Sweet & Sad

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Life passes while you wonder “what it is”. – Anthony De Mello

We see signs of sweetness and sadness everywhere. And, where our attention goes, energy flows. As our lives continue to unfold, moment by moment, day by day, we realize more and more that we are observers and participants in both our internal worlds (inner dialog/perspectives) and outer worlds (others, environments, media). We exercise some control over the outside world but we overestimate such control. We can exercise a lot MORE control over our inner world but we underestimate such control. We need to reverse this habitual reality.

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We must increasingly “let go” of the idea that we can exercise any real control over outside circumstances. We must enhance our ability to let go of things we can’t control. The result is typically increasing our serenity, adaptability and resilience. We must increasingly adopt the mindset that we have total control over our level of self-awareness and our thoughts, feelings and behaviors in any given moment. We must continue to develop and grow in our capacity to reclaim power from within rather than feeling dis-empowered by forces outside of our sphere of influence.

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There is sweetness and sadness throughout the lifespan. A sunrise, a sunset, a loss, a wing, a change, an achievement, and all of life’s experiences contain elements that taste delightful, feel sorrowful, sound joyous, smell rancid, and look stunning. Our sixth sense synthesizes our other five senses to inspire us to appreciate the sweetness and sadness across the full spectrum of our journeys together and in solitude. Anthony de Mello wrote a book called “Awareness” and it is a must read for anyone interested in personal philosophy development. Highly recommended. Here is a sample for those interested. Thank you!

Dabs and Doublecup

Dabs have been around for over a decade. Doublecup is a more recent term applied to an “activity” associated with “lean” or “purple drank” which has been popular for over a decade. Professionals in health care, family and friends, as well as the general public must know about these popular terms and the culture surrounding them. Why? Because these activities and cultures that surround them pervade and influence people and their health and mental health in ways that can deepen understanding and connections with one another.

Dab (or dabb) is not to be confused with the “dance move or gesture in which a person drops his or her head into the bent crook of a slanted, upwardly angled arm, while raising the opposite arm out straight in a parallel direction“. Instead, it’s a form of cannabis with super high potency THC, the main psychoactive chemical in cannabis. Using cannabis in the form of dabs is not inherently bad, however, it may represent a different culture or mindset of drug use than simply “smoking a bowl”, “a one hitter” or the image of Bob Marley (or anyone) and a Spliff!

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Doublecup is a term that is described in a recent Vice magazine video: “Why Lean Became Rap’s Most Wanted Drug”. It’s definitely worth watching. Listen to the lyrics of some of the most popular Rap and HipHop songs out there today. Just one example of a lyric by the recently deceased 21yo wildly successful HipHop/Rap artist Juice WRLD – “I problem solve with styrofoam” – gives a glimpse into this world of coping with information overload and hyper-speed everything. “Lean” or “Purple Drank” (and ‘sizzurp’ among other names) refers to “a combination of prescription-strength cough medicine, soft drinks, and hard, fruit-flavored candy“ according to drugabuse.com. Drugs like dextromethorphan (cough suppressant), codeine (an opioid), and promethazine (antihistamine) are often found in the crazy concoction. A good review is found here from the healthline medical team. To bring this all home, do a google search for dabs, promethazine, purple drank or lean, etc.. and you’ll see all kinds of pop culture pop up all over social media. Here is a sample:

https://genius.com/Jgrxxn-weed-pills-and-promethazine-lyrics
YNW Melly “Got Molly mixed with Promethazine”

The Spiritual Spectrum

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Where do we find ourselves on the “spiritual spectrum”? This is a concept thought up one day while driving. Of course, it is found by a simple google search. Interestingly, before even looking it up, think for a moment what this concept may be describing. By “spectrum” we either think of “on the spectrum” as if referring to autistic disorders. We may also immediately think of the spectrum of light, color, sound waves, or other types of gradations of wavelengths or vibrations. The term spiritual conjures up of vast array of associations and meanings from the purely religious to the most broad aspecfs of the interconnectedness of humans, the natural world and the cosmos.

From the website http://www.universeas.com, we find this description of the spiritual spectrum: “The Spiritual Spectrum is based on measuring between fear/love and body/mind. When it comes to spirituality, religions vary greatly, individuals practice the same religions differently, and even atheists have spirituality.” This website also allows one to test themselves on this spectrum. My results showed that I have a clear preference for non-dualism and the I may like the book “The Universe is An Illusion”. However, there’s a lot more one finds in a google search for ‘spiritual spectrum’ such as stuff from the ‘A Course in Miracles’ book, as well as a TV Series!

#drrick

Let us assume that everyone is on the ‘Spiritual Spectrum” from the most concrete atheist and logically minded folks to the most ‘woo-woo’ out there spiritual and/or religious crusaders and everyone in between. Such an assumption may bring more people together than distancing ourselves from one another. Look for the similarities AND the differences and embrace both. Think on these things. Honesty, open mindedness and willingness may be all that is necessary.

Morals and Martyrdom

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‘Morals and Martyrdom’… kinda sounds like a treatise on political courage or personal convictions. In an era of impeachment, as a nation facing it’s own moral crises, we’ve seen a need for courage while at the same time needing to endure forms of gaslighting and martyrdom seldom seen in this post-modern era. The word “dystopian” comes to mind all too often. We live in times where trauma and addiction are the buzzwords (and common experiences) of the day.

Let us define both ‘Morals’ and ‘Martyrdom’ to provide context for this commentary. ‘Morals’, defined at the broader level, are ” lessons, especially those concerning what is right or prudent, that can be derived from a story, a piece of information, or an experience”. As defined at the personal level, ‘morals’ refer to “a person’s standards of behavior or beliefs concerning what is and is not acceptable for them to do.” Do you see the connection between these definitions of ‘morals’ and that which is taking place currently as a nation in both politics and in our communities?

Martyrdom is defined as “a display of feigned or exaggerated suffering to obtain sympathy or admiration.” There are very few who have been spared the experience of either feeling like a martyr, being chafed or seriously affected by the martyrdom on display in those they know and even love. Although frequently applied to religious ideology and history, we mustn’t forget that the martyrdom of everyday life is deeply connected personal, community, and indeed national moral sensibilities or “nonsense abilities”. Let us allow ourselves the freedom to transcend moral arguments and spare ourselves the experience of martyrdom in ourselves and others. To end on a semi-related quote for this piece: ” Always do what is right. It will gratify half of mankind and astound the other.” –Mark Twain

4A! Change

Transformation

This time of year is a time for a change. Being obsessed with change professionally, personally, socially, spiritually, and environmentally, it is valuable to consider some core ingredients involved in the process of change. Truth is, change is personal and there are as many recipes for change, based on unlimited combinations of ingredients, as their are people and varieties of personalities, moods, beliefs, preferences, values and more. Still, boiling it all down to some common elements may help to create basic building blocks that can enhance the transition from one state of being to another. Let’s call these “4A Change” or the 4 A’s of change: Awareness, Appreciation, Acceptance, Action!

Notice immediately that the first three A’s are internal, that is, all of these three components of change reside within and require the individual to be attuned to their inner world of thoughts, feelings, beliefs, attitudes, preferences, and understanding. These three A’s are all about personal responsibility for one’s own perspective. Awareness is the first factor in any change process. Awareness is like the groundwater from which everything required for change springs forth. Appreciation is the energy and vibration that acts like a generator carrying forward the power required for change. Acceptance is the non-conforming state of being that opens up pathways that allows for change without effort, without force. These three A’s are the raw material for action!

Action! as intended here, is not what one typically thinks of when hearing or seeing the word action. Action! is the natural combination of being and doing arising from a state of flow, know, and show. Action! as it is described here, is experienced as a state of flow, an internal self-assured experience of knowing without really consciously knowing, and the outward “showing” or expression of everything that came before the manifestation of change. Think about these ideas. Watch the change unfold.

Time and Treasure

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Take time to treasure two things: Time and Treasure. Put another way: take time to treasure time and take time to treasure treasure. And yet still put another way, we are all just passing through this life and it feels good to appreciate the things we have. 
In this hurry-up and harried world in which we participate, phrases like “get out of your own way” or “go with the flow” can really strike a nasty nerve. Like, who the hell wants to “stop and smell the roses” when there’s FOMO and YOLO and god knows what other artificial motivators dominating our collective consciousness. Don’t get me wrong, I love YOLO as much as the next person because “carpe diem / seize the day” can actually be super fun!

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Treasuring time and treasuring treasure are the flip side of the same coin. When we appreciate what we have (love, friends, family, pets, food, shelter, health, etc..) with a basic sense of gratitude, time actually does slow down and the need for instant gratification is subdued. In service of our more spiritual selves, if you believe in that sort of thing, let us savor life in the most subtle ways. Notice the space between the ‘Tick’ And the ‘Tock’ on the seconds hand on a clock and remember, we are all just passing through. Live well.

Tell Me What To Do

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Indecision can be paralyzing. Sometimes we just want someone to tell us what to do. We may be faced with too many options which short-circuits are ability to be decisive. We may be super anxious about some real or imagined catastrophe that would occur by taking action in one direction, or the other. We all face moments in our lives, and they are just moments, when our inner compass is broken or we don’t trust it and what we want most is for someone or something to come along and decide for us.

All of the following statements may be true: 1) Uncertainty is an essential component of living fully; 2) Indecision itself is a decision which, when accepted, expedites change; 3) our inner compass and outside feedback are aligned in the service of helping us grow. If they are true, then being told what to do is insufficient. In fact, being told what to do by someone else and not having internally come to the same conclusion internally in an authentic way is potentially worse than being stuck. Have you ever told someone what to do and it turned out being the WRONG thing?

Let us pause for a moment: Pay Attention Understand Self Expression. We need to tune into our own experiences, our thoughts, our feelings, our behaviors. We need to observe more, become the watcher of ourselves in the spirit of developing more and more self-awareness, especially when we feel stuck, lost, confused, and overwhelmed. The greatest gift we can give ourselves is to trust that whatever we are debating inside our heads and our hearts is for our own progress. It is not a problem to be solved nor is there anything we have to do. Patience is a most valuable resource. Tap it often.

So, no, I won’t tell you what to do, but you may still ask. Reaching out for help in and of itself is one of the greatest acts of humility.

A Home Inside

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Uprooted. Floating. Groundlessness. Unsettled. When these feelings abound inside us, we confront a basic need for a feeling of connectedness, belonging, or a feeling of being home. The psychological and emotional aspects of homelessness are often overlooked due to the disproportionate attention placed on external realities such as shelter, food, warmth, and interpersonal contact. There is nothing wrong with this imbalance, in fact, it’s perfectly appropriate given what is abundantly clear as the problem and the solution. Don’t have a home? Well, here’s a place to rest and have shelter and nourishment to feel protected and soothed.

But what about the internal experience? What do when feeling homeless inside ourselves? We often turn to others or concrete material things or a geographic location to establish a feeling of being at home. When we realize that feeling at home with the help of outside things takes precedence over feeling at home inside ourselves, we notice a slight shift. We begin to recognize that we must develop a sense of a “home inside”, to learn to belong to ourselves and perhaps to the world around us whether through others, through nature, or the broader Universe.

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Ask the question: Do I feel at home in the world no matter where I am, or who I am with, surrounded by total strangers in a foreign land or totally alone in a familiar or strange setting? Yes! We can learn to feel at home inside. If we are aligned with our inner guidance system, our true nature, who we know and feel we are as good people with a sense of belonging to oneself, comfortable in our own skin, then we consistently feel at home wherever we may roam. This conjures up the popular Metallica song “Wherever I may roam”. Lyrics copied here:

And the road becomes my bride
I have stripped of all but pride, so in her I do confide
And she keeps me satisfied, gives me all I need.

And with dust in throat I crave
Only knowledge will I save, to the game you stay a slave
Rover, wanderer, nomad, vagabond
Call me what you will

But I’ll take my time anywhere
Free to speak my mind anywhere
And I’ll redefine anywhere
Anywhere I roam, where I lay my head is home

And the earth becomes my throne
I adapt to the unknown, under wandering stars I’ve grown
By myself but not alone, I ask no one.

And my ties are severed clean
The less I have the more I gain, off the beaten path I reign
Rover, wanderer, nomad, vagabond
Call me what you will.’

The Invisible Bridge

Dr. Rick Barnett, Psy.D., M.S., LADC

Sometimes action requires an act of faith. Whether initial action or continued action, we are often plagued with doubt and fear which seems to block forward movement despite our conviction in our desires and commitments. This seems to be a universal human phenomenon relieved only by the reality of having no choice but to take some sort of action OR by taking action despite having no evidence that it’s the “right” action to take. The experience of doubt, fear, desire, change, action, inaction, analysis and paralysis are all frequent themes in psychotherapy (and in life).

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Oftentimes, there is an invisible bridge right in front of us, calling us forward through our 6th or 7th or 11th sense rather than through our tangible senses of sight, sound, smell, taste and touch. How can this be? Are these known sensory mechanisms unreliable? Is anything perceived or believed in somehow relegated to the realm of the mysterious and esoteric? No. We sense the energy and non-physical world around us all the time. We’ve even developed technologies like radio waves, cell phone service, satellite TV, bluetooth, infrared, and more to prove that information and guidance is constantly being transmitted outside of our traditional sensory awareness.

This is what I call the “invisible bridge” borrowed from this scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark: The Last Crusade. Watch it now. I use this metaphor or reference to this scene from the movie frequently in my sessions with people (when appropriate). We must have faith and not some hijacked religious version of faith (which for some, is downright awesome, no disrespect). Faith as intended in this brief piece is also referred to as “trust in the process”, “go with your gut”, “letting go”, courage and love. Not knowing how or what to do next or if it’s the right or wrong thing is both irrelevant and precisely the guidance needed to step forward into the void and embracing the reassurance we all have access to from sources unseen, unfelt, unheard, scentless, and without taste. Gabrielle Bernstein recently wrote a book called “The Universe Has Your Back” which is all about transforming fear into faith. It is highly recommended, especially for those going through difficult times. To leave you with a quote from the book: ” In every situation you have two choices: Will you learn through fear or will you learn through love?”. The choice is yours.

PTSD Nation

Hypervigilance. Exaggerated startle response. Easily irritated or on edge. Emotional numbness and avoidance of places, people, and activities that are reminders of the trauma. Increased arousal making it difficult to sleep, concentrate, relax, or find stillness. These are all symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder typically associated with directly experiencing or witnessing death, near death, severe injury, or the threat of a traumatic event that could result in death, near death, or severe injury to oneself or others. Are we now living in an age of total transparency through the social mirror of technology with non-stop streaming of videos and exposure to social media and news stories of violence or the threat of violence? If the nation in the 1980’s was marked by narcissism, the 1990’s by borderline personality disorder, the 2000’s by Bipolar Disorder, we may very well be in the age of PTSD Nation. #ptsdnation

PTSD is typically reserved for those who literally witnessed first-hand severely traumatic experiences where death or serious injury and the emotions and images of such events are seared into one’s conscious and subconscious causing significant impairment in major areas of life functioning. However, it is common to see videos go viral where rape, murder, executions, and suicide are disseminated in an instant to the masses into the palm of their hands, onto their laps, and into our living rooms – woven into the fabric of our every day life. It is no surprise that, coinciding with the rise in exposure to traumatic images and stories on a daily basis, the Adverse Childhood Experiences Survey and Trauma-Informed Care are being routinely incorporated into our healthcare system from community centers, to clinics, to primary care settings, and in our hospitals.

It was a few years ago that I read the classic book by the exquisite spiritual entertainer Alan Watts called “The Wisdom of Insecurity“. The subtitle of the book is “A Message for an Age of Anxiety” and the 30 year anniversary edition has a forward by Deepak Chopra, MD which clearly states that the book’s message is even more relevant today than in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. It may come as no surprise, or great surprise, that if we are indeed living in PTSD Nation, then the hope of recovery and collective growth or potential awakening may be at hand. The power of presence may spring forth from the overload of modern life. I’ll keep doing my part for myself and for others. Thank you for reading.