It’s All In Our Heads

First Toe Shoes
First Toe Shoes

“Studies have shown that 90% of error in thinking is due to error in perception. If you can change your perception, you can change your emotion and this can lead to new ideas. –Edward de Bono

“If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is, infinite. –William Blake

“There is no truth. There is only perception.” –Gustave Flaubert

Do you do what I do? Do you get ideas in your head about your circumstances and think they’re written in stone, that they can’t change? I do that all the time.

Recently a wisp of an idea flittered through my head during my meditation. It was fleeting like smoke, but tendrils of it remained. The next day more tendrils stuck and after a few days of this, I understood the full blown idea. I’d been holding on to thoughts about my life circumstances that weren’t true.

Wow. What an idea. In my mind I’d accepted certain “truths” about my life, my talents, and my chances for success. I’d done it so much that the realization was a little bit like a splash of cold water in the face.

My husband and I have been discussing a move to another state for quite some time. In my mind certain steps had to take place before we could even consider making such a move. But on that particular morning when all the tendrils coalesced, I knew that the “truth” was that I was the thing blocking the fulfillment of that dream. We could have been living in our new home long ago, if I hadn’t put a kibosh on it by thinking that there were obstacles in the way.

Let me put it another way. If I’d kept the picture of what I wanted in my mind, and not thought of anything else, the Universe would have conspired for me and we’d be living in our new home by now.

I’m reminded of a story about Walt Disney. He saw Disneyland completed in his head long before the first shovel hit the ground. As he was struggling to make his dream come true, someone said to him something like, “Since it’s so hard, why don’t you give up. Maybe it’s not meant to be”, to which he said. “It already exists in my mind.” He also said, “If you can dream it, you can do it.” As we all know, not only Disneyland, but Disney World both exist and millions of people have fun with their families every year.

So, I’ve decided that I’ve got to change my mind about limitations, and believe that I can do what someone else might call impossible.

This applies not only to the move my husband and I want to make, but to other things as well. Like finding an audience for my books. Other artists have done it. They wanted to be writers, painters, dancers and just kept dreaming that they would be able to do what they loved and make a success of it. They dreamed they’d find people who believed in them. Little by little it happened. In the end, they got to live the life they wanted. Those are the people we look up to, and want to emulate.

One of my greatest inspirations in this regard, is my youngest niece. Since the age of three, she’s wanted to be a ballet dancer. That’s not an easy profession. It takes years of hard work and training with no guarantee that you’ll be able to get hired. She not only wants to be a ballet dancer, she wants to do it in Paris!

Her parents are very supportive and never tell her to make a back-up plan. In fact they moved the family to a city where she can get the best training, and possibilities for auditions. Every once in a while when she complains about missing something else that might be fun, my sister will say to her, “Are you sure this is what you want to do? Because if you don’t, you can stop and do something else.” So far after nine years, she still loves dancing more than anything else. To help her improve the vision of her dreams, she has posters of Paris on her walls, she’s taking French in school; she’s going all out to think only of seeing the life she wants to live.

Now that I’m breaking down some of those old walls in my thinking that have kept me from my dreams, I’m visualizing the life I want to live. And one of the things I’m visualizing is going to Paris to watch my niece dance and while I’m there having book signings and speaking engagements about my writing process.

What dreams are you blocking?

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2014

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Empathy is Good

Earth from the Moon
Earth from the Moon

“We can cultivate empathy throughout our lives and use it as a radical force for social transformation.” Roman Krznaric

Almost all my life I thought being empathic was a curse. I’m deeply affected by what’s going on around me, and by what people around me are feeling. If you’re not a highly empathic person you may not understand what it’s like for those of us who are. Whenever I go out in public, I’m like a magnet. I pick up the feelings of those around me. When I was younger, I didn’t understand why my happy mood would suddenly turn to anger, or fear, or sadness. It was only when I was a little bit older that I realized that the feelings of those around me were attaching themselves to me. Often times my sudden mood swings had nothing to do with my own emotions.

Because I was an emotion magnet, I preferred to stay at home quiet and secure within my own family unit. School, church and going shopping were torturous experiences for me. I’d cry at movies, and feel the pretend injuries of the characters. When I was given a reading or song to sing at church or school, I’d often cry at the poignancy of the piece. Maybe people thought I was a wimpy girl. Good thing I was a girl, because it’s okay if you’re a girl and you have empathy, but it’s not okay for boys. I think that’s sad.

Over the years as I started to do deep spiritual work, practicing meditation and Reiki, I learned how to protect myself from other people’s emotions. When I did that I was able to see that some people shut themselves into cocoons to protect themselves. Maybe they are empathetic too. But some people are so disconnected from their feelings that they have become sociopathic. They can’t see or feel what is happening to the people around them. And frankly they don’t care. They don’t want to understand what it’s like to live another person’s life, as long as theirs is comfortable. It seems like there are a great many people like that in the world right now who fit that description. That makes me sad, because perhaps they started out with a large amount of empathy but got scared and chose to protect themselves.

It takes work to remain open to the feelings of others. Believe me there are times when I wish I could shut myself in a cocoon and not know the terrible things that are going on in the world. But that doesn’t help make a change for the better.

I’m a big believer in energy fields. One thing I can do is to send out positive energy to people in other parts of the world who are hurting. I’ve mentioned the Global Coherence Initiative in previous posts. That organization is all about focusing our collective energy toward a troubled place in the world. Meditation, Reiki, prayer, sending good thoughts are all ways you can send positive energy into the world. It may not always look like the positive energy is helping, but over time, it does.

Another way is to take action and actually do something. This may sound lame to you, but one of the reasons I continue to teach theatre classes, is because I like helping students open up to new abilities and talents. Theatre is an excellent way to open your empathy centers. You must identify with a character to be able to play her well.

I read about a study a few years back that measured how witnessing acts of violence or kindness affected the watcher. They found that witnessing something that’s happening to someone else causes us to feel as if it’s happening to us. I wish I could give you the link for the study, but it was so long ago I don’t have access to it any longer. It’s studies of this kind that prove why theatre, movies and TV are so powerful. It’s also one of the reasons I’m so excited that one of the most popular genres, Super Hero movies, are digging deeper into the struggles each hero goes through before they are able to take on the mantle of a true super hero. What makes them heroes is the fact that they’re willing to face their demons. It’s not just the fact that they have super powers, it’s the inner work they’re willing to do that helps them identify the suffering of others. They are able to empathize with the people they are trying to help.

The thing I liked about the article that if found on Facebook, “Six Habits of Highly Empathic People” by Roman Krznaric was his assertion that we can learn to be more empathetic. It just takes practice. The article was published almost two years ago, but I think it’s just as relevant as the day it was published. Maybe more so. There is a link on the site to a short test to help you see how empathetic you are. If you find your not very empathetic, don’t panic. You can become more so with practice.

I wasn’t surprised to find I rated very high on the empathy scale. I’m also very glad that I no longer feel like being empathic is a curse. On the contrary, it’s a huge blessing.

Lucinda Sage-MIdgorden © 2014

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Discipline to Success

Journal and candle
Journal and candle

“Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment.” –Jim Rohn

“No matter how old you are now, you are never too young or too old for success or going after what you want.” –Pablo

Last Friday I got to go hear J. A. Jance speak about her writing process. She comes to Southern Arizona, periodically, because she used to live about 20 minutes away from my home. The Joanna Brady series of mysteries take place in and around Bisbee, Arizona where Ms. Jance grew up. She includes the actual names of streets, towns and businesses in her books, which makes for fun reading.

Since I’m a new writer, and I’ve read some of her books, I was excited to hear what she had to say about her process.

One of the first things she shared with us was how she came to use J. A. Jance as her pen name. When she was about to publish her first book, her publisher suggested she use her initials to help generate more sales, because a mystery written by Judith Ann Jance didn’t have the same mystique as one written by J. A. Jance. She also quipped that because of her name, her books are on the shelf right next to P. D. James, another woman who writes mysteries. Mysteries are supposed to be the exclusive genre of men, you see. Hah! (I like P. D. James work too.) Writers do need to consider what name to use when they publish, so hearing about the reasons for the adoption of her pen name was interesting. Since I’m writing books about women, I don’t feel the need to use a pseudonym. It’s all a matter of name branding to match your genre.

The next thing she told us was about her process of writing. Recently, a writer friend of mine told me about three styles of writers, plotters, pantsers, and puzzlers. I was delighted to find out that J. A. Jance is a pantser. She crinkled her nose when describing her experience in middle school when her teacher tried to teach her how to create an outline. The experience was so abhorrent to her that she doesn’t use an outline for her books, or her talks. We all laughed at that. I felt oddly connected to her when she said she gets an idea for a book and just starts writing. Me too!

Then she told us about several personal experiences and how she used them in her J. P. Beaumont and Joanna Brady books. It’s funny how our brains store away fragments that for one reason or another stay with us in vivid detail. Personal experiences are a gold mine for a writer.There are so many things in my first novel that are inspired by my real life that it could almost be a memoir.

I could really relate to her story of attempting to enroll in a creative writing class when she attended the University of Arizona in the 60s. The instructor turned her away because as he said, “Only men can be writers”. I don’t know why he said that when some of the most famous and enduring books that survive today were written by women. Okay, they had to publish under men’s names at first, but that doesn’t alter the fact that, Jane Austen, Charlotte and Emily Bronté and George Eliot, who was a woman, all wrote classic novels that are still read and studied today. I could relate to her experience, since in the mid-70s, only a few years later, I faced discrimination because I was a woman in a “man’s” area of study. It’s nice to find that a New York Times best selling author and I have several things in common.

The thing that impressed me the most about her was her determination to become a writer against all odds. She never gave up writing, even after a bitter divorce from an alcoholic writer. Even though she had to work full-time to support herself and her children, she found time to write. Eventually, she got to quit her job and follow her bliss. She was willing to put in the effort to make her dream come true.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what J. A. Jance said on Friday, and comparing it to what I’ve learned writing my first novel. I think that choosing to make what you’re passionate about a priority every day, even if you only get to spend a relatively short amount of time on it, is the key to success. It’s the continued effort that builds the road, the house, the city, the business, the painting, or the book. Even if it takes a long time to do it, dedicated discipline eventually pays off. That’s what impressed me about J. A. Jance. She’s a disciplined writer, and that’s why she sells so many books.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2014

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Dilemma

Hypatia, Greek Alexandrian Philosopher
Hypatia, Greek Alexandrian Philosopher

“Hold yourself responsible for a higher standard than anybody expects of you. Never excuse yourself.” ― Henry Ward Beecher

“Have the courage to say no. Have the courage to face the truth. Do the right thing because it is right. These are the magic keys to living your life with integrity.” ― W. Clement Stone

“Everyone may not be good, but there’s always something good in everyone. Never judge anyone shortly because every saint has a past and every sinner has a future.” ― Oscar Wilde

“In fact men will fight for a superstition quite as quickly as for a living truth – often more so, since a superstition is so intangible you cannot get at it to refute it, but truth is a point of view, and so is changeable.” –Hypatia

Lately I’ve been struggling with something and I don’t quite know how to resolve my feelings, or what action to take. Actually this is not a new struggle, but it’s resurfaced recently because of all the anti-women comments, attitudes, and events that have been taking place around the globe. We seem to be in a new era of witch-hunts, and women are being blamed for all the turmoil that’s going on in the world.

When some new attempt to curtail women’s rights occurs, I go through a kaleidoscope of emotions. Rage is the first thing I feel. What makes men think they can trample all over our rights, or accuse us of provoking them to rape us! Or as a guy who made a silly video I saw on Facebook said, “When dealing with a woman, you have to assume they are, on a scale of 1 to 10, a 4 on the crazy scale.” I wanted to yell at him and say, “You’re a 10 on the crazy scale if you think all women are a little bit crazy!” Just because he hasn’t taken the time to create a bridge of communication with women who have a different way of approaching the world, he thinks we’re crazy! Ahhhhh! How lazy and entitled can you get!

Okay, I have to take a break from my rage here to say that I have lots of wonderful men in my life. My first B.A. was in religious studies. I was the only woman in the program. Most of my fellow students were fantastic. I learned so much from them. I had a wonderful father, who was understanding and deeply spiritual. My husband is fantastic, my brother and brothers-in-law are all also great, as is my father-in-law. In fact, I haven’t met many men that I would call b-heads. However, when another woman has to suffer at the hands of men, I feel it like it’s happening to me, and rage comes bubbling to the surface.

The other day I saw a story about a football player who supposedly beat his girl friend unconscious in an elevator. The video only showed him pulling her out of the elevator like a sack of potatoes and laying her on the floor outside it. Jon Stewart had a whole segment on the injustice of that player getting suspended from playing two or three games for the incident, when if he’d been caught smoking pot, or some other violation of his contract, he’d have been suspended for many more games. What’s up with that? My rage came to the surface again. It’s okay to be violent toward women? But if a woman defends herself from a violent man, she’s locked away for a very long time? Again I say Ahhhh!

I knew that I wanted to write about this subject then. It had been coming up for me in the books I was reading, in the new book I’ve started writing, which deals partly with women’s suffrage. And, of course, women’s rights has been coming up in the news over and over again of late. Yet, how do I write something that will add positive energy to women’s rights rather than adding to the violence and disrespect? Two things came to mind. First, we women must find our power and stand up to the bullies. Second, we must look past men’s fear, and refusal to understand us to see the goodness within them.

The first one, finding our power and not backing down, might be a hard one for some of us. We have centuries of oppression to overcome. During all that time, women have developed certain behaviors and attitudes just to survive. We’ve had to find work arounds to accomplish the things we’ve wanted to do with our lives. Often times women who’ve displayed too much power, have been killed because they had the audacity to claim their power. I could name hundreds of women I’ve learned about over the years who’ve been killed because they violated the unwritten code that women are the weaker sex, but it would make this blog entry much too long.

Years ago I read a fantastic book called, The Chalice and the Blade, by Riane Eisler It’s a non-fiction book about archeological evidence that shows that pre-historic cultures had a female orientation. Ancient people worshiped the Goddess, women had vital leadership roles in their communities, and life was almost entirely free of war. So what happened?

I’ve asked myself, over and over throughout the years, what is it about women that makes men quake in their boots and feel the need to put us in our place or expunge our ideas? Why do they blame us for their lust, or need for control? The only thing I can come up with is that at some core level there is something about us they fear.

The thing is, when we feel fear about something, it’s usually an indictor that there is an issue or situation to which we need to pay attention. And that brings me to the second point I want to make. Some men, and even some women are afraid of women and men having an equal say in the changes we must make to sustain life in the world. Those of us who are awake must do what we can to turn the tide of intolerance in all it’s ugly forms.

The best ways we can help make the change, is to make reasoned, well thought out arguments. Screaming and complaining won’t help. This is no time to lay down and moan that the world is going to hell in a hand basket.

We need to be persistent in asking, “What are you afraid of?” and not stop asking until fearful people stop and think. The issues we’re dealing with right now have come up over and over again. Each time they arise, we heal aspects of them, but they won’t go away completely until we’ve healed them completely.

I’m asking, what is it you’re afraid of? What is your fear trying to teach you? Only by facing our fears can we make this world a better place in which to live.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2014

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