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A ghost story

As I sit here, in the distance I can hear kid’s screaming.  It is Halloween and the kids are treat-or-treating.

No one has yet to approach our door.   I guess it looks like no one is home.  The TV is off and the lamp isn’t that bright.  The glow of the laptop is the only sign of life.  I am sitting low on the sofa so the glow must be obscured.  I do not mind though, it is time to write.

Here is a ghost story for my readers to enjoy this Halloween.

I once attended a TAPS Ghost Hunters event in Philadelphia at Fort Mifflin.  The fort is known in the city as a paranormal hot spot. I did not know what to expect or even if ghosts were real.   But I was curious after seeing them on TV and this was a chance to find out for myself.

During the Civil War the fort was used as a prison.  They kept the prisoners in an area called casemates.   This is where they stored the ammunition during the Revolutionary War.   A few prisoners were hung, and it housed several hundred confederate soldiers during the Civil War.

I was not able to stay the entire night, so when I arrived I made sure to head with the group going into the casemates first.   You had to walk through some narrow passages to get to the area.   It was a dark and dreary area.   I found a bench and took a seat.

A person in the group set up a mag light for a flashlight experiment.  In the experiment you turn off the flashlight, and then you twist it so that with a light touch the light will turn on.    After the flashlight was setup they walked away from it,   and no one was within 3 feet of it.   They asked for a ghost to turn the light on.  We were all sitting still, watching the light and after about 30 seconds the light went on.   Then they asked if the ghost could turn the light off, and about 10 seconds later the light went off.   She asked again to turn it on and off.   The ghost did as requested.    At this time more mag lights were setup.   They were setup a few feet apart from each other.    Now they were asking for specific lights to turn off and on, and they did!   Whatever this was it was intelligent.   I was completed baffled and amazed by this experiment.

A few other odd things happened that night that could not be explained, the flashlight experiment was the most convincing one of them all.

When you see it on the TV, you never know if something is rigged for entertainment purposes or if it’s real.    I was skeptical before the event because I haven’t witnessed it myself.   Now, I was certain that ghosts are real.

What are your thoughts on ghosts?

 

 

“Meditate?! No way, I couldn’t do that!“

14465249_sThat is a summary of the typical response I usually receive from folks when I talk about meditation.    I can understand their response.    Most folks believe that it is difficult, or have some excuse why it’s not for them.   I know when I was an undiagnosed bipolar the mind was out of control, and I would have looked at you like you were crazy.

When I talk to people I mention my simple meditation methods, and they still think it’s too difficult for them.   I never learned formal meditation techniques when I began to look for relief from suffering.   I read a little blurb in a book that simply talked about being relaxed, sitting comfortable,   and keeping still.     That’s it.   I have practiced other techniques; where you have to sit a certain way, the posture needs to be in proper alignment, you have to have your hands in a special position, and using proper breathing techniques.    It was complicated!  A complicated process will taint some opinions on meditation.  They made it more difficult than it needs to be.  A simply technique is enough to develop inner peace.

Here is a recent conversation I had with someone.

“Have you tried meditation?”

“Meditate?!  No way, I couldn’t do that!”

“Why not?”

“I could never sit still.  The mind is too busy.”

“Okay, it’s not that hard.  Do you want me to show you how simple it is?

“No,  it’s not for me.”

“Okay that’s fine, tell me what do you like to do?”

“I like to jog.”

“That’s great!   Tell me about your jogging.   What are you thinking about when you jog?”

“I think about how John is going to call me to ask for money.   Or about somebody that made me pissed off.  Or wondering what kind of trouble my sister is causing.   I am always thinking when I jog.”

“Instead of getting lost in thoughts while you are jogging.  Try this.   When you notice that you are lost in thoughts, bring your attention back to your feet hitting the ground.  What does it feel like?  Notice your breath,  is it easy or is it labored?    Look around, what do you see around you?  Bring the awareness back to your body jogging.   Keep your focus on the body, and not thoughts.   Wouldn’t you enjoy jogging more if you weren’t lost in thoughts?”

“Yeah, it would be enjoyable. “

The above conversation takes the focus onto a new area they could explore instead of meditation.   This is mindfulness; bringing your awareness to what you are doing at this moment.    The whole point of meditation and mindfulness is to interrupt the constant thought stream.   The more space or gaps that you can place into the thought stream or mind chatter will create  inner peace.

This works for any activity:   knitting, sewing, jogging, swimming, walking, washing the dishes, vacuuming the floor, eating a meal or drinking a cup of coffee.  The list is endless.

For example, if you are washing the dishes.   Notice the temperature of the water,  the texture of the glass,  the smell of the dish detergent, if there are any bubbles being formed notice them,  bring you attention into every aspect of washing dishes.    You will have interrupted the thought stream.

Mindfulness doesn’t work watching the TV; TV watching takes you below thoughts.  When you are below thoughts, you open yourself to the goals or desires of the TV program.   The TV does program your mind;   your thoughts will become aligned with their objectives.  This is why you buy stuff you latter regret.    Or you do not realize that you have become very opinionated about a subject.    Or you get emotional about what you are seeing.

If meditation techniques are too much for you, try mindfulness.    The goal is to interrupt the thought stream and  to develop inner peace.   Even a few minutes a day will make a big difference in your mental health (less stress and anxiety).   Over time,  If you are able to expand the minutes you practice daily, you will discover that the mind gets very quiet and stress is no longer in your vocabulary.   The rewards of inner peace are priceless.

Be well.

“Tell me about yourself”

What happens when you hear this from a person that wants to know more about you?   You mind will tell a story of you.     The story will be shaped according to the setting or the environment.  If you are at a job interview, you will most likely talk about your education or similar past job.  If you are at a parent/teacher conference and the teacher wants to know more about you.  Your story will be shaped to tell how good of a parent you are or bragging about your child.    There is nothing wrong with these stories, but how did these stories come about?

The mind creates a perception based on prior things that happened throughout life.    As a baby,   you had no story of you.   You couldn’t even talk.   All you could do was be an observer.   You looked to your parents to understand the world.  If they saw a spider and screamed, you learned that behavior.  If you see a spider today you might scream.   On the other hand if they said “hey look at that!  It’s a daddy long-legs, isn’t that interesting.”  You would not scream; you would find it interesting.

Experiences in child hood that we do not remember have a large impact on our life.   When I began therapy I never understood the reason why they were so interested in my childhood.   I was never taught that our brain is like a computer.  It takes all of our experiences throughout life and builds a program.  This program is frequently accessed to interpret the world that we perceive.

Growing up I was a very sickly boy, from these experiences I learned that I had to go to a doctor to fix me.   To fix me would require medicine.   And I would get better after taking the medicine.   Unknowingly,   I had written a program on how to heal.   See doctor, get medicine, and get better.  Simple program, that caused a lot of issues.

It wasn’t only child hood experiences;   it was all experiences throughout life that shape our view of the world.    Our brains build programs based on each experience.    Often times, the experience you are having now is modifying or adding to a prior program.    On occasion the brain will write a new program, if it’s a totally new experience.   We become dense with all the programs that we acquire as we move through life.   This is why a baby appears so innocent, compared to an adult.  The baby had little to no programming while adults are bogged down.    These programs shape our ego.   I see the ego as all mental activity not restricted to self-esteem which is the typically definition of ego.

By the time I had my first mental breakdown in my 20’s, before being diagnosed with bipolar disorder, I turned to a therapist to “fix” me.    Talking alone didn’t work, I would require medicine.     I had a mental program,   see a doctor, get medicine then get better.   Talking alone didn’t work since it did not satisfy the requirements of the program.  I was missing the medicine requirement of the program.   When I got medicine then I started to improve.  It took some time to get the medicine correct to provide mental stability but it didn’t “fix” me.  I still had bipolar.    The stability lasted for about 10 years, than life decided that it was time for something different.

“Different” was being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS).    I saw a bunch of doctors to “fix” me, and they gave me a lot of medicine.     That was my program, see a doctor, get medicine then get better.   This program was wrong.  Doctors cannot fix or cure bipolar or MS, I suffered a great deal.   I was taking around 24 pills a day and wasn’t healed from the bipolar or MS.   I did not know that I had a “faulty” program.  As time went on,   I became sick and tired of being sick and tired.  I then went on a period of exploration and stumbled upon meditation while reading a book.

From meditation, I discovered a lot about myself.  I saw the stories that my brain were telling me about myself were false.  I wasn’t seeing things as they were.    I was seeing the world based on my programming.   For my health I was following the program that I need doctors and medicine to fix me.   Through meditation I had developed the ability to see my thoughts,   once I saw the thoughts I could separate myself from them.    Separation of thoughts entails noticing when thoughts arise and not paying attention to them.  I did not give them power over me.

For example, when sitting in meditation your mind will start chattering that you are “wasting” time and that you have more important things to do like checking email or household chores.    Instead, I saw that I wasn’t “wasting” time.  I was giving myself a needed break from the mental chatter.    If I gave into thoughts by checking email or doing something else I then gave the thoughts power over me.   I was guilty in the past by allowing thoughts to have complete control of my life;   they had absolute power over me. Through meditation I had learned that I could separate myself from thoughts, which gave me the ability to rewrite the programs.   These programs are not permanently fixed, and can be changed.   I now question everything that comes from the mind and “write” new programs as I find “faulty” ones.

I was very self-critical, and I was creating a hell on Earth with my thoughts and programming.  Those “faulty” programs had to go!   After I dropped the “faulty” programs, through meditation, I learned to be kind to myself.   It wasn’t easy to tame the mind,  but with practice it happened.  The most amazing thing happened when I no longer allowed the thoughts to have power over me, I stopped suffering.   I no longer suffer,   the thoughts simply drift through the mind without power.

The next time someone asks you “tell me about yourself?”    Stop and observe the program, what story is it telling?   Is it true?  Are you sure it’s the absolute truth?

 

P.S.  If you wish to learn more about meditation, see my blog on “breaking from the bipolar brain.”

 

Recovering from multiple sclerosis

I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis(MS) in 2004.

This is a disease that impacts the nervous system in which the myelin sheath around the nerves is damaged.   The sheath around the nerves is necessary for sending signals to the various parts of the body.  This causes impairments to the senses, movement and cognition along with any other body functions in which nerves are involved.    Imagine the body as an electrical system and the wires become damaged, then you pour water on them and the electrical system begins to short out and fail.

I was diagnosed with relapsing and remitting form of this disease.     In this form you have a relapse or reappearance of your MS symptoms,  and then you remitting or return to your “normal”  baseline.      MS had a significant impact on my life.   It caused walking and balance issues,  tingling sensation on the whole left side of the body,  extreme fatigue,  and many other unpleasant affects.

I was taking a MS injectable medicine to prevent a relapse from ocurring and that was effective.   In addition to medicine for muscle spasms,   urine retention,  and fatigue.   I needed a whole lot of medicine to survive MS,  not to mention all the medicine I needed for my bipolar disorder.  I also needed a cane on occasion as I was disabled.

A primary tool to recovery from MS was yoga.     There are many different types of yoga with many different branches.     I will discuss the exercise portion of yoga or asana’s.   The other branches helped with my mental state (bipolar).   Before I was going to a traditional gym;  lifting weights and cardio machines.  Typically in a gym you are isolating a specific muscle or muscle group.    In asana practice you are not isolating one muscle,  you are working numerous muscles  through various postures.    You build strength and flexibility.   When starting I had little  flexibility or balance.   In the beginning it was rough,  my balance was horrible and my muscles were stiff.

However,  I went to a great studio (River Yoga) with wonderful teachers.  They helped me out through assists to get into the various postures using blocks,  straps,  whatever was needed to gain benefit  from the posture.   Even if I could only do a portion of the posture it would be beneficial.  The muscles were getting stretched out,  and flexibility was improving.   My balance got better,  and within 6 months I no longer need a cane.   My muscles no longer had severe spasms,  and I could reduce that medicine and eventually discontinue it.     In time,   I no longer needed any medicine to deal with the symptoms  of MS.

The traditional gym I realized after I left was too hard on the body.   When I would leave my workout,  I would hobble out of the gym.   I had severe muscle spasms from the weight lifting and cardio.

Today,  I take no medicine,  have no signs of health issues and no need for a cane.  Yoga gets a a lot of credit for assisting with my miraculous recovery.

Breaking free from the bipolar mind

As a young boy,   I was deeply introverted and kept everything to myself.

I suffered many anxiety attacks as a child. In one instance I lost a quarter of my body weight.    I had intense thoughts about everything.    A majority of my thoughts were self-critical which only added to my beliefs that I wasn’t worthy of anything.   I can remember my classmates calling me four-eyes and a nerd since I wore glasses.    This added to my already self-critical thoughts on how I should be.   I was unable to accept who I was and the world was not offering kindness.   I had no self-esteem and I saw the world as a very harsh place.

The harsh view of the world only added to my suffering with anxiety.      These anxieties lead to a diagnosis of Bipolar as a young adult.   I had suicidal thoughts at times which resulted in being hospitalized.   Around 15% of folks commit suicide from this disease.

I suffered for decades with intense thoughts that were creating my own hell on Earth.     The thoughts had completely taken over my being and I had no inner peace.   One day, I discovered meditation and found inner peace.

In the beginning meditation was difficult.    I could only sit for 5 minutes a day, before my thoughts convinced me that it was a “waste” of time.   I had plenty of things to do besides “wasting” my time.   I knew that for me to escape the  mental prison of thoughts I had to continue with a meditation practice.     After a few months of practice the mind was growing quieter and a new sense of peace arose.

Meditation gives you space or separation  from your thoughts.    When you have space from thoughts,  they no longer control you.         There are many different types of meditation to gain inner peace.   At the time I began meditation I didn’t realize that my technique of just sitting still was a bit more advanced since it required you not to react to all the thoughts,  and I would have been better off with an easier meditation.

Here is a simple meditation that will have a profound impact on your mental state.

Find a place to sit comfortably and relax.  Make sure it is a location where you will not be disturbed.

Close your eyes  

Take a deep breath for  3 seconds

Hold it for a second

Slowly exhale  for 6 seconds.    Observe the tension leaving the body on the exhale.

Do this routine a few times.   Repeat this meditation process several times a day.

When you place your attention on your breath, thoughts stop and you begin to place space into the thought process.   After  this practice your thoughts will still continue.  However,  the more space you add into the stream of thoughts will result in a quieter mind.   A quieter mind will give you inner peace.  This practice seems too simple to work,  but it does.  Try it for 2 or 3 months and you will notice a difference.

Today,   I no longer suffer the effects of bipolar.  I have completely restored my mental health.

Feel free to contact me with any questions or comment below.

 

Writers conference: "Push to Publish 2013"

I attend the “Push to Publish”  writers conference.

This was my second conference for writing that I have attended.

The conference was set on the campus of Rosemont College.   This was my first time visiting this school,  and it was a lovely campus.

At the conference I was hoping to find an agent who saw the value in my project,  perhaps I did.   I won’t know until they receive my query letter and a little sample of my work.  I will either get a rejection letter or a welcome letter.

The conference was a bit of a personal disappointment as no one immediately feel in love with my work.   They loved my story but the project needs some work.   The house is built now I need rearrange the furniture.

After the conference I realized,  as a first time novelist,  it’s not about you.  It’s about getting feedback about your project.  You want your project to really stand out,  and make it the very best you can.    Everyone is here at the conference to help us achieve our goal of becoming a published author.  They are not out to get you.   They went to best for you.

I did receive some great feedback from other authors,  editors,  agents and attendees.   I did hand out a fair amount of business cards since I realize that it’s about making connections.    Many of the attendees did not have business cards,  which is too bad as I would have liked to see how some of them developed their story.

Hanging out after the event at the “happy hour”  was a great opportunity to connect with  folks.   I spent some time talking to the keynote speaker, Michael Martone.   He  offered some good advice on my project.   Before and after photos of my recovery,   never thought of that.   That would really make an impression.    Besides words they could see the difference.

Remembering Gandhi

Today marks Ghandi’s 144th birthday.

A testament to his non-violence nature  is that today’s also marks the day for International Day on Non-Violence.

He knew that violence accomplished nothing.    People think that  violence can  accomplish something.   All it does is provide the satisfaction of the ego that you are “right” and they are “wrong.”    For the folks that are “wrong”  they are rewarded with unnecessary suffering due to your mind wanting to be “right.”

He said this quote ;”You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.”

So before you strike out against another man/woman,  stop and realize that you are part of the ocean of humanity.    We tend to think we are separate from each other but when it fact we are all made of the same stuff and at the core of our being the consciousness is the same.  Our mind is blind to this fact and continues to cause us to believe in our egoic thoughts.  Our ego keeps the illusion of separation and you become better than another.

No one is better or less than yourself.    We are equal.

Wishing you peace and love.