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I have always been fascinated by how the brain works, especially as it relates to consciousness, thought and spiritual evolution.  So,  5 Brain Myths That Won’t Go Away, authored by Ryan Wallace snagged my attention.

The brain is the most complex organ in the body.  The largest part of the human brain, the cerebral cortex, typically contains 15-33 billion neurons, all connected by and communicating with each other through synapses.  This amazing structure is control central of the entire body and all of its functions.

Throughout history the brain and the mind were considered separate.  Contemporary neuroscience still struggles to understand consciousness and thought.  Much about how the brain functions in these areas remains a mystery.

The five myths outlined below stem from the work of Amy Shelton, Associate Professor, Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at Johns Hopkins University.

Myth:  You only use 10% of your brain.

Shelton states that, “Any part of your brain that isn’t used will wither and die.”  90% of our brain is not on hold.

Myth: You are either right-or left-brained dominant.

This myth is rooted in scientific data demonstrating that certain areas and sides of the brain control specific functions.  Pop-psychology exploited this information into the myth that we are all divided into two camps: right-brained dominant, creative, or left-brained dominant, logical.  Extensive research and thousands of brain scans prove we use both sides of our brain equally.

Myth: Alcohol kills brain cells.

Biochemist researcher, Roberta Pentney, long ago disproved this myth.  It is true that ethyl alcohol will kill brain cells on contact, but it is so diluted in alcoholic beverages that our bodies process it (mostly the liver) before it gets to our brain cells.  The ‘buzz’ we get from alcohol arises from the effect on neural communication, a temporary circumstance,  without permanent damage when approached with moderate consumption.

Myth: Brain damage is permanent.

Obviously some brain damage is permanent to varying degrees.  Successful repair of brain damage depends on the location and severity of the injury.  It was once believed that we were born with all the brain cells we would ever have.  Research now demonstrates that through the process of “neurogenesis,”  the brain can not only regenerate cells, but reroute them around damaged neurons.

Myth: Your IQ is a fixed number.

IQ, or Intelligence Quotient, is a test score determining how smart you are.  What makes people smart is open to debate. Genetics, environment, and learning opportunity all have a part in  IQ development.  It has been demonstrated that cognitive training can improve IQ scores.

For a fascinating and engaging glimpse into how our brains function, check out “Brain Games,” hosted by Jason Silva, on the Nat Geo Channel.  It can also be viewed on-line by typing ‘watch Brain Games online’ into your search bar.  Want to know more about how your brain works?  I invite you to check out this fun and insightful program.



As with other emotions like fear, anxiety and trauma, anger triggers the ‘fight or flight’ response in the sympathetic nervous system.   Unbridled anger can contribute to heart disease and other related illnesses; it can savage relationships, and lead to regrettable choices and behaviors.

Anger plays an important role in our lives.  It alerts us when something is wrong; it gives us a surge of energy.  Learning to harness the energy of anger allows the healthy expression of this  perplexing and dynamic emotion.

Be honest with yourself.   This requires that you dig deeper.  What is underneath the anger you are feeling: fear, self-loathing, hurt, chronic unhappiness, perfectionism, intolerance, isolation, injustice?  Is your anger response appropriate to the circumstance?

Interrupt anger.  Step back from the situation, emotionally; literally if necessary.  Be aware.  Practice not allowing your anger to escalate.  Slow yourself down.  Breathe!

Exercise.  Take a walk; clean a closet, rake some leaves, do some jumping jacks, laugh.   Movement and laughter help diffuse the physical effects of anger.

Take action.  Once truly  past the episode, decide upon a course of action.  This may mean confronting a friend, loved one or co-worker.  Do it with love and compassion.

Forgive.  We are all human.  Forgiving does not mean forgetting.  If anger  arises from a toxic dynamic, forgetting  sets the stage for the game of uproar to escalate.  Forgiving yourself and the other party allows for different choices.

Anger is not weakness.  Anger is not bad or good.  Anger can motivate us to greatness; think Ghandi, Martin Luther King, Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.

Successfully harnessing the power of anger, being able to direct anger toward positive use, requires learning to control anger, rather than having anger control you.




Looking at a drought map of California is really scary.  Orange, red and deep red colors mark the severity in various regions.  Voluntary water use reduction by residential consumers is not having much success.   According to a survey by state water providers, Californians increased their water use by 1% in May.  This prompted the State Water Board to require water agencies to authorize fines up to $500.00 for water wasters.

Conflicts are arising: brown or green.  In Glendora, residents have been notified that they can be fined $500.00 for not keeping their lawns green.  These short-sighted actions ignore the realities of the current water crisis, especially for farmers and farm workers.

A major study released Tuesday by UC Davis,  warns of the “greatest water loss ever seen in California agriculture.”  Statewide an estimated 428,ooo acres of irrigated cropland has gone out of production.  The cost to California’s economy is estimated at $2.2 billion with a corresponding loss of 17,100 jobs.

Groundwater pumping has also significantly increased.  California Department of Food and Agriculture Secretary, Karen Ross stated, we are ready for a “very vigorous discussion” about ground water management.

I confess, it is difficult to watch my lawn turn brown even though it has been my plan since I moved here, to remove it and replace it with a water friendlier landscape.

I find the reflection of the drought in my weekly grocery bill shocking, and I am pretty confident that it is not going to improve any time soon.  I invite you to continue to do your best to conserve this most precious resource.


Summer time equals vacation time.  From the Latin/Greek root, meaning to empty; to have leisure.  For most of us, vacation means a relaxing and enjoyable respite from the rigors of the daily grind.

Europe leads the world in providing the most employee paid vacation time, according to the Center For Economic Policy and Research.  The CEPR also notes that of all the advanced countries only the US does not provide a legal guarantee of paid leave.

One in four Americans has no paid leave.  In May, US Representative Alan Grayson introduced a bill in Congress mandating a minimum one week of paid leave for all US employees.  No action was taken.

Vacations, “staycations” and time away from routine are essential to prevent burnout, relieve stress, recharge  batteries, give  renewed perspectives, and promote overall well-being.

Being self-employed, like many others, I have no paid vacation or paid sick leave.  I once thought I could not afford to take a vacation.  I now know better (see my blog on Burnout).  When I ’empty’ my life of daily pressures and responsibilities and take a few days here and there, not only am I refreshed and recharged, but it goes a long way toward preventing the need to take  sick days.

August is a traditional vacation month here and in Europe.  Whenever you choose, plan carefully and wisely for a time off that suits you and your family, thereby maximizing the health benefits and contribution to a good life.



From the Sanskrit, meaning ‘circle’, the Mandala is a spiritual and ritual symbol in Hinduism and Buddhism.   In Christianity there are many forms evocative of the Mandala; the Celtic Cross, the Rosary, the Halo, the Crown of Thorns, and the Rosy Cross.

In common use  the Mandala represents the universe, reflecting the macrocosm and the microcosm. It is  used as a practice to help focus attention, establish sacred space, and aid in meditation.

In his autobiography, Memories, Dreams, Reflections, Carl Jung wrote, “I sketched every morning in a notebook a small circular drawing….which seemed to correspond to my inner situation at the time…. Only gradually did I discover what the mandala really is….the Self, the wholeness of the personality, which if all goes well is harmonious.”  Jung believed that the urge to create mandalas emerges when we are going through intense periods of personal growth.

Jungian analyst, Marie Louise von Franz states that, “The mandala serves a conservative purpose, namely, to restore a previously existing order.  But it also serves the creative purpose of giving expression and form to something that does not yet exist, something new and unique….”

If you wish to explore the Mandala, there are many sites available on the internet.  Here is a particularly fun place to start:  I invite you to enjoy the process.


“The sun rises and sets by My power, but it is a silent operation.  It pours forth its heat at midday, silently yet with what great power.  The fog drifts in from the ocean, silently on wings of silver; the tide rises and falls, but at the bottom of the ocean where their power is generated, there is a great quietness.  The seed lies in the ground and comes forth as a mighty tree, and the whole operation of the bringing forth is a silent one….”   Silence so exquisitely described by Eva Bell Werber in The Journey With The Master; Into A Higher Consciousness (DeVorss & Co, Los Angeles, 1950).

As I sit pondering her powerful words, I wonder how many experience silence  in this simple way, especially given the constant din that accompanies daily living.

Werber continues, “Keep poised and quiet.  Much speaking and much running about does not gain for you Power.  Only by becoming still may you know Me, the Indweller of your Soul.”

What a great gift,  to just sit in silence; to be fully in the moment.  This week I invite you to create a few moments of silence for yourself; tap into its power and  feed your Soul.


Delighting in contributing to the well-being and happiness of others is the very definition of kindness; expressing the goodwill and benevolence that is such a beautiful part of our spiritual essence.

In the early 1980’s, in a Sausalito, CA restaurant, Anne Herbet wrote on a placemat, “Practice random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty.” (In 1993 she also authored a children’s book by that name.)  There is a Random Acts of Kindness Foundation,  and Random Act World Kindness Day is November 13, 2014, followed by Random Acts of Kindness Week (RAK), celebrated February 9-15, 2015.

According to research at UCLA and The University of Cambridge, when we see others helping others, it makes us feel good; inspiring us to be altruistic.  In other words, kindness is contagious!

In Judaism the mitzvah is a good deed, an act of kindness that reflects the teaching that the world is built on kindness.

I invite you to celebrate that beautiful part of your spiritual self by giving and receiving Random Acts of Kindness.

Solstice 2014

Whew! The Cosmos is vibrating.  A full moon last Friday the 13th (a rare event that does not happen again until 2049); Mercury retrograde (for an excellent analysis go to;  massive sun-spot activity; and Saturday, June 21, marks the Summer Solstice.

The Ancients paid attention to heavenly signs, noting changes in the  Moon and the Stars, as these shifts influenced agriculture, politics, and  religious/spiritual well-being.

I invite you to take a moment on Saturday, to breathe, to ground and center yourself; to acknowledge the power and beauty of the natural world.




I have never attended a Grade school or a Jr. High Promotion Ceremony.  Last Friday I went to both.   I admit to thinking it all a bit overboard.  In my experience such ‘Rites of Passage’ began with High School, no sooner.

Family and friends gathered together in the school assembly hall  to witness the 5th Grade Promotion, no caps, gowns or Pomp & Circumstance.  Speeches were given by the Principal and 5th Grade Teachers.  The students,  barely containing their nervousness,  moved flawlessly through the morning event, including singing to their audience of ardent admirers.

Balloon bouquets, leis,  flowers and cards showered the students when the ceremony was over, and cameras got a work out.

That evening on the field at the High School we gathered again to watch the 8th Grade Promotion.  An atmosphere charged with excitement; a much larger crowd.  Gowns, but no caps, Pomp & Circumstance, Pledge of Allegiance,  speeches by Principals and Students, and a stunning student musical performance, followed the well-rehearsed program to a tee.

Grand applause, raucous hooting, hollering, ringing of cow bells and the occasional blasting of air horns accompanied the presentation of each Promotion certificate.  Then the gifting of more balloon bouquets, flowers, leis and cards was followed by hundreds of Kodak moments.

I was very impressed; by the students, the teachers, the families and the events themselves.  My experience has given me a new attitude about Graduation.  I am eagerly looking forward to next year’s 8th Grade Promotion Ceremony.





I am making a left turn on a green light.  He appears suddenly in the middle of the road; going the wrong way and against a red light.  There is no way to avoid colliding.  He is on a bicycle.

I hear the heavy thud bounce down the passenger side of my car.  I stop, put my car in park, turn on the flashers (it is a really busy road), and jump out of my car.  Profound dread is filling my being; I expect he is dead.

He is upright, straddling his bicycle.  He greets me with, “Oh Maam, I am so sorry, I am so sorry.”  I start crying.   I am working to control my breathing; control my out-of-control adrenalin response.  I am stunned.  I am in shock.  I keep saying, “Are you OK?,  Are you OK?”  He says he has a little cut on his hand.  He keeps apologizing.

Passersby are asking me if I am OK.  Asking me if I need help.  Many witnessed the collision.  I just keep crying.

Then anger.  I scold the young man.  “What are you thinking?”  “You could get killed!”  He shouts at me, “…yes I could as fast as you were driving.”  He rides off.

I get in my car and continue on my way to the grocery store.  I am in a weird daze.  I can’t stop crying.  I manage to compose myself, and in some sort of adrenalin stupor get my weekly shopping done.

The stupor continues long past the drive home.  Finally, the groceries are unloaded and put away.  I am still weeping, but softly now.  I pour a glass of wine and  seek the comfort of my favorite chair.

My mornings begin with a prayer, “Guide me, lead me, direct me and protect me.”  My evening prayer is, “Thank you, for guiding me, leading me, directing me, and protecting me.”

That night, safe at home, I was overwhelmed by the  protection that extended beyond myself and blessed that young man.