Sunday, March 29, 2009


When I read my blog statistics, one of my favorite parts is the list of key words, the combo of terms that have brought people to my site. Nestled among the word strings that make sense, such as my name, my blog name, and the names of anything I have ever written, there is a treasure trove of food for thought and wonder. I divide them into three categories: Who Knew, Headlines and LOL!

Who Knew?
Someone searched for “Auntie Mame ringback tone.” She’s my heroine. If I’d have known she had one, it would already be on my cell phone. (Perhaps “Mame,” the theme from the musical version of the play/movie?)

"Nite-nite bear with womb sounds" – I’ve heard of teddy bears that replicate mom’s heartbeat, but the idea of an auditory trip back to the womb? I want one! Especially on those days when I wish I could crawl not just back under the covers, but back into my mom for cover.

“Santa’s got the aids ringtone.” I cannot imagine what that ringtone would sound like— even hard to conjure my sense of humor about it. Blue Christmas?

“Joyce Mason Trek died age” cued me into the fact that one of my namesakes is no longer among us. I mentioned her in my last post. Joyce headed the William Shatner fan club and hosted a Star Trek fan radio show for years. She also was a major part of my Google Yourself experiment, may she rest in peace. If you have a name that’s at all common, Google yourself to find out who else shares it.

It blew my mind to find out that most of the other Joyce Masons seem to do the same or similar things as I do. There is something in a name! Star Trek Joyce was my star link since I am an astrologer, each of us loving space and space characters in our own way. Another JM is a writer/publisher, too. Her business is called Joyce Mason Ink, a name I considered myself. Yet another who lives in my own metro area is a green building realtor, an affinity with my long government career on recycling issues. I suspect she is probably the other JM that my eco-oriented cleaners is always attempting to differentiate from me, to be sure I get out the same dry cleaning that I put in. There is a JM Canadian moviemaker and a JM gospel singer. At one point, I planned to get a master’s degree in script writing, and one of the biggest joys of my life was singing in a church choir.

I was definitely laughing out loud when I read “lack of sexual desire Blogspot.” I had no idea that my sometimes sagging libido has something to do with the fact that I blog on Google’s Blogger—you know, us guys ‘n’ gals with “blogspot” in our blog addresses. Note to Google: This is not a selling point. If this continues, I’ll have to change platforms or Google the female counterpart for Viagra.

While we’re on health concerns, sexual or otherwise, I’m still scratching my head over “lethargy no moon.” I’d be lethargic if I lost my moon, too. This person is definitely spaced or comes from another planet, because Earth has one. Note to Googler: When the Moon is new, you just can’t see it for a few days. No need to Google or call Missing Persons to see if they can find the missing (celestial) body. However, if this refers to no moon as in a skipped menstrual cycle, if you’re lethargic and skipped your period, consider you might be pregnant.

“Sex hot lulu garb very hot.” I want some of that lulu garb. It’s obviously the antidote to “lack of sexual desire Blogspot.”

“Spaghetti agli e oglio toddler recipe.” By all means, if you’re going to eat little children, you should sauté them into garlic spaghetti. (If the person who Googled this is reading my blog, please get help immediately!)

I don’t know if you’re having fun yet, but if you have a blog yourself and haven’t discovered this giggly Googley pastime, please check it out and share your best key word combos with us. Or share the best word strings you have Googled yourself …

… or at least those you’re willing to admit!


Dragnet Theme Music: The Google stories you just heard are true. Since statistics are anonymous, there are are no names to change to protect the innocent.

Comment Credit! Don’t forget our Spring Comment Caper and the chance to win a free book in a drawing on April 23.

Photo credit: CROSS EYED FUNNY FACE WOMAN © Creativest...

Monday, March 23, 2009

Identity Crisis

I love the name of this blog, Hot Flashbacks, Cool Insights. That’s also the title of my memoir I hope to have out later this year. But it wasn’t always the name of my book.

The original title was Hot Flashes of Insight! In some ways, I liked it better for its connection between female hormones and hypersensitive perceptions. That link has been true and dramatic for me, especially around the time surgically induced hot flashes threw me into hot flashbacks. The flashbacks were memories and figurative light bulbs that haven’t stopped flashing since (1992).

With time, I came to realize that the accent was on the wrong sylLABle by using a title that centered on the words hot flashes. My memoir is not about menopause—nor is this blog. Menopause did play a role. The instant estrogen dip and its symptoms, raging out of control, ignited what I already had a lot of—rampant intuition. Even more so, hot flashes ignited instant memory videos of incidents that somehow tied together the themes and learning trajectories of my life. This continued long past menopause, which happened for me early at age 45, due to an illness that required the surgery. The flashbacks, not the flashes, were the gift; so, it made no sense to me to accent hot flashes, even if they were the catalyst. Besides, I’d just as soon forget that miserable era of my life when I was thrown into “the change” instantly and could not do hormone replacement for medical reasons. I was a weepy wreck!

Because of my blog and book name, “hotflashbacks” became my handle on a number of social networking sites, one of my main e-mail addresses, and a way people have come to know me. I don’t mind that. From the Fast Lane to Social Security, it’s fun to flash back on what we’ve learned in order to figure out where we’re going to go next and how to make it groovy.

It’s Really about the Cool Insights
I’ve been musing for some time now about how the more important part of the title is “cool insights.” If we can’t make sense and grow from our experiences, it’s all just an old movie. Maybe it’s a comedy, maybe a drama; maybe a bit of both. But the movie critic in me wants to know “What’s It All About, Alfie?” I want to learn from my mistakes and make new ones!

Identity Crisis: A Way of Life

Naming is powerful. One of the songs sung at the christening ritual at my church goes, “Praise to the One who called and named you, up from the waters into life.” It implies that a child’s name is divinely given, channeled from Above, and written in the Book of Life, long before a baby incarnates on Earth. Even in fiction, every character I name is with great purpose and meaning. In keeping with our ongoing discussions about affirmations, one’s name is their most personal affirmation, something that is reaffirmed constantly over a lifetime. My husband likes that I have “joy” in my name. Me, too. But on the darker side, how can we be surprised that Bernie Madoff “made off” with so much of other people’s money?

As an adopted person, I never knew my original name until I sleuthed it out when searching for my birth mom. I consider it my secret, spiritual name that I only share with close intimates. It’s a beautiful name in its own right, but it’s “not me.” That makes sense, too. When my birth mom made the difficult decision to give me up out of love and a promise for a better life with two parents present and participating, she named me as she saw me then. My name was her vision of who I would have been, had she been able to raise me herself. That was not my path; therefore, my original name is not my “real” name.

Joyce Mason is my name by adoption. I have had this name since I was three weeks old. For reasons I’ll explore in another post later this year, I have steadfastly refused to give it up for marriage or any other reason. I love that in numerology, it has a 22 vibration that parallels my birthday on the 22nd of the month. Twenty-two is a master number—in fact, it is known as The Master Builder. It reflects someone who builds on solid rock with a purpose greater than herself. My “brick layer” surname, Mason, says the same. Builds on solid structures. One of the many business identities I have tried on and used periodically for writing services, such as résumés, is Wordmason—my slogan, Words built to last. Then there is the Fraternal Order of Masons, a rather mystical organization. I have a huge dose of the mystic in me—yet another reason to love my name. All ‘round, it’s “my vibe.”

Identity Crisis du Jour
On Twitter, I can only have one screen name with a maximum of 15 characters. There, I’ve been known as “hotflashbacks,” but now I have two blogs and two unique identities—baby boomer and astrologer. I have actually had the astrologer identity much longer, since the late 1980s. It didn’t seem right to continue to be “hotflashbacks” when I now have at least one other hat or mask to wear.

I struggled between “coolinsights” or “coolinsighter” and simply using my name, “joycemason.” Whatever I write, cool insights are the motivation. They’re the juicy core of the Tootsie Pop. The subject or flavor doesn’t matter. Even my short stories and mystery novel are insight-laden. I was tempted to use “coolinsights” to keep half of the Hot Flashbacks, Cool Insights brand front ‘n’ center.

In the end, I decided that I am the true common denominator in everything I write. My Radical Virgo blog advocates the importance of being who we are, especially our optimal selves, because who we are is our unique gift. One of my favorite sayings that says it all: It’s not what we do; it’s who we are. When we become our unique selves, we do what comes out of fulfilling our Self. That’s why it’s called fulfillment. The Radical Virgo advocates a psycho-spiritual approach to evolutionary astrology, where we rise to be the best of our unique pattern. It’s our imprint for the personal evolution of our body, mind, and spirit.

Even though I am less comfortable in the limelight than it looks, life has always demanded that I take the stage. Being “out there” may be a stretch, but if growth is what I’m about, I have to come all the way out of the closet. Whose cool insights are they, anyway? If my way of seeing the world is my gift to give, why call it anything else but what it is—mine? If Erma Bombeck were alive today, her Twitter handle wouldn’t be funnylady; it’d be ermabombeck. Oprah isn’t talkshowhost; she uses several variations of oprah.

So, joycemason is it. I doubt you'll forget I’m the one with the Hot Flashbacks, Cool Insights. Hopefully, what I write will be as memorable as who I am—intertwined and indistinguishable.


What’s in your name? If numerology fascinates you, here’s a starter website,
Seven Top Numerology Sites Reviewed. Another way of exploring your name—besides learning the meanings of first, middle, and last—are anagrams. You’d be surprised what words might be lurking in your moniker! If you want to have fun exploring this option, visit Internet Anagram Server. Bring a beverage. You’re likely to be there a long time!


Saturday, March 21, 2009

COOL SAGING CONVERSATIONS: Keep Boomer Bucks in Flux; Find the Soul in Your Money

Cool Saging Conversations has been moved from the sidebar to a regular post. It will appear on Saturdays.

This week’s Cool Saging Conversation is a response to Pop Art Diva’s Saturday Soapbox. Her topic is “Today’s Economy – What’s It Doing to Retiring Boomers?”

The impacts have been widely published. For many of us, it means putting off retirement or full retirement. At my house, the plan to draw from my husband’s 401k until I can collect Social Security is no longer a viable gap-financing plan. Since most of his retirement fund is in stocks, cashing in at a fraction of the face value does not make sense. We’ll hold till the market recovers. That means I’m back to work part-time as a retired annuitant. I am grateful to have work among friends, helping the worthy cause of environmental education. I work at my outside job less than two days a week; one at home. In a perfect world, I’d be writing full-time, but in today’s reality, I feel completely blessed for this “bridge work.”

Last night, I had dinner with several friends. An attorney I know, a woman I admire for her wise investments, considerable net worth, and keen planning skills, is completely reworking her life. She envisioned living on her beachfront property on the California coast by now. Instead, she’s selling it. As she sees it, she’ll be working another 6-7 years, newly self-employed. She enjoyed semi-retirement, as I did. But for now, it’s back to work!

I’m not so sure that going back to work is terrible for most boomers. We are not the “retiring” type, either in the literal or figurative sense. We have been forced to keep our boomer brains active learning cyber tools and ways to keep up in an ever-changing world. We are not exactly the “old” dogs of yesteryear that can’t learn new tricks.

I love Pop Art’s idea that all boomers should flex our collective cash flow power by going out and spending $50 on something we were too afraid to buy. I believe surviving this deep valley in global finances requires a balance between hording and spending foolishly.

Since I like to view life from the vast lane, I am more concerned about how our collective mental and emotional attitudes impact this crisis. Another friend of mine who was at dinner last night just came back from a workshop in New Mexico on “fund raising from the heart” with Lynne Twist, a woman from Marin County, CA who has raised over $100 million to stave off world hunger. One of her points? Money does no good unless it’s circulating. We need to keep money flowing without blowing it.

This is a time to reassess whether our spending aligns with our values. Lynne Twist’s book, The Soul of Money: Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Life, would make a great read for anyone who wants to use this economic free-fall to his or her optimal advantage. What if we all spent money in integrity on what we value most? I want to live long in that world!

More importantly, our dinner conversation came back to yet another profound concept. Parts of our current economic system are dying a natural death, and they need to be helped through this process in the same way we’d give compassionate hospice care to dying relatives. Fierce competition and planned obsolescence cannot work in a global economy. If there is any lesson flashing in neon lights, it’s that we are all interconnected now—not just a hippy dippy metaphysical idea, but in fact. What happens to the One happens to the All. Let’s give the bits of our economic system that no longer serve us a dignified death while we find ways to wrap our money in our highest purpose. This is more than “back to work.” The real work is the reworking/rehaul of our economic system.

Like the phoenix that rises from the ashes, I believe our economy will come back stronger, fairer, and pave the way to a better world. Overnight? Probably not. Hold the vision—and don’t hold back all your cash!

Go spend 50 bucks on something that really matters to you.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Spring Comment Caper!

Visits to Hot Flashbacks, Cool Insights have been up 40 percent in the past month!

Thank you, readers, both tried-and-true as well as newcomers. To my new readers, welcome! I love reading the blog stats each night and finding out the many cities, states, and countries that make up our eclectic audience of Cool Insighters.

While visits are up, comments are down. I love an interactive blog, so I’m hosting a spring drawing to encourage more of you to “talk amongst yourselves.” Each time you do, I’ll put your name into a hat. The more you comment, the better chance you have to win!

The drawing period will run from Spring Equinox (March 20) through Earth Day (April 22). On the April 23, I’ll draw the lucky name. You’ll receive an autographed copy of the mystery short-story collection written by the authors in my local Sisters in Crime Chapter. It’s called Capital Crimes: 15 Tales by Sacramento Area Authors. My story, “Digital,” provides the comic relief. Questions? E-mail me at Meanwhile, let’s spring back with more Hot/Cool conversations!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Spring: New Beginnings, New Blog!

Baby boomers should kiss Spring like a long-lost cousin. Every Spring, we get a new chance at life!

Spring is the “natural new year,” the time to plant the figurative seeds for what we want to grow more of in our lives between March 20, 2009 and March 19, 2010. The dormant season of winter is over. It’s time to sow our creations, whether they involve love, health, wealth, a new project, or a new point of view.

Nature doesn’t run on the Gregorian calendar. As I’ve said before in other posts, we have been off-cycle with the seasons in our January-December way of marking time for 500 years. None of us knows how many new years we have left, whether we’re 18 or 80. So, let’s make the most out of the powerful planting season spring represents and do a Cool Insights Exercise on what we want to manifest for the Natural New Year.

Exercise: Planting Your Seeds of Growth
In this activity, you’re going to create a seed packet. I like to use colored envelopes the size that fit a standard greeting card. Even if you’ve got some “plain vanilla” leftover envelopes from cards you’ve received, that’s OK, because our next step is redecorating!

Draw, paint, or collage onto your envelope whatever inspires you. You can name your seed packet for a project or something high on your list of things you want to manifest: Love Seeds, Prosperity Seeds, or in my case, the name of my new blog, The Radical Virgo. (More on that below.)

Now, find yourself some slips of paper—whatever appeals to you. My friends and I have used colorful ones, round ones, plain ones. On these, you’ll write your metaphorical seeds for growth. Take some serious, quiet, and contemplative time to do this exercise. It’s the reverse of the
winter “burning bowl.” Instead of burning what you want to get rid of, these pieces of paper will contain the fiery seeds of your new beginnings.

Place your packet in a special place—your altar, nightstand, near your computer—wherever you’ll see it often enough to remind you of what you’ve planted—what you want to grow and expand this year. I take my seeds out often and look at them thoughtfully to see how they’re growing. You can also “plant” them--put them in a special box or a pot. Whatever makes the metaphor real for you.

A few tips:

~~ Seeds are simple. Keep to a few words or small phrases.

~~ If you are tempted to plant many seeds, as they germinate, you will “thin them out,” so that the most robust ones have the opportunity to grow to the fullest. Few of us can do in one year all the things we “plant” in spring, and it’s OK to set aside seeds that naturally seem to need more time to germinate.

~~At Summer Solstice, we will look at the seeds again, and I’ll talk about them in a post. The idea is to see how they bloom; then at autumn equinox, we can see what’s ready for harvest.

To give you an idea how the planting and culling process works: I just checked my seed packet from 2008. Of my eight seeds, one has grown into a plant—my completed book—and I’m making major progress on four others. Two need to germinate longer, and I have let one go, recognizing it isn’t important at this time.

Making Seasonal Sense
In my Calendar New Year post,
Things to Bear in Mind as We Round 2009, I talked about how we need to slow down, even hibernate like a bear in winter. If you did not take that rest, don’t be surprised if your energy doesn’t rise with the tree sap as quickly as you’d like. It’s not too late to reverse it! Put on some eye shades and block out the growing light while you make up for lost winter nap time. You’ll be happy you did when your energy level bounces back for the effort. A little down time in late winter/early spring means a lot more bounce between now and the Summer Solstice in the third week of June. You’ll have high energy!

If, like me, you resemble Sneezy the Dwarf this time of year, it’s time to have a summit conference with your sensitivities, the flowers and trees—and your medicine cabinet. I hope you won’t make my perennial mistake of allowing myself to be miserable rather than to take some medication, natural or prescribed. I have missed some of the best of the spring season by being unwilling to put on my big girl pants and take my medicine. Allergies sap your energy. A head that feels like it’s about to explode will not be able to focus on gathering seed energy for a creative burst. Congestion is not conducive to springing forward into the new.

Joyce’s New Astrology Blog
Speaking of new: For those interested in or curious about astrology, please visit my new blog,
The Radical Virgo. It launches with its first full post on March 21 to catch the spirit of the Equinox seed energy. Until then, there are a couple of short posts and a link to an article I wrote for Inner Sanctuary blog, “Your Cosmic Tractor Beam.” It explains how and why like-minded people are drawn together.

I am very excited that I have been guided back to writing about astrology, guidance which has been coming slowly into my consciousness over the past six months. While I am unlikely to do individual astrology readings in the future (I have been retired from that work since 2003), astrology will always remain a tool that has brought me closer to the Divine and to understanding the magnificent workings of the universe—everyone and everything that’s a part of it. I love writing about it and the lively exchanges among my fellow star trekkers. (Ironically, the woman who used to do a Star Trek radio show and headed the William Shatner fan club was also named Joyce Mason.)

In the near future, I’ll be posting an article in the SkyHints Sidebar for people whose experience of astrology is primarily reading their horoscope in the newspaper. Newspaper horoscopes are a very limited version of what astrology has to offer, so for those who have an inkling that “there’s more out there,” I hope to give you a taste of how most modern astrologers use their knowledge of the sky as positive a psycho-spiritual tool. Psychiatrist Carl Jung used astrology extensively in his practice.

Meanwhile, I hope blogging in two “solar systems” here on Hot Flashbacks and The Radical Virgo just continues to make me a better writer and blogger and doubles the benefits to my readers. This is one of the spring seeds I’m planting. Let’s share how both yours and mine bloom in summer, then reap their fruits at the autumn harvest. Hope to hear a lot of “seedy” comments, now and in the future!

Happy Natural New Year! Hoe-hoe-hoe!


For those who also want to plant the real thing this spring, here are a few seedlinks:
Burpee (largest and oldest), Seeds of Change (organic), and Victory Seed Company (heirloom).

Monday, March 9, 2009

Auntie Mame: A Tale for Today, Tomorrow, and Always!

“Life’s a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death.’ –Auntie Mame

Who’s Auntie Mame?
She’s my heroine and mentor, a larger-than-life character. The movies, Broadway plays and musicals that tell her madcap story are based on the novel by Patrick Dennis, a book inspired by his real-life aunt. However, it was Rosalind Russell who brought
Mame to life most in her 1957 stage performance and the 1958 movie, “Auntie Mame.” Her message? “Live, live, live!” She was an adventurer who advocated opening new windows and doors every day.

Mame has a lot to teach us, not only about getting the most from life in all its stages, but also how to deal with our current hard times. To quote Mame in the lyrics from the musical:
We could use a lot of Auntie Mame--now.

The Basic Story
1928: Mame’s conservative stockbroker brother has just written his will. To his dismay, he is forced to leave his only son, Patrick, to Mame, his crazy sister and only living relative. He knows it’s just a formality, because he’s in perfect health. But just in case, out of concern for her influence on the boy, Mame’s brother names a conservative banker, Dwight Babcock from the Knickerbocker Bank to be Patrick’s trustee and to handle all the money.

As fate would have it, Mame’s brother drops dead at his health club the next day before the ink is dry on the will. Soon Patrick and his dad’s loyal Irish housekeeper, Nora Muldoon, arrive at the door of Mame’s apartment on Beacon Place in New York City. Their first encounter sets the stage for the rest of the story.

Mame is hosting a wild party with all kinds of bohemians and foreign dignitaries. Her close friend, flapper, and actress, Vera Charles, is suffering the latest effects of Mame’s free-flowing bootlegged booze. Being “hung” after one of Mame’s nightly parties and sleeping the next day past noon is par for the course at Beacon Place.

Patrick’s companion and former housekeeper, Nora, thinks she has brought the boy to a den of iniquity. Mame, though, wins him over immediately, and her bond with Patrick is instantaneous. “Come to me, my little love. I’m your Auntie Mame!”

But it’s not all fun and games. Mame’s worst hour is when she is caught defying Babcock’s edict to send Patrick to a stuffy, snooty boys’ school. Babcock discovers Patrick has never shown up at the school of his choice. Rather, the boy has been romping naked at an “experimental” school in the Village run by one Mame’s bohemian friends. Babcock arrives just as the kids and staff are acting out the way fish spawn. Not impressed by the spirit-freeing practice of nudism or such hands-on biology lessons, Babcock sends Patrick to a far-off boarding school. It breaks Mame’s heart.

Feast before Famine, a Tale for Tough Times
Soon, Mame’s heart was not the only thing broken. By now, it’s 1929—and you guessed it—Mame and all her wealthy friends are broke with the stock market crash. (Sound familiar?) How does Mame’s philosophy of “live-live-live!” cut it during the Depression? What does this heartwarming story tell us about living through tough times and flourishing in life all the way to the finish line?

For starters, Mame is not too proud to go back to work and open her mind to new ways of making a living. She tries three things—all disasters. When Mame goes back to acting and turns a Shakespearean style play into an episode of “I Love Lucy,” the star, her friend Vera Charles, is not amused. It just intensifies their ongoing rivalry since they acted together in days gone by.

Next Mame tries her hand as a switchboard operator. Remember, those were the days when the operator made the connections. Soon her board looked like a bowl of spaghetti after an earthquake. There were so many hang-ups and disconnects flying, she probably caused several international incidents.

But as they say, the third time’s a charm. The final job was still disastrous—an attempt at being a clerk at Macy’s during the holiday season. Mame couldn’t get the hang of writing anything but a COD order, or of how to keep her carbon paper from trailing out of her sales book. But here’s where the charm comes in. Mame nearly botches a sale with a rich, handsome Southern gentleman named Beauregard Jackson Picket Burnside. They fall in love and marry. Happy and prosperous days are here again!

Unfortunately, Mame’s bliss with Beau was short-lived. A shutterbug, during one of their trips around the world, Beau falls off an Alp stepping backwards for better perspective while taking Mame’s picture. After a lengthy gig as a melodramatic widow, Mame finally takes heart in writing her memoir, “Live, Live, Live!” This new project brings more amazing adventures to Mame, nephew Patrick, and their family of friends.

Mame’s Message for All Seasons
Whether life was up or down, Mame believed we should always, “open a new window, open a new door,” those juicy lyrics from the musical version, “Mame.” (Mame was played on Broadway in the musical version by Angela Lansbury and the movie musical by Lucille Ball.) Mame was rich in friends, an exchange that never crashed. Her loyal staff paid her bills with their savings when Mame was penniless. While we can’t all marry a rich Southern gentleman, Mame oozed integrity. She married Beau because she was in love with him, when her easy out, earlier, would have been to marry “dear Lindsay,” her prosperous beau before Beau. Mame refused to do in hard times what she hesitated to do during good times.

When the going got tough, Mame got creative. She wasn’t too proud to pawn her belongings. When her spirits needed lifting, she insisted that her little family celebrate Christmas early, because, “We need a little Christmas, right this very minute!”
Mame’s spirit was indomitable, her mind and heart both as open as the great outdoors, she had principles and a lust for life rarely matched. These are just some of the reasons why she’s my role model, but add one more. As a person not blessed with children of my own, auntie has been one of my most beloved roles in life. My nieces and nephews, no doubt, see me as their “unusual” Auntie Joyce, too.

Finally, like the baby boomers who read this blog, Mame just got cooler as her hair was touched by gray and she had a great-nephew to “open new worlds” for.

Mame Is Eternal
Recently on Facebook, I was asked to answer “44 Odd Things about Me.” Since I believe life doesn’t end with physical death, it was easy for me to answer the question, what song would you like played at your funeral?"

Open a New Window, Open a New Door …”


If Mame’s story inspires you, why not rent the DVD today? If you’re on Netflix, it’s available as a download right to your computer screen. Don’t underestimate the power of a funny movie with a fabulous message to uplift you during trying times or anytime.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Affirmations: Part 2, Column 2

My last post, Wall-to-Wall Inspiration, covered the topic of inspirational words, especially affirmations. There is a powerful second step to making affirmations work. It seems to have gotten lost in the shuffle in the smiley-faced enthusiasm of some of our more eager metaphysical go-getters. I’m making fun of myself, because I used to border on being one of them.

The Complications of Over-Simplifying

While I’m on the subject, there is a real danger in our culture of oversimplifying things to the point that they—or we—become caricatures. This is exacerbated by a culture that relies heavily on video as a medium for information and entertainment—always entertainment—even on the most serious topics. Everything is reduced to video clips and sound bytes, and the more we live media-driven lives—we micro-blog on Facebook and Twitter in a sentence or two—the more we are apt to lose the core nugget of truth for brevity.

For example, there is fabulous information in the movie,
The Secret, which claims to reveal the most powerful law in the universe; however, if you don’t listen to it with a discerning ear, it comes off sounding like a very materialistic form of magic, one without heart and soul. As I say often, it’s not the tool; it’s how you use it. Knives are instruments of nurture to a cook, and in the hands of a skilled surgeon, a lifesaver. In the hands of a serial murder—not.

I don’t want to get into the controversy that has sometimes surrounded The Secret; it has its pluses and minuses like all people and things. But I do want to say this: affirmations are another one of those things that will either not work, backfire, or sound really stupid to seriously grounded realists if you don’t know the second step. The reason the smiley-faced metafoofoo types never seem to have gotten it? It has to do with negatives. They don’t like them. (I didn’t invent the expression metafoofoo for airy metaphysical types, but I do claim to have added the smiley-face! :) I think the perennial positive thinkers haven't yet found the positives in negatives.

The Positive of Negatives
Here’s the second step. You must spend time writing down the negative mind-chatter that pops in as you affirm your new way of thinking, your positive statement. If you do not get it out in the open on a piece of paper where you can face it squarely, it will sabotage you.

This takes some emotionally painful and rather time-consuming work. My spiritual teachers taught me that it takes writing the new affirmation and coughing up the negative self-talk 77 times before the new idea “sets.” Hopefully, it sets firmer than squiggly Jell-O and takes root in your mind like an oak tree. Remember, mighty oaks from tiny acorns grow. These little seeds of self-discovery will yield big.

I was taught to do this exercise by folding a standard piece of notebook or other 8.5 x 11 lined paper lengthwise. You set up two columns. You can call them whatever works for you. I usually marked them, simply, with the plus (+) and minus (-) symbols.

You need 77 lines, so use as many pieces of paper as necessary. Maybe it’s not a magic number, but it’s enough writing to do the job. You don’t have to write all 77 affirmations and your inner responses to them in one session, but if you can make the time, that’s ideal.

Here’s an example. I wanted to work with the affirmation: I am lean, fit, centered—energetic. For starters, I realized it’s a four-in-one, and I’d have to do those declarations one at a time, starting with “I am lean.” Here is some of what popped out in my process, with the Column 2 Minuses in parentheses:

1. I am Lean. (That’s a laugh. Just look at you!)
2. I am Lean. (You lean over cuz you’re so fat! That’s your “lean.”)
3. I am Lean. (Well, maybe under several inches of pudge.)
4. I am Lean. (But you had a fat mother; her mom and sister were fat. You come from a fat family!)

I don’t want to bore you with my obnoxious, personal demons, but I do want to report that at some point the talk in Column 2 will begin to change. It happens quite naturally:

18. I am Lean. (Maybe deep within)
19. I am Lean. (Hmm, well, OK, I think that’s probably who I really am.)
20. I am Lean. (Your uncle is fit and in control of his eating. He’s 82 and still traveling and having fun!)
By the end of this exercise, you will have actually downloaded the barriers to your beliefs and put them out in front of you where you can deal with them. I have lost 9 lbs. since affirming “I am lean” and dumping out my negative mind chatter for examination. I’m sure affirmations aren’t the only reason—I was using multiple tools—but I can’t deny they factored into it.) For some more excellent examples, especially about blocks to prosperity and manifesting money, read
Using Affirmations to Uncover and Transform Negative Beliefs and Attitudes by Douglas Bloch, a profound self-help author who speaks from having walked the path from pain to wholeness. Also, here’s another similar spin on how to do affirmations with some additional and delightful twists, including singing them: Motivation Tips by Carla Valencia.

Accentuate the Positive, Eliminate the Negative
That peppy old tune by Johnny Mercer,
Accentuate the Positive, sung by Perry Como, tells us not to mess with “Mr. In-Between.” In order to eliminate the negative, we have to find it! Rout it out like the rat infestation in my garage and turn the whole mess over to Mr. Clark, the namesake of our pest-control service. When we affirm without finding and eliminating the negatives, we haven’t finished the job—or the paper work. We are, indeed, messing with Mr. In-Between. We can’t get anywhere, because we are laying a foundation on faulty ground, one with potholes, sinkholes, and a host of hidden pitfalls and pratfalls.

Try this process, and please share your success stories with our Cool Insights family. It’s profound and practical!




NEW FEATURE: Cool Saging Conversations

Check out the new feature and sidebar on Hot Flashbacks, Cool Insights! I’m participating in a meme on Pop Art Diva’s Saturday Soapbox on various issues near and dear to baby boomers. Memes (pronounced meem, long e like beam), are a way of propagating culture, analogous to the biological transmission of genes. Anytime we communicate by whatever means about culture, these conversations propagate cultural evolution from one mind to another. In other words, if we talk about our culture, we change it! I will post Cool Saging Conversations beside my regular posts, not just in response to the Saturday Soapbox, but on all kinds of cool saging topics. Today’s inaugural post is response to the Pop Art Diva’s Saturday Soapbox on March 1, “Are We Wasting the Resources of Our Elders?”