Category Archives: Self Improvement

Won’t Dance

I went to a prime dancing event this weekend. The band played for 4 hours and delivered a vast array of polkas, waltzes, big Band-era tunes. Also, the folks attending wouldn’t care a wit if you couldn’t do the chicken dance.

Moonflowers was terribly disappointed by her male companion’s refusal to dance. He has always been up for dancing before. I believe he downed 6 large pints of fine Munich beer. But no, he won’t dance. Hates. Polka.

When I related how I was disappointed with my first husband’s behavior in the same vein. He told me that it was “passive-aggressive” behavior. Funny that he missed my point.

read this later


Here is a journey to the dark side and back. The struggle that alcoholics face to maintain sobriety and regain the trust of the world is a tough one.

Joseph Balzer, American Airlines pilot, and author of “Flying Drunk: The True Story of a Northwest Airline Flight, Three Drunk Pilots and One Man’s Fight for Redemption” speaks of his arrest, incarceration, alcoholism and recovery. In 1990, the flight crew of three, flying a Northwest Airlines 727 from Fargo to MSP was caught flying while under the influence of alcohol. Many factors contributed to this error: personalities of the crew, incorrect flight charts and fear of intimidation, as well as intoxication.

Listen to the podcast: Joseph Balzer Interview on World of Aviation
Visit Joseph Balzer’s Website Flying Drunk

Waiting? give yourself a gift everyday

Moonflowers found herself trapped in the suspended animation that passes for a waiting room. Analyzing the interior design and experiencing its effect is part of the torture of waiting rooms. The prevalence of brown walnut finish and orange upholstery is annoying at least, and was never envisioned in florescent lighting. Muzak and receptionist conversations (probably pre-taped, as well) emitting from behind high counters accompany her perusal of large type magazines.

Q: Why is she here?
A. She has reached the point in life where the generations before and after squeeze her into a strange lifestyle sandwich. She is the meat in the middle, slowly going bad on the shelf.

Moonflower’s Mom is going on her third laser surgery for glaucoma, the asymmetry of mom’s pupils in those ice blue irises is disturbing. It’s not the exciting variety of glaucoma, there you think, “Wow, Mom is finally going to get high. And on that good government pot, too.” No, it’s just a pressure cooker in there and her right eye has been drilled like a bowling ball, the same number of holes, same configuration , and depth, too, relatively speaking.

On the other side of the generation gap, her young son has reached puberty, complete with mood swings and miniature Krakatoas erupting on his ever expanding forehead. She has been spending a lot of time in the waiting room of his dermatologist, too.

In the future, waiting rooms should be overhauled. Headphones and ultimately, eyephones should be provided by everyone. The scheduling system should change, so you only have to go once a year, for a day. You would call via a picture phone for quick fixes; tell the doc where it hurts or show him your rash. A large central room that connects to your dermatologist, dentist, shrink and gynecologist would be the innovation of the century. Wonder drugs should be dispensed via a vending machine, with refills available 24 hours-a-day, ad infinitum.

Reality check! Sharing limited space with a cross-section of the general populace, the covert unfairness of the order of proceeding into the next waiting room can put a crimp in Moonflower’s day. But these ordinary slices of timespace are perfect opportunities for self-improvement schemes.

You know these are tricks, but are you brave enough to give yourself a gift everyday?
Hip Swings on Hold: You are trying to get that appointment in the first place and find yourself tethered to a phone. Stand with your feet apart, knees slightly bent. Keeping your abdominal muscles firm, shift hips first to one side, then to the other without swaying forward or backward, This slims and firms hips and waist. By improving hip flexibility, Hip Swings can also improve your walk, golf swing, skiing skill, bowling game and lovemaking.

Kegel Exercise: This exercise consists of rhythmically contracting the muscles of the pelvic floor, as if to stop urinating. Hold this position tightly for a moment, then relax. Many gynecologists and sex therapists recommend at least 100 repetitions a day. It has been an important part of Taoist health practices for 6000 years. The Kegel Exercise (G. kegel,, bowling pin) maintains and restores elasticity and tome of the vagina muscles and is reputed to contribute significantly to a woman’s pleasure and skill in lovemaking.

Yawning to the Rescue: With your mouth closed, sniff lightly through your nose several times. Then, with you mouth open, sniff again several more times. Very soon after this you will feel the urge to yawn. Cooperate with it and relax into it. Hold your head high (but not tilted back) and let your mouth open wide. Let the yawn complete itself naturally. This is an excellent way for the body to replenish its store of oxygen. It is also a valuable tension and stress release. The ability to yawn efficiently and at will is a useful tool for waiting moments.

Changing Someone: Visualize the person vividly in your mind. Think of something good about the person. Try to evoke within yourself as much love for that person as you can. Breathe deeply into your solar plexus, and imagine it is opening, expanding like a camera shutter. Practice getting in touch with this center when you see a tiny baby or someone you love. Try to feel the contrast between this expanding feeling and the sensation of closing when you meet someone nasty, who means you harm. Whereas criticism can cause others to cling to and defend their undesirable qualities and behavior, loving acceptance gives them the freedom and confidence to change. As you practice the above techniques, your positive feelings and thoughts will seep into your encounters with the person that you are thinking of improving.

Playing Well: An exceptional kegeler visualizes each bowl from start to finish while waiting. Mentally she pushes out, swings down with the first step, back on the second and third step, swooping into the release position and setting her hand in exactly the same perfect spot. All this action is balanced because she moves while continually watching those marks. The ball rolls through that curved path into that sweet spot and dispatches the pins to the void. A secret from ancient Egypt immortalized in “Take the Skinheads Bowling”.

Consider how isometrics, facial exercises behind menus, bad habit modification and self confidence building will change your appearance, posture and self-image; how it will give you peace of mind. Mastery over your life is the key to survival in this mad world.

Power and Intimacy – achieving a balance

Stock still, breathing lightly I face the shadows and reflections mirrored in the smooth wood. I choose a path, and body and mind combine changing stasis to action as I hurl the marble ball gracefully to the floor. A waiting perid is shortly followed by chaos and cacophony. Likewise the perfect balance of opposite elements offers a basis for a rewarding life.

The two great organizing principles in human life are Power and Intimacy. They are opposites: destructive vs. creative, agency vs. communion, “death aggressiveness” vs. erotic “life instincts.” Your life-story can focus on power, be highly intimate, or contain a balance of both.

The Powerful Ones are motivatied by the obvious rewards- success and money. They like to hang in clubs, throw lavish parties in their penthouses and applaud each others’ accomplishments. Their major fear is embarrassment and thus powermongers manipulate each other and avoid conflict at all costs. The advantages are obvious as well. they don’t have to beg for their space, are free to structure their lives independently and manage to have exciting affairs. The can always find a long-legged babe or handsome partner in crime to enjoy the glamorous life.

The Intimate Ones are concerned with just being. Ultimately they seek one-on-one encounters. Betrayal of trust is their biggest fear in relationships, but when it occurs they accept that they themselves are part of the problem. The Tibetans have a principle that emotions should be given free rein, “Ride out the wild horse.” the ride will take you out of the known realm and yet the horse will eventually tire and stop running. It’s fighting our feelings that wastes so much energy.

All this talk about riding is urging me to make a point. Sex is not intimacy. Touching, kissing, caressing, cuddling, undressing, sucking, humping, rocking and rolling; savoring each stage involved in intercourse for a reason. you transcend the bounds of your physical body and become one with another.
The electrostatic energy generated during lovemaking causes a magnetism between the lovers. You have created joy. Surrender to another is simultaneously an escape and a connection to the outside world. A sense of breaking the limitations of time and space gives it a cosmic sense of harmony, It is easy to see the positive effects a mate has on your whole existence. Trusting someone, sharing an ongoing daily dialog is important to your emotional and psychological growth.

Individuals who are motivated by BOTH power and intimacy want it all; they are generally miserable as youngsters, they refuse to conform to archetypical models, exhibit dual sexuality, struggle with immature emotional stages. These are the late bloomers, productive contributions are finally reached at 30-40 years of age. These best and brightest achieve a better life adjustment (as rated by income, happy marriages, promotions, vacations, job satisfaction, no shrinks, no drug or alcohol abuse and minimal sick leave). Their mortality rate is 50% lower. They attain a higher income and social standing, but also possess political outlook, intellectual tastes and superior lifestyle. They become counselors, teachers and peacemakers. Good luck to those of you struggling for the balance.

Born Again

Jesus Jones enters a bowling alley. While bowling a couple of lines, he asks a woman there for a Coke, even though normally he refuses to acknowledge the members of her bowling league. Chatting later, he tells her that he knows she is living out of wedlock, and furthermore that she was previously married four times. Apparently the Liz Taylor of her alley. The harlot bolts out to tell her intimates, who are all on the same bowling team. She convinces them to come and see this extraordinary man.

Organized religion is dismissed as the “opiate of the masses” by modern atheists. Evangelists are selling peace of mind, like a drug to cure the fear of death.1 This drug induces only one chemical reaction in everybody. It homes into that deep recess of your mind that decides what is Truth. This center produces universal hallucinations which scientists like to probe in schizophrenics to get them to roll their eyes up and see visions of God’s face.

Blinded by science! We who cannot believe the Bible was inspired, that Christ is God manifest in flesh-like form, or that the death on the cross will save us all, we are doomed. We know our bad past cannot be dismissed without consideration, will not be corrected apart from contrition and will not be forsaken, save by repentance. The circumstance that one is a deviant does not seal the mind against reality. Obedience is a 7-10 split, we can still confess and convert on the death bed. You might be in good health, but ON YOUR WAY HOME TONIGHT YOU WILL BE KILLED in a car accident.

Sinners are aggressively sought out by evangelists because of a particular experience that Jesus had during his ministry, the modern version given earlier in this piece. They believe your soul dead, thus unable to see the Truth. Ask and your doubt will be removed forever. Think of the incredible benefit, everlasting life! The only requirement is belief in a superior being who wants us to love each other.

Almost 2000 years ago he was day-tripping about, performing miracles at weddings. He had the ability to read the minds of his enemies. They in turn would cry out remorsefully that ‘He is Son of God!’, even while nailing him to the cross. Amazing stories and simple parables illustrate how we can bring peace to earth.

Moonflowers imagines there are 3 levels of spiritual life in ordinary men and women. Personifying them as Dorothy’s companions in the Wizard of Oz:

The Tin Man represents a mechanical dualism that is common in most of church experience; clear distinctions between good and evil are given. Follow the Yellow Brick Road. The television evangelists and their fire and brimstone speeches spring to mind, concrete directions for your salvation from hell. Donations to the Wizards, very undemocratic.

The Lion represents a lifestyle that includes an emotional involvement. Charities and volunteerism are heavily encouraged. Spiritual ecstasy is exhibited by the brides of Christ. Militant public praying by the Lambs of Christ expands prayer from a passive, personal experience into a public, aggressive experience that seeks direct change in individual lives and society. Plans are being made for intercessory prayer meetings timed to coincide with the Super Bowl at the Metrodome, January 26th.

It would be a strange world if none of us were influenced by emotions. This influence steps over the boundary into the territory of logical fallacy, however, when it become the means of deciding what is Truth. The emotions which influence our behavior should not influence our judgement. David Hume put it succinctly, telling us that passion moves us to act, whereas reason directs the course of those actions.

Separate spheres they may inhabit, but Sophists and tricksters have long known ways of making emotions invade the territory of reason. Once whipped up, the emotions can be set at such a gallop that they easily clear the gulf between their domain and that of reason.

The secret of using these fallacies is a simple one. Take the trouble to discover the emotional disposition of your audience, and use language calculated to arouse that emotion. When you have built it up assiduously by means of graphic descriptions, you turn to bear on the question of fact. Very few audiences are able to turn off abruptly. Whether your appeal is to fear, envy, hatred, pride or superstition makes no difference. Indeed, you can use them alternately. Pride in one’s own race, class or nation can be appealed to, even as envy of others is built up.

Intelligent people are often afraid of being thought rather cold because they use reason so much. They do not want to appear to be emotionally deficient, and are easy prey to a minister who assures them that they are just as sensitive, loving and compassionate as the next person. This permits them the delusion that they are welcome into the common fold. Some abandon reason as the price of their admission ticket to the human race. This is not necessary, since there is another level of spiritual life available to them.

The Scarecrow represents those who are longing for ultimate spirituality. Atheism is absolutely contrary to the teachings of science, the truly intellectual are the sincerely inquiring minds. Scholarship into the meaning of life; philosophy is the oldest science. Connected with religion, the forms of art, poetry, drama, sculpture, dancing and architecture were the means of communicating its psychology. For example, the extreme height of Notre Dame expresses the vaulting of the soul into heaven.

Beyond desire and emotional involvement, you compel yourself with control into the intellectual part of your soul. That is where man can create and invent and construct. All religions of the world offer the opportunity to grow spiritually into the best person you will become. Demand a thinking religion from your church, edging toward the consciousness enjoyed by priests and members of the inner circle.

Next time you are approached by an evangelist, try realizing that some souls are moved to help others, give up creature comforts and follow the call to service. Why not invite him to go bowling?

Tips for Burnt-Toast Social Workers

Social workers, police officers, psychiatrists, nurses, teachers, counselors and other caregivers are victims. Authoritative institutions tend to become entrenched power-structures and are notoriously impervious to change and criticism from below. This puts them in the middle between a whining, uncaring public and a ceiling that resembles a bed of nails. Burnout is an everyday threat.

Providing care is often a difficult process. Emotional outlets for the burnt-out include hostility, fear, impatience and empathy:

Hostility- Feelings of anger and irritation will be frequent. Seeking a scapegoat, helpers may express hostility toward others to boost their self-esteem by putting others down. Remember the Kathy Bates as the nurse in “Misery”?

Fear- Police officers and prison guards have to work knowing that they might be suddenly attacked, injured or killed. Avoidance or denial through psychic numbing does not allow one to come to terms with fear. It’s a huge challenge to be effective and maintain emotional health.

Impatience- Emotional exhaustion is high in those who are impulsive, impatient or intolerant. Time to reflect or gain perspective is minimal. Making decisions without a cool head is a bottomless pit of frustration.

Empathy- Understanding someone’s problem from his or her point of view should enhance one’s ability to serve. But repeated vicarious experience of another person’s emotional turmoil will ultimately lead to a hard heart.

Although personality does play some part in burn out, job-related, interpersonal stress comes from situational sources. The phenomenon is so widespread, the people affected by it are so numerous, and their personalities and backgrounds are so varied, that it does not make sense to identify “Bad People” as the cause for an undesirable outcome. Rather we should be trying to identify and analyze the critical components of “Bad Situations” in which many good people function. Imagine investigating the personality of a piece of toast to discover why it had burned without analyzing the toaster!

People who care for people interpret their bad experience as a reflection of some basic personality malfunction. Negative interpretations propel many people into self-condemnation. Some seek therapy to understand their inadequacy, but more battle the problem with booze or rush it away with drugs. A tendency to overestimate the importance of personal factors is the cause. What they need is a new philosophy, Situationism.

The main thrust of Situationism is rejection of traditional, legalistic, anti-humanist morality. Situationism is concerned with the nature of authentic moral choice, denial of intrinsically wrong acts, and has a positive emphasis on human subjectivity. It is criticized for an excessive reliance on intuitive, quasi-mystical responses to the facts of the situation; confusing the realms of faith and reason. Moonflowers likes this aspect immensely.

Purity of intention is the only criterion for evaluating decisions. Suppose God comes to you in the guise of Dick Weber and commands you to throw a “7-10 split”. Before you can obey, you must come to believe that throwing splits is good. Fear of punishment or promise of reward is not to act morally. That would be phony.

Recently mathematicians have begun to formalize the part that situations play in the formula of cause and effect. Situations are abstract objects in their own right. Just like numbers or people, they are part of the equation.

Information can be divided into to two forms, analog and digital. Perception of information is the first stage, where it becomes directly accessible to the eye, nose, ear or other sensor. The flow of information at this point is analog. “A picture is worth a thousand words”. The second stage is extraction of a item of information from this continuum. It involves the conversion from analog to digital information. This stage is cognition and a huge amount of information is lost. For example, after looking at this picture, I tell you, “In this picture, someone is holding a powder blue bowling bag”.

Often we simply discriminate situations without any act of individuation going on. Individuate means to see situations as a whole, not just as a collection of sights and words. Discrimination is just being aware that two objects, or situations are different, without analyzing how or why. Changing your behavior depending on the situation is not evil or flighty, as long as it is not phony.

Because social workers, police officers, psychiatrists, nurses and teachers work inside the establishment, a philosophy based on authentic moral choice and human subjectivity may seem impossible. You could lose your job. “Within” is exactly where changes need to begin. Understand your situation along with the other factors and carefully conquer it in tiny baby steps.

Here’s a list of suggestions on how to head off hostility, fear, impatience and empathy, the emotional outlets of burnout.
1. Think of work and home as two very different places, a special transition is needed to get from one to the other. Skin divers decompress to avoid the bends, you need a cooling off period to ensure a pleasant time with the ones you care about the most and to make your problems seem less immediate and intense. Bowling is the perfect release.
2. Physical activity will get your dophins swimming. Care for yourself, your health and keep strong. Taking things less personally and reminding yourself that “their pain is their pain” is a good way to keep your distance without being cold. Think of your patients or students as pins.
3. Always take your breaks. Getting away serves as an emotional breather. Even built in pauses in your routine will let you set a pace. Being alone is good, but socializing is necessary too. Counterbalance your work environment with positive experiences with healthy happy people outside of your primary area of work. Join a bowling league.
4. Set goals that have a reasonable chance of being reached to take the frustration factor out of your life. Accentuate the positive, restructuring a situation will make your work more rewarding. Ask for positive feedback. To combat the feeling of being directed totally by an institutional power-structure, do the same thing differently and increase the chance of stumbling on a Eureka!