#Buddhist #meditation Mini-#Retreat at Home: Report from the Homefront

#Buddhist #meditation Mini-#Retreat at Home: Report from the Homefront

May 27 – May 30, 2016, all-day, four-day mini-retreat at home: YIPPEE! Did it! First one since my TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury)/concussion/broken nose/hurt eyes in April, 2014; first one in St. Louis. [I called it a “mini” retreat because I usually did at least three weeks’ and up to 11 weeks’ retreat, prior to this.]

I offer this post as a description and explanation for newbies and the curious, but I do not discuss the details of my practice with anyone but my teacher and fellow practitioners.

SCHEDULE:
A typical meditation schedule consists of Tüns (meditation/practice sessions) segmented by meals, breaks, exercise, sleep and personal hygiene time. When we do individual retreats, often we set our own schedules. I modeled this summer’s mini-retreat schedule mostly on the same schedules I followed while on individual retreats at the main meditation center (Rigdzin Ling in northern California), and at my residences in Silver City, New Mexico, and Santa Rosa, Sebastopol and Hayward, California, 1999 – 2014.

Home Mini-Retreat Schedule 2016

3:30 – 4:15 AM— Wake up, ablutions, etc.
4:15 – 5:30 AM— First Tün (meditation/practice session)
5:30 – 6 AM— Breakfast
6 – 10:30 AM— Second Tün (with two ten-minute breaks)
10:30 – 11 AM— Lunch
11 AM – 12 PM— Third Tün
12 – 1 PM— Nap (during first third, usually; see below). Otherwise, Fourth Tün
1 – 3 PM— Exercise (swimming/driving to and from) with moving meditation for 35 minutes while swimming
3 – 5 PM— Fourth/Fifth Tün
5 – 5:30 PM— Dinner
5:30 – 8 PM– Fifth/Sixth Tün (with one ten-minute break)

Total meditation time: about 11-12 hours/day, so about 40 hours (I ended before dinner on May 30).

LOCATION:
When I was fortunate enough to be at RZL, I often sat on a cliff overlooking a pond, river and mountains in the distance, above the main buildings of the center. For other types of practices, meditators prefer or must be indoors or even in a cave or place of complete isolation and darkness for most of the time.

Many people doing the dzogchen Tibetan Vajrayana practice of awareness (rigpa) meditation, trek chöd, as I do, prefer to sit where we have an unbroken view of the sky.

man sunrise meditatiion
NOT what my home retreat looked like at all, this year

There aren’t many cliffs and sky views near where I now live, in St. Louis, Missouri, USA, and I didn’t want to spend a lot of time driving to a spot at which there would be no food, no bathroom, no easy place for this mostly injured body to sit, and no place to swim. Hence, a home retreat. I could almost see the sky, sometimes. I could see trees, bushes, a street and parking lot. Didn’t matter at all. I wasn’t involved with any of it. We keep our eyes open for this type of meditation, but with a “soft focus,” not paying particular attention to anything while noticing everything.

living room retreat spot 2016
Where I did most of my sitting practice: on the living room couch, learning against these cushions on the left, looking out the glass doors of the patio/deck to the right.

WHAT WE DO and DO NOT DO:
We also hear, smell, feel everything. We are not “checked out,” if we are practicing successfully. We are fully awake while doing our practice, sitting in oneness—in awareness (rigpa, Tibetan)—as often as we are able. We return to this awareness every time our attention wanders. That is the practice of trek chöd (Tibetan), in the simplest terms.

For this type of meditation practice, in retreat, practitioners usually don’t recite mantras, pray (except at the beginning and end of each retreat or even each Tün, if we want), use our malas (Tibetan prayer beads on a string, predecessor of the Catholic’s rosary), chant, visualize, play ritual instruments, enact stories, light incense, fill/offer water bowls, open our shrines or speak. Our practice is stripped-down to sitting and breathing.

The entire retreat is usually conducted in strict silence, which means that we make no eye contact when we do encounter people and we do no talking, writing, reading, or any other communicating (when necessary, we use “functional speech” only). We put away and turn off all cell phones, computers, communication or writing/reading/viewing devices of all kinds. We don’t write letters or answer the phone unless we are in a longer retreat during which we must communicate with family, friends, colleagues, neighbors occasionally to reassure them we are all right or respond to something urgent.

When we are fortunate (and/or wealthy), we have someone to “serve” our retreat: they shop for, prepare and serve our meals, sometimes even cleaning up for us, leaving us free to meditate for more time each day. That is part of the wonderful service that active meditation centers often provide retreatants. Sometimes, though, during non-busy times, when I was at the center, I still had to cook and clean up after my own meals, but I didn’t have to shop.

For home retreats, I have to do it all myself. I manage that by cooking a great big pot of soup and another big amount of something I can dole out each day for my two main meals and then have something small (a bowl of cereal, e.g.) for dinner.

Eating lightly at night is important for me, anyway. During a sitting and silent retreat like this, unlike the more active ones, our appetites get smaller and smaller as the retreat progresses, so we need less food.

THE RETREAT COMMITMENT:
It is important to make a firm commitment to one’s retreat by scheduling the entire period in advance and sticking to it. It is also important to make a daily schedule and adhere to it. Many also maintain/take a vow of celibacy to maintain during retreat (no sex or sex acts); some do not.

We all abstain from intoxicants (recreational drugs, alcohol) during retreat. If we have taken Layperson’s Buddhist Vows (or Five Main Precepts), as I have, we also never get intoxicated/inebriated. I don’t drink or use drugs, anyway, but for many meditators, retreat boundaries include that they refrain from engaging in the use of these substances during retreat.

Even if we get sick, someone dies, and/or there are other seemingly significant events that occur, we strive not to break our retreat commitments. Unless it is to save our own or someone else’s life or involves getting medical care to restore our health so that we can practice better afterwards.

It is important to let our friends, family and neighbors know, especially if we are doing a home retreat, that we won’t be answering phones or responding to texts or emails, for example, during these times/these days so they don’t worry. That way, we prevent someone from getting “wrong view” about meditation/meditators (e.g., not understanding our commitment, they think we are rude, unkind, insensitive, unless we communicate to explain).

We do not waver from this commitment or break our silence for any reason. These commitments and guidelines are called “retreat boundaries.” At the risk of generating “static” and negativity for our next potential retreat, we do not leave the grounds of a closed retreat (the “cloister”) or end our retreat prematurely. Some teachers give dire warnings about practitioners’ breaking boundaries that will result in creating negative future retreat karma, but I don’t like responding to threats. I maintain commitments because I want to do it.

Making and keeping these commitments strengthen the practitioner’s practice foundation and create/maintain a strong “container” for successful meditation practice. I feel good when I keep my chosen boundaries.

This time (or for any other home retreats), I did not have a completely strict, cloistered retreat: just isn’t possible. I drive to and from the pool, shop on the the first day for food and cook when necessary (more often on longer retreats). I also responded to a few communications from people who didn’t know I was in retreat and/or to reschedule things I had forgotten to reschedule. But, mostly, I did keep the strict retreat boundaries and commitments.

THE RETREAT EXPERIENCE:
Buddhist teachers talk about the entire retreat’s span of time as being divided roughly into three parts: “getting in,” “being in” and “rising out.”

“Getting in” is the first third. During this, we acclimate to being on retreat, letting go (sometimes slowly, sometimes more readily) of our daily concerns, activities, personae, thoughts, obligations and settling in to the schedule.

We always “open” our retreat with setting our intention and reaffirming our motivation and with gratitude, with prayers and thanks to our teachers. Usually, other directions are given to us in advance by our teachers.

Sometimes, we make offerings and/or have a ritual feast and prayers (tsog). Sometimes we continue our daily practices for the first day or so. Sometimes we do some preparatory readings (from teachings, notes, books) to remind us of the practice we are about to engage in and how to approach it.

Frequently, a lot of tiredness manifests early in this first third. If so, it is recommended that we nap a lot, recovering from the stress and strife of our usual lives’ demands. The peace, quiet and low-key nature of retreat bring us to a recognition of how exhausted and depleted we have gotten. Extra sleep is then necessary to restore ourselves and to be able to practice better for the rest of the retreat.

The middle third is “being in.” By then, accustomed to the schedule, needing fewer or no naps, we are ready and eager to practice for each Tün. We know what we are doing, we are glad to be doing it, it’s working as well as it will. Depending upon how long this period is and how quickly we are able to dive in, we can get very deeply immersed or only partially, but this is the main part of our retreat’s practice time. Whatever signs of accomplishment we may get usually begin to show up in this portion.

The last third is “rising out.” Sometimes gradually, sometimes more quickly, our minds and bodies begin to leave the depths and rise to the surface, preparing us for returning to our daily lives. For longer retreats, we spend part of this time still in retreat and the last part of it again in practices of formal gratitude. We “close” on the last day with offerings and/or a ritual feast and prayers (tsog), and dedicate the merit (the blessings and benefits of our practice) to all beings.

For the last day/hours or so, we are actually not still in retreat, exactly, but beginning to engage again in the more “ordinary living” aspects (whatever we haven’t been doing and must return to, such as driving, doing laundry, talking/communicating again).

We often don’t realize how deeply we are “in” until we begin to “rise out.” When we have been in a strict retreat for more than a few days, this gradual “return to duties” is very important for safety and acclimating to ordinary life. Otherwise, we can get into serious trouble or even accidents if we go back too suddenly to our busy, complicated home lives and schedules.

WHAT’S NEXT?
We usually meet with our teachers during or after our retreats (when we are so lucky as to be able to do that), to “offer our retreat experience” to the Lama by telling him/her about our experiences, insights, possible signs of accomplishment and/or knowledge acquired/applied successfully. We also bring questions, problems, concerns and “stuckness” that occurred during our retreat to this same meeting (or whenever we next meet) so that we may request guidance and answers from our teachers.

Usually during these meetings or subsequent ones, we get instructions, guidance for the next period of our practice, assignments/options for reading and/or attending live or video teachings. We might even schedule our next retreat(s).

I didn’t get to meet with my teacher at the end of this retreat, but I did see him for a private interview just last month, so I feel very blessed.

HAVING A MEDITATION TEACHER:
Tibetan Buddhists stress the importance of meditating under the guidance of and with instruction from a qualified meditation teacher. I completely agree with this. It is not sufficient to talk with other meditators, read books, listen to teachings on video or audiotapes or in person and then put ourselves into retreat and get ourselves out and go back to our lives.

Without a teacher who is more experienced and qualified to teach and guide us to listen to our experiences and direct our practice, we are certainly running the risk of there being a lot we will miss, misunderstand, misinterpret or just plain get wrong.

There are many qualified teachers in many parts of the world, now. I have put live links to some of them, above, when listing my teachers or main center. There are listings of some centers in Buddhist magazines, websites and other places online.

If you are not lucky enough to have found a teacher with whom you work well or you don’t live close enough to any teachers or centers who host visiting teachers, keep looking/trying. It is well worth the effort.

Where are the Buddhists Around Here?
There are several centers who host qualified teachers in the St. Louis area and throughout the Midwest, of all Buddhist traditions. Very close to where I now live is a Tibetan Buddhist practice group that includes some people who have met some of my own teachers and who use some of the same practice texts that I do. There are two others groups that are “cousins” to my lineages/practices and some of those people have also met some of my teachers and share some practices with mine. Khentrul Lodrö T’hayé Rinpoche‘s main center, Katag Chöling, is about a six-hour drive from here, in Arkansas. These are listed, below:

Blue Lotus Dharma Center somewhat eclectic, mixed Tibetan Vajrayana and Chan (Chinese Zen) practices Blue Lotus Dharma Center
Do Ngak Chöling Tibetan Nyingma Vajrayana Buddhism http://dongakcholing.org/
Katag Chöling Khentrul Lodrö T’hayé Rinpoche‘s main center, https://katogcholing.com
Kagyu Droden Kunchab—Saint Louis, Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism, http://www.kdkstl.org

MY TEACHERS:
I am beyond-words grateful to my teachers.

Lama Drimed
My beloved Buddhist teacher, Lama Padma Drimed Norbu (Lama Drimed), about 2012

Whatever I was able to accomplish from this mini-retreat or any other part of my practice was entirely due to the blessings, teachings, support and care from my dear teachers, particularly Lama Drimed and the late H.E. Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche (photos above and below), as well as my mom (in whose home I now live), other Lamas, especially Lama Shenphen Drolma and Khentrul Lodrö T’hayé Rinpoche, and sangha (spiritual community of fellow practitioners scattered now around the world) of meditating sisters and brothers: THANKS to you all!

Chagdud Rinpoche
the late His Eminence Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche, my first empowering lama and my teacher’s teacher, about 2001, and his Yangshi (designated and recognized reincarnation), about 2013

I dedicate the merit (benefits) of my retreat to all beings.

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Advocacy, Entitlement and Knowing When to Complain: The Rights of Poor People

Advocacy, Entitlement and Knowing When to Complain: The Rights of Poor People

If you are new to this blog, you may not know that I was in an accident about two years ago that resulted in a broken nose and concussion as well as other injuries. The concussion was not one of the “good” kind, meaning, I have still not completely recovered.

This deterioration in my health caused me to run through my savings and unemployment benefits in California and have to rely on others. Finally, I am privileged to benefit from my mother’s having space and a generous heart, allowing me to move in with her in St. Louis about 18 months ago.

Missouri, however, is not a great place to live if you are indigent. This post is the third in a series about my experiences here. This third one is on poor people’s rights. The second was on food for indigent people in Missouri (published February 16, 2016, http://wp.me/p2bP0n-1BL). The first one was on health care (published February 9, 2016, http://wp.me/p2bP0n-1By).

This post is important because it looks at the underlying issues that make a difficult situation (being poor) worse or better for each person. The intersections of perceived or claimed race/ethnicity, perceived or claimed gender, perceived or claimed social class, perceived or claimed age, home/best language, physical and mental health and (dis)abilities, perceived or claimed religion, perceived or claimed sexual orientation, and economic status in the city of St. Louis, Missouri, USA, in the mid-20teens, can adversely influence, improve or neutrally affect one’s experiences every moment.

“Intersectionality” is an important part of understanding how poverty impacts each person and family differently. Therefore, in this series, I need to bring in the politics of social identity. We all have to learn to address these overlapping oppressions and unfair treatments to help ourselves understand how everything is NOT actually “equal” regardless of the similarities in two people’s incomes.

intersectionality
Intersectionality includes all of these components of one’s social identity.

It’s not “all good.”

It doesn’t have to be this way.

It ISN’T what it IS “naturally”: people and then institutions run by people make things this way and create/perpetuate systems that keep them this way.

Missouri is one of the worst places to be if you’re poor, but it’s not even the worst by any standards. Your experience all depends on the other components of your social identity. If you’re believed to be a white male, seemingly in good health and able-bodied, perceived to be heterosexual, assumed to be Christian, speaking mid-Western-accented English like a native, have at least some college education and otherwise seeming to be a USA “mainstream” guy between the ages of 25 – 65, you are going to be much better treated and fare better even when you’re poor than if you do not claim or cannot pull off having others believe you have all or any of those social identities.

If you’re also not a felon, have a place to live (a legal address) and (the use of) a car, you’re probably not going to be poor for very long.

Unless you’re obese. Unless you’re smelly. Unless you’re an addict. Unless you’re perceived to be “not one of us” in whatever way “us” is defined: then, you’re in some trouble. But, even with those cards stacked against you, as a poor assumed-to-be-white & -Christian with some education who speaks adequate English and can pass for straight and male and under age 65, you’re still going to be better off than anyone who isn’t.

no isms allowed

Change one aspect—gender—and things automatically get much worse. Change two—ethnicity/race and gender—and you’re doomed.

Check this out, from Everyday Feminism, June 20, 2015 by Carmen Rios “These 5 Statistics Prove That We’re Feminizing Poverty (And Keeping Women Down in the Process)” http://everydayfeminism.com/2015/06/feminizing-poverty/
— “Despite the overall poverty rate declining in America, 18 million women remain below the poverty line.”
—“Women are poorer than men in every state, regardless of education or geographic location. And for women of color, elderly women, and LGBTQIA+ women, it’s even worse.”
—“The poverty rate for Native American, Black, and Latina women is almost double the poverty rate for white women.”
—“For women, and especially women of color, the fight to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 or $15 is very personal—and could be the difference, for them, between barely surviving and finally thriving.”
—“…over a lifetime, women lose an average of $434,000 to the wage gap.”
—“One of the most important aspects of intersectional feminism is the understanding that when we fight for the most marginalized women, we liberate all women along with them.”

And, from other sources (see below) that add in education and other factors to race/ethnicity and gender with income levels:
—“White households take home between $10,000 to $20,000 more per year than their Black counterparts in every age bracket”
—“Enrollment in ‘high poverty’ schools for Black children is 41 percent, 38 percent for Hispanic children, 31 percent for American Indian/Alaska Native and a mere six percent for Whites.”
—“Even when Black and minority children attend mixed schools, they are more likely to be tracked into remedial or basic classes while their White counterparts take advanced, honors level courses.”
—“70 percent of students arrested or referred to law enforcement for school-related infractions were Black or Latino.”
—“While people of color only comprise about 30 percent of the US population, they account for 60 percent of those imprisoned.”
—“There is no such thing as unbiased, unpolitical education.”
—“People with ‘Black’ or ‘ethnic-sounding’ names are less likely to get callbacks for interviews.”
—“Blacks are more likely to be born into poverty and are less likely to escape it.”
—“Whites are 2-3 times more likely to make it into the middle class in their lifetimes compared to their black counterparts.”

poverty-is-violence
from http://iamarevolutionary.wordpress.com
Poverty IS violence. It has to stop.

Find a well-vetted nonprofit that advocates and works to end poverty and understands intersectionality and contribute, volunteer, blog about their work! Here is one: http://www.results.org/

Good news! We made this mess; we can clean it up.

Mandela quote about poverty
Nelson Mandela, Audre Lorde, Martin Luther King, Jr., Angela Davis, Gloria Steinem and so many more have spoken out about the nature of the human-made elements of our social and political systems and the oppressions they systematize.

WE are the ones who must advocate, complain, recognize that we are entitled to better and that so is everyone else, and ACT!

—Do not sit by and watch passively when others are mistreated, disrespected, unfairly scheduled or managed, especially when you are in any position of better privilege: it is your DUTY to advocate whenever you are able.
—Write letters, blog, make phone calls, picket, march, show up and let those in power know you are not satisfied with the “status quo.” Be specific.
—VOTE! It is your DUTY and responsibility as a USA citizen who can vote (if you are one) to use that right in EVERY election. It is the LOCAL elections that most affect people who live near you, and regional and state office holders who make laws that affect us all. Federal elections matter, too, but not as obviously or as immediately.

WIN_20141104_095753 I VOTE! And, as of early March, I am working as a election-day supervisor at a local polling place!

—THEREFORE, do not ignore bond issues, council and mayoral elections, county positions, state office holders’ elections and only vote on presidential ballots. ALL VOTES MATTER!

Want to know more? Have a read:

From October, 2015, inGenere.it: “Intersectionality. Putting together
things that are often kept apart” by Jeff Hearn
http://www.ingenere.it/en/articles/intersectionality-putting-together-things-are-often-kept-apart

From February, 2015, NPR: “Study: Black Girls Are Being Pushed Out of School” by Karen Grigsby Bates
http://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2015/02/13/384005652/study-black-girls-are-being-pushed-out-of-school

From February, 2015, the the Frisky: “18 Things White America Needs To Reconcile To Truly Become Colorblind” by Tiffanie Drayton
http://www.thefrisky.com/2015-02-26/18-things-white-america-needs-to-reconcile-to-truly-become-colorblind/

If you appreciated this series, please reblog/share it, comment, ask to be a guest blogger and contribute your own point of view or write on a related topic: http://www.sallyember.com

This third post was on advocacy and intersectionality (published on February 23, 2016, http://wp.me/p2bP0n-1C2).
The second was on food for indigent people in Missouri (published February 16, 2016, http://wp.me/p2bP0n-1BL).
The first one was on health care (published February 9, 2016, http://wp.me/p2bP0n-1By).

Food Stamps and Food Issues for Poor People in St. Louis

Food Stamps (SNAP, EBT) and Food Issues for Poor People in St. Louis

If you are new to this blog, you may not know that I was in an accident about two years ago that resulted in a broken nose and concussion as well as other injuries. The concussion was not one of the “good” kind, meaning, I have still not completely recovered.

This deterioration in my health caused me to run through my savings and unemployment benefits in California and have to rely on others. Finally, I am privileged to benefit from my mother’s having space and a generous heart, allowing me to move in with her in St. Louis about 18 months ago.

Missouri, however, is not a great place to live if you are indigent. This post is the second in a series about my experiences here. This one is on food for indigent people in Missouri. The first one was on health care (published February 9, 2016, http://wp.me/p2bP0n-1By).

This post is about the government-subsidized “food support,” formerly called “Food Stamps,” now called “SNAP” for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

snaplogo

What makes Missouri so bad for poor people? For one thing, this state is very Republican-dominated. Despite many of the speeches given by congressional and senatorial representatives from this party, their votes speak loudly: they keep lowering the amounts poor people can receive in all types of assistance and have repeatedly voted to reduce food support. This state also still calls its program “Food Stamps,” but adds “SNAP” so people will know what it is. http://dss.mo.gov/fsd/fstamp/

Missouri’s unfortunate and lethal combination of machismo, arrogance, obstinacy and ignorance have caused millions of Missourians who cannot afford to buy sufficient amounts or types of food for themselves and/or their children to go without food, especially near the end of each month’s benefits period (the food money runs out). Not only are the benefits woefully and abysmally low, even at their highest levels, they arrive in one lump at the beginning of each monthly period. Even the best budgeters can’t make insufficient funds last throughout a month.

“Missouri is among states where legislators this year have considered bills that would curb welfare benefits” and continues to demonstrate its disdain for the poor, blaming the victims and putting economic pressure on the weakest of us to try to shore up the state’s failing budget. The Democratic Governor, Jay Nixon, vetoes these bills, but then the “representatives” usually have the votes to override his vetoes. On it goes, this heinous battle for who can sink the lowest first. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/05/04/missouri-welfare-restrict_n_7209458.html

Missouri and other state SNAP programs are now in the computer age. SNAP currently issues a debit-type card to recipients which is an EBT (Electronic Benefits Transfer) unit that looks a lot like any other debit card. I’m sure this has alleviated a lot of the embarrassment many users had previously felt when producing their pink paper food stamps at the grocery check-out line. Now, we kind of “blend in,” putting our card through the same reader everyone who uses credit or debit cards uses to make our payments.

SNAP to health
from http://www.snaptohealth.org

Except when we don’t. Most times, even when I tell the register operator that I am using an EBT for SNAP, they punch in the wrong codes and it doesn’t work. Or, they do it correctly, but neither of us knows exactly how much the receipt total will be for until the card is used (SNAP card users get to avoid paying the tax on food that others pay). Worse, there is no way prior to being in the check-out process for a user to know exactly how much is left on the EBT to use.

Here is a typical process for me.
—I get in line (can’t use the self-service machines for EBT/SNAP)
—I put my food on the conveyor
—I get to the card reader while the register operator is still scanning my food so that I am sure to mention to him/her that I am using SNAP
—S/he nods or otherwise acknowledges that I told him/her this (important to get confirmation: they often do not hear me or don’t know what I mean)
—I put my EBT card through the reader.
Hopefully, it reads my card correctly (doesn’t always) and
—I press the right buttons (always confusing, since the buttons are arranged differently in every card reader I’ve seen, so far: not always using the same colors designating the choices or putting the choices in the same position)
—We get to the end of the food scanning
—S/he presses whatever buttons (not always correctly) to accept my EBT card as payment
—I either do or do not have sufficient funds on the card to pay for this amount of food (which I only know at this point)
—If so, we proceed and I am done
—If not, we have to start over with the reader, putting only the amount I actually have into the register operator’s process to take only that amount from my EBT
—Then I have a choice: pay in cash or use a debit card (if I have the funds) for the rest, or put the rest of the food back/don’t take it home.

I think it’s obvious that this process is not quick, or at least, not as quick as using cash or a debit/ credit card. When the lines are long, I dread getting into one because these “delays” cause impatience to arise in those in line behind me. I have a fairly thick skin, so to speak, so I don’t care about how impatient people are. We all have to wait, sometimes.

However, others do care about others’ opinions, so it makes many SNAP users anxious to go through the check-out process, as you can well imagine. Many times, when I was more flush, I gave the SNAP users in lines ahead of me some money when their EBT cards were shown to carry insufficient amounts for the entire purchase and the users clearly didn’t have any cash or funds to cover the rest of the food.

Confession: I was less likely to offer money when the purchases of the SNAP user seemed “frivolous” or “junky” to me. Awful judgment call on my part and really, none of my business. But, at the time, I felt quite high-and-mighty, telling myself I was “doing them and their kids a favor” if they didn’t get to bring home that sugary or salty treat. Why, I wonder now, does anyone believe we suddenly have the right or ethical duty to pass judgment on someone’s food purchases simply because they’re poor? We leave all the horrible choices of the middle- and upper-class to themselves, so why do we believe we are entitled to assess those of the poorest among us?

News flash; poor people are not stupider, less informed, less competent or any other judgment the better-off can levy just by being currently without enough money. Money does NOT make anyone smarter, more informed, competent or anything else, automatically. We all know plenty of wealthier people without a clue, don’t we?

In other horrible news, SNAP makes us “re-qualify” every year even if our benefits are for a two-year period. This means recipients are able to be—and, in my case, I was—penalized if we earn even a little bit of money. My SNAP benefits were reduced by half (and were insufficient to begin with) when I reported that I had earned some income from freelance proofreading/editing and doing occasional childcare, even though the total earned was less than $1000/month and more often, not even half that. Look at the chart below for how low these monthly benefits are for an entire month and picture this: you have ONLY this amount to pay for all food for 4.3 weeks (30 – 31 days):

Family size: 1 2 3 4

Maximum benefit level: $155 $284 $408 $518

So, if you’re math-impaired, consider these actual figures:
—the individual SNAP allotment comes to about $36/week, or $5.14/day per individual.
—For a family of two, it comes to $33/week/person, not even $4.70/day, which is LESS per week than if you’re on your own.
—For a family of three, usually one parent and two children, they get only $32/week/person, which is $4.53/day per person!
The larger the family, the less the family gets per person.

What is the logic, here? That kids eat less than adults? Incorrect, unless they’re under 7 years old.

Or, maybe they live in a fairy-tale land, in which they believe larger families can buy “in bulk.” Well, that only works if a family has enough money in hand to purchase the larger amount of chicken or rice or beans, which they often would not have, since the total amount provided by SNAP and workers’ wages is insufficient. When a family doesn’t have enough money to buy food, how can anyone buy MORE food per grocery visit?

Doesn’t work.

Over the last 2 years of my own experiences as a poorer person but one who has many resources others do not have (a great and safe place to live, family members to help me, a car, higher education and advocacy skills, among the best) and seeing these SNAP figures, above, I understand the motivation that spurs poorer people to become criminals just to make ends meet. Why the hell not?

I’m not advocating a life of crime, but I certainly can empathize the reasoning better, now.

When our government fails to support those in the most need, what are the needy supposed to do?

Meanwhile, some help is better than none. How can people get fed, then?
—If a family has young children or the mother is pregnant, that mom and kids can also get further food support (very restricted, but food and juice, nonetheless) from WIC (Women and Infant Care) and (minimal) cash from TANF (Temporary Aid to Need Families, formerly known as “welfare”).
—If one is disabled and/or a senior, one can get Social Security disability and/or retirement benefits to supplement these paltry SNAP monthly allotments.

For basic SNAP information and links to your state’s SNAP website: http://www.fns.usda.gov/snap/supplemental-nutrition-assistance-program-snap

Good news! Many health food stores, farmers’ markets and alternative grocery stores now accept SNAP.

we accept SNAP

However, the poorer among us face an entirely different problem that I personally don’t experience (that good fortune is due to my being able to live with my mom). Those who live in “high-poverty” areas now often inhabit regions that have become what are known as “food deserts”: because the larger chains and independent grocery stores refuse to locate or stay in these neighborhoods, there is literally nowhere to go grocery shopping. If you live in a “food desert,” you are screwed. Bad enough that you already have less means (no car, no money for gas), horribly skimpy SNAP funds and little time (those who do have jobs work hourly and must show up on time and leave when they’re scheduled to leave, period). You now are somehow also supposed to travel great distances (often when there is no viable public or any public transportation, so how are you going to accomplish that?) to get to a decent, fairly priced grocery store or to get anywhere that sells any fresh food at all.

People who live in “food deserts” can sometimes purchase food that is close to where they live, but it is usually from “convenience” stores or gas stations’ stores. Their “food shelves” and “hot bars” are typically stocked with low-nutrition, high-fat, high-sodium, high-sugar, deep-fried or microwavable, high in “empty” (simple) carbs, over-priced options only: no fresh fruit, no fresh vegetables, not much good protein, almost no complex carbs and very few choices that are even close to being healthy.

YOU might be able to help change this! https://www.dosomething.org/facts/11-facts-about-food-deserts Help populate “food deserts” with good food sources and/or bring better public transportation to these areas.

And, just when you thought things couldn’t get much worse, now it’s 2016. SNAP recipients between ages 18 – 49 stand to lose what little SNAP benefits we do get if we aren’t working “sufficiently,” but more of us than ever still need SNAP and many cannot work or work “sufficiently.”

Want to know more? Have a read:

From January, 2016, Cleveland.com: “Over 1 million face loss of food stamps over work requirements”
http://www.cleveland.com/nation/index.ssf/2016/01/over_1_million_face_loss_of_fo.html

From January, 2016, American Enterprise Institute: “Are SNAP benefits really too low?” by Angela Rachidi
https://www.aei.org/publication/are-snap-benefits-really-too-low/

From February, 2016, the Times-Picayune of Greater New Orleans: “Despite ‘recovery,’ more Americans using food stamps, at a higher cost”
http://www.nola.com/politics/index.ssf/2016/02/despite_recovery_more_american.html

Next in this series, February 23, 2016: Advocacy, Entitlement and Knowing When to Complain: The Rights of Poor People http://wp.me/p2bP0n-1C2

This second is on food for indigent people in Missouri, published on February 16, 2016, http://wp.me/p2bP0n-1BL.
The first one is on health care, published on February 9, 2016, http://wp.me/p2bP0n-1By.
The third post is/was on advocacy and intersectionality, (to be) published on February 23, 2016, http://wp.me/p2bP0n-1C2.

My Experiences with being Indigent in Missouri: County/Federally Funded Clinics

My Experiences with being Indigent in Missouri: County/Federally Funded Clinics

If you are new to this blog, you may not know that I was in an accident almost two years ago that resulted in a broken nose and concussion as well as other injuries. The concussion was not one of the “good” kind, meaning, I have still not completely recovered.

This deterioration in my health caused me to run through my savings and unemployment benefits in California and have to rely on others. Finally, I am privileged to benefit from my mother’s having space and a generous heart, allowing me to move in with her in St. Louis about 18 months ago.

Missouri, however, is not a great place to live if you are indigent. This post is the first in a series about my experiences here. This one is on health care for indigent people in Missouri.

What makes Missouri so bad for poor people? For one thing, this state is very Republican-dominated. Among other horrors, this means its idiotic legislature refused to approve the expansion of Medicaid in 2013, 2014, 2015 or 2016 for the new USA health care systems (Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare”) that some other states, like California, were smart enough to utilize.

Missouri’s unfortunate and lethal combination of machismo, arrogance, obstinacy and ignorance have caused millions of Missourians who cannot afford even the minimal payments (over $200/month plus co-pays, for me) to be without any health care or insurance if we are not over 65 and/or disabled or under 18, because these the only groups Medicaid and Medicare cover in Missouri at this time.

St. Louis is somewhat Democratically dominated, which means some of its legislators and leaders applied for and received federal and state funds to create a health insurance “work-around,” called “Gateway to Better Health.” https://www.stlgbh.com/programoverview

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They are quick to tell us that this is NOT an insurance plan because it is not “portable” excerpt for emergencies, and even then, not so much. What it does do is entitle its few qualified users to avail ourselves of its paltry network of federally qualified health care clinics located within St. Louis County and surrounds.

The closest clinics in these networks to where my mom lives are minimally (with no traffic) about a 30-minute drive in any of three directions, and only one houses the pharmacy (the furthest one, of course). I chose the one that was “closest,” which is about 28 minutes from our condo. It is in Ferguson.

Yes. That Ferguson.

Despite having been only a few months since the demonstrations, riots and protests surrounding the murder and announcement of the appalling lack of indictment of the murderer of Michael Brown, I decided to utilize this clinic solely because of its location. However, I didn’t understand until I got there that Ferguson is very spread-out, geographically. This clinic is not located close to the site of any of the disturbances. Even so, this clinic has an unarmed (at least, no visible gun) guard. I found out later that all the clinics have guards; the pharmacy has two.

Prior to this set of experiences, my only contact with federally qualified health care clinics had been as a volunteer reception clerk/translator for the Jewish Community Free Clinic in Sonoma County (no guards) in the mid-2000’s which served many farmworkers and other newly arrived immigrants with little English and no health insurance, and as a co-writer of a grant to start a regional clinic in southwestern New Mexico in the early 2000s (which was funded and is still running but which I never visited because I moved to California before it opened). I had never been a patient in such a clinic before 2014.

Here are some of my experiences as a patient, 2014 – 2016, in the Betty Jean Kerr People’s Health Center on West Florissant, in the city of Ferguson, and the main BJK PHC clinic in St. Louis city on Delmar Boulevard (to access the pharmacy). http://www.phcenters.org/

Some are positive, many negative, some neutral.

Let me start by saying I am grateful for many aspects of this stop-gap health care coverage (NOT insurance), such as:
—- to have access to three necessary prescription medications at no or low-cost (the BJK PHC pharmacy does not carry my alternative thyroid medicine, even though CVS does)
—- to have a clinic to go to when I need to check on my health status for chronic conditions (hypertension, hypothyroid)
— to have regular blood work done and reviewed to make sure my medications are the right dosage and are working (hypertension, hypothyroid; very nice and competent phlebotomists whom I found out are NOT clinic employees but located on site from another agency; the internist never discusses my results with me at the time and rarely provides any follow-up from these results until three months later, so what is the point of that?)
— to get a referral from my “primary care doctor” (whom I saw four times, then switched away from because he was awful) to a neurologist to continue my care and get further diagnoses/prognoses for the after-effects of the concussion/Traumatic Brain Injury (very useful)
— to have another colonoscopy procedure (I turned 60 in 2014, and since my grandmother had died of colon cancer, I was supposed to have had my second check-up last year but had missed it due to having moved and having had no health care for a while) (thankfully, clear)
— to have a biannual mammogram (thankfully, clear, but the technician was rough with me and cut my skin which caused a stubborn infection that took months to heal)
— to have a triannual pap smear and gynecological check-up (thankfully, all clear as well, but with an awful ob/gyn who insulted me and treated me disrespectfully; won’t be seeing her again; see below)
— to have a dental check-up and cleaning (thankfully, no problems) up to twice a year (I have gone twice but the second visit was horrendous and did not result in my having services; see below)
— to have a clinic to go to when I need to check on my health status for acute conditions (which I haven’t done and probably would not use it for, since I use homeopathics and herbs for most viruses and infections).

Here is the main problem: this clinic (and probably many others like it) are health care “mills.” They get reimbursed for procedures, not time. If doctors order blood work, diagnostics that require machines or surgery to provide the data for the diagnoses, like urinalysis, the clinic gets paid for each component. If they just talk to a patient, very little money comes to them.

So, guess what?

These doctors order a lot of unnecessary diagnostics:
annual X-rays for dental patients even when we don’t need or want them and national and regional guidelines do NOT recommend having X-rays every year any more for anyone without serious dental problems that require them (I do not have any serious problems, luckily); they would not give me an exam, a cleaning or a polishing of my teeth because I refused to allow X-rays 12 months after the first set were done
blood work every three months to “qualify” me for my prescriptions even though the results are NOT used to determine whether I receive them nor what dosage to provide for me; I cannot get my prescriptions refilled unless I submit to these blood tests
urinalysis every three months even though I have no symptoms and have had none for problems that these diagnostic could analyze and I never hear about the results then or later; however, patients are not allowed to use the urinalysis rest room while still in the waiting area, and because many of us need to use the rest room while we are waiting for our appointments (which are never on time), we therefore, can’t provide a usable sample by the time we are called
annual mammogram (which I will not do that frequently, since biannual or triannual are now recommended for my age group and health status) and annual pap smear (ditto) when national and global guidelines do NOT recommend doing these so often for any women without history of cancer
X-rays for muscular problems which show nothing, since X-rays cannot show muscles well; my former internist insisted I get an X-ray prior to getting any other diagnostics when I told him I was having pain in the muscles and nerves of one hip; my bones are fine and have been for many decades, but he wouldn’t listen to my patient-provided information at all (another reason I ditched him); then he “forgot” to order the other diagnostics for six more months (two more visits; another reason I switched internists last fall)

Is it relevant or irrelevant that I was one of only two Caucasian-looking people in the entire clinic— staff and patients included—for all of my 10 visits, to date? FYI, the actual population of St. Louis County, demographically (2010 and updated census) is: 70% “White,” 24% “Black,” about 4% “Asian,” 3% “Hispanic,” and about 1% “other.”

How significant is it that I have to wait more than 20 minutes every time I go, even when my appointment is supposedly the first one scheduled? For about 5 minutes or fewer per visit with my internist, I have to be at the clinic for over 2 hours, mostly waiting: between blood work and being seen, urinalysis and being seen, nurses checking my vitals and being seen, etc. Who, besides those who are under- or unemployed or on salary (and wouldn’t be here, then) has time for this insult to our value?

The doctors I have seen are almost without exception disrespectful to the patients: they don’t listen to or regard the information I provide with careful consideration.

For example, even when I told him I had no interest in getting any unnecessary medications, even for pain, this internist insisted on putting unnecessary and unwanted prescriptions into my record and making those recommendations in a print-out they gave me after each visit (which I did not fill).

Worse, the ob/gyn doctor was mean-spirited in her language (which I won’t repeat here) when describing my genitals and tried to scare/threaten/shame me into getting an unnecessary procedure. Luckily, I am informed and I remembered what my previous ob/gyns had told me about my body, so I felt fine about ignoring her, but what if I hadn’t been so fortunate?

Third, and what prompted this blog post, the dentist was horrible. This dentist insisted that I get X-rays. I told her that I didn’t need or want them after only one year since the last set and that the current guidelines agreed with me. She then adamantly refused to clean or examine my teeth if I did not agree to having these unnecessary X-rays. She claimed this was the clinic’s “policy,” but when I asked to see this supposed policy in writing, she refused to provide it. She then went to get the guard, who threatened to call the police if I didn’t immediately leave. According to him, even though this was during my appointment time, this dental chair was “needed for another patient” (!?). I told them both I was not leaving until they showed me this X-ray requirement in writing.

They started yelling. I yelled back. Despite my lack of fear and not feeling intimidated, I was finally so disgusted and frustrated that I no longer wanted her or anyone else there even to touch my teeth.

I left.

What kind of “health care” clinic tries to force unnecessary procedures, medications and diagnoses on its patients and then threatens us when we refuse to comply?

peopleslogo2

USA federal clinics, I now know. So do many others. Want to know more? Have a read:

From May, 2015, New Yorker magazine: “Overkill: An avalanche of unnecessary medical care is harming patients physically and financially. What can we do about it?” by Atul Gawande http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/05/11/overkill-atul-gawande

and, from the MinnPost, also in May, 2015: “How an ‘avalanche of unnecessary medical care’ is harming us — and what can be done about it,” by Susan Perry
https://www.minnpost.com/second-opinion/2015/05/how-avalanche-unnecessary-medical-care-harming-us-and-what-can-be-done-about-

And, right here in good ole’ Missouri, August 13, 2015: “Missouri Hospital Agrees to Pay United States $5.5 Million to Settle Alleged False Claims Act Violations”
http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/missouri-hospital-agrees-pay-united-states-55-million-settle-alleged-false-claims-act

Furthermore, recent nation-wide problems: “Top 5 Healthcare Fraud Cases in 2015”: http://www.medicfp.com/top-5-healthcare-fraud-cases-in-2015/
This is so awful: “Even though the amount of money recovered in 2015 is impressive, that is just a drop in the bucket for the amount of healthcare fraud that occurs, and is never reported or recovered each year. The U.S. spends over 3 trillion dollars on healthcare benefits each year, and according to a recent FICO study, roughly 10% of healthcare expenditures are fraud. This means that our country loses over 300 billion a year to healthcare fraud, nearly 1 billion dollars every day!”

From Florida to California, including almost every state, here the “worst offenders of 2015”:
http://www.healthcarefinancenews.com/slideshow/biggest-healthcare-frauds-2015-running-list

Users, beware.

Next in this series: Food Stamps and Food Issues for Poor People in St. Louis http://wp.me/p2bP0n-1BL

This first one is on health care, published on February 9, 2016, http://wp.me/p2bP0n-1By.
The second is/was on food for indigent people in Missouri (to be) published on February 16, 2016, http://wp.me/p2bP0n-1BL.
The third post is/was on advocacy and intersectionality, (to be) published on February 23, 2016, http://wp.me/p2bP0n-1C2.

Tell me What Types of Posts you Want More of for 2015! Summary & Links to Posts from 2014’s Sally Ember, Ed.D., Blog by Category

Tell me What Types of Posts you Want More of for 2015! Summary & Links to Posts from 2014’s Sally Ember, Ed.D., Blog by Category

Welcome to all my new readers, followers, and returning ones to this year-end review. I am grateful for all of your attention, especially when you reblog, comment, ask questions or poke at my opinions. THANK YOU for being a part of this writer’s blog experience this year and I hope you continue to visit!

Quick Year-in-Review Stats and Info:

  • My post, Pros and Cons of #Writers’ Critique Groups, 2/20/14, brought the most visitors in one day (195).
  • My post, 15 Points about the Effects of #Concussions on #Meditators’ #Brains, 5/2/14, was the most-viewed post (356) (see below for list of ALL my posts, by category and date).
  • My post, How to STUPENDIFY my #Ebook’s Release with a Virtual Book Tour, garnered the most comments (22).
  • This blog was viewed about 14,000 times with visitors from 127 countries.
  • Nicholas C. Rossis was my most active commenter: THANKS, Nicholas!

Link to full annual stats report: https://sallyember.com/2014/annual-report/

If you are new-ish to this blog, you may especially appreciate that I have listed most of my blog posts and major categories, below, so you can cruise around by topic rather than date, if you choose. I am a sci-fi/ romance/ utopian/ multiverse/ paranormal (psi) ebooks author who also has a keen interest in many other subjects, most notably: science, social issues/politics, writing/publishing/ book marketing/ reviews, and spirituality/meditation. Because of a fall that caused a concussion last spring, I also became engrossed in Traumatic Brain Injury and its aftermaths, especially as it impacts meditation.

In addition to the posts listed, below, I also have Author Interviews (with me as the subject), videos of each of my CHANGES conversations (we’re up to Episode 16, to date), links to my guest blog posts and much more on my website (I’m providing the link here in case you’re reading this elsewhere):
http://www.sallyember.com

My broad interests are loosely grouped into the categories I’ve centered and bolded, below, but some posts had to be listed as “doubled” because they straddled more than one area.

I’ve highlighted the TOP (1st, 2nd and 3rd), as in most-viewed, posts as well as some of the least-viewed.

Regarding the least-viewed, many of these are not listed, below, because I didn’t originate the content and/or the posts were not about my own books, but these posts which had between 1 – 3 views included: most reblogs of others’ posts; links to interviews of me or others as Authors; links and excerpts from my books’ reviews and The Spanners Series‘ Vol II’s serialized excerpts; personal stories from my meditation retreat and experiences; announcements of The Spanners Series‘ book trailers, releases, reviews; announcements of my being on someone else’s radio show, blog or other format as an author; some of my opinion pieces on various topics.

No pattern, there, so not sure what to make of these low-readership posts. Wrong day? Wrong week? Not enough followers, yet, when posted? We’ll see in future months!

If you missed a post, enjoyed a topic but didn’t realize I had more posts in that same area, or want to comment on any of this year’s posts, now’s your chance! Please do comment! I reply to all. And, feel free to share/reblog, curate/use any of my content (giving me credit, please, and excerpting ethically, of course).

I hope your holiday celebrations or whatever activities you have been doing lately have brought you joy. Best to you all!

WIN_20141113_151054

About My Books and Other Science-Fiction

1/8/14: “Finishing the Hat” or, in my case, another #eBook
https://sallyember.com/2014/01/08/finishing-the-hat-or-in-my-case-another-ebook/

logoAuthorsDen

1-16-14: “5 Wonderful Stars” for #THISCHANGESEVERYTHING!
https://sallyember.com/2014/01/16/618/

1/18/14: #DNF Review for #THISCHANGESEVERYTHING still shines!
https://sallyember.com/2014/01/18/dnf-review-for-thischangeseverything-still-shines/

1/23/14: Surprisingly Glowing #Review by Carrie Shepherd of This Changes Everything
https://sallyember.com/2014/01/23/surprisingly-glowing-review-by-carrie-shepherd-of-this-changes-everything/

This-Changes-Everything----web-and-ebooks

1/24/14: Stellar Review by David ben Efraim for This Changes Everything, Volume I, The Spanners Series: “The End of Humankind’s Loneliness”
https://sallyember.com/2014/01/24/5-star-review-by-david-ben-efraim-of-this-changes-everything-volume-i-the-spanners-series-the-end-of-humankinds-loneliness/

1/25/14: New Book Trailer for This Changes Everything right here!
https://sallyember.com/2014/01/25/new-book-trailer-for-this-changes-everything-right-here/

1/28/14: 3 Stars for This Changes Everything from Alexander Crommich: Book Review
https://sallyember.com/2014/01/28/3-stars-for-this-changes-everything-from-alexander-crommich-book-review/

2/5/14: “Complex, Creative, and Compelling – 4 Stars” from B.C. Brown for This Changes Everything!
https://sallyember.com/2014/02/05/complex-creative-and-compelling-4-stars-from-b-c-brown-for-this-changes-everything/

2/6/14: 4 Stars from “April” for This Changes Everything on Amazon and elsewhere
https://sallyember.com/2014/02/06/4-stars-from-april-for-this-changes-everything-on-amazon-and-elsewhere/

2/6/14: 2nd #BookTrailer for #THISCHANGESEVERYTHING, Vol. I, #THESPANNERSSERIES
https://sallyember.com/2014/02/06/2nd-booktrailer-for-thischangeseverything-vol-i-thespannersseries/

2/10/14: High Praise from Rebecca T for #ThisChangesEverything!
https://sallyember.com/2014/02/10/5-stars-from-rebecca-t-for-this-changes-everything/

2/18/14: #ThisChangesEverything #BookTrailer with #Multiverse Focus
https://sallyember.com/2014/02/18/thischangeseverything-booktrailer-with-multiverse-focus/

2/28/14: #Multiverse #Experiment this week: Tomorrow’s Story Written Today
https://sallyember.com/2014/02/28/multiverse-experiment-this-week-tomorrows-story-written-today/

3/13/14 – 4/18/14: LEAST-VIEWED POSTS (most with only 1 view), so probably will not do for Volumes III and beyond unless YOU encourage me! “Acclaimed, eagerly-awaited SPANNERS SERIES’ Volume II Excerpts”
https://sallyember.com/2014/03/13/acclaimed-eagerly-awaited-spanners-series-volume-ii-excerpts-starting-31614/

3/30/14: 4 stars! #BookReview #THISCHANGESEVERYTHING by Nick LeVar, Free World Authors
https://sallyember.com/2014/03/30/bookreview-thischangeseverything-by-nick-levar-free-world-authors/

4/1/14: #COVER #REVEAL! #THISCHANGESMYFAMILY&MYLIFEFOREVER, Vol II, #THESPANNERSSERIES
https://sallyember.com/2014/04/01/cover-reveal-thischangesmyfamilymylifeforever-vol-ii-thespannersseries/

final cover print

4/3/14: Another 4-Star Review for #ThisChangesEverything, Vol. I, #TheSpannersSeries
https://sallyember.com/2014/04/03/another-4-star-review-for-thischangeseverything-vol-i-thespannersseries/

5/9/14 (doubled category): 3 Reasons That This Changes Everything, Volume I of The Spanners Series, is Permafree
https://sallyember.com/2014/05/09/3-reasons-that-this-changes-everything-volume-i-of-the-spanners-series-is-permafree/

6/3/14: 4-Star #Review for #THISCHANGESVERYTHING, Vol I, #THESPANNERSSERIES
https://sallyember.com/2014/06/03/4-star-review-for-thischangesverything-vol-i-thespannersseries/

6/6/14: 5-Star #Review of #THISCHANGESMYFAMILYANDMYLIFEFOREVER, Vol II, #THESPANNERSSERIES
https://sallyember.com/2014/06/06/review-of-thischangesmyfamilyandmylifeforever-vol-ii-thespannersseries/

6/9/14: RT and SHARE: Release Date is TODAY! #THISCHANGESMYFAMILYANDMYLIFEFOREVER, Vol II, #THESPANNERSSERIES on sale NOW!
https://sallyember.com/2014/06/09/rt-and-share-release-date-is-today-thischangesmyfamilyandmylifeforever-vol-ii-thespannersseries-on-sale-now/

8/9/14: 5-Stars for Volume II of The Spanners Series on Goodreads!
https://sallyember.com/2014/08/09/5-stars-for-volume-ii-of-the-spanners-series-on-goodreads/

9/10/14: “Mrs. G” Reviewed This Changes Everything, Volume I, The Spanners Series
https://sallyember.com/2014/09/10/mrs-g-reviewed-this-changes-everything-volume-i-the-spanners-series/

9/25/14: 5 Stars for This Changes Everything from “Raving in Alaska” on Amazon!
https://sallyember.com/2014/09/25/5-stars-for-this-changes-everything-from-raving-in-alaska-on-amazon/

10/4/14: “Quick Book Reviews” Gives “Thumbs Up” to This Changes Everything, Vol I, The Spanners Series!
https://sallyember.com/2014/10/04/quick-book-reviews-gives-thumbs-up-to-this-changes-everything-vol-i-the-spanners-series/

11/11/14: **** for This Changes My Family and My Life Forever, Vol II of The Spanners Series
https://sallyember.com/2014/11/11/for-this-changes-my-family-and-my-life-forever-vol-ii-of-the-spanners-series/

12/20/14: SF The Spanners Series, Volume III, This Is/Is Not the Way I Want Things to Change, excerpt
https://sallyember.com/2014/12/20/the-spanners-series-volume-iii-this-isis-not-the-way-i-want-things-to-change-excerpt/

Creativity at Work, Here

3/29/14: The Cloud People Dance at #sallyember.com
https://sallyember.com/2014/03/29/the-cloud-people-dance-at-sallyember-com/

Women writer upholding book

7/18/14: Criteria for Selecting Speculative Fiction for Younger Readers: What to Discuss and Why
https://sallyember.com/2014/07/18/criteria-for-selecting-speculative-fiction-for-younger-readers-what-to-discuss-and-why/

8/18/14: My Best Give-Away Story: “Our Family Table becomes Ryan and Gina’s Family Table”
https://sallyember.com/2014/08/18/my-best-give-away-story-our-family-table-becomes-ryan-and-ginas-family-table/

8/19/14: #iamsubject story: “I Find Myself Wherever I Live and I Move A Lot!”
https://sallyember.com/2014/08/19/iamsubject-story-i-find-myself-wherever-i-live-and-i-move-a-lot/

9/4/14: Moving back “home” after living elsewhere for over 40 years https://sallyember.com/2014/09/04/moving-back-home-after-living-elsewhere-for-over-40-years/

9/8/14: How I Benefit from the Celebrities I Grew Up /Worked with and Still Do
https://sallyember.com/2014/09/08/how-i-benefitted-from-the-celebrities-i-grew-up-worked-with-and-still-do/

9/22/14 (doubled category): Goodreads’ Genre-Specific Review Group’s Fall 2014 Blog Hop Tour: “COMFORT”
https://sallyember.com/2014/09/22/goodreads-genre-specific-review-groups-fall-2014-blog-hop-tour-comfort/

9/27/14: My post for the Goodreads’ Genre-Specific Review Group’s Fall 2014 Blog Hop Tour: “COMFORT” is this year’s theme.
https://sallyember.com/2014/09/27/my-post-for-the-goodreads-genre-specific-review-groups-fall-2014-blog-hop-tour-comfort-is-this-years-theme/

10/1/14: My Fall #NewTVShows Reviews: 2014 is a VERY Mixed Season, thru 10/1/14
https://sallyember.com/2014/10/01/my-fall-newtvshows-reviews-2014-is-a-very-mixed-season-so-far/

11/8/14: Today, in #SPAM
https://sallyember.com/2014/11/08/today-in-spam/

12/10/14: “Non-Reciprocity Leads to Less Selfishness”
https://sallyember.com/2014/12/10/what-do-we-have-to-lose/

12/16/14: “Discovering My Inner Con,” for Where do I find it?, Yeah Write Poetry Challenge #192
https://sallyember.com/2014/12/16/discovering-my-inner-con-where-do-i-find-it-for-yeah-write-poetry-challenge-192/

12/23/14: “Most-Anticipated” #Films of #2015: Yeah or Nay? And, one look back at 2014 #SciFi and #Fantasy Films
https://sallyember.com/2014/12/23/most-anticipated-films-of-2015-yeah-or-nay/

About Science

1/30/14 (doubled category): #Buddhism and #Science: the Facts, the Yogis, the Practices
https://sallyember.com/2014/01/30/buddhism-and-science-a-marriage-of-minds-convenience-a-sham-the-truth/

parallel universes image 1

2/14/14: Because of Hormesis: When Heartache Doesn’t Wreck You, It Makes You Stronger
https://sallyember.com/2014/02/14/because-of-hormesis-when-heartache-doesnt-wreck-you-it-makes-you-stronger/

3/14/14: My #1980s #Computer Tutors: Thanks to Jaye Alper (sorely missed ) and Mario Cossa
https://sallyember.com/2014/03/14/my-1980s-computer-tutors-thanks-to-jaye-alper-sorely-missed-and-mario-cossa/

4/11/14 (doubled category): What are the Four Major Upsides and Downsides of #Paranormal #Presentiment?
https://sallyember.com/2014/04/11/what-are-the-four-major-upsides-and-downsides-of-paranormal-presentiment/

8/2/14 (doubled category): Proven, Long-term Effects on Physical Health of those who suffered childhood Trauma, Abuse, Neglect and Bullying
https://sallyember.com/2014/08/02/how-childhood-trauma-can-have-lifelong-consequences/

8/20/14 (doubled category): Bras and Shoes: Breast Cancer, Bunions, Back Strain and “Beauty” Lies
https://sallyember.com/2014/08/20/bras-and-shoes-breast-cancer-bunions-back-strain-and-beauty-lies/

8/28/14 (doubled category): Deadly Eye Makeup and other “Beauty” “Aids”: STOP USING THESE!
https://sallyember.com/2014/08/28/deadly-eye-makeup-and-other-beauty-aids-stop-using-these/

9/18/14 (doubled category): “Actualists” vs. “Realists”: The Evolution of Modern #Fiction thanks to #Quantum #Physics
https://sallyember.com/2014/09/18/actualists-vs-realists-the-evolution-of-modern-fiction-thanks-to-quantum-physics/

10/16/14: #Love According to #Psychology and #Biology
https://sallyember.com/2014/10/16/love-according-to-psychology-and-biology/

10/21/14 (doubled category): Lead Lipsticks, Folliculitis with MRSA from Hair Removal, and other Deadly “Beauty” Choices
https://sallyember.com/2014/10/21/lead-lipsticks-folliculitis-with-mrsa-from-hair-removal-and-other-deadly-beauty-choices/

11/10/14: Latest News in #ParallelUniverses and/or the #Multiverse, According to #Science in 2014
https://sallyember.com/2014/11/10/latest-news-in-paralleluniverses-andor-the-multiverse-according-to-science-in-2014/

About Social Issues and Politics

2/3/14: 15 Ways I PERSONALLY #Conserve #Water and You MUST, Too!
ttp://sallyember.com/2014/02/03/15-ways-i-personally-conserve-water-and-you-must-too/

Where_Water_Is_Used

5/20/14: Guilty is Guilty: Step up and Take Your Punishments
https://sallyember.com/2014/05/20/guilty-is-guilty-step-up-and-take-your-punishments/

6/10/14: #Sexist, #Racist Dress Codes? What is “Proper #School Attire” in the 2010’s?
https://sallyember.com/2014/06/10/sexist-racist-dress-codes-what-is-proper-school-attire-in-the-2010s/

6/27/14: 3rd TOP POST: 271 Views, Why posting about fruit is insulting to women: DO NOT PARTICIPATE in this year’s “Breast Cancer Awareness Campaign”
https://sallyember.com/2014/06/27/why-posting-about-fruit-is-insulting-to-women-do-not-participate-in-this-years-breast-cancer-awareness-campaign/

7/1/14: Facts about #BPA, #Water Bottles, Shower Curtains, #Cans, More, and What to Do
https://sallyember.com/2014/07/01/facts-about-bpa-water-bottles-shower-curtains-cans-more-and-what-to-do/

7/7/14: ‘BOT v. HUMAN: Score 2 for the Human! Transcript of Actual Online Chat with AT & T “Service Representative,” July, 2014
https://sallyember.com/2014/07/07/bot-v-human-score-2-for-the-human-transcript-of-actual-online-chat-with-at-t-service-representative-july-2014/

7/29/14: Supporting gender and sexual orientation diversity is important: It’s sometimes a matter of life and death
https://sallyember.com/2014/07/29/supporting-gender-and-sexual-orientation-diversity-is-important-its-sometimes-a-matter-of-life-and-death/

8/2/14 (doubled category): Proven, Long-term Effects on Physical Health of those who suffered childhood Trauma, Abuse, Neglect and Bullying
https://sallyember.com/2014/08/02/how-childhood-trauma-can-have-lifelong-consequences/

8/20/14 (doubled category): Bras and Shoes: Breast Cancer, Bunions, Back Strain and “Beauty” Lies
https://sallyember.com/2014/08/20/bras-and-shoes-breast-cancer-bunions-back-strain-and-beauty-lies/

8/28/14 (doubled category): Deadly Eye Makeup and other “Beauty” “Aids”: STOP USING THESE!
https://sallyember.com/2014/08/28/deadly-eye-makeup-and-other-beauty-aids-stop-using-these/

9/16/14: Being #Single vs. Social #Isolation: Benefits and Costs of #Solitude
https://sallyember.com/2014/09/16/being-single-vs-social-isolation-benefits-and-costs-of-solitude/

10/13/14: #Nobel Prize Winners 2014: Why we should pay attention and be grateful
https://sallyember.com/2014/10/13/nobel-prize-winners-2014-why-we-should-pay-attention-and-be-grateful/

10/21/14 (doubled category): Lead Lipsticks, Folliculitis with MRSA from Hair Removal, and other Deadly “Beauty” Choices
https://sallyember.com/2014/10/21/lead-lipsticks-folliculitis-with-mrsa-from-hair-removal-and-other-deadly-beauty-choices/

10/24/14: No Woman Wants to Have An Abortion, but We MUST Support EVERY Woman’s Right To Choose
https://sallyember.com/2014/10/24/no-woman-wants-to-have-an-abortion-but-we-must-support-every-womans-right-to-choose/

10/28/14 (doubled category): CONTROVERSY: #Buddhists and #Organ Donation at #Death
https://sallyember.com/2014/10/28/controversy-buddhists-and-organ-donation-at-death/

11/20/14: We Should All Contribute to Raising All Children
https://sallyember.com/2014/11/20/we-should-all-contribute-to-raising-all-children/

12/9/14: “Waiting For Your Boyfriend to Marry You” My Response
https://sallyember.com/2014/12/09/waiting-for-your-boyfriend-to-marry-you/

12/11/14: TEN Ways to Encourage #Victims of Any Age to #Report #Sexual and Other #Abuse
https://sallyember.com/2014/12/11/ten-ways-to-encourage-victims-of-any-age-to-report-sexual-and-other-abuse/

12/30/14: You need to reorganize your life if you are outsourcing your dating activities
https://sallyember.wordpress.com/2014/12/30/you-need-to-reorganize-your-life-if-you-are-outsourcing-your-dating-activities/

About my talk show, CHANGES, a Google+ HOA (Hangout On Air)

7/21/14: “Getting Comfortable with #Technology Takes Time,” Meloney Hall’s “Lights, Camera, #HOA” with Sally Ember, Ed.D., from 7/21/14
https://sallyember.com/2014/07/23/getting-comfortable-with-technology-takes-time-meloney-halls-lights-camera-hoa-with-sally-ember-ed-d-from-72114/

CHANGES Theme Image_3

7/28/14: Sally Ember’s CHANGES Google + HOA (Hangouts On Air) Start August 6
https://sallyember.com/2014/07/28/sally-embers-changes-google-hoa-hangouts-on-air-start-august-6/

8/8/14: CHANGES Episode 1 on Youtube Google+ HOA with Sally Ember and Shay West
https://sallyember.com/2014/08/08/changes-episode-1-on-youtube-google-hoa-with-sally-ember-and-shay-west/

12/9/14 (doubled category): #Crowdfunding with #Patreon: Sally Ember’s Campaign Needs Your Support!
https://sallyember.com/2014/12/09/crowdfunding-with-patreon-sally-embers-campaign-needs-your-support/

12/26/14 (doubled category): Sally Ember’s #Crowdfunding Song
https://sallyember.com/2014/12/26/sally-embers-crowdfunding-song/

12/29/14 (Doubled category): The Very Inspiring #Blogger# Award Landed Here!
https://sallyember.com/2014/12/29/the-very-inspiring-blogger-award-landed-here/

Lama D laughing 2012

My Teacher, Lama Padma Drimed Norbu, known as Lama Drimed

About Meditation and Spiritual Practice

1/11/14: When #Spiritual #Teachers Respond with #Countertransference
https://sallyember.com/2014/01/11/when-spiritual-teachers-respond-with-countertransference/

1/14/14: Another Friend’s Death: Mortality in Daily Life https://sallyember.com/2014/01/14/another-friends-death-mortality-in-daily-life/

1/30/14 (doubled category): #Buddhism and #Science: the Facts, the Yogis, the Practices
https://sallyember.com/2014/01/30/buddhism-and-science-a-marriage-of-minds-convenience-a-sham-the-truth/

2/17/14: How Having a #Buddhist #Spiritual #Teacher Changes Me
https://sallyember.com/2014/02/17/how-having-a-spiritual-teacher-changes-me/

2/23/14: 18 Tweets/3 photos inspired by the live speech of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, 2-23-14, Berkeley, CA https://sallyember.com/2014/02/23/18-tweets3-photos-inspired-by-the-live-speech-of-his-holiness-the-14th-dalai-lama-2-23-14-berkeley-ca/

2/25/14: The Swan Song of my #Buddhist Mini Home #Retreat Sung a Bit Early
https://sallyember.com/2014/02/25/the-swan-song-of-my-buddhist-mini-home-retreat-sung-a-bit-early/

5/2/14 TOP POST, 356 Views (doubled category): 15 Points about the #Effects of #Concussions on #Meditators’ #Brains
https://sallyember.com/2014/05/02/the-effects-of-concussions-on-meditators-brains/

6/20/14: #60for60: 60 ACTS OF #KINDNESS AND GRATITUDE– each of the days before my 60TH
https://sallyember.com/2014/06/20/60-for-60-60-acts-of-kindness-and-gratitude-for-the-60-days-preceding-my-60th-birthday/

6/26/14: I can #Meditate, Again! Ahhhh!
https://sallyember.com/2014/06/23/i-can-meditate-again-ahhhh/

7/14/14: The #Freedom to Die without Regret: Post for #RaveReviewsBookClub #Blog #Recruitment Day
https://sallyember.com/2014/07/14/the-freedom-to-die-without-regret/

8/22/14: #60for60 ENDS Today! 6/21 – 8/22/14
https://sallyember.com/2014/08/22/60for60-starts-today-621-82214/

9/22/14: 10Q begins September 24th, 2014 (Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah)
https://sallyember.com/2014/09/22/10q-begins-september-24th-2014-jewish-new-year-rosh-hashanah/

10/28/14 (doubled category): CONTROVERSY: #Buddhists and #Organ Donation at #Death
https://sallyember.com/2014/10/28/controversy-buddhists-and-organ-donation-at-death/

11/3/14: 5 Ways for #Giving 1% to Offset the Splurging Inspired by the Holidays
https://sallyember.com/2014/11/03/5-ways-for-giving-1-to-offset-the-splurging-inspired-by-the-holidays/

12/13/14 (doubled category): Linda Ronstadt’s Rendition of Desperado Burst my Grief Dam
https://sallyember.com/2014/12/13/linda-ronstadts-rendition-of-desperado-burst-my-grief-dam/

About Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBIs) and Concussions

4/11/14 (doubled category): What are the Four Major Upsides and Downsides of #Paranormal #Presentiment?
https://sallyember.com/2014/04/11/what-are-the-four-major-upsides-and-downsides-of-paranormal-presentiment/

meditation-mind-brain-waves

5/2/14 (doubled category): 15 Points about the #Effects of #Concussions on #Meditators’ #Brains
https://sallyember.com/2014/05/02/the-effects-of-concussions-on-meditators-brains/

6/25/14: The Latest Research on Traumatic Brain Injury (#TBI): Causes, Diagnostics, Treatments
https://sallyember.com/2014/06/25/the-latest-research-on-traumatic-brain-injury-tbi-causes-diagnostics-treatments/

9/12/14: #Injuries to the #Mind, #Brain and #Psyche that Cause Difficulties with #Meditation
https://sallyember.com/2014/09/12/injuries-to-the-mind-brain-and-psyche-that-cause-difficulties-with-meditation/

12/13/14 (doubled category): Linda Ronstadt’s Rendition of Desperado Burst my Grief Dam
https://sallyember.com/2014/12/13/linda-ronstadts-rendition-of-desperado-burst-my-grief-dam/

About Publishing, Book Marketing, Writing, Writers

1/20/14: My #Writing Process: Revealed!
https://sallyember.com/2014/01/20/my-writing-process-revealed/

SWpreorders

1/21/14: My #Pinterest Boards are for you, my #Readers and #Fans
https://sallyember.com/2014/01/21/my-pinterest-boards-are-for-you-my-readers-and-fans/

1/27/14: My #Literary #Meh List 2014: 15 Plots, Devices, Characters I’m BORED with
https://sallyember.com/2014/01/27/my-literary-meh-list-2014-15-plots-devices-characters-im-sick-of/

2/15/14: #Smashwords vs. #Amazon for #Indie #Authors #ebook #epub: Pros and Cons
https://sallyember.com/2014/02/15/smashwords-vs-amazon-for-indie-authors-ebook-epub-pros-and-cons/

2/16/14: #Female #ebook #Authors: Getting Checked Out More at #Libraries
https://sallyember.com/2014/02/16/libraries-top-circulating-print-books-and-ebooks-in-jan-2014-how-ebooks-are-leveling-the-gender-playing-field/

2/20/14: Pros and Cons of #Writers’ Critique Groups
https://sallyember.com/2014/02/20/pros-and-cons-of-writers-critique-groups/

2/23/14: 2nd TOP POST: 310 Views, Why My First Experience with Using #Pre-Orders Will Help Get My NEXT #Ebook Higher on #Best-Seller Lists
https://sallyember.com/2014/02/23/why-my-first-experience-with-using-pre-orders-will-help-get-my-next-ebook-higher-on-best-seller-lists/

3/12/14: my #SFRB post: Lending Actual People’s Bios to #Fictional #Characters: Pros and Cons
https://sallyember.com/2014/03/12/945/

3/29/14: “I write like Ursula K. Le Guin”! Couldn’t have been more honored! https://sallyember.com/2014/03/29/i-write-like-ursula-k-le-guin-couldnt-have-been-more-honored/

4/29/14: 5 Things Wrong with #Sex Scenes in #Romance Novels and How to Improve Them https://sallyember.com/2014/04/29/5-things-wrong-with-sex-scenes-in-romance-novels-and-how-to-improve-them/

5/9/14 (doubled category): 3 Reasons That This Changes Everything, Volume I of The Spanners Series, is Permafree
https://sallyember.com/2014/05/09/3-reasons-that-this-changes-everything-volume-i-of-the-spanners-series-is-permafree/

5/14/14: The Anguish of Posting a 2-Star Review of a Colleague’s Book
https://sallyember.com/2014/05/14/the-anguish-of-posting-a-2-star-review-of-a-colleagues-book/

5/16/14: Important Perspectives on #Book #Reviews for #Authors
https://sallyember.com/2014/05/16/important-perspectives-on-book-reviews-for-authors/

5/22/14: #AUTHORS: #Plot Spice, or the 5 Worst Places to Wake Up Unexpectedly
https://sallyember.com/2014/05/22/authors-plot-spice-or-the-5-worst-places-to-wake-up-unexpectedly/

5/27/14: 16 Ways I Use #Goodreads https://sallyember.com/2014/05/27/16-ways-i-use-goodreads/

6/6/14: How to STUPENDIFY my #Ebook’s Release with a Virtual Book Tour
https://sallyember.com/2014/06/06/how-to-stupendify-my-ebooks-release-with-a-virtual-book-tour/

7/2/14: Guest Blog Post: “#Utopian #Sci-fi/#Speculative Fiction: Why it’s Intriguing and Necessary” https://sallyember.com/2014/07/02/guest-blog-post-utopian-sci-fispeculative-fiction-why-its-intriguing-and-necessary/

7/3/14: Excavating your Soul! – Indie and Proud
https://sallyember.com/2014/07/03/excavating-your-soul-indie-and-proud/

7/6/14: 10 Ways to Celebrate #Indie #Authors https://sallyember.com/2014/07/06/10-ways-to-celebrate-indie-authors/

7/10/14: Guest Post: “The Politics of Speculative/ Science-Fiction”
https://sallyember.com/2014/07/10/guest-post-the-politics-of-speculative-science-fiction/

7/16/14: Good #Writing DOES Require #Talent, Not just Hard Work
https://sallyember.com/2014/07/16/writing-does-require-talent-not-just-hard-work/

7/22/14: Parallel Construction: What it is, what it isn’t, and how to write better despite hating your 8th-grade English teacher
https://sallyember.com/2014/07/22/parallel-construction-what-it-is-what-it-isnt-and-how-to-write-better-despite-hating-your-8th-grade-english-teacher/

7/24/14: A DNF (Did Not Finish) Experience Does NOT Qualify for a “Review”
https://sallyember.com/2014/07/24/a-dnf-did-not-finish-experience-does-not-qualify-for-a-review/

8/10/14: My Blogaversary and 1st year of Book Marketing: Report Card
https://sallyember.com/2014/08/10/my-blogaversary-and-1st-year-of-book-marketing-report-card/

9/2/14: Book Sales are like PotLucks: You Don’t Know Who Appreciates Your Creation
https://sallyember.com/2014/09/02/book-sales-are-like-potlucks-you-dont-know-who-appreciates-your-creation/

9/18/14 (doubled category): “Actualists” vs. “Realists”: The Evolution of Modern #Fiction thanks to #Quantum #Physics
https://sallyember.com/2014/09/18/actualists-vs-realists-the-evolution-of-modern-fiction-thanks-to-quantum-physics/

9/22/14 (doubled category): Goodreads’ Genre-Specific Review Group’s Fall 2014 Blog Hop Tour: “COMFORT”
https://sallyember.com/2014/09/22/goodreads-genre-specific-review-groups-fall-2014-blog-hop-tour-comfort/

10/31/14: NOT DOING #NaNoWriMo Writing Plans
https://sallyember.com/2014/10/31/not-doing-nanowrimo-writing-plans/

11/16/14: 15 #Fiction #Promos that should be Revised or Trashed Completely
https://sallyember.com/2014/11/16/15-fiction-promos-that-should-be-revised-or-trashed-completely/

11/17/14: SHARE! EXPERIENCED #editor #proofreader available for quick-turn around jobs
https://sallyember.com/2014/11/17/experienced-editor-proofreader-available-for-quick-turn-around-jobs/

11/18/14: Stale writing? 4 Underused Literary Devices: Aphorism, Hyperbole, Tmesis and Zeugma
https://sallyember.com/2014/11/18/stale-writing-4-underused-literary-devices-aphorism-hyperbole-tmesis-and-zeugma/

11/21/14: Why I LOVE the #Smashwords Blog and you should, too!
https://sallyember.com/2014/11/21/why-i-love-the-smashwords-blog-and-you-should-too/

11/24/14: “What I Wish I had Known for #Indiepub #Ebooks 1 and 2: An Open Letter to my Earlier Self,” Guest Post on The Book Cove
https://sallyember.com/2014/11/24/what-i-wish-i-had-known-for-indiepub-ebooks-1-and-2-an-open-letter-to-my-earlier-self-guest-post-on-the-book-cove/

12/1/14: “An Open Letter to my Earlier Self about #Book #Reviews and #Reviewers,” Guest Post on The Book Cove
https://sallyember.com/2014/12/01/an-open-letter-to-my-earlier-self-about-book-reviews-and-reviewers-guest-post-on-the-book-cove-goes-live-today/

12/8/14: “Part III: Letter to my Earlier Self about #Preorders,” Guest Post on The Book Cove
https://sallyember.com/2014/12/08/part-iii-letter-to-my-earlier-self-about-preorders-guest-blogger-post-on-the-book-cove-reviews/

12/9/14 (doubled category): #Crowdfunding with #Patreon: Sally Ember’s Campaign Needs Your Support!
https://sallyember.com/2014/12/09/crowdfunding-with-patreon-sally-embers-campaign-needs-your-support/

12/15/14: “Part IV: Letter to my Earlier Self about #Blog #Hops and #Virtual #Book #Tours,” Guest Post on The Book Cove
https://sallyember.com/2014/12/15/part-iv-letter-to-my-earlier-self-about-blog-hops-and-virtual-book-tours-guest-blogger-post-on-the-book-cove-reviews/

12/26/14 (doubled category): Sally Ember’s #Crowdfunding Song
https://sallyember.com/2014/12/26/sally-embers-crowdfunding-song/

12/29/14 (Doubled category): The Very Inspiring #Blogger# Award Landed Here!
https://sallyember.com/2014/12/29/the-very-inspiring-blogger-award-landed-here/

15 Points about the #Effects of #Concussions on #Meditators’ #Brains

What are the #effects of #concussions on #meditators’ #brains? Many doctors and patients now agree that #meditation helps relieve pain and stress. Therefore, meditation is recommended post-concussion for many with injured brains.

However, I haven’t found anything for my problem: my concussion makes it impossible or difficult/painful for me to meditate. What happens to those who are already long-time meditators (such as I am; 42 years), post-concussion?

It’s fewer than four weeks since my injuries. I still have a lot of trouble and need to take much more time than usual to think clearly enough and to write well enough (neither up to former standards) to put this post together. Forgive its clumsiness, please.

Let me explain, first: the type of meditation I currently do is advanced. This means that the meditation techniques take years to learn. Practice is not just for twenty minutes a day or relegated to a physical posture or on a meditation cushion. This type of meditation involves components of many other types as well as more aspects which are unique to it. It is a Tibetan Buddhist practice called dzogchen (“Great Perfection”) that is supposed to occur all day and into the night (excellent practitioners do it 24/7). It takes years to cultivate this ongoing meditation as a habit.

Therefore, whatever brain parts most meditators are activating, meditators doing dzogchen meditation are utilizing those parts plus a few more, and all the time, once we’re “getting it.”

Post-concussion, the worst after-effect, for me, was being unable to meditate. This is comparable to being unable to eat sufficient food or breathe enough air. We can survive, but we are not well, you see?

What about having had a concussion is preventing me from meditating? Why do certain parts of my brain hurt when I try to meditate?

Finding nothing to answer my questions all in one place, I did some of my own research to help me understand and share what has been happening to me since my injury on April 6.

Here is what I found to be true, complete with PET scans, MRIs of brains and other visuals.

1. Scientists are learning more annually about the ways that meditators’ brains are different than non-meditators:

meditators and nonmeditators brains

image from http://www.exploratorium.edu

Conclusions from above: meditation activates parts of our brain that ordinary brain activities do not.

2. Insight or Vipassana (Vipashana) meditators’ brains have been studied most. Here are some pictures to show how much that type of meditation changes the brains of Insight meditators:

insight meditators brains

image from http://www.nmr.mgh.harvard.edu

3. How else does meditation change one’s brain?

Brain-waves improve from meditation

image from expanded–consciousness.blogspot.com

Meditators’ brains have thicker cortical areas and other parts are also strengthened unusually by meditation. Our brain waves are different even when we are not meditating. Really.

After feeling pain in three particular areas of my brain that hurt (even though my son and others claim we can’t feel pain in our brains… pooh) and the increased pressure in these areas every time I meditated, which made me stop, I went on a research treasure hunt to answer these questions.

4. What parts of the brain are used in meditation and what types of meditation use what parts most?

brain parts and functions

image from http://www.8limbsholistichealth.com

For me, the thalamus and frontal areas were most impacted and affected, so far, since the front of my face/forehead hit the wall, and since those areas are involved in my type of meditation. However, I could imagine that other injuries/affected areas could impact your meditation differently.

5. What about different kinds of meditation and where in the brain they occur?

variations in types of meditation on brain parts

image from http://www.fredtravis.com

Definitely the thalamus and all frontal areas are affected, for me. I guess I don’t feel the impact in the pariental lobe because mine wasn’t so injured. Again, your experiences could vary a lot.

6. What are the effects on various parts of the brain from a concussion? From my recent and current personal experience, I can answer that. These photos also back up my own understanding completely.

I felt pain and pressure immediately after the concussion when I automatically started to meditate which forced me to stop. Repeatedly. Over time, that pain became most apparent in three locations.

“Recent studies have shown heightened activity in the anterior cingulate cortex, frontal cortex, and prefrontal cortex, specifically in the dorsal medial prefrontal area during Vipassana meditation. Similarly, the cingulate cortex and frontal cortex areas were shown to have increased activity during Zen meditation”
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brain_activity_and_meditation

Thanks to Wikipedia, I began to understand what was happening to me and why.

7. Meditators use these parts of our brain when we meditate:

PET brain images meditation 1

image from uonews.uoregon.edu

When I found this picture, it made me cry. These are the parts that hurt when I try to meditate, all lit up and obvious. I can just point and you can understand.

8. When we look at three brains: one uninjured, one with a concussion, and one with a severe TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury), we notice obvious differences, particularly in these areas mentioned, above:

normal severe TBI concussion images

image from http://www.vitamindwiki.com

To orient you: top of photos = forehead/frontal areas of brain. Look at the differences in these three scans in that area, particularly. Startling, huh?

9. How does a concussed brain show up on an MRI?

MRI_scan_concussion

image from http://www.ninds.nih.gov

I could be wrong, here, but I think these scans are oriented in opposite ways from those in #8. Top = back/neck, or the occipital lobe area. Look, therefore, at the bottoms of these scans to see how the frontal areas are affected.

Remember, though: most concussion injuries and symptoms do not show up on MRIs, CAT scans or X-rays, even when taken on the same day as the injury, much less those taken weeks or months later. Functional MRIs and PET scans are slightly better, but many effects are just not all that easy to visualize with the technology currently available.

10. What other signs of impact (concussion) on a brain can we see?

impact injuries on brain cross cuts

image from http://www.webdicine.com

For best understanding, contrast the picture in upper left with the one in the lower right. That’s my brain. Yuck.

11. Remembering what parts of the brain we use for meditating, look at these before-and-after scans of a concussed brain:

brain before and after concussion scans

image from http://www.policymic.com

This time, the orientation is like this: forehead/frontal area is on the left of each scan; neck is on the right. Notice the frontal areas’ changes from scan to scan. Heartwrenching, to me.

12. Pay particular attention to the “frontal bruise” on this concussed brain (similar to what I experienced on April 6 when I hit the wall with my nose/face and broke my nose/got concussed):

concussion bruise on frontal area

image from kerlanjobeblog.com

Don’t you just have to say “ouch!” after seeing this frontal bruising? Empathy is easier when you can see it all in front of you.

13. Here is that PET scan, again, of a meditating brain. Notice what parts are “activated” (by colors):

PET brain images meditation 1

image from uonews.uoregon.edu

Now you begin to see more clearly how concussions impact meditation?

14. Our brains should look and function this way when we meditate:

meditation-mind-brain-waves

image from blog.bufferapp.com

I sorely miss the feelings of “after,” calmness and joy which I normally would experience all day long. Awful losses, here. Luckily, purports to be temporary.

15. In conclusion, this quote incorporates the research I found and speaks to my particular injuries to explain why I can’t meditate and the effects of that on me: “The two important areas of the brain that feature prominently in meditation research are the frontal lobes, located in the area of the forehead, above the eyebrows and the limbic system which is deep inside the centre of the brain. Generally speaking, these two areas function and interact to influence our behavior, emotions, thinking, and what we’re going to do with our life. In other words together they have a profound influence on our personality, who we are and how we feel. The other parts of the brain [featured in meditation research] are the parietal lobes, at the top of the head, which primarily deals with the physical body, the occipital lobes at the back of the head that deal mostly with vision and the temporal lobes, above the ears, which deal with auditory information.” 
http://www.beyondthemind.com/extras/meditation-the-brain/frontal-lobes-the-limbic-system-meditation-mental-silence/

Best part of all this? IMPERMANENCE. This, too, shall pass. Injuries tend to resolve. Healing does occur.

Best wishes to all who are in recovery phases from TBIs and concussions. May all beings benefit.