Category: Book Reviews

Late Nights and Weight Loss (also update on zoom balls)

Late nights and weight loss do not mix.

At least for me, I find the later in the day the less will power I have to ignore the comfort foods that make me feel full and sleepy.  I would go to bed earlier but I have a difficult time going to sleep, even when I take the sleepy medicine the doctor gave me.  That medicine does help me sleep in till noon or later the next day, however!

So, what to do?  For one, I am going to start taking my sleepy medicine several hours before bedtime so maybe when I go to bed early I will feel sleepy.  Another thing, I must be careful not to eat the Zoom Balls (I mentioned in my previous post) in the afternoon after about 2:00 because those may be keeping me awake.  I’m not sure though, because I have had trouble sleeping for over a year now and I just recently started eating the Zoom Balls  (click for video of Rosemary instructing on how to make the zoom balls) from the recipe in Rosemary Gladstar’s book: “Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health“.  If not eating zoom balls or chocolate doesn’t work, I might do some exercises before bed to tire me out.

Report on Zoom Balls:  They work!  They are great and make me feel very energetic and alert.  The taste is not great but the recipe can be altered I imagine, for better taste.  Not tasting great helps me not eat too many though, which I am glad of.  When we made the balls I think we made them a lot smaller than Rosemary does, like four small balls to Rosemary’s one larger one, but I like that because we can take smaller amounts more easily.  The recipe says it makes 60 balls, but I am sure we made around 240 smaller ones.  Anyway, a two thumbs up on how well the zoom balls work for energy!

Belief and Weight Loss


Cob and Straw Bale Cottage in Oregon

Belief is key to everything we do.  If I didn’t believe I could build this spiral house I wouldn’t even have tried.

In the book ” The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg, one of the key elements that is important in changing a habit, such as the way one eats, is belief that change is possible.  I can see how that is true.  Nothing is done that is done without belief that it is possible.  A baby would not walk unless he believed walking was possible for him.

The author goes on to say that one of the keys to change for people in Alcoholics Anonymous is belief.  Belief in a higher power and belief that it is possible to make a change.

Believing in my ability to lose weight had never been a problem before.  I have lost weight many times, especially after having a baby and needing to lose the lbs. I had put on while pregnant.  Lately, however, my belief had been faltering as I found myself giving up every day about 5 pm and deciding I didn’t care.  However, in the last few days, learning about habits and how they work, and deciding to change my reactions to the triggers, has bolstered my belief in my ability to lose weight this time.

In the book “The Power of Habit”, the belief that change is possible often took some time for the people in the stories shared.  Then at a tipping point, when the people began to see that the change was real, the belief soared and everything fell into place.  Like a chain reaction, other things fell into place to support the change as well.

For me, changing the habit of eating while watching TV has also caused other changes to naturally occur.  My sister Cheryl and I decided to make some healthy treats that will not only boost our energy, but also be better for us than the milk chocolate and sugary treats we had been eating.  Last night Cheryl and I made “zoom balls” from a recipe in Rosemary Gladstar’s book “Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health” and put our new treats in the refrigerator ready to reach for at the right moment.  Due to this preparation, today as I ran errands, I did not reach for other treats at the store to tide me over.  I know I have zoom balls waiting for me at home, and my belief in this process has helped me wait.

Once I got home I ate my meal and did not need the zoom balls.  Interesting.

I will post about my experiment with zoom balls and weight loss again as I use them.  If anyone has tried zoom balls before I would love to hear from you about your experience.  I will say the recipe called for a lot of nutmeg and in the future I may not use so much.  We toned ours down with more tahini butter and coconut and honey.

Happy healthy eating!

Habits and Weight Loss


This yarn does come into the story later in this post . . . truly it does!

Recently the women in our household have been listening to a book called, “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg.  We are into it by three CD’s so far and I have learned that habits are formed in a sequence: first is the trigger, next the thing that we do when the trigger happens which becomes a habit, and lastly the reward.  Identifying the trigger is the key to changing our habit.

For example, I one thing I am triggered by is stress.  A stress trigger for me at one time was when I was helping a particular child with their homework and they begin making those irritating whiny noises.  I would reach for sugar and starch and chocolate.  Those sugary treats gave me a pleasure rush and also dulled my senses to the whining.  When I became aware of that trigger , I knew I could either accept that I needed chocolate or sugar when I worked with him, or I could remove myself from the situation temporarily.  For weight loss, the removal of myself from the situation temporarily would be the better habit of course.  This was awhile back and I did not figure out any other solution (but then I hadn’t read this book yet either),

Another trigger for me is laying down in the bedroom and watching TV, or going to the movies.  Being still and watching leaves my hands and mouth bored which ends in me wanting a snack, especially at the movies!  I have such a habit of eating candy or treats I always want something, and lately especially, well buttered popcorn and M&M’s!

According to Duhigg, in order to change a habit, the trigger is identified, then an alternate action is taken instead of the old habit.  The alternate action must be something that can also provide the pleasure reward we seek when being triggered.

I have figured out how to alter my habit at home. Instead of watching TV in the bedroom where the lights are out and our family is all together sharing popcorn on the bed, I have started watching (or listening to a book) on our computer in the living room, where I can spin wool while watching or listening.  Spinning wool is fun to me and I love the yarn I make.  By keeping my hands busy doing something I enjoy, I am altering my habit from one pleasure to another.  Altering the habit of eating fatty treats to something else I enjoy when the known trigger is happening will help me with my weight loss goals.

So, by identifying what is triggering you to eat things you are trying to avoid, or by identifying triggers to other habits you would like to change, you are on the way to finding alternative habits which provide pleasant rewards, to take the place of an unwanted habit.

Give it a try if you like, and let me know how this works for you.  You might also enjoy reading “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg.

Focusing Away Depression


I awoke today frustrated about how I was feeling.  For the past few days I have been feeling depressed and overwhelmed.  I wanted to call my daughters and whine about it, but I couldn’t find my phone.  I thought about going to see my therapist but remembered I have all the tools I need, I don’t really need my therapist for this; I guess I just wanted to complain to someone.

“I need to focus” I reminded myself.  Focusing is a technique I learned from my teacher Tom Brown Jr. and the basics of which are also described in a book called “Focusing”.

I lay down on my bed to begin the meditation, and there was my phone!  I chuckled to myself because I realized that I simply need to focus instead of relying on the crutch of complaining to my family, and that is why I couldn’t find my phone!

Focusing is like peeling back the layers of emotion, one by one, to see what is going on in that mix of emotions you might be feeling.

I began by asking myself, kindly and gently as a loving mother might, “How are you feeling?” and the first layer popped up.

“I am feeling angry!” came the feeling.  There was roaring and screaming and gnashing of teeth inside me.  I let myself feel it.

“Why?” I asked.

I was surprised that there were so many things I was angry about and they were all swirling around me: Too many things I want to do; Overwhelmed by all of it; Can’t get things done fast enough; Don’t even want to do them; Angry that I have to; People I have been angry with even popped up . . . it was like everything I have ever been angry about was there.  It felt sharply painful in the center of my chest.

“OK, that’s good to know,” I said to myself, reassuringly, trying not to get stuck in this first layer and remember the next step.  Oh yeah . . . “Now, set that first layer aside . . . and aside from that, how am I feeling?”

I let the anger move up and out of me and I felt for the next layer.  “I’m feeling depressed.”

“Why?” I asked.

“Because I feel ineffectual, like there are so many things I feel like I am supposed to do: build my art studio, finish the barn, learn the edible and medicinal plants, work on genealogy, do school with the kids, run errands, make food, lose weight, clean the house, etc. and I have so little energy.  I feel like a failure.”

“OK, that’s good to know,” I tell myself.  “Now, aside from that, how am I feeling?”

I let the second layer move up and out of me and I felt for the third layer.  I felt a glimmer of timid joy.

“Why?” I asked, “Why am I feeling this little bit of joy?”

“I love color,” was the answer.

“Tell me more,” I asked.

“I love making art, I LOVE working with color!” The feeling of joy was getting stronger.  I began blissfully thinking about making a scarf, and began designing it in my mind.  I started thinking about the necklaces, and tunics, I have been designing in my mind the past week or so.

I had stopped working on art after the art fair because I was spending all my time with organizing and working on the household and the building projects and had not made any art since before the fair.

I felt guilty even thinking about making art because of all the other things I felt like I was supposed to do.

Somehow I have to find a balance.

I can stop beating myself up and forcing myself to spend my time entirely on chores.  I can have the fun time in order to balance everything out and be happy.  In fact, the joyous pursuits can be my main focus and everything else can fit into the nooks and crannies around the fun.  Why not?  After all, I came to Oregon to heal my mind and body, and what better way than to live in joy?

I didn’t need to go any further in my layers today, even though I know there are many more amazing layers, because I found my answer.  I feel relieved and happy, looking forward to making art and balancing my life better.

“Tales of Power” a book by Carlos Castenada

When I was a teenager my father and I read the Carlos Castaneda books. Well, he read them all but I read the first few and got turned off by the selfishness of their goals.

After going to Tracker school for a couple years I decided to re-read them from a new perspective. I understood much, much more about Carlos’ experience with Don Juan because Don Juan was a coyote teacher like my teacher Tom Brown Jr. at Tracker school.

“Tales of Power” talks about the necessity of sharing stories that trigger admiration and desire in the listeners. It inspires the listeners to want the skills they are hearing about, the power displayed in the story.

There is a hero’s quest of sorts for the listener or reader of the “Tales of Power”. Hearing of the accomplishments of those who have mastered of the realms of existence opens new doors for the reader, giving them something to strive for; something to seek; a mystery to explore; a possibility to wonder about and be unsure of, which makes the reader all the more fascinated by the possibility of truth in the story.

Tom Brown Junior shared stories of Grandfather Stalking Wolf and other elders from Grandfather’s tribe. We students would listen with rapt attention, hanging on every word. Then Tom would send us out to attempt to do what he had just described. Don Juan did the same with Carlos.

Some people will say the Carlos Castaneda series are fiction. I’ve heard that before. I don’t know whether they are fact or fiction but I do know that I learned a lot from them.

The most important thing I learned by reading the Castaneda series is to stop being offended by other people. We waste a lot of energy taking offense. We waste a lot of energy in self importance. Being caught up in self importance gives others power over us because they can grab that self importance through complements or insults and jerk us around and we waste energy being affected.

It’s the same concept as “act, don’t react”. Often teachers of this sort will poke their students with either compliments or insults to see if they can get a reaction; see if they can grab their student’s self importance or if their student has overcome that trap.

It’s an interesting study to watch yourself and see if you are giving people that power or if you are holding it yourself.

I enjoyed reading “Tales of Power”. It was easy to read, fun, and fascinating. If you like stories that delve into the possibility of other realms and energy, you would probably like this book.

“The Places That Scare You” a book by Pema Chodron

I was at Brighten Bush hot springs gift store and this book jumped right out at me and grabbed me.  The cover, an image of a dark, craggy, old, leafless tree, typified the heavy, overgrown, ominous trees that tend to somehow, inexplicably, surround haunted houses.

I thought, “Who would write a book like that and put a freaky cover on it like that?  How will that attract a buyer?  That’s crazy!”

But I couldn’t resist picking it up and looking at the back to see the short comments and recommendations.  When I turned it over I was mesmerized by the photo of the author, Pema Chodron.  Her bright, smiling face, short cropped hair (a buzz to be exact), and Buddhist nun robes, didn’t speak of someone who would delve into scary places.  However, her eyes held something more than a typical smiling, middle aged woman’s eyes.  Her eyes shone with a glint of someone who knows; someone who has been to those scary places and lived to tell about it.  Being in a place of fear myself, I bought the book, hoping to learn her secret.  The secret to overcoming my fears.

Her writing was easy to read — warm, compassionate, even funny.  She talked about her life, her challenges, her pain and her triumphs.  She shared methods she learned or discovered which allowed her to put her fears into perspective.

The biggest jewel I came away with is a mental exercise to be done when triggered emotionally.  When you feel your emotions rise, unpleasantly, as they do with fear for example, you pause and remove the story for a moment.  Literally you imagine the story that is triggering your emotion being removed from where you are and set to the side.   Once you do this you can feel the energy purely, without the story, and you can see that it is only energy with a particular signature; the signature of fear.  Realizing how much of what you are feeling is simply a strong energy with a fingerprint of a feeling helps you allow that energy to dissipate.

You can also go a step further, as my teacher Tom Brown Jr. explained, and set the feeling or emotion aside as well, to then feel the energy purely, without the emotion or feeling or story attached.  The pure energy is nothing to be afraid of and once that is understood, easy to release.

Having control of that energy is incredibly helpful in overcoming fear.

The most difficult part of this mental exercise is REMEMBERING TO DO IT when the emotions rise!

Give it a try.  I would love to hear how it works for you.  Or share something that has helped you overcome your fears.


Toot, Toot, Toot My Own Horn . . . I’m Right, I’m Right, the Belly IS the Master Brain . . . Dr. Mate Says So!

“The nervous system of the gut contains about one hundred million nerve cells — we have as many in the small intestine alone as there are in our entire spine!  These nerves do more than coordinate the digestion and absorption of food and the elimination of waste — they also form part of our sensory apparatus.  The gut responds to emotional stimuli by muscle contractions, blood flow changes and the secretion of a multitude of biologically active substances.  Such brain-gut integration is essential for survival.  Large volumes of blood, for example, may need to be diverted from the intestines to the heart and to the muscles of the limbs at a moment’s notice.”

“In turn, the gut is abundantly supplied with sensory nerves that carry information to the brain.  Quite to the contrary of what we believed until recently, nerve fibres ascending from the intestines to the brain greatly outnumber ones descending from brain to gut.”

“The brain relays to the gut data from sensory organs such as the eyes, the skin or the ears — or more correctly, relayed to the gut is the interpretation of such data by the brain’s emotional centres.  The resulting physiological events in the gut then reinforce that emotional interpretation.  The signals sent back to the brain give rise to gut feelings that we can apprehend consciously.  If we lose touch with the gut feelings, the world becomes less safe.”—-“When The Body Says No; Understanding The Stress Disease Connection” by Gabor Mate, M.D. — Page 146 paragraphs 3-5

So the head brain and the belly brain are in cahoots!  Saying that out loud makes me also say to myself, “Of course they are, what else could they be!”  It sounds to me like Dr. Mate is saying the head brain is an extension of the belly brain . . . a sensor and interpreter of information for the belly brain . . . information the belly brain uses to make judgments . . . gut feelings . . . intuitions.

Is this what Dr. Mate is saying?  I think so.  What do you think?

“When The Body Says No; Understanding the Stress-Disease Connection” by Gabor Mate, M.D. A Book Review

I am reading, for the second time, “When the Body Says No; Understanding the Stress-Disease Connection”.

The connection between the emotions and the physical body play a more important role than many people realize.  Dr. Mate recognizes and writes about this in very definite ways.

The first time I read this book I was looking to find my own symptoms and understand what is going on with me, and skimmed through most of the text.  Now I am reading for greater understanding of how emotions affect all our body systems.

According to Dr. Mate, many diseases these days are diagnosed through a process of elimination, when the physical cause cannot be determined.  Auto immune diseases, cancer, nerve pain, IBS, and fibromyalgia, to name a few.  The medical professionals are not sure what causes these diseases, but there is a connection to emotions according to Dr. Mate.  Why do some smokers get lung cancer and others don’t.  Emotions and stress play a role.

To seperate the treatment of a physical condition without taking into account the whole picture, including the emotions and levels of stress, is like looking at only a part of the picture.  What is not seen is often an integral piece of the puzzle in understanding the disease, and in prescribing treatment.

Like with me, to take medicine is not enough.  When I continued to live my life with the same stresses I had previously been experiencing, I was only getting worse each year.  To get better, I believe, I have to stop worrying.  In fact, I am not “allowed” to worry or stress any more; my brain scrambles when I do and I can’t think straight.  In order to think clearly, I must focus my attention on relaxing, appreciating each moment, and loving myself.  To do this, I relax into my center and stop living in my head.  I find I am not so concerned with doing, I am more aware of “being”.  In this state of “being” I still have desires, and act on them, but in a more centered and relaxed way . . . I guess I would say in a more Zen like way. Many of my old ideas, what I thought I should be doing, or needed to be doing, have fallen away.

I wonder what would happen if everyone in the world could only function in this way.  Would everything crumble or would we all begin to live better?  I wonder.



Is Someone Shoulding on you? Are You Shoulding on Yourself?

One of the words Patricia Evans talks about in her book “The Verbally Abusive Relationship” is the word “should”.  To tell someone they “should” do this, or “should” do that, is a controlling way of communicating.  Shoulding is of the ways we abuse ourselves and others.  Shoulding suggests shame if you don’t do what you “should” do.  A less abusive way of communicating with others, or with yourself, is to say, “You might like to do this,” or “Have you considered doing that.”

This approach may sound mambsy pambsy, but in reality it is simply more respectful.  To tell someone they “should” do something is implying you know better than they do and have the authority to tell them what to do.

Changing the way we communicate can be challenging.  I should on myself all the time, and on other people too, and don’t realize it.  My daughter Melissa, the amateur psychologist in the family, catches me doing this and calls me on it.  She was visiting the other day and pointed out that not only was I shoulding on myself, I was shoulding on everyone else as well.  When Melissa pointed this out, repeatedly, I began to catch myself and correct myself before she could chime in with, “You’re shoulding on yourself again.”

Shoulding is a way of putting pressure, or putting power over on someone else, or on yourself.  Shoulding can kill happiness, making life a chore instead of a joy.  This nerve condition I have (see My Very Spoiled Nervous System) is teaching me the evils of shoulding.  I had a conversation with my husband last night and he was directing me by using sentences beginning with, “You need to . . . ” and, “You should . . . ” etc.  All the things he said were valid things I “should do”, but because he was shoulding on me, I began shoulding on myself and woke up with burning skin and scrambled brain.  I overloaded myself with shoulds.

Honestly, a person could think of so many things they “should” do, it would take them many lifetimes to do them.

The only cure for my burning skin and scrambled brain, aside from increasing my medication again, is to relax, stop shoulding myself, and ask myself, “What is most important to me today?  What would bring me joy?  What does my heart long for?”

This sounds idealistic, I know.  I have a difficult time letting myself do what I want to do and not what I think I should do.  It’s working for me though.  Even though there is a very angry dragon inside me (see The Dragon and Guardian of Memyselfandi), I am happier than I have ever been in my life because I am learning to follow my heart.


"The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up"– a book review


The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

I just finished reading a BEAUTIFUL book by Marie Kondo called

“The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up.”

I highly recommend it.  I loved the sweet feeling as I read Marie’s loving description on how to clean house.  She spoke to my resistance to decluttering in her gentle, understanding way, and brought a new spiritual dimension to cleaning that I found refreshing and freeing.

She looks upon all things with gratitude and love, and even letting go of things can be done with grace and thanksgiving.  Her perception that letting go of an unused item was freeing it to be of use to someone else, and that the item will be happier if it is used, was helpful to me.

When I saw there was a section on folding socks, my first reaction was “What, she even tells us how to fold socks?  That doesn’t seem that important.”  But that section turned out to be a very enlightening read, and one that I will never forget.

I will not give any more away with spoilers, but I have to recommend this book to everyone, and especially to those fellow hoarders out there who tend to keep things to the extent of bogging up down.

I have begun the process and I am loving it!  I plan to have some very cheap garage sales in November (I love to see peoples faces when they get really good deals!), to release all the items I have not been using, or that do not bring me joy, so they can be used again, loved again, and be happy!
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