Why I Started a LIVE Talk Show: *CHANGES* conversations between authors on Google+ Hangouts On Air (HOA) and YouTube

“Why I Started a LIVE Talk Show: CHANGES conversations between authors on Google+ Hangouts On Air (HOA) and YouTube”
originally posted on http://www.asidefromwriting.com on July 6, 2015

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In early April, 2014, I had just completed and uploaded Volume II, This Changes My Family and My Life Forever, of my science-fiction/romance/ multiverse/ utopian/ paranormal (psi) ebooks in The Spanners Series for adults, New and Young Adults, and joined two new writers’ groups in the East Bay (one in Berkeley and one in Hayward, California, where I had been living), when I was in a terrible accident. The resulting broken nose has been healing fine and didn’t require surgery; the concussion has proven to be a lot more problematic.

For several months, it was as if I were in a fog. I wasn’t allowed to do any serious computer work, reading or thinking (I had been about halfway through Volume III, This Is/Is Not the Way I Want Things to Change, when I got hurt). Since I couldn’t wear my glasses without causing myself enormous pain (glasses would be sitting on the broken nose, right?), and I was overwhelmingly aphasic, exhausted, confused and injured, unable to process much, the respite from writing, reading and working seemed necessary. The accident had also caused extreme damage to my arms, hands, shoulders and upper back, so keyboarding wasn’t all that feasible, anyway. Plus, when I did type, I made more errors than words, typed very slowly (usually over 100 WPM; then, about 40 WPM, with numerous mistakes).

However, once the enforced hiatus was over, I still couldn’t return to my regular life. My memory was horrible, both short- and long-term. I couldn’t find words, or the right words, to speak or write. I no longer sounded as if I were drunk, but I was still extremely slower and less able, all around, than I had been prior to the brain injury. I usually function in the top 10 percent of intellectuals, with an extremely large vocabulary and many types of intelligence. I had been fortunate, up until the accident, to be a wide reader of many subjects, with both formal and informal education beyond the doctoral level and a larger variety of knowledge, experiences and insights than most people. Post-concussion, I was barely above-average and often, not even that.

Before the injury to my brain, I had been writing my fiction series quite quickly, often exceeding 2,000 words per day. My creativity seemed boundless, my energy matching it. Volume I’s first draft had been completed in under two months, and it was over 130,000 words. I had developed a spreadsheet to record my (very brief) notes on my series’ dozens of human, animal and alien characters, multiple timelines, overlapping realities, historical and future events and people, but most of the series’ details and plans had been in my brain which had been injured to the point of being severely compromised.

In July of last year, I discovered all I could create were short, nonfiction blog and other posts, and it took “forever” to finalize each one, since I typed sentences that were riddled with errors. Each post needed to be proofread multiple times. I could barely read others’ blogs and reblog/share, almost couldn’t read short pieces/stories.

Yes, after a few months I was improving and could do these with increasingly better understanding, but I still couldn’t return to my fiction series. My “executive functions” and “working memory” were still extremely low-performing due to the post-concussion syndrome I had been diagnosed with in June.

I wasn’t well enough to return to my “regular” life of work or writing, but I was well enough to be bored. Luckily, I had discovered Google+ the previous year. During the winter and spring of 2014, I had been attending Hangouts On Air (HOAs) somewhat regularly.

After my accident, watching videos was about the only thing I could do, since reading, writing and other glass-wearing activities were excluded. I attended and participated (when that was allowed) in many HOAs by leaving comments, questions, and interactions with others also viewing or presenting, on topics ranging from books, book marketing, authors, writing, marketing, social media, spirituality/meditation and more. I watched most on Google+, but they were also archived so I could watch those I missed on YouTube, where I found even more entertaining, informative videos. (Find me on Google+ as Sally Sue Ember)

I got into watching one HOA in particular, Lights, Camera, HOA!, run by an excellent trio of women: Meloney Hall, Rayne Dowell and Sheila Strover.

After I attended a few shows, Rayne read Volume I of my series and reached out to invite me onto the show to learn more about being in/on a HOA. The entire reason for this show’s existence is to help newbies (like me) get comfortable with the HOA format and technology, both on- and off-camera. I LOVED it! What a great service this show provides. THANK YOU! https://plus.google.com/u/0/+Bigupticksociallightscamerahoa/about

As a former actor/performer, being “on camera” wasn’t hard for me. As a writer/author, being able to interact with viewers LIVE was so much better than having readers I almost never hear from or meet. I was hooked on HOAs and wanted my own. I learned everything I could in the next several months, wondering if I’d be able to manage my own show.

What could I have a HOA about, exactly? There were an infinite number of choices. By then, I had been interviewed on several radio shows online and submitted many “author interview” posts to others’ websites, so I was familiar with that format and was beginning to feel it was somewhat overused. Frankly, and no offense to the current website(!), I find most author interviews to be awfully repetitive and, well, boring.

I did NOT want to interview authors, but I wanted to meet more authors and talk about writing as well as many other interesting topics. By the end of July, four months post-injury, I still couldn’t write for my series, but I was able to talk better and listen very well. I decided to launch in August and to have a show that I would want to watch.

Since I wanted to be around other writers and hear about their experiences, hoping to be entertained and inspired until my own writing would (hopefully) be accessible to me again, I posted on Twitter, Facebook groups and in general, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Google+ communities to invite authors to be guests on CHANGES conversations between authors. I also ranged around to those sites that posted award winners in science-fiction, particularly, and invited many of those authors on my show as well.

CHANGES YouTube Image_3 best

The response has been more than gratifying. I welcomed Dr. Shay West as my first guest for my August 6, 2014, premier Episode, with several more super authors scheduled to be on subsequent shows. Since then, with a few planned and even fewer unplanned exceptions, I have had an Episode each week. The live show airs three or four times per month (with one week off, to rest) on Wednesdays, 10 – 11 AM Eastern time, USA, and TODAY, August 5, 2015, I air my one-year anniversary show!

Amazing authors have been guests on CHANGES (http://goo.gl/1dbkZV on my website for full schedule of past and upcoming guests). I have had guests who joined me live and/or hail from France, Spain, England, Scotland, Ireland, Germany, Canada, Israel, Guyana, and many states in the USA. The authors I have talked with enrich me weekly (and my viewers as well, I hope), writing in every fiction genre and including those who also write nonfiction, plays, screenplays and poetry.

Ethnically, my guests have been American mixed-Causasian, African-American, African-Jamaican, Spanish, English, Indian (continent, not tribe), Russian, Jewish, German, Norwegian, Israeli, Guyanan, Irish, and Greek (so far). Editors, publishers (magazine and book), and translators, with an age range, as of today, August 5, 2015, of 15 – 78 years old, are in my CHANGES guests club.

Our conversational topics list is too lengthy to include here, but has been exactly as I had planned: wide variety, high-level subject discussions that are informative, entertaining, insightful, funny and poignant. My guests and I share personal and professional stories, discuss books and writing, publishing and editing, book cover artists and much more.

I am quite happy to say that, as of August 5, 2015, CHANGES Episodes (now up to 37, http://goo.gl/1dbkZV on YouTube) have garnered audiences as large as over 1000 in one day, totalling over 3600 views, so far.

My YouTube channel went from having 2 to almost 50 subscribers. I now have over 3000 followers on Google+ and Facebook, each (although some are the same people, I’m sure), and over 5000 on Twitter. Pinterest followers’ number has quadrupled; so has LinkedIn’s.

I know these are small numbers compared to many, but I’m happy that my network is growing. We receive many compliments, positive comments and excellent questions for each CHANGES Episode from viewers who watch live or later, and more watch weekly.

Since starting CHANGES, I’m delighted to report that downloads of Volume I of my series, which is permafree since I uploaded Volume II (right before my accident), are steady. I do wish for better sales for Volume II, but I’ve heard a series has to have at least three books released “to really take off.”

What’s Next?
CROWDFUNDING to meet my Goals

—I wish to convert the *CHANGES* videocasts into podcasts, for those who prefer to listen-only, but the podcast hosting sites are not free.
—I also wish to pay for my next book covers,
—I need to buy better equipment for my home videocasts, and
—I must keep writing.

However, the concussion has severely limited my ability to work and I am in deep debt. If you’d like to help, http://www.patreon.com/sallyember has a video about my goals and rewards to donors in which I sing (really; not so well, but, hey; I’m not a professional singer!), and more information.

$4 gets you a free ebook; larger donations earn you deep discounts on professional editing, proofreading and writing tutor services, all of which can do well, despite the concussion.

Concussion Recovery News
As of May, 2015, I am back to writing new parts of Volumes III and IV! Slowly, much more laboriously, with an ongoing need for referrals to notes and dictionary, thesaurus and spell-check than remembering going on, but glad to be writing!

I wish I could open up my brain and retrieve the Spanners Series ideas that had been so accessible, so easily before the concussion and look them all over, but…

logoAuthorsDen

The network of authors, book bloggers, book marketers and other writers I have been developing over the last two years has blossomed into a group I can call upon for help, advice, and exchanges. That has proved amazingly gratifying as I trumpet my announcement, below, because many have stepped forward to play a role in this next phase.

Good news: I finished the Beta readers’ draft of Volume III, This Is/Is Not the Way I Want Things to Change, in late July! Five wonderful writers are reading it right now and will offer their sage wisdom on its improvements by late September. I then hope to be finished with the final proofed version no later than mid-October. I have already begun the cover design process with Aidana Willowraven, The Spanners Series‘ cover artist. The Cover Reveal is planned to occur on Alesha Escobar‘s site in late October. Pre-orders start 11/1/15 and the release of Volume III is scheduled for December 8, 2015!

Wish me luck!

How Else You Can Become Involved
Beta readers for upcoming draft of Volumes IV and reviewers of all Volumes welcomed! Contact me: sallyember@yahoo.com

Also, watch a few Episodes of CHANGES any time: http://goo.gl/6xjSKl Please comment on YouTube or go to the original G+ Event page for that Episode and comment/ask questions, get more info and links. I will respond!

Become/Refer a Guest! #Authors and #bloggers, especially those in sci-fi/speculative fiction, but not only those: learn more about and get yourself on CHANGES, and #Readers, recommend an #author to be scheduled as a guest.

OPENINGS 8/12/15 and later this fall! For more info, schedule and past/upcoming guests list, visit here: http://goo.gl/1dbkZV.

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Also, I’ve invited former guests and others I appreciate to Guest Blog on Wednesdays, with excellent posts, so far! Check out the Guest Bloggers’ Hall of Fame on my site (see below) for previous and upcoming posts.

I strongly suggest you check out others’ HOAs as well: there are some great shows out there in Google+ land! Two good places to find them (and another great G+ community, User2User: LIVE!):
https://plus.google.com/u/0/communities/101944073205735325459 for User2User-Live!
Http://www.hangouteventscalendar.com for the HOA Calendar

For updates about and links to available Volumes of The Spanners Series, me as an author, my own and guest blogger’s posts, Patreon and much more: http://www.sallyember.com has all links and info. Look up or to the right and scroll.


May all who are ill recover and all who are in pain find comfort.

Best to you all!

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#Classes I won’t be taking any time soon or at all

As a lifetime educator and someone who believes in being an autodidact as well as a formal student, having earned three degrees and many certificates, I could easily imagine myself taking a class or two some time in the future.

The Cognitive Rehabilitation therapist I worked with recently in my now more than year-long journey recovering from Post-Concussion Syndrome mentioned some research that indicated that the surest and fastest way to rebuild brain functions and regain memory is to learn something new.

Great! I love learning!

lifelong-learning
image from http://slworkshop.net

So, I perused the local listings for free or inexpensive classes, since I’m not economically able to fund expensive classes right now. Mostly, the offerings made me shake my head and laugh, which inspired me to write this post.

#Classes I won’t be taking any time soon or at all

  • Concealed Carry (CCW) Class
    “Complete the Missouri or Florida concealed carry permit training requirements in 1 day for only $90! This price includes EVERYTHING from course materials, gun rental, ammunition and range time. There are no extra charges!”

    As a nonviolent, anti-NRA, anti-guns, Buddhist meditator, I can say with certainty that this tops the list of classes I will NEVER take.

  • Learn the Secrets of Lasting Happiness and Success
    “In less than 4 hours, you will learn how to become the person you want to be in the place you want to be. Enter your details below and Circles University will email you an exclusive coupon to access this $149 course ABSOLUTELY FREE when it launches. Don’t miss this exclusive early bird offer available for a strictly limited time.”

    I actually went to the Circles University website just to see what it offered.

    Oh, my goodness. Egregiously New Age and otherwise misleading and awful stuff, there.

    PASS.

  • Deeper meaning of Zohar
    “Free Zohar ‘Crash Course.’ Book of Radience, Zohar. If you’re interested in The Zohar and everything it has to offer at a deeper level, we recommend starting with a beginner course in the fundamentals of Kabbalah. Courses are free, and are available for self-study and as live video classes.”

    I was born and raised Jewish but we never even talked about the Kaballah. The first time I heard about it was when I was in my thirties. I was friends with a former Catholic almost-nun (postulate who left the convent). She was interested in Jewish mysticism and thought to ask me about it. I stumbled and responded: “There is Jewish mysticism?”

    Soon, I was hearing about Hollywood and other celebs adopting/studying Jewish mysticism: it was competing with yoga as the new spiritual fad for a while. That really turned me off.

    Still turned off. Plus, Adam Sandler make a movie that used almost the name as “Zohar” (“Zohan”) for his weird character.

    Enough said.

    No, thanks.

  • Friday Night Bible Study + FREE Dinner
    “What we do: Start with dinner, sing songs, Bible study/discussions & end with dessert/ice cream. Who can come: All students & singles below the age of 30.”

    Even more than I dislike Jewish mystical subjects would be how much I despise the Bible, especially the “New Testament.” Can’t think of many things I’d rather NOT study, but add the Koran and the Bhagavad-Gita to round out the list of topics of study about which I am NOT spending any of my time learning.

    Luckily, for this one, I’m way too old. LOL.

  • Interested in a Mary Kay skin class” [sic]
    “I am selling Mary Kay
    “And I need 10 women or men too book a skin care class with me and learn something new about your skin [sic]
    “FREE
    “FUN
    “I can come too you or you can come too me [sic]
    “Also looking for people who are interested in learning about Mary Kay and becoming your own boss” [sic]

    I wish this woman would commit to taking an English class. I would tutor her for free. I would.

    I also hate everything to do with make-up (unless it’s for clowns, Hallowe’en, theater or movies), both using it and the entire industry that creates, researches, sells and supports make-up, so I’m clearly not her target audience.

    I kept looking.

    commit-yourself-to-lifelong-learning-source
    image from http://iusphcareers.wordpress.com

  • Make Glass Beads and Ornaments”
    “Learn the art of glass bead making [sic] or ornament production with individualized one on one classes [sic]. All supplies and materials included. You will be able to take home beads or ornaments from your first lesson on. $35 per hour. 18 and over only.”

    I like arts and crafts. I like glass. I’m clumsy and lack talent, but, hey: they didn’t stipulate to needing talent or grace.

    However, I don’t celebrate Christmas or have any use for ornaments, and I can’t think of more than one use I’d put glass beads to: as the filler in a vase, which I rarely use since I am not a fan of cut (dead) flowers.

    Skipping this class, too, although I’d love to know why one has to be over 18 to enroll: can this class possibly be X-rated???

  • Bartending: a recession-proof career”
    “Whether you are looking to supplement your income or as a career change, bartending is a recession-proof career where you will meet new people, have lots of fun, and earn great money!

    The Bartending Institute has been placing people behind bars since 1979.”

    While I appreciate the last pun and the unintentional truth-telling that surely is behind it, gotta say I hate the entire concept of selling, drinking or purveying alcohol. Always have.

    Even more, I intensely dislike being around people who are getting increasingly intoxicated, especially men. This aversion to being in the presence of imbibing leads to my dislike of weddings, wakes, graduation parties, office parties and most other mainstream gatherings.

    Sigh.

    Bartending is not something I will ever learn.

  • Become a GravOxy Fitness-Certified Rebounceologist

    I had never heard of any of this, but the jargon intrigued me and made me laugh. Also, sparked many questions:

    —Why is it “re”bounce and “re”bound?
    —What are they bouncing and bounding on FIRST?
    —Why is the certification to become a rebounce”ologist,” which means someone who studies “rebouncing,” rather than having finishers become certified teachers of “rebouncing”?

    I clicked on the listing.

    Oh, my.

    I provide, below, the definitions they offered: priceless. I especially like the capitalization choices and their claims of what constitutes a “science.”

    (By the way, aren’t gravity and evolution still listed as “theories”?)

    “‘Rebouncing uses acceleration, deceleration and gravity to strengthen
    every one of your cells simultaneously in a vertical plane. You cleanse your
    lymphatic system and triple your white blood cells in 2 minutes. No other
    fitness class embraces this energy! [“embraces this energy“?]

    Rebouncing offers an extensive range of health benefits that cannot be
    found in any other form of exercise. Rebouncing is also a comfortable and
    an engaging wellness option for children, seniors, special populations and
    sedentary individuals. However, not all Rebouncing techniques, or
    rebouncers (aka ‘rebounders‘) are equal and, unfortunately, there is a lack
    of instructor education. [What? Not all participants in the classes to become certified are equal, or not all who come to classes on rebouncing are equal? What group of people would be “equal”?]

    GravOxy Rebouncing is unique in that it incorporates the sciences of Gravity
    and Oxygen to maximize the effectiveness of workouts in a safe manner. Just
    as importantly, GravOxy Rebouncing can be used by any individual (from
    athletes to seniors), no matter the age or conditioning level.’ [What happened to the inequality concern?“]

    “Tuition for the certification is $450, which includes the instruction, all course materials and the complimentary use of a PROFESSIONAL-GRADE BELLICON REBOUNDER….”

    I went to their website to get a look at what this REBOUNDER actually looks like.

    gravoxyfitnessplatforms
    image from http://gravoxyfitness.com/gravoxy-fitness-platforms/

    Oh, no. That is NOT happening. Jumping on a tiny trampoline? Seriously? Not with MY body karma.

    No, thanks.


That’s my current list.

So far, so bad.

I will keep looking, but I’m not optimistic.

Am I too picky, am I not the target demographic (for ANYTHING?), or am I living in the wrong place? What about a MOOC [Massive Open Online Course]?

To be researched further…

keep-educating
image from http://buckslib.org

Linda Ronstadt’s Rendition of Desperado Burst my Grief Dam

Some of you know I that in April recently suffered a concussion and broken nose and am still recovering. The injury impacted my frontal lobe and deeper parts of my brain were also affected. One ongoing issue has been that, except for brief, mostly mild occurrences (often apropos of nothing), I have been unable to experience much beyond irritation or fatigue.

Mostly, I feel upbeat, sunnily similar, day after day. I’m not apathetic or depressed, but the variety of emotions I experience has been vastly curtailed, as have their intensity.

If you knew me before this, you’d be shocked by my lack of affect, particularly by my lack of sadness or other reactions to the series of shocking (to my life, system, and existence) events, Lemony Snicket -style, I have endured because of and directly after this accident, including a forced cross-country move in August.

About a week ago, during a discussion that became more of an argument with my son (a more frequent occurrence, he believes, since my fall), I heard him say how “different” I am, now, and I cried. Hard. That’s the first actual cry I had had in more than eight months.

To his surprise, I thanked him for upsetting me “enough.” I explained how important this was, that he and I had a strong enough connection that his criticism could penetrate my blandness, piercing all the way to the fear and loss beneath the façade. He was gallant and supportive (great young man).

Since then, I’ve been waiting for what I thought would be inevitable crying jags or other bouts of sadness, but nothing. Until yesterday, at the pool.

There I am, swimming laps in the “cold” pool next to the warmer “walking” pool, which was simultaneously having a water aerobics class to music. Usually I ignore the music, meditating and getting into the lap rhythm, glad when I can’t even hear it as my ears go beneath the water at every stroke. I was turning to go back for one last length when the strains of Linda Ronstadt’s cover of the Eagles’ Desperado pierced my meditative trance and got my attention, bringing my momentum to a dead stop, at the wall.

Linda Ronstadt’s Desperado in Atlanta, 1977

I stood up (luckily, this was the shallow end) and realized I was trembling. I listened to the song, transfixed by my reaction. I began to cry, then to sob. I happened to be in a corner of the aqua center that no one was inhabiting at the moment; two other lap swimmers continued, unaware of my sudden catharsis.

I let it happen. I could hardly have stopped it, anyway.

A kaleidoscope of images and concomitant emotions captured my inner eye: a young Linda juxtaposed with her now-Parkinson’s Disease-ridden, no-longer-singing older self; my former California cottages, in locations I sorely missed; my younger self and some of my former loves, particularly the ones this song reminded me of, unrequited (luckily, as it turns out, but heartbreaking, nonetheless); my former spiritual community’s center and its pond, also a place I missed tremendously; my spiritual teacher, whom I missed most of all. People, places, inchoate yearning and losses spun by, each one intensifying my sobs.

The dam had burst.

dam

My shoulders shaking and my face wet, I climbed out and began to make my way to the locker room. I hadn’t realized how much the silencing of Linda Ronstadt’s amazing voice had upset me and I was overcome by the magnitude of my heretofore unexpressed grief for the rest.

I had to stop walking because I couldn’t see through my tears. Leaning on the back of the water slide, hidden by its bulk from the exercisers, sobs took me over again. I felt grateful even amidst this onslaught, knowing this uncontrollable crying was a great sign of healing even as my knees buckled from the pain of my grief and loss. There wasn’t anyone walking by, so I could have my bawl without having to explain or have some well-meaning person try to quell it, erroneously believing that the cessation of my tears would be a better outcome.

I let them flow, heaving and shuddering until they subsided. As my feelings ebbed, I thought of how fortunate I am that mine are the types of injuries I am likely to recover from completely. Many are not so lucky.

I walked on shaky legs into the locker room, hiccuping and smiling. Having a wet face in that part of the locker room is unremarkable; even red eyes can be explained by being in the pool. I smiled murkily at a few fellow showerers and stepped into a stall.

As soon as I turned on the water, more tears came with the spray. “Good,” I thought. “Let ’em come.”

By my suffering and through my relief, may all beings benefit, becoming as healed and happy as possible.

For more information about Traumatic Brain Injuries, my experiences and research, check many other post on my blog: http://www.sallyember.com/blog

Linda Ronstadt’s Rendition of Desperado Burst my Grief Dam

Some of you know I that in April recently suffered a concussion and broken nose and am still recovering. The injury impacted my frontal lobe and deeper parts of my brain were also affected. One ongoing issue has been that, except for brief, mostly mild occurrences (often apropos of nothing), I have been unable to experience much beyond irritation or fatigue.

Mostly, I feel upbeat, sunnily similar, day after day. I’m not apathetic or depressed, but the variety of emotions I experience has been vastly curtailed, as have their intensity.

If you knew me before this, you’d be shocked by my lack of affect, particularly by my lack of sadness or other reactions to the series of shocking (to my life, system, and existence) events, Lemony Snicket -style, I have endured because of and directly after this accident, including a forced cross-country move in August.

About a week ago, during a discussion that became more of an argument with my son (a more frequent occurrence, he believes, since my fall), I heard him say how “different” I am, now, and I cried. Hard. That’s the first actual cry I had had in more than eight months.

To his surprise, I thanked him for upsetting me “enough.” I explained how important this was, that he and I had a strong enough connection that his criticism could penetrate my blandness, piercing all the way to the fear and loss beneath the façade. He was gallant and supportive (great young man).

Since then, I’ve been waiting for what I thought would be inevitable crying jags or other bouts of sadness, but nothing. Until yesterday, at the pool.

There I am, swimming laps in the “cold” pool next to the warmer “walking” pool, which was simultaneously having a water aerobics class to music. Usually I ignore the music, meditating and getting into the lap rhythm, glad when I can’t even hear it as my ears go beneath the water at every stroke. I was turning to go back for one last length when the strains of Linda Ronstadt’s cover of the Eagles’ Desperado pierced my meditative trance and got my attention, bringing my momentum to a dead stop, at the wall.

Linda Ronstadt’s Desperado in Atlanta, 1977

I stood up (luckily, this was the shallow end) and realized I was trembling. I listened to the song, transfixed by my reaction. I began to cry, then to sob. I happened to be in a corner of the aqua center that no one was inhabiting at the moment; two other lap swimmers continued, unaware of my sudden catharsis.

I let it happen. I could hardly have stopped it, anyway.

A kaleidoscope of images and concomitant emotions captured my inner eye: a young Linda juxtaposed with her now-Parkinson’s Disease-ridden, no-longer-singing older self; my former California cottages, in locations I sorely missed; my younger self and some of my former loves, particularly the ones this song reminded me of, unrequited (luckily, as it turns out, but heartbreaking, nonetheless); my former spiritual community’s center and its pond, also a place I missed tremendously; my spiritual teacher, whom I missed most of all. People, places, inchoate yearning and losses spun by, each one intensifying my sobs.

The dam had burst.

dam

My shoulders shaking and my face wet, I climbed out and began to make my way to the locker room. I hadn’t realized how much the silencing of Linda Ronstadt’s amazing voice had upset me and I was overcome by the magnitude of my heretofore unexpressed grief for the rest.

I had to stop walking because I couldn’t see through my tears. Leaning on the back of the water slide, hidden by its bulk from the exercisers, sobs took me over again. I felt grateful even amidst this onslaught, knowing this uncontrollable crying was a great sign of healing even as my knees buckled from the pain of my grief and loss. There wasn’t anyone walking by, so I could have my bawl without having to explain or have some well-meaning person try to quell it, erroneously believing that the cessation of my tears would be a better outcome.

I let them flow, heaving and shuddering until they subsided. As my feelings ebbed, I thought of how fortunate I am that mine are the types of injuries I am likely to recover from completely. Many are not so lucky.

I walked on shaky legs into the locker room, hiccuping and smiling. Having a wet face in that part of the locker room is unremarkable; even red eyes can be explained by being in the pool. I smiled murkily at a few fellow showerers and stepped into a stall.

As soon as I turned on the water, more tears came with the spray. “Good,” I thought. “Let ’em come.”

By my suffering and through my relief, may all beings benefit, becoming as healed and happy as possible.

For more information about Traumatic Brain Injuries, my experiences and research, check many other post on my blog: http://www.sallyember.com/blog

#Injuries to the #Mind, #Brain and #Psyche that Cause Difficulties with #Meditation

I have been noticing, since the fall that injured my brain via a #concussion in early April, that I have had unusual and unique (to me) difficulties with meditation (and life) ever since. Add to this several other “injuries” to my mind and psyche due to: disastrous #heartbreak; a difficult #move cross-country (i.e., getting rid of almost everything, going far away from my spiritual/ meditation teacher and spiritual community/ sangha to relocate to my childhood hometown); long-term, chronic #unemployment; disappointing #ebook sales (due to my having been incapacitated during key #marketing time after my accident); unexpected and painful changes to my #health; turning 60, which have led to my noticing many other problems with my #meditation practice in the last several months that I’ve never had before this (I’ve been meditating since 1972 and doing this practice since 1999).

I think, under these circumstances, which would put me over the top on any stressors test, I am doing quite well. However, I want to meditate, not just do well. Why does my mind keep skittering away from my focus when I try to meditate? What is happening in this brain/mind of mine? I have done many retreats, some as long as eleven weeks, and never had anything like these problems before. My talks with other meditators without brain injuries confirmed that only we injured seem to have these types of difficulties.

But, why? And, what to do about them?

I kept hearing this quote as I continued my attempts:

meditation better than nothing

I pray that this is true….

Since I am a life-long researcher and the internet provides endless opportunities for me to look for “answers,” I looked around for others’ stories, cautionary tales or suggestions. I wanted to find more injured meditators I could commiserate with or teachers who could offer me advice.

What did I find? See below.

Not surprisingly, when I looked for links between “stress” and “meditation,” I found millions of links (17,700,000) referring to the help that meditation provides us when we’re stressed. Meditation for stress reduction, managing stress, alleviating stress, etc., abound on the internet and elsewhere.

NOT ONE article or study to be found that discusses how stress impacts meditation. Really? Really.

Here was my “path”:
“Searches related to meditation problems life stressors” which then provided these other key word strings:

  • meditation for stress

  • meditation for stress relief

  • guided meditation for stress

  • meditation for stress and anxiety

  • meditation for stress management

  • meditation depression

  • meditation for stress or sudden shock

  • meditation for stress and anger

Frontal lobe meditation before and after

image from: http://www.paramyogaindia.wordpress.com

I also tried: “Searches related to impact of stress on meditation,” which yielded about 6 million results, but always in the reverse: how meditation helps with stress.

Okay. I must be going about this all wrong. I tried the verbal “OKAY GOOGLE” command and asked: “OKAY GOOGLE: Why am I having trouble meditating?”

I got 1,020,000 results, but these all revolved around problems “beginners” have with “monkey-mind,” or problems many have with setting aside time, being consistent, staying with meditation once they start, etc. I couldn’t look at all one million results, but the associated key word strings confirmed my suspicions: OKAY GOOGLE still did not understand my problem.

Google did offer other choices (some quite hilarious, under the circumstances):

“Searches related to why am I having trouble meditating”:

  • i am having trouble pooping

  • i am having trouble getting pregnant

  • i am having trouble sleeping at night

  • i am having trouble breathing

  • i am having trouble breathing and my chest hurts

  • i am having trouble swallowing

  • i am having trouble breathing deeply

  • i am having trouble logging into my facebook account

I even tried getting more specific with OKAY GOOGLE, asking: “Why does my concussion make it hard for me to meditate?” This query led me to even stranger associations than before, including recommendations for those with concussions to meditate to help heal from their concussions.

Huh?

I don’t know whether to be flattered or to cry when this also had my own article from my blog post in May as the number 3 listing among 11,000,000 results:

concussion | Sally Ember, Ed.D.

sallyember.com/tag/concussion/

May 2, 2014

If I’m one of the “experts,” here, we’re all in trouble.

Don't follow me I'm already lost

image from http:///funny-pictures.picphotos.net

So, I was going to give up on finding “help” but then I tried this search string: “research meditation frontal lobe injuries” and hit the jackpot.

First, this quote (unattributed) kept appearing: “Meditation is a frontal lobe activity,” which affected me deeply. My accident, for those who don’t know, involved my hitting a wall face-first, breaking my nose and impacting my forehead, behind which is the frontal lobe.

Here are some selected quotes from the best article I found, from the UK, that clarifies a lot about the functions of the frontal lobe, its effects on and participation in the activity of meditation, and many other aspects of my experience: very illuminating and helpful.

Case study on function of the frontal lobe

“The frontal lobes play a major role in the regulation of our emotions and behaviour as well as planning, decision making, social conduct, and executive functions. They are vulnerable to damage… [and] are thought to be our emotional control centre [sic; UK spelling] and home to our personality.”

“The frontal lobes are vulnerable to injury and damage due to their location at the front of the skull and their ample size. Magnetic Resonance Imaging studies have revealed that the frontal area is the most frequent region of damage following brain injury (Levin et al., 1987). Statistics show that there is no other component of the brain in which impairment can cause such a wide array of symptoms (Kolb and Wishaw, 1990).”

This began to intrigue me, especially the part about the “wide array of symptoms,” which I can attest to experiencing. Some of my “symptoms” have seemed to be unclearly connected to the concussion until I read more of this article.

“The frontal lobes are involved in problem solving, spontaneity, memory, language, initiation, judgement [sic; UK spelling], impulse control, social cognition (Benson, 1996) and sexual behaviour. Motor function is also seen to be controlled by the frontal lobes (Leonard et al., 1988).”

I have noticed my balance is off, my proprioceptors are off, my sense of security on my feet is reduced, but until I read this, I wasn’t sure if I was suffering from a bit of PTSD and wariness about falling again or actually having trouble. The latter, I believe now, is the case.

“Broca’s Aphasia has also been linked with frontal lobe damage (Brown, 1972). It is supported that frontal lobe damage has an effect on memory and attention (Stuss et al., 1985).”

Ding ding ding: points for all. Unfortunately.

“Mesulam (1986) pointed out from his studies, that some people who have suffered frontal lobe damage show impairments in their everyday life; however they show little or no impairment on clinical neurological assessment tests….[One injured patient was] unable to make decisions and plan…often unable to make simple everyday decisions, such as which toothpaste to buy, what restaurant to go to, or what to wear even after endless comparisons and contrasts Damasio (1985)….This may be characterised as a failure of future memory, the ability to encode delayed intentions, and act on those intentions when the appropriate time arrives.”

Usually I am extremely decisive. Even when there are complex factors, even when I feel ambivalence: before this accident and its injuries to my brain, I was considered a person others could rely on to make the choices they could or would not make. Since then, I have had hesitation, confusion, bewilderment, inability to weigh costs and benefits and many other unusual reactions to being asked to choose even the simplest things. Now I know the reasons for this befuddlement. Good.

“Interestingly, some patients who suffer from frontal lobe damage often do not show any defects on neuropsychological tests. However, when observed in unstructured real world settings, patients frequently demonstrate cognitive difficulties, neurobehavioral symptoms, and deficits in their executive functions.”

I would say, without a doubt, that the most severe deficit to my executive functions has been first my complete inability and then my reduced ability to meditate, since meditation has become the foundation for all the thinking, choosing and behaving in my life via values, personality and habit changes.

TBI as a puzzle

image from: http://www.brainline.org

I can see ways I’ve regressed since the accident and these are disturbing in deep and superficial ways. I’m more impatient, more quick to anger, easily provoked to sadness or hurt. I hide it from those close to me but take it out on customer service representatives of mega-corporations which happen to provide terrible service. Not proud of this at all.

“Studies have found high frontal lobe activation during meditation (Herzog et al, 1990; Lazer et al, 2000).”

IF I COULD MEDITATE, I would, also. I miss meditating so much. But, now I know a bit more about the reasons for my difficulties.

I hope this post and the rest of this article (link, below) help others in similar predicaments.

http://www.ukessays.com/essays/psychology/case-study-on-function-of-the-frontal-lobe-psychology-essay.php#ixzz3ClAyyWOc

Keep trying, keep going: got to believe it will improve.

I’m also going to see if I can talk (or video chat) with my meditation teacher some time soon. I need something.

A quote from Thich Nhat Hanh is what I plan to contemplate until my meditation practice gets back on track.

Thich Nhat Hanh quote