Don’t Stress Over the Stressors!

A stressor is an outside agent, such as a death in the family, math problem or an exam, boring job, and so on. Stress is how a person reacts or responds to a stressor, which means what mental meaning he or she puts to the stressor and how he or she mentalizes the feeling associated with the reaction to the stressor.

Amit Goswami, The Quantum Doctor

Let’s agree to savor this holiday season as much as we can. Life is too short to let stressors lead to stress. Here is a quick guide to staying zen during the holidays.

Happy Thanksgiving preparations everyone!

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More Growth, Less Gross

Revel in your imperfections. Be entertained by your problems. And know that once you looked ahead and wished you were where you are now. And once again you will look back and smile.

Negative practice is an evidence-based technique that I like to use in my speech therapy sessions. Once a client has mastered a new way of doing something then I will have them intentionally go back and forth between the old and the new way. By doing so they experience a clear contrast between the two. This in turn builds improved self-awareness as well as control over their own communication. It can be very empowering for the client.  Let me give you an example.

I recently completed therapy with an adult who came in with an /s/ sound distortion. (Use of the slash marks indicated a phoneme, or sound, as opposed to a letter.) After I had taught her the tongue position and airflow for her “new” /s/ and she had practiced it successfully in various word positions, I began to have her say the words the “old way.” She was amazed at how she could go back and forth between the new  /s/ and old /s/. She also began to report that the new way felt more natural while the old way felt odd and more forced. Here is a picture of her old tongue position (top) and her new tongue position (bottom) for /s/.

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I was recently using negative practice with a voice client and it struck me that negative practice helps us in life from time to time as well. Not that I recommend intentionally returning to bad habits. I wouldn’t tell a recovered smoker to pick up a cigarette just to remind himself of how good it feels to NOT smoke. But sometimes situations arise that offer us a glimpse of just how far we have come. A friend of mine might have had one of these moments recently. He posted this on Facebook:

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Sometimes the gross makes us appreciate the good that we have been taking for granted.

This also makes me think of the strange tradition we have of following Thanksgiving with Black Friday.

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I wonder what the shoppers’ spirits experience as they navigate between the sensations of gratitude and kinship versus the feeling of coveting and competition.  Or for some I’m sure it is the opposite. Perhaps Thanksgiving is a lonely time while being in the midst of others at the mall provides a sense of community.

Either way, perceiving that contrast is what opens a door for self-awarenss and understanding of what is a better way for the higher self. Just like my client became aware of her communication and identity as an actress and speaker.

As a last illustration… I heard a song on my iTunes recently that took me back. It was a song that I used to listen to during meloncholy times. I remember I would listen to it over and over because the sadness felt good. It wasn’t a great choice for me to indulge in a darkness like that–it certainly didn’t seem to help much–but it was a time in my life when I had very few other ideas of what to do with my sadness. When this song came on the other day I could feel that sweet sadness began to drip over me again and sure enough, a part of me wanted to melt into it and indulge in that melancholy. But you know what? There is a “new way” that I’ve become much more accustomed to. That I have practiced and trained for. That I have mastered to some extent. I know that telling myself that things WILL pass, making a call to a friend, meditating, lighting a candle, smiling, having a cup of tea, playing a favorite uplifting movie and painting while my cat sleeps next to me and while life goes on in the big city outside my balcony door…well, that all is part of my new way. And one thing that I know that I know that I know: that old way can’t hold a candle to my new way.

So, dear readers, try to notice your moments of negative practice that present themselves to you. When you are reminded of an old habit or pattern that isn’t beneficial to you, recognize how good it feels to NOT do that anymore. Commend yourself for having developed a new way. Give thanks for the chance to see the contrast. Ask for more and more growth and less and less gross.

Here’s to that. More growth and less gross for each of us.

~~~S Wave~~~

Happy and Humane Holidays

“Life is as dear to a mute creature as it is to man. Just as one wants happiness and fears pain, just as one wants to live and not die, so do other creatures.”

His Holiness The Dalai Lama

This post ends on a positive note, I promise. But first the bad news…

There’s a new round of undercover investigative videos out just in time to make you think twice about your Thanksgiving dinner and your upcoming Christmas shopping. First, the animal advocacy group, Mercy For Animals (MFA) has just released documentation from their most recent undercover investigation of farmed animal treatment. The videos are available for viewing on their website, but please know that they are very graphic. As always, I recommend you prepare yourself for some images that are likely to disgust and disturb. To read/view less graphic information, you can read the LA Times report here. You can also sign MFA’s petition to Tyson foods here. This time around, the culprit was West Coast Farms, based in Okfuskee County, Oklahoma which is a Tyson Foods supplier. The person who collected the video was working undercover on the farm just this past September and October and witnessed abuses such as:

– slamming piglets against the floor to kill them

– hitting pigs with wooden boards and a bowling ball

– spiking piglets like footballs

– confining pregnant sows to cages in which they cannot turn around (a common practice called “gestation crates”)

– cutting off piglets’ tails and slicing their genitals to remove testicles without anesthesia (again, not uncommon practices)

I think that is enough for you to get the idea. This kind of treatment has also been documented via undercover investigation at cattle farms, poultry farms, etc. To those of you who would like to imagine that this kind of treatment is a shocking exception to the norm, I would say that after years of following the movement of farmed animal welfare and reading and watching numerous testimonies from people inside the industry, I am not convinced in the least that this kind of facility is somehow the anomaly within an otherwise humane system where transparency is prioritized, animals are respected, and workers are kept safe and happy. That kind of model just isn’t profitable enough to be the norm.

The second report that just came out is from PETA. Earlier this week they released a video also shared by CBSNews based on an investigation into the angora fur industry in China. The PETA statement explains that the investigation showed “workers violently ripping the fur out of rabbits’ skin as the animals scream in pain. After their fur is yanked out, the gentle, sensitive rabbits are left in shock, able only to lie motionless inside their tiny, filthy cages. After they endure this process every three months for two to five years, their throats are slit and their skin is ripped from their bodies.” To read more and to find the video link click here. This method of fur “manufacturing” is no more a deviation from the norm than the treatment of the pigs above. If you are curious about how mink, down, chinchilla or any other type of fur and feather are collected just do a simple search and you’ll find plenty of information. It’s not a pretty picture…but why in the world did we ever think it could be??

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So what does this disturbing news have to do with the holidays? The holidays have become as much a time for personal reflection and gratitude as it is for religious or commercial participation. As I mentioned in the last post, we are seeing daily expressions of thanks-giving on social media and Christmas is a time where we begin to plan the positive changes for which we want to strive in the coming year. Well, here is your chance to give thanks and to make a positive change ahead of the holidays!

First, as you do your Thanksgiving preparations, walking the aisles of your market like you have done every other year, view your choices through a lens of true compassion and thanks. Think about what you’ve learned about the meat and dairy industry…if you haven’t learned something on Life As a Wave then I’m certain you have learned plenty elsewhere. Make the easy decision to replace some of your dishes with humane selections.

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Yes, your family members will wonder why you used almond milk to make your mashed potatoes and will challenge you to explain why your green beans are being served sans bacon. Take it as an opportunity to share what you know! And if you’re wondering how to make animal-free dishes, there’s information everywhere! For example, here is a great list I just encountered: 32 Vegan Recipes That Are Perfect For Thanksgiving. You can easily cover your Thanksgiving table with this list alone.

And fear not…there’s even vegan pumpkin pie!

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Second, the shopping season is here and Black Friday is next week. There are so many reasons to avoid the shopping craze that is coming up, but let’s stay on topic and discuss free-trade, plastic waste, and local economies another day. 🙂 As you shop, will you avoid fur? How about leather? How about down? It isn’t as hard as you might think and again, it shows people that you care! Need some ideas about which corporations are animal friendly? Use PETA’s shopping guide and shop from home. You can also download the Leaping Bunny app to help you shop for cruelty-free products. Or, heck, just check those tags before you put something in your cart.

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I started this post by introducing the “bad news,” but let’s remember that there wouldn’t be a “bad” without a “good.” The good news is that as we each encounter new knowledge (even the kind that makes you disgusted or disheartened) it is a chance for us to decide anew. And there is a great gift of power in that, as I’ve written about before. What is the one new decision you will make today to make it a more humane holiday season?

Happy Thanksgiving,

~~~S Wave~~~

Proclamation of Gratitude

Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” ~ Melody Beattie

It has been two years since I began this blog with some dear friends and family. There has been so much learning and exploration in that time. Wondering about connection and coming to understand it more from all sorts of different perspectives. Approaching also an understanding of my own dreams and their possible grander purposes.

A friend recently reminded me that we sometimes teach what it is that we most need to learn and although I don’t know if I have taught anyone much of anything here, I know that I have learned. And I know that it has been a wonderful experience to share that road with many wonderful people.

In this month the holidays are approaching with all of the excitement, nostalgia and odd melancholy that can come with that visitation. A milestone birthday also approaches for me in December causing me to reflect a great deal, with both yearning for the many unrealized hopes of these past years and with affection and not a little awe for those many that are realized and thriving. Finally, it seems social media is saturated right now with sentiments of gratitude in honor of Thanksgiving.

So in light of these events aligning as they are, it seems like a good time to share in the spirit of gratitude…not only to be grateful for this month of thanks, but to remind my own heart of the great unearned blessings and the ever-renewed potential that we are constantly experiencing in life if we will just hold on and believe in them.  And so…..

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Thank you for this life.

Thank you for the beauty I contribute to this life.

Thank you for the divinity that fills us and inspires the beauty I contribute to this life.

Thank you for the people who have guided me toward the divinity that fills us and inspires the beauty I contribute to this life.

Thank you for the love I have learned from the people who have guided me toward the divinity that fills us and inspires the beauty that I contribute to this life.

Thank you for the love I have learned from the people who have guided me toward the divinity that fills us, connects us and inspires the beauty that I contribute to this life.

Thank you for the love I have learned from the people who have guided me toward the divinity that fills us, connects us and inspires the beauty that I contribute to this life as I grow in strength through every experience of both joy and pain.

Thank you for the love I have learned from the people who have guided me toward the divinity that fills us, connects us and inspires the beauty that I contribute to this life on our precious Earth as I grow in strength through every experience of both joy and pain. 

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Much love to you all. Happy holiday season and may you be abundantly blessed through acceptance of the blessings that are at all times at your fingertips.

~~~S Wave~~~

Holidays and Hurricanes

An old friend of mine who lives in New Jersey just said…

“…but holidays tend to soften the striking surprise of hearing from someone from your past that you haven’t heard from in a while. Holidays and hurricanes, it seems.”

Words of wisdom. The holidays are a time to reunite with people you love despite months or even years of not being in touch. Of course! That is part of what makes holidays so special. But it’s also true that an event like Sandy can lead us back to people as well. When Sandy hitting our shores last week, I was struck with how many east-coasters came to my mind…people that I care about despite our lack of correspondance. I saw similar sentiments all over social networking sites and from firsthand accounts: feuds being put aside, postponed calls being made, life and relationship suddenly being viewed from a different perspective.

Photo credit: REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

When it comes right down to it—-when the storm hits the sand—-it is that abiding care that prevails. A lack of correspondence doesn’t necessarily signify a lack of connection.

So because we all need this reminder from time to time, remember to give yourself moments of stillness to allow your mind’s eye a gaze upon that great “cloud of witnesses” that surrounds you in the midst of your journey…the people who have touched your life for good and, intentionally or unintentionally, been a guide. Send them love from your heart and healing from your hands. And if the spirit moves you, send them an e-mail.