Monday, April 11, 2016

Romance on the High Seas 2016 Caribbean Wellness

“The concept of total wellness recognizes that our every thought, word, and behavior affects our greater health and well being. And we, in turn, are affected not only emotionally but also physically and spiritually.”     ~ Greg Anderson (American Wellness Project)

“Romance on the High Seas”  , NECA’s Valentine Cruise, featured two Wellness Presentations in the Sky Light Chapel on Deck 15. Dr. Michael Lazarchick entertained the audience with messages on the interplay of Body, Mind and Spirit and included experiential processes to enhance learning.  Drawn from both eastern and western traditions the purpose was to explore various models of “consciousness”  in a universe  composed of interconnected energies.  

 An opening joke elicited laughter and released endorphin into the body, natural healing drugs.  The group pondered a question extensively researched by Lissa Rankin, M.D.,  “What if you have the power to heal your body just by changing how you think and feel?”  Most counselors would agree that positive thinking and affirmations have long be on the path to healing, but Rankin and others now record actual changes in the body. The group enacted the “Wonder Woman” power  pose, increasing testosterone (strength) and reducing Cortisol (stress) according to Amy Cuddy’s research. 

Pursuing the idea that healing is easier when you engage your body, the group moved, felt energy and experienced a little qi gong. Everyone agreed that walking a half hour each day is now considered to be a good idea, especially as we age. Stretching and lifting a little weight helps our muscles to continue to perform. If something hurts, your body is telling you to stop!

Most believe we can do or eat just about anything if we do so in moderation. Yet, we are each unique and there is significant literature (for example: Albert Ellis ABC Theory)  that tell us our perceptions depend upon our beliefs.  It was suggested that whatever we believe, the universe will prove it to us. Furthermore, the older we get the greater is our tendency to believe that our views are correct.  

Cruises offer lots of food and even the most disciplined are tempted to stray from their normal consumption habits. An ideal diet (to shed excess pounds and avoid western diseases) was described as primarily whole food fruits and vegetables, from local sources we know that do not use pesticides or artificial fertilizers, with some dairy and even less meat (both from grass fed pastured animals) . Absolutely avoid processed foods with added sugars and salt. Understand that eating raw fermented foods revitalizes and restores active good bacteria in the gut. So how did the presenter rationalize eating desert every night after dinner? If you really believe something is good for you it quite likely is and of course, if you really receive happiness and joy from eating something really tasty, isn’t that good for you? The comment elicited laughter and that was healthy.
From a discussion of the energetic body, to mindfulness meditation, chanting the Om and seeing a demonstration of Applied Kinesiology, the presentations covered a wide variety of concepts. The time flew by and no one was expected to accept anything that did not fit into their personal understanding of the universe.  There was one universal truth. Cruising the Caribbean starting on Valentine Day seemed to be a rejuvenating experience for all in attendance.  

  For more links to concepts  See 2016 Wellness Presentations at

Healthy personality is manifested by individuals who have been able to gratify their basic needs through acceptable behavior such that their own personality is no longer a problem to their self. They can take their self more or less for granted and devote energies and thoughts to socially meaningful interests and problems beyond security or lovability or status.          ~   SIDNEY MARSHALL JOURARD

Sunday, December 20, 2015

The Greatest Gift

Natural forces within us are the true healers of disease.   ~   Hippocrates

Especially as we age, we begin to realize our time on this planet is limited. If someone close to you is injured or suffers a catastrophic illness or leaves this planet far too young, certainly your thoughts about the future are forever changed? When I was diagnosed with Cancer  shortly after my wife lost her leg during 2006, our outlooks once again shifted dramatically. We had new concepts to research.  Religious friends offered prayers. More scientifically oriented colleagues suggested increased positive thinking.   In common was the suggestion that all great challenges overcome, provide spiritual growth and greater strength.   This is very important if you believe that future obstacles are inevitable.  
As if being an amputee was not hard enough, my wife fell at work and suffered a compression fracture of her third lumber vertebrae.  Her mobility became that much harder. Six months later she was in physical therapy and the facility has a gym. I said yes I would give her support and go with her.  We got stronger together. A personal trainer came along with the package. I learned how to use the machines and a lot about how my muscles work.  I knew I was not in bad shape, but had no idea how far away I was from being in good shape!  I was aware that muscle mass continues to degrade especially after age 50. Physical training is about lifting and pumping the heart. But that is not the whole story. 

Jim Fix was author of The Complete Book of Running and undoubtedly influenced all the jogging we see today.   Some suggest he believed the secret was exercise and his biography suggests he was not much concerned with what he ate.   Despite his assumed great physical health, he died of a heart attack at the age of 52 while jogging! 

Diet is a subject to which I have devoted much study.  I have tended  an organic garden for over 40 years.  My soil is alive filled with dozens of minerals, air, water , organic matter, microorganisms and bountiful earthworms.  My fruits and vegetable are as local as it gets, not losing nutrition during weeks of transportation from far away ports.  I am not dependent upon factory farms that use chemicals (artificial fertilizer made only from nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus) and then cover their crops with pesticides to allow production in “dead soil.”  

Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.  ~    Hippocrates 

I spend countless hours  in my garden, reaching a meditative state of existence, watching an army of predatory insects keep down the population of plant eaters that are drawn to weaknesses in the growth process.  Do not our own bodies follow a similar pattern?   Disease festers in our weakest places as our antibodies wage war. With each passing year are regenerative abilities are further challenged. Fortunately our wisdom grows. 

I do believe it matters what type of “fuel” we put into our bodies.  I do believe we need to pump our heart and lift weights appropriately. I also believe that laughter produces  natural drugs within and that meditation has tremendous healing  power.  

So what does all this have to do with Employment Counseling? We help people find worthwhile employment. Ideally, they find a job that returns enough money and work that provides true joy and happiness.  We are engaging with them in a process of healing. To do this well we need to help them and ourselves become as healthy as possible in body, mind and spirit. We all need to make the best possible choices. The greatest gift is this magnificent vehicle we each possess that allows us to interact with one another on this glorious planet, albeit for a rather brief moment in time. 


Thursday, November 27, 2014

Gratitude and Golf

Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transcendent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life and the world.  ~   John Milton

This past October I won my golf league Championship. In the league for over twenty years, I had made the finals on four previous occasions finishing second all four times. The top four point gatherers during the regular season get to play for the title. We are challenged in each tournament to do our best in the hope that we will make the “final four”.  Even if you do not play golf, you will relate to my feelings if you have ever finally accomplished a difficult task after many attempts that just fell short!  I was ecstatic in the moment and have found it easier to remain fully in appreciation of my life ever since.  

Perhaps you are familiar with disciplines that advocate honoring the Universe? 
The Hawaiin  Ho'oponopono  is “ a tool for atonement, for correcting errors, erasing the effects of past actions and memories that cause havoc and grief in our lives, the lives of others and on mother nature as a whole.”     My wife has the Mantra posted on our refrigerator,  “I Am Sorry -  Please Forgive Me -   I Love You - Thank You.”  Those that practice seriously include breathing exercise and meditation. 

I Am Sorry suggests that the moment we take  responsibility  for any negative manifestation we experience or witness, we also create an opportunity for healing.

With Please Forgive Me we are acknowledging that negative thoughts  shut out and thus shield us from  all the wonderful experiences that we could have had.

I Love You generates an immediate feeling of well being.

Thank You is simply reaffirming the power of this positive vision of reality. 

The Butterfly Effect in Choas Theory suggests that the flapping of tiny wings reverberate out into the universe, grow with distance,  and can affect weather conditions across the planet.  Personally I do believe we are in a Universe of Energy and I know what I exude touches  all those around me. Surely in Employment Counseling we endeavor to lift spirits and help our clients to reinterpret their circumstances in more positive light? 

As I compose this message it is Thanksgiving Morning. Many will express words of Thanks as they sit down for their traditional feast. Soon, we will be well into the Holiday Season. The words “Peace on Earth and Goodwill to All” will be expressed by multitudes. New Year’s Resolutions will be promises to do an act of self-improvement or at least something nice.  Do you have a personal gem you want to strongly manifest in the future? 

I plan to practice gratitude on a daily basis. Fortunately when the big challenges confront me and threaten my tranquility, I will be able to fall back upon my gift this year. I will still be the Golf Champion! 

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

National Employment Counseling Association Goes to Cuba

As a professional employment counselor, a primary focus of my visit to Cuba was to better understand their labor market and workforce. Upon our arrival we met our tour guide, a lovely 29-year-old young lady fluent in both Spanish and English. She clearly loved her homeland, but told us that the majority of the Cuban people were poor. To help us understand Cuba she told us about the two different types of currency.  Cuban Convertible Coins (CUC), roughly equivalent to the US dollar, are the currency of the tourists. During 2004, Cuba outlawed the use of the US dollar in Cuba and imposed a 10% tax on US dollar exchanges to Cuban currency. We actually paid 13% to make the exchange at our hotel. Despite paying the tax, just about everything seemed to be fairly inexpensive.  

The majority of the Cuban people however, are in the Cuban Peso  (CUP) society.  There are roughly 25 CUP in 1 CUC.   What I viewed as inexpensive was out of the price range of most of the population.  It became quite clear as our tour unfolded that almost everybody was on a quest to acquire CUC. As I better understood the CUP and the CUC, I better understood the various occupations on the island. 

No weapon has ever settled a moral problem. It can impose a solution but it cannot guarantee it to be a just one.   ~   Ernest Hemingway

Hemingway was probably not speaking about Cuba, but none-the-less we could argue that on such a beautiful Caribbean island, the words have some truth. In July 1960 Hemingway left Cuba for the final time.  His residence, Finca Vigia, was expropriated shortly thereafter by the Cuban government. As we viewed his home, looking in doors and windows, we saw inside one lady working in silence, apparently with the task of not allowing tourists to enter. I wondered how much she was being paid to stand vigil in a relic hardly changed in the last half century.  I also spent some time watching a construction crew working on a new sidewalk. They mixed concrete in a small hand turned tumbler, shoveling it in and out of wheelbarrows, engaged in serious hard labor. In retrospection, the rest of Cuba was not unlike the Hemingway estate, on hold since the 1950s. I saw little that was new and saw considerable deterioration of what had been. At best there were a few pockets of limited renovation. 

Before the Revolution, Cuba was relatively prosperous with a large upper middle class and a fairly strong economy. Havana in the 1950s was later described as “what Las Vegas would later become,” a playground for rich tourists, celebrities and the American Mafia.  Rural Cuba however was not so pleasant with difficult living conditions, unemployment, poverty and a high rate of illiteracy.  That would change under Fidel Castro and we heard the story at the Cuban Literacy Museum.

The director was clearly passionate about her work. She was proud of her accomplishments. Her presentation had been strong. The story about Fidel’s 1961 campaign to eliminate illiteracy was powerful. Now time for questions, I presented my query with the idea that many US teachers considered themselves underpaid. I asked if Cuban teachers were paid enough money. Immediately a slight frown on her face revealed a reluctant truth.  Everybody could use more money she said. Then she shifted into what seemed like a standardized rationalization, we get free education and free medical coverage. The basic needs of the people are met.  

Our next stop was an elementary school with many veteran teachers. The director told me that salaries ranged between 400 and 500 Cuban Pesos (per month). Yes, the equivalent of $16 to $20 dollars. I asked the teachers about other sources of income and they had none. I was told that university professors, doctors and those with advanced degrees might be earning 700 Cuban pesos a month. 

We traveled along the rural roads in Cienfuegos on route to our hotel. The homes were weather beaten and modest. I saw farmers using hand plows to till their land. Fortunately farmers now have the right to operate a private business. There were not a lot of cars on the road, however we passed many horse driven carts. I asked our guide about the ones transporting people and learned they were taxis. The locals paid a few Cuban pesos for local travel. The income easily supported the cost of the owning a horse. As it turns out the taxi business is one of the better trades and I would learn there are many different types of vehicles. Those transporting tourists could make a decent income. 

We took a walk along the street from our first hotel quickly encountering requests to take a bi-cycle taxi.   Not half way down the first block, we were offered Cuban cigars and traditional Cuban music. Obviously we looked like tourists and street peddling we would find was ubiquitous. 

Our financial education continued when our group visited our first market place. We walked through a Cuban peso store. The selection was limited and the quality of many products was certainly questionable.  Most of the stores on the street offered higher quality merchandise for the CUC currency. The appliance store had older looking models of washing machines, gas stoves and electric fans at prices we would consider quite reasonable, yet I would suspect, out of the price range of the average citizen.  I noticed that at virtually every home clothes were hung out to dry. While not surprising in the rural country side, a few days later we would see the same held true in the big city of Havana. We also visited a Bodega. Each citizen had a ration book and could purchase their share of basics for Cuban pesos. 

Our group entered the city center park to view historical buildings and see the local statue of Jose Marti. Marti is a Cuban national hero, a political activist, novelist, poet in the 19th century who advocated for independence from Spain in the 19th century. In the park was my first encounter with an “older person” rubbing their hand and arm, “begging.”  I asked about the gesture and our guide told me it meant, “buy me soap.” I thought to myself, they looked old enough to be alive at the time of the revolution or otherwise they had endured a very difficult existence. There were many people who “worked” just asking for money. 

We visited an artist community, craft booths on the road and a market place filled with vendors.  People pleaded with me to buy and for most, no price seemed too low. They tugged at my heart string and when they did extricate a CUC dollar or two the thankfulness was deep and sincere.  We listened to a chamber orchestra and several bands, every time being invited to dance and they all were selling CDs. I now have a small collection.    

While traveling to Havana, we passed through many rural communities. Cuban law mandates that every government vehicle that is not full must stop and pick up those seeking transportation in their direction. Hence, the yellow man has a job ensuring that those vehicles stop and allow passengers to board. We often saw a person dressed in yellow at a prime location surrounded by a group of travelers in need. 

I was not prepared to see the big City of Cuba. Built out of limestone, buildings were crumbling. There were signs of renovation but our guide told us the progress had been slow and clearly there was a lot that needed to be accomplished.  One cathedral covered in scaffolding had been that way as long as she could remember. 

In Havana, Coco Taxis (three wheelers) and vintage automobile taxis were everywhere.        
The Gentlemen “Dandy” and Habaneras (women posing in colonial dress, some selling flowers) strutted around the center square offering a picture opportunity for a few coins.  We also encountered Caricaturists, quickly sketching our continence hoping to sell to us for a few dollars.  

Not the most glamorous job, rest room attendant may none the less be lucrative.  We paid 25 Centavos (a quarter) to use public restrooms that featured seat-less toilets. At the museum after I used the facility the attendant went in and flushed with a bucket of water.  

During 2008 Raul Castro opened up private enterprise to the people. While tourism is controlled by the government, at least now a greater percentage of the population has hope of getting a share of the dollars. Most of the entrepreneurial jobs described are fairly new occupations on the island. Private construction is one and there is a lot of work to be done.  

I spoke one morning with the cook who made omelets and told him I was from the United States.  He lamented that he would never be able to go and if he did he would not come back.  He told me he worked long hours and while food was cheap, there just was not enough money. That seemingly was the story all too familiar for the vast majority.  

However, there is another emerging side. We stopped for lunch at Casa Hostel Enrique, a privately run business. It was beautiful. Everything had a recent coat of paint. The tile floors and d├ęcor in general reflected the life of a higher middle income family.  Allowing private business ventures is relatively new with major changes starting in 2008.  With five rooms to rent, they pay the state 35 CUC ($35) per month per room and another 10% tax on profits at the end of the year. They rent rooms for 30 to 35 CUC per night. They said they were very successful with so far, limited competition. The home next door was also rebuilt and freshly painted. The home next to that was half rebuilt. They were the only three homes on the street reflecting significant renovation. 

I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to Cuba and highly recommend the experience.  The Cuban people are delightful and very warm. They love to dance and love their baseball, one of the top paying jobs!  They are a society in transition and I am hopeful for their future! 

I find hope in the darkest of days, and focus in the brightest. I do not judge the universe.  ~ Dalai Lama