Freedom in Retirement: We are all prisoners of our own experience…

make the world with our thoughts BuddhaSilly me. For the longest time I thought there was some connection between age and higher levels of consciousness. I mean, as we age it seemed likely that we would also evolve in essential psychic ways. But now I know age has nothing to do with it. Our varied levels of consciousness depend more on how much we limit our thoughts, experience and options. I’m speaking from 60+ years of experience…

My upbringing demanded a certain way of thought, and a phenomenally large set of rules about how I should live. Think a mild case of German authoritarianism with “my way or the highway” thrown in. We were raised to expect to be, to quote my first boyfriend, “something at least semi-great.” When I became interested in China back in my teens, I immediately jumped to the realistic goal of becoming the first US Ambassador to China. Such a happy mix of egotism and narcissism, with tons of PRESSURE too!

After I studied librarianship at the graduate level to get a job, and Asian History, I then turned to Transpersonal Counseling Psychology at the Naropa Institute in Boulder. There I felt quite at home with what I was learning.

Besides the standard counseling psychology curriculum, we studied the interplay between psychology and spiritual development, the benefits of a contemplative practice, and moment-to-moment awareness, with ample opportunities to develop a compassion practice. There I met Ken Wilber, an American philosopher and author of a number of books on transpersonal psychology. Ken taught me to see consciousness as a wide spectrum of thought, with ordinary awareness at one end, and more profound levels at the other. The natural human progression is from lower consciousness, to personal, and then altered states of consciousness or spiritual experience. Some call these transpersonal levels.

if-you-obey-all-the-rules-you-miss-all-the-fun Katherine HepburnI experienced excellent instruction in limited thinking as I grew up. Even as my father said he encouraged an open mind, the rules were clear and I generally followed them well. It was only much later, after I realized that the rules I was raised with weren’t working for me, that I started my midlife do-over, my personal revolution. I felt drawn to questioning just about everything in my past, especially all the rules in my head. There I found such a cruel mix of self-deprecation and criticism.

tell negative committee to shut upIt is only in the past few years that I have made a quantum leap in self-compassion and consciousness. I no longer tolerate negativity and craziness around me, and have gained many new insights into the voices in my head… 🙂   Please, don’t believe your “negative committee” any longer. Question the way you approach every decision you make. Are you doing things the way your parents would for unknown reasons, or moving on to higher levels of thought and experience?

what lies behind us what lies within us Emerson

Question what you think you’ve known forever. Is it true or just some rule you’ve been following mindlessly for decades? Embrace your freedom to think the way you choose now, not the way previous generations did.

Don’t just save up your bucks for retirement, prepare your mind for a whole new level of freedom. The older I get, the clearer my moment-to-moment choices become. It can be so freeing to stop your brain autopilot in its tracks, and begin to live a new life!

To learn more about how midlife questioning helped to create a new lifestyle for us in an amazing passive solar home in the Colorado outback, go check out: A Memoir of Retirement: From Suburbia to Solar in Southern Colorado

Writing Skills: Short and to the Point!

writing-penHere’s a new take on developing your writing skills. I LOVE the way Kim Tackett decided to write 35 word (very) short stories. Go check out a few and then try writing one for your brain challenge of the day! I tried to do this yesterday and found it quite revealing!

Since I was ill for over a month, I spent some time thinking about why I feel guilty so much of the time. Even when I’m ill with bronchitis, I feel like a lazy bum laying around. I guess I got some SERIOUS brain washing growing up, about being “productive” everyday!

So I wrote:

How does guilt live so long?

From my baby days, and yet still alive and well today, surprising me — stealing my freedom and joy.

Away with all guilt. I’ll go far beyond your influence now!

Oh, if only my 34 words could make it so…

laura-rasta-xmas-2012-croppedI’m a newcomer to rural southern Colorado.  After two years I decided to compile a short journal about the ups and downs of moving from a good-sized city to rural America to build a passive solar retirement home in the foothills:                                         A Memoir of Retirement: From Suburbia to Solar in Southern Colorado

Please share this information with your friends if they are considering similar life changes. Feel free to contact me directly to discuss any of these challenges, and to order your own signed copies of any of my books!  Cheers, Laura Lee   (email me:  MidlifeCrisisQueen@gmail.com)

 

Arrival: The pros and cons of seeing your future

One consequence of moving to a rural part of Colorado is the delays in seeing the latest movies. This has been a bit difficult for me, because I am a great fan of cinema! I admit my favorite aspect of going out to see a movie is to lose my present self in someone else’s life. I love the “fly on the wall” aspect of experiencing someone else’s reality, but in this case I felt like the canary in the cage. Funny, with my lifelong breathing difficulties, I have often compared myself to the canary in the mine in the numerous polluted situations I have found myself in.

Amy Adams in ArrivalLong story short, we finally had a chance to see Arrival last night, a quite cerebral approach to alien invasion. Number one I LOVED that the scientist, the linguist with all the answers, was played by a woman, and specifically by Amy Adams. I think it’s about time women played the smartest person in the room, and I’m also happy Ms. Adams finally got a demanding and serious role to play.

One of the points of this film seemed to be the greatly undervalued communication tool of emotions. By having a wise woman play the great communicator, I felt that intuitive wisdom as well as intellectual power were brought to center stage. This is a position I have fought for since way back when I hoped to become a college professor in the 1970s. I found universities so limiting in terms of valuing the whole person or professor. This is one of the primary reasons I gave up on that goal.

But the real point of this film is the simple question:

If you could see your future, with all of its phenomenal beauty and raw tragedy, would you still choose it?

This question brings up all sorts of interesting life contradictions. If I had seen my future in the past and tried to change one part, would the other parts have stayed the same? In fact, as I age I see almost every aspect of my life in terms of contradictions. If I choose this, what happens to that?

Choosing to leave behind the lifestyle I had lived for most of my life a few years ago, was a very difficult decision for me. When you choose something life changing you are almost always crossing a bridge you cannot go back across. This filled me with anxiety. But the true contradiction is that you can never know what will come of this difficult choice, unless you choose something different and then see how it goes.

Laura and rasta close upI’m a newcomer to rural southern Colorado.  After two years I decided to compile a short journal about the ups and downs of moving from a good-sized city to rural America to build a passive solar retirement home in the foothills:  A Memoir of Retirement: From Suburbia to Solar in Southern Colorado  Please share this information with your friends if they are considering similar life changes. Feel free to contact me directly to discuss any of these challenges, and to order your own signed copies of any of my books!  Cheers, Laura Lee  (email me: MidlifeCrisisQueen@gmail.com)

Maya Angelou & Her Powerful Words

maya-angelou-and-still-i-rise-pbs

“We may encounter many defeats, but we must not be defeated. That in fact it may be necessary to encounter defeat, so we can know who the hell we are. What can we overcome? What makes us stumble and fall, and somehow miraculously rise and go on?”

I hope many of you were able to enjoy the PBS Special: Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise this week. If not, go enjoy it now.

I loved every minute of it as a historian, a writer and an American. I learned so much about black history, struggling writers, and our own history as a horribly racist country. I had heard much of her poetry from her later years, but did not know her life’s story as a dancer, singer, civil rights leader, etc. I also had no idea she was six foot tall! I believe I first heard about her through watching Oprah. Talk about an intelligent woman with an AMAZING way with words! She truly understood the POWER OF WORDS.

how-important-you-areThe small piece I would like to focus on here was from an experience Ms. Angelou had with a few young men who were speaking threateningly to her once in her life. She turned to them and said: “When was the last time someone told you how important you are?” These words stopped the youngsters in their tracks, and made me sit up straight and ask myself the same question.

Ms. Angelou’s point was to educate these kids to their own family history. She said something like, “Do you ever think about what your ancestors had to go through to bring you to this place and time? How are you honoring their struggles?”

How rare is it that we honor our ancestors’ struggles? How often do we tell those who make our lives worthwhile exactly how important they are? The world is full of people who need to feel appreciated, and yes even important.

Tell them now.

Are blogs a new form of vanity press?

What a resounding response to my last question about who reads your blog, and all agreed too!

Come to find out I am not alone in observing that my pre-blog friends and family don’t read my blog posts much, but others whom I’m not even familiar with, find it interesting. Even people in over 75 other countries come here, I assume to check out rural living in the USA.

I suppose most people see blogs as a new kind of vanity press. I can see their point. Who cares about me and my life? But there are also over 18,000 visitors who have made over 40,000 views here. Who are they?

I’m sure some are simply nosy about the lives of others. Some may hope to someday move to a rural area and build a solar home. I’d sure LOVE to hear from any of you!

memoir-of-retirement-2016-largeThe reason I started this blog three years ago, and the reason I put together my new book was to document our experience in leaving suburbia for a quieter, more economical, rural experience in sunny southern Colorado. I have always had very good reasons for writing my books. Of course I also just enjoy writing. I find it helps me with my recent brain injury.

 

My thought process and intent:

We are doing something very different for us. After living in or near cities all of our lives, we are going rural. I wonder if others are thinking about doing something similar? Perhaps they might enjoy reading about one couples’ authentic experience. Perhaps they would like to know more about designing a home around passive solar heating. Maybe they would like to know how well passive solar heating can work. Reading about the experience of another might encourage others or convince them not to take such risks so late in life. Either way they could benefit from our experience.

cropped-sangre-de-cristos-in-spring1.jpg

We are so glad we took on all the risk and uncertainty, however if you asked me three years ago I might not have agreed. But now I can highly recommend leaving city life behind for the quiet, wildlife watching and pure beauty of living close to nature.

If you never take a risk, you will never know for certain how well it can work out! That’s our best lesson from our own retirement experience…

P.S. For whatever reasons you find to come here and read, THANKS!

To purchase your own signed copies of any of my books, or if you have other questions, please e-mail me at: MidlifeCrisisQueen@gmail.com.

Please follow me on Twitter too!

Air Pollution, Dementia and City Life

brain-cogsMore than 50 million people around the world live with dementia, but the causes of this disease that robs us of our memories and brain power, are not well understood. We received some bad news on this topic this week. As many as 11% of dementia cases in people living within 50 meters of a major road could be caused by pollution and/or traffic noise, a new study suggests. The researchers, who followed nearly 2 million people in Canada over eleven years, say air pollution or noisy traffic could be contributing to the brain’s decline.

power outage

This study, published in the Lancet, followed nearly two million people in the Canadian province of Ontario, between 2001 and 2012. There were 243,611 cases of dementia diagnosed during that time, but the risk was greatest in those living closest to major roads.

Compared with those living more than 300 meters away from a major road, the risk was 7% higher within 50 meters, 4% higher between 50-100 meters and 2% higher for those within 200 meters. Researchers adjusted their data to account for other risk factors like poverty, obesity, education levels and smoking so these are unlikely to explain the link.

Pollution particles ‘get into brain’

Dr Hong Chen, from Public Health Ontario, one of the report authors, said:

“Increasing population growth and urbanization have placed many people close to heavy traffic, and with widespread exposure to traffic and growing rates of dementia, even a modest effect from near-road exposure could pose a large public health burden…More research to understand this link is needed, particularly into the effects of different aspects of traffic, such as air pollutants and noise.” 

Add to this the fact that dementia is quickly becoming the leading cause of death, and it becomes harder to deny that living in polluted cities is killing us.

Many studies have focused on the impact of dirty air on the lungs and heart. In early 2016 the World Health Organisation warned that air pollution was leading to as many as three million premature deaths every year. Now, tiny particles of pollution have been discovered inside samples of brain tissue, providing the first evidence that minute particles of what is called magnetite from air pollution, find their way into our brains.

My initial response to this new research is dah! When I first heard about my own serious case of COPD last month, I said to the doctor, “Yes, I’ve had bronchitis in some of the most interesting places.” (Bangkok, Taipei, China, Venice…)

Asia is particularly dirty and I have spent far too much time living there. And Europe isn’t much better, but realistically, most of us breathe polluted air all of the time and somehow believe it isn’t affecting our health. Surprise! It all catches up with you sooner or later.

For decades I have had a personal appreciation of the American Lung Association’s tag line:   “When you can’t breathe, nothing else matters…”