Thursday, January 28, 2010

It’s Valentine’s Month—and Comment Contest Time!

Dear Cool Insighters,

In order to help us “feel the love” and our connection during this hearty time of year, it’s time for another Comment Contest! The object is to get as many comments as possible flowing … and while we’re at it, to reward you for your participation.

Weekly Chance to Win!

Each time you make a substantive comment on Hot Flashbacks, Cool Insights with specific response and reference to blog content (any post), your name goes into a hat for a weekly drawing. (What I’m trying to say here is that comments like “nice blog” will not qualify.) You have four chances to win during February. The contests weeks begin February 1, 8, 15, and 22, with the final week wrapping up on February 28.

Drawing Period

The drawing period will run from Monday through Sunday, starting on February 1st. I’ll draw the winner, then announce who won at the bottom of the next week’s post.


The prizes for Weeks 1-3 will be your choice of my e-book, The Training Tape, or one of the No Soliciting signs that I sell in the sidebar. The Grand Prize, drawn at the end of Week 4, will be a copy of Capital Crimes: 15 Tales by Sacramento Area Authors personally autographed from me to you. My story “Digital” provides the comic relief in this fabulous collection of mystery short stories by my local Sisters in Crime chapter.

But Wait—There’s More!

Want more chances to win more prizes? Visit The Radical Virgo for a separate contest during the same time period—same rules, different prizes.

Happy Valentine’s Day to the best readers in the world! Good luck in the contests, and I hope our February is full of heart connections.

Blessings All,


Photo Credit: © Maxim_Kazmin -

Monday, January 25, 2010

Singin’ the Blues—Part 3 of 3

© 2010
By Joyce Mason
All Rights Reserved

I’m back, talking about a blue state—the kind with no political agenda.

For those of you who might be joining this series in progress, I won’t repeat my caution about the difference between the garden-variety blues and clinical depression. With just a click, you can refer back to Part 1 of Singin’ the Blues to read this important information. Please do.

For you extroverts who have been patiently waiting, wondering if I’d ever get to your blues buster kit: Have you wondered if this exercise even applies to you? What, you down?

Depression: Introverts and Extrovert Differences

There have been a few psychiatric studies using the typical personality test that distinguishes introversion from extroversion and thinkers from feelers. These are just two of four sets of distinctions in the Myers-Briggs or MBTI Personality Test. David Janowsky, M.D., of the University of North Carolina, writing in the World Journal of Biological Psychiatry in 2002, found a prevalence of introverts and feelers among a depressed population (74 percent introverts and 84 percent feelers).

But don’t think you’re exempt, whatever your results on the MBTI. (For those of you who don’t recognize the buzz words, this is the test where you end up with four letters in four categories such as INFP or ESTJ.) Janowsky's figures refer primarily to more serious depression than the everyday blues. Still, with your outgoing, upbeat natures, you have farther to fall to a bummer. So find that box or bag and start building your blues kit now. You may not need it as often, but it’s like a smoke alarm. It will only save your life if it’s there when the house catches fire.

Get-Aways and Staycations: Great for Both “Innies” and “Outies”

In parallel to the Introvert Kit, if finances allow, I suggest a pre-paid gift card at a hotel or resort; only in your case, make it a place that’s teeming with people, like Disneyland, the Happiest Place in the World. One of those short cruises to Mexico or other nearby shores would be perfect for you: wall-to-wall vacationers, activities, and a disincentive to stick to yourself, even if you wanted to, living out of a postage-stamp sized cabin.

Of course, as you might guess: I first wrote this article before the economy went South. You may not be able to travel more than 50 miles in any direction for the time being. In that case, your best friend is the weekly What’s To Do Around Town insert in your local paper. Never throw it out till the next one comes. After a bad day at the office, a fight with your partner, or whatever triggers your downer, you need to find an event full of fellow human beings. This will charge your batteries and stoke you back up to your normal outgoing, sociable, talkative characteristics.

Heel Kicks, Flicks and Internet Clicks

Even if you don’t feel like it, go dancing. I haven’t met an extrovert yet that doesn’t start snapping out of the doldrums on a dance floor. You are just not sidelines, wallflower folks. Just sit there and have a Virgin Mary (remember alcohol aggravates depression) and let nature take its course.

If it’s not easy to leave home for whatever reason, have a stash of favorite funny or adventurous movies. And don’t watch them alone. Invite people over for a movie night complete with popcorn. Tell someone to stop en route and pick up the Milk Duds.

Again, if stuck solo—something an introvert would envy!—go to your favorite chat room on the Internet. You’re probably already a social networking junkie, and I’m sure you could cheer yourself up on Facebook or Twitter, as well. Bookmark the sites that work best for you for future reference. Stick to light subjects, like the message boards for your favorite TV shows. (I’m not even an extrovert, and I can spend weeks on those things, rehashing the latest episode.) Games or light chat on people connecting sites make more sense, given your mood, than most of the bad news lately. Don’t click on any article that sounds heavy.

Old-Fashioned Fixes: Phone Calls and Coffee Klatches

Because your blues are so busted by people, it’s more important to have ideas on how to substitute a people fix when connection in person is not practical. As a cheaper date alternative to your trip to Disneyland or Cabo, include a pre-paid long distance phone card in your kit, if you don’t already have unlimited calling. If you have friends across the world, make it international. Wouldn’t this be the perfect time to hear the voice of your favorite cyber-pal you have never met in person? And his or her cute Australian accent? Imagine how much fun it would be to chat it up!

Starbucks is a great place to strike up a conversation with a complete stranger, several together, or many in a row. Besides, there's one on almost every corner. If you belong to a church, find out what’s cookin’ tonight, and drop into some activity you’ve never joined before. Your blues might be the entrée to a new committee or circle you would have never tried without a feel-bad nudge.

People Watching—and Doing Good for People and Fur People

A ball park, an airport—any place where vast quantities of people gather is fair game as a place to dispel your blues and dry up even your soggiest day.

Do something for someone else. There is nothing that cures a down mood more quickly and completely than helping others. Google “nonprofit agencies” and your city name. There’s a children’s charity--an animal, homeless, or women’s shelter-- that would be ecstatic to get your call and put you to work today to lend a helping hand to someone or many someones.


If you can sit still long enough (extroverts often have more trouble with this), journal your feelings, just like an introvert. These records of how you felt and what you did about it will offer the most practical recipe book of what to do next time you’re feeling low … which I hope is next to never. Consider a video diary like Sully does in the movie Avatar.

Throw a Party for Making Blues Buster Kits

When you’re in an up mood, send out an invitation with a list of supplies. Invite your friends to a kit-making party. This is likely to be the most unique theme party they’ve ever attended. You’ll probably laugh yourselves silly imagining how you’ll be prepared for chasing the blues. Heaven only knows what your synergy will produce in all that hilarity for blues cures. Please share your new discoveries in the Comments!

Swap phone numbers. These party pals have already been oriented toward the mission of the blues kit. They can be your telephone tree for times you need a buddy to help you beat a soggy day.

I hope you’ll continue to add to your Blues Buster emergency kits and share suggestions with those you love. Mood “first aid” might be one of the most overlooked of all forms of self-care.  We wouldn't think of not having bandages and Bactine in the house--but what about Rescue Remedy?  Read Singin' the Blues 2 for more on flower essences and this wonderful emergency calmative.

And since this blog is about spirited living, I’m all for seeing you back to your usual, spirited selves in no time flat.


Disclaimer: This article is provided purely for informational purposes. Readers are asked to make their own determination regarding the quality of the services and products described above. This article is not meant to be advice, and the information is not meant to replace medical or psychological treatment.

Photo credit: OLD MICROPHONE © Damianpalu...

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Singin’ the Blues—Part 2 of 3

© 2010
By Joyce Mason
All Rights Reserved

Last time we covered the concept of creating a Blues First Aid Kit for down days. It’s very important to stress, if you haven’t read Part 1: This exercise is aimed at people who have occasional, not chronic or clinical depression. If you even wonder if your depression is more serious, Google “signs clinical depression.” Take a self-test and talk to your doctor.

You might also want to read a book that helped us understand clinical depression a lot better while we were in the middle of it in our family. It’s called When Going Through Hell … Don’t Stop! A Survivor’s Guide to Overcoming Anxiety and Clinical Depression by Douglas Bloch. It rates five out of five stars among readers on Amazon, and you might even find it helpful if you only have occasional bouts of the blues. If anyone you love suffers from depression, consider it a must read.

Get Away to Music

Back to our project of creating first aid kits for the more garden-variety blues. I’ll start with the Kit for Innies, ‘cause I are one and have a personal feel for it. Another good reason to start here:

Depression is much more common in introverts than extroverts. Some of the reasons are obvious, starting with much more time spent ruminating alone on thoughts and feelings that can take on a life of their own.

If possible, I’d suggest that we introverts start with enough cash or plastic for at least a two-day getaway, up to a week if you can swing it. How long you can afford a healing escape depends on many factors, including time off work. However, a quality weekend can often give you more of a booster shot than a mediocre three-week vacation.  Introverts thrive on retreats.

Sometimes it only needs to be to the Motel 6 down the block, but if it busts you out of your routine and takes you away from your family or your daily stressors; it’s a lifesaver. It can be as important as an EpiPen to a person with a severe allergy. (For most introverts, our “allergy” is sensory overwhelm or hypersensitivity.) To make it impossible to spend set-aside cash or credit, I suggest getting a lodging gift card or certificate. Let that be item #1 in your blues survival kit.

Moving from the literal getaway solution, you don’t always have to leave home. If you live alone, there’s no respite needed from family or housemates. Simply turn off your cell and landline and don’t answer the door. The world will keep spinning without you for two days, no matter how important you think your job is or how many friends or relatives can’t live without you. I do suggest letting your key significant others know you are dropping out for a couple days so they don’t worry—or worse, call the police and disturb your peace.

Whether home, abroad, or at your down-the-street retreat: You need a box or goodie bag of things that soothe your soul. Music is one of the world’s most mood-altering drug substitutes. Not only does it do no harm; it heals.

Some people find the literal blues to be the most helpful. We all know from modern psychology that there is something to “getting it out,” which singing the blues does with heart and soul. If it’s not your bag, classical, New Age, easy listening—whatever leaves you serene and comforted. For some of us, it can be spiritual, like Gregorian chant, praise or church music. Whatever feeds you. If you need additional music suggestions, I discovered an amazing book full of them—The Healing Energies of Music by Hal A. Lingerman (1995).

Teas, Books, and Aromatherapy

Include some non-medicinal mood enhancers.

What music makes you feel like a fresh breeze just blew gently over your heart?

Include essential oils or herbs in your sanctuary. Lavender is always a winner—easily accessible as a live plant, dried, infused in oils or bath products. I suggest pure oils. It makes a huge difference in how well they work. Besides, who would want to breathe in anything but the purest? Some other heaven scents used for depression are Clary Sage, Ylang-Ylang, and Sandalwood. Read more on

“Soggy days” are the perfect time to pray, meditate, read lightweight inspiring material—whatever heals you. Pack any tools you need for these activities in your blues box or kit. Consider candles and incense for prayer and meditation and your favorite books of affirmations, prayers, or spirit boosters. One example that comes to mind is the Chicken Soup for the Soul series.

A hot cup of herbal tea in the many varieties that now exist to soothe and calm is a much wiser choice. One of my favorites is Tension Tamer from Celestial Seasonings or any of the sleep enhancers, such as Sleepytime, also by the same company, if you think a good dose of extra rest will be the most healing of all. Anything with chamomile will tend to soothe a tense tummy.


Caution: Alcohol is a depressant, and I urge you not to drink when you’re down, no matter how tempting.

I am a quote-a-holic and love books like Prayers for Healing: 365 Blessings, Poems and Meditations from Around the World by Maggie Oman. In my kit, you’d also find The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry and Illusions by Richard Bach. And to help crack me up and out of taking life and myself too seriously, at least one humorous mystery novel by Janet Evanovich is mandatory!

One last thought we touched on already. Sometimes you just need to give yourself a safe place to be blue. As the title to Douglas Bloch’s book suggests, depression is a place to walk through, not get stuck in. Crying, giving yourself permission for a time-limited bout of self-pity—these can all be utterly therapeutic versus working to chase the blues away. It’s often better to let them wash over and through you … and down the drain.

Journaling and Flower Essences

If, by now, your box is getting full or the bag is heavy, be sure you leave enough room in your kit for a journal and pen. This is a great time to get to know yourself through letting your thoughts flow onto paper. If you’re like me and are much more comfy at the keyboard, use your computer. I have a special letterhead and file for journaling on soggy days or other days. I have a different letterhead for my dream journal, another writing exercise to lift your spirits through contact with your subconscious—that inner wise one that truly knows all about you. Your dreams can be your one true oracle when you learn to decode your own personal night movies.

As a flower essence practitioner for over 20 years, I feel no kit would be complete without Rescue Remedy (Bach) or Five Flower Formula (FES)—same ingredients, different makers.

You can usually find one or both of these brands of natural calming tinctures at your local health food store, such as Whole Foods. Rescue remedy also comes in a spray and pastilles (they taste like low-sugar gum drops), a form that’s great for kids or kids at heart. Other flower essences often recommended for depression are Gentian, Borage, and Self-Heal. Here’s a moving case history about how flower essences helped a depressed actor.

You might also like my introduction to flower essences post to get a feel for how essences work and their potential for you.

Collect Kudos

This practice works for both introverts and extroverts, and I think it is an incredible morale booster. Whenever I get an email of appreciation, especially when people acknowledge how my writing has helped them, I keep these “love notes” in a special Kudos file. On down days, they are perfect to read. You can do the same with greeting cards, thank-you notes, and any other expression of how you make a difference to others. My fantasy on down days is to have a time machine that could show me, like Jimmy Stewart in “It’s a Wonderful Life,” just how the world would have been without me. On those blue days, I feel the most worthless. I am not in touch with how I have mattered. Short of getting that magic machine, the kudos file gives me the same reminder that I play an invaluable role in the world, as each of us do.

Logistical Tip

You probably have many of these things scattered about the house, but remember when you need them most, you will have little energy to go hunting and gathering, even in your own digs. I suggest duplicates for the blues box or bag. If you feel that’s too expensive or redundant, here’s another idea. Pack a list of the items that are located elsewhere with their location, so you don’t have to go digging. (This would not work for me or others like me. I am notorious for moving things from any sort of permanent placement. What I refuse to do myself—I’d rather have a root canal without benefit of anesthesia than to move my household—I’m more than willing to do with the “stuff” inside.)

Make It Your Own

This list is not all-inclusive. It’s meant only to give you a start and some food for thought in customizing your own kit. What are you waiting for? Don’t let the next down day hit without having your home remedies handy. Just as Vitamin C can shorten your cold, your blues kit can keep your down days to a bare minimum. Who wouldn’t drink some herb tea to that?


Blues Kit for Extroverts

Disclaimer: This article is provided purely for informational purposes. Readers are asked to make their own determination regarding the quality of the services and products described above. This article is not meant to be advice, and the information is not meant to replace medical or psychological treatment.
Photo credit: OLD MICROPHONE © Damianpalu...

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Singin’ the Blues - Part 1 of 3

© 2010
by Joyce Mason
All Rights Reserved

My dad had the best name for depression-- a soggy day.

He was lucky. He only got down for a day at a time. This is a characteristic I was blessed to inherit, even though I’m adopted.

My husband wasn’t as lucky. He suffered a long period of clinical depression. But even before it finally lifted, he was a lot like my dad in taking the blues a day at a time. No matter how down, my beloved would always tell me, “Tomorrow is another day.” He is the original inflatable Bozo the Clown toy, the jolly old punching bag. You hit it and it bounces right back up. I am still wowed by his resilience.

I learned a lot from his overnight optimism. Like most artistes, I sometimes suffer from acute bouts of depression. They don’t last long—a day or two tops—but they are so debilitating, I have the utmost compassion and awe for folks who deal with more prolonged bouts of this too common malady.

Winter often brings depression because it is a time of dying. Like the trees and flowers, we have shed our leaves and feel barren inside.

Another more common type of depression we’ve heard more about in recent years is Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Also known as winter depression or winter blues, SAD is a mood disorder in which people who have normal mental health throughout most of the year experience depressive symptoms in the winter or, less frequently, in the summer, year after year. SAD appears to be linked to lack of light, and there are numerous treatment options mentioned in this Wikipedia article. (We have replaced all lights under which we spend a lot of time with full-spectrum bulbs. It helps.)

Depression is a serious subject, especially when it doesn’t lift quickly. If you think for a moment—or even wonder—if your depression is cause for alarm, Google “signs clinical depressionnow. You’ll find plenty of self-tests that will give you an indication if its time to talk to your doctor. Err on the side of safety. If in doubt, and just do it.

Take a tip from our household and Been There, Done That. No matter how terrific your primary care provider is, he or she is unlikely to know the delicate art and science of combining modern psychiatric drugs, if it turns out you need them. Get a referral to a shrink, the kind with the initials M.D. These days your psychiatrist is unlikely to do more than medication management. A counselor—perhaps a marriage and family therapist or licensed clinical social worker—often handles the talking part of therapy. Drugs are not the only way, but another tip from Been There. Depression is a chemical imbalance. No matter how holistic your beliefs, experience, or intent, you may have to fight fire with fire and chemical imbalance with chemistry. I avoid drugs like the plague, sometimes cutting off my nose to spite my face. I have also seen them give my husband back his life. It’s up to you, your professional experts, and the people closest to you to find the path that’s right for you. That might take some trial and error, and some tweaking, even once you’re on the right road. Be patient with the process.

As to the more garden-variety depression: Like every other temporary illness to which humans are prone (colds, flu or falling arches), we need to have some home remedies at hand when the blues strike. What would you put in your Blues Buster First Aid Kit? Each of us should have one. It could do more for you than you know.

Start by thinking it through, if it’s not already obvious to you: Are you an introvert or extrovert? (A) Do you get energized by crowds or being around people? or, (B) When you need to recharge your batteries, do you need quiet, solitude, meditation, soft music—to withdraw. If A, you are an extrovert. If B, you are an introvert. Don’t get too hung up on the label, just the recharge style. I love people, but I am an introvert. I need to withdraw in direct relationship to the amount of time I spend around large quantities of humans. I’m highly sensitive—wired for sensory overload— and I have an enthusiastic nature. I dive into everything with gusto. This means my head spins afterwards and I need time alone to digest intense experiences.

Remember in all instances: You need to plan and create your Blues First Aid Kit at a time when you’re up, not down. When you’re already down, you’re too lethargic to do any of the things I’m suggesting. They’d just sound silly and impossible.

Start thinking what you’d like to put in your kit, because the more customized it is to you, the more helpful it will be on a soggy day. In the next two posts, I’ll offer some suggestions for the contents of your Blues Buster Kit. What’s inside will differ depending on whether you’re an introvert or extrovert.

Meanwhile, introduce yourself to your resilient, Inner Bozo!


Photo credit: OLD MICROPHONE © Damianpalu... |

Disclaimer: This article is provided purely for informational purposes. Readers are asked to make their own determination regarding the quality of the services and products described above. This article is not meant to be advice, and the information is not meant to replace medical or psychological treatment.

Monday, January 11, 2010


As a person who observes herself as often as she breathes, I could not help but notice that I was a major crab during much of the holiday season, two years in a row.

Of course, I was also kind and loving. We saw a movie both Tim and I liked a lot, The Answer Man starring Jeff Daniels. It further illustrates my point. The main character, Arlen Faber, is a writer who wrote a spiritual best seller called Me & God. However, his God link isn’t happening and hasn’t been for 20 years, since the time he wrote his tome. (He ultimately confesses it was mostly BS, but a sensitive observer would get he was channeling divine answers, even if he didn’t realize it.) We’re introduced to him sitting cross-legged, meditating in front of his fireplace filled with candles. As he’s chanting Om—or whatever—the doorbell rings, an interruption that sets him off, to say the least. A stream of curse words so foul emits from his mouth, you expect his head to spin around, Exorcist-style.

That was me during Yuletide. From centered spiritual seeker to frothing Frankenstein act-alike, or Crankenstein, as I called myself. Short-tempered, short-fused, not taking anything off anyone, no holds barred. See illustration.

I was snarky to my uncle and so mean to my husband, I was actually ashamed of my behavior. So, now you know the raw truth. I am spirited in more ways than one.

Holiday Stress Reduction

What good are hot flashbacks (in this case, hotheaded flashbacks) if they don’t lead to cool insights? In December 2008, my Crankenstein behavior was a result of scheduling a major vacation three days after Christmas. What was I thinking? I am a perfectionist who tends toward overwhelm. So I planned two major events on the Stress Scale back-to-back? I was blowing my top every other minute trying to get ready, orient our house sitter, and deal with my husband’s similar disposition. There were more fireworks than the 4th of July. By the time we got to Honolulu, I wasn’t sure I even liked him—or myself. Some “honeymoon.”

Live and learn—ya’d think. The week of Christmas is always a corker for me. My annual Winter Solstice celebration takes incredible time and energy, but it’s worth it! It’s one of the highlights of my year. But most recently, it coincided with family visits, the kind where personality differences bump up against each other—in some cases, hard.

What’s a spirited person to do? I don’t want to quit having my relatives visit over the holidays, but I certainly can’t expect them to want to, if I keep acting like Scrooge on speed.

Is There A Doctor in the House?

And I don’t mean Dr. Crankenstein. I realize I need: (1) better preparation, and (2) an attitude adjustment. What I realized even more deeply is that it’s inner preparation and attitude tinkering I need. I had done a great job getting my ducks in a row for my winter event, finishing the shopping/wrapping, getting my house clean, and all things aligned—except for me.

Every year, I start sooner to create a magical ChrismaSolstiChanuzaa. Like a wedding, the prep is intense and idiotically detailed. The fun is in the planning and the anticipation. Then the event comes and goes so quickly, the letdown is like a fall from the Empire State Building. I feel flattened, squashed, and really hurt. All that work and it’s over already?

One good thing. As anyone who reads this blog probably knows, I set aside winter for inner work and slowdown. If I’m going to slow down, being flattened on the concrete sidewalk certainly is a good start! I’m unlikely to sprint away and do anything complicated in a hurry.

Here’s my new insight. The winter work has to start in tandem with the madness of holiday preparation, maybe even in October or November. In order to handle the tinsel and merry, the madness and pace, I have to be meditating regularly and creating a strong inner core and hard-shell finish.

Boomer readers: Do you remember the Colgate with Gardol commercials and Mean Old Mr. Tooth Decay? He was another monster of sorts. But Happy Tooth would brush himself with Gardol, and he was impervious to the Mean Old Mister. That’s the kind of finish I need—like Gardol or Turtle Wax (gives a hard-shell finish, Turtle Wax!).

The centered space only comes from inner work. The ability to let it roll off me comes only from knowing my Source and being plugged into it. The kind of plug-in that isn’t even fazed by a ringing doorbell or barking dog or an irritating relative.

I’m marking my autumn calendar with a warning. Get ready, both inside and out. The holidays will be here—again!—sooner than you know. I use iGoogle and a wonderful widget that’s a Christmas calendar countdown. In my mind, I subtract 4 days because I have to be ready to launch by Winter Solstice.

Only 346 days till Christmas, adjust accordingly if you celebrate another winter holiday.
Will you be prepared?


Photo Credit: MONSTER © Cthoman recreated by Dr. Crankenstein (Joyce) with the help of her clip art to resemble her dark alter ego.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Tools for Winter

So, you’ve done your year-end rituals. You’ve done your Winter Solstice exercises--acknowledged your accomplishments and burned your list of what you want to get rid of in your life. You’ve done your Annual Review. You’re even willing to Hug the Dark.

Now what?

Skeleton Crew

I’m not talking about Halloween or Day of the Dead. I’m suggesting that your winter have a skeleton or backbone of regular activities that anchor you in your cave months of self-reflection. These three months are about being rather than doing. Even if you work full-time, coming and going to these rituals will help you stay in sync with the Season of Slowing Down.

Rituals are vital. They give rhythm and music to our days. They are signposts of where we are in our 24-hour journey. They offer us the familiarity and comfort of sameness that the rest of life rarely holds.

While I am talking about ritual as any practice or pattern of behavior regularly performed in a set manner (, most of the other definitions have religious overtones and refer to repetitive spiritual ceremony. When our rituals become praying without ceasing, they evolve into something more than touchstones in a world with constantly ticking clocks. You don’t have to be serious or work at making them so. It just happens through conscious repetition.

Ritual also allows us to  make the rite itself a mantra.  We let go of ourselves in the repetition, so that inspiration and spirit can break through to us.

The following are some tools for winter that will enrich your “down time.” Don’t try to do them all, any more than you’d fix a loose faucet with the entire toolbox. Choose which tools work best for your season of introspection and reunion with your Inner You.

Start Your Day Off Rite

Open your day with a reading that inspires you. Whether it’s Daily Word, Sarah Ban Breathnach’s Simple Abundance, or any one in a million sites you can access online for your morning spiritual communion, this practice will change the course of your day. It gears your mind in a positive, healing, holistic direction as early as possible after your feet hit the floor. One of my favorite winter practices is to read Love Is Letting Go of Fear by Jerry Jampolsky. This is tantamount to the Cliff’s Notes version of A Course in Miracles. It will absolutely change the way you see your world and open a window to let love in. It’s especially a good choice for anyone who is grieving, angry, or is otherwise hurting.

Some of my favorite online stops for a morning cup of positive thinking include:

Inspire Me Today
Quote Garden
Spirited Woman Blog
Inspiration on Beliefnet
Daily Affirmations with Dr. Wayne Dyer

Keep a Dream Journal

I’ve written so much about dreams on my Writer Joyce Mason website, I’m referring you there for everything you’ll need to know to explore the free guidance you have available daily in your night movies. No subscription or rental fees!

Take a Short Walk in the Fresh Air

Even when it’s frosty, there’s nothing like contact with the outside world. You might not want to take a mile hike in a snowstorm, but contact with the elements has an invigorating and grounding effect. It reminds us we’re part of the changing weather and basic substances that make up life itself. (Read the
Four Element series for more on this subject.) While it’s boosting your circulation, that short walk will stretch your legs if you’re computer-bound and allow you to let step out of any mental ruts you’ve been digging. A walk freshens your thinking, as long as you allow each step to be a journey back into your body and out of your mind. It’s good to be out of our minds for awhile each day!


It doesn’t matter what form or how you do it. Meditation has major benefits for the body, mind, and spirit. If you’re like me, you probably know that down to your toes but still have a hard time doing it on a regular basis. We complicate things. All you have to do is sit for 10-20 minutes, let go of your mind chatter as much as possible, and let inspiration—spirit—come in. This practice boosts creativity and your ability to handle life’s ups-and-downs in a centered, easygoing way. Yet we still struggle with it. Meditation is a bit of winter all 365 days a year. Is 2010 the year you’ll commit to it?

My first spiritual teacher always said that praying is talking to God; meditation is listening to what God has to say. However you perceive a Higher Power, hone your listening skills! Imagine: We have this inner guidance at our fingertips, but we just won’t make time to open our palms and let it in. If you “go within” during winter, by the time the natural New Year occurs at Spring Equinox, you’ll know your goals and have the sap-rising energy to achieve them.


People talk about summer beach reading, but reflective winter is the perfect time to drink in some of those more thoughtful reads like self-help or spiritual books. Just for fun, I thought I’d look at the top five books on Amazon in both of those categories for you to consider as possible winter reading picks:

Self-Help. (1) The Power of Self-Coaching by Joseph J. Luciani, (2) When Am I Going to Be Happy? by Penelope Russianoff, (3) Get Out of Your Own Way by Mark Goulston and Phlilip Goldberg, (4) Five Simple Steps to Emotional Healing: The Last Self-Help Book You’ll Ever Need by Gloria Arenson, and (5) 50 Self-Help Classics: 50 Inspirational Books to Transform Your Life by Tom Butler-Bowdon.

Inspirational. (1) Everyday Blessings: 365 Days of Inspirational Thoughts by Max Lucado, (2) Daily OM by Madisyn Taylor, (3) Remember Who You Are: Life Stories That Inspire the Heart and Mind by Daisy Wademan, Kim Clark, and Rosabeth Moss Kanter, (4) I Am With You Always: A Treasury of Inspirational Quotations, Poems and Prayers by Douglas Bloch, and (5) How to Succeed in the Game of Life: 34 Interviews with the World's Greatest Coaches by Christian Klemash.

Listen to the Quiet

If you’re not accustomed to a house where the TV, music, or chattering people aren't a constant blare, try it. You might like it! I feel blessed to be married to someone who also likes the beauty of silence. I can hear myself think and hear Spirit whispering directions. Do not underestimate the importance of alone time and silence.  They are essential to cool insights all year long!


Walnut—and Other Flower Essences

Maybe you wondered about the illustration for this post. Is winter a “tough nut to crack?” Maybe in some ways, yes--but this is really a visual pun on why we might need a nutcracker to carry over from the Christmas ballet.

When I trained as a
flower essence practitioner, one of the enduring things I learned about the flower remedy, Walnut, is how the anatomy of a Walnut itself explains how these particular drops work to free us from limiting influences and encourage us to make healthy transitions and follow our own path. What a wonderful remedy for the New Year!

Now, onto the anatomy of a walnut. Crack one, and you’ll notice it has two lobes in separate chambers divided by a membrane—just like the human brain. A cracked walnut may as well be a miniature human brain model. This flower remedy helps us integrate both sides of our brain and break mental patterns that hold us back from the radical changes sometimes needed to move forward.

If you resonate to this idea, visit your local health food store for a bottle of Walnut or wherever flower remedies are sold locally. The primary brands are Bach Remedies or Healing Herbs. Buy an empty dosage bottle, too. Fill the dosage bottle with approximately one-fourth preservative (brandy or apple cider vinegar), three-fourths spring water, and 2-4 drops of Walnut. (Let your intuition guide you on dosage.) Take this mixture, 4 drops, 4 times a day under your tongue, especially at the threshold times of sleeping and waking. Take it for 3-4 weeks. You’ll know when it’s time to stop. You’ll consistently forget to take it-- a tap on the shoulder from your intuition that you’re ready to move on. Review your relationship to change over those few weeks. Comment, if you will, and share with us how it went!

In fact, let us know how you fare with any of these tools and share any faves not mentioned. Happy Inner Journey!

Affirmation: New Year, New Decade, new me becoming all that I am!


Note: Information about flower essences is not meant to replace medical or psychological treatment. Readers need to decide for themselves on the quality and effectiveness of flower remedies.

Celebrate Epiphany, Jan. 6th! Epiphany is this blog’s feast day. Revisit the post Epiphanies—and follow your star!