacred. All that is here and within you is divine. The earth, the animals, the waters, the trees, the rocks, and every human share the same sacredness and divinity. Even with this inherent sacredness and divinity each will come and go in accord to its own destiny and cycle. In life and in death, there is no difference and there is no separation, only transformation.

All in the phenomenal world is birthed into creation, has its lifespan, and its death. But this death is not a real death. The word “death” evokes a feeling within the mind that denotes finality and finality causes a fear. Many people are afraid of the cessation of life, whether it be their own or the life of a loved one and this fear subtly suppresses the ability to truly live. To truly live is to be fearless, to embrace each moment with a complete joy, and to rejoice with a sense of abandon. 

The fear of change and the fear of death are two things that if one can learn to accept will make life a benediction for they are the two things in life that cannot be changed. Resistance only causes anguish. To change your relationship to these two supposed enemies requires contemplation, and contemplation requires courage. The spiritual path is a path that requires great courage, which is why some people call it the Way of the Spiritual Warrior, for it is a fight, a daily battle to not get trapped into the trenches of the mundane but instead fight with every breath of your life to reclaim your true domain – the domain of the soul where love, light, truth, and kindness prevail.

If you can reach the breakthrough point of acceptance then your life will be forever changed, joy and peace will enter your heart and fill your being. Being filled with joy and peace no room will be left for delusion, anger, hatred, jealousy or greed. As you transform, the world around you will also transform. The only death you need concern yourself with is welcoming the death of the darkness within you. 

Sat Nam,

Johannes ~ Sevaji

As you can tell, Johannes Linstead is a deeply spiritual person. He is the founder of Divine Earth (divineearth.org), a humanitarian organization promoting meditation, yoga, holistic living, and the healing power of music. Johannes says, “I use music as a way to express what words cannot say. Every note contains a part of me and all the love, joy, hope and compassion in my heart. I believe that music has the power to uplift humanity — I see it all the time at every one of my concerts. To be able to bring happiness to so many people is a true blessing.” Here’s just one of his many expressive songs:

To learn more about Johannes Linstead ~ Guitar of Fire! please visit his websitewww.johanneslinstead.com

 

Open gate to illuminated pathway
Original photo by Pixaline from Pixabay

Constancy is Unnatural…

Tornado touching land from storm clouds above

…and will change. At some point.

Dark skies with objects hurling in the air and a collapsing house from a cyclone
Photo by Jonny Lindner on Pixabay

This summer of exhaustive change whirled like a tornado snatching dear ones from my path. In three months I’ve experienced rapid and complete loss from news of 14 deaths — nine of them close to me. Barely catching my breath, we’ve also just lost the healing space where we’ve hand drummed for over 15 years.

I admit, change often feels like a blustery, cold wind in my life rather than a soothing, summer breeze. Raised in a dysfunctional home, I became an ACOA and HSP — frazzled by chaos and discord, and craving stability and harmony.

If I continually resist change, though, the Universe sweeps in, eliminating any more chances or choices to get on board. Suddenly, (at least it feels that way, even if I’ve dilly-dallied for ages) I’m hurled with hurricane force into new situations — whether desired or not, whether I like it or not, and whether I feel courageous or not. So, instead of latching on tightly and refusing to let go, I’m more inclined now to accept and release. Note:  it’s not always immediate and it doesn’t mean I always like it.


Change is welcomed when we are the ones initiating it.

 But, when it’s thrown upon us, our response is often quite different.


The calendar indicates when I can reasonably expect to see leaves falling, snow flying, buds blooming. Even if it isn’t exactly on schedule, I feel comfortable knowing that the next season is around the corner, hence, what to expect next. It’s the unanticipated adversity —  like tornadoes, Nor’easters (and precipitous deaths) that jolt me.

Rocks Jutting through the Water
Photo by Frank Winkler on Pixabay

Still, I’m learning like everyone else on this journey called life. My headstrong adolescence pressed through storms, and my unguided young adulthood blindly maneuvered rocky, melodramatic situations. In mid-adulthood, the fog began lifting, offering clearer, smoother sailing — but only through a widened perspective and attitude of enhanced acceptance.

My Five Stages of Acceptance

By that I mean growing out of questioning, “Why me, or us or this?” to lamenting disappointment, to bemoaning perplexity, to the sighing resignation of “It is what it is,” to realizing the changing nature of the seasons is the flow of life. Change is the perfectly natural progression. For it to be anything otherwise equals stagnation and death.


As my perspective changes, so does my life.


ishant-mishra-K8hLK2M1ZBw-unsplash
Photo by Ishant Mishra on Unsplash

So now, when immense change occurs, I endeavor to exchange fear or disappointment with faith and acceptance that everything is working out exactly as it’s meant to be. While intellectually understanding death as transformation eases the loss, it doesn’t completely erase my feelings. For other changes, I remind myself that space is being created for something better…and that the gift may not always appear how I envision it — another reason for due diligence in living consciously and welcoming doors of opportunity.


Each of us processes life and change differently, and at different times in our life.


While still feeling an emptiness from losing Bess and other friends this summer, my heart slowly mends by shifting focus from loss to fulfillment. Having more leeway to be away from home now I’ve planned two bucket list journeys for 2020 — Turks & Caicos and Cotswolds, England.

A close friend processed her loss quite differently when her dog suddenly died this summer. (He was panting at 7PM and dead by 10PM.)  Feeling so distraught, she brought home brother and sister puppies a week later. While they are adorable, she forgot how much work they are and is now so tied to home, she cannot leave even for day trips. Change comes in all sizes, just like pennies, nickles, dimes and quarters…

How do you process change? Has it been the same throughout your life, or evolved one way or the other? Do you welcome change or close your eyes and shut the door on it, only to have it forced open later?

 

 

The Good Weather Church

Blue sky with white puffy clouds over a rural church with autumn leaves in the fore band backgrounds

Wandering through Christianity, Buddhism, and Unity to my current interest of studying the Tao, I long ago exchanged organized religion for a more profound spirituality. Structured religion gave me a moral and ethical compass for living life. Eastern philosophies expanded my understanding. But, my spirituality deepened after a life altering illness, decades of consciously working in the garden, and a burgeoning sense of gratitude.


“Religion…shall mean for us the feelings, acts, and experiences of individual men in their solitude…in relation to whatever they may consider the divine.”

“…In order to usefully interpret the realm of common, shared experience and history, we must each make certain “over-beliefs” in things which, while they cannot be proven on the basis of experience, help us to live fuller and better lives.”                   — William James


Discovering this naturally created pulpit and pews on my visit to Scotland this summer was a curious surprise.

I imagined listening to a sermon among these bluest of skies, lush green mountains and clear waters. The pastor wouldn’t have to speak a word.

Blessed with three good weather seasons, I’m most often in the garden — seeding, nurturing, harvesting — plants, but also my thoughts and spirit.

For me, attending church is gliding over morning dew glistened grass to the vegetable patch or flower garden…feeling the warming sun on my skin and a serene sky’s embrace. Hearing “the quiet.” At first. And then the hum of bees, chirping birds, and steady rhythm of high-pitched crickets uniting in choir.  Sweet nature gloriously sings a sermon to my soul.

Feature photo by Damian Markutt on Unsplash