Friday, July 19, 2019

The Joy of Removing Obstacles! - #94

I'm still peeking into The Aware Athlete for inspiration. The latest phrase that caught my attention: REMOVING OBSTACLES.

This seems like the secret to accomplishing any goal.  

Right now my goal is to get as many chapters in my memoir about my experience in Freudian psychoanalysis revised before the end of July. 

The obstacle this morning was the need to spend time composing a blog post. So I'm going to go around this block (pun intended) and make a short post. In doing this I have effectively removed an obstacle. What obstacles do you need to remove? Please let me know!

Thanks for exploring the mystery - Nicky Mendenhall

CLUE: Eat raspberries - they are still good! Or if you prefer - strawberries! I know one of my readers doesn't like raspberries!

Image: I don't know if the empty phenomena referred to in the image is an obstacle. What do you think?

Friday, July 12, 2019

How Much Does Your Head Weigh?- #93

For a while, walking was difficult and painful. Now when I walk, mostly without problems, I try to concentrate on keeping my head from jutting forward.

According to Scott Forrester, the way we move reflects our whole self. We display our emotional, physical, and mental habits when we are moving.

If my head is habitually jutted forward, a habit I'm working to change, I wonder is it an outward sign of my tendency to push and rush in order to get things settled and decided? Probably.

Much of our daily life is spent in the forward position which is not good for our posture. Please join me as I ramp my head back, stand up straight and feel tall. We can also sit up straight and avoid slumping.

Scott might tell you your head weighs between ten and eleven pounds, more than his book The Aware Athlete. What can people tell you when they see you move? What do you notice about how others move? Watch and see what people do with their heads. Please let me know in comment section or an email.

Thanks for exploring the mystery - Nicky Mendenhall

CLUE: Really watch how others move. Do most people look at ease? What can you learn about yourself by seeing how others move?

Image: I love shadow pictures especially when my head looks like a bowling ball!

Friday, July 5, 2019

How Do You Find Reality? - #92

"It is in learning to focus on what can truly be instead of the insecurities that take our attention away that builds us up."

Another gem from Scott Forrester's book, The Aware Athlete.

My paraphrase: When I pay attention to reality (look at facts not feelings, how things really are, not how I wish they were), I will become more confident. I will be able to trust myself.

The hard part is stripping away mistaken notions so we can see reality. In the comment section Scott wrote about the difficulty of seeing the elusive obvious. It occurs to me that the elusive obvious is reality.

I woke up early yesterday eager to go for my walk. My feet felt tired. I didn't wear the right shoes for Tai Chi Balance class on Tuesday. This is the reality, the facts of what happened. My mistaken notion is that I should always push myself. The elusive obvious: I need to give my feet a break today and not go for my forest bath like I planned.

When do you avoid reality? Do you trust yourself? Does it make sense to you that the elusive obvious is reality? I'm very curious about your reality! Please email me. If you don't hear back from me, assume that your message didn't go through and try again! Blogger is not as reliable as I wish it were but that is the reality!

CLUE: We are over half way through 2019. Did you have ideas of what you wanted to accomplish this year? Are you on schedule? Are there projects for the next six months that need attention? I really want to have the chapter revisions for my memoir completed by December 31. 

Thanks for exploring the mystery - Nicky Mendenhall

Image: A favorite photo of mine that I received (as opposed to taking) six years ago. How can it be a half dozen years since I was given this gift? 

Friday, June 28, 2019

Keeping An Open Mind - #91

An open mind is a source of potential energy.

On Wednesday, I asked our chef Sarah from Friend That Cooks where I could find the caper dill sauce in the frig. 

Sarah replied: "It is in the jar I marked caper dill sauce." 

There was a jar to the left of the marked jar that was the container  she usually puts caper dill sauce in and it looked a lot like caper dill sauce. Since this is the container where she had always put the caper dill sauce in the past, I believed it must be there now, so I asked one more time: "Where is the caper dill sauce?" 

She said patiently: "It's in the jar marked caper dill sauce."

After more exchanges, during which my voice increased in volume, as if Sarah didn't speak English and if I spoke louder she would suddenly understand, my mind finally opened! The caper dill sauce was in the jar labeled caper dill sauce!  

Initially my mind was a closed mind, which Scott Forrester in The Aware Athlete, notes is similar to a battery on a shelf that never gets used.

Do you have an open mind?  Do expectations have the effect of closing your mind? My goal is to have expanded awareness and interested curiosity - the suggestions left in the comments by Anon last week.

CLUE: Use insect repellent when you go out for a walk. The mosquitoes are plentiful and the few bites I have received swelled, were bright red, and itched like crazy!

Thanks for exploring the mystery - Nicky Mendenhall

Image: I love fountains! This could be anywhere in the world which is to say I don't remember where I received the photo.

Friday, June 21, 2019

My Challenge of Sensing and Feeling - #90

Join me in contemplating the following sentences:  

"Sense and feel your innate ability without letting conflicting thoughts interfere. When you do this, you are ready to release some of your potential.  Can you see how effort gets in the way of assuming a proper standing position? No matter how much muscular tension we put into trying to stand well, it is immersion in the process of sensing and feeling that helps us to release energy efficiently, not the effort to try harder that brings us close bit by bit to the ideal of standing." The Aware Athlete  

Since May 28th, I've been attending Tai Chi for Balance classes where I practice banishing the conflicting thoughts referenced above. Thoughts that pop up in my head. Notions like: "I can't do this!" or "I will never remember this." In the past when I practiced Tai Chi, these types of thoughts interfered. I don't want that to happen again. 

It's interesting, if some one tells me to try harder, I can easily do that. However, if I'm told to sense and feel, I want to give up. I think: I don't know how! I'm learning that in order to sense and feel, slowing down is required. I need to develop gentle trust in myself.

Please let me know if you have ideas for how to manage conflicting thoughts. Do you ever encounter negativity when you try to learn a new skill or way of being? How do you manage your inner dialogue? Do you have the ability to sense and feel bodily sensations? How did you learn? What do you fear would happen if you slowed down?

Thank you for exploring the mystery - Nicky Mendenhall

CLUE: Open the dictionary in the middle section and pick a word to think about for a day or two. Perhaps say it out loud. It can be a new word or one you love. When I opened my paperback Random House Webster's Dictionary of American English (that I purchased from Half Price Books because I was advised real writers need to have a paperback dictionary on their desks), I found the word horizon. I remember how my Dad sat in his aluminum web folding chair and gazed over the fields towards the horizon. He knew exactly where the sun would set based on the season. He didn't want any darn mountains in his way! I will look for ways to use the word horizon in the next few days. The word has already brought me pleasure. Please let me know what word you choose and what associations you have.

IMAGE: This was the view from my room when I attended a workshop in New Zealand last December. It was beautiful!

Friday, June 14, 2019

Repeat After Me - #89

"Every day in every way I am getting better and better."

Have you heard similar sayings in the past? I have. Frankly, I used to turn up my nose at words like this. But when Scott Forrester, in The Aware Athlete, describes the use of "auto suggestion," with phrases like this, I am tempted to give it a try. 

He says if you give voice to this phrase at dawn's early light and then again at the dimming of the sun in a focused, relaxed, accepting manner, you will be moving toward the elimination of conflicting thoughts that interfere with releasing your potential. (My paraphrase of page 236)

The psychoanalytical literature in which I've been swimming is convoluted in ways that match my paraphrase. I believe I've been infected. Let me assure you that Scott has not. If you can't understand my language, please buy his book. You won't be sorry.

Similar to this idea of focusing on the possible, I've been trying to celebrate progress when it happens. On Wednesday I attended a Tai Chi Balance class, an Active Adults class, and went for a short walk all without pain. I'm celebrating because six months ago, I wouldn't  have had been able to do this! Thursday I went for a two mile walk! Friday morning I have a very tight hamstring but I can stretch that! 

How do you calm your conflicting thoughts and unleash your potential? What do you need to celebrate? I'd love to know!

CLUE: Pick a book you haven't looked in for awhile. Open it randomly and see what you learn. I love doing this!

Thanks for exploring the mystery - Nicky Mendenhall

Image: After not seeing crows for several weeks, I've noticed two huge black crows in our backyard. They are so loud that I couldn't miss them. Crows always remind me of my New Zealand friend Jo, who loved crows. I wish she could return like the crows.

Friday, June 7, 2019

How Would You Like Your Eggs? - #88

I'm wading through psychoanalytic literature searching for tidbits to include in my memoir. It only seemed fair to share a provocative bit here:    

"In our dreams," Anna Freud (Sigmund's daughter) said, "we can have our eggs cooked exactly as we want them, but we can't eat them." 

She continues:

"In reality, we can eat our eggs because they are not cooked exactly as we want them."

Here's how I tried to make sense of this: 

I went for a seemingly perfect walk on Tuesday - neither my leg nor my left foot hurt which was a cause for celebration. It was 78 degrees and the path was beautiful. I felt full of gratitude. It was like a dream come true.

In reality: Nature gifted me with three very large annoying bites on my neck and collarbone that itch and are very distracting. 

Take away- Nothing is perfect. Do you agree? Can you give me an example of how your dreams and reality are different? Are you able to be happy with less than perfection?

CLUE: Set the timer for 15 minutes and stretch your body slowly while enjoying the fact that you have a body. Tell me how it goes.

Image: Picture from a glorious bouquet a few weeks ago.

Friday, May 31, 2019

Do You Have Confidence? - #87

The new Fitness Pyramid that Scott Forrester designed in The Aware Athlete is down to earth and helpful. I think it is time for full disclosure: Scott does NOT pay me! I'm getting so much out of his book that it only seems natural to share.

Last week we looked at Potential and Intention as foundational blocks of the new pyramid. Scott says that intention is closely allied with belief of two kinds and that in order to take action, you must believe the action is possible.

The first belief he cites is the innate belief or confidence in your humanity and in your particular gifts. I have spent years in psychoanalysis learning to believe in myself and to have a realistic view of my humanity and reality. It has been an amazing process - so amazing that I'm writing a memoir about it. 

How do you build up your belief in yourself? What does confidence in your humanity look like for you? What would it take for you to be able to say Parker Palmer's statement: "Every Day I get closer to the brink of everything." with excitement and joy? What do you think he means by brink of everything? Do you feel this way when you wake up in the morning?

Next week we will look at the second important belief!

CLUE: Check your supply of bandages. You may not need them now but when you do, you will be happy you have them on hand.

Image: Compass plants on the prairie complements of Carl Kurtz. The computer says this was received in 2013. How can it be that long ago? Lately, I've been aware of how fast the time goes by. Have you?

Friday, May 24, 2019

TWO Foundations: Potential and Intention - #86

The author of The Aware Athlete, Scott Forrester, proposes a New Fitness Pyramid that we will begin to examine. Here are two foundation pieces of this new structure for us to ponder:

1. Potential: The innate ability you have but have not yet used.

2. Intention: A decision to use some of that potential.

Do you think we need help to find our potential and set our intention? I do.

Part of what I have learned during the last year is that I have innate physical abilities I haven't used. How do I know this? Because I work with a personal trainer (email me if you want information about her services - she's really helped me) who designs my fitness exercises. Then she watches me exercise and encourages me to give it a try when I say, "I can't do that!" It surprises me every time she's right.

The decision to use more of my potential bodily ability was re-enforced when the surgical procedure for NPH was successful. The surgeon was clear after sewing me up that I needed to walk, a LOT, if I wanted to be mobile. 

What do you need to discover your potential and make a decision? It's difficult to keep working out and believing in ourselves but we can! Let me know what you think of these two components of the new fitness pyramid and stay tuned for more on this.

CLUE: Purchase some bing cherries and enjoy spitting out the seeds!

Thanks for exploring the mystery - Nicky Mendenhall

Image: The strangest city hall I've ever seen in Nelson, NZ.

Friday, May 17, 2019

This Is Not About Imagination Per Se - #85

"To understand what a person means or says, it's basically necessary to already know what that person means or is saying."*

Do I think that is true? Been pondering this observation for several days. 

Thinking that I know what the other person is saying interferes with hearing what they actually are saying, at least sometimes.  Especially if what they say is different from my expectations. But that's the opposite of what the sentence above is inferring isn't it?

I'd love to know what you think. The implications are serious I think. I will continue to think about this while I'm polishing up Chapter 1 of my memoir describing my experience in psychoanalysis and beginning another revision of Chapter 2. I also have to search my old journals for entries that may be used. "Look at your old journals as you look at literature," my book coach suggested. Wish me luck!  

Thanks for exploring the mystery - Nicky Mendenhall
*This is a line from Go, Went, Gone, a fascinating novel by Jenny Erpenbeck that I highly recommend.  

Image is from Edward Burtynsky's exhibit on Water that we viewed at the Faulkner Gallery in Grinnell, 2013.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Are You A Disappointed Cynic? - #84

Here is an idea that needs a bumper sticker: Worry is imagination.
When we worry, we are imagining only the things that we don't want to happen.  

In order not to worry, I'm learning that if I remember the natural flow of most everything, I won't be disappointed. I think disappointment is the underlying reason for worry and its cousin cynicism. 

Writing a memoir about my experience in Freudian psychoanalysis has taught me about the ups and downs of creativity. Some days the writing flows, other days it is a real struggle. 

My task is to keep writing and not worry or get cynical. Sometimes it is difficult. I bet you can understand that. Is it difficult for you not to worry? Do you think worry is misguided imagination? I'd love to hear from you. Our discussion on imagination has been fascinating.

CLUE: I put all of our pot holders in the washing machine yesterday. I feel happy when I look at how clean they are so the hint for happiness this week is to wash your pot holders! 

Thanks for exploring the mystery - Nicky Mendenhall

Friday, May 3, 2019

True Confession - #83

I limit myself when I define a word. 

What happens when I do this? 

I feel righteous and exhibit the characteristics of a fundamentalist. I know the right definition. This is a group I never planned to join. Adhering to  this stance means there is room in my brain for only one definition. As a writer, and also as a reader, multiple meanings need to be available. So, I have to change 

In the past I have conjured up a very restricted idea of imagination. I'm not sure when my understanding of imagination narrowed to mean believing in Peter Pan or some far out reality. With the help of your comments, plus analyzing this in psychoanalysis, it has become clear I've been thinking that magic and imagination are synonymous. 

Have you ever caught yourself limiting a definition, thus limiting the meaning of a word?  And I will ask you again, what does imagination mean to you? Please hit reply to this email though my brother says he tried that and it didn't work. I contacted tech man but haven't heard back as of this moment. If you go to the website and click on comments, you should be able to put your comment in a little box. Then hit publish and it will tell you your remarks are being sent to the moderator (me). I would love for this to work and to hear from you! I'm imagining that someday this will all work!

CLUE: Feed someone besides yourself a piece of fruit. Let me know what happens.

Thanks for exploring the mystery - Nicky Mendenhall

Image: I pulled out of my files at random this image of Kali that sits on our fireplace mantle. I had to laugh when I realized she stands for death and doomsday as well as  motherly love! Laughing now that she sits and stands!

Friday, April 26, 2019

Do You Use Your Imagination? - #82

"The universal entry point to learning is the imagination," writes Scott Forrester, The Aware Athlete, page 226.

"Imagination has a power in childhood that it lacks in older years" writes Esme Weijun Wang in The Collected Schizophrenias, a collection of essays I am finding fascinating. She shares her experiences with imagination which are quite unusual.

What do you believe about imagination? I think I've always been  afraid of my imagination, afraid it might somehow get me in trouble.  

Seriously, what comes to mind when you think imagination? 

I want you to tell me your very first thought! 

Please reply to this email or go to website and leave a comment. And let me know if you don't hear from me after a couple of days because if I haven't gotten back to you, I haven't received your message and I need to talk to tech again! I'm trying to make it easy to reply and my tech genius is certain the bugs are fixed.

I am attending a FREE summit for writers: . Join me if you are a writer.

Thank you for exploring the mystery - Nicky Mendenhall

CLUE: Many cold remedies are best taken the moment you think you are not feeling well. Do you have a supply of what works for you? Next time you are shopping, buy what you need so you will be prepared. 

Image from 2016 proves we don't have as many geese this year.

Friday, April 19, 2019

The Joy of Comments! - #81

Last post I asked a question: Does it make sense to set a goal and push yourself until you make it?  Scott Forrester,  The Aware Athlete, doesn't think so.

Two comments in the comment section will satisfy if you are  curious about the subject and don't own this recommended  book. I would love to hear more about how you stay fit.

See also comment section regarding my sore tooth.

Last week I made a plan with my dentist to have two crowns installed in my mouth on May 2. I use the word install to indicate the art installation aspect of this purchase. Buying fine art might not be as expensive. Luckily the teeth are side by side so the numbing shot will work for both. Wish me patience to make it through the ordeal.  I am lucky there was no infection.

This week we have been entertaining family which has been a joy. Nothing like an almost two year old and an almost seven year old to bring life to your home. I'm thinking that I am almost seventy-four, but it feels a little different to say that!

CLUE: Tell someone how old you are and see how it feels.

Thanks for exploring the mystery - Nicky Mendenhall

Image is of a mosaic in Ephesus received several years ago. 

Friday, April 12, 2019

Helping Each Other Get Fit! - #80

Creating this post I remembered Sara Jisho, Zen priest who led a recent half-day meditation retreat I was privileged to attend, telling us:  "I choose the subjects of my Dharma talks because they are what I need to learn." 

I keep reading and writing posts about The Aware Athlete for the same reason: I need to be aware of my body and how I move.

Author Scott Forrester suggests that setting goals and then pushing as hard as we can to reach them is not the most efficient way to approach improving our fitness level. 

Instead of telling you what he suggests does work, I'm going to ask you - what on earth is he talking about? Isn't that the way we were taught to get fit -  set a goal and push yourself until you make it? Does this make sense to you? What other ways are there? How do you get fit? Please reply to this email or go to comments section.

CLUE: Buy or pick a flower. Put it where you can see it. Enjoy the beauty!

Thanks for exploring the mystery - Nicky Mendenhall

Image: I love these heart shaped leaves. Picture from last year.

Friday, April 5, 2019

What Do You Think of NOT Knowing? #79

I called the dentist. My default position for life (which I'm trying to modify): Let's get this settled and decided! 

The dentist was on vacation but his partner could work me in. They would take X-rays and see what was going on. This wasn't ideal but fit with my default position, my need to know.

After multiple texts and emails from the office reminding me of the appointment, I show up. The X-rays polished off (pun intended), I begin the wait for the unknown dentist. And I wait.

I leave! This actually felt like a victory! I didn't have to have it settled and decided by knowing.  I made an appointment for when my kind perfectionist dentist is back. It helped, of course, that my tooth wasn't hurting. 

At home, I emailed Scott Forrester inquiring if he was the author of the poem found on Page 185 in The Aware Athlete. He promptly replied that he was. The poem is entitled: Not Knowing.

My favorite line: Knowing is an illusion, shutting doors. I really want to think about this line. Does it make sense to you? Do you ever rush to get things done and wish you would have taken more time weighing the options? How did you slow down enough to do this? Please help my process by letting me know!

CLUE: Do you know what you eat every day for breakfast? I bet you do! If it is always the same thing, eat something different for the next two days. Pretend like you are my dentist and on vacation! Let me know what you chow down on!

Thanks for exploring the mystery - Nicky Mendenhall 

 Image: Bangkok Buddha

Friday, March 29, 2019

There Are No Answers - #78

Reading The Aware Athlete, I found out there are no answers -- --unless there are questions. 

Scott writes that sometimes we don't have the answer because we don't ask. We ignore ourselves, our bodies, our pain.  

He quotes C.S. Lewis: "Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to our consciences, but shouts in our pains." (If you avoid using the word God as I sometimes do, change it to Life Force or something else that makes sense to you. I'm not sure I understand the Lewis quote - do you?)

I've been ignoring a tooth that produces a sharp nerve-like pain when I chew on the left side of my mouth - SOME times - not every time. Hoping it will go away, I postpone calling the dentist. I'm thinking I may call my sister who used to work in a dental office and ask her what she thinks. Not ready yet to call the dentist's office.  

What do you do when you have physical or mental pain? Do you do different things for one than you do for the other? Do you put off asking for help? Who do you ask for help? Do you like to go to the dentist? Please reply to this email or go to comment section, I think it works now. When you leave a comment, it is sent to me for approval so it won't show up immediately.

CLUE: Clean up one out door space, preferably one that you can see from a window. It doesn't have to be a big thing. I'm going to, after it rains this weekend, clean off the table on the back deck and put the blue striped rug in it's place by the door. These two actions will give me beauty to look at. Does order give you joy?

Thanks for exploring the mystery - Nicky Mendenhall

Image: One of the best gifts I have received is a subscription to the Flower-of-month club. March's selection is particularly lovely so I wanted to share. Thanks to Matt and Marcy!

Friday, March 22, 2019

Do You Go With Flow or Use Force? - #77

I keep reading Scott Forrester's book, The Aware Athlete, and finding affirmation for what I'm learning in psychoanalysis.  It's interesting how hearing different words and examples deepens my understanding.

Scott writes that sixteen years ago he faced his habit of relying on force, not flow. That attention to "letting it happen," changed his personality in addition to his running style. 

My way of forcing things is to want decisions, no matter what they are, to be made quickly. I've started calling this my "settled and decided" technique. I'm trying to stop forcing things this way.

This morning I had a perfect example to share with you on how I do this but now that I am trying to write it down, I can't remember. My unconscious must be at work!

Would you please tell me if you have any examples of what Scott and I are describing when we say we use force, not flow? Is this a problem for you? How did you solve it? Can you give me an example?

Thanks for exploring the mystery - Nicky Mendenhall

CLUE: The next nice sunny day you encounter, take your body out for a walk. You have time. Soak up Vitamin D.  Swing your arms and take some deep breaths. Don't force anything. Remember that your power comes from focused attention.  

Friday, March 15, 2019

Do you believe? - #76

We learn to believe. We also learn not to believe. I'm going to revisit the concept of belief even though posts 66, 67, 68 covered  belief.  I'm trusting there is something I still need to learn by revisiting this subject.

Scott Forrester writes that a child does not yet know how not to believe in his/her innate ability to learn. This reminds me of the recent visit of our year old grandson James who exhibited no doubts when peeking into and emptying every cupboard and shelf that he could reach. He believed this was his duty!

Bion,* a psychoanalytic writer I read and try to understand, believes there is a spontaneous, unconscious gregarious quality in the personality of humans from the moment they leave the womb. He uses a chemistry term to describe this characteristic: valency. In chemistry, valency is about combining elements in a limited way.

If we believe in our spontaneous, unconscious gregarious qualities, we may be like James and follow our curiosity and learn about our mysterious and fascinating world. Imagine how great life will be when this happens! 

You may notice that I am weaving information about psychoanalysis into blog posts.This is to whet your appetite for my memoir which will describe in detail (!) my experiences in treatment and fascinating tidbits of psychoanalytic theory. Don't send money yet.

CLUE: Try yet again to leave a comment on my blog! Read Kathi's experience and cheer on her persistence! She went to the blog itself. You can do that or hit reply to this email. Just say hi or tell me how you kindle your enthusiasm for life!

*W.R. Bion (1961) Experiences in Groups

Image: The Guardian was totally covered with snow for weeks and now is totally naked aside from her crystal necklace. I'm glad!

Friday, March 8, 2019

The Difference A Word Makes - #75

"The past is present in the moment is what is so great about embodiment and movement as a tool for reaching the unconscious."

The above sentence, from Scott Forrester the author of   Aware Athlete, has been on my mind since I received it a few days ago. 

The past is present in the moment! 

I am amazed at how different that sounds from what I wrote: the past is in the present. It's difficult to explain how adding the word moment affected me but it did. The past is present in the moment! This very moment!

Take a moment and appreciate your breath, the fact that the life force is pulsing through you! And then read this excerpt from The Consulting Room and Beyond by Therese Ragen:

Rose said: "I've been trying to come to terms with the fact that I am going to die very soon. I never expected it to be such a joyous experience. I feel the most loving I've been in my life."

Rose is in the moment and what happens? Love!

What happens when you are in the moment? I would love to hear from you.

CLUE: Send a snail mail or an email to someone you want to appreciate. Let me know how it feels and what happens.

Thanks for exploring the mystery - Nicky Mendenhall


Friday, March 1, 2019

What is awareness? - #74

I just love Scott Forrester's book The Aware Athlete! I open it every week to find inspiration. Here's my most recent find:

"Awareness is the highest level of human functioning."

This sentence is a concise summary of what I've learned from psychoanalysis: You have to increase your level of awareness if you want to discern deeper levels of meaning.The belief that the past is in the present, an idea from Freud a prime mover of psychoanalytic thinking, is not immediately apparent. 

Perhaps increasing our level of awareness is difficult because we forget the unconscious is alive. I can't say exactly how these other layers we are gifted with interfere with awareness but I've learned through experience that there is more going on than we consciously know. I'll be attempting to explain this in my memoir. 

Not only is the unconscious active, it communicates with systems in the body. We don't know exactly how it does this but if you ask me, it does. I would add this happens mostly in ways of which we are not aware.  We have to raise our level of awareness in order to get to the deeper levels to find meaning in life.

If you have questions about awareness, let me know. I probably won't be able to answer but I'll love knowing I am not alone with questions! Email or comment.

CLUE: You probably have layers in your freezer. This week, search around - if you live where I do it won't be much colder than stepping outside - and find the oldest container and throw it away. Feel happy! Relieved! You did something to clean up your life. If you think of it, let me know what you pitched!

Thanks for exploring the mystery - Nicky Mendenhall

Image: The Guardian is again in hibernation.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Strange Bedfellows: Willpower & Passivity - #73

Last week we investigated willpower and how focusing on why we want what we want can help us get what we want. 

What can get in the way of focusing on why we want what we want? 


Passivity is an offense of omission.  Not focusing on why you want  what you want is passive. 

To have willpower is not passive.

But here's the thing - it's taking willpower to not knock down the icicles you see in the image above. But I feel passive because I'm not knocking them down. Willpower is passive?  

CLUE: Pull a book off your shelf and open at random. Use what you discover to create something. You can create a joke, a pun, a wise saying, or just enjoy reading or rereading a random sentence. I'd love to hear what you create! I pulled John Lee's book, The half-lived life, on overcoming passivity to create this post.

Thanks for exploring the mystery - Nicky Mendenhall


Friday, February 15, 2019

When Do You Use Your Willpower? - # 72

Everybody is talking about willpower. With high hopes, I purchased a book that promised me the newest scientific research on the subject. After page 3,  boredom. I don't even know where the book is now.

I know where Scott Forrester's, The Aware Athlete, is! The last time I opened it, I found an intriguing way of thinking about willpower. 

Scott says we think willpower is forcing ourselves to do things. I express my agreement by gritting my teeth.

He writes: "The real use of willpower comes not through forcing ourselves but by eliminating the influence of competing thoughts through persistent, focused attention." That's a complex sentence but I can follow it if I slow down. So let's apply it to my situation.

"Eliminating the influence of competing thoughts."  If my goal is to  work on my memoir, what are the competing thoughts? 

A big one: Everybody is writing a memoir so why bother.  

This line of thinking may influence me to stop writing if I don't have concrete reasons like the ones below to place my attention on:  
#1. I want to show how valuable psychoanalysis can be, 
#2. I want others to know how the unconscious plays a role in life,
#3. Writing the memoir is my self analysis, 
#4. I want to know it is possible to complete the memoir.  

Keeping my focus on those reasons. Paying attention to those reasons will engage my willpower. At least it has so far! I'm working on Chapter 10!

What do you think about willpower? Is Scott's way of thinking too cerebral for you? Where in your life do you wish you had more willpower? Do you think knowing your goal and having clear reasons for it would work for you? Please let me know!

CLUE: For no reason in particular, eat popcorn. If you don't like popcorn, eat chocolate. If you want to pick something else to treat yourself to, go right ahead. I'd love to know what you decide!

Image: Please look closely at the Guardian's hat. It was too cold to get a better shot - but it was amazing!

Friday, February 8, 2019

An Epistolary Post For Your Edification! - #71

Nicola, Thanks so much for your continued interest in The Aware Athlete. Its encouraging to know that it has given people something to think about. I like the idea of mindlessly flipping through a magazine as that idea plays out in many ways. I recently let my mind lead me into an integration of ideas while I slept. I think this kind of "mindlessness" is actually allowing the brain freedom a freedom to explore and integrate.  

Scott Forrester

Scott - you are most welcome - thank you for a great book!

Could you tell us more about how to let our minds lead us into integration while sleeping? I would really like to know!
Thanks in advance for any input you can provide.

Nicola, that is a great question! We know the saying that we should "sleep on it".  It think we have all benefited from insights of all kinds after a nights sleep. But sometimes I think things come together in a special way during or after sleep if we have really been immersed in the details of a particular thing and another factor is a deadline or a matter of personal urgency or importance that provides a point of focus before sleep. What do you think?

Scott - Last night as I crawled into bed wondering how to begin Chapter 7 of my memoir, I thought of you and your challenge to me of what do I think? So I decided to ask for some ideas to appear as I slept. I woke up at 3 AM and wrote several notes on index cards which I had strategically placed on bedside table. I haven't looked at them yet so I can't report how helpful they will be but when I wrote them down, they seemed creative, original, innovative, insightful, and perceptive. I'll let you know!

Dear Readers! 
I hope you enjoyed hearing directly from Scott and learning a new word or two. I did! I had to use Google to remember the name for books containing letters. If you already knew both of the E words in the title, consider yourself a winner! 

As far as the notes I captured at 3 AM, I could barely decipher some of them because of their preschool scrawl aesthetic. Overall, I was pleased that several of the ideas proved helpful though waking up did interrupt my precious sleep. Let me know if you try using your sleep this way.

CLUE: Enjoy being safe in your warm  home and know the meat locker effect won't last forever. On that note, I want to welcome new readers from Australia and New Zealand! I hear from them that they are experiencing the opposite extreme weather as we are in the United States. It's difficult for me, when we are below zero and the wind is howling, to remember that it is also uncomfortable to be too hot but you help us. So in the spirit of helping,choose ONE thing you can do for someone you love that will help them cope with life's challenges. 

Thanks for exploring the mystery - Nicky Mendenhall

Friday, February 1, 2019

An Image To Change Your Brain - #70

It's not news, at least if you are awake in the twenty-first century: Our brain has plasticity. I am old enough to remember when scientists believed that once you were an adult, you were stuck with the brain you had. Even if you were lucky enough to have a good brain, there was not much to look forward to as you got older except for watching it deteriorate. 

Scott Forrester definitely is awake and in the twenty-first century. Every time I open his book The Aware Athlete, I find something to support my growth. While it is one thing to know that scientists have changed their minds about our brains, it is another to actually feel the possibilities this opens for us.

In Chapter 9, Scott shares the story of how Mark Allen finally claimed six Ironman world titles after losing six. The story is too detailed to describe here but I wanted to share the part that impressed me, as it really did impress me. I keep thinking of it.

Here's what happened: When Mark began to focus on gratitude and not on negative thinking, he had a vision of a shaman. The expression he saw on the shaman's face was not of busyness, uncertainty, and stress as we often see on faces in the modern world. 

The face he saw radiated great peace yet great strength. The interesting thing is that it was no one Mark had ever met, it was merely an image he had seen while mindlessly flipping through a magazine.   

It may be because I've just been to a retreat with shamans that this had such an affect on me. I don't know. But it has me thinking about so many things. Like how important it is where we put our attention. And how much we influence others  - even by our facial expressions. 

Do you think you can change your brain? My brain is tired because I've been working all week on a chapter for my memoir so I will sign off for now. As always, I would love to hear from you!

CLUE: Flip through a magazine or book of your choice and see what images capture your attention. This doesn't have to take very long. Have fun with it. You are exercising your brain and may possibly find an image to inspire you.

Thank you for exploring the mystery - Nicky Mendenhall

Image: The Guardian is barely peeking out of her snow palace.

Friday, January 25, 2019

Self Awareness Is Not Always Positive - #69

This week I've attempted to be aware of my discombobulated  psyche! My sometimes-helpful and sometimes-not-so-helpful habit has been to rise above weather conditions and act like I am not in any way affected. 

It's 8 degrees below zero: I get to wear my down pants! 

Our Pepper game got cancelled: I can be like a bear and hibernate!  

Suddenly I ask myself - am I becoming one of those annoying people who are happy all the time?

This week I decided that I am, in fact, bothered by the weather. When I wasn't admitting to being bothered, while I was in fact bothered, the uneasy bothersome feelings morphed into anxiety. I wasn't above it all. I was anxious and off kilter about the weather and its effects. 

When we had to cancel another social outing because of the weather, my friend Ann said: "The weather is just like a big hand pushing down on all of us."  Because of the work I've done this week, I was able to agree with her 100%. This is hard! I didn't try to tell her that whatever was happening was probably for the best.

Knowing myself and my tendency towards all or nothing thinking, I will have to watch that I don't totally switch my focus and only look at the negative effects of the weather. 

Do you give all of your feelings equal attention? Which feelings do you hide from yourself and from others? Do you recognize what your feelings are trying to tell you? I'm learning that if I stay with a feeling, it changes. Is that true for you? I'd love to hear how you manage the emotional part of your life. And if you would rather I not publish it for the world to see, just let me know and I will savor your offering in private.

CLUE: This week, especially if you are experiencing winter, find three feelings you like to experience and three feelings that make you uncomfortable.  They don't have to be about winter but they could be. Tell someone you know to make their own list and then share. Your feelings will thank you for getting them out.

Thank you for exploring the mystery - Nicky Mendenhall

The image records the first time the Guardian was totally immersed in snow. I shared an almost similar image on Instagram so if you feel you've seen it before, you are right!

Friday, January 18, 2019

Stepping Out In Belief - #68

I believe if I moved away from IA because of my fear of winter I would be a wuss. Now I'm not saying this is true for everyone but I believe it is true for me.  

I want to get over my fear of ice which is really what I fear about winter. Today I donned my late father's put-over-my-boots-ice-cleats and headed for the certain-to-be-icy analyst's parking lot. 

It wasn't that icy.

But I believe I could have made it to the door if it had been. And according to Scott Forrester in The Aware Athlete, belief and practice are essential for overcoming fear.

Not just any old practice, but practice that is characterized as immersion, which translates, in my case, as going outside on the ice.

I'll plan to do this as soon as I stop coughing and blowing. Promise.
What do you want to practice?

CLUE: My definition of practice is being willing to do something that you don't know how to do (this can be either physical or mental or psychological) and being willing to look or feel foolish as you are practicing it. In my case, practicing on the ice will feel physically, mentally, and psychologically risky as well as inane. Think to yourself which of these areas are the most difficult for you to make change in. What is one small step you believe will help you? For example if you say physical change is most difficult, resolve to do a stretch that you avoid. If you choose mental change, see if you can do the crossword puzzle on Monday. If psychological risk is your choice and it's difficult for you to feel your feelings, pick one you usually avoid, write it down in a secret place, and then watch for it. I'd love to have company practicing so let me know what you decide. Either go to comment section or hit reply to this email.

Thanks for exploring the mystery - Nicky Mendenhall

Friday, January 11, 2019

Do You Need A Belief Booster? - #67

The final stage of my seasonal cold is gifting me with exuberant sneezes and prolific nasal discharge. If only the booster in the women's restroom (that I discovered while visiting a New Zealand retreat center) was available! What is the meaning of a Buddha above a Booster?  I choose to believe that this juxtaposition has healing properties and hope the virtual is as potent as the real. I am ready to feel better!

In the meantime to encourage our discussion of how we choose beliefs, our guest author, Scott Forrester, The Aware Athletewas kind enough to send a few words that I think are fascinating, regardless of what our belief is about walking on water:

"A lack of belief may be actually the belief that life just happens to us. While that may be partly true I think active belief is more creative, more of a sharing with the process of life. So belief and creating the life we want are very active processes or choices, even moment by moment  choices.

I am reminded to the story of Jesus walking on water and Peter getting out of the boat and coming toward him. Then a storm arose and Peter's attention was drawn away and toward the danger and the chaos around him and he began to sink. 

So indeed belief as a moment by moment thing is the ability to still the mind, to get out of the way of what hinders that which is really possible, to stay on cusp of the wave. This is viewing each day as an opportunity for growth."

I've never thought of belief as a moment by moment thing - have you? I'm going to go ponder the ideas Scott offers.

CLUE: Can you do one thing today that feels like growth? I'm going to rest instead of pushing myself to keep writing today - that will be growth of my ability to take care of myself. Let me know what growth steps you take.

Friday, January 4, 2019

Do You Believe Belief Is A Choice? - #66

With assistance from Scott Forrester via Aware Athlete, we have established that imagination, like a muscle, needs training. Here's  another idea of Scott's for us to ponder:

Belief is a choice.

When first encountering the word belief in Scott's book, I remembered my Christian upbringing. Taught to believe in God, Jesus, and the Holy Ghost even though we couldn't see them didn't feel like a choice.

Scott cites a research study by Carol Dweck who  discovered, through her research, two distinct mindsets: fixed and growth. People in the fixed mindset believe they are stuck with what they have; people with a growth mindset believe nothing about us is static.

The image above shows part of my meditation altar. What you see  are statues and photos related to Buddhism. My Buddhist teachers tell me that when we gaze upon images or bow to them, we are not being asked to believe anything. We are being asked to honor our own essence and basic goodness.

These Buddhist teachers go on to advise me not to believe what they say, but experiment with their words and teachings to see if they work.

In this way of thinking, belief is the framework on which hang all our thoughts, feelings, and actions. We choose what to think, feel, and do. This seems like a growth mindset. 

I really resonate with the idea that we have a choice about what we believe. Scott writes that Henry Ford is credited with saying if you believe you can do something or if you believe you can't, you are correct.

I'm curious what you believe about your ability to choose your beliefs. Do you feel you have a choice?

CLUE: This being the first post of 2019, I would like to thank you for continuing to read and comment! Your support keeps me writing and at this stage of my life, that is what I believe I want to do so thanks for making it possible. Your job for this week is to find someone in your life to thank for making your life meaningful. Then let me know by going to comment section (I think it's working) or simply hit reply to this email and tell me who you thanked or what you believe about imagination.

Thanks for exploring the mystery - Nicky Mendenhall