Category Archives: Mental Health
I absolutely love this photo challenge from Ann-Christine, and I admire her beautiful post giving us a glimpse into the outer world she’s created to express and host her inner world.
Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Flights of Fancy
How do you photograph a fantasy?
What do your daydreams look like?
“Sometimes, in a summer morning, having taken my accustomed bath, I sat in my sunny doorway from sunrise till noon, rapt in reverie.” – Henry David Thoreau
“Sit in reverie and watch the changing color of the waves that break upon the idle seashore of the mind.” – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
“Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living, it’s a way of looking at life through the wrong end of a telescope.” – Dr. Seuss
“Nothing happens unless first a dream.” – Carl Sandburg
The fabulous thing about this challenge is that you would have no photographs to submit unless your flight of fancy could become reality. We may be more fortunate than we dare to imagine. Thanks to Johnbo for the prompt!
Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Treasures
“It is by going down into the abyss that we recover
the treasures of life. Where you stumble, there lies your treasure.” ― Joseph Campbell
This week’s challenge is hosted by Aletta of nowathome. She lives in South Africa and finds on the sands of the beach a fascinating treasure of endless variety. This week, I found my treasure in the Cascade mountain range of Oregon.
It has not been an easy week. Three of my family members have Covid. My national government is regressing into dangerously harmful territory. I called a couple of friends and took off into the hills, from whence cometh my treasure – being alive in wilderness.
“Bad things do happen; how I respond to them defines my character and the quality of my life. I can choose to sit in perpetual sadness, immobilized by the gravity of my loss, or I can choose to rise from the pain and treasure the most precious gift I have – life itself.” ― Walter Anderson
I am enormously grateful for the ability to breathe the mountain air deep into my lungs, to smell the delicate perfume of wildflowers, to walk for miles and hours far away from flawed human systems. I treasure the perspective of the peaks above me and the plants at my feet. I treasure the freedom of flying butterflies, vulnerable yet exquisitely alive for their brief spans.
Thank you, Lens-Artists, for sharing your treasures. As we share, we build a caring community. Your generosity matters.
Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Hideaway
We do not retreat from reality, we rediscover it. As long as the story lingers in our mind, the real things are more themselves… By dipping them in myth we see them more clearly. — C. S. Lewis
How do you prefer to take in and process new information about the world? Do you seek out facts, stories, or experiences? Probably you find yourself using a combination of these avenues into reality. And then, perhaps, you find a quiet place to sort through them.
I know a place where no one ever goes;
There’s peace and quiet, beauty and repose.
It’s hidden in a valley, beside a mountain stream,
And lying there beside the stream, I find that I can dream
Only of things of beauty to the eye:
snow-peaked mountains tow’ring to the sky.
Now I know that God has made this place for me.
— a song I learned at Girl Scout camp long ago
My brother was grilling on the back porch last night. While the aroma of smoke penetrated my thoughts, my daughter’s boyfriend asked me, “When was the last time you were camping?”
Two years ago.
I miss that kind of hideaway opportunity. The simple reality of sky, water, earth, and fire helps me see all the storylines that I have crafted about life in a much clearer light. What is essential floats to the surface and becomes like the reflection of heaven. What is clunky and artificial sinks like dead weight in the silt bottom.
We are looking for happiness and running after it in such a way that creates anger, fear and discrimination. So when you attend a retreat, you have a chance to look at the deep roots of this pollution of the collective energy that is unwholesome. — Thich Nhat Hahn
Retreats, hideaways, sanctuaries — safe places for reflection, introspection, and soul work — are important to cultivate. They can be far away, across oceans of distance or as close as the inside of your own eyelids.
Take care of yourselves, friends. From the inside out.
Thank you, Ann-Christine, for sharing your beautiful glass greenhouse space in this challenge.
Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Morning
“When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive – to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.” – Marcus Aurelius
Thank you, Ann-Christine, for such a positive invitation in this week’s Photo Challenge, and for sharing your sunshiny morning amid new growth.
I have to admit that I’m struggling these days, and this morning, I lay in my flannel sheets, sinking into the Memory Foam mattress and wondering what reason I might have to get up. The sun was shining, though, and temperatures that had been below freezing every morning for a week were promised to rise to about 50 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the day.
Yesterday, I started doing a morning yoga routine with an online video. Last weekend, I had a hula hoop and a jump rope delivered to my house so that I could “play outside” like I used to when I was a kid. So, I started my day with a little exercise. I am normally a “morning person”. I like to get up and get going on some project and then slow down as the day progresses. I like big breakfasts. I like adventures. I like long views as I’m starting out. I love camping and waking up to the promise of an exciting day.
“Silently the morning mist is lying on the water
Captive moonlight waiting for the dawn
Softly like a baby’s breath, a breeze begins to whisper
The sun is coming, quick you must be goneSmiling like a superstar the morning comes in singing
The promise of another sunny day
And all the flowers open up to gather in the sunshine
I do believe that summer’s here to stayDo you care what’s happening around you?
Do your senses know the changes when they come?
Can you see yourselves reflected in the season?
Can you understand the need to carry on?” ~ John Denver, “Summer” from Season Suite
In the present circumstances, it’s easy to feel stuck. I’m missing the trip I should be on right now. This morning, I was supposed to be waking up in a house with my four adult children, whom I haven’t seen for six months. My big plans are on hold. The cross-country move I’ve been planning for a year will have to be postponed for at least a month.
However…the Universe is still unfolding, if not on my timeline, then on its own. New growth and new adventure will appear, new days will dawn, and I will rise up to meet them.
That shadow on the rock is me taking a selfie with the rising sun behind me at Canyon of the Ancients National Monument.
Here’s to morning meditations with a new hike on the horizon! I believe I will have that experience again. Meanwhile, I will practice patience and gratitude.
Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Chaos
Perhaps presciently, Ann-Christine chose the theme of CHAOS for this week’s Photo Challenge even before the pandemic was declared.
What an interesting word – indeed, an interesting concept. I suspect that only human beings, with their big brains and their social biology, even experience chaos. I imagine chaos to be attributed to a situation that evokes a kind of fear, but on a more complex level than a fear for one’s basic survival.
Social chaos, for example.
Probably most of us have experienced the confusing disorder of emotions and associations that might be described as social chaos. Where do I fit in? How do I connect? Do my feelings mesh with anyone else’s? These thoughts can be quite unsettling to me, but I don’t imagine spiders or starfish or blue jays dealing with that kind of survival anxiety.
Some humans believe that we have a superior gift for bringing order out of chaos. I look at homeowners blowing those untidy leaves off of their driveway in the fall, and I wonder if they imagine they are making the world more orderly while forgetting that our suburban consumption creates chaotic waste in much greater proportions.
If chaos provokes a kind of fear or discomfort, then each of us probably has a different threshold of tolerance for it. And each of us can probably reset that threshold with a bit of work. How comfortable can you become with disorder, ambiguity, or uncertainty? I have to admit that I found parenting to be a great exercise in adaptation to chaos. There were plenty of times that I wasn’t in control of the situation, but I survived, and I certainly learned a lot…and I actually enjoyed it.
There is plenty to learn in the present climate of global chaos in the human family. There are certainly many questions with unknown answers. There is confusion and ambiguity and anxiety about how we fit together, how we feel, and how we ought to act. And this is going on at a very high level of cognitive function. It is a situation that is created in our big brains.
At the same time, in the world outside our big brains, Nature is functioning as usual. Organisms emerge, populations respond, life and death dance together in fascinating rhythm. I find this incredibly peaceful, a perfect antidote to chaos. Breathing in the assurance of Nature’s presence, I am strengthened for the work of being a human. It’s not easy work. We have a lot of responsibility. But the first responsibility is being aware of who we are as a species. May we be humble. May we be kind to every being on the Tree of Life.
Weekly Photo Challenge: Afloat, temporarily
Afloat: borne on the water, free of difficulties.
Not exactly the same as ‘adrift’. You can be anxious, being adrift, afraid you’ve lost your bearings, veered off course, or abandoned your purpose. Afloat is the feeling of being supported gently, effortlessly. It’s a kind of dreamy state, I think. Last year, the day after my birthday, I treated myself to a sail on the Denis Sullivan, a facsimile of a 19th century lake vessel owned by the museum where I worked at the time. The day was completely calm and foggy.
There was a very quiet, gentleness to the water. It was very relaxing. The crew still went through the activities of raising the sails, and we helped (a little), but mostly hung around idle.
It’s nice to be afloat, but I wouldn’t want to do it every day. I like being engaged in a stimulating effort to take responsibility for myself in my life. I don’t want to expect an easy ride, and I don’t want to complain or blame some other entity for not supporting me. I appreciate resources, but I don’t feel entitled to them, and I’m very willing to go without a lot of things. I think this attitude is very simple and useful.
© 2015, essay and photographs, Priscilla Galasso, All rights reserved
Photography 101: Glass
Half full, half empty. Worn and washed up on the beach.
“Land Ho!” “Pass me the glass! No, not that one, the telescope!”
Through a glass, darkly. Nose to the pane. The ceiling. Don’t throw stones.
Cool and transparent, insulating, sparkly…glass is all around. I look through it all day long, even when I’m outside and have for years. I remember leaving the optometrist’s showroom with my first pair of glasses on. I looked up to the foothills and saw leaves on the trees up there. Suddenly, there was depth and contrast in the distance. It was a miracle. The first time I looked through a microscope was a miracle, too. I imagine indigenous people finding obsidian and cutting their fingers on it, rejoicing. What stuff!
I feel my life getting dull. I’ve been working hard at the book-selling business, rather repetitively. I need to wake up to the scintillating delight of life. This is a perfect visual reminder!
Media and Mania
My laptop perches on my warmly-wrapped lap. Sunshine covers the foot of the bed. Outside my window, sparrows twitter in the snow-dusted branches. Steve and I tap our separate keyboards, sending muffled punctuations from our two upstairs rooms into the tranquil space of our “treehouse” among the maples. It’s Monday morning, and we’re back at work, like so many others in this nation and unlike them at the same time.
Last night, in a nod toward the culture around us, we watched half of the Super Bowl – not on a TV because we don’t own one. Oddly enough, we were able to view it on this screen. It’s been a while since I looked through that window. I recognized a lot of faces from my past encounters with the media, decades aged. (Mary Lou Retton, is that you? Kevins – Bacon and Costner, still recognizable, but changed.) The atmosphere seemed a lot more frenetic, more violent, and more stressful.
Stress. It occurs quite naturally, of course, in physics, biology and chemistry as resistance and instability. Gravity and PMS are phenomena with which I’m quite familiar. They don’t surprise me much anymore, nor do my reactions to them. But stress occurs unnaturally in lifestyles as well, as Distress or Eustress. Philip Seymour Hoffman, found dead at 46 with a needle in his arm. Manufacturing stress, manufacturing responses – does this give us an edge? If we are “hardwired for struggle” (as Brene Brown says), can we maximize that adaptation and produce a super response? Will that response be healthy or unhealthy? Eustress, according to Wikipedia, “refers to a positive response one has to a stressor, which can depend on one’s current feelings of control, desirability, location, and timing of the stressor.” If it feels “good” to react with anger, aggression or violence to a stressor, is this healthy? If it feels “good” to respond to a stressor by self-medicating, numbing or repressing, is this healthy? If it feels “good” to elevate our molehills into mountains and complain about the weather, our weight and how busy we are, is this healthy? Are we doing ourselves a favor by pouring more stress into our system and developing collateral pathways that will make us more resilient? Or are we taxing our capacity to the point of rupture?
My husband died from coronary artery disease, brought on by undiagnosed diabetes. Stress did help him develop a collateral artery system in his heart that made it possible for him to survive a heart attack at age 31, but he only lived 16 more years. Beware, America. Look closely at your stress levels. Make your choices wisely.
That is all.
© 2014 essay by Priscilla Galasso, All rights reserved.
Advent Day #23 – Peace
Peace On Earth
It is Day #23 in the December countdown. Today’s gift is Peace. Ahh, peace. Take a deep breath. Relax the muscles around your skull; feel your ears and eyebrows pull backward; close your eyes and roll your head. Do you feel a sense of well-being? Julian of Norwich claims that God himself spoke these often quoted words to her, “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.” Do you believe that’s true? Do you believe that’s possible? I do, although I don’t always act as though I do. I forget.
Wikipedia uses these phrases to define peace: “safety, welfare, prosperity, security, fortune, friendliness… a relationship between any people characterized by respect, justice and goodwill… calm, serenity, a meditative approach”. Where does peace come from? Buddha, the Dalai Lama and many others will tell you that peace comes from within, not without.
“The first peace, which is the most important, is that which comes within the souls of people when they realize their relationship, their oneness with the universe and all its powers, and when they realize that at the center of the universe dwells the Great Spirit, and that this center is really everywhere, it is within each of us.” – Black Elk
But perhaps, there are things outside of you that will remind you of the peace which dwells within you.
“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop away from you like the leaves of Autumn.” – John Muir
Do you feel peace in your mind and body and soul all at once? Do you descend into peace from your head down?
“I do not want the peace which passeth understanding, I want the understanding which bringeth peace.” – Helen Keller
I suppose each of us must find his/her own journey into peace. Anxieties and conflicts are particular and personal. Facing each one head on is not a passive task. Making peace is not for the weak of heart. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.” Is God about making peace? Is making peace the work of the Universe? Is it perhaps that joyful effort that gives life meaning?
“Peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek, but a means by which we arrive at that goal.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
If we can make peace between ourselves and God, ourselves and Nature, can we then make peace between ourselves and others?
“If we are peaceful, if we are happy, we can smile and blossom like a flower, and everyone in our family, our entire society, will benefit from our peace.” – Thich Nhat Hahn
“What can you do to promote world peace? Go home and love your family.” – Mother Theresa
Steve constantly reminds me that in every situation, especially in those that cause anxiety and conflict to arise, I have 3 choices. I can hide/run away. I can try to change the situation. I can change myself. The first option doesn’t exactly make peace; it simply avoids confrontation. You can hide away all day long and still feel the fear of whatever it is that scared you. So, why do I often employ that choice? Because I lack courage and I’m lazy. I sometimes pick that choice first to give me time to screw up my will and motivation. I don’t want to get stuck there, though.
Trying to change the situation requires engagement. Making peace with hunger, poverty, sickness, and distress this way requires an understanding of causes and effects on all different levels. It requires negotiation, and it requires cooperation. You don’t always get all that is required to change a situation. Not all situations can be changed. Death is the big one that comes to mind here. You can’t hide or run away from it, and you can’t change the situation so that you don’t have to experience it. Now what?
Change yourself. Sometimes the only way to make peace with something is to change your thinking, your belief, your approach, your attachment, your aversion, your ignorance or some other aspect of yourself. “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em!” is the simplistic way to say it. If you’d “rather fight than switch” (old cigarette commercial – pop philosophy at its finest), then you have chosen to fight, not to make peace. Our egos make it really tough to change ourselves. Sometimes we’d rather fight, sometimes we’d rather die, sometimes we’d rather do anything than change ourselves. You have to ask yourself very seriously what your ultimate goal is to get past this one. Is your goal to keep your ego intact or is your goal to make peace? I’ve come across a lot of phrases that address this ego dilemma: “take up your cross”, “turn the other cheek”, “deny yourself”, “die to self”. I think that dogma is probably more an ego thing than a peace thing. If you can’t let go of your religious beliefs in the interest of peace, then your religion is more about yourself than it is about God, in my humble opinion. I love the part of the movie “Gandhi” where he counsels a Hindu man who is distraught at having murdered a Muslim child. “Raise a Muslim child and make sure you raise him as a Muslim, not as a Hindu. This is the only way you can purge your sins.” This is true wisdom about peace.
Give peace a chance. It requires your will, it requires your strength, and it requires you to lay aside will & strength. I am looking forward to enjoying the peace that my family and I have created. We are still creating it, and will be our whole lives long.