Thursday, October 29, 2009

Blog-4-Cause: An E-book to Support the Susan G. Komen Cause for the Cure

A special message to the Readers of Hot Flashbacks, Cool Insights:

I was adopted as an infant, yet ultimately I had the joy of knowing both my mothers after my birth mom, Helen, and I were reunited in 1986. Sadly, I lost both my moms to cancer, but it’s breast cancer that’s part of my genetic history. Both Helen and her sister, my aunt, died of this disease.

If you are a woman, especially a woman of a certain age, breast cancer is potentially part of your history, too, whether or not your mom or other female relatives ever had it. Here are some facts that we should never forget along with our annual mammograms:

*  The most proven and significant risk factors for getting breast cancer are being female and getting older.

    *  Only five to ten percent of breast cancers are due to heredity. The majority of women with breast cancer have no known significant family history or other known risk factors.

      *  Breast cancer is second only to lung cancer in deaths among women.

        Two wonderful bloggers I have encountered by what I call “happystance,” Lance Ekum (Jungle of Life) and Joanna Sutter (Fitness and Spice), have developed an e-book called Blog-4-Cause. I am a proud contributor. Blog-4-Cause contains fascinating articles by many writer/bloggers in multiple subject areas: Inspirational, Personal Growth, Health & Fitness, Humor, Food, and Miscellaneous. (My article on Auntie Mame is on p. 15 in the Inspirational section.)

        If you’d like to an introduction to some diverse bloggers and an opportunity to support this worthy cause, at the same time, I hope you’ll consider clicking on the photo or the Blog-4-Cause link in the paragraph above to become part of the solution. All contributions for the e-book go directly to the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation. The participating authors have volunteered our work for the cause, and I hope you’ll consider a contribution of any amount, for which the e-book is your gift.

        Think pink! And remember, our breasts are close to our hearts.

        Health and happiness,


        Friday, October 23, 2009

        The Four Elements: Air Born

        Part 1 of 4

        © 2009
        by Joyce Mason
        All Rights Reserved

        As a concept, the elements are ancient. Many philosophies and most major spiritual traditions have used the archetypal four elements to describe patterns in nature. That goes for human nature as well. “Know thyself” is the cornerstone of spirited living. This is the first of a series of four posts exploring our elemental nature. (For more on this topic, read The Vast Lane to Elementary School ). Let’s start with some examples of the part the elements play in various traditions.

        Native Americans align themselves with the Four Directions in a medicine wheel to invoke the Spirits of the Four Elements. Each spirit rules a direction: East (Air), South (Fire), West (Water) and North (Earth). By attuning themselves with elemental energies, they create the space to pray, heal, and commune with the natural world and the universe. They call this walking in balance with the Earth. Heaven only knows how badly we need that right now.

        The astrological Air Signs are Gemini, Libra, and Aquarius.

        Indigenous cultures view air as the universal power or pure substance. Even in our high-tech, modern world, we know the power of air. We are born—considered to exist independently—from the moment of our first breath, whether or not the cord has been cut, whether or not we are detached from our mother. In the Medicine Wheel as in life itself, Air comes first and last. We are Air Born. When we are no longer able to breathe—to take in air—we die.

        Yet breathing, our most personal experience of air, is something we often take for granted—unless or until we suffer from the flu, a bad cold, asthma, or other respiratory diseases. How fully do you breathe in the breath of life?

        Stress and other environmental factors tend to lead to shallow breathing and diminished oxygenation and mental clarity. Think of the word inspired, something we all hope to be in our work, play, and life in general. Inspiration is breathing—to inspire or breathe in. What is your relationship to your own breath?

        We worry about bad breath, but halitosis is the least of our problems. The really “bad” breath is not drinking in life to our full lung capacity. Yoga, the gentle exercise that focuses on breathing, means union—union of spirit/air and our entire physical being. We have a lot to learn from this ancient practice currently enjoying a renaissance in the Western world.

        But if chanting om and sitting still are not your bag, there’s runner’s high and a host of other ways to drink in the breath of life. There’s nothing like hot sex to get you panting and appreciating how we’re wired for extra air, just when we need it most. Another example of air conditioning comes when you have to run from danger, or God forbid, for your life. Who knows where it comes from, that extra oomph to heave your chest and make room for the surge of fear and expanded lung capacity. Who cares? It’s an elemental miracle.

        Simply being quiet and focusing on your breath either sitting still or walking in nature can be a centering ritual filled with startling revelations. It is only when we “listen” to our breath that we can hear our spirits speak.

        The breath of spirit can also become, as the practitioners of Ayurveda call it, deranged. Too much air is unsettling—one reason we are discombobulated after a long plane ride, flying around through so much air space. We don’t like it when something is “up in the air.” It’s undecided and out of our control. When wind whips through the trees and stirs up pollen, we don’t just sneeze. We often become downright cranky. Excess air causes a myriad of conditions that simply ask us to return to the inner barometer of our own breath, our trusty medium of life and spirit.

        Experiment: Simply take time to breathe—to notice your breath. Consider learning some yogic breath exercises. If you like to sing, do breath control warm-ups. Explore the edges of full and empty lungs. Donate to the Lung Association. Consider a visit Chicago, the Windy City. If, like me, you live within driving distance of windmill fields that create alternative energy, watch them spin. Go to a toy store; buy a pinwheel or kite. Blow up a balloon. Let it fly, or make music by stretching the mouth and letting out little bits of air. Play with this element. Journal the results.

        When we are completely high on life, we say, “I’m just flying!” Find out the full meaning of this metaphor and know when you’re living it. It’s the essence of being alive. 

        Or to quote the lyrics go of an old song, The Air That I Breathe  by The Hollies, "Sometimes all I need is the air that I breathe and to love you.


        Photo Credit: DANDELION WISH © Mircala

        Four Element Series

        Fire - Hearts Afire 
        Water - Wetting Reception
        Earth - I Dig Earth!

        Thursday, October 15, 2009

        Hot Flash Forward on Dan Brown’s New Book, “The Lost Symbol”

        © 2009 by Joyce Mason

        On Hot Flashbacks, Cool Insights, we like to play the symbols, not lose them as in the title of Dan Brown’s latest book, The Lost Symbol. But I found out recently that I haven’t lost my touch for inklings! Brown’s new book features an organization you’ve heard a lot about recently on this blog. You may recall our wonderful, two-article series by guest writer Janet Walden about the Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS) last August. (To flash back, visit IONS: Tools to Change the World and IONS at the Movies.)

        Unbeknownst to me—and certainly to Marilyn Mandala Schlitz, President of IONS—it turns out that Dr. Katherine Solomon, the female protagonist in the novel, bears remarkable similarities to Marilyn Schlitz. Dr. Schlitz only found out about her brush with fictional fame on the book’s release date. Katherine is a composite of her and some other noetic scientists. Noetic science figures prominently in the story. I thought you’d like to know that life was anticipating art on Hot Flashbacks! Hopefully, you were fascinated enough by Janet’s articles on this organization to be cheering with me about its 15 minutes of fame. I am thrilled to have played a small part in the current wave of “positive IONS!” (Have you noticed how the Google ads on this site, keyword-based, think we’re talking about positive ion air machines, whenever the acronym IONS appears?)

        Because I consider IONS to be one of the most on-purpose and in-integrity organizations dealing with the big issues that bring science and spirituality together, I believe spirited people everywhere should be applauding this depiction of the organization in a mainstream novel that’s selling like hotcakes. It’s a spirited living breakthrough. Brown’s newest book rose immediately on its September 15 release date to #1 on Amazon, sold one million copies overall the first day, and broke nearly all historical sales records for fiction—just for starters! This means that millions of people around the world are being exposed to the merger of science and spirituality through its pages.

        Stay tuned for an NBC "Dateline" special, “Secrets of the Lost Symbol,” airing October 16 that will focus on the symbolism in Dan Brown’s book and feature IONS scientists Marilyn Mandala Schlitz and Dean Radin and the work of IONS.

        I feel a part of the excitement of these blessings that IONS is reaping, even if my involvement is “fringe” and from the auspices of a little fish blog in the deep blue sea of millions of them. I thought you might like some links to learn more about how Marilyn and IONS are greeting this surprise gift:

        In the Spotlight on IONS Home Page – Follow links if interested in a weekly audio course on the book.

        NPR: Woman Read’s Dan Brown Novel, Discovers Herself – Marilyn Schlitz wakes up to instant fame

        Marilyn Schlitz, PhD: Lead Character in "The Lost Symbol?" – Short You Tube video by Marilyn

        I haven’t read the book yet, but it’s next in my reading queue. If anyone has read it and would like to comment without spoilers--or offer a guest blog review, please contact me.

        Since I’m over the Moon for the good fortune of IONS, here’s an ending quote by IONS’ founder, Astronaut Edgar Mitchell. He is describing his trip home from the Apollo 14 Moon-landing mission:

        "Up in my cockpit window every two minutes, the Earth, the Moon, the Sun and the whole 360-degree, panorama of the heavens and that was a powerful and overwhelming experience. And suddenly I realized the molecules of my body and the molecules of the spacecraft and the molecules of the bodies of my partners were prototyped and manufactured in some ancient generation of stars. And that was an overwhelming sense of oneness, of connective-ness. It wasn't them and us, it was...that's me, that's all of''s ONE THING!' And it was accompanied by an ecstasy, a sense...OH MY GOD...WOW...YES! An insight, an epiphany."


        Monday, October 12, 2009

        Laughter: Champagne for the Soul

        © 2009 by Joyce Mason

        Laughter is carbonated holiness. –Anne Lamott

        I take spirituality seriously. That’s why I laugh a lot. As I’ve said many times, I feel we’re closest to God when we’re laughing. Laughter joins, heals, and connects us as human beings. To laugh is to take a huge gulp of Anne Lamott’s carbonated holiness and toast our divine interconnection. When we’re laughing, we realize that we are each other.

        One of my favorite spiritual double entendres is “lighten Up.” Enlightenment shouldn’t come with long faces and a furrowed brow. It should come with peals of laughter that tingle all the way down to your toes and explode out the top of your head. In-between outbursts from a ticked funny bone, being highly spiritual or spirited should evoke plenty of smiles.

        When did spirituality take a left turn into somber? I’m not sure I even want to research that travesty, but I do want to talk about the sometimes-limited view of it many of us developed in traditional religions, regardless of what they were. I’ll pick on my own. I grew up Catholic, and now the whole world knows about our history of hair shirts and self-flagellation, recently brought home to the entire world in the fictional Silas character in Dan Brown’s DaVinci Code. As a girl, I was taught to admire and consider as role models women who had been raped, tortured, or had their breasts cut off. I’m not kidding. Especially if they were martyred (yes, killed), they became saints, more or less on the spot. Being a Catholic kid in the 1950s, at least where I grew up, was a gruesome business. To say the least, I don’t think the focus on blood, guts, and gore sent the right message. (I’m still shuddering.)

        Thank heaven, in the decades that have passed, many people—clergy and their flocks alike—have evolved away from this dim view of holiness. One of my favorite priests once told us at Mass, “The real church starts when you walk out of this building.” I believe that wholeheartedly. We talk of being a Christian, Muslim, or a Jew. To be is a verb, and spirituality is action, ergo the expression, “to walk the talk.” In the Christian tradition, it means helping others and acting to eradicate all forms of social injustice. Jews put perhaps even more emphasis on good works. Holiness means not just something sanctified, but something made whole. It has to do with seeing ourselves as part of all of creation and wanting all that lives to live to the fullest. This is stated so poignantly in this video by Peter Mayer, singing and playing his inspiring song, Holy Now.

        “Holy Now” is an example of the sweet side of spirituality, the one where we are in awe of the beauty of life that’s ours to relish, if we only have the eyes to see it. Here’s my quote for this tender side of spirituality:

        Let your religion be less of a theory and more of a love affair. ~G.K. Chesterton

        The love affair is with everything—people, places, plants, animals, and the spark of life, wherever it shines. It reminds me of the title of one of my favorite books, Everything Belongs, by Richard Rohr. While the subtitle is The Gift of Contemplative Prayer, the content is much more—a breath of fresh air that will keep you in that place of “holy now.” In "Everything Belongs," there are chapters entitled Vision of Enchantment and Return to the Sacred. You get the picture.

        For now, back to laughter and evolution. Since so many of us had early religious experiences, often among misguided souls who taught us, religious humor becomes an outlet for both healing and reconnection to the “rightness within.” My favorite priest told me in confession when I was a teenager worried about going to second base, which felt good and not wrong, “Your conscience is the ultimate authority—more important than any religious teaching.” Wow! Isn’t it cool to realize that in a sea of misinformation, I stumbled upon an oasis, one wise soul bearing truth?

        I have to admit, some of my favorite jokes involve a priest, a rabbi, and a minister. When Garrison Keillor has joke day on A Prairie Home Companion, I laugh hardest at these funnies about the various religious perspectives on life. As a Catholic who grew up in a Jewish neighborhood, I relish the Jewish roots of Christianity and both religious perspectives. That said, I couldn’t resist telling my favorite joke:

        In the inner city of a large metropolis, there was a great deal of urban renewal going on. The local temple was being demolished, and the congregation had no place to go until the new synagogue was finished. In an act of interfaith generosity, the neighboring monsignor contacted the rabbi and offered a solution. The temple could use the church in its off hours. They’d stagger services and meeting nights, accommodating both church members and temple goers until the new synagogue was ready. The rabbi was delighted with this offer, and both clergymen felt they were setting an example of tolerance and love.

        The schedules were ready to go, the announcements ready to be made, but the rabbi scratched his beard and the monsignor scratched his head, both of them expressing the thought that something didn’t sit right. They’d have to call it something different in the meantime to help both congregations grasp this temporary ecumenical meeting ground. After a long period of drawing a blank on common denominators, they finally found it:

        Our Lady of Perpetual Guilt.

        Jesus was arguably one of the greatest teacher of all time, if not the greatest of all. He taught in stories and allegories. I can’t help but believe he had a sense of humor, and I get a lot of mileage wondering what kind of jokes he told. I wonder why none of the gospel writers saw fit to pass them on. I guess they wanted the Word to be taken seriously. If they knew then what we know now about the physiology of laughter, as told in one of my favorite articles ever, How Laughter Works, we might have a very different bible. We might have had more laying on of laughs than the laying on of hands. I have always loved this depiction of Jesus Laughing.

        If you’re serious about spirituality, I hope you laugh a lot—and if you don’t, do some heavenly homework and begin watching how much our human foibles, depicted in humor, bring us all together—and deserve our giggles, belly laughs, and guffaws as we see ourselves “illuminated.” Seeing our absurdities lit up is just another form of enlightenment. Share in the Comments anything interesting you observe in his new holy/wholely comedy perspective.

        This past weekend, I saw the play Late Nite Catechism: ‘Til Death Do Us Part in Sacramento. What a hoot. It clearly threw light on certain elements of Catholic practices and perspectives in the past were—for lack of a better term—downright insane. The laughter as “Sister” quoted the old party line with deadpan delivery was infectious. Nonie Newton-Breen, who played Sister, is an improv graduate of Second City in Chicago. (I recognized her kindred accent immediately.) The funniest questions were from those in “class” not raised Catholic about limbo, purgatory, and the rhythm method of birth control. (“It didn’t work too well,” Sister admitted. “You wanted 3 and got 13.”) The game show, Compatibility, had two couples facing off who couldn’t have been more different—a staunchly Catholic pair to this day after 39 years together, and a much more free-spirited couple, together 10 years who had yet to marry. (“What are you waiting for?” Sister was nothing if not blunt.) She even had a list of names from the ticket purchases, so if people did not volunteer, they could be called upon. Scary! No ruler whacks, though, “Because nowadays parents have lawyers.” We had a fabulous time, and as one who always took religion way too seriously as a kid, it was a relief to sit back, relax, laugh, and separate the best of my core beliefs from the BS. Our minds provide us a filtration system, just like a conscience.

        Since I’m most familiar with the Judeo-Christian perspective (I’d welcome knowing how other paths regard humor), I’ll end with two quotes that suggest that laughter was always there in our religious roots, just underemphasized:

        To everything, there is a season …A time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance. Ecclesiastes 3:1-4.

        The one whose throne is in heaven sits laughing. Psalm 2:4.

        If we are made in the divine image and all have that spark of divinity within, it’s high time take that last quote seriously.


        Photo credit:

        Need more laughs? Read Ten Laugh Stops Online, especially Swami Beyondananda.

        Tuesday, October 6, 2009

        The Magnificent Seven Encore

        Kreativ Blogger awards are like Oscars, because they’re recognition from a writer’s peers. As you’ll see below, KB Awards involve “magnificent sevens.” Thank you, Susannah of Joy Frequencies for letting me take home my second KB logo this year! (Read about the first one here.) I nominated Susannah for a Lemonade Award in May, and she richly deserves that Lemmy for being an oasis of joy and inspiration. She brings sparkles to my life!

        If you’ve been nominated in my list later in this post and want to pay it forward (optional, of course), here are the guidelines:

        • Thank the person who gave you the award

        • Place the logo on your blog

        • Link to the person who nominated you

        • Name 7 things about yourself that people might find interesting

        • Nominate 7 bloggers for this award and post links to their blogs

        • Send a message to let them know they’ve been nominated

        Another Seven Things You May Find Interesting About Me

        Since I’ve done this once before, I’ve decided to share seven new things about myself, so I don’t bore you. (If my colleagues nominate me for any more awards, there won’t be anything left to reveal in my memoirs! However, I’m willing to live with the danger.)

        1. In my first career as a social worker, I spent eight years working with children and adults with developmental disabilities.

        2. I have been married twice, and both men have two different colored eyes. (What are the odds of that?)

        3. I went to Catholic high school for three weeks, and then decided I wanted to go to our public school instead. At the time, Evanston Township High School was rated in the top 5% of high schools in the country. I really left St. Scholastica because I couldn’t stand studying Latin, which was required. (In public school, I studied both French and Spanish and loved them. Maybe there wasn’t enough “romance” for me in Latin.)

        4. As a sophomore, I wrote for the annual high school variety show. My creative partner, Bonnie Fox and I, envisioned ourselves as the new Rodgers and Hammerstein. (She wrote music; I wrote lyrics.) I believe we did the first completely original tune in the long history of the show. (Most songs were existing ones with new lyrics.) It remains one of the thrills of my life, the first time I heard our song performed live on stage.

        5. As a graduating senior, I won the class award as the most promising student in journalism.

        6. Unlike cartoonist Sandra Boynton’s hippo who never met a carbohydrate she didn’t like, I have, and it’s mashed potatoes. (I know it’s un-American, but I think it’s a texture thing.)

        7. For a writing class I took in my early thirties at our local State university, I wrote a script for “All in the Family” in my Writing for Television class. It was critiqued by producer and famous TV writer, Mort Lachman. He was kind enough to be supportive and tell me both where I hit the mark and didn’t.

        Seven More Blog Nominees That Get My Vote

        The joy of doing this more than once is that I can share with my readers my new blog discoveries since we last met on a Magnificent Seven list as well as some time-honored faves.

        Kelly Diels ~ If you write or read blogs, do not under any circumstances miss Kelly’s article on ProBlogger linked on her site, “Why Blogging is Like the Wizard of Oz.” This is this is the best article on blogging I’ve read to date by one of the best writers I’ve ever discovered. She shares her life in gutsy, humorous, deep and delightful way. Kudos, Kelly!

        Red Door Diaries, A Creative Café by Lee Russell ~ Her motto says it all, Positive thoughts creating joyful conditions. Lee and I met when we both lived in Sacramento years ago. She was the graphic artist for Chironicles, the international newsletter on my astrological specialty, Chiron. (Chironicles had a wonderful run from 1992-95. Many of its best articles have been updated and posted on The Radical Virgo.) In the Red Door Diaries, Lee shares her journeys, both inner and outer with her usual creative pizzazz.

        Midlife Musings on Perrie Meno-Pudge ~ I don’t love Perrie’s new blog just because I was the first guest blogger, but because it has the usual tone, style, and help in a fun atmosphere that the Perrie Meno-Pudge team is famous for. Congrats, Barbara and Joanne, for another mid-life rockin’ winner!

        My Seat on the Beach by YaYa Bowman ~ Every time I visit this blog, I’m sorry I don’t do it more often. If that isn’t the sign of a great read, nothing is! YaYa’s personality just leaps off the screen along with her joie de vivre. Whether she’s addressing serious issues, like Domestic Violence Awareness month, sharing her milestones such as the return of the monarch butterflies to Santa Cruz, CA where she lives, or sharing her loves and their celebrations—especially her parents’ recent 60th anniversary—YaYa is sitting on that beach, living life to the hilt, and sharing it from the heart.

        The Brat in the Hat the Rantings of a Grumpy Old Woman by Pop Art Diva ~ All of Pop Art’s blogs are the bomb, but this is one for a day when you really need a good laugh, when your dark side needs to let loose, and when you need to ROFL till you cry. She even sells products with “snarky designs to fit your snippy moods” in her Rantorium Emporium. The Brat is a medicine bag full of he-he-he’s that heal.

        Journeys Close to Home –Susannah nominated me for this current award, and I can’t resist nominating her back for this newest addition to her family of blogs. I already love her Joy Frequencies and astrology blog, The Lion and the Lightning Bolt; her newest makes it a triple-header! What a great concept, sharing adventures close to home, even though hers is not close to mine. Susannah journals about short trips with plenty of pictures, maps, and travelogue—perfect in these more cautionary economic times where people are discovering their own backyards and taking “staycations.” (This word actually won some sort of “new word of the year award” for its entry into the lexicon by the Dictionary People. I assume they are second cousins, once removed, of Miss Manners.) I am so enjoying the vicarious outings. I tip my hat to Susannah for her pulse on a big cultural need, delivered with delight!

        The Jungle of Life by Lance – I just discovered this blog while searching for other bloggers who focus on insights. It’s an oasis of beauty (great photos, quotes) and balance as Lance juggles his life before our eyes with such grace, you can’t help but feel a part of it. For a great overview and feel for this blog, read Lance’s interview on Joyful Days. I think it’s an especially encouraging read to new bloggers about how to create community in the blogosphere.

        I hope you're inspired to discover some new blogs and perspectives because of the Kreativ Blogger process. Do share your thoughts in the Comments.