Posts tagged ‘mental health’

Oh, Zen: How To Live A Life Of Contentment – Part II

  “Whatever the tasks, do them slowly with ease, in mindfulness, so not do any tasks with the goal of getting them over with. Resolve to each job in a relaxed way, with all your attention.” – Thich Nhat Hanh, Zen Master

Today is the day my life will flow with ease and gratitude, without hurry or worry.  Here is what I imagine will happen.

  • I will mindfully invite the family to wake up before dawn, as I sing or chant a holistic, zen-pleasing song.
  • I will meditate as I cook a peaceful, unhurried, home-grown, sugar-free, cholesterol-free, zen breakfast.
  • I will retrieve my one-year-old from inside the refrigerator where he is cracking eggs on tupperware.
  • I will mop up what the dog suddenly did under the high chair –with ease, peace, and gratitude.
  • I might turn up the volume on the holistic chant just a bit to drown out the sound of the older kids’ fighting that is echoing down the hall.
  • I will continue task at hand without worry or hurry.
  • I will remind myself to be in the moment.  Feel the moment as the dog runs past with last night’s dirty diaper in his mouth.
  • I will continue the task at hand, cooking, with mindfulness, not hurrying to get the task completed.
  • Now the one-year-old has four of his fingers in his nose and is screaming.  Think:  do not hurry; do not worry.
  • Now, the toilet has overflowed and the older children are using a plunger as a light saber to re-enact Star Wars in the hall.
  • I might consider raising my voice at this point.  But I will reject the idea.
  • I will proceed cooking, with mindfulness, not hurrying to get the task completed.
  • I might retrieve one-year-old from the stairs’ gate, where he has almost broken the child proof lock.
  • I might grab a candy bar from the cupboard.
  • I will then put the one-year-old easily, without struggle, into his high chair.
  • Breakfast is not ready. I will give him the rest of the candy bar.
  • The baby is blue and screaming for more candy. Chant a little more energetically to keep him interested.
  • Turn on the t.v.
  • Now the children are all sitting at the table, banging their forks on their empty plates.  Pick a new breakfast.
  • Pour high-sugar, low-nutrient cereal in bowls.  Tell the kids to name one thing they plan to give to the world today.
  • Strap one-year-old down once again, this time with the seat belt attachment and the tray.  Watch out for flying candy bar.
  • Turn the t.v. up a little louder and stop chanting holistically.  Take candy away from dog.
  • Put dog outside.
  • Retrieve one-year-old from behind the bookshelf in the living room.  He has escaped the high chair and is playing with the electric outlet.
  • The dog is howling very loudly and scratching the paint off the door but there is poop on his tail and I don’t have enough hands to clean him.
  • Resume chanting morning affirmation words:  my life flows with ease and gratitude.
  • Retrieve the one year old from the bathroom where he is bathing his toys in the overflowed toilet.
  • Let the dog back inside, but hold up his tail while escorting him to the tub.
  • Take the one year old to the kitchen sink and deposit him in the side that doesn’t have dirty pans in it.
  • Forgot to lock the bathroom door and the dog is out.
  • Also, we are out of milk.
  • Let the kids pour their cereal in the dog’s dish and pass out candy bars to everyone.
  • Consider screaming and swearing more seriously.  Again, reject this idea.
  • Consider putting the baby and the dog in the tub together.  Quickly, reject this idea.
  • Tell the older kids to go to school.  Do not sign their homework passes as there is toilet water and dog poop on my hands.
  • Turn on shower.
  • Strip baby’s pajamas and diaper.  Shower him above the dog in the tub.
  • Yes, I still have clothes on and am soaked.
  • The older kids have missed the school bus.
  • Re-diaper and dress child.
  • There is a lot of water all over the carpet in the hallway.
  • Leave half-cooked breakfast and dishes as they are.
  • Consider turning off the stove burners and the shower in the tub on the dog before leaving house.
  • Drive kids to school mindfully.  Be in the moment.
  • Sing contentment chant to keep one-year-old mindful of his moment, in the car seat.
  • Is it time to trim the Bonsai and rake the sand yet?

The Twelve Step Meeting for Improving Your Quality of Life

My husband is a facilitator at a 12-step group.

He used to be an addict.  Don’t assume it was an alcohol or drug addiction.  It could have been any thing.  I’m not telling.  But I will say that there ain’t no pretty addiction.  And there isn’t a single story of recovery that isn’t beautiful.

Twelve-step groups exist for many things, including but not limited to:

  • alcohol
  • drugs
  • tobacco
  • pornography
  • gambling
  • shopping
  • television/video games/internet
  • food
  • adrenaline/self-injury
  • depression/negativity
  • or something else

His addiction wreaked havoc on his life.  It interfered with all the most important aspects of his existence.

When you are addicted to something, it lowers your quality of life significantly.  People in addictions usually take many years to really hit rock bottom and to realize that they need help.  Some people live in denial until the day they die, and they never get help.

My dear husband, who I didn’t even know back then, was in a hopeless abyss of despair.  I wish I’d known my husband in his non-sober years, but he says he was very different and he says I wouldn’t have liked him.  (He tells his story better than I can.)

But –long story short– when he realized he could no longer go on without getting help, he was afraid to get the help.  Many people are that way.  The help scares them more than the addiction does.

My husband thought that if he walked into a 12 step meeting, he would be surrounded and and imposed upon by “helpful” meeting goers.  He thought he would have to stand up and say, “I am a(n) ____________.” (alcoholic, gambling addict, pornography addict, shopping addict, etc.)  He thought he would have to tell all of his secrets surrounding his addiction.  He thought he would have to participate in group hugs.  He thought he would have to pray with strangers.  He thought it might be some kind of group for weirdos, and nobody normal would be at the meeting.  Or worse, he worried that he would see people he recognized.  That, he believes, is the #1 reason people don’t show up in the first place.  He always says, “Just Show Up.”

So he went.  Alone.  It was so hard to get from the car in to the building, and to follow the paper signs to the right room.

But going to the 12 step meetings changed his life so much.  He kept going to meetings because he realized that his own recovery and understanding was helping other people heal, too. He’s been a facilitator at the meetings for many years, now, and his attitude has changed dramatically.  Now he laughs at all the reasons people fear going to meetings.  (Aside:  for a good laugh about addicts’ excuses, see  )

Where he once used to fear being seen going in to the meeting, now he loves it.  If he sees someone he knows outside, he talks to them, and he tells them what he’s doing and why.  He invites them to come to a meeting, even if they aren’t addicted.  “Someone you know,” he’ll say, “is probably addicted.”

We all have people in our lives whom we know need 12-step help and healing, and it might very well be ourselves. Most meetings are open to not only addicts, but to those who love and care for them, or who are co-dependent with them.

Although you can read the 12 steps online, and buy the books and workbooks and try to work the program alone, those who are successful recovering addicts attest that you can’t do it alone.  For some reason, isolation breeds addiction, and secrecy is its worst enemy.  Getting out among other recovering addicts is the key to actually beating the addiction.

So try it.  What do you have to lose?  And what do you have to gain?

Teen Life Issues: Book Ratings

Movies are rated.  Video games are rated.  But books are not rated.

While a few books might have a “14 and up,” recommendation on the back cover to indicate reading level, nothing indicates whether the actual content of the book is appropriate –or totally inappropriate–  for a given age group.  We all know kids who read at a 14-year-old level when they are eight.

And even these barely-helpful “14 and up” reading-level indicators, if they are used, are almost hidden, on the back of the book, in small type.  Is this responsible publishing?

Whose responsibility should book ratings be:  publishers? parents? public schools? independent reviewers?  Right now, we have nothing.

Unless you are so diligent that you take the time to read multiple reviews (assuming there are some) on the latest book your child’s reading, you will have no clue whether the content of the book is great for your child, or whether the content of the book exposes your child to explicit sexuality, gore, profanity, or political propaganda.  Yikes!

Book ratings are on my mind today because my third grade son brought home a book from school last week.  It was called “The Haunting of Derek Stone.”  My son received the book as a prize for having turned in his homework for twenty days in a row.  We started to read it together.  It was lively, engaging, and a little bit scary, but not too scary, on day one.

The next day, we read on.  Yikes!  The book introduced the young main character to his dead brother’s body, being possessed by a long-dead spirit.  The possessed corpse could not bleed.  It set rats on fire.  It did not recognize its own family.

My son said he didn’t want to keep reading.  Hallelujah!  Me neither!

Out of curiosity, I scanned most of the rest of the book on my own.  I ran into attempted murders, mild gore, lots of fear-of-death stuff, and spirits possessing other bodies, and legions of the dead attempting to kill the living.

I was horrified.   And I’m no third grader.

I threw that book in the trash can.  Not that it wasn’t well written, imaginative, and free of sex, explicit gore and profanity.  It was.  But it was way too scary for a kid.  I don’t want to rush his childhood.  It angers me that some books are marketed as innocent, kid-worthy reading, but they are so scary.

My 12-year-old stepdaughter told me the plot of her favorite book series, the “Hunger Games” series.  I asked her what they were about.  She told me the whole book (okay, the first two books) in great detail. I wanted to stop her after the first five minutes of her narration.  Guess what?  The entire premise of that book is kids killing other kids.  Did you read that?  Killing children!

I don’t care that there’s a noble twist that tries to make the child-killing morally acceptable (the main character enters the killing game to save her sister from entering it).  I don’t care that the main character tries to save another little girl while she’s there, killing others.  I don’t care that the more reprehensible children in the killing contest, lose.  I don’t care that in the second or third book, they kill the president of their country –and thus halt the killing games.  Too little, too late.

The fact remains: children are being depicted killing children, in a book marketed to children.

The time has come for book ratings.  Critics of book ratings will say lots of things, like “literature is complex and cannot be boxed into a “G,” “PG,” “PG-13,” “R,” or “X” rating system.

But a simple rubric could help us navigate better books for kids.  It could include phrases like “contains explicit violence” or “uses more than one burst of profanity” or “depicts sexually active characters.”

Gone are the days when we can assume that the latest Scholastic book your kid brought home is okay.  A book rating system is long overdue.