Category Archives: Reflections

Introspective moments designed to support healthy interaction with God, self and others

Elusive Pleasures: Get the Feeling Back!

Standard
Elusive Pleasures: Get the Feeling Back!

How can we get our brains to release that much-needed pleasure response again?

We’ve looked at how easy it is to lose a good feeling. A simple change in sensation can derail pleasure. (If you’re just joining us, you can read part one of this series by clicking here). We’ve also discovered that our own perceptions and beliefs can contribute to pleasure loss (to review this concept, click here).

Now we’ve come to the good part! The reason you’ve come back, the reason you’re taking precious moments from your busy life to read this little blog:

How to get the feeling back!

happy found on clipart by Word

It really is important to have pleasure. How many marriages fail when a partner looks elsewhere for pleasure? It’s a common misconception to think that making a new connection with a different partner will restore pleasure. It’s only partly wrong, though. Making a new connection is essential. The different partner, well, that’s debatable!

The new connections we need are not necessarily with new people. We need to make new connections in our brains. When changes in sensation (like those sprinkler heads) result in a misfire in the pleasure response, our brains need new associations to restore pleasure. It’s neuroscience, but it’s not that complicated:

One neuron reaches out to shake hands with another.

“Pleased to meet you!”

“Likewise, charmed. Let’s meet here again.”

Most of us have heard of Pavlov’s dogs. Ivan Pavlov, a Russian physiologist around the turn of the 20th century, used dogs in his studies of the digestive system. He paired a stimulus (like ringing a bell) with food presentation. Before long, he noted the dogs began to salivate at the mere ringing of the bell, even without the aroma or visual presentation food. The ability to create purposeful connections between the digestive system and the brain became known as “classical conditioning.”

It’s old science now, but still true.

Since then, scientists have discovered much more about brains. We now know that our brains constantly learn–including how to learn better.  We also know that natural chemicals in our brains can make us feel excited, good or pleasantly satisfied.  Perhaps most relevant to our task of restoring pleasure, scientists who study the brain found that

neurons that fire together, wire together.” neuronal connections with blue light from Word clipart

This is a catchy way of saying that pairing one sensation or movement with another, repeatedly, enhances their function, and eventually, activating one automatically activates the other.

We can re-condition our brain to respond to new stimuli with a pleasurable response!

Crazy, huh!?!

But true.

Try it! Pick something that always makes you feel good. Maybe it’s an Adam Sandler movie. Maybe it’s a sensual time with your partner. Maybe it’s a big slice of Death by Chocolate cake. Now, add a new sensation or movement while you enjoy this activity every time you do it for the next month or two. For example, bring a certain pillow to place on your lap every time you watch a funny movie. You may want to try touching an area on your face during intimacy. Or, if you’re the chocolate lover, play or hum the same piece of music with each bite.

eating chocolate cake

Before long, you’ll find that when you experience the sensation you’ve added to your pleasurable activity, your brain will start sending out that pleasure response! Just picking up that pillow makes you smile. Stroking your cheek in that spot will. . . Your song on the radio will give you the feeling you’ve just had a scrumptious slice of chocolate cake!

Neuroscientists are our friends! They also research methods to enhance new brain cell connections (neuroplasticity). They’ve found that physical and brain exercises boost neuronal growth.

For this week, along with practicing the pairing we just discussed, add some physical exercise to your daily routine. It needn’t be much; just an extra walk around the block, some light resistance work, or a few extra times up and down the stairs. Do this while you’re thinking pleasurable thoughts, and your brain will have more reason to fire up those neuronal connections.

brain exercises found on Word clipart

Next week, we’ll discuss more brain exercises we can do to improve our pleasure responses–even if they’re impaired by our own erroneous beliefs. For now, though, you have plenty of things to try. Please join me in a discussion by commenting below.

  • How will you be pairing activities to restore pleasure?
  • What exercises will you add to your daily routine this week?
  • Have you found new connections that restored your pleasure, now or in the past?

-Joan

“You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy, at Your right hand there are pleasures forevermore.” Psalm 16:11, AMPC

Elusive Pleasures: Aging with Erroneous Beliefs

Standard
Elusive Pleasures: Aging with Erroneous Beliefs

 

Last week I wrote about sprinkler heads.

Why would anyone stop to read about sprinkler heads?

Because it’s really about pleasure, and adapting to changes that block our pleasure.

Maybe for you, it’s the sound of rain on the roof that triggers a pleasure response. Or perhaps you’re drawn to the beach, where the rhythmic splash of the surf and the caress of warm breezes relaxes your soul. Some prefer the mountains, with the scent of pine, and expansive views. Still others are drawn to the city, where light and movement persist. Wherever you’ve found yourself prone to relax, forget your stressors and relish the moment, I’m writing about that spot. I’m writing about our brains associating sensations (like the sound of the sprinklers) with pleasure.

Then something happens to change the sensation.

  • The sprinkler heads need replacing, and the new ones make a different sound.
  • Construction of a ten-story condominium interrupts your favorite spot at the beach.
  • A stuffy nose blocks you from the aroma of pine trees on your mountain hike.
  • The building across the street hangs a huge neon sign that blocks your view of the city.

And the pleasure is gone.

That’s what I’m writing about! We all relate to pleasure. We want it. We need it. Without it, life is drudgery.

How do we find pleasure once it’s gone?

(That’s why you’re reading it.)

Hang with me, for this five-part series will get you there.

Today, I’m going to share with you a little more in depth about an obstacle I’m facing that is more challenging than changing sprinkler heads. It’s an obstacle that has been steadily crimping my pleasure for several years now, and one that I think many of you can relate to:

Elusive Pleasures: Aging with Erroneous Beliefs

I was going to knock around the tennis ball with my husband well into my 70’s. I was going to be that 80-year old still running the 5-K. I was going to dance in sexy high-heels well into my 90’s. I was going to lift bags of potting soil and bend over to tend the garden perhaps to 100.

Something ordinary and un-interesting cut off those pleasures well before their time: aging. In this aging body, they’ve labeled it many things: fibromyalgia (which I called the boogie monster in this article), arthritis, bone spurs, bulging discs and even a non-bony union of the subtalar joint. (Geez!) Whatever they’ve called it, it’s been one thing after another, and it’s always left me with a choice between:

getting to do the active things I love           or

check feeling good enough to function in daily responsibilities.

I fought it for a while. When my right shoulder hurt all the time, I taught my left arm to swing the racket. Then my left shoulder hurt. With both shoulders, a hip, low back and ankle hurting, I finally left the tennis court.

gif funny tennis game over aging pleasure
Credit senorgifcom

 

 

Eventually, even less strenuous activities like ballroom dance, yoga, biking, walking and gardening produced pain, which crowded out the pleasure.

For many people, this is “just a part of aging.” They don’t talk much about it. They just don’t do as much as they used to do.

Does aging necessarily mean life without pleasure? Is aging a slow process of peeling back the layers of pleasure until, at last, we’re ready to say goodbye to this cruel world?

I stepped back to think on this.

Elusive Pleasures: Aging with Erroneous Beliefs Be sure to read this second in a five-part series designed to help you restore pleasue after losing it! This is not just for the aging, it is for anyone who is experiencing a loss of pleasure!

(Selah)

What was it about that vision (of being the active older person) that gave me pleasure?

Was the pleasure response from running, playing tennis, dancing, yoga, biking, walking and gardening from their associated sensations? Was it from the pounding of my joints on the pavement? Was it from the sweat rolling down my face as I darted side to side across the clay to reach the yellow ball? Was it from seeing the same houses as I biked around our neighborhood day after day? Was it from the gentle breeze on an evening walk, or the impression of the soil between my gloved hands as I planted a new flower in the yard?

Or could that pleasure response also come from something inside? Something I perceived or believed?

When I thought about the pleasure response that came from being an accomplished, active senior, it wasn’t really about the sound, or the scent, or the tactile input. What was it, then?

Could it have been pride of achievement, of being better-than-average?

Hmmm.

I admit I’ve enjoyed that feeling since childhood. As the fourth of six children, affirmation and attention came from being the smart one, the honor roll student and the fastest in relay races. I could recite the alphabet before my school-aged brother when I was two years old. I could out-spell all of my older siblings by the time I was eight. I did algebra from my brother’s 9th grade textbook when I was ten, and, by the time I was thirteen, I could cook, clean and budget better than my mother.

Maybe so, then. Maybe I’ve held an erroneous belief all these years, and didn’t ever notice it.

If aging—and its associated decrease in good sensations—continues this way (as it likely will), then where can pleasure be found, if not from the feeling of being better-than-average?

(It never should have been from feeling better-than-average in the first place, but that is beside the point!)

My experience with aging is just one example of how loss of pleasure can be related not only to a change in physical sensation but also to underlying perceptions or beliefs.

Maybe you had to stop and examine yourself, too. Maybe a challenge you faced persisted to the point that you had to look deeper into yourself to question why you struggled to adapt to your loss. Maybe you didn’t even realize you held erroneous perceptions or beliefs, until you had to stop and examine the matter.

Yet, here we are: a change in sensation, a change in some bodily function, a change in something beyond our control, a change that keeps us from achieving that which we believed would make us feel better– and pleasure eludes us.

What can be done?

How can we get our brains to release that much-needed pleasure response again?

That’s where we’ll pick up next week.

(Oh, yes, you have to wait a week!)

In the meantime, I hope you’ll join this conversation by commenting below (in orange, where its says “Leave a comment.” What changes in sensations, or functions, or other losses seem to rob you of the pleasure response in your brain? What underlying perceptions or beliefs have you identified in between your ears?

-Joan

“You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy, at Your right hand there are pleasures forevermore.” Psalm 16:11, AMPC

 

Elusive Pleasures: Sprinklers in the Garden of Life

Standard
Elusive Pleasures: Sprinklers in the Garden of Life

Comfortably settling into my spot on the back porch for Sunday morning coffee, I noticed it.

It didn’t feel right. It seemed empty. What was it?

The coffee was its usual perfect color, aroma and taste. The cushions and pillows cradled and supported me as always; the velvety plum-colored pillow (brought out from indoors) fit perfectly on my lap, softly snuggling my coffee mug between my savoring sips. The garden sported more than its usual splendor of blooms. The squirrel did its ritual leap from the tree to reach the squirrel-proof bird feeder, where it cleverly clung to the wire mesh and bounced to get the seeds to fall out. Birdsong filled the air, announcing another beautiful day forthcoming, while the birds awaited their turn at the feeder. The sprinklers were on (I timed them to come on just as I get there so I can enjoy their rhythmical dance across the lawn).

Yet my usual Sunday-morning-on-the-back-porch-peaceful feeling eluded me. What was it? Read the rest of this entry

Diversity

Standard

it burst forth from rock, high in the mountains-

its journey before unseen.

now respendent with light, with movement,

wind catching droplets,

splaying out upon the sky

in joyful play.

then down.

down the jagged crests,

tracing o’er all crevices and round mossy stones,

giving in to grand descent,

trusting powers drawing on its way.

to go, where least resistance begs,

unrelenting,

e’re to make its journey

as it may.

til when upon a jutting cliff,

a solid mass,

blockade,

its forces split.

“Which way?”

the stream,

it wonders,

droplets crash and turn in wild careen,

hesitating e’re so briefly,

then to choose.

or be chosen.

diverse paths from hence-

bifurcating,

two where once was one.

Yet on, no stopping,

naught to bring them back,

or time to pause in retrospection.

down, they travel, each its separate way.

the two,

now different,

lost to what once was.

yet

both-

still valuable with richness unsurpassed.

both-

bringing life and nourishment to all they touch.

both-

essentially the same, though drawn in diverse ways.

until at last

they reach the sea.

again

the two are one

in unity.

the world,

enfolded,

molded,

cleansed and moistened-

life

entrusted

here

so lovingly.

image

-Joan T Warren

This free-style prose flowed from my mind and fingertips tonight as thoughts I’ve been pondering for months–thoughts of sadness and turmoil over our polarization as a country, which is torn between left and right political views and personalities, thoughts of the hope for unity and love rising up, embracing diversity, thoughts of value and respect for all living things, born and unborn, bound and free, rich and poor, faithful and disdainful, wild and tame–all came together in the imagery of the water cycle, in what I perceive to be a love-gift from our maker.

May we care for our planet, and may we care for each other: Republican and Democrat, Independent, Green, Black, Blue, Whatever. May we care for each other whether behind walls or by reaching out. May we care for each other whether we feel a need to set personal boundaries and draw lines or whether we feel we’ve been ostracized, abused or neglected by someone’s boundaries or lines. May we care for each other whether worried about losing rights for equality and choice or to bear arms. May we care for each other whether we trace our ancestral culture to Isaac or Ishmael, to Sitting Bull, Dalai Lama, Peter the Great or Henry the 8th. May we do so without having to face a common foe threatening our existence, forcing us to pull together to fight it. May we care for each other, period.

May we care, lovingly.

Daily Prompt: Lovingly

 

 

Faulty Fault Lines–When Bad Things Happen to Little People

Standard

RE-Posting an oldie but goodie, from 2013:

Janie smiled through her tears and put her arms around Stella. “How do you do it, Stella? You always seem to find a way to help me put things in perspective when I get like this. I wish I had your …

Source: Faulty Fault Lines–When Bad Things Happen to Little People

stick around

Standard

Reblogging an anti-suicide poem I wrote a while back. It used to be laid out better on the screen. Formatting, where did you go? Click through to the original for the cool Vimeo that accompanies. . . and stick around!

fifteen

heading up the street

toward heavy traffic

stroller with baby inside

thinking it should end right here

for her, for me,

end the suffering

what if it fails

what if only  one of us die…

Source: stick around

How to Write With a Whip

Standard

Ever get caught up in frustration that there’s just not enough time to write?

Between working full time, homemaking, investigating information we need to write, and a few other significant endeavors, like parenting, many aspiring writers feel they’ve been “tied to the whipping post!”

 

(Here you may imagine I inserted a video of the Allman Brothes playing the song, “Whipping Post.” Or, you can go to You Tube yourself, leaving me no copyright issues.)

Tired of feeling whipped? Let’s take that WHIP in hand, turn it around, and get cracking!

First, let’s clearly identify the factors that WHIP us, ie., detract from our writing time:

W is for working! While some writers are fully financed by someone or something, most of us have to work full-time to keep that ever-so-important roof over our heads and food in our bellies! Read the rest of this entry

Child Mental Health Day

Standard

Remember twirling around on the swing set out back? Tummy on the swing, arms and legs hanging down,  you’d walk in circles to wind the suspended chains around one another, like a rubber band wound up to fly a toy plane, and then lift your feet up, and zoom! Off you’d spin, around and around again, until the swing came to a brief suspension and then spun the other way. Read the rest of this entry

Take Care of Your Heart

Standard

All this talk about compassion and heart! Now it’s time for a quick word about your physical heart.

 

Click to learn more

Click to learn more

 

February is American Heart Month! How can we reach out to the world with compassionate hearts if our tickers aren’t working well?

Here are a few tips from Healthiest Weight Florida Initiative, to achieve and maintain a healthy heart:

  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Quit smoking
  • Be active at least 30–60 minutes a day
  • Make an appointment for an annual check up
  • Monitor existing health conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol
  • Practice effective stress management
  • Reduce salt intake (sodium)
  • Eat at least five to seven servings of fruits and vegetables every day

I hope you’ll join me, keep tickin’ and spread the good thoughts!

Beating Heart

 

©Joan T Warren

http://www.floridahealth.gov/newsroom/2015/02/020315-heart-health.html

http://www.healthiestweightflorida.com/

 

 

Doctor’s Recommendation

Status

Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.

Dr. Seuss

(The Lorax)

Compassion: Left and Right

Standard

Marge lay exhausted at the end of a long day, her eyes puffy from too many tears. It has been an emotional day for her. As she lay on the sofa catching a quick break, an ear out for when her son’s trach needs suctioning, she becomes acutely aware that Read the rest of this entry

No Need for Eyes to See This

Standard

This morning my granddaughter put on How to Train Your Dragon.  Again.

I sat nearby, reading and thinking, writing a bit, occasionally paying slight attention to the movie.

“In centuries of Vikings, I’m the first one who wouldn’t kill a dragon,” Hiccup sulked to Astrid. Feeling the failure of not living up to his culture’s expectations, feeling the sting of disappointing his father, Hiccup doubted himself. Astrid saw beyond this temporary setback:

“Yeah, the first one who was right.”

 

Hiccup had decided to spare the dragon when he looked into its eyes and realized, “He was just as afraid as I was.” Hiccup saw with the eyes of his heart.

His compassion, as it turned out, changed everything. It changed his father. It changed his village. It changed dragons. It changed him.

We like to think we are far more advanced than the world of Vikings and dragons. But are we?

Do we see with the eyes of our hearts?

Do we find the good?

image

©Joan T. Warren

Hang on. Or, Let go.

Standard

image
 

Walking out from yoga class tonight, I stopped. A beautiful clutch of autumn leaves held on, unashamed to be the last among all that was gray and dismal.

It is January, in North Florida.

 

I thought of all the times that I’ve heard people say, “Hang on. . . just hang on.”
 
I thought of all the times I’ve heard people say, “Let go. . . just let go and let God.”
 
I thought about how many times it’s been good to hold on, and how many times it’s been good to let go.
 
I thought about the years I struggled, trying so hard to hold on, or trying so hard to let go. Because they said so.
 
Now, at peace. . . with letting go. . . with holding on. At peace with wherever a person is in that process.
 
When it is time to let go, you will know it, and you will be able to let go. When is time for you to hold on, you will know it, and you will be able to hold on.

So hold on, or let go.

Namaste,  salmon leaves of January.

Namaste, Tree Maker.

Namaste, friends.

©Joan T. Warren

In a Blink

Standard

IMG_3751She came into this world

and they wrapped her in pink:

A present from God,

with a smile and a wink–

Read the rest of this entry

Four-Dimensional Thinking: 2014 Review, and More!

Standard

You may have heard of three dimensional thinking; considering past, present and future. As we close out 2014, and welcome the new year, I’d like to propose we consider not just 3-D thinking, but four dimensional thinking as well.

Read the rest of this entry

Passing

Standard

Untimely for we who stay,

Torn in sore lament–

Time and distance

Ne’er to be breached again;

Not from our doing.

Resigned unto eternity

Or waiting to be joined again Read the rest of this entry

Dark Chocolate to my Soul

Standard

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

First smile from my baby~

Fingertips at my back~

Purple hued sunsets o’er mountain or sea.

A word fitly spoken~

Laughing toddlers at play~

Secret gifts sent before there’s a plea.

Read the rest of this entry

But I Don’t Wanna Go On a ‘Bencher!

Standard
But I Don’t Wanna Go On a ‘Bencher!

Adventure.

There’s so much in a word. What’s your take on the word adventure?

Some say it’s about taking a risk, trying something new, or exploring new territory.

Some say life’s an adventure.

Here’s a little story, based on a real episode, involving adventure:

They passed the turn toward home, and Missy, though only three, knew they had missed it. “Wher’re we goin’?”

“We’re going on an adventure!,” Nana proffered, in her most excited tone.

“But I don’t wanna go on a ‘bencher! I want my mommy!”

Nana drew in a breath and considered her response. She knew the meltdown would only last a few minutes, but it broke her heart every time. She knew, by now–by the tone of Missy’s voice, the rate of her breathing, the look on her face–whether she was ready for an explanation, or comfort, or distraction, or whether words would only make it worse. This time she chose a brief explanation, followed by a time of respite for Missy to regain her composure. When the time was right, Nana brought in the highlights of the upcoming trip.

“We’re going to Tampa, to see Cousin Stevie, play in the pool, and visit a place with lots of pretty fish to see!”

“Stevie? Yay, Stevie! I miss him so much!”

Missy cheered up. The rest of the trip she counted cows and horses on the hillside, “loved” her new bedroom, devoured popsicles at the pool and hung on Cousin Stevie all through the exciting trip through the aquarium. It ended too soon.

Along the way

Along the way

One Cool Chick

One Cool Chick

Checking out the Giant Mr. Grouper with "Cousin Stevie"

Checking out Giant Mr. Grouper with “Cousin Stevie”

On the ride back home, Missy’s love for adventure blossomed.

“I like Tampa. When can we go on another ‘bencher, Nana?”

Lookin' for Adventure!

Lookin’ for Adventure!

No matter the level of risk involved, all adventures are a little scary. We can’t always have our mommies with us. Sometimes we get stuck and afraid of stepping out. Sometimes outside forces launch us on adventures we’re not so sure we want to go on. When this happens, we can take time to process it, like Missy did, and end up embracing the experience. If we look for the good, there’s always something to gain. . . eventually.

With risks weighed against benefits, we can usually make good choices about our adventures in life.

That’s my take on adventures for today. What’s yours? Have you a little story of adventure you can share? It’s your turn now!

Joan T. Warren

With appreciation for this week’s WordPress Prompt.