Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Day 31 of Your Year to Wellness: Finding Miracles in the Mundane

Miracles in the Mundane
There is always something new, if you want to see it, you must BE it

My life is constantly moving. No two days are ever the same. Yesterday I woke up in Savannah, Georgia to the song of a marsh wren (The bird feeder was out of nuts) and today, I heard the sounds of the ocean and the early morning traffic from the Coronado Bay Bridge in Coronado, California.

I can feel the presence of those who are long gone but linger still.
L. Frank Baum, the author of the Oz series, Dorothy and The Wizard of Oz, The Road to Oz and The Emerald City, came to Coronado more than 100 years ago to write. He’d start in the wee hours writing until noon. Then he’d stroll around Coronado with his wife to experience the beauty of the place.
 Of Coronado, he wrote; “And everyday her loveliness shines pure, without a flaw, new charms entrance our every glance and fill our souls with awe.”
Baum’s words embrace the truth of our existence; that every single day, there is newness.
When I lived here in San Diego, I’d walk the beach and quote Jeremiah (The weeping prophet) from Lamentations saying, “God your mercies are new every morning, great is thy faithfulness.
This is the key to living fully; doing the same things over and over again but always seeing the newness and being grateful for it.
I cannot understand boredom; how can you be bored in your own mind? (Don’t answer that.) Wellness requires that you create healthy habits and do them over and over again.
When I started writing these posts I asked myself if I’d be able to do this every single day. I wondered about travel days with the early morning flights that I’m fond of. I knew that writing at night was not an option as I’m just not that swift after 7, so I decided that I would get up a few hours earlier no matter what or where I am.
By doing this thing over and over again I get better at it and it becomes a normal part of my life. Still, it is ever changing and evolving.
My daughter once pointed out something that no one else had noticed, “Mom is a creature of habit,” she said, “you mess with her habits and she turns into a creature.”
I need my routines. Without them I’d miss flights, forget appointments and throw off the schedules of other busy people. Still, each day, I see the routine as new.
This is the Art of Transformation; that by doing the same things over and over again, we become better at being who we are and every single day, there is newness.

Great is our faithfulness to our own improvement.
·         Don’t bore yourself—Seek new ways to do what you need to do. Find a new walking route or a new exercise and add it to your daily routine.

·         Seek out the newness—you work with people you don’t truly know. Ask questions about the lives and backgrounds of the folks you see daily but don’t know well.

·         Look with new eyes—we pass the same things day after day without really seeing what’s there. Today, truly look.

·         Listen—much of what we need to learn happens when we sit still and listen. Take a moment to hear the sounds around you.

·         Feel—Think about the lives that have done what you’ve done and have been where you’ve been and feel their presence.

I know, I went deep again, but as I’ve said before, the further out you go, the easier it gets, Life’s got you.

Be well, be you, Be New
Bertice Berry, PhD.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Day 30:On Living Your Dreams

On Living Your Dreams

Yesterday I posed a question; what talent, gift or expression are you holding in? I was warmed and delighted by the wonderful responses. I was also reminded of an assignment I had back when I was in college when as my daughter says, dinosaurs roamed the earth. (She’ll have kid one day.)

I attended Jacksonville University in Florida. I had come from a school system that desegregated after I graduated and had attended a strict Pentecostal Church. While I maintained my culture and my beliefs I opened my mind and my heart to learning new things. I took a course in art therapy from my mentor Sally Myers and was rewarded with a way to realize a dream and expression that I had not allowed myself to even think about. Back then I was intimidated by the newness of everything around me. I worked hard and stayed focused on my desire to be a sociologist without even understanding how far it could take me. I saw every book, class and professor as a tool for climbing out of poverty and oppression. While some learned for the test, I learned for life.

Sally Myers was not only the instructor for my course she was also my boss. She was in charge of the dorms and I had become a Resident Assistant. I was intimidated by this artistic and brilliant woman but I also wanted to do my absolute best.

On the first day of class everyone introduced themselves and shared their preferred medium. I had no idea what my medium was. I could not draw, paint or sculpt but my sister Myrna had been a painter and a photographer. I had grown up with an appreciation for art and wanted more of it. I told Sally and the class that I was there to appreciate their work since I was not an artist but I had no idea how that class would forever change me.

At the end of that first day we instructed to bring a pillow for the next class; we’d be doing an exercise called the Pillow Fantasy. I looked around the classroom to see if anyone else was concerned and I noticed that my classmates looked as confused as I did. Still, we all complied and brought in our pillow. I had had nightmares of the orgies and madness that might ensue.  (When you grow up expecting Jesus’ return at all times, you have a tendency to think that everything and everyone, including you, is sinful.)

Sally told us to put the pillow on the floor and to lie down on it. “Here it comes,” I thought. It’s about to get freaky up in here. We were told to close our eyes, but I couldn’t. I wanted to see what would happen to me. When nothing did, I finally closed my eyes and opened my mind to the process. We were guided in a meditation where we imagined the most magnificent art project we could dream of. We were instructed to see ourselves presenting or performing the work of art in every detail. The meditation took the entire class but the tie flew by.

I saw myself standing in front of a large audience. I was lecturing, but at times, I sang and at others I told jokes. The audience in my fantasy was laughing one moment and crying the next. They applauded and nodded with each story and lesson that was taught. At the end of my lecture/performance, people came to tell me how their lives had been changed.

When the meditation was done we were instructed to write out what we had seen as a homework assignment. Then we were told that this would be our assignment for the semester. I told Sally, that I did not see myself painting or sculpting as other students had. She said that it didn’t matter, that our hearts knew our desire and that it had informed us.

I didn’t know how I would pull the assignment off, but I did and because I have to catch an early flight, I will  get right to the point, I am now living this fantasy.

Every time I lecture I present information through stories and humor. I open with a song and close with wisdom of the ages. I watch as the audience laughs one moment and cries the next and I am rewarded with applause, hugs and their stories in return.

I sometimes wonder what might have happened if I hadn’t ventured away from what was comfortable; if I hadn’t opened my heart to something new.

Yesterday I heard from a woman who has always wanted to illustrate a children’s book. The first story I ever wrote came from a dream I had and it was a children’s story. You already know what’s going to happen, we’ll be collaborating.

What dream or fantasy do you have that has gone untapped? Open your heart and your mind to see the possibility unfold.

·         How has a dream shaped your life?

·         Without quitting your job, find ways to explore the dream as a hobby.

·         I dreamed of lecturing and I get to do it. For every dream there is a need. Find a need for your dream.  Volunteer at a school, a long term care facility or in a community theatre.

·         Take a course in something you’ve wanted to explore and develop the talents you've allowed to lie dormant.

·         Encourage a child in their dream. It’s never too late to realize a dream and always time to support a child.

Every day I get to live my dream.

“When you do what you love, you’ll never work a day of your life

BE well, Be you, DREAM

Bertice Berry, PhD.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Day 29 of Your year to wellness: FindingThe Kingdom of God

The Kingdom of God is Within You
From the porch of my friends Lyle and Amy's home

Okay, today, I’m going deep. If you can’t swim, get in anyway. When I taught in the Upward Bound Program in the US Virgin Islands, I noticed that many of my students could not swim, so I taught them how and one of the things I told them was this;  swimming is like life, it’s scary at first but the further out you go, the easier it becomes. When the tide changes don’t fight or swim against it, go along side it and it will carry you right back to shore.

There is a passage in the Gospel of Thomas (yeah I know…it’s a Gnostic Gospel) that reads: “If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.”

I could probably stop there and let you ponder this all day, but wait, there’s more. I believe that this thing we must bring forth is our purpose. We are all unique and wonderfully made, but when we strive to be and look like someone else we are missing our own incredible beauty.

the kingdom of God is within you and it is outside you.
                                       When you know yourselves, then you will be known …

                   But if you do not know yourselves then you live in poverty and you are the poverty.—

Gospel of Thomas

In his 1994 Inaugural Speech, Nelson Mandela quoted Marianne Williamson’s Return to Love and said this, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is out light, not our darkness that frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be?”

Now I can stop teaching and start asking questions.

·         What talent, gift, and expression are you holding in?

·         If you could do something new and different what would it be?

·         How would you go about learning and applying the talent or trade?

·         Who told you that you were not brilliant, gorgeous, talented or fabulous?

·         Forgive that person(s) and then forgive yourself for believing them.

Have a powerful and purpose-filled day.

When you walk with purpose, you collide with destiny.

Be you, be whole, be Fabulous
                                                                        Bertice Berry, PhD

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Day 28 of Your year to Wellness: Falling off the Wagon

On Falling off The Wagon
Getting back on track

They say that confession is good for the soul and it is, but I also know that anything that’s good for the soul has to be good for the mind and body as well, so here it is,  yesterday, I fell off the wagon—big time. It wasn’t the Twizzler it wasn’t even popcorn, but now that I think about it, it wasn’t that big at all; in fact it was miniature.

Yesterday, I had a cupcake, okay, I’m confessing so I’ll tell the whole truth; I had two. They were those little miniature cupcakes from an old fashioned bakery here in Savannah. When you walk in the place smells like the dream I had when I first saw Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory; it smelled like sugar love. Okay, I have a migraine and sugar love is the best I can do.

I went to the bakery with Ann (not her first name.) We couldn't wait so we sat at the table where brides sit to decide on what kind of cake they’ll have for their wedding. We ate our cupcakes with all the joy that comes from sugar and happily danced back to the car. We knew something was wrong when we forgot where we parked but we were too high on cupcake to care. J—I mean Ann, had left her car at my house but by the time we got there we were both loopy so we decided to walk a few miles to calm down. Those two little cupcakes packed a wallop that I would not have felt a few years ago.

People often ask me how I’ve managed to keep off the 150 pounds that I lost three years ago. They point out that weight loss is easy, but maintenance is not. Eight out of ten people who lose weight will gain it back and of the two who kept it off, one may die trying. The statistics for weight maintenance are not in anyone’s favor if you lose weight without getting well in spirit mind and body.

I will share with you a most wonderful secret; I have not been able to maintain my weight loss; my body has.
When you lose weight by becoming well, your body will not let you indulge in the behaviors that got you sick. Right now my head is aching, my vision is blurred and my back feels like I was kicked by Bruce Lee on one side and Jackie Chan on the other. By taking an entire year to gradually become well in spirit, mind and body, I become cleansed of the foods, thoughts, emotions and actions that ---make me sick.

Yesterday, when I confessed to my kids about the cupcakes my daughter gave me the truth that I needed. She said “Mom you eat healthy all the time, one bad time won’t kill you.” She is right, it has not killed me, but I didn’t sleep well, I feel like kaka (is that a word?) and I am having bad thoughts (like writing a letter to the bakery about how nothing should be that good.)

As with anything else, I am grateful for my fall from wellness. It taught me several things, but mainly this; wellness is better than kaka.

·         Think about a time you fell away from a plan. Get back in your lane. The longer you stay away, the more normal adverse behavior becomes.

·         Ask yourself why? I fell away because I had not prepared my meals ahead of time. I was out of food for lunch so we decided to go out for soup. We had soup and then kept driving. When I decide what to have for the day that morning, I rarely stray from my plans. Remember, preparation beats will-power.

·         Drink lots of water. When you fall away from your plans and purpose, dreams and ideas (Blame it on the su-su-su-su-gar) drink lots of water to rehydrate and flush the system.

·         Forgive yourself. There is no reason for me to wallow. I’d like to but I have things to do today. I planned a family outing and I can’t cancel because I had too much sugar. I love myself enough to tell me I’m sorry. I won’t promise that I won’t do it again because as my mother said “Promises were made to be broken.” She said that instead of promising we should let our yea be yea and our nay be nay. So when I see another one of those tiny cupcakes I will scream NAYYYYYYYYYY.

·         There was a 5th but now I have a cramp in my foot and I can’t remember it, so I guess I’ll say get up and move.

BE you, be well, be Free

Bertice Berry, PhD.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Lessons From My Mother

Day 27 of Your Year to Wellness
Woven portrait of my mother Beatrice Berry by Younwoo Chaa

I’ve heard from many readers all saying  that they love it when I share my mother’s wisdom. Well, today, I’m going to give you some of what I had to get growing up. My mother’s lessons were timely and important, but most of the time they were delivered with a beating or during a yelling session. I tell people that our mothers were right, but they were beating us while they were teaching us, so we forgot the lesson but remembered the beating.

Here are some of the strange but wonderful things my mother used to say.

·         Don’t put your pocketbook down low, or your money will be too. My mother would run to pick up a purse that was put down on the floor. As I got older, I learned that this practice can be found in other cultures around the world. The basic lesson is to respect your money and hold in in high regard. If you treat it with little respect, you will have little to respect.

·         Money is the dirtiest thing in the world. My mother’s saying often contradicted each other. While she was respectful of money, she’d always wash her hands after handling it. She’d say “Money is the dirtiest thing in the world. It’s been some of everywhere.” She was so right. When tested, it’s been found to have traces of, as my mother would say, “Some of everything.”

·         Don’t let no moss grow under your feet. In other words get up and get to stepping. “Time waits for no man,” she often chided.” If you have an idea or thought about doing something, go and do it.

·         All he’s got is his hat ad that. This was my mother’s description of a man who in her opinion had nothing to offer; no kindness, no brains, no joy, just his hat and well—that.

·         If you have to ask how much it costs you already know you can’t afford it. My mother was the original recycler. She saved and reused everything. She had very little patience for people who shopped for the sake of shopping and even less for folks who as she said “Robbed Peter to pay Paul.” She believed in repairing old clothing and appliances and that if you had to figure out how to pay for something, you should go without.

·         Just live long enough…This was my mother’s way of saying what goes around comes around and if you just live long enough you will see your styles, actions and all the things you blame your parents for coming right back to you.

·         Going on up the lazy river.  Every night before my mother went upstairs to her bedroom, she announced, “Well, I’m going on up the lazy river.” When she passed away, I granted her request for a cremation. I placed her ashes in a beautiful wooden bowl I received a few months before while in Hawaii. My children took her remains out behind our home to the Ogeechee River and released them. When they came back inside they said’ Well, grandma’s ‘gone on up the lazy river.”

Life does come right back around. The lessons we’ve been taught are the lessons we need right now.

·         Think of the things your parents told you when you were young. What do they mean to you today?

·         Share a lesson with your children or with a child you love, how do they interpret it?

·         What crazy saying have you created in your lifetime? Share it with a friend.

·         If your slogan was a bumper sticker what would it be and why?

·         How do you say “Good night?” If it’s just good night, try something new and share it with your loved ones.

Life is all about learning. Keep collecting the lessons and passing them on.

Be you, be well, be a learner.

Bertice Berry, PhD.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Loving the Skin You're In

Day 26 of Your Year to Wellness
Your skin tells your story

Every day I get up early in the morning to write these postings. I have a general idea the night before as to what I’m going to write about, but some days, like today I’m lead in a completely different direction. If you are just joining us, these postings are daily reminders of the things we know but have forgotten to practice. The lessons are a common sense approach to wellness; the realignment of the spirit, mind and body and the transformation of the Self towards becoming your best you.

If you have just joined or have missed a few days, get in where you fit in. As life permits, take the time to read the previous postings. These lessons are not repeats or a reprint of the book A Year to Wellness and Other Weight Loss Secrets; they provide additional daily inspiration.

Now to today’s lesson. At some point a long time ago, we were told to love the skin we were in, but we paid very little attention to this and decided that if we were to love it, we had to change it. Light people tried to get dark and dark people wanted to be light. People with acne caked their screaming pores with make-up or just stayed indoors and the folks with scars hid them and themselves from the world.

The skin is the largest organ of the integumentary system and yet the most ignored. It receives and transmits signals to and from the brain and is the best armor ever made. It protects the inner workings of the body from water loss and damage from the sun. The skin sends and receives messages from our surroundings even quicker than our eyes. Think about the sudden chill, the blush in color or that tingling sensation that informs you of an attraction you haven’t yet recognized.

When I began to pay more attention to my skin, my entire life responded.

Each and every day, dead skin cells make their way to the surface drying and building up on our skin. Exposure to the cold, harsh soaps and even too much hot water add to this drying condition. I did my doctoral work and taught at Kent State University in Ohio. Kent gets colder than most people would ever imagine. Over twenty years ago, I rushed out to turn in a chapter of my dissertation (no electronic mail back then boys and girls) and when I did, I was immediately bitten by the frost. A snow plow driver pulled up to me and began yelling. “Go back inside, you can die out here.” He said. He informed me of an extreme weather advisory that I hadn’t heard about. My head was so deep into my work that I hadn’t known about the weather or anything else that was going on. That day, about 5 minutes actually, is a constant reminder to stay focused but remained connected to life. Even now, when I am in cold weather, my toes dry up and crack and the same patches of skin that were affected that day harden, turn dark and begin to itch and burn. It’s been more than twenty years, but my skin not only remembers, it still responds and warns me of the impending danger.

The skin is extremely sensitive to what you eat, but also to what’s eating you. Your skin tells your life’s story. It responds to what you do and to what has been done to you.  People who have been molested often report that they have break-outs and rashes when they feel fear or anxiety.

In order to heal from our past, we need to help our skin heal from the things we have done to it and the things that have been done to us. As you pay more attention to your skin you will be able to see how much you have ignored it.

·         Exfoliate your skin—removing dead skin cells will have a tremendous impact on your skin and your overall wellbeing. I do it daily with an exfoliating scrub or dry brush. You can also use a loofa, natural sponge or for harder areas a pumice stone. When someone brushes up against me, I am often rewarded with a comment on my skin. People will remark on how “unnaturally” soft it is. Healthy skin is natural.

·         Moisturize, moisturize—whenever I get a physical or check-up, the attending nurses who are trying to apply electrodes or draw blood all ask the same thing “You put on lotion today didn’t you?” They say it as if it’s a rare thing; something that people don’t do often and certainly don’t do daily. I tell them that I did and that I’m going to do it again that night. Moisturize your skin; it adds to the glow and your body will respond to the attention and massage you are giving it.

·         Give a hug and you’ll get one—I tell people that in order to be more human, we need 13 to 300 hugs a day. I made up those numbers, but I do know for a fact that proper touch is a necessary ingredient to our continued development. I often encounter people who say that they did not grow up with hugs, so they don’t hug. I didn’t grow up in a hugging family, but we have learned to become one. We hug and group hug and high-five. We give long distance hugs and hug in abstention. After I’ve given a lecture, there is almost always a line of people who just want to meet, ask a question, tell a story or hug. Once one person hugs, they all do. Hugging is necessary and while it may not always be appropriate (don’t run up to hug the President or the queen) it is always needed.

·         Let the sun shine—wear the necessary sun block (yes, black people need it too) but make sure you get an exposure of the natural Vitamin D that the sun gives away daily. We drive our cars from one garage to another never feeling the sun on our skin. Allow the elements to remind you that you are alive and in touch.

·         Find the best products for your skin and create a daily beauty routine. I tell folks that good genes will take you to your twenties and then you need good products and behavior. I’d love to tell you what I use, but like food; we have to find what works for us. I am amazed at how loyal people are to their skin care products. Even when these products no longer deliver, people are often customers for life. I have not had surgery, injections or any of the other “anti-aging” procedures. We get to choose our own path; I have chosen this natural path, so I use products that are not tested on animals and have natural ingredients. You are never too young or too old to start caring for your skin. Start today; look in the back of the cabinet and pull out the lotion and use it. Your skin and life will thank you.

Be well, be you, be smooth.

Bertice Berry, PhD

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

5 Tips for Staying Focused on Your Goals

Day 25 of Your Year to Wellness
Imagine yourself as you'd feel to think, and be

Before we can even talk about staying focused on the goal, we need to have that discussion about how to set the goals. We’ve all been told to set realistic goals and to then to go for them, but that’s basically it. There’s lots of motivational information, great calendar tools and for you young-heads who don’t like to use pencils, there are APPS, but when it comes to defining the goal in the first place, there is not a great deal of good information out there.

For the most part, our goals are set by someone else; the weight loss or insurance industries tell us how we should look, while Drs. Phil and Oz tell us how we must feel. For 25 years, Oprah and before that Wall Street have told us what we should want (I don’t think I need cashmere pajamas, I’m already hot.) While our parents, pastors, priests and imams tell us what to believe.

There is a point in everyone’s life when we must step away from the mainstream to find our own path. We really do need to do some soul searching today to think about what it is we want, for ourselves, our children our family and friends, our work, community our country and our world. Think about this for a moment and when you do you will see that the politics of a Republican are pretty much the same as they are for a Democrat; they vary, no two are alike and they have more in common than they want to believe. Men and women have the same hopes and dreams for their lives and loves and gays and lesbians are just as straight as a heterosexual is queer.  By now you are wondering what this has to do with goal setting but stay with me I’m getting there---we all have goals that have been determined for us and they are pretty much the same as they are for everyone else, but I want you to really dig deep.

Today, take a step back and see what you want for you. I’d like you to think higher than you ever have. What is realistic for you is not realistic for me. Go beyond your real-line and let’s see into the beyond.

The reason we have a hard time staying focused on our goals is because too often they are not ours in the first place. When I moved beyond the goal to lose weight and set a goal to be well, I not only lost more weight than I initially thought was possible, I created a wellness plan for others to follow. I reached the goal and then set another to assist and guide those who yearned for more than physical wellness but who sought to be totally well.

So how do we stay focused?

·         Shut out the noise---I’ve said it before and I’ll keep on saying it; avoid the negativity that turns your eyes from your prize. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve stopped something that works for me because someone walked by and said “Don’t do that it doesn’t work”, or “That’s a myth,” or “That’s crazy.” My life reads like a fairytale. I set out to do things that seem impossible to others but for me they seem like, okay why not. Erase the tape in your head that says you can’t and keep singing. (This little light of mine…)

·         Replace the tape—whenever you remove something negative, you must immediately replace it with something positive and true or the old idea will come right back. When I see my children struggling, I am tempted to believe that they will always struggle, I erase the thought and replace it with the truth that they are already doing better than anyone would have expected for them; that we all struggle sometimes and that everyone has their own path. The moment I hear the truth for them, I see it for myself as well.

·         Practice your outcomes—Before I started the Year to Wellness program, I imagined what I would look like, then I imagined what I would feel like; I imagined it so much that when it happened it took me by surprise. Take a moment each morning to give your acceptance speech for having won the goals of life. Who would you thank, and who would you encourage?

·         Celebrate small milestones—Celebrations are a necessary part of every journey. Too often though, we meet a goal and just keep moving, never stopping to enjoy the moment. Make the time to reward yourself with the joy you need. The first time I was able to go to the movies without eating popcorn was a major hurdle. It may have seemed like a little thing to someone else, but I knew that it was the thing I needed to get over most. That very day before I went home, I stopped to purchase something to mark the occasion. I thought it fitting that I found a pair of earrings with evil eye charms; Nazars are charms worn or hung in a home or work place in cultures around the world for protection from the “evil eye”, or envy of others. I wear mine as a reminder that I need not envy or compare myself to others; that my goals are my own and that I should allow no one to hinder me. (I get to pick my own goals and my own celebrations.)

·         Keep your dreams close to your vest—I believe that it’s important to stay quiet about the amazing goals you are setting, however, I also feel that it is important to share your hopes with those who love and adore you, for they will guard and care for your dreams as if they are your own. These people will pray and think of you throughout the course of their lives and will help you to realize them.

About a month ago, a dear friend shared her heart with me. She told me that she had reached the point in her life where she knew she was ready for love. She had raised and loved her children and their friends fiercely. She’d been an example and teacher to many and had lived a life of love and now she told me, it was time for someone to come and love her. Just one day before, I had heard a similar dream from a close brother friend. When my sister shared her dream, I sat straight up and said “I see my purpose.” I introduced them by phone and let life and love take over--and it has.

Set your own goals and stick to them. If you fall off the horse, or out of the car, or bike or pogo stick, or miniature pony or off an emu---okay you get the point; get right back on. Otherwise, fear will take hold and you will not come to the place we all need and desire; the place where we truly love ourselves and all that is around us.

Be well, Be true to you, Stay your focused.

Bertice Berry, PhD.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Finding the Fountain of Youth

Day 24 of Your Year to Wellness
The Fountain of Youth Lies Within
From 21-51

Yesterday, I got a call from an old friend. I asked how he was and he sighed and said, “I’m getting old.” I asked when he noticed. He laughed and asked what I meant and told him that he had been getting old from the moment of his birth. My friend is approaching his 50th birthday and like so many others, he is falling for the oaky doke; the belief that life goes down-hill from there. I pointed out that his mother and father were going strong and that he and his father worked out together every Sunday. I told him that he was affecting the lives of others every day and that he was living a life of purpose. “You have genetics and purpose on your side young man.” I said. “You are not old.”
Yes,” he said “But you look like you’ve found the fountain of youth” “What’s the secret?” he asked laughing. I asked if he really wanted to know, but he said that he had to get back to his demanding job so I told him that I loved him and so did his life and wished him peace.
So now I will tell you what he didn’t take the time to learn; I have found the fountain of youth. It’s where no one would have ever thought to look, it’s within and because you are reading this and because you seek an answer, I’ll tell you what I’ve learned.
·         Reclaim your time. Remove the things from your life that take a great deal of energy but give very little in return. Last year I removed 3 demanding events from my annual schedule and noticed that by removing these taxing events I got a total of 3 months back. I was astonished by the amount of time I had given up. All of these events were demanding physically, mentally and spiritually. Each time I’d leave them I felt drained and sad.  They were weekly or monthly so I didn’t notice the toll all at once, but when  I added up the time and realized that I had been spending an entire 3 months doing something that offered very little but demanded a great deal of my life I was appalled. I’m not talking about work, we all have work that we don’t care for, when I look at my work as purpose and not as a job I am always inspired. I’m talking about the events and affairs we mindlessly volunteer and sign up for and then feel compelled to participate in. When I took back my time I found that I had time for me.
·         Time goes by with or without you so use it to your advantage. I don’t try to grab large slices of time; I take small slices and I make the most of it. I exercise throughout the day in small intervals never going beyond 30 minutes at a time. I wear a pedometer, the kind you can upload to a computer to see your progress. When I first did this, I noticed that my movement was the same low line throughout the day with one big spike in it. I laughed at how silly this looked and wondered what impact I could have if I moved more throughout the day. When I did, I felt a sudden increase in energy. Even if you simply roll your wrists and ankles, elbows and shoulders, get up and move around you will notice a difference in your level of energy. Walk around your office or your living room. You don’t have to go to a gym. Ride your bike or walk to an errand at least once a week and notice the difference it has on you. When you do drive, park as far away as possible and take the stairs a few floors then ride the elevator the rest increasing little by little. Take short but frequent vacations and lounge in your own home. We put things off thinking we don’t have enough time when short visits and events more frequently will have a more lasting impact.
·         Smile and Laugh. A stranger once told me that God lived in my smile. Yesterday I heard that you could never be ugly if you smiled all of the time. I have seen the sternest faces light up with a smile. The eyes may be the window to the soul, but your smile is the door; with it you open up an avenue for others to find their way. Laughter is a gift from God. I learned the power of laughter when I first started teaching. If something is interesting, funny or bizarre people are more likely to remember it and to want to learn more. If people are laughing while they learn, they will remember the experience even if they don’t recall the facts. That remembrance will call them back to the lesson. Laughter lightens your heart and prepares it for healing and repair; laugh.
·         Keep learning or you will grow old. Some people get wiser as they age, while others just age. I have a friend who is constantly learning and at 80 she is always the youngest person in the room. She laughs big and moves like the wind. Her mind is nimble and so are her limbs. The more you learn the more you grow, stop learning and you wither and die.
·         Leave a legacy each time you leave a room. What will people think of you when you leave—the room?  Did you enable them to smile or laugh, did you enable them to feel better about their self? Did you share tools and wisdom for becoming better? On Sunday I hosted a gathering of friends. Before everyone left, we broke out in a wonderful version of This Little Light of Mine, I’m Going to Let it Shine. Someone went to his car to get his spoons (no joke, he actually carried a set to play) I found box lids for others to play, much to my surprise, my sister Christine grabbed spoons from the kitchen and began to play along (who knew?) and my son Jabril played his guitar. Each person sang the song that was first written down by Harry Dixon Loes in 1920. It is believed to have been a Negro Spiritual or to have come from the Bible.
This song is the song that every heart knows. It is our calling to shine so that others might find their way.

This little light is the source of your fountain of youth, let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.
Be well, be you, SHINE
Bertice Berry, PhD.

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Fine Line Between Blame and Responsibility

Day 23 of Your Year to Wellness
Blamers quit but responbile people move forward

Whenever we set out to do the work that is required for self-improvement there is the potential to wallow in guilt. We begin to see things in ourselves that have been there all along and we feel guilty and shameful for not noticing them before.

It may seem ironic, but after I began to lose weight, I suddenly saw myself as fat. Now don’t get me wrong, I knew I was big, but when I began to lose weight and actually get on a scale, I suddenly realized how much work I had to do.

This sudden rush of awareness and seeing things that have been there all along is a sign that you are truly making strides, but what happens now determines whether you quit or keep going.

I’m going to get right to it; people who wallow in blame will quit, but those who take responsibility keep working; it is that simple.

There is a very thin line between blame and taking responsibility. A person who blames others is looking for retribution and revenge. When you blame yourself you will wallow in guilt and the shame of whatever it is that occurred. But a person who seeks to find out who was responsible for something is trying to determine how to fix it. When they hold themselves responsible they are saying, I caused this and I can change it.

So while the blamer sees no way out, the person who sees themselves as responsible knows there is one, and they know that they are their own way out.

This very subtle difference has kept folks in that vicious cycle of gaining and losing and gaining and losing. We often find ourselves in a funk over how hard the journey is and how we have “self-sabbotaged.”

If I still belived the way I did when I was younger I’d probably have to tell you that this is the Devil, but now I see that we have been blessed with the faculties to see our own way clear. However, it is a great subterfuge, a ruse a plot and a ploy; that you blame yourself and not the products gimmicks and junk that has promised to make you well. They promise to do the work, but when the work fails, they say that you are to blame and saddly, we belive.

Yes, you believed the hype but now you can take responsibility to make a clear change from what you’ve done in the past.

·         A person who takes responsibility sees their patterns while a person who takes the blame asks “Why does this keep happening to me? Which are you?

·         A person who takes responsibility gets up over and over again and tries to find new ways and solutions. A person who blames themselves wallows in their pain and tries to find others who will commiserate. Which are you?

·         A responsible person looks for entertainment, information and ideas that are uplifting. A blamer sifts through gossip magazines, reality shoes and negative talk looking for something that is worse than they are. Which are you?

·         A responsible person sees their wrong and acknowledges the rights of others to do the same, but will not allow themselves to be “beaten up” over the mistake. While a person who takes the blame invites and encourages others to punish them because like all martyrs they believe that it is their cross to bear. Which are you?

·          Decide today that you are responsible for your own outcomes. Acknowledge that what you cause you can change (your own behaviors.) Then acknowledge that you are already better.

We all play a part in our own story. Take responsibility for how you act and let the change begin.

Be well, be you, be Whole

Bertice Berry, PhD