Friday, November 30, 2018

How Do You Relate To Your Imagination? - #63

I was tickled to receive a second message from Scott Forrester,  author of The Aware Athlete. He seemed pleased that we are exploring the multiple ways to be in relationship with the environment. Because of my decades long focus on posture, I appreciated this sentence in his message: "We interact with the world around us through our carriage and movement in the field of gravity."

As we move to exploring the next chapter, please keep in mind Scott's thesis: Fitness is the ability to survive in whatever environment you find yourself.

Here's an insight from Chapter 2: "Our imagination is the most powerful, most basic, gentle, creative, and universal entry point into the process of fitness." 

I've got to tell you that I didn't expect that! The idea that you can use your imagination to start, shape, and nurture true fitness was a surprise.

My mother did not read fables or fairy tales to me. She chose stories that gave preference to what we could see. But, as I searched my memory about the role of imagination in my life, I suddenly remembered Mom describing my two imaginary playmates, Chi-chi and Moo-kah. She reported that she set the table for them!  

It feels as if I received mixed messages. I have been puzzled about the role of imagination in my life. I must have been in touch as a small girl, but what happened?  To discover that Scott suggests imagination as a gateway to fitness is intriguing. I can't wait to read more.

Tell me what your relationship is with imagination! How did your parents deal with imagination? How do you understand fitness enhanced by imagination? Do you use your imagination? Do you feel comfortable with it?  

CLUE: Pay attention to what you think or feel when someone uses their imagination to create something unique. Better yet, create something unique with your imagination! Then tell me about it or send us an image!  

The next post will be on December 21. I am off to test my fitness  in New Zealand, a totally new environment for me. I will be attending a shamanic retreat in the southern Alps led by John Broomfield, the husband of my dear friend Jo, who left us in 2014.  I am excited that I will be accompanied by Dr. Matthew Mendenhall who you see in the image below. Ryan, my tallest grandson also in image, will not be with us though he says he will cheer us on. I hope you will join him and send us good energy for this adventure!

I will be in email contact until late afternoon, Monday, December 3, then will be off the net until December 14th.

Thanks for exploring the mystery - Nicky Mendenhall

Friday, November 23, 2018

Do You Notice Your Environment? - #62

The ambiance, or to underscore the point of this post,  the environment of my inbox was enriched by a message from Scott Forrester, author of The Aware Athlete

Scott wrote that his entire book answers the question I posed last week: What is the difference between exercise and fitness?  

He then offered a definition: Fitness is when an organism is able to adapt to circumstances the environment presents. 

This reminded me how the instructors in the active adults exercise classes we attend, target exercises that mimic the physical demands we face in our everyday environment. One instructor labels these  functional exercises: Pulling across the body to mimic putting on seat belts. Bending down to rescue a dropped sock. Reaching for a vase on the top shelf.

When I'm not exercising, I am working on a memoir describing my experience as a patient in Freudian psychoanalysis. I discovered, while researching the history of analysis, that Freud believed what  psychoanalytic treatment offered was a healthy environment.   He believed that if a patient developed a dynamic relationship with an analyst, this would provide the type of healthy interactions they had missed. In other words, analysis wasn't a set of exotic maneuvers but merely supplied the appropriate environment.

The idea that fitness is related to the environment is an important point in the book. I was intrigued by an idea in Chapter 1 that suggested posture originates, and is conditioned by, our interaction with the environmentWhen others slouch, we slouch. 

CLUE: Pay attention to how the environment affects your day to day feelings. Which part of your environment is the most influential for you? Sun? Clouds? Cold? Heat? Light? Darkness? Stillness? Order? Mess? Let me know - I'm curious. I'm feeling affected by the sudden cold here in Iowa.

Thanks for exploring the mystery - Nicky Mendenhall

The image was received before the Guardian received her necklace.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Do you read newspapers or books? - #61

The daily newspaper becomes thinner every day. The quality of articles seems to be following suit. Today the breaking news on the Today section was: New exercise guidelines: Move more, Sit less.  Who doesn't know that? Rolling my eyes in disgust, I turned to the comics.

My extreme reaction to this article may be because, unconsciously of course, I'm worried that you will have a similar reaction to my next series of blog posts I'm thinking of basing on The Aware Athlete by Scott Forrester. I heard Scott interviewed several months ago and was so impressed I had to purchase his book. 

At this point that is all I have accomplished. But I want to remember why I got this far by actually opening the book and I decided that I would more likely follow through on reading it, since it isn't devoted to writing or psychoanalysis, the books I'm glued to these days, if I read parts for each week's post and then wrote a post because any help I can get to stay healthy, and I assume it's the same for you, is worth it.

So far I haven't made it past the Forward by Alimine Barton, a Certified Fitness Trainer who must also be a good writer because while I usually skip Forwards when they are not by the author, I read this in its entirety. 

One question I was left with, and the question I want to pass on to you, is this: How is fitness different from exercise?

Ms Barton answers in this way: Exercise maintains an organism. Fitness increases the potential of an organism, whether it be animal or human. She said that Forrester's book, the one I purchased and haven't read yet, answers this question and hopefully, I think, will explain her answer. 

In the meantime, I'm going to read more and see if I can figure it out. What is fitness? And I've emailed the author so I'm publishing this early just in case he goes to the website. If you have any ideas about how fitness is different from exercise or what it is, please let me know by replying to this email (it works!) or go to comment section on the exploring the mystery blog.

CLUE: When you stand up from reading this or the next time you think of it, take a deep breath and feel it all over your body. Now the  former MD in the house will say that isn't possible, that breath doesn't go all over your body, but try it anyway. 

Thanks for exploring the mystery - Nicky Mendenhall

Friday, November 9, 2018

Do You Figure Things Out? - #60

You can learn all sorts of things if you listen to yourself. This can take the form of paying attention to what your thoughts are or what your body is trying to tell you.  I've found that working with a psychoanalyst helps me get past old habit patterns that insist there are no acceptable ways of being other than the ones I hold dear.

During our weekly sessions, I have discovered that my usual pattern for dealing with life is to try and figure things out in my mind. In the not too distant past, I felt proud that I had the ability to figure out what to do. I always considered this a positive trait. 

Come to find out - there is a problem with this "trying to figure out life in my mind" strategy.  The figuring out strategy is often related to determining who/what is right and who/what is wrong, With this type of question in my mind, I can go back and forth between two options seemingly forever. 

The better strategy that is suggested subtly by the analyst (that I am trying to learn) is, instead of figuring out with my mind, allow myself to experience what is going on. Let it unfold and see where it leads.  See how it feels in my body. Pay attention to all the options.

My friend Lisa teaches me how to do this. When we plan a lunch date, my preference is always to figure out where we are going to meet and at what time even though the meeting is weeks in advance. Lisa likes to wait and see what we feel like eating that day and what time works best and what our bodies want and need in that moment.

Letting go of my need to control things, which occurs to me is another way of saying figuring it out, makes my life a lot easier. 

I'm trying to think of another example of how I try and figure out things, but I can't seem to discern it now so will ask you. Do you try and control things by figuring them out? Do you have examples of when not figuring out makes things easier?

CLUE: Pick one day and pay attention to when you get hungry. Do you listen to what your body wants or do you go with what someone else wants? Let your body be in control - it's only for one day - of when and what you eat. See if this makes any difference in how you feel when you go to sleep that night. Let me know!

Thanks for exploring the mystery - Nicky Mendenhall

Friday, November 2, 2018

Final Entry from Leaving A Trace - #59

The last idea we will explore from Leaving a Trace*, is the idea that vital to the process of writing memoir is the decision of what to leave out. Since I'm writing a memoir this caught my attention.

It occurred to me this also may be good advice for the rest of my life. What would enhance the quality of my life if it was not there?

Currently I'm trying to let go of clothes that no longer fit because I've gained weight. Even when they are way too tight when I try them on, I want to save them. I forget that someone else may need them.

In 2016 and 2017, I couldn't gain weight no matter how much I ate. Then I had the procedure (AKA operation) suggested for NPH (Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus). After a few months, I started to gain weight. It felt so good to feel healthy again that I kept eating. Now I would like to lose ten or more pounds but only if I can do it and stay healthy. 

Besides clothes that are too tight, I'm trying to let go of the idea that I can eat anything I want. It is a surprisingly difficult attitude to shake. The omnipotent feeling of eating everything I wanted and not suffering any consequences is hard to relinquish. It was like saying, "Look at me - I can eat anything I want and not gain weight. I'm special." Of course I didn't think that consciously but unconsciously that attitude must have been there otherwise this wouldn't be such a struggle.

Letting go of eating anything I want every time I feel like it is sort of difficult. I've started to treat myself to a cup of hot tea when the urge comes to eat. Most of the time it helps.

It is much easier to toss a blouse into the Goodwill bag than it is to convince myself that I might be eating out of habit and not hunger; only eat one Almond Bite instead of fifteen. I try to switch my attention to the question of what are the necessary details I need to include in memoir describing my experience in psychoanalysis? If there are things you would like to know about my time in psychoanalysis, let me know. If you've always been curious about what goes on in an analytical session and wanted to ask questions, here's your chance! I probably won't answer your question here but it might be included in the book!

What do you need to let go of? What is the most difficult for you to shed - material things or attitudes? I'd love to know.

CLUE: Think of the last time you let go of something. Did you give it away or just throw it out? How did you decide to take this action? Then remember the feelings you had after you let go. If they were good feelings, congratulate yourself for a wise move. If you wish you had whatever you took leave of, devise a plan to either get it back or replace it. Then let me know.

Thanks for exploring the mystery - Nicky Mendenhall

*Leaving a Trace by Alexandra Johnson (2001)

The image of beautiful fall leaves is completely unfiltered and was received during a walk on Sunday, October 28, 2018. I love it so much that I shared it on Instagram.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Nostalgia and Living Life Twice - #58

Leaving a Trace, the used book I purchased searching for ideas on how to manage censors, arrived from Amazon covered with old price stickers and black marks on the cover.  But the inside was clean and full of good ideas.

Today I will share the epigraph for Chapter IX by Patricia Hampl as it describes perfectly what I am experiencing while working on my memoir:

"To write about one's life is to live it twice, and the second living is both spiritual and historical, for a memoir reaches deep within the personality as it seeks its narrative form." 

Reading authors like Hampl inflames my desire to write words that engender deep feelings. I have one of Hampl's books with a moving subtitle of, "Sojourns in the Land of Memory."  

The subtitle was undoubtedly part of the reason I selected the picture above. The image is of my Father's house which was his Father's house. It no longer exists on the physical plane which is hard for me to believe; so much that was important in my life occurred within those now nonexistent walls.  

Autumn is such a rich season, full of letting go and preparation for going into the cave of winter. I feel sad that summer is gone while at the same time, grateful for the privilege of having memories.  

How do you manage the days becoming shorter? What, if anything, do you look forward to in the coming days? What do you remember fondly? What do you remember that brings unease? Has writing ever felt like living life twice? I'd love to know what you are thinking. Please email or go to comments section.

Thanks for exploring the mystery - Nicky Mendenhall

If you miss the Clue section - let me know.

Friday, October 19, 2018

How Important Are Details In Your Life? - #58

"Life is in the details" 

The quote under the above image is from Leaving a Trace, a book I have been mining for ways to manage censors. The book's main purpose is to help readers transform their life experiences into stories. I thought perhaps the quote would qualify as a homily - an advice giving lesson - but perhaps the phrase is more of a platitude. 

If,  "life is in the details," I find myself at a disadvantage. My big brown eyes viewed the distant world as blurred, not revealing any details. This myopic way of seeing meant trees were mysterious beautiful green globs. The detail of leaves didn't become apparent until prescription lenses in third grade. 

Now cataracts throw a sparkle to what I see, especially when walking the sidewalk in sunshine. While under the spell of sparkles, I don't look for details. I'm again captivated by the mysterious.  

Virginia Woolf described details in journals as "shivering fragments." Do you suppose she had cataracts?

Exploring old journals, looking for shivering fragments of  psychoanalytic wisdom to become part of my memoir is time consuming. When I find entries lacking details, I vow to be more aware and mindful when I journal each day. I don't always remember.

I've read that Freud (1909) made it a point to look for a high degree of particularity in whatever he was observing.  Psychoanalytic treatment focuses on details; details that can seem foolish and not worth attention; details that eventually become keys to understanding the past in the present.

Do you agree that life is in the details? Why? What details do you pay attention to? What details do you miss? Please give me the details!

CLUE: Set an intention to pay attention to ONE detail this week. Make it a detail that will make you happy to pay attention to! Our household is good at taking care of inventory - household items that we need. Paying attention and writing an item on the list when it is almost gone is a detail that makes our life easier.

Thank you for exploring the mystery - Nicky Mendenhall 

Friday, October 12, 2018

Who Do You Find In Your Journal? - #57

Continuing to riffle through, Leaving a Trace, book purchased to discover more ways to manage censors, I've discovered several ideas that were helpful to me especially since I've been reading my old journals.

The book's author, Alexandra Johnson, says that when she began to read her old journals, she feared setting herself up for the double misery of finding no wisdom and seeing how awful the original writing was. Yet when reading, she felt a quiet shiver of surprise:

They weren't so bad!

She says she felt a strange fondness for "this someone else."  The someone else was her former self.  She realized that she wasn't the same person who had written the words she was rereading.

It has been emotionally wrenching and many times mystifying (what did I mean by that?) thumbing through my old journals in search of scenes from analytical sessions. Remnants that show how treatment was transformative. (If you are a writer you realize I am following the advice to show, not tell.)

It is true, I was someone else when writing in my 2009 journal. Not to mention 2010. Or any of the years up until 2018. This makes sense, especially since I am writing about the changes I've made through the psychoanalytic process.  

Have you ever read something you wrote in the past? Did it sound like you? What were you doing in 2009? Do you know how you have changed? How would you describe these changes? Please share with me how you deal with your former self. Do you have more than one?

CLUE for unraveling the mystery of the week: Ask someone you know and love (if you dare), how they see you as different from how you were in 2009. You may be surprised. If they say they don't see much change, congratulate yourself - you are the same wonderful person you have always been - or they wouldn't still be around! If they say you have changed for the better, congratulate yourself - change is difficult. If you are lucky enough to be gifted with a negative answer, congratulate yourself for knowing such an honest person and decide for yourself if there is truth in the reply and if there is, what steps you want to take in the future.

Thanks for exploring the mystery - Nicky Mendenhall 

Image - We haven't seen the guardian for awhile. Here she is with a raindrop clinging to the bottom of her new crystal - you have to look closely to see it!

Friday, October 5, 2018

Censoring the Censor - #56

Leaving a Trace: What a great title for an interesting book I  explored for ideas about censors. I was not disappointed in my search for censor managing tips, there were pages of ideas for dealing with the "fat tick" censor we heard about last week. 

Sometimes identifying censors, those inner voices that interfere with our happiness or block creativity, can be difficult. The tick may even call upon a former English teacher's advice to stop you from writing: "I" (no, not I, never use I),..."Well" (Don't use that either! Too casual, I have to impress with big words).  

I can be stumped by rules from the past - whether they be rules of grammar or rules of etiquette. At times I feel that other people know what is proper and I, metaphorically speaking, missed that class.

These days I often Google to clarify the rules I need to know. The answers are not usually as clear cut as I would like, but the lack of clarity helps me not take the censors so seriously.

Do you try and follow rules? Do you always know what the rules are? What do you do if you think there may be a rule but you don't know it? Please reply to this email or go to comments section. It is always so helpful to hear from you!

CLUE: Give yourself permission to rest, especially if you have a rainy afternoon. Put one pillow under your head and shoulders and another under your knees. Rest for five minutes. This position is good for relaxing your body. I'm investigating the Esther Gokhale method. If you want more information on Stretchlying on your back, visit her website:

Thanks for exploring the mystery - Nicky Mendenhall

Image - couldn't resist this photo from my files after hearing today that there will be rain all weekend and into next week.


Friday, September 28, 2018

Managing the Censor - #55

Journals from the past are currently spread out on the daybed for easy access. I'm mining each for notes taken after sessions with my analyst. My hope is to discover gemstones that will enrich my memoir describing my experience with her in psychoanalysis.

It has been an experience all its own reading words from the past. My essence permeates all the journals, of course, but some entries puzzle me: Did I really know that so long ago? Why didn't I know that I knew and trust it?

These days I'm busy working on developing a new chapter for the memoir. Instead of writing a full post for today, here's a quote I found in a May, 2001, journal:

"The censor, fat as a tick with pride, hates not being taken seriously."

My brain held no memory of this gem from Leaving a Trace, the book that my scribbling said was where it originated. I just ordered a used copy.

Since meeting the censor frequently occurs when writing, I am eager to read ways to manage encounters with it. The unsolicited advice it gives is often to avoid anything creative or unique. It tends to utter phrases such as, "You can't say that!" or, "What will people think?"

When the book arrives, I hope to be able to pass on any new tactics for dealing with censors.

Are there things in your life that you want to do but a "Censor" says no?  Do you know what activates your censor? What messages do you receive from your censor? Please let me know by going to comment section or replying to this email.

CLUE to exploring mysteries: As you prepare for a new season by organizing your closet, be sure to pass on anything you haven't worn or don't like to wear. Someone else needs it and the feeling of generosity will give you a lift. A wise friend reminded me of this recently.

Thanks for exploring the mystery - Nicky Mendenhall

Friday, September 21, 2018

The Value of Knowing Who You Are - #54

Is spending time and energy writing about what happened to me    in psychoanalysis narcissistic? I wonder. Perhaps this sometimes issue of mine will help us explore a deeper question: 

Are there benefits to knowing who you are?  

Anne Lamott, an author I admire, believes the only way we can see others compassionately, is to see ourselves compassionately. She writes that while this might sound easy, it is difficult to do.

When I began analytical treatment, the focus was on what I didn't like about myself. On my list of complaints were all the things I thought were wrong with me. If you are thinking that this doesn't sound very compassionate, you are correct. I didn't feel compassion for myself. 

The paradoxical thing is the more I became aware of what my long term patterns were, and then discovered how difficult it was to change my behavior and ways of thinking, the more compassion I could feel for others.  

It's a funny thing, but the more I knew and accepted my shortcomings and began to look at myself with kindness, the easier it was to give others the benefit of the doubt. We were all in this together.

Perhaps my question about narcissism is part of my old pattern of thinking something is wrong with me. I will let this pattern go. I'm excited about writing this memoir. My hope is that my experiences will in someway be useful to others.

CLUE: Do one nice thing for yourself this week. It can be as little as reminding yourself of all the positive things you do or as big as buying yourself chocolate and flowers. Do these acts with compassion for yourself and let me know what happens. Try the new feature - hit reply to this email. It should be a direct email to me! I'd love to hear from you!

Thanks for exploring the mystery - Nicky Mendenhall

Friday, September 14, 2018

Seeking Composure - #53

While writing my memoir and blog posts, sentences and metaphors  that contain wisdom don't come easily. In my imagination, when Joan Halifax, author of the book* I mentioned last week sits down to write,  beautiful sentences flow from her pen onto the page.

Taking words from your inside and putting them out on paper is difficult, a fact that continues to surprise me. How do others make it look so easy? How can it take so long? I would bet that writing for Halifax isn't quite as easy as I image. The truth probably is that her impressive sentences are the result of hard work and persistence, the first item on my manifesto.   

Here's a sentence of hers that impressed me:  

"And sometimes, I could not find my composure; it got away from me, like a tide quickly receding from the shore of the present moment, and I found myself worn out and discouraged."

I would rather not say what happens when I lose my composure. If you were a mouse in the corner (that possibility scares me for many reasons), you might notice me stomping around the room like a two year old. You might hear me blaming whoever or whatever is in my way. You might witness a nasty word as it darts out of my mouth.

The longer I poke around in the Halifax book, the more my admiration for her grows. It is evident from the stories she shares that she is compassionate and kind, genuinely human and contemplative, all traits that I desire. Plus, she is a good writer.

The longer I work on my memoir or write posts, the more composed I am able to be most of the time. This is partly because when you tune into your creative nature, losing one's composure at times is part of the process. I don't like knowing I will freak out once in awhile but probably it is better to know so it won't be another surprise.

Who do you admire? What aspirations do they bring out in you? When do you lose your composure? What do you do when you lose your composure? 

I'd love to hear from you. I'm working on making it possible to hit reply to this email to comment so it will be sent to me but so far my tech person hasn't been successful. When it says no reply when you reply to this email, it means no reply - I never see it. I don't know where it goes - a mystery to explore. 

So the geniuses among us can leave comments on the blog itself. Another option is to let me know what you think by using my email address: Or just think of me and send energy and inspiration.

CLUE: If there is a person who inspires you for any reason, find a way to let them know this week. A short email or phone call might make their day. I may try and email Joan Halifax!

Thanks for exploring the mystery - Nicky Mendenhall

*Standing At The Edge (2018) by Joan Halifax

Friday, September 7, 2018

Attentional Balance & the 3 D's - #52

The first item on my manifesto, anything worthwhile needs time and attention, reminds me of how satisfying it has been the last few weeks to read, every evening, a small portion of Joan Halifax's new book, Standing At The Edge.  

Halifax uses a phrase that interests me: attentional balance. After losing some of my physical and, more to the point, psychological balance while coping with normal pressure hydrocephalus, I pay attention when balance is mentioned.  

Halifax lists 3 D's that interfere with our attentional balance:  divided, distracted, and dispersed. Here's how the 3 D's appear in my life:

Divided: There are so many things I want to accomplish in a day that if I don't have radical clarity about where to place my attention, I feel divided and no matter how much I do, I feel dissatisfied.

Distracted: I can be distracted by my body if I don't pay attention when it needs to move. I may stay in the same position, even when my back hurts and ignore the timer signalling it is time to stand up, but be distracted until I stand or move.

Dispersed: Halifax writes that according to neuroscience, wherever our attention goes, our brains follow: "Attention is the boss of the brain." I have so many interests my attention is spread, as they say, thin. I've never before this moment, thought of thick attention! 

Is your attention thick or thin? How do the 3 D's show up for you? I would love to know. Either email me or go to comments section. We are learning from each other!

CLUE: Watch where your attention is this week. I will be doing it right along with you. Life is too short to be divided, distracted or dispersed! Let me know how you stay away from the 3 D's!

Thanks for exploring the mystery - Nicky Mendenhall

Image is from last year (Leaves are still green and on the trees but are beginning to drift to the lawn one by one. I wonder how it is decided which leaf goes first?)

Friday, August 31, 2018

Learn From Your Feelings - #51

Despite evidence to the contrary. my six decade old feeling Mom didn't do hard stuff and didn't teach me to persevere persisted,  Hearing from my brother his memory that Mom encouraged him to do his best, I briefly considered the idea that no reason existed for my feeling and I should disregard it.  

During a phone conversation with Lisbeth, one of my spiritual mentors and future daughter-in-law, I was surprised when she mentioned reading post #50. It reminded her of statements her mother made to her and how they undermined her desire to be a biologist: "You would have to take organic chemistry!" Her mother's concern led Lisbeth to believe being a biologist would be too difficult. As she shared this, a memory became conscious:

When I was a senior in high school and knew everything, I informed my mother that I wanted to be a missionary in Africa. She responded, rather matter of factly as I recall, that this would not be possible: "Nicky, you have a weak constitution." 

Once this memory appeared, it was like a puzzle piece locked into place. At some level, knowing my mom thought I was weak, meant to me that I wouldn't succeed if I tried something hard. Not wanting to prove her wrong, or probably more important if truth be told, look foolish, I established a pattern of giving up when things got too hard. 

The good news is that I know neither Lisbeth's nor my mother meant to discourage us, they thought they were being protective. And even more good news, is the fact that ways of thinking about yourself can change. Now that I know I am NOT weak, (I survived India three times), and that I have resources and support, I can tackle the hard stuff like writing a book.

One friend wrote and commented she thought it was brave of me to write about my analysis. Some days it feels really brave. Other days, in order to be brave,  I cling to the first paraphrased statement on my manifesto:

Anything worthwhile or deep needs time and energy.

Thanks for exploring the mystery - Nicky Mendenhall

CLUE: The image represents how much is in the dark when we work on ourselves, there is so much we don't know. Feelings are the lights that guide us. Pay attention to all your feelings this weekend, see what you can discover. Please let me know - we learn from one another!

Friday, August 24, 2018

Learning to Work - #50

I love that my brother responded to my manifesto. I offered him a chance to go offline to discuss further and he answered by going to the comments section and posting!  

The first item on my manifesto wouldn't have been there twenty years ago. I have had to learn, mostly in the last ten years, that  my wants don't materialize as the result of wishful thinking. Anything worthwhile takes time and effort.

My assumption that the first  time I tried something it would work perfectly didn't get me very far.  Believing things were too hard to continue, I stopped.

Now here's where I want to consult my brother for information about our mom. I don't mean this question to blame her, however, I believe that children learn ways of being from parents. Asking, I'm exploring the causes and conditions that led me to be me.

My memory is that our mom thought Weight Watchers was too hard and as a result, never tried it. I have always thought she didn't like to do anything that was too hard.  But now, as I'm writing this, I can't think of any other examples.  

Nolan - do you remember mom saying things were too hard to accomplish and then not doing them? How about you - what is your reaction when you come up against something difficult? What did you learn about accomplishing difficult things?

I'm in the process of writing a memoir about my experience in psychoanalysis. Because of my age and my former profession as a psychotherapist, I have a unique perspective.  

I didn't realize how difficult it would be.  

One thing I have learned in analysis is that you have to stick with the hard stuff!  So I declare that I am going to finish writing this memoir.

Everyone reading this is thinking, but too polite to say:  Nicky, you didn't stick with your goal of making something out of 360+ posts you had printed out! Won't you give up the memoir?

If anyone is asking that perfectly legitimate question, I want to say, no, I'm not going to give up. I believe I didn't follow through on the blog project because it was not my idea. My desire was not to make something out of those posts. It was someone else's suggestion, someone else's idea, and while it had possibilities that I wanted to explore, a spark never kindled as I was reading the posts and contemplating what to create with them.  

I believe I rushed to start working on the posts because I lacked the courage to say I wanted to write a memoir of my psychoanalytic treatment. At that time, I didn't tell many people that I was in analysis.

It was actually great to revisit all 360+ posts and I don't regret for a minute the time I spent. Rereading what I have written since 2012, gave me courage to begin the memoir. 

It was part of the preparation for tackling the writing of this memoir.

Thanks Nolan for your help. I'd love to hear from others about beginning and ending projects. Where do you run into difficulty?

CLUE: Watch yourself this week and see if you tackle new projects with gusto or mumble that they are too difficult and give up. Let me know what you find.

Thanks for exploring the mystery - Nicky Mendenhall
 Image received @ Red Feather Lakes in 2010.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Sharing My Surprise Manifesto - #49

I have enrolled in three of Dan Blank's three month Creative Shift Mastermind* groups beginning January of this year. My memory doesn't quite remember being given the assignment to write my own Manifesto in February or May but I'm pretty certain the assignment was given.  But here's the thing: I never even attempted it. 

This time when Dan gave the manifesto assignment I heard,  "all you have to do to create your manifesto is decide what you want to tell others about what is important to you." I realize that is not a very free flowing sentence but something about how he described the process of writing a manifesto this time encouraged me to tackle the task in my journal that very morning. I was surprised!

After I wrote the Manifesto heading in my journal, the words seemed to appear. Again I repeat, I was surprised. I was pleased by how easy it turned out to be once I started writing and when I shared it with a former group member she said that it was so beautiful, she printed it out and wanted to keep it near. I was totally surprised at her reaction!

Another thing I hadn't heard before that may have encouraged me was: "think of what kind of conversation you like to have with others."  If you know my INFJ self, my introverted, quiet self, my twoness on the enneagram self, you know that I am most comfortable talking about intimate, personal, uncomfortable-for-most-people, stuff. I think my Manifesto indicates these tendencies. 

So I decided that my blog readers deserved to read this manifesto because it is the basis for everything I write  Take a look:

I believe (and often protest) that anything deep and meaningful takes time to create and intimately know.

I believe that the causes and conditions we are exposed to throughout our life may foster in us mistaken notions that are not adequate for healthy living.

I believe that we need support to thrive.

I believe that each person has many different inner parts and that each person needs to be acquainted with as many of these parts as possible. I believe that the parts will act up or prevent us from doing what we want to do if we don’t know them and learn how to manage them.

I believe that coming together with another person is a way to learn who you are. This is Freud’s idea of transference: we see parts of ourselves in others and can use this to learn more about who we are.

I believe that being gentle with your developing Self is key to progress.

There are probably no surprises but if there are, I have had recent practice dealing with surprises so let me know. I'd love to hear what you would leave out or add. I would be honored if you would write your own manifesto and share with me. I won't publish it unless you give me permission.

CLUE: Start a conversation sometime this week about a subject that would be on your manifesto, something you ordinarily don't talk about but would like to. Let me know how what happens.

 *Here is contact information for Dan Blank. The new MM will begin October:
WeGrowMedia - Dan Blank
The Creative Shift Mastermind

Thanks for exploring the mystery - Nicky Mendenhall

This 2010 image was created in Brazil.

Friday, August 10, 2018

A New Look at Exploring Mysteries - #48

The name exploring the mystery mysteriously came to me in 2012, when my web designer asked: "What name do we give this creation?"  

I grow fonder of the name every year, perhaps as I become more aware of its complexity.

As I become more comfortable with how complex life is, it is easier to accept that a mystery is more than a puzzle to be solved.  I've often had to remind myself that we are not exploring the mystery to come up with an answer.  

Mystery, the type we are exploring, describes something for which there is no human solution. The proper response to a genuine mystery is awe. In order to feel awe, we need to step back, take time, and savor. 

A dream is a mystery. Earlier this week, I tried to capture the essence of a dream. The illegible scratchings on an index card made with a pen that didn't start writing in the dark when I thought it did, led to a mystery all it's own.  Parts on the paper were almost impossible to read but here's what I deciphered:

I was backing fast down the driveway singing Dora Dora

It was an embarrassment to me as a psychotherapist to never feel competent making meaning out of dreams. This was mainly because I had a belief that I couldn't make meaning out of dreams. My frustration and eagerness to have the answer immediately often led to not even trying.

I've been missing being a therapist lately so I decided to be one for myself and stay with the dream,. To not let myself give up.   

So when I was thinking and talking outloud to myself about the backing up part of the dream, I suddenly remembered writing blog posts a few weeks ago where the focus was on paying attention to what is in back of us. So maybe I was backing up because there was something important back there! Perhaps the dream is related to the memoir I am writing about my psychoanalysis.  

The "doro doro" song may have been triggered by a note my sister recently passed on to me, a note that I wrote my mother sixty-seven years ago when she was in the hospital giving birth to this sister. Being nearly six years old at the time, I assured my mother that I was fine and reported that I was able to play "doctor doctor" on the piano.

It doesn't feel like I've solved the mystery of my dream and what it means but I have explored it. The process of exploration is satisfying when I am able to slow down, savor, examine, and explore.

Do you like thinking of the word mystery in this way or does it frustrate you? What do you wish you would slow down, savor, examine and explore more? I would love to hear your ideas. What is a mystery to you? Please email me or comment on the blog.

CLUE: If you remember a dream this week, take some time to play around with it - whether or not you believe that dreams bring us psychological knowledge. Whatever you think about dreams, I think we all might feel that the contents of a dream are mysterious.

Thank you for exploring the mystery - Nicky Mendenhall

Friday, August 3, 2018

Deal With Complexity By Doing More Or Less? - #47

I am tempted to overlook the complexities of life. Even after years of analysis, my pattern of reverting to all or nothing thinking  is very seductive.

When I wrote in Post #46 that meditation was as simple as following your breath, nothing about that was untrue. What I didn't say was that meditation can be so much more. So much more, just like life can be so much more, when we pay attention.

That life is too complex for all or nothing thinking is one of the most valuable insights I have gained in treatment. And it was a difficult lesson for me to learn and then put in practice. As you can tell, I'm still working on it.

I have been and sometimes remain tempted to rush important decisions for the purpose of settling the matter at hand. This is because I am uncomfortable waiting for clarity. Anxiety can be difficult to contain.

This morning during meditation, a person from the past popped into the the present moment. Our connection was severed over twenty years ago. When I thought of this person, I felt something was unsettled. My initial reaction was that I needed to DO something.

One reason meditation has been valuable for me is that sitting on the cushion* and staying there, even when discomforting emotions  urge me to DO something, I can practice being with the anxiety and then make considered choices instead of thoughtless reactions.

Because I've experienced in meditation that feelings rise and then pass away, I stayed with the uncomfortable feeling. Yes, I said to myself, I could call this person. Then the thought arose that there was really nothing more for me to say. That doing nothing was the option that made the most sense right now.

Sometimes dealing with complexity means you say more. Other times, dealing with complexity is best dealt with by saying less. It can be complex figuring out which option we want to take.

CLUE: When something feels complex & bugs you this week, think of some ways to do less rather than doing more. Let me know how it goes and how you feel about it.

Thanks for exploring the mystery - Nicky Mendenhall

*Or in my case kneeling on a bench because it is no longer possible to cross my legs in front of me. I also want to acknowledge that many people don't meditate and I have observed that these people accomplish the same skill of managing their feelings that a person who meditates does. I applaud wholeheartedly however we learn to deal with our feelings.

Image taken when the flowers on the back deck were glorious. Now they are wilted and playing dead. 

Friday, July 27, 2018

The Magic of Transformation - #46

The word magic has always made me yearn to know the magician's tricks; how could part of a woman vanish when sawed in half? Where was the rabbit before pulled out of the hat?  

When I began focusing on my inner life, there were times I wished for magic to vanish thoughts that made me anxious.

One thought in particular: Becoming obsessed about physical symptoms; fearing the symptom will get worse and/or never go away.  

This week I started using a foot massager (because my massage therapist who does magic on my feet is not available), and my right foot (it's usually the left) began hurting. 

Now whether the machine has anything to do with the pain or not, I don't know. But I want to stop focusing on the pain. It drags me down emotionally.

I haven't found a magic trick to make my thoughts disappear. It's not a trick but what I have discovered is that if I want to change my thoughts, I will need to become familiar with how my mind works.  

Meditation is one way to learn how the mind works. You can get to know your mind in other ways: set an intention of being more aware of one thought that makes you miserable, see how often it comes up, get to know what triggers it.  

Meditation is basically trying to focus on your breath or a mantra and then noticing what happens when your focus changes. Where does your mind go?

Meditation or however you chose to become aware of your thoughts, gives us access to the magic of transformation. The trick is to be consistent and open to change. 

Thanks for exploring the mystery - Nicky Mendenhall

CLUE - Be open to the magic of transformation. It can be as simple as noting how the light looks when you get out of bed and how it is changing/transforming every day.

The image is from a particularly beautiful morning walk this week.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Living with the Less than Perfect - #45

As the neurologist reviewed my MRI scan, I tried to take deep breaths, to not tense up and hold my breath. The exam room was outfitted with a table and large monitor. Eventually the Doctor raised his gaze from the screen, turned to face me, looked me in the eyes: "Parts of your brain are atrophied."

The above memory manifested in my mind shortly after the ceiling light over the bed flashed on. It was 1:30 A.M.  This light has mysteriously turned on in the past but this is the first time my rude awakening resulted in a recollection.

Buddhists speak of events occurring because of causes and conditions. The shift in focus from what is behind us to a focus on what is inside us may be one cause and condition that brought up this memory. When I heard the word atrophy, there was, for me, an insinuation of failure. It was a difficult word to hear. I didn't want to remember this memory.

When I think about our new focus of going inside, I don't think of writing about the brain, I think about ideas that relate to the mind. Perhaps the nearly midnight memory is my unconscious trying to draw attention to the more biological aspect of going inside.

Am I worried about what the neurologist saw on the MRI scan? Of course. But since the shunt was inserted on February 28, 2017, I have felt the healthiest I have for years. 

Maybe the lesson here is to not make assumptions about what we see but pay attention to what we feel.

How do the physical properties of the brain relate with our inner lives? Where do you think the mind is? What areas of your life do you need to look past appearances?  Please let me know what you think and feel.

It appears that going inside is going to be interesting! 

CLUE for the week: Celebrate summer and appreciate going outside without a coat and hat with both your brain and your mind. Let me know what you like best about summer if you are in the Northern Hemisphere! 

Thanks for exploring the mystery - Nicky Mendenhall

Note: The mushrooms in the image above are from the walk where I encountered the ripped apart tree image last week.  Wendell reported they were gone the next day.

Friday, July 13, 2018

The Interior as a Focus of Attention - #44

After a wind storm and the flash flood of North Walnut Creek, walking on the concrete nature trail by our home meant stepping over dried mud and surveying damage to the woods. One tree was opened up in a manner I had never seen before and I tried to capture what I saw and felt when I came upon it. 

I hope you can see how the tree is open to its core. It was shocking for me to see how utterly stripped apart the tree was. Apparently the wind behind blew it over because it was rotten inside. 

The tree brought to mind a Ralph Waldo Emerson quote I had seen recently:

 "What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us."

I love this quote as it speaks to what is important to me and where our focus will be for the next few months: what is inside. 

Watching a young child interact with others, witnessing an adult child make it through a life transition with integrity, cheering on a friend working out how to be in a long term relationship, or feeling your own inner landscape becoming larger are all ways of comprehending what lies within.

I hope you will be open to changing your focus of attention from what is behind you to what is inside you. I'm excited about our new direction!

Thanks for exploring the mystery - Nicky Mendenhall

CLUE for the week: Pay attention to your inner responses this week. How many times do you try and talk yourself out of what you are feeling? Be kind to yourself this week and cherish what is inside.


Friday, July 6, 2018

Two Characteristics of Introverts - #43

While making reservations for our June 15th, 55th class reunion, I felt stirrings of excitement. When it was time to hop on Highway 330, I wanted to back out. It was so hot. I knew only a small percentage of the 72 in the graduating class because we were together for just one year. I won't remember people's names. I'll get eaten alive by mosquitoes. It will take so much energy!

Online a few days later, I noticed a self-identified introvert reveal  that frequently, after he made social plans, he wanted to back out. 

As an introvert myself, I resonated.   

Dan Blank, the moderator of this discussion and owner of WeGrowMedia, asked a question that caught my attention: Do introverts have to be drained by social interaction?

Dan went on to say that if introverts steer the conversation to topics that are enjoyable to them, the pleasure they feel may make up for the energy expended. His closing remark: "You might even be energized!" 

I decided to try this out at the reunion. I wish I could say that all my conversations were pleasurable, but I can say that most of them were. And that is because I found a way to bring up my favorite subject: writing. 

Here's the spot in this post where I would report fascinating conversations if I could. The noisy sweltering shelter house made remembering difficult for me because of another characteristic of introverts: Overstimulation impairs the ability to be present.

Arriving home after the event, I experienced a sense of satisfaction from the overall friendliness of people. I didn't have many deep conversations but I did enjoy myself. And I wasn't wiped out by the event - just tired.

Do you consider yourself an introvert? Whether an introvert or extrovert, do you ever want to back out of social plans? Do you?

Thanks for exploring the mystery - Nicky Mendenhall

CLUE: A word Dan uses frequently is obsession. Think of what you are obsessed with these days. What do you feel passionate about? Bring it up in a conversation. See if you gain energy. Let me know what happens. 

Dan Blank helps writers and artists with their creative lives. Sign up for his free weekly newsletter at WeGrowMedia. 

Friday, June 29, 2018

The Beauty Of Being Uncomfortable - #42

My first trip to India was in 1994. I wondered why the tour leaders were slightly apologetic when they told me who my roommate was. Her name sounded innocent enough: Mona. It wasn't long before I discovered the reason for their hesitation.

Mona was a talker.  

I wanted quiet because in India I often found myself in a state of overarousal. The noise, colors, and crowds pressed in on me. India didn't seem to bother Mona. 

Mona knew how to shop. While I was determined not to make the trip about shopping, my greed grew stronger each time she brought her treasures to our room.  

One day, Mona returned from a shopping expedition and displayed the most beautiful silver ring. It was like nothing you could find in the States. There was an exotic Buddhist symbol signifying long life and happiness. It was unique. It was beautiful.  It fit me. It should have been mine. I felt out of control with desire. I wanted it!

The next day was my 49th birthday. At the party, most everyone gave me a gift. Mona gave me the ring. I was gobsmacked! Her generosity was beyond my comprehension. I didn't even like her and she gifted me with something she knew I desperately wanted. 

I have worn it  every day, barring three days it was being overhauled at the jewelers. That's 24 years of daily wear.

This ring is part of my past - something behind me. But it is also here with me in the present. The ring reminds me of what I've been learning recently: good things come from uncomfortable circumstances. 

Thanks for exploring the mystery - Nicky Mendenhall

Clue for week: Pay attention to the next time you are uncomfortable and see if staying with it for a few minutes yields something positive. Or, option two, be more generous than you would usually be. For example tip twice as much as you would usually tip. Let me know the results of being uncomfortable and extra generous. You can do one or both for extra credit!

Image: Those of you who were around in 2014, may remember this photo from the Water exhibit by Burtynsky. Used by permission.


Friday, June 22, 2018

Honor Your Feelings - #41

The novel, The Nightingale*, was on my hold list at the Urbandale Library for several months. My name finally came up yesterday. When I opened to chapter one, page one, here's what I found:

"It is unnerving, this new unreliability in my vision. Perhaps that's why I find myself looking backward. The past has a clarity I can no longer see in the present."

Since I have cataracts in both eyes and optic neuropathy in my left eye and keep writing about what is behind me, I was astonished to read this. The story begins in 1995 when the woman is eighty. I was excited to read about someone older than me.

But Chapter 2 shifts back to 1939.

I was mad because I didn't want to know what happened in the past. I wanted to know what happened to her at eighty! Why did she climb the rickety stairs to her attic and how did she handle her doctor son who tried to boss her around? 

I decided to skip to the last chapter.

Chapter 39, finds the 80 year old main character facing her fears and traveling to Paris with her son but not letting him boss her around. She reconnects with people from her past and her son is impressed and all her secrets are revealed. She is a heroine. She finds herself.  

I cried. I'm not kidding you, I sort of sobbed - not a big sob but a short sob.

I was feeling down before I got to Chapter 39 because a group I'm in is ending next week and I will miss the connections. I figured that was probably bothering me but I didn't want to admit it. I didn't want to sit with the feelings. I just wanted to feel differently. 

The release of tears made me feel better. Why can't I remember to pay attention to my feelings and really feel them? Feelings are in back of my mind and I am going to learn to pay attention to them!

CLUE: Pick a feeling that is in back of your mind and really feel it. See how it shifts and changes. Be thankful that you can feel feelings. They are what makes us human. Cherish at least one feeling this week! Please tell me which one you choose. 

Thanks for exploring the mystery - Nicky Mendenhall

*The Nightingale: A Novel by Kristin Hannah, 2015.