Thursday, October 06, 2016

Why I like meditating every day

My cousin-once-removed asked me about meditation, so here's my story. I started with guided meditation when I was in my mid-twenties. I liked listening to someone else's voice as it led me through a visualization exercise that helped me relax and feel completely peaceful, if only for twenty minutes or so. I still very much enjoy that. It helped me with stress and the chronic depression I manage. Guided meditiation made me feel better when things felt out of control.

Meditation has always been an important tool for managing my anxiety and depression symptoms. It's also helped me improve my self-esteem and reach other goals. Research shows that it improves health, even after you've stopped doing it. This is good because I've been very uneven with my meditation practice. I've quit many times and then come back to it.

In the past 25 years -- during the times I hadn't quit --  I moved from guided meditation to the blank mind kind of meditation. I sit, let go of everything that's been on my mind, and allow my brain to come to rest. It's kind of like cultivating that blankness you go to when you're trying to fall asleep. As a result, I've done a lot of falling asleep while meditating. This was particularly embarassing when I used to attend a Shambhala center and meditated in a silent room full of people. I'd start nodding off and have to snap myself back to an upright sitting position. Ugh. We also did a walking meditation which was a little better. At least it kept me awake.

Of course keeping my mind blank happens for only a few seconds at a time, even after decades of practice. Some call the chatter that streams through our heads "monkey mind" and it's hard to calm down. I've experimented with long periods of guided meditation (over an hour), short periods of guided meditation (10 minutes), short periods of blank-mind meditation (my term), long periods of blank-mind meditation. I've never settled on just one way to do it.

In 2013 I discovered the meditation practice of Dr. Joe Dispenza and I devoted myself to his techniques for a while. I've read this book a couple of times and learned a lot from it. My first breakthrough experience with his guided meditation helped me with anger at my mother and another one came right after attending one of his workshops.

But readers of this blog know that I put on a bunch of weight when my marriage fell apart and have been trying to lose it, and I've been using the Dispenza technique on that (for a couple of years) and it hasn't been working. So, in frustration, I stopped meditating again earlier this year.

As my pattern goes, these days I'm coming back to it. With Dispenza I'd sit in meditation for 45-60 minutes a day. Now I'm just doing six-minute periods. My strategy is that if I tell myself it's just six minutes, I'll do a better job of focusing. I think it works, which means I actually achieve peace for about five seconds per session. Yeah, there's no short cut to meditation, but if you practice regularly monkey mind does get easier to tame.

While I don't have many physical challenges, such as high blood pressure or arthritis, I can list a few clear benefits I've received from meditation, even though I've only done it off-and-on over the past 25 years:

1. It helps me manage depression, if only by turning my self-destructive mind off for a little while.

2. It gives me an energy boost in the middle of the day, kind of like a power nap.

3. When I meditate regularly, I eat less junk. My sugar cravings go down.

4. I can use it to fall asleep at night.

5. Guided meditation has been very effective at helping me solve problems, improve self-esteem and release emotions that were keeping me stuck.

6. It adds stillness and peace to my routine and I LOVE stillness and peace.

Maybe I'll always meditate off-and-on, feeling the benefits for a while, then getting mad because it's not working on everything and tossing it out the window for a while. I don't go around telling friends that they should do it because I know (very well) that it takes commitment and isn't for everyone. Meditation means sitting (or walking) and doing nothing. That's actually a great non-activity to add to your schedule, but this is the U.S. and Americans hate having our minds unoccupied and doing nothing. So that means meditating is going against the grain, which works for me.

Sunday, September 11, 2016


Well, since I published this post saying I'd better accept my fatness or live in the delusion of future thinness, I've chosen the latter. I was a skinny kid and stayed thin for most of my adult life, so I simply refuse to accept permanently the weight I put on as my marriage fell apart in 2012 and 2013.

Besides altering diet and adding more exercise, I've been seeing a nutrition response testing professional, Claire Boye-Doe. She adjusted my nutrition, diet and exercise, and told me I'd start losing weight in a few months of working with her. In eight months her treatment has done wonders for improving my energy, mood, digestion and sleep, but I haven't lost any weight. Apparently I'm the very first of all of Claire's clients to not lose weight with her nutritional help. Great. In spite of my overhauled diet and exercise, my fat has refused to budge.

Extra weight often has an emotional component that can be complicated by food addiction, so I've also been working on my emotional reasons for holding on to these pounds. With Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) I've tapped and tapped and tapped on my sugar addiction and slowly the layers (a word that always makes me think of cake) of my fear have peeled away. Two weeks ago I had yet another session with EFT/hypnotherapist practictioner Lili Betancourt, who has helped me a lot over the years. We tapped on sweets, marriage failure, weight, sugar and coffee. The session went very well, but the weight didn't change.

Meditation has also been part of my healthy habits. Meditation has been shown to help with addictive behavior, including food issues, but it hasn't been the key for me, either.

What the hell? So this month I added an acupuncturist. I've had lots of acupuncture done in my life, but Brent Garcia says he specializes in problems with which you've tried everything and are about to give up. That's me! On my first visit he identified my weight problem as being related to weak spleen energy and told me to eat 8-10 cups of vegetables a day. That's a lot! Fortunately Claire Boye-Doe has me on wheat grass juice and green essence pills, so she says I can make it four cups of vegetables a day. Whew!

So for the past week I've been doing that, but I also found that in the days following my session with Lili, I had less interest in coffee. Weird. In fact on a couple of days I forgot to finish it and had to come back to my one, small cup of coffee later in the day. Then on Wednesday, Claire suggested I go one week with no sugar at all, not even fruit, which meant cutting coffee because I can't drink it without milk and sugar. And it didn't elicit an emotional response from me at all. In fact, I've had no coffee since Wednesday and haven't missed it. Very unexpected. 

I saw the acupuncturist again two days ago. Brent said my spleen energy is better and he needled some major spleen points, so I feel really turbo-charged now. I also read up on spleen qi. According to traditional Chinese medicine, weak spleen energy occurs with too much cold and "dampness" which can cause weight to stay on no matter what you do. That sounds familiar! So I'm off chilled drinks and foods: good-bye yogurt, ice cream and ice in my water. Other things that weaken spleen qi are coffee, alcohol, fried foods, sugar, wheat and dairy. Yup, all the fun stuff. But that's okay. I don't think I need to eliminate all of it, and certainly not permanently. Just while I'm healing.

Of course, my weight hasn't budged a gram even though I've spent the past week replacing half my food with vegetables and keeping up the exercise, but I guess my spleen isn't strong enough yet. At least I hope that's it. I really hope the acupuncture does it. I knew there was more going on here than food, exercise, sugar addiction and emotions because I've really tapped those out. The acupuncture has to be the final piece of the puzzle. Damn it, I'm determined to lose this marriage-going-down-the-drain pudge!

Friday, September 09, 2016

LLAG: Love Life of an Asian Guy

My post about (the bigoted) Dr. Christiane Northrup got some response from regular readers, but I got even more response to it when I shared it on Facebook. Specifically, I follow a page called Love Life of an Asian Guy which is written by a Filipino-American man who calls it "LLAG: Commentary on Racism, Sexism and American Culture." He recently posted on how Lena Dunham exemplifies the blind spots of white femimism and it led to a long chain of people discussing beauty standards, privilege and viewpoints that white feminists often don't understand. I linked my exchange with the good doctor and got a lot of support. A couple of women even joined the Northrup page so they could support me. I love the LLAG community.

It looks like the author of LLAG is named Ranier (not sure) and he's an excellent writer. He slings the truth like Wonder Woman's lasso on fire and calls out white privilege, racism, sexism, homophobia and whatever else pisses him off. He's funny and insightful and if you're not easily offended, you should check him out.

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

What to do when you see Islamophobic harassment

A Paris film maker and illustrator who goes by Maeril created these graphics so we'll know what to do the next time we see someone harassing someone else for appearing to be Muslim. The strategy is to create a safe space for the person being harassed and ignore completely the person doing the harassment. 

And in French.

Please share these graphics with others. You can read more about them in this Buzzfeed article.

Friday, September 02, 2016

Dr. Christiane Northrup, MD

Dr. Christiane Northrup, MD is an internationally known expert on women's health and wrote the bestseller The Wisdom of Menopause. She has appeared in hundreds of podcasts, radio shows and television shows, including Oprah. Her writing encourages women to take control of our health, cultivate a positive outlook on aging and empower ourselves through self-care. I have greatly appreciated her books and started following her on Facebook last year.

On her Facebook page, Dr. Christiane Northrup regularly posts encouraging messages that are accompanied by graphics of women. For months, I've been commenting on how these images are only of stylized skinny women's bodies and are almost always of white women's bodies. Here's one from August 31, 2016 that exemplifies these posts:
I got tired of commenting on the exclusionary nature of these images and getting no response from Dr. Northrup (who I figure must occasionally glance at her Facebook page) although I did hear plenty of pushback from her followers (few of whom see my point). So, this is what I posted in response to this graphic:

I agree with this statement, but I'm ready to take public action about the exclusionary images Dr. Northrup uses in these graphics, and the way my criticisms about it have been ignored for months. These images are usually of white women and always skinny. Such imagery is alienating to women of different sizes and women of color (I am both). I'd welcome a response on this, Dr. Northrup, at Anyone else who wants to defend these graphics, thanks, but yours isn't the response I'm looking for.

Most women who responded to my post didn't like it, but you can see that I got three "likes," so I wasn't completely alone. Dr. Northrup, for the first time in almost a year, finally answered my ongoing criticism:

Hi, sweetie, when the Hay House artist first came Up with these stylized images years ago, I liked the look and feel Of them. They were never meant to depict Reality in any way. Just be interesting graphically. I totally get your point here. And so do many others. And at some point we'll probably change to something else. But for now, they're working for us. Please Know that your sentiments have Been heard and appreciated! Bless you!

Many women chimned in on this and none of them supported me. My response was:

Dr. Christiane Northrup, thank you for responding to me. All imagery is stylized, but do you not see how your skinny fantasy images enforce the dominant culture's belief that women are only healthy and beautiful if they are skinny? Or maybe you agree with that opinion. Your comfort with your skinny images make me suspect that you don't think fat women can also be beautiful and healthy. If that's true, then I'm very disappointed and will include this exchange when I talk to people about your wonderful books.

Dr. Northrup wrote back:

Well I am a huge fan of Melissa McCarthy if that means anything. Of course I don't believe that only tall impossibly skinny women can be healthy. Beauty takes so many forms.

I didn't bother to tell Dr. Northrup that no, it doesn't mean anything that she's a fan of Melissa McCarthy (damn). In the meantime, others weighed in, including with the response in the graphic above:

Enough of the racist crap Regina. Best you move along and stop TROLLING this profile before you get reported for harassment and hatred. Dr. Northrop does not owe you an explication on why she uses the pics she uses. Thank you Dr. Northrop for all you do to educate on here and all your books which I have them all.

More responses are below:

I felt real disappointment and hurt that so many people felt disgusted and angry with me for raising this point, although I'm sure I shouldn't have been. Dr. Northrup seems to have a very white-identifying Facebook community. I finally left it at this:

I am very disappointed by the lack of understanding from Dr. Northrup and the anger I've received from her followers. I have only tried to point out how the whiteness and skinniness of her images make me feel left out and ignored as a Mexican-American woman. Sadly (and I really do feel sad), there isn't much sympathy in the Northrup FB community for these issues of inclusion. Do you want a community where all women feel welcome or just some? If pointing out racial dynamics counts as "trolling" then I guess there's no room for me here.

I'm tempted to unlike her page, but I want to see if she makes any changes and, if she does, how long it takes. So I've decided to stay because I can't monitor the situation if I'm not there.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Wearing the button

So I was having lunch with a young white woman in a cafe today, and a middle-aged white man leaned over and interrupted our conversation.

"Excuse me. Can I ask you a question? I see you're wearing a Black Lives Matter button and can I just ask you one question?"

I glanced at my companion who looked as startled as I felt and told him, "Yes."

"What does that button mean to you?"

With as bland an expression as possible, I said, "It means there's racism against Black people, but I like them."

He said, "I was active in the civil rights movement in 1964, 1965 and 1966. And I find the anger today that Black people feel towards white people disturbing."

I just looked at him.

He continued, "So do you mean that you like Black people in preference to others..?"

I said, "I like Black people, too."

"Okay." He thought for a second, then said, "Okay. Thank you."

I nodded and went back to my conversation. He looked like he wanted to say more, but wanted to keep his word that it would only be one question.

It was the first time someone had commented on my button besides to compliment it or ask where I got it. Of course it apalled me for this old white man to give me his Baby Boomer bona fides before he questioned my politics, and I could have said more, but I was in the middle of a conversation and didn't think he was worth it. Later the African-American server told me he had been rude to her. Yup. (Get your Black Lives Matter button at

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

How to apologize properly

Do you know someone who needs a lesson on how to give a true apology? We hear a lot of false ones in public life. Here's how to say "I'm sorry" properly.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

No such thing as evil

Slaveholders, rapists and serial killers are evil.

No, they're not.

In his book The Gift of Fear, Gavin de Becker argues that defining people as evil is not only unproductive, it's dangerous. It's dangerous because we conceptualize evil as being so pervasive that you can see it in someone's eyes, you can sense it just by looking at them, etc. This is dangerous because it causes us to watch out for people who "look evil" while people who look perfectly ordinary swindle, rape, rob and kill us. De Becker tells us to stop looking for evil people because most murderers, torturers, robbers and rapists are just like everyone else, which is to say that we all have the capacity to do awful things. All of us do, so there's no point in trying to distinguish the good people from the bad people.

Michele Obama's recent reference to the White House having been built by slaves has resulted in renewed discussion of American slavery. I've heard people call American slaveholders monsters, but when we do that we falsly distance ourselves from them. How long does it take us to learn that the worst of human nature happens because ordinary people go along with what everyone else is doing? American slaveholders and their wives and children were regular people just like us. They believed their treatment of Blacks didn't count in the eyes of God. They didn't think Black people felt pain or love or fear the way whites did. Their monstrous treatment of slaves resulted from the culture in which they lived. They weren't evil. They were ordinary men and women motivated by ordinary desires to take care of their families, prosper in their vocations, put in an honest day's work, contribute to the community and be good Christians. They had the same hard-wiring we have. They just happened to live in a racist culture. They just happened to live in a climate that brought out their worst tendencies.

Here are some other people we call evil: a police officer who panics and kills an innocent person, a woman who drowns her children, the soldiers at Abu Ghraib, murderers, embezzlers, kidnappers. Some people do these things because they suffer a break from reality, but others do them with clear minds. And every time we call someone like that evil, we know we would never do anything like that, never, ever, not in a million years.

But that's bullsh*t.

When it's our family that's in danger, when it's our life on the line, when we stand in the truth that someone must be handled and we know how to do it, we reveal how capable we are of terrible things. We can't know how we'll behave in a situation until we're there. Most of us will luckily never face the circumstances that test how truly monstrous we can be. We will continue to enjoy the privilege of believing that we don't have evil tendencies and can pretend we're better than those who do. But we're not.

The list of groups of perfectly ordinary, nice, loving people doing inconceivable things is endless. From American slavery to the Nazis to the Cambodian killing fields to American enhanced interrogators, perfectly normal people find themselves doing things they might have never imagined. There is no such thing as evil. There are only ordinary people doing horrible, nightmarish things.

During the 1994 Rwandan genocide, the ethnic Hutu part of the population slaughtered a million Tutsi Rwandans. Were the Hutu men who swung their machetes day after day, hunting down whole families, monsters? No. Jean Hatzfeld's Machete Season: The Killers in Rwanda Speak, Hatzfeld shows us regular men who had to overcome their own emotions on their first kills, but who adjusted to the "work" because if they didn't do it, they faced their own murder. A Hutu man married to a Tutsi woman was ordered to slaughter a family of Tutsis in order keep his own wife alive, so he did it. And so on. To prevent the death of ourselves and our loved ones, who isn't capable of going beyond their usual capacities?

Please stop calling people evil. Don't even call certain actions evil. To do so is to fool ourselves into thinking we can recognize a certain kind of danger and insulate ourselves from it. And especially do not call racism evil. Racism isn't evil. It didn't come from the devil or get cast out of heaven. Our racism today is the result of our nation having been built on treating human beings as property without rights, agency or even feelings. Americans learn racism from infancy, just as other countries pass on their prejudices to their children. This is why I sometimes insist, "The nicest people are racist!" We must uncouple racism from the idea of evil. As long as racism is evil, it's easy for us to believe that we can't be racist because we aren't evil. In fact, what we call evil lives in all of us, and although it's usually dormant, it can be activated under circumstances most of us will be lucky to never face.  (Post on heroism HERE.)

Friday, July 29, 2016

No such thing as heroism

Last night I noticed that Amazon Prime now offers the movie Hotel Rwanda. It's based on the true story of a hotel manager who shielded 1,268 people from certain slaughter during the 1994 Rwandan genocide. I couldn't resist watching it (for my fourth time). What I'm drawn to is that the protagonist is motivated by a very simple drive: to take care of others' needs and make them happy. Hutu Rwandan Paul Rusesabagina is an excellent hotel manager because he derives personal satisfaction from providing the best service to his guests. He simply lives to take care of others. We look back on the Rwandan genocide of the Tutsis and marvel at Rusesabagina's heroism to stand up to soldiers, police and Hutu murderers, but his motivation is simply that these are his guests and he must take care of them.

Hotel Rwanda shows that the simplest of drives can take you very far. We almost worship people who risk their lives for others, who give when we can't see them getting anything in return, but actually the mechanism that causes people to act in these ways is usually very ordinary. Rosa Parks was tired of giving in and tired of being on her feet. Captain Sully wanted to land his plane safely, just as he'd done hundreds of times before. Animals who we call heroes (dogs and cats) act on instinct. None of these people or creatures considers that their actions might set off a chain reaction that will have far reaching effects across the decades, or make them famous or will prevent a death that would have devastating ripple effects. They just do what they're hard-wired to do.

Moments of heroism happen when an unusual situation both activates and challenges someone's regular, everyday response and that person follows through on that response regardless of risk. We think it's amazing because after the incident is over, we can see all the risks and stunning outcomes and unforeseeable results. We weigh all the things the hero didn't have time for and that forms the basis of the myth that this person has a bravery we don't. But that's not true. They weren't being a genius or a saint. They were just doing what came naturally.

We all have unremarkable drives that, under the right circumstances, cause us to act in remarkable ways. If we de-mythologize the idea of heroism, we can stop thinking that some people are brave, but we are not. We can stop excusing ourselves from taking action because that's not us.

Between April and July 1994, Paul Rusesabagina did what he was hard-wired to do. Remarkably, he kept doing it even when he knew his life was in danger, but his motivation was quite ordinary. When we find ourselves in a situation that challenges us, and we don't waver from what comes naturally, we are similarly being as heroic as Rusesabagina was. Human beings have all the same instincts and responses. We are all just as capable of what we call heroism as of what we call evil. (Post on evil HERE.)

Don Cheadle in Hotel Rwanda (2005)
P.S. Part of the reason I've watched this movie four times is that the character of Rusesabagina reminds me of my ex-husband, who has spent his life in hospitality and has some of Rusesabagina's character traits.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

50th Birthday

As of July 24, 2016 I am 50 years old and I feel like I've finally reached my prime.
(Cake was yellow layers with buttercream frosting on the outside and mango mousse on the inside. It was from Swedish Bakery in Chicago.)

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Trump, immigrants and the RNC

Now that I'm building a new blog for my business, Welcome Dialogue, I choose between my two blogs, depending on the content. Today's post is here:

Friday, July 15, 2016

I love turning 50!

As I get closer to my 50th birthday on July 24th, I'm getting tired of people trying to tell me I'm not old. They obstinately don't understand that for me old is good. I have always been happy to get a year older because I experienced no great benefit to being young, even as a child. After that, my 20s and 3os were years of low self-esteem, weak confidence, painful family dynamics and fear of almost everything in the world. In my 40s I finally began to build self-esteem and feel more hopeful about my life. At 50 this is the best I've ever been.

When a ten-year-old declares on her birthday that she's all grown up now, no one tries to take that away from her. They don't say, "No, you're not. You've got a long way to go. You're just a little kid." No one says that to a ten-year-old because they understand the context: compared to how old she used to be, being 10 is a big deal! Please give me a similar response. When I say, "I am now officially old!" respond with a statement like, "Congratulations!" not "You're not old. You're still a youngster." When people say things like that to me, it feels like they're dumping a bucket of discouragement over me.

Being told that 50 isn't old also sounds very patronizing, especially when it's said to a woman. The stereotype is that women want to stay young forever and we require constant assurance that we are succeeding. F@#$ that. (And don't give me that "50 & Fabulous" crap either.)

I suspect part of the problem is that my peers take my claim of "oldness" personally. They worry that if Regina is old at age 50, how old does that mean they are? This is just insecurity and overfunctioning. If a 10-year-old calls herself "old," does that make a 25-year-old think, "Damn, then I'm ancient. Oh, no!" No, the 25-year-old knows the 10-year-old's statement has nothing to do with her. Please, people. Let's keep in mind that we're all separate.

So I thank you in advance for not trying to talk me out of my age and wisdom and I leave you with this list.

(Just Some) Reasons It's Great To Be 50 Years Old:

1. You have more authority to talk about things that happened, even in the distant past, because you were there.
2. People can no longer give you that patronizing “Wait until you get older. You’ll change your mind.” (For example, when a 50-year-old says "I don't want children," you have to believe her!)
3. Your opinions count more because they’re based on actual experience and not speculation (such as managing employees, child raising, running your own business, divorce, surgery).
4. The cost of auto insurance goes down.
5. It's easier to rent an apartment, get a loan and do other things that people size you up for based on your appearance.
6. You have more confidence to not put up with the same bullshit as when you were young.
7. You're closer to the end of that annoying, painful, expensive process called menstruation!
8.  It's the age when the senior discounts begin.
9. Salespeople who think you have more money (than young people) are often nicer to you.
10. Women have a brief window of time during which we're neither too young to be taken seriously nor too old to be taken seriously. When we're 50, we're in our prime for being seen as authorities!