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.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Gently Appreciating Our Support - #40

Many of you let me know, when I see you in person, that you have read and enjoyed this blog. I can't tell you how delightful it feels to hear that. Sometimes it terrifies me to know someone is actually reading what I write. My new calling as a writer generates various feelings and is very challenging!

In light of our exploration of the premise that what is behind or in back of us is as important as what is in front, it occurs to me that more awareness of you behind me would be healthy to cultivate. You are out there even when I don't hear from you.  

When one of you does hit reply or is savvy enough to figure out how the comment section works, I will celebrate. Comments will be frosting on the cake! And that's no small thing as it brings back fond memories. As a girl, when my mother decorated cakes, she would squirt frosting from the decorating tube directly into our mouths as a treat!

CLUE for the week: Take a moment to determine what is behind you that you can use as support. It could be an inanimate object like a comfortable chair. Or you may recall a person that you feel connected to even though the contact with them is not frequent. Whatever you choose, place a feeling of gratitude and gentleness around it. Celebrate what is behind you!

Please let me know what supports you - back of front!

Thanks for exploring the mystery with me - Nicky Mendenhall

Image is of clouds. I love watching clouds and receiving images.


Friday, June 8, 2018

Can You Trust What Is In Back of You? - #39

What have we learned from studying what is in back of us? 

That we need someone to be behind us and that coaches often fill this role. A crucial part of a relationship of this type is trust.

This week, I want to explain how my osteopath, who practices osteopathic manual medicine, is behind me both in literal and nonliteral ways. 

There are often students following him when he sees me for treatment. I can sense that he is a trusted mentor for them. After my surgery, he told me that one of the students was responsible for my diagnosis; the student remembered the mnemonic for Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus.  

As their teacher, he listened to students. He also gave the student credit. Careful listening is part of building trust.

The Dr. listens to me when I tell him what feels out of alignment in my body.  

Osteopathic Manual Medicine is a hands-on treatment.This means  the Doctor needs to touch the patient and be in close proximity to their body. He asks me everytime he touches me, "Is it okay if I touch your ischial tuberosity?"*  

After several years of being treated by him, I feel very safe and sometimes it feels annoying when he asks permission every time he touches me. However, when I read about coaches who have taken advantage of athletes or doctors who have engaged in inappropriate touching with patients, I realize how important it is that he keeps asking. It is part of what makes me know I can trust him.

Looking someone in the eyes is said to be a way we can know if we can trust them. When we are talking about someone being behind us, we have to use other ways of knowing.  

Do you feel your Doctor is behind you? If so, how? If not, why not? Is it easy for you to trust someone who is behind you, someone who has your back? Why or why not? I'd love to hear of your experiences. Please reply to this email or to to comments.

Your clue for this week: Tell yourself that you can trust yourself to do what you say you are going to do. Then do it. Small things matter. Let me know what you encounter!

Thank you for exploring the mystery - Nicky Mendenhall

* He actually says Sitz bones but when I Googled sitz bones, thia is what I learned and I decided to share it with you.

The image is of a fabulous spiderweb that my husband found a year of so ago. Look closely and you can see how wonderfully made it is!

Friday, June 1, 2018

What Type of Coach Do You Need?- #38

 Perhaps one reason I resonate with the idea that what is in back of us is as important as what is in front of us is because of my vision. Cataracts in both eyes mean I don't see the little blue flowers my partner points out when we are on a nature walk. Optic neuropathy in my left eye means impaired depth perception.  

But I do have a strong sense of what or who is behind me.  

Janene Armstrong*, my personal wellness coach, is behind me. She assumed a nurturing supportive approach when we started working together nine months ago. After a few months she began being tougher on me. When I didn't think I could do one more plank she urged, "Try it one more time!"

In the last month the two of us have discussed fitness issues in a more collegial way. She is still nurturing and supportive and she still pushes me but now we discuss ways we might work together.

A coach who is behind you knows when to nurture, when to make you toe-the-line, and when to move the relationship to a collegial one. Some coaches specialize in nurturing and some in pushing you to do your best. It's possible to have a good coach who just isn't giving you what you need at the time.

Now there are book coaches who help you write a book. My plan is to hire one in the near future. My needs will be for someone to nurture me (because self-doubt is sometimes my roommate) and for someone to keep me accountable (because having deadlines helps).

Coaches have your back. Coaches are behind you. 

Clue for the week that you probably didn't expect: Try to be your own coach. Keep in mind it is just for this week. Decide what you need. Nurture or push yourself or make time for a conversation with a good friend. However, if you are ready, hire someone to help you. 

Let me know what type of coach you need and if you are able to find it. Or tell me how you are your own coach. Are you still thinking about what is in back of you? Tell me if you are!

Thanks for exploring the mystery - Nicky Mendenhall

*Jenene is a certified health coach and women’s fitness specialist who serves women over 45 who are ready to take charge of their health and lifestyle again. She helps women to get active, ditch the diet mentality, learn to eat real, nutritious foods that give them the energy they need, eliminate sugar addiction, lose weight, change habits for good.....and feel fabulous again!
*Here’s Jenene's website link: 

Friday, May 25, 2018

Appreciate Your Inner Goodness - #37

In January I printed every post published since 2012. Printed because I am old fashioned enough to need paper in my hands to really study something. After rereading 350 posts, I imagined inspiration waking me up in the night with a fabulous idea for a new creation.  

Let's just say this project has stalled.

Perusing posts has been gratifying (remembering connections forged, marveling at variety of subjects), shocking (not remembering what I wrote and forgetting books I quoted), and startling (some posts sound intellectual or businesslike, some not clear what I wrote or what I was quoting).  

Posts in May have focused on exploring why what is in back of us is as important as what is in front of us. This now strikes me as another occasion my unconscious was involved.

The other day, I was following behind the scene internet links and found an article by Aura Glaser that coincidentally was published in 2012. I found inspiration in this line: 

"Our capacity to turn toward whatever scares or repels us, and remain present with it, depends on our access to inner goodness."*

I am disappointed that I haven't created something new. It helps to express this. The helpful message I receive from Aura Glaser: Appreciate my effort. Appreciate my motivation. Be in contact with and appreciate my inner goodness.  

Weekly Clue for exploring your mysterious Self: Each day, appreciate an effort that you make even if you don't produce a product. Pick an effort that you often overlook that you do out of the goodness of your heart. 

Please share where you place your attention. I am notorious for dropping kleenex all over the house. When I stand up, I usually leave a crumpled one behind me. I'm going to appreciate myself every time I notice that I dropped one and actually stop and pick it up.

Thanks for exploring the mystery - Nicky Mendenhall

Friday, May 18, 2018

What Is In Back Of Our Thoughts? - #36

"It's always that space in back of you that's as important as -- or almost more important than -- the space in front of you."  

Let's look further at this idea that we played with in Post #31.

Scientists say humans have a larger brain structure than most other animals. One reason may be that we have a neocortex which is responsible for developing thoughts. (It has other functions too.) These thoughts allow us to be self reflective - to be aware of ourselves. The thoughts also help us think about the space in back of us. Humans have always been very interested in themselves.

What is in back of or behind the thoughts we have? 

Our five senses!

When we intellectualize, we are submerged in thought. When this happens, our senses are blocked out. We lose contact with our bodily feelings.

Many times it isn't easy to know what is behind our thoughts. There is a voice in our head that warns us of the dangers we will face if we discard or question our precious thoughts.  

Our bodies can help us. Our bodies are home for our five senses. Knowing what is behind your thoughts will put you in contact with your feelings and your humanness.

Clue for this week: Pay attention to your breath whenever you can this week. The breath is a built-in stress reliever. Try and feel your breath for a couple of breaths. Don't just think about your breath, feel the breath. See what happens.

If none of this makes sense to you, don't worry about it. Just use the clue and let me know what happens! If you have questions, don't hesitate to email me.

Thanks for exploring the mystery - Nicky Mendenhall

The image is one selected from my computer files. I don't remember it but but looking at it gives me a good feeling. Hope you enjoy!


Friday, May 11, 2018

When Exploring Mysteries We Need Clues - #35

I surprised myself yesterday.  

Leaving my analyst's office, I was greeted by a plethora of trees with pink, lavender, and white flowers. They were in front of me and in back of me and all around me. The overabundance of blossoms took my breath away.

A twinge of angst fluttered in my chest. This bodily reaction spoke  of impermanence. A part of me knew that the intense beauty would soon disappear.

Then a thought that surprised me popped into my mind. It was a thought I have never had before: Whatever happens when I die, it will have to be spectacular to beat this.

Does this have anything to do with the unconscious? I don't know but I am wondering about it.  

Maybe the thought was a clue. When we explore mysteries, like we do here every week, we need clues!  

I would like to announce, exploring the mystery, has a new feature! Each post will have a clue - an idea that you can play with all week. These clues will be designed to help you stay in the present moment which will help you live a meaningful life.

This week's clue: Each day, should you decide to participate, find a thing or person of beauty.  Something that makes you feel good. Savor it. Be grateful for it. Just make a note of it in your mind. 

I think my clue, if it was a clue, was telling me to find beauty everyday and appreciate the earth. I'm sharing with you. Let's all find beauty this week. Be sure and let me know what you are savoring. Please remember that you are in good company!

Thanks for exploring the mystery - Nicky Mendenhall

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Special Surprise Suggestion - #34

I forgot to include this suggestion in Post 33.

This week, pay attention to what surprises you. Try to be aware of unpleasant or pleasant surprises. Just be aware when things don't turn out like you thought they would or how you wanted them to. You could be dealing with your unconscious or it could be another reason that only you know. We are looking for things that we weren't expecting to happen.That's the first step.

When you recognize a surprise, say to yourself: I have everything I need to handle this surprise. I have resources and I have strengths. Remind yourself of them.

Then remember that there are other exploring the mystery readers doing the same thing and rejoice in being in such good company! Let us know what surprised you, you don't have to tell us what you figured out about why you were surprised but we would love to hear that too.

Thanks for considering the suggestion! Nicky

Friday, May 4, 2018

I Wonder If It Is Really My Unconscious? - #33

The exploration of the space in back continues to fascinate me.  Surprises continue.  

Mason, my youngest son, commented he felt I was being vague about my scar when I didn't mention it directly as one of the concerns about my pink scalp.

I gasped. 

In case you are wondering, the previous sentence wasn't stolen 
from a Harlequin romance. Mason will validate that I speak the truth.

I gasped. The week I wrote about the back of my head, I didn't once think about the bumpy four inch scar from brain surgery. 

I purposefully am not writing I forgot the scar. I often reach back and feel this weird addition to my body.The scar is where I can't see it but I never forget it.

But then, why wasn't I conscious of the scar when I was writing about the back of my head?

I blame my unconscious.

Freud thought that the unconscious was a force. Perhaps the force of my unconscious interfered with my remembering the scar when I wrote about the back of my head. 

But why? 

Well, maybe my unconscious is not ready to accept that my life was saved by surgery.  Harboring a deep distrust of the current medical system, believing more in alternative medicine, how do I integrate the fact that modern medicine made it possible for me to walk again?

I certainly don't understand the unconscious but I do like being able to assign meaning when something stays out of my awareness. 

That there can be meaning in what is not in our awareness or meaning in what we forget is something to explore. Do you ever wonder why you forget something? Would your unconscious have anything to do with it? What escapes your awareness? So you even believe in the unconscious? 

Please reply to this email or go to website and comment.

Thanks for exploring the mystery - Nicky Mendenhall

Friday, April 27, 2018

I'll Meet You Out Back! - #32

Since last week's post, my mind has been obsessed with what is in back of me.  

Wendell (power behind the throne) says that when he is fly casting, knowing what is behind him is vital.  

This week at my analyst's office, while free associating on her  analytical couch, it didn't surprise me (given my obsession) that  exploring the mystery's topic of what is in back came out of my mouth . I said quite a lot about how this was interesting to me and why.  

I was astonished at the response: "I sit behind you and you have your back to me."

Her observation (I wondered immediately why this hadn't occurred to me) nudged me to ponder, this time in nonliteral ways, the importance of what is in back of me. That her observation had this effect on me is fascinating because her observation was literal: she sits behind me and I lie with my back to her. 

Consistent with the psychoanalytic approach, her words helped me go to another level of thinking. And I'm still thinking.

It seems we often do not know what is behind us. If I don't use a mirror to check the hair on the back of my head, I risk exposing my pink scalp through my thinning white hair. This speaks to a literal interpretation. Why having my pink scalp show feels shameful is a question that comes from thinking nonliterally. 

By investigating this question, what will discover about myself? Why does it feel so wrong to show my scalp?

Is there something weird behind you that you don't quite understand? Have you ever been astonished? I'd also like to hear more literal ideas about the importance of what is in back. Please tell us in the comment section anything you think pertinent to this discussion.

Thanks for exploring the mystery - Nicky Mendenhall

PS - The image  above was from a trip to Amsterdam in 2016. You may not be able to see the rats painted on the man's leather jacket but I saw them and recoiled, after snapping the photo of course.

PPS - I appreciate your insightful responses that now reside in the comment section which is behind the post (really at the end of post but I couldn't resist). There are 12 from last week alone. See if you can figure out how to post in the comment section or simply hit reply to this email which will send your comment to me and I can paste it in. Let me know if you want me to use your full name, first name, or anonymous.


Friday, April 20, 2018

I've Got Your Back! - #31

Obsessed with locating Broken Screen: Expanding the Image, Breaking the Narrative, I resolved to pay $1.50 and see if Interlibrary Loan could find it for me.  A book review promised 26 conversations with artists, filmmakers, designers, and architects. I learn from artists. 

Doug Aitken writes in the preface he organized this 2006 book to capture the essential motivations behind the creative process. The conversations focus on ideas about nonlinearity and fragmentation. 

Skimming the book I learned that nonlinear stories are needed, according to Amos Vogel, "because the old-fashioned, straightforward, linear narratives - with their beginning, middle, and happy endings - have none of the real mysteries of existence that we all know to be true in our own lives."

It was, however, an interview with Robert Wilson that fascinated me the most. Here's Robert:

"It's always that space in back of you that's as important as -- or almost more important than -- the space in front of you."  

My mind keeps mulling over the idea that what is behind me is as important as what is in front of me.  I pondered it yesterday while lying face down on the massage table.

I've noticed more people saying, "I've got your back." I want to continue paying attention to what is in back of me.

Here are two questions for you. Pretend that I am interviewing you and write your answers in the comment section or reply to this email:

Do you want your entertainment to have a happy ending? 

What do you think of the idea that what is behind you is as important as what is in front of you?

Thanks for exploring the mystery - Nicky Mendenhall

The image was taken from our hotel, "Ink" in Amsterdam.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Your Future Self & An Owl- #30

Note: This is a demanding post. You will need to look carefully to see the owl in the image (upper right) and you will be asked to use your imagination (right hemisphere of the brain).  

I'm reading Tara Mohr: Playing Big: Practical Wisdom for Women Who Want to Speak Up, Create, and Lead.

The first chapter does a great job of describing the ever present inner critic. I appreciate Mohr's insight that messages from this part of ourselves are designed to protect us from emotional risk.  

In another chapter she offers an exercise designed to imagine our future selves. I felt hesitant to tackle this visualization after I read the instructions: add twenty years to your age. 

My inner critic rapidly spoke up to tell me that no one as old as I was should even consider this type of nonsense. This cheeky critic even spoke for Mohr saying she didn't have old people in mind when designing this exercise.  

I had to take charge. First, there was murmuring under my breath,"I know you are trying to keep me safe" and then a raised voice asking for silence, 

The visualization of my 92 year old self began. I pictured dancing in flowing purple silk, my body slim and flexible, surrounded by loved ones, trees, and books. I was having a good time. The exercise continued with me feeling non-judgemental, creative, and full of relief at finally knowing how to use Microsoft Word. Love was all around.

The critic was quiet.

Do you recognize your inner critic?

Can you imagine your future self in twenty years? Let me know how adding twenty years to your current age and then imagining yourself goes for you. It's reassuring for me to think that during this visualization I could be stronger than the critical voice. 

Can you recognize your inner critic? What message does your inner critic whisper in your head? Can you silence it? I'd love to hear from you!

Thanks for exploring the mystery - Nicky Mendenhall

Saturday, April 7, 2018

It's 2 AM - #29

Yesterday I had a funny feeling I was forgetting something.

I just woke up and remembered what it was: 

I didn't design a blogpost!

Unable to drift back to sleep, I decided to crawl out of bed and open up my ASUS.

It wasn't that I didn't think about exploring the mystery yesterday. I have pledged to myself (and somehow it seems like to you since some of you have been such faithful readers for years) that I will spend one hour a day focused on creating something from three hundred+ blog posts 2012 to 2017.  

Yesterday was the second official day of this process. I had all kinds of ideas. It was very exciting.

That's why I forgot.

See you next week!

Thanks for exploring the mystery with me - Nicky Mendenhall

Friday, March 30, 2018

Plum As Teacher Even Though Not Pictured - #28

exploring the mystery wants to help you discover how to be the person you want to be. Often posts concern the importance of maturing. I have written in the past how to raise our level of consciousness. Do those ideas explain why you read these posts?

Sometimes an analogy can worm its way into our brain and help us feel things that are difficult to put into words. I owe my inspiration for this post to Tagore, a Bengali polymath. My rendition may not capture the excitement I felt when initially reading but I trust you will at least find comfort or wisdom.

Think of a plum hanging on a tree. The plum clings tightly to the tree branch. The outer skin of the plum molds itself tightly against the plum's flesh. The flesh snugs itself against the seed. The plum is hard. 

Because of its condition, it is not wise to separate the plum from the tree or try to separate the skin from the flesh. There is no benefit to be gained from prying the tough flesh from the seed.

As time passes, the plum lets go of its hold on the branch. The plum ripens, the skin gradually becomes softer and stops clinging to the flesh so tightly. The flesh softens around the seed. 

Do you sense the vital need to embrace the spirit of letting go as you age? Can you think of other examples in Nature that would give this message? Let me know what you think, I really would like to know. Hit reply to the email or go to the comments section.

Thanks for exploring the mystery - Nicky Mendenhall

Friday, March 23, 2018

Is Mystery Spiritual? - #27

I'm excited to report that I have finished reading blog posts from 2012 - 2015. Now on to year 2016. Some of you have been regular contributors and I want to express my gratitude for your faithfulness to exploring the mystery.

The word mystery implies, I've been told, something spiritual. I remember when I sat down with a man from Adel to develop my blog. One of the first questions he asked me: What do you want to name it?

I still wonder where the title came from. It seemed to just flow out of my mouth: exploring the mystery. I've liked the freedom that the name has given me though I often stumble when asked what mysteries are explored. 

In the next three months, my focus will be on developing a clear focus for this blog. I would love it if you emailed me a word or two that you think describes what we do here.

I've read that the memory of spiritual intensity in childhood is a yardstick for measuring spiritual experiences for the rest of our lives. 

It's interesting to ponder this today, the day my Aunt emailed me the news that her father's, who was my grandfather, birthday is today. He would be 124.  Grandpa and Grandma were responsible for initiating my interest in spirituality. They picked me up on the farm and gave me a ride into town where we all attended the Methodist Church.

I remember one of the Sunday School teachers convincing me to persuade my parents to attend church. This was undoubtedly the birth of my missionary self.

Do you have a memory of spiritual intensity from your childhood that has influenced how spirituality played out in your life? Would you please share it with us? 

Thanks for exploring the mystery - Nicky Mendenhall

Friday, March 16, 2018

What's Your Purpose or Mission? - #26

Retiring from your life's work is a huge step. For me it has taken time to let go of my role as a therapist and to let go of knowing what is happening in the lives of people I cared about. Time to remember that I no longer have to position my calendar so no one can see what's written in it. Time to get used to no checks to deposit.  

I think it makes sense that when people retire, they might be susceptible to a reality distortion field. See post #25 for reference.   

As you will see if you look at the comments related to #25,  the meaning of reality distortion field is still somewhat mysterious. But one thing I'm certain of is that it isn't a field of dreams. Staying out of it seems a good move.

But how?

It occured to me that if I was clear about my purpose in life, it might be easier to stay non-distorted. The following statement speaks to NOW and will, like everything, change:  

"In my former life as a psychotherapist, I listened to client stories. Now I will  write my own. A life focused on writing will contain daily journal entries, work on creating “product” from body of work, and  frequent documentation of personal analysis to discern if desire to create memoir is sustainable. Weekly blog posts and frequent instagram offerings will be creative outlets and provide opportunities for staying connected to friends, family, and writing community."

I'm sharing this with you because composing it, which took lots more time than you would think, helped me feel more grounded. I thought you might like to write up your own purpose statement, even if you aren't retired, and send it for us to see or tell us if it had any effect on your life.

Thanks for reading and remaining a part of this evolving community.

Thanks for exploring the mystery - Nicky Mendenhall

Friday, March 9, 2018

Moldy Oldies - Revisiting 2012 - #25

exploring the mystery post, published on March 9, 2012, contains a phrase that still intrigues me. Extra points if you remember the phrase, or for that matter, anything from such an ancient post. How's your long term memory?  

The phrase: "reality distortion field." I had discovered this phrase while reading Walter Isaacson's biography of Steve Jobs in 2012. At that time, I  described the phrase as similar to how anxiety affects our views. 

Today I might define a reality distortion field as an internal pattern with a defensive nature. 

Here's an example: If my fear is that when another person is upset with me I won't be able to handle it, I may look out at the world from behind a reality distortion field that makes it seem as if everyone is mad at me.  Isn't it weird how we always seem to focus on the negative?

With reality distorted, when I hear an unusual tone in the other person's voice, I will be certain I have done something to upset them. The reality distortion field has worked. 

Can you think of an example of a positive reality distortion field?
I want to but have spent an inordinate amount of time on this post so I need to stop. (Pun intended - I need to stop.)

And in closing - would you believe that I put a little bit of sucanat (sugar) on my oatmeal this morning? Well, I did. I woke up missing the sweet taste so I figured I would try a little bit.  Then today I received a lovely comment from Connie extolling the virtues of moderation which seemed to affirm my decision. 

And just between us, thank heavens it didn't taste as good as I thought it would though initially it was disappointing that it wasn't wonderful but now that I write about it, I think it was a good result. 

Thanks for exploring the mystery - Nicky Mendenhall

Friday, March 2, 2018

New Instagram NickyHiattMendenhall - #24

My latest adventure - a new account on Instagram!

In keeping with our theme exploring the mystery, I will be posting images of things that are difficult for us to see.  

In the image above you will have to look closely to see the sign on the bicycle that says "can't stop." This photo, from a sidewalk-cafe window in Amsterdam aroused my curiosity. I wanted to ask the owner what they couldn't stop. Since I didn't see the rider I will ask you: 

What is it that you can't stop? 

I want to stop feeling so addicted to sugar. I find it nearly impossible, once my sweet tooth is activated, to say no.  My usual breakfast is a bowl of organic steel cut oatmeal. My habit has been to top this with a teaspoon of sucanat (whole cane sugar with molasses).

One morning about a week ago, I decided that if I was serious about managing my addictive feelings toward sugar, eliminating this spoonful in the morning was a place to start.

The first few days without succanaut were pretty rough. The oatmeal tasted flat and dull. It took nearly a week before I didn't crave that sugar taste. This morning I hardly noticed it wasn't there. It helped to pour on ground flax seed, chia seeds, walnuts, pomegranate powder, and cacao nibs.  

We went out to lunch today at one of our favorite restaurants, Table 128. When you walk out the door there is a plateful of free chocolate chip cookies.  I didn't take one. 

I don't want to stop eating sugar forever. I just want to be able to stop when I want to stop.

What is it that you can't stop? Maybe you can tell us something good for yourself that you can't stop doing! For me right now, I can't stop buying books!

How do you get yourself to stop when you want to? Is there anything that you want to stop? What is it that you can't stop? 

I'll explain more next time the thinking behind my Instagram adventure. In the meantime, if you have an Instagram account, please email me your address! I'd love to see it. I made my account a private account so you will have to request to follow me and I sincerely hope you do!

Thanks for exploring the mystery - Nicky Mendenhall


Friday, February 23, 2018

Jung on Paradox - Remember Paradox? - #23

Do you enjoy having a project in process? Part of me likes the feeling of steady progress that occurs as I continue working towards termination. Another part of me wants the end result. 

I'm thinking about conflicting feelings as I currently have a project.

Paul* figured out how to print my blog posts from 2012 to this year. I'm now going to read all 356 of them and make a note about each.  I have finished reading posts from 2012 and am in the middle of reading posts from 2013. 

At this juncture I'm uncertain why I'm doing this. I have a vague notion that I want to create something from this body of work. I love seeing the comments from all of you. I appreciate your loyalty for all these years. Thank you!

Brene Brown** quotes Carl Jung: "The paradox is one of our most valuable spiritual possessions...only the paradox comes anywhere near to comprehending the fullness of life." 

Remember when we explored paradox? I wonder what year that was? I don't recall thinking of paradox as a spiritual possession. Do you?

While conflicting feelings about my project do not technically qualify as a paradox, I want to use them  to feel the fullness of life and not become discouraged.

When you are working on a long project, how do you stay motivated? Any ideas for me of what to create with 300+ posts?

Thanks for exploring the mystery - Nicky Mendenhall

*Paul  Schwegler, owner of Little Dog Tech, 515 422 1995.
*Brene Brown, Braving the Wilderness, (2017), p.155.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Is it easy for you to pause? - #22

Fatigue was my constant companion from last Wednesday afternoon until Monday morning. After someone told me that fatigue is a symptom of this year's flu and that my body likely was trying to fight it off, I spent most of my time in bed.  Since I didn't feel like doing anything anyway, I slept.

Now that I'm feeling better, it's not as easy to take it easy. I want to do laundry and straighten up messes.  I feel as if my immune system needs plenty of rest. But when I put my feet up, my mind won't settle down. 

The body is largely a mystery to explore isn't it?  

I've been noticing that Susan Piver assures us breathing happens automatically during meditation instructions. That when we pause after an exhale, we don't have to worry because the body will start the breath again.

Think of it - the body has built a pause into our breathing pattern.
Stop for a moment and pay attention to the pause that happens.  

Enjoy the pause and stay well!

Thanks for exploring the mystery - Nicky Mendenhall