by: Kristine Madera
If you’ve been on this planet for more that ten years or so, then you’ve probably heard the evils of instant gratification—it makes you lazy, selfish, a bad citizen, and the queen of them all, fat, to indulge your every whim. But I would argue the opposite. When practiced as a life art, instant gratification and desire can make you more focused, more selfless, a more authentic person, and yes, even thinner.
If you watch a young child, their whole existence is about instant gratification, from eating to getting picked up, to needing to be changed they make their wishes known and the (hopefully benevolent) grown-ups in their life will snap to and fulfill the wee one’s whim. It was a great system, until you got a sibling or three, or started school, or otherwise began to learn that every little thing you want was inconvenient. Parents begin to pitch the story that easy acquisition is either bad for your character or bad for your health, or both. There is a valid point to this parental thwarting of desire, but as so often happens, the lesson taught and the lesson learned are so dissimilar that they could be opposites. The lesson parents wanted to teach is, of course, that many of the good things in life require patience and persistence and self-control, so better to learn it earlier rather than later. Very true. The problem is that at a tender age, what we want is so fundamental to survival—food, basic comfort, the assurance of love from our parents—that when we lack them, life really is uncomfortable. Desperation consumes our young minds and tempers tantrum, lips pout, tears rage until Mom sends us sulking to a Time-Out and that hard lesson of deprivation, or maybe whips out a cookie from the secret snack compartment in her purse to return our little world to bliss.
The lesson too often learned is that there is no pleasure in the gap between a desire and the fulfillment of that desire. It wouldn’t be so bad, except that somewhere along the line the desire grows from a cookie before dinner to a milestone in your education or career, or to the loving feeling you attach to a long-term relationship, or to retirement and playing with the eagerly awaited grandchildren. No danger of instant gratification with these kind of goals, but if you learned the lesson that there is no joy in the gap between the goal and the acquisition, what you get is a net deficit of pleasure. And that’s a shame, because desire itself can be a whole lot of fun.
The Buddhists claim that desire is the root of suffering, but I would say that it’s our relationship to desire, rather than desire itself that causes the suffering. Desire is a constant in life, like an itch. You may think that scratching that itch satisfies the itch, but another itch will eventually arise, in a different place perhaps, but it’s an itch nonetheless. So you scratch that one, too. You do it so naturally that you don’t even have to think about it—itch, scratch, itch, scratch, on and on, taking no notice unless the itch is unbearable, like from a cluster of mosquito bites or poison ivy. You can learn to ride out the itch (another Buddhist favorite) because if you wait long enough, that itch will pass, excruciating as it may be in the interim. Desire is like that, too. I no longer want a Barbie Dream Car, much as it had seemed a life and death longing thirty-something years ago, but there are still plenty of things I desire.
There is another approach that lies somewhere between reflexively scratching the itch and suffering as you ride out the longing: learn to enjoy desire. It’s not so outlandish. If desire weren’t inherently pleasant there would be no porn industry or retail layaway plans. Enjoying the desire is the instant gratification of feeling the way that you think your goal will make you feel while still working toward that goal. One of the little secrets of life is that the goal that you think you want isn’t what you really want. What you really want is the emotional state that goal represents to you (love, acceptance, achievement, security, freedom, etc.), and what you really, really want is probably three or four emotional layers beneath that.
Don’t believe me? Let’s take that idea out for a test drive with something easy, like ice cream. In the calorie-free zone of your own imagination, choose your favorite flavor, your favorite bowl and spoon. As you anticipate scooping the ice cream, pause and focus on how you feel. Is there a feeling of celebration, like at a birthday party? Maybe it feels purely indulgent, like a silk-lined robe, or rebellious, or a little naughty. Whatever it is for you, really savor it. It’s a delicious feeling isn’t it? You can get a lot of mileage out of a feeling like that without ever having to actually eat the ice cream. People rarely eat things like ice cream to satisfy physical hunger; they eat them for the emotional pleasure that they attach to the food. It can be a great dieting strategy to practice savoring the emotional qualities of the comfort food you think you crave while you stick to sensible eating in real life. Because what you want, I’ll say again, isn’t primarily the ice cream, it’s the feeling it represents. I’d bet you’ve experienced it; once you eat the ice cream—or whatever—the associated happy feeling passes, and it leaves you unsatisfied in a hollow, hungry sort of way.
Long-term goals are the same way. We’ve been conditioned to think that a solid career will satisfy the longing for achievement, that money will ensure security, that true love will fill the holes within and make us feel complete, and a whole host of other misrepresentations. No wonder then, when we get down the road in our career, or stash some money away, or find the love of our life, and the resulting emotions don’t rock our world the way we had anticipated, that we move the goalpost to a larger perceived emotional payoff—to another rung up the corporate ladder, a bolder stock strategy, divorce court—as if that were the principal problem.
But life is a lot more fun and satisfying if you look at your goals, explore the emotions you’ve attached to them, and begin to experience the emotional state that you want even as you are moving toward your goals. Want to play along at this game?
To give you a sense of how to play, I’ll bare my emotional soul as an example. Like many people, I have a hankering for abundance, specifically financial abundance. When I imagined myself with the money and income that felt really abundant to me, it was easy to feel that abundance provided a sense of fun and freedom that the lack of abundance did not. But that was just at the surface. As I stayed in the feelings and images and prodded deeper, I realized that I equated money with security, and even deeper, money with safety. Below that was a deep sense that I felt unsafe in the world, that I didn’t have a legitimate place in it, that I didn’t belong. So the feeling I wanted from abundance was to belong in the world, and that’s a lot of baggage to put on the number of digits on a bank account. Why did I associate money with belonging in the world? No idea. I can tell you from my work with clients that we get caught up in all sorts of things that, looking back, can seem like no big deal. They stem from spontaneous strategies to survive a painful moment, or decisions about the world or ourselves made when we are feeling most vulnerable. Not that people haven’t had some really horrendous experiences, just that it is often the little things that trip us up because they lie so far outside of awareness. What I can assure you is that once you have the jewel—the core feeling—at the bottom of the emotional rabbit hole, you have your ticket out, which we’ll get to in a moment.
If you want to play, pick a goal that you have in your life—personal, professional, whatever. Close your eyes and see yourself having achieved that goal, keep the vision as you begin to feel what it feels like to have achieved this goal—really get into the feeling. Identify the surface emotions in that feeling, and then sink deeper and deeper, like peeling through the layer of an onion. It may take several visits to sink all the way down. It’s fine to sit with a layer for days or weeks before you go further. Be gentle with yourself. When you feel like you have gotten to the core jewel then use this next strategy to dance out of the rabbit hole.
When you have your core desire—or your core fear as in my case—you begin to focus on the emotion that you truly want to feel. In my case, I began to look back on my life, from the very earliest to now, and looked at all the ways that I really did belong in the world—the people who drew me into their groups or otherwise reached out to protect me, the friends who embraced me, a family that loved me—and bit by bit, I stoked those feelings until the tipping point at which the fear crumbled under the evidence that I really did belong, and I no longer had to remind myself of it. Once I felt I belonged, I felt safe, secure, freer; able to relax and have more fun regardless of the bank balance at the end of the month.
If your feeling is a core desire (achievement, excellence, love, etc.) rather than a fear, then focus on intensifying that feeling until it is present in your life all the time, a central part of your experience of who you are. Do this by remembering all the times that you did, for example, achieve something—you learned to walk, speak, read, do math, throw a ball, made friends, all sorts of things; just keep tapping into those successes to amp up the feelings you want to incorporate into your life, and grow them they feel so real, so present that you are fully reaping the emotional benefits of your goal while still in the process of bringing that goal into being. (If, in fact, that particular goal is really the most appropriate for you; if not, being absorbed in the feeling of the success you want will direct you naturally to an even more authentic goal.)
This isn’t a one-time shot. Like all habits worth cultivating it takes practice and persistence to change the go-to mental wiring around desire and emotional gratification. It’s also not about the factual account of your life; it’s about your emotional relationship with it. You can’t change the fact that your dad walked out on the family when you were ten, or that you had to repeat the eighth grade because you were sick half the year, but you can absolutely change the way that you feel about it. You are (mostly) in control of your perception—and your emotions.
The naysayers out there may claim that if all you needed to do to have a great life is to sit on the couch and vision yourself into bliss, then nothing would get done, we’d all starve. I say that you can’t hold these kinds of feelings and visions for any length of time without them propelling you faster and further into your most satisfying, authentic life. But blissing yourself out can be a great way to pass a rainy Saturday afternoon.
It’s also not about depriving yourself of actual, real-life pleasure. Every once in a while, you should go ahead and eat the ice cream.
Kristine Madera is a speaker, writer and Certified Clinical Hypnotist & Hypno-Coach living and practicing in Asheville. Find out how she can coach you to use your desire to be your most authentic, joyful, successful self at www.MindWiseHypnosis.com. She is also the co-author of How to Meditate with Your Dog: An Introduction to Meditation for Dog Lovers.
By: Randy Siegel
Do you remember the children’s game “Simon Says”? If so, you’ll remember that the instructions are simple: The leader asks the participants to take an action. If the leader says, “Simon says…” before the action, you should do it. If the leader doesn’t say “Simon says…,” you should not. If you do anyway, you’re out of the game. Let’s play a round.
Simon says: Stand up.
Simon says: Touch your head.
Touch your heart.
Simon says: Touch your gut.
Simon says: Stand in your power!
Most of us want to stand in our power, but we’re unsure what that really means, much less how to do it. Within each of us is the power to become the full expression of all we are; that’s what we were born to do. And when we become the full expression of all we are, we stand in our power.
Think of a time that you felt you were at your best. You were confident, competent, and convicted. In short, you were master of your universe. How did you feel? Pretty good, huh? So, how do you get more of that good feeling in your life?
To master your universe, you must become the master of three distinct centers of human intelligence: your head, heart, and gut. Each has its own focus and function, and each has a specific call to you so that you can live your best life.
At any given moment, you are fluctuating between the head, heart, and gut. Stop a minute and ask yourself where your focus is right now. Is it on your thoughts (your head)? Or are you focused on the people around you (your heart)? Maybe you are experiencing strong physical, emotional, or cognitive sensations. If so, you are focused on your gut.
You have an order of preference that is your preferred mode of operating in the world.
One of these–head, heart, or gut –dominates; you use it most of the time. It’s followed by a second, and then a third; the third is the least used function. Think of this order as “your stack.” It’s important to note that no one stack is better than another.
Become Full Expression – Add One
To become the full expression of all you are, or to stand in your power, requires two steps. The first is to identify your stack, and the second is to energize each of the three centers in your stack.
Step One: Identify Your Stack
We’ll begin by reviewing each center, and as we do I want you to be thinking of what your stack may be. Which of the three—head, heart, gut—leads, which follows, and which follows that?
We’ll begin from the top, the head, and work down to the heart and gut. We’ll explore what it’s like to lead from each center and what each center calls us to do.
Thoughts rule the head, and the head calls us to conscious choice. Have you heard of the Myers-Briggs Personality Indicator? If so, when you lead from the head, you are probably a “thinker” according to Myers and Briggs. About two-thirds of males are thinkers on the Myers-Briggs indicator.
If you lead from the head, you are rational, analytical, logical, and maybe linear. Your forehead is often crinkled up in thought. Some may experience you as cool and detached. You stay calm and objective in situations where everyone else is upset.
The head calls you to live your life consciously and intentionally. Conscious choice requires you to tune into the constant conversation playing in your head. It’s been said we have as many as sixty thousand thoughts a day, and less than 4 percent of them are conscious ones. Unless you bring what is unconscious to consciousness, you’ll be like a puppet that is being guided by invisible strings. By bringing unconscious thought to consciousness, you’ll snip those strings; it’s then that you make conscious choices.
Let me give you an example; it’s one I often use when I teach presentation skills. Right before I conduct a workshop, I tune into the conversation in my head. Here’s what I may be thinking:
I hope they like me.
I hope I don’t make a fool out of myself.
I hope I have something valuable to say. This is a really sharp group.
You get the drift. My entire conversation is about me and my performance. It is as if I had a hand mirror to my face; all I can see is me. How am I going to connect with an audience if I am all I see?
Become Full Expression – Add Two
When I became conscious of these thoughts, I can make the decision to shift my orientation. Instead of focusing on me and my performance, I begin to focus on the audience and their needs. By doing so, the hand mirror comes down, and I can connect with the people to whom I am speaking.
Tune into your thoughts right now. What conversation is going through your head?
Most of us go through the day unaware of the conversations taking place in our minds. As a result, we react to situations instead of making conscious choices. By tuning into our thoughts, we are able to be more intentional about the way we communicate–instead of simply reacting.
We’ll now look at the next center, the heart. The focus of the heart center is emotion, and its call to us is connection. The heart is your emotional center. If you lead from the heart, you are probably a “feeler” on the Myers-Briggs indicator; roughly two-thirds of feelers are female.
If you lead from the heart, people experience you as warm, emotive, and empathetic. You are the natural “huggers” of the world. You greet the world with open hearts and extended arms. You take others’ feelings into account when making a decision; you prefer harmony over clarity and you avoid conflict. You can be accused of taking things too personally.
The heart calls you to be in connection with others. At the end of your life, it won’t be business success, money, power, or prestige that will have brought you happiness; it will be the relationships in your life.
Piero Ferrucci in his book The Power of Kindness: The Unexpected Benefits of Leading a Compassionate Life shares the beautiful Jewish story of a good king who is dying. Before his weeping subjects, he calls for an arrow and asks the weakest of them to break it. A frail man steps forward and does so with ease. The king then asks for the strongest of them to break a bundle of arrows bound together. Despite all the strongest man’s efforts, he cannot do it. The king says to his subjects, “As my inheritance, I bequeath to you the union among you all. Be united with one another. This oneness will give you great strength, which alone you would never be able to attain.”
In this age of individualism perhaps we are missing the gift of our inheritance: our unity. When we recognize we are all one and focus on relationships, we lead stronger, kinder, and more fulfilled lives.
The path to the heart center is through emotion, but for those of us who are thinkers, identifying and experiencing emotion can be difficult. I have found, however, that I can harness the power of my thoughts to tap into my heart center. Three strategies I use to assist me are reflection, repetition, and visualization.
Become Full Expression – Add Three
I reflect on the positive aspects or feelings of empathy that I might have for the person or persons. I repeat an internalized mantra or phrase such as “loving-kindness,” and I visualize a picture, such as seeing the other person or persons smiling back at me.
Frank Andrews in his book The Art and Practice of Loving suggests this lovely practice for tapping into your heart center. Look at a person and silently repeat to yourself:
You are with me.
You are like me.
You are me.
To summarize, the heart center is about connection, and it calls you to unity, to the realization that we are all one.
Which do you value more: your connectedness or your individualism? How much emphasis do you place on the relationships in your life? Do you put others first? If you can answer yes to all these questions, you probably lead from the heart center.
Now we’ll move on to the gut. The focus of the gut center is physical, emotional, and cognitive sensation; its goal is internal guidance. The gut is your instinctual center; it is like your internal GPS system.
Intuition is a lot like dreaming. We don’t know how we do it, but we do it. One of the world’s greatest thinkers, Albert Einstein, once said: “The intellect (head) has little to do on the road to discovery. There comes a leap in consciousness, call it intuition or what you will, and the solution comes to you, and you don’t know how or why.”
If your gut leads, people may experience you as wise and insightful. You can often see things that others cannot. Intuitive information comes to you through your senses. You may get a gut feeling about things, or hear a little voice, see the light or fleeting image, or sense good or bad vibrations. In short, you make decisions out of a “felt sense” of what is best and right.
That felt sense varies by person but could include:
Physical Sensation: The Japanese call intuition “stomach art.” In the West, we call it a “gut feeling.” You may experience a bristling or flowing of energy, like a mild current of energy. (I get goose bumps.) Or your body may feel heavy or light.
Emotional Sensation: Many report an emotional feeling of being “on.”
Cognitive Sensation: Most say they have a sense of being very clear.
Become Full Expression – Add Four
If you’re really attuned to your intuition, you may experience all three. It’s important to note that rarely are you going to get it right each time. Even the most psychic of us gets it wrong now and then.
Looking at the three centers—head, heart, and gut—can you determine your stack?
Sometimes, it’s easier to see them in someone else than in yourself. Think of a historical leader. Can you determine his or her stack? Great leaders lead from all three, but one is still primary, one is secondary, and one is tertiary.
Let’s look at an easy one: Mother Teresa. What is her stack? Heart, gut, and head, right?
Knowing your stack is only the first step of becoming the full expression of all you are. In order to fully stand in your power, you have to energize each.
Step Two: Energizing the Three Centers
To live your best life requires that all three centers are active. Unfortunately, few of us heed this call.
My stack is head, gut, and heart, and like many of us I lived my life from my primary instinct. After all, smart people are rational; they are thinking people, I thought. “If you want to succeed in the world, you have to allow the mind to lead.”
Then a wise friend suggested an exercise: “Find a quiet place, sit down, and write down every thought that jumps in your head.,” I did, and I couldn’t believe the amount of rubbish that flitted through my mind. Some of it was downright crazy talk.
Today, I am less reliant on the head. I am mining the other two centers, heart and gut, and in these I am discovering gold.
In reclaiming my heart, I am rediscovering my emotional core. I am beginning to form deeper, closer, more intimate relationships. I am befriending—rather than battling—the limiting beliefs that I don’t belong or that people cannot be trusted. I am learning that we are all one.
My gut has encouraged me to follow my heartbeat. In the process, I have identified my strengths and how I can put them to use to be of real service. I have identified my core values and developed a personal mission statement, and I am living those values and that statement every day. Each of these glimpses of light is enlightening my life.
I have found that I can’t calibrate head, heart, and gut and just step back. Life requires that I constantly stay attuned to the three centers. Sure, I still slip, and when I do, life reminds me. Sometimes with a jolt.
Become Full Expression – Add Five
A while back, I was giving a workshop in San Diego. While there, I decided to take a walk. Instead of enjoying the beautiful spring day around me, I became lost in my thoughts to the point that I was totally oblivious of my surroundings. Wham! Something slammed into my side.
A street person had slung his elbow into my side while passing me from the opposite direction. Over his shoulder he yelled back to me, “Watch where you’re going, buddy!” Suddenly, I was awake. Heart, gut, and head became fully operational. When you commit to energizing all three centers, life will support you.
In summary, if you don’t remember anything else, I hope you’ll remember this:
- You have three centers, head, heart, and gut, and you have you own unique stack.
- Your power can be found in embracing and energizing all three,and by following their call.
- And life will assist you if you allow it.
My hope for you is that you’ll commit to determining your stack, become more conscious of all three, and open yourself to the magic that is all around you and waiting to support you. When you do, you’ll begin to become the full expression of all you are and stand in your power.
Copyright 2009, All rights reserved
Randy Siegel gives high-potential employees the leadership and communications skills they need to be successful as they rise through the organization. Subscribe to his complimentary monthly eNewsletter at BuildYourInfluence.com and receive his free e-book How to Become a Corporate Rock Star: Six Steps to Top the Charts.
By: Maureen Mahan Copeloff with Thomas W. Mahan
In the end days of December 2011, Tom Mahan (my dad) published a book; almost two weeks later, I finally published mine. Neither of us knew, when we started, that the other was writing a book, but our discovery enabled us to share the adventure and compare notes. Like so many other times in my life, my dreams and aspirations paralleled dads. Despite following different paths, we have often arrived at the same destination.
Dad retired to the wonderful town of Brevard in 1992. In 2009, I followed suit, moving into a house less than a mile from his. Dad loved his brief, three-year career as an officer in the U.S. Coast Guard where he discovered much about himself and was known as the Mister Roberts of the Coast Guard. I loved listening to his sea stories, imagining him as the young lieutenant. Therefore, he wasn’t surprised when, after completing my MBA at the University of South Carolina, I joined the U.S. Navy. Like dad, I learned much about myself in the military as I saw and experienced the world. The Coast Guard and Navy helped us develop the self-confidence to make hard decisions and embrace difficult assignments. More importantly, we learned the value of working as a team member, of being a shipmate to people around us.
We had the opportunity to make the military a lifetime career, but chose different paths. Dad, after much internal debate, declined the offer to continue his quest for a career in academe; I seized the offer and served just short of 30 years in the Navy, loving the exotic locations and the level of responsibility the military gave a young woman.
Dad distinguished himself in his academic career. He implemented and directed the first city-to-suburb school desegregation project in the country in the mid-1960s. He continued in minority education with his leadership of the award-winning Project Achievement, a collaborative program between The Citadel and Burke High School, for high-risk African-American youth, in Charleston, South Carolina. He spent his career serving and working to improve his community, assuming challenging and often very difficult assignments.
I rose to the rank of Captain (equivalent of a bird colonel in the Army, Marines and Air Force) and was privileged to serve my country around the world working in electronic communications. I joined the Navy when they first allowed women to serve in combat support functions and am proud to have been part of the group whose perseverance helped transform a male-dominated institution to one in which today’s women serve as equal members.
Dad had spent seven years in the seminary studying to become a Catholic priest. He earned a baccalaureate and a master’s degree in philosophy from the Catholic University of America and began his studies in theology before realizing that the priesthood was not his destiny.
His interest in theology, along with a penchant for the impractical, passed onto me because I majored in comparative religions, a major with the same market value as a degree in philosophy. When dad inquired about parlaying his degrees into income-producing assets, his major adviser suggested that he consider those years an investment and strike out into a new field. I also quickly discovered that my degree had no direct connection to employment and decided that I must be practical. I enrolled in USC’s MBA program. Of course, I didn’t count on a major recession in 1979 or the resistance I encountered as a woman with an MBA when I tried to find an industrial management job. The Navy beckoned with opportunity and the chance to see the world.
I mentioned earlier our book publishing adventure. Dad and I have always loved and respected the power of words. Last year, we decided that we had something to say and share. So what do our publications say about our daughter-father dyad? At first, our books seem unrelated. Mine is titled Discovering Germany: The Treasures of Beer, Castles, Food and Friends; dad’s Faith Burning with Hope: A Catholic Layman Wrestles with His Church appears, at first, to be from a different planet. Yet these books concern exploring, discovering, and keeping an open mind about finding treasures in unexpected places. Dad is fond of this quote: grace is everywhere. Our books illustrate that: mine documents the gifts awaiting the patient and observant traveler exploring and embracing the riches of a different culture; dad’s looks inward and notes the joys of relationships and the excitement of faith. We felt the importance of sharing our experiences, thoughts, and observations to encourage others to embrace life’s joys.
As any reader of my book will quickly note, my constant and supportive companion on my ventures is Sylvan, my husband of over 30 years, also a retired Naval officer. We met on my first assignment at the Naval Air Station in Sicily and married there a year later. He was a willing partner through our 30 years of military service around the world, through our travels to over 65 countries, and our transition to retired life in Brevard.
Even before my retirement was official, I had accepted the position, pro bono, of executive director of Transylvania County’s unique program to enhance the quality of life for persons, especially children, with disabilities at the Free Rein Therapeutic Riding Center. Free Rein, where horses help humans heal, uses interaction with horses to help clients build self-esteem and confidence along with physical coordination, patience, and self-control. Before our household goods or car arrived stateside, I was overseeing the operation, coordinating the various aspects of the program, building team spirit and morale, and expanding the program to include students from Brevard Middle School; Davidson River Alternative High School; and Rise and Shine, an African-American after-school support program. My immediate leap into action could not have happened without Sylvan’s behind-the-scenes presence in handling the myriad of details involved in returning to life in the USA after living in Germany for four years.
So how did I end up involved with Free Rein so quickly? I was, of course, following in dad’s footsteps. He had been connected with Free Rein for several years prior to my taking the reins (pun intended!). After about two years as a widower, Dad married Susan Petersen, a talented lady who had volunteered with the horses and was about to join the Board of Directors. Susan, a local massage therapist and popular vocalist, introduced her new husband to Free Rein and seduced him into joining the board.
When I was close to retirement, he realized that the Naval skills I had used to lead sailors, oversee projects, and budget funds would serve equally well in this new environment. I never would have transferred from sailors to horses if Dad hadn’t paved the way and really demonstrated the incredible healing that comes from this human-horse interaction. Today, therapeutic equine programs help injured veterans adjust to civilian society after serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Working pro bono for non-profits is a family pattern. I became one of Transylvania County’s Master Gardener Volunteers and have worked for the past two years in the horticultural rebirth of the area around Transylvania County’s Silvermont Mansion. I also work with a group of Brevard Middle School students in Earth Keepers enhancing the grounds, learning about horticulture and appreciating our planet, and being part of the ventures of the Transylvania Garden Club. In addition, I strongly support women’s rights and education and actively work as a member of the Brevard Branch of the American Association of University Women (AAUW) raising money to provide scholarships for local women to attend college.
Of course, dad’s pattern preceded me. Shortly after moving to Brevard, he spent his weekdays at Brevard College establishing a learning center for students with learning disabilities or learning problems. When J. Thomas Bertrand, J.D., the new college president, began transforming the college into a four-year institution, Dad helped design a curriculum for the psychology major, worked with the committee to select a full-time coordinator, and taught courses in human development, experiential learning and organizational behavior as an adjunct faculty member. Except for teaching, he completed these duties pro bono. He was also appointed by the County Board of Commissioners to TREND, the mental health board that oversaw the delivery of mental health services to Transylvania and Henderson Counties. He chaired TREND for two years. When Brevard Academy, Brevard’s public charter school, discovered financial and morale problems, Dad was asked to take over in mid-year as principal, again pro bono. When he left 15 months later, the Academy was out of debt and at the highest-ever enrollment. Again, these activities could not have been completed without Susan’s support and encouragement.
Is there any particular talent or skill that has made our daughter and dad efforts in these varied undertakings successful? I credit the values we learned serving our country in the Coast Guard and the Navy. We value every team member, look for ways that we can contribute to numerous aspects of our community, whether military, civilian, religious, educational, therapeutic, or recreational. We have learned to be moderate risk takers thriving on challenges, and we don’t fear failure. Our paths have often diverged, then unexpectedly connected, but we have always shared the fundamental belief that grace is everywhere. Neither of us can imagine an isolated life with so many wonderful discoveries to be found everywhere. Today, Dad and I share advice on our various projects, commiserate as fellow authors, and swap sea stories as we enjoy being part of the wonderful community of shipmates here in Brevard.
Maureen Mahan Copelof is a retired US Navy Captain and recent author. She and her husband Sylvan live in Brevard. You may contact her and read an excerpt of her book at www.DiscoveringGermany.com.
Thomas W. Mahan is a retired psychotherapist, professor, first Dean of Graduate Studies at the Citadel, and recent author. He and Susan live in Brevard. You may contact him and read an excerpt of his book at www.FaithBurningwithHope.com.
By: Tom Hooker
They called it woman’s work,
as though it was of lesser import,
less noble, than the labors of men.
They called it woman’s work,
coaxing from the soil
food for a bevy of bellies.
They called it woman’s work,
planting, hoeing, weeding, picking,
shelling beans to the rhythm
of hummed hymns.
They called it woman’s work,
looking peas, seeking worm tracks,
evidence of insect snacks.
They called it woman’s work.
Should have called it good work.
Tom Hooker email@example.com
By: Jonna Rae Bartges
Since its construction on Blanahassett Island right off Marshall’s Main Street in 1925, the venerable Marshall High School was the hub of the city for half a century. The sturdy, two-story brick building had 28 classrooms, a 4,000 square foot auditorium with a 1,000-foot stage, and was ringed by trees. Athletic fields sprawled behind the school and neighboring gymnasium building.
Proms, homecomings, graduations, sporting events, science fairs, community gatherings – Marshall High was the granddame of the city, opening her doors to all.
Things changed, though, in the fall of 1974. That’s the year the county opened the new Madison High School, which consolidated students from Hot Springs, Laurel, Mars Hill, Marshall, and Spring Creek high schools.
Time was not kind to Marshall High, and she began to fall into disrepair. By the turn of the century, the once imposing school had become a liability and an eyesore.
With no one stepping forward to rescue the school, the city announced plans to demolish the structure. Even though the building really wasn’t usable in its current state, emotions ran high that it shouldn’t be torn down.
“There were countless rallies and petitions to Save Our School,” recalls Rob Pulleyn. “You couldn’t stop at a convenience store in the area without someone trying to get your signature on their SOS list. It was constantly the lead article in the local news. Out of curiosity, I just had to see for myself what all the commotion was about.”
Rob wasn’t your typical Madison County kind of guy. He was a transplant from New Mexico, and was snared by the Smoky and Blue Ridge mountains during a first-time visit to Savannah, Charleston and… Asheville. At the time, he and his then-wife had a small retail store selling craft supplies and a little wholesale business. They were also the publishers and editors of FIBERARTS magazine, which catered to the weaving and dyeing crowd.
“I realized we could easily do that work in this beautiful setting,” Rob said, “So we moved the business here with us, and then started producing ‘how to’ books that eventually swept us into the future.”
That ‘future’ included launching Lark Books in 1979, the year Rob relocated to the area. Lark soon created a name for itself and became a major publisher of craft books – so major, in fact, that Barnes & Noble bought Lark in 2002.
A few years before he sold that business, Rob got a flash of the new direction in which his life was about to move. A sociology and anthropology major in college, he had no formal business or art classes under his belt. The geometric tapestries he wove from various textures and weights of camel hair yarn were purely intuitive – and quite beautiful.
On a lark, Rob decided to take a clay sculpture class at Penland School of Crafts.
“That was pivotal for me,” Rob recalls. “The second day of class I had my hand on a slab of wet clay, and I just got this overwhelming feeling that something had just happened, and my life was about to change. The coolness, the wetness, the scent of the clay. The only way I can describe it is a feeling of destiny.”
With such a visceral reaction to clay, one would think Rob immediately created a ceramic masterpiece. He is refreshingly honest about his initial endeavors. “I strictly followed the teacher’s instructions for that first clay piece,” Rob says. “And I created some outstandingly ugly stuff. I look at a lot of that now and think, ‘what a waste of perfectly good clay!’”
Despite his early humbling experiences, Rob was hooked, and knew the region’s famously pure Appalachian clay was going to be significant from then on.
After Rob sold Lark Books he continued at the company five more years, but increasingly scaled back his workload per his agreement with Barnes & Noble. “That gave me the perfect transition from full time work behind a desk to doing something very real,” Rob said.
With persistence and enthusiasm, he began to coax some beautiful creations from slabs of wet clay, and worked in a studio in Asheville’s River Arts district. Eventually he built a studio at his home.
“I’m too much of a type A personality to dabble,” Rob said. “I didn’t want my art to be a weekend warrior activity. I took it very seriously, and made it my new career.”
As part of his quest to transition from businessman to artist, Rob haunted galleries, and pushed himself to master his craft. He felt lucky he didn’t have to support himself with his art. Instead, he could focus on doing the type of pieces he really wanted to do – primarily sculptural vases, about half of which could hold water for floral displays.
It was at this stage of his life that Rob kept running into the “Save Our School” contingent, and his natural curiosity drove him to take a tour of the crumbling Marshall High.
“It was in terrible shape,” Rob laughed. “The roof had fallen in, and everything was rotting through. But as dilapidated as it was, I really felt there was just enough ‘there’ there to be interesting.”
Through his artist’s eyes, Rob saw past the warped floors, cracked plaster and decay to focus on the sunlight streaming in through walls of windows; the spacious feeling of the 16-foot-high ceilings; the maple floors throughout; the convenience of blackboards and bulletin boards permanently mounted in the classrooms; the eight-foot-wide hallways that would create a natural gallery display area; the overwhelming beauty of the park-like setting, and the close proximity of this unpolished gem to Asheville, Charlotte and other creative communities.
“I know it sounds absurd,” said Rob, “but just like when I had that knowing after first touching the wet clay, I walked out the door of the school and thought, ‘I know what I’m going to be doing!’”
Through his years learning how to sculpt, Rob had discovered the passionate and growing artistic community in the region. If there was a way to bring these artists together in a dynamic, synergistic hub, he reasoned, surely they would come.
While the SOS crowd was thrilled this knight in shining armor had appeared, many others, including the county attorney, weren’t initially so trusting of Rob’s vision.
“It was 10 minutes before our scheduled closing in 2007,” Rob remembered, “and the attorney pulled me to one side and quietly said, ‘I can make all this go away. You don’t have to go ahead with this! I have no creativity, but I think you’re crazy to take this on.’”
“And I answered him, ‘you may be right! But I have to do this.’” And do it, he did. Rob signed the papers, and the creation of Marshall High Studios began.
The next nine months were a blur of activity on the island, and in Marshall. “Because of the size of the school,” said Rob, “we could have all the crews working at once.” When the electricians were at one end of the building replacing wiring, adding Wi-Fi and hanging new lights and fans in each of the 28 studio spaces, plumbers were installing a sprinkler system and sinks with hot and cold running water in every room. Carpenters replaced floors in one section while painters brought new life to old walls and ceilings in another. It took less than a year to bring the once dilapidated old school back to her former glory, and completely up to code.
With the renovation completed, the artists did come.
Pottery artists, painters, a wood worker, fiber artists, a book binder with antique equipment, an artist who restores museum pieces; an apothecarist with row upon row of glass containers cradling dried, scented herbs, even a studio devoted to Bucky Domes – just about all of the natural sunlit rooms were quickly scooped up by creative types wanting to be working in close proximity to like-open-minded people.
To Rob’s surprise, nearly a third of the artists are from Madison County. Other resident artists include a professor who lives in Georgia and commutes. One is from South Carolina. One moved down from New Jersey, and one moved east from San Francisco.
“To this day,” Rob admits, “I’m still kind of surprised I did it because it was such a stupid thing to do financially. What if no one had shown up to rent space? Where would I be then? Then all these fantastic people just showed up…” his voice trails off and he shakes his head and smiles.
Rob has a lot to smile about these days. Marshall High Studios is relishing its new life as a creative community hub, a breath of fresh air for Madison County and a catalyst for the arts. It’s hosted an arts camp for kids for the last three years. It’s raising money for the high school art department. Annually it hosts a hand-made market which attracts master craft artists from all around the region. That 4,000 square foot auditorium frequently hosts public events.
While the studios themselves are not open to tourists, a number of its artists created a bustling gallery on Marshall’s Main Street, showcasing many of the one-of-a-kind pieces MHS creates, and bringing more visitors and revenue to the area.
The website for Marshall High Studios pays homage to its deep community roots by featuring photos from old MHS yearbooks. (marshallhighstudios.com)
Despite how he’s made the seemingly impossible project a resounding success, Rob remains humble and unassuming about his role in it all. “Just being part of something much bigger is its own reward,” he insists.
“Art is important because of the way it defines a culture,” Rob said, drawing on his studies in sociology and anthropology. “We are all, as people, most happy when we’re creating something we love. When we allow ourselves to get lost in the experience, it’s simply phenomenal.
“Some people will tell me, ‘I don’t have a creative bone in my body.’ And I have to say, ‘Oh, you have lots of them! You just need to find them!’ That’s what we do here, for the artists, and the people who come to experience their art. We have the safe space for them to discover their creativity, and enrich their lives with the artistic passion and beauty they all have inside.”
For more information and to keep abreast of upcoming events, visit marshallhighstudios.com.
Jonna Rae Bartges, Emmy winning producer, speaker and minister, is the author of Psychic or Psychotic? Memoirs of a Happy Medium. She is the founder of PSI, Practical Spirituality Institute, the happy medium between the worlds of science and spirit. PSI offers Reiki training and healing for the body; psychic consultations for the mind and intuitive development workshops for the spirit. To register for her next workshops June 2 in Seattle, WA, June 17 in Johnson City, TN or July 7 & 8 in Asheville, NC, call her at (828) 337-4017 or visit her website at JonnaRae.com.
By: Clark Kimball
What it would now take
to get the returned Ithacan
from here to there would be,
no doubt, not what it had taken then,
to get him from there to here; no.
For there, he remembers,
was where youthful ignorance
shouldered the long oar,
embarked upon the swift boat,
and tried its back and arms and legs
against the restless sea
and the moon’s perfect tides.
But here? Now?
Here is where neither informed choice
nor willful strength effect
the boat, the oar, or the pull of time:
here heroic deeds fail;
now is never, ever failing.
To take the further journey far inland
to the place foreshadowed,
to get the unshouldered oar planted,
in the place where the sea remains
unknown and beyond imagination,
in some calm grave-earth, and grown—
Without the known encompassings
of the taking and of the getting,
without the knowing and the imagining
of the living and the dying,
how is this place to exist at all, at last?
Here or there, now or then, without bearings,
with only some still point pivoting within,
balanced between a well-worn handle
and a razor-sharp blade, in singular cause.
What it now would take
to be this brave Ulysses
at this perfect point,
in this preternatural planting,
of this impossible riddle—
what it would now take!
Blind Tiresias, poet, wonders, too.
There would be wise-woman, Penelope,
wife, patiently-grown and waiting.
For Kate O’Connor Asheville Sanhain 2010
By: Damaris Drewry, Ph.D. Psychology
How many people do you know that have sleep apnea? This condition can be life-threatening, and certainly is not conducive to keeping your partner in the same bed or even the same room! Sleep apnea is considered “incurable”, and the surgical treatments are barbaric and not guaranteed to work! Jaw devices used to force the airway open often cause problems like TMJ (Temporomandibular Joint syndrome).
The word “apnea” means “without breath” and there are two types: (1) obstructive apnea occurs when soft tissue at the back of the throat collapses during sleep and interrupts breathing, and (2) central nervous system (CNS) apnea occurs when the airway is open but the CNS fails to signal the body to breathe continuously. People with untreated sleep apnea stop breathing many times during the night, usually snore, and wake up exhausted. They may not be aware they are having episodes – it’s possible to sleep through them.
For some people forced to use the CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine to keep their airway open and enable sleep, there may be an end to the frustration and discomfort.
A NEW SOLUTION
For four years I have been helping clients eliminate sleep apnea symptoms by resolving past traumatic events (often deemed unimportant) related to breathing and consciousness. I am now establishing a protocol, and have found that (1) the onset of sleep apnea can be triggered by a highly stressful emotional event like divorce or financial crisis; (2) and/or the individual had a near-drowning or another type of near-death experience; and/or (3) the individual was accidentally knocked unconscious or was anesthetized against his/her will.
The MEDICAL PERSPECTIVE ON SLEEP
National Institute of Health – www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/dci/Diseases/SleepApnea
“The goals of treating obstructive sleep apnea are to: Restore regular breathing during sleep; relieve symptoms such as loud snoring and daytime sleepiness. Treatment may help other medical problems such as high blood pressure. Treatment also can reduce your risk for heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. Types of Treatment: currently, there are no medicines to treat sleep apnea; lifestyle changes and/or mouthpieces may be enough to relieve mild sleep apnea; people who have moderate or severe sleep apnea also will need breathing devices (CPAP) or surgery.”
Mayo Clinic – www.mayoclinic.com/health/sleep-apnea
Regarding treatment: “For milder cases of sleep apnea, your doctor may recommend lifestyle changes such as losing weight or quitting smoking; certain devices (the lower jaw is moved forward from the remainder of your face bones) can help open up a blocked airway. In other cases a CPAP is recommended. Surgery: your doctor removes tissue from the rear of your mouth and top of your throat. Your tonsils and adenoids usually are removed.”
THE LINK BETWEEN TRAUMATIC EVENTS AND SLEEP ARENA
In 25 years of creating successful alternatives to traditional psychotherapy, about 85% of my clients have had problems root causes in traumatic events. The operative principle is that our bodies believe every word we say and record our history in every cell; and decisions made during traumatic events create “programs” that start running on the body’s bioelectric “computer hard drive” and keep running “in the background” until consciously stopped and erased. These subconscious programs cause repeating dysfunctional relationship patterns and physical illness. Clearing the emotional charge from traumatic events, and reframing the decisions made during those events “defragments the body’s bio-computer” and results are immediate! Order returns to the body/mind/spirit corporation. This is accomplished by connecting the dots between present physical/emotional/spiritual issues and the decisions made during previous traumatic events; and then using Emotional Freedom Technique (a.k.a. tapping) to access the nervous system via the acupuncture meridians and using precise languaging to reframe the original decision that shows up as obvious physical symptoms.
The key is that during the instant when the traumatic event and its associated physical and emotional “settings” are all recorded in the brain and body, decisions are made about self-worth, safety in the world, etc. This is true of any kind of childhood trauma and it sets the stage for repeating patterns and future onset of disease. So reframing the decisions that are made during trauma is key to resolving the trauma.
If you think about a traumatic event and still have a highly-charged emotional response to it, that event is still locked in your body and affecting your life.
THE FIRST CASE STUDY
Background: Steve had sleep apnea for 38+ years (as of June 2009) and for 15 years had used a CPAP machine which he described as “distressingly claustrophobic but better than suffocating”. With the CPAP the most uninterrupted sleep he got was 90 minutes. After his diagnostic sleep study Steve was told that his obstructive apnea was so severe that last-resort surgery would not help. His apnea turned out to be the CNS type even though he was overweight.
The pivotal event in Steve’s life was a near-drowning at age six; he had an unhappy childhood as the youngest of six, and his despair was reinforced when none of his siblings or lifeguards noticed he was drowning.
Three days after the first session Steve said: “After the session I didn’t put the CPAP machine on and I slept for 4 uninterrupted hours!” Six days after the session he said: “I slept all night without the mask!” It took two more sessions to resolve the insomnia patterns he had developed over the years. (see Steve’s video at www.EFT4SleepApnea.com)
Four critical emotional and physical “settings” are recorded in the body during the seconds or minutes it takes for a trauma to happen. Examples are being in or witnessing a car accident, a surgery involving anesthetic, or childhood abuse: (1) there is a shock to the body’s electrical system (acupuncture meridians); (2) every detail we see, hear, feel, smell & taste is instantly recorded in the brain and every cell of the body via neurotransmitters; (3) the body’s high level of adrenaline caused by the fight-or-flight response is imprinted in the nervous system; and (4) the decisions we make about our own ability to escape a threat (or not) are also freeze-framed along with the physical responses. In other words, every aspect of a traumatic event and our mind/body/emotional response to it is freeze-framed and stored on the hard-drive of the body’s biocomputer and keeps on running until we stop the program and erase it along with the cues and memories that trigger the re-living of the experience! If you think about a traumatic event and still have a highly-charged emotional response to it, that event is still locked in your body and affecting your life. For example, if a person fails to successfully escape from a threat (an abusive parent) a program begins to run in the subconscious mind that can cause the person to re-enact the trauma by choosing a marriage partner who treats them the same way the abusive parent did – that person is trying to arrange a scenario that is similar so he/she can successfully escape the threat to the physical body and to self-esteem.
The key is that during the instant when the traumatic event and its associated physical and emotional “settings” are all recorded in the brain and body, decisions are made about self-worth, safety in the world, etc. This is true of any kind of childhood trauma and it sets the stage for repeating patterns and future onset of disease. So reframing the decisions that are made during trauma is key to resolving the trauma. There is a huge body of scientific research that proves that every cell in the body is intelligent and that our entire reality can be instantly altered by our intent/thoughts (Drs. Candace Pert and Bruce Lipton and many more). We know that it’s not an event that runs our lives, it’s the meaning we give to it. Emotional Freedom Technique provides a tool for reframing how we feel about a past event that robbed us of personal power.
WHAT IS THE EMOTIONAL FREEDOM TECHNIQUE (EFT)?
Developed by Gary Craig in 1995, EFT (a.k.a. Tapping) falls under the umbrella of Energy Psychology which addresses the relationship of the human energy systems (one of which is acupuncture meridians) to emotion, perception (how we make sense of our world), behavior, and health. Energy Psychology modalities facilitate a mind/body connection by engaging the body’s own wisdom and intelligence to resolve emotional causes of dis-ease. EFT works by interrupting the way thoughts and emotions are chemically recorded in the body while you are finger-tapping on acupuncture meridians and speaking about perceptions of a traumatic event. EFT and other Energy Psychology modalities, while effective, are still considered experimental and not yet approved by the American Psychology Association. I have used EFT with every client for 12 years and achieved consistently positive results.
When you are thinking about a trauma while you are finger-tapping on acupuncture meridians and using precise wording to correct your perceptions of yourself during the event – the memory is instantly changed! Tiny electric signals go from your fingers through your acupuncture meridians straight to the areas of memory storage, the chemical structure of the memory changes, and you immediately feel differently about a past event.
Very simply stated: we see that trauma “settings” are recorded in the nervous system – if a person is rendered unconscious or nearly unconscious during a traumatic event and later develops sleep apnea, there is a mind/body linkage that can be broken by “talking” to the unconscious mind that runs the body and reminding it that the trauma is no longer happening and it is safe to erase the survival program that is interrupting sleep. On June 21st and again on June 27th Dr. Drewry will offer a free talk on sleep apnea at Blue Ridge College. For more information and a calendar of summer and fall events, see www.BeyondTalkTherapy.com. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Disclaimer: Dr. Drewry does not diagnose or treat any DSM-IV disorders including PTSD. She teaches clients how to resolve their own symptoms of sleep apnea.
To become part of the sleep apnea research study contact Dr. Drewry.
“A SLEEP APNEA SOLUTION”
Sleep Apnea workshop Tuesday July 10 from 7-9 pm at Crystal Visions Bookstore in Fletcher.
Dr. Damaris Drewry (Ph.D. Psychology) offers new insights for sleep apnea sufferers who may be able to rid themselves of symptoms and the CPAP machine. If you have ever been unconscious for surgery, childhood tonsillectomy, or had a near-drowning or ANY other event that rendered you unconscious (i.e. blue baby at birth) there is solid possibility you can benefit from this information. Dr. Drewry specializes in the resolution of traumatic events and eliminating emotional causes of physical disease and has been a speaker/workshop presenter for ISSSEEM, ACEP, IONS and other national organizations that support energetic medicine. For more information watch her YouTube videos or go to www.BeyondTalkTherapy.com.
Article copyright 2012 Damaris Drewry
By: Beth Browne
Some people find their passion at an early age, others flail around for decades doing different things before they find something they are passionate about and others take a more circuitous route, coming around later in life to a childhood passion. Dan Weiser has taken the latter route.
When he was just five years old, Dan sat down at the family piano. His older brother and sister had been taking piano lessons and one day little Dan, who had never had a lesson, just started reading the music and playing it. “I must have been somehow wired to play,” he says. Very shortly after that both his brother and sister gave up the piano, having been soundly bested by their baby brother. Recognizing his talent, his parents engaged a local concert pianist who taught Dan for a couple of years until he entered the prep department at New England Conservatory where he was introduced to chamber music. He says playing the piano always felt very lonely and playing chamber music appealed to him because he got to play with other musicians.
When he was twelve the family moved to Buffalo and Dan couldn’t find a teacher there he liked. So, at fourteen, he quit taking lessons. His mother was distraught, but he just didn’t want to practice and she had to let go. Fortunately, they discovered a summer music camp in New Hampshire, the Apple Hill Chamber Music Camp and Dan kept his love of music going during the summers.
With no intention of doing anything with music, Dan started college at Columbia University as a history major. In need of a few easy credits, he picked up a music class and began studying with a Norwegian professor named Niels Ostbye. Under his tutelage, Dan discovered he really liked playing piano and he started playing more for the love of it instead of to please his mother. But he still wasn’t sure he wanted to do anything with it. He was planning on staying at Columbia for his doctorate in history until he happened to take a class from Jack Greenberg, one of the attorneys on the Brown v. Board of Education case. The class was called “Law and Social Change” and it inspired him to go to law school to try to change the world. After graduation, he took a year off and took a few classes at Juilliard, but when he was accepted into the Harvard Law School he decided he couldn’t pass that up.
He liked the intellectual exercise of arguing, but otherwise he hated law school and spent much of his time there protesting along with Barack Obama to get more minority professors at the school. As Dan’s first year at Harvard drew to a close, his friends were all getting excited about summer jobs in corporate law but Dan thought that sounded “awful.”
At the end of the year, Dan and a couple of his fellow students performed as a trio for faculty and students at Harvard. After the performance one of Dan’s professors, Martha Minow, came up to speak to him. She had seen the joy on his face as he played and told him firmly, “We don’t need another lawyer. Go be a musician.”
Dan took her advice and started trying to get into a music conservatory. He spent the next year practicing like crazy and began auditioning for graduate music programs. At the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore he auditioned for Samuel Sanders, a well-known collaborative pianist who had worked with Itzhak Perlman and had helped to discover Joshua Bell. Sanders saw the potential in Dan, despite the fact that he had not played seriously in several years, and admitted him to the school. Dan specialized in chamber music and stayed at Peabody to earn both a master’s and a doctorate. He also started doing opera coaching and working with singers.
After graduation, he got a job teaching at Dartmouth College and in 2001 he started a chamber music organization called Classicopia to bring chamber music to various small venues in the community and make it more accessible to people. Dan still plays with Classicopia, although he moved away from New Hampshire in 2009 when his wife, a gastroenterologist, got a job in Asheville, NC. At the time he knew nothing about the Asheville area except that the mountains looked a lot like the area where they had been living in Vermont.
For a while, he tried to continue the mission of Classicopia in Asheville, but ultimately it got too complicated trying to collaborate from such a distance and he decided to start a new organization with a similar mission in Asheville. And so AmiciMusic was born. His goal is to bring chamber music to the people, “to make it a little less stuffy and less serious. When you mention chamber music to people they say, ‘I don’t listen to that,’ because they have some vision of people in tuxedos acting proper. There’s nothing really proper about our concerts, we do a lot of fun and wild stuff.” Even people who know chamber music say they enjoy hearing the tidbits about the composers that Dan and the other musicians share between the songs.
AmiciMusic has brought musicians from around the country to Asheville and they have played chamber music in bars, people’s homes, assisted living communities and schools. He’s proud to be providing employment for the musicians and also bringing an appreciation of chamber music to the community. One of the main benefits to performing chamber music in a small venue, such as a private home or a bar is that you can see the musicians sweat and feel the vibrations of the music in the floor and this is how chamber music was intended to be played. “That’s what people find so exciting. It’s almost like rock music when the energy is going.”
AmiciMusic’s mission is to change people’s perceptions of classical music. It’s a long process, but Dan hopes more people will come to it. As the current audience ages, it’s critical to bring this music to the younger generation. Dan has been performing in area elementary schools, doing a show he calls “Beethoven Lives in Asheville” where he dresses up in a crazy wig and pretends to be Beethoven. The children love it so much that after one concert a little boy begged his mother to invite Beethoven to his birthday party because he said he thought Beethoven would be fun at a party. “That’s the essence of it all,” says Dan, “to try to get these kids not to think of Beethoven as some dead guy writing great music but to show them that his music still lives.”
Dan also performs at assisted living communities and says it’s a real joy to bring this music to older people who really appreciate it but can’t always get out to a concert. The nice thing about chamber music is that it’s so portable you can take it anywhere as long as there’s a piano. In addition to the classical music, they play Gershwin and Cole Porter and some show tunes. At an early performance in Vermont, the group played “Ol’ Man River” from Showboat and afterwards an elderly lady came up to him with tears in her eyes and told Dan she had been at the 1927 premiere of Showboat with her father when she was a little girl. To these older people, it’s part of their living history.
Bringing all this great music to so many different venues takes a lot of time and costs money. Dan is very proud to be providing employment for so many wonderful musicians, many of whom travel from out of state to perform in Western North Carolina. To pay the musicians and their expenses, Dan works hard at fundraising. With three great symphonies in the area, there are a lot of people who are passionate about classical music. And for a chamber music concert there are only three or four musicians to pay instead of dozens in a symphony. “For a few hundred dollars, your money can go a long way towards bringing great music into different places.” One of the special things about AmiciMusic is that there are virtually no administrative costs. Dan takes care of all that and only pays himself as a musician. All of the money he raises goes directly into bringing great music into the community. His goal is to raise $60,000 this year and to build on that in the future. But he’ll take what he can get. Four hundred dollars can bring Beethoven to hundreds of schoolchildren.
In between organizing performances in the community, Dan is now teaching piano to his six-year-old twins, Emma and Sophie, who began playing when they were four. At two and three, Sophie liked to sit on Dan’s lap at the piano and she would close her eyes and rest her little hands on his as he played. Of course, when she sat down to play on her own at age four, it came naturally to her, “her hands were in this perfect position as if she’d known it all her life.” Emma has much longer fingers and they didn’t quite work at first, but she got so excited listening to Sophie play that she worked hard and soon caught up. Dan says it was one of his most gratifying moments when the girls recently played a “four-handed” piano duet at one of his recitals. “I was more nervous watching them play that than I’ve been at any of my own concerts,” he says with a chuckle.
Full of passion for what he does, Dan has played in venues all over the world. The only thing he requires is a piano. And sometimes he just has to cope. Once he braved a winter storm in the Adirondacks with his ensemble and he got there and found five of the black keys missing on the piano! He says it was a little weird but he played on it anyway. He laughs and says, “I’ve played on everything.” In 1996 Dan served as Artistic Ambassador on a tour of the Middle East and Southeast Asia in a duo with a violinist. They arrived at a venue in Pakistan and Dan looked around and asked the guide where the piano was and he went off and came back with a one-octave accordion- type thing the likes of which Dan had never seen before. He just had to laugh. He’d met his match. He had no idea how to play the thing and the poor violinist had to play solo. He says it’s part of the challenge to play on less-than-perfect pianos and make it sound great.
Locally, AmiciMusic plays regularly at White Horse Black Mountain, a former Chevy dealership with cabaret tables that used to have only rock and folk music. Dan found out that one of the owners, Kim Hughes, had studied opera in New York and he organized a show called “Divas and Drafts” and found the crowd loved the diversity of music they brought. A member of the audience came up to Dan at a break and said, “Nothing better than opera with your beer!” And Dan had to agree.
Visit www.amicimusic.org for complete details and info on future concerts.
House concerts by reservation only by contacting Dan at 505-2903 or at email@example.com. To get on the AmiciMusic e-mail list in order to find out about directly about future concerts, please e-mail Dan at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tax-deductible contributions to help bring this great music into schools, assisted living homes, and more communities in the region can be sent to:
AmiciMusic, 75 Edwin Place, Asheville, NC 28801.
Beth Browne writes because she just can’t stop herself. Her two kids wish she liked cooking as much as writing. In her spare time she enjoys sailing with her salty mate, Eric, and blogging at: http://bbwomenswrites.blogspot.com.
Visit www.amicimusic.org for complete details and information
on future concerts.
AmiciMusic presents “An American Affair” with violinist Tim Schwarz and pianist Daniel Weiser. Music of Amy Beach, Bernstein, Copland, and more:
Friday, June 1 at 7:30PM at location TBD
Saturday, June 2 at 7:30PM at House Concert in The Cliffs
Sunday, June 3 at 3:00 at House Concert in North Asheville
The Francis & Weiser Piano Duo present “One Wild Ride: Two Magical Pianos.” The debut of a new two piano team comprised of David Troy Francis and Daniel Weiser, featuring music of Gershwin, Rachmaninoff, Milhuad, and more:
Sunday, June 10 at 4:00 at Diana Wortham Theater in Asheville: Visit www.dwtheatre.com for tickets.
AmiciMusic presents “Soprano Sensation” with Maria Clark, soprano and Daniel Weiser, piano. Great songs from the classical and musical theater literature with a terrific Atlanta-based singer:
Friday, June 29 at 7:30PM at House Concert in Biltmore Forest
Saturday, June 30 at 7:30PM at White Horse in Black Mountain
Sunday, July 1 at 3:00 at First Baptist in Weaverville
Minimize the Risk of Autism
By: Maureen McDonnell
That’s a rather bold statement you might say. But when the worst children’s health emergency in the history of our country is upon us, we must be bold, think out of the box and not wait for the powers that be (The American Academy of Pediatrics, the CDC etc.) to guide us out of this mess!
In the beginning of April 2012, the CDC announced that from their last count (which was in 2008), 1 in 88 children, and 1 in 54 boys who were born in the year 2000 now have a diagnosis of autism. That is a 78% increase since 2002! Once again, let me reiterate, these statistics are from 2008. One can only imagine what the current numbers are!
Although speculation regarding the causes of this epidemic is wide ranging and includes theories such as better diagnosis, older dads and obese mothers, savvy researchers, parents and clinicians who follow the emerging science believe the combination of genetic vulnerability and environmental toxins is the theory that makes the most sense.
Another area to look for clues regarding causes (and therefore ways to treat and prevent autism) is to examine the approaches parents who have recovered or greatly improved their child have taken. Going ‘green” by minimizing chemicals in the home, eating organic, removing gluten and casein, addressing intestinal candida, decreasing inflammation are all interventions that parents claim brought about positive changes in their child’s symptoms. Listen to these parents and you’ll often hear them say,” if I only knew then, what I know now, this is what I would have done differently.”
On behalf of these parents and my own 35 years’ experience and observations as a pediatric RN, I believe we have enough information and evidence now to begin applying these practical, common sense, precautionary strategies for minimizing the chances that a child will develop autism.
Where to Begin?
Get Healthy Before Getting Pregnant:
One of the best actions a woman considering pregnancy can take is to give herself six months to a year to “clean up” her diet and lifestyle. Laying the foundation by putting herself in optimal shape nutritionally prior to conceiving will go a long way to maximize the chances of having a healthy baby and reduce the risk of miscarriage and or developing other complications of pregnancy and birth.
Minimize Exposure to Chemicals:
The assault of chemicals including the hormone disrupting ones such as Bisphenol A (found in baby formulas, register receipts and plastic bottles) has grown considerably over the past several decades. The average home stores 3-10 gallons of hazardous materials. Though it is smart for all of us to reduce our exposure to chemicals, during preconception and pregnancy it is especially critical. Studies by Jill James, PhD and others (1) have shown that some children on the autism spectrum have disruptions in their methylation chemistry thereby leaving them more vulnerable to damage when exposed to toxins. Research has also emerged from Palmer (2) revealing that for every 1000 lbs. of environmentally released mercury, there is a 43% increase in the rate of special education services and a 61% increase in the rate of autism.
Eat Optimally Before, During and After Pregnancy:
The value of a healthy diet (consisting of nutrient dense foods grown organically with adequate protein and healthy fats) to ensure a healthy pregnancy, birth and a good milk supply, has been advocated for years. But recently, a study has shown that an additional benefit to healthy eating is the fact that optimal nutrition protects the body from the damaging effects of toxins (3).
Educate Yourself Re the Baby Business:
Back in the days when I was a certified childbirth instructor and working as a labor/delivery and newborn nursery nurse, I witnessed some unsettling changes in the “mom and baby care business.” These changes (referred to as “medical advances”) often were at odds with common sense, but since they came under the guise of “progress” they prevailed.
I observed the rate of Cesarean births, for instance, climb from 15.8% in the late 70’s to its now all time high of 33%. In 2004 (4) a study showed an increased prevalence of autism in children born via C-section.
Induction of Labor: I also observed a drastic increase in the use of Pitocin (a drug used to induce labor). In 2011 (5) a study showed a two- fold incidence of ADHD diagnosis in children whose mother’s received Pitocin.
Epidurals also became more common place over the last several decades. A recent study in Pediatrics (6) revealed that fever is more likely to develop in women receiving epidurals therefore increasing the likelihood of mom and baby receiving antibiotics. Since we know disturbed gut flora is a hallmark of many children on the autism spectrum (often caused by early antibiotic use), this may be a relevant piece of the puzzle to consider.
Vaccines: During my 35 years as a pediatric nurse, I’ve also seen a shocking increase in the number of vaccines children receive. The US now specifies 26 vaccines be given in the first year of life (which is higher than any other country in the world.) A 2011 study confirmed that the higher a countries vaccine rate, the higher their incidence of autism.(7)
Add Supplements: A good comprehensive multi with adequate folic acid, calcium and B vitamins (to support methylation) taken during pregnancy has been shown to optimize the health of mom and baby. I’ve been advocating for years that a woman considering pregnancy start this supplement regimen prior to conceiving. In addition to a multi, I suggest adding Vitamin D and Probiotics. Omega 3’s, found in fish oil has been shown to increase a child’s IQ and have other positive effects on health. Remember the brain is 70% fat.
Obviously, no one suggestion listed above is going to be the entire answer. But rather we do need to consider a comprehensive approach to autism prevention. I believe after World War ll, exhausted from the strain of war, we began choosing convenience over common sense and profit over people. We turned our backs on Mother Nature and her simple rules of health and healing and chose instead to blindly follow progress and technology without evaluating where they might lead. The resulting catastrophic combination of a nutrient-deficient diet, increased exposure to, and consumption of toxins, as well as the increase in the number of vaccines we give our babies created the perfect storm which has set our children up for autism and many other chronic illnesses. It’s now time to back up the train and reevaluate some of our practices and philosophies that fly in the face of common sense. As the Chinese proverb reminds us: “Unless we change the direction we are going, we are bound to end up where we are headed.”
OB/GYNs, midwives and pediatricians can be wonderful additions to your team. But we as parents should do our own research and never abdicate total responsibility for our children’s health to our doctors. Be informed about nutrition and the environment, research the vaccine issue and find a health care provider who listens and respects your view… so together you can make the smartest, healthiest choices for you and your baby.
For a more extensive discussion of this topic, go to Saving Our Kids, Healing Our Planet and read 52 tips for Preventing Autism: www.sokhop.com/what-can-be-done-to-prevent-autism-now-published-online-at-age-of-autism-138
Maureen McDonnell, BS, RN
1. Oxidative stress James, S.J., et al. Metabolic biomarkers of increased oxidative stress and impaired methylation capacity in children with autism. Am J Clin Nutr. Dec. 2004; 80(6):1611-7
2. Palmer, et al. Proximity to point sources of environmental mercury as a predictor of autism prevalence. Health place 2009 March 15 (1): 18-24
3. B. Hennig et al, Nutrition Can Modulate the Toxicity of Environmental
Pollutants: Implications in Risk Assessment and Human, Environmental Health Perspectives, http://dx.doi.org/10.1289/ehp.1104712 Online 22 February 2012
4. Glasson et al, Perinatal factors and the development of autism, a population study, Arch Gen Psychiatry 2004, June, 6 618-27
5. Houssmann, Perinatal Pitocin as an early ADHD biomarker; neurodevelopmental risk J Attent Disorder, 2011, Jul;15 423-31
6.. Leiberman, et al, Epidural Analgesia, Intrapartum Fever and Neonatal Spesis Evaluation, Pediatrics, 1997, vol. 99: pp. 415-419)
7. DeLong, A Positive Association found between Autism Prevalence and Childhood Vaccination uptake across the US Population, J Toxicol Environ HealthA. 2011 Jan: 74(14):903-16
By: Allison Bond, Whitney Lott and Hillary Bolter
In 2005, Sharon Pendarvis became homeless with a life spiraling out of control. An Army Veteran with 12 ½ years of service to her country and a registered nurse who had worked hard to support her family and raise her children, she began to realize she had a lot of buried military related trauma. With her children almost grown and out of the house, she had less to distract her from what was going on in her mind. Sharon had spent her adulthood pouring herself into her children and her work, and found suddenly that she could no longer cope with her worsening mental health issues. She began to have difficulty maintaining employment and became extremely self destructive resulting in multiple psychiatric hospitalizations. “When you hit that kind of bottom,” Sharon says, “You need time to just learn how to breathe again.”
Sharon found what she needed at ABCCM (Asheville Buncombe Community Christian Ministry) Steadfast House, part of the Veterans Administration’s (VA) Grant and Per Diem program. Grant and Per Diem is an important piece of the government mission to end Veteran homelessness. A homeless Veteran who is admitted to transitional housing in the Grant and Per Diem program is provided up to two years of transitional housing and case management services. Grant and Per Diem is a partnership between the VA and local agencies. In Asheville, these partnerships exist with ABCCM and FIRST at Blue Ridge, Incorporated. Sharon spent two years at Steadfast House and was able to address her mental health issues, increase her military benefits, and reintegrate into her community. Today, Sharon has her own apartment and has been living independently for a year and a half. Sharon now works part time at Steadfast House and feels like she is a mentor for women coming into the program. For Sharon, the distinguishing factor about her experience at Steadfast House to which she attributes her success is quite simply: time. “First and foremost,” she comments, “I had to feel safe. I could not do anything or be anybody if I could not feel safe. The healing time for me was 6-9 months. I needed that time to learn to trust others, but also myself. Once I began to feel like I was healing, I could focus on working towards my goals.” Sharon reports it took time for her to drop her military way of thinking and relax into the community of Steadfast House, gradually healing and making process towards independence. “It’s not what happened to you,” Sharon says, “It’s how you deal with it. Patience is often the biggest lesson learned.”
Robert Tillotson, age 24, returned home from a tour of duty in Afghanistan. Due to tough economic times, he was unable to find employment after his discharge from the Army. He and his pregnant wife became homeless, and after staying with various family members found themselves at the door of the VA Emergency Department last winter seeking help. “They talked to me to keep me calm and find out what was wrong,” Robert said of his ensuing psychiatric stay at the Charles George VA Medical Center. Social Workers assisted the couple in finding shelter at Veterans Restoration Quarters (VRQ) and Steadfast House, both operated by ABCCM. “The VRQ was a miracle in itself,” Robert said, “They pulled us off the streets in the middle of the winter, gave me food, mental stability and some friendship. The VA helped rebuild what got blew away in Afghanistan.” Robert suffers from the two signature injuries of the current conflict: Traumatic Brain Injury from an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) blast, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Robert’s VRQ case manager assisted him with filing for both Social Security and VA compensation benefits. Social Security disability was awarded shortly before the birth of their son, Aidan, in April. In an effort to reintegrate Robert back into the work force, he was enrolled in the VA’s Compensated Work Therapy program.
During their time at the shelters, Robert and Brittney began working toward seeking permanent housing through the Housing Urban Development-VA Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) program. HUD-VASH is a partnership between HUD and the VA. HUD offers homeless Veterans a Housing Choice Voucher, and the VA provides clinical case management support to assist Veterans with obtaining and maintaining housing. Over 170 homeless Veterans have obtained permanent supported housing in Buncombe County through the HUD-VASH program since 2008. “We got our place just in time before I had Aidan,” Brittney Tillotson said of her 1-month old son, “HUD-VASH gave him shelter and a stable home.”
With the announcement of Secretary Shinseki’s goal of ending Veteran homelessness by 2015, the Health Care for Homeless Veterans Program at the Charles George VA Medical Center has seen a tremendous amount of growth over the past few years. Currently there are 13 Licensed Clinical Social Workers who spend their time and energy to make this vision a reality for homeless Veterans living in Western North Carolina.
The Homeless Program offers an array of services to Veterans who have found themselves without a permanent residence. Homeless services to 20 counties in Western North Carolina include outreach to soup kitchens, missions, shelters and those camping outdoors. One component of outreach is to provide education to Veterans, family members, and community partners about the services that are available. Outreach is also conducted in the local jails and courts through a program known at the Veteran Justice Outreach (VJO) program. “The purpose of the VJO initiative is to avoid unnecessary criminalization of mental illness and extended incarceration among Veterans by ensuring that eligible Veterans in contact with the criminal justice system have access to Veterans Health Administration (VHA) mental health and substance abuse services,” as printed in the Secretary for Health’s Information Letter, Department of Veterans Affairs, April 30, 2009. Robert also utilized the VJO program facing misdemeanor charges. “Katie Stewart [VJO Coordinator] helped me stay out of jail and from repeating this whole process over. If they’d have locked me up they would have pulled everything out from under me,” he said.
“The VA has helped in every way. I have a house, I’m mentally stable, I can be myself. I am finally myself again,” Robert said. “This is the best VA that we’ve been to,” Brittney said, “People bend over backwards to help Veterans.”
Photo: Robert & Brittney Tillotson and baby Aidan