Holiday. Fun?

With the arrival of December, many people experience angst over the approaching holiday. For some, this has to do with awkward, difficult and/or impossible family relationships, which come into focus under the cultural expectation of family togetherness at this time of year.

However, consumer debt is a more pervasive source of December dread. Yesterday’s news reported on Bank of Canada concerns about increasing levels of consumer debt. The Globe & Mail referred to “insatiable borrowing,” quoting a senior director of Equifax, a major credit reporting agency: “Following a frenzied start to the festive shopping season with more to come in the countdown to Christmas, we can expect the consumer debt to rise even further. Tis the season, so we can anticipate credit cards getting a strong workout throughout December.”

Living in a consumer culture puts us under enormous pressure to spend mindlessly. And our ready access to credit cards has been the marketers’ dream, fuelling the attitude they want us to have: What the heck, spend beyond your current capacity because you can.

Naturally, they love it when we pay their 20% interest for years and years. However, the financial consequences are far beyond what most people imagine. The system is complicated and complex, and there is much we don’t know. Early in my teaching career, I discovered that students generally thought that if they made the minimum payment on a credit card, they weren’t in debt. By using their cards and paying the required minimum, they thought they were doing the smart and adult thing. However, that is an illusion. It takes a shocking length of time to pay off debt Continue reading

Conscious Spending: A Solution to Stuffocation

Stuffocation-the-feeling

In a BBC viewpoint article about the hazards of too much stuff, trend forecaster James Wallman describes an American study documenting what most of us already know—that we have a lot of things in our houses.

According to Wallman, 2 out of 3 people wish they had less stuff. These people are experiencing what he calls stuffocation—an intriguing word that describes the feeling of drowning in stuff. Not surprisingly, the resulting clutter crisis leads to mental stress, which causes physiological symptoms such as elevated cortisol levels. In this way, the mental stress of excess damages our physical health.

I’m with him until he proposes that we solve the problem of excess stuff by spending our money on experiences instead of things. Continue reading

Perspective

How fun is that!? A catchy tune and cute kids. I hope it brought a smile to your heart, even if Christmas isn’t your holiday.

Sometimes it’s helpful to look at the origin of things, behaviours, and practices. It gives us perspective.

This song, for example. I don’t remember it during that time my kids were growing up in the 1970s. It resurfaced a few years ago, but had its origins back in 1953 when 10-year-old Gayla Peevey was invited to sing a new song on Oklahoma television.

I love seeing these two videos in sequence because it reminds me that times have changed.. and yet some things are enduring. I’d say the charm of children and this catchy tune are among them.

Happy holidays, however you celebrate…and even if you don’t get a hippopotamus.

I don’t do New Year’s resolutions.

I don’t do New Year’s resolutions. It doesn’t mean I don’t accomplish things. But I go about it differently.

The problem with resolutions…

Resolutions are cousins of goals, and both are fraught with similar difficulties. One problem is that goals and resolutions are pass/fail propositions. They come with baggage. You make it or you don’t. If you don’t, you are judged—by yourself and others—as a failure, a bad person, less than.

Another difficulty is the inflexibility of resolutions and goals. Stephen Covey, in First Things First, compared goal-setting to placing a ladder against a wall and resolutely climbing to the top, only to get there and discover you had placed it against the wrong wall and wasted a lot of time and effort getting somewhere you didn’t want to go.

Adam Alter on Goals

Often the goal was achieved at a cost—the sacrifices that were made to push through and get to where you said you were going. Perhaps there’s an element of character-building when we say we’ll do something and follow through no matter what. But I think we do better when we set up our lives in ways that allow us to respond to changing conditions.

Sticking to old plans isn’t useful in rapidly changing conditions…

I’ve noticed that business researchers are now writing about how important it is for companies to be able to pivot as circumstances change. The same applies to our personal lives. Heaven knows, we are living in times of rapid changes of great magnitude. In the last year there have been numerous occurrences—political, environmental, social—that would have been  unthinkable a short time ago.

It’s tempting to act mindlessly…

Goals are easy in that you have rules and parameters along the way, so you can put yourself on autopilot. Psychologist Adam Alter has something to say about that. He’s an Associate Professor of Marketing at New York University’s Stern School of Business, and the New York Times bestselling author of two books. In a recent interview he said, “When there’s a goal, humans move mindlessly toward it. This is a principle that’s used to advantage in designing slot machines and video games.”

Alter’s view is that goals are a broken process that can’t help but be unfulfilling, as he explains in this brief video.

His alternative is to set a system that emphasizes the process instead of the far-in-the-future result that seems like an anticlimax when you reach it. This approach gives more immediate reward for effort but, like goals, still has the potential to be inflexible and unresponsive to changing conditions.

We are in times where we can no longer afford the luxury of mindless, knee-jerk, habitual behaviours. My alternative to goals is based on intention and following the energy.

Life on the unfolding path

Following the energy is a mindful way of engaging with the activities of life, Setting an intention puts things in motion. You follow the energy by tuning in and being alert for subtle messages as you move through your days. The trick is to not overlook those messages or discount them when they present themselves.

Here’s a mundane example that I know many of us have experienced in some variation: You’re in the store picking up groceries and something catches your attention. It’s an ingredient you rarely use and your mind says, ‘What do you want that for?” Since you haven’t plans to make anything using it, you move on. A couple days later, in the midst of a snow storm, you are cooking dinner for an unexpected houseguest. The recipe calls for—you guessed it—the ingredient you left in the store. If only you had paid attention.

I had my first direct experience of the unfolding path when I went to England for the first time many years ago. I knew I wanted to travel from Schumacher College in Devon to Stonehenge, and had a time frame but no specific itinerary arranged in advance. By paying attention to prompts and information that appeared along the way, I had some surprisingly profound experiences.

This was a revelation to me because until then I had been someone who liked to have every detail nailed down. In the years since then, I’ve come to appreciate that living by intention and following the energy makes for a much more interesting life.

The first step is to cultivate your ability to pay attention to the promptings, your intuition, or however it is they present themselves. Make it your intention to open up to them, and you might be surprised what happens!

Normal is not something to aspire to

For a long time, I have thought that we live in a culture where “normal” is the lowest common denominator and, therefore, not something I want to aim for.

[tweetshare tweet=”Food for thought…It is no measure of health to be well-adjusted to a profoundly sick society. Krishnamurti” username=”LauranaRayne”]

I thought I was alone in my opinion—until I heard and interview with Pilar Gerasimo. She is a health journalist and change agent best known for her work as founding editor of Experience Life, a whole-person healthy living magazine that reaches more than three million people nationwide.

In an article titled “The Making of a Healthy Deviant: Choosing a Healthy Life in an Unhealthy World” she says,

Becoming and staying a healthy person in our culture is tougher than it ought to be. You can’t just roll merrily along with the unhealthy status quo, or you’ll become part of it. You have to maintain a base level of hyper-vigilance just to avoid getting sucked into the dominant-culture machine.

Healthy deviance is a term she coined. According to Pilar, it means “being different—in a weirdly healthy, happy way.” She elaborates…

Choosing to be a healthy person in an unhealthy world means becoming an outlier. It means frequently walking against the traffic of a mass-hallucination — and that’s not something most people are prepared to do.

The good news is that we can live outside the “normal” culture without moving to a cave or shunning the good things in modern culture. According to Pilar, healthy deviance is a change in awareness and behaviour that involves…

  • Waking yourself up and noticing what’s going on within and around you.
  • Reclaiming your energy, attention and autonomy.
  • Learning to think differently, choose differently, be different in ways that please you.
  • Hopping off the conveyor belt and tossing some well-placed wrenches into the dominant-culture machine.

[tweetshare tweet=”Healthy Deviance is choosing to become and remain healthy even in the midst of an unhealthy culture. Pilar Gerisimo ” username=”LauranaRayne”]

The Living Experiment

Pilar has recently teamed up with Dallas Hartwig to produce a podcast called The Living Experiment. Dallas is co-author of The Whole30 and It Starts With Food. He’s a functional medicine practitioner, Certified Sports Nutritionist, and licensed physical therapist

The Living Experiment is one of my favourite podcasts. I appreciate their thoughtful conversations about the issues we encounter in trying to thrive in an unhealthy world. These are some of my favourite topics, but there are many others so scan the list and see what appeals to you.

  • Purpose vs Pleasure
  • Eating Meat
  • Conscious Language
  • The Health of Others
  • Conscious Eating

So…I’m interested in your thoughts on the concept of healthy deviance. Can you relate or not? Do you have experience in trying to thrive in an unhealthy world, even though you didn’t call your actions healthy deviance? I’d love your comments if you have anything to share about this post.

Wills…getting down to business

*** Time for this post?  Reading… 7 minutes. Implementing… however long it takes to make the call that gets the ball rolling.

Most of us cringe when we think about making our wills.

Such a pain!  Don’t even want to think about it.  I know that I should…and I will do it… one of these days.

“One of these days” doesn’t come for all of us.

Some die suddenly and the family is left scrambling to find out what is where.

Others find themselves very ill, debilitated, and in the hospital—with family members delicately trying to find out if there is a will without appearing to hope the person will die so they can get their inheritance.

Not a pretty sight, and not what any of us would want if we were thinking rationally.

Interesting thing about death, though…

The topic of dying tends to evoke irrational responses. Here are a few reasons for this. What would you add?

  • Trauma from a childhood experience involving the death of a family member, friend, or beloved pet.
  • Fear of offending a dying person by bringing up the topic.
  • Fear of sounding greedy or insensitive if you are an adult child wondering about what your parent’s wishes are and where they are recorded.

Most of us have emotional reactions to the reality and logistics of death. One way or another, our emotional blocks interfere with our ability to act reasonably and responsibly. Often we cope by avoiding talking or even thinking about all death-related things.

Discovering your own hangups and releasing them paves the way for you to have productive conversations around dying, whether you’re the child or the parent. In my experience, emotional blocks often respond to energy psychology modalities such as NLP and the Emotion Code.

Why bother?

Making a will is a lot of effort, especially if you have to jump over emotional hurdles before getting started. And then  when you do get down to business, there are several important decisions waiting to be made.

Maybe it isn’t worth the trouble to make your will. You’ll die some day, whether or not you have a will.

What happens when there isn’t a will?

The government is prepared for those in the died-without-a-will group. Here’s how I explained it in Conscious Spending, Conscious Life:

Someone who dies without a valid will is said to have died intestate. When that happens, the Wills and Succession Act describes how the distribution of your belongings is determined.

Essentially, it sets out an order of distribution based on the family tree, starting with the closest relatives—spouse or partner, then children. If there are none, it goes to parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts/uncles and so on, in a prescribed order.

If no relatives are found within two years, the estate is turned over to the Alberta government and held under the Unclaimed Personal Property and Vested Property Act. Should no valid heir come forward within 10 years, the property belongs to the government.

If there is no will, and minor children are left without parents, the court appoints a guardian for them. The court’s main concern is the welfare of the children, and it will choose from among suitable family members, unless there are none. In this case, the children would be placed in a foster home.

Reading this, you might think that everything’s looked after under the legislation, so there’s no need to make a will. On the surface, that could appear to be true.

Why not just let the government handle it, then?

For one thing, it’s usually more complicated and expensive to process an estate when there isn’t a will. That means it’ll take more of your money and someone’s time to do the job.

For another thing,  you can’t be sure that the specified succession pattern will suit your situation. And laws usually don’t allow adjustment to individual circumstances.

Modern lives are complicated and unique— A person is separated from a spouse (although not divorced) and living with another partner. There are families with children from different mothers or fathers. There are childless single people who want their estate left to a charity rather than their siblings. If it were possible to imagine all the scenarios that might arise during your life, you might be able to guess if the legislation would work in your favour or not.

But given all the unknowns, it’s probably easier to just bite the bullet and make your will so that you can have things your way…even after you die.

No motivation yet?

Does completing your death documents still seem like something that you should do rather than something you want to?

“Shoulds” are weak motivators because the direction and expectation is coming from a source outside of you. We need to find our own reasons, especially for tasks that aren’t any fun and may require us to make difficult decisions.

What if you had a mind shift?

A mind shift is simply a change of perspective. And often that’s the best way for us to unleash our motivation.

We all know that it’s a good idea to have certain documents in place when we die because we live in a culture that’s organized around these documents.

But if we don’t have them, we still die.

Dying without a will won’t cause any problems for you. You won’t be the one who has to deal with the laws pertaining to dead people and their belongings. Picking up the pieces will fall to those you leave behind.

If your will is still on your to-do list, find a lawyer. Make the appointment. Next week I’ll tell you how to prepare yourself for the meeting.

Please note: Laws vary between provinces, states, and countries. I’m using information from where I live to illustrate principles, but you will need to check the details in your jurisdiction. The Internet is a good place to start.