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Thursday, August 17, 2023


Anxiety is often thought of as something that other people experience. I am finding that many people have more anxiety than they realize. It may not keep them from leaving the house or working. However, their anxiety acts like a low-grade fever that robs them of vitality and feeling good or even great.

Looking back, I now realize how much my busy mind was keeping my own low grade anxious feelings churning.  I thought I was problem solving but in reality, it was worry and rumination. I had got used to those feelings, so they didn't really get noticed until my adrenalin was really flowing. Some part of me felt congruent with the height of adrenalin (and as my father would say) "the joy of meeting yourself coming around the corner!" This resulted in using food to de-stress, feeling restless a good deal of the time, an irregular heartbeat and lower back problems.

Over 15 years ago, I began to learn more about the brain and anxiety. The way your brain fires is the way it wires is neurosciences way of saying that you can literally get neurologically addicted to your negative feelings. After working on becoming less tolerant of stress and feeling anxious, I began to rewire my brain and set point for feeling anxious.

When I realized that my worry and stress was rewiring my brain to make it easier to get stressed, I knew it was time to run an experiment on myself. So, I decided that whenever I got to a five or higher (zero to ten scale with zero being chill and 10 being in extreme anxiety), I would use tapping on acupoints or listening to brainwave entrainment music to shift my nervous system. Instead of focusing on the content of my anxiety, I focused on shifting my nervous system once I had a fix on what was bothering me.

Withing 3 weeks, I was going to sleep with greater ease, by 8 weeks I was feeling much calmer than I had in a long time. By six months, it really felt like my brain had established a new pattern. I was able to center myself much quicker (sometimes with just one deep breath) and sit with my feelings more easily, without getting up over a 5. 

Today, I intervened much quicker (with my go to shifting tools) to mentally reboot and shift my nervous systems response to life's event. As a result, my relationship with food is healthier, my back is the best it has been in decades and my irregular heartbeat has vanished.

Rick Hanson in his book "The Buddha's Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love & Wisdom," states that we are designed to be pretty chill 98% of the time. 2% of the time we may actually need to be jazzed up to fight or run when there is true life and death danger. The problem is, as life and our brains have evolved, we can create all sorts of scenarios in our head that get us to react physiologically as if something is dangerous, when it is not!

Learning to calm an over reactive nervous system is about learning to get out of your head into your life. Most of the stuff we fear never happens.

My go to tools today are brainwave entrainment music, tapping on acupoints, Intention Energy Process and sound therapy.

Here are some links to resources that I used today… click here click here click here

My Meditative Sound Channel click here

Native Flute Sound Meditations Albums 
click here 

Thursday, August 10, 2023

Rethinking Relationships Part II (for Part I scroll down)

 Part II

When I was reading JR Meyers’ book, (The Search to Belong: Rethinking Intimacy, Community and Small Groups), it became clear to me that my perceptions on relationships needed to shift.  As someone who had a major preference for close relationship with strong ties and deeper sharing (what I refer to as ‘in close’ engagement style), I was challenged by Myers to look at the value of relationships that can be easy to dismiss as superficial or perfunctory. Here is a quick run through of his thoughts and language for belonging and connections.

Four Spaces of Connection (JR Myers)

  • Public belonging "occurs when people connect through outside influence or an external event." While visiting my sister in Kansas, we attended a football game between the New England Patriot’s and Kansas City Chief’s. Of course, the East Coast Carpenters had to wear their Patriot gear.  There was an immediate connection with others Patriot fans without sharing any personal information. A nod, a yes here and there and even an occasional high five from a stranger communicated that we were in this together.

Did you ever leave a great theatre performance, concert or movie and feel that rush of energy and connection with others who shared the same experience.  That is Public Space belonging.  You don’t share any information but still feel a type of connection to each other.

  • Social belonging "occurs when we share "snapshots" of what it would be like to be in personal space with us." This is where you put your "best foot forward." Yet, you aren’t really sharing any deep or private information. Examples of this space might be at your place of employment or where you get your hair cut. For some folk, this might be the coffee hour after worship service, cocktail party, or some other social gathering.

I recently attended my nephew’s wedding in Kansas City.  At the reception I had a chance to talk to many people I hadn’t met before.  We talked about how we liked to travel, what it was like to live on the East Coast, what hotels we were staying at, but there was no deep private information being shared.  This is a space where we are sticking our social toe in the water to see if we want more connection or if the space is safe enough to get to know someone further.

  • Personal belonging is where "we share private experience, feelings and thoughts without making folk feel uncomfortable." These are relationships that we typically name as friends. They know more about us than our acquaintances, but less than our “intimates.”  There is a continuum of low to higher levels of sharing within this space.  When I was attending graduate school in Boston, I took Jiu Jitsu classes and met another graduate student.  We tossed each other around on the mat during classes but never really shared much information.  Soon we were talking more after class and realized we had more in common than our love of martial arts (both were interning at different counseling centers at the time).  Eventually, we became friends.  I can remember like it was yesterday sitting on the back porch in Boston at the age of 26 and idealistically sharing how we wanted life to look in three decades.  Today, he is one of my best friends.
  • Intimate belonging is the space where we “share ‘naked’ experiences, feelings, and thoughts. Most people have very few relationships that are considered intimate. These relationships are where we can share the deepest parts of ourselves, the core wounds, and negative beliefs we hold about ourselves and still feel accepted.  In my friendship with Lee, that started out in social space, moved into personal connection and wound-up decades later in what Meyers calls intimate belonging. Over the years we developed a trust where we could share our struggles, losses, fears, and dreams and know that each other would still be there.  There isn’t much that we don’t know about each other.   


Myers helps us to understand the value of connecting in all four spaces of belonging.  Some may have a bias that anything less than personal space is somehow “second class.” Others may undervalue the need for personal and intimate space. His thinking helps us to understand how each space has its own significance and place of belonging.  When my friend Stan (who is a pastor) and I talked about these concepts, we discovered that I was a bit dismissive of “superficial” social and public belonging and he really was less comfortable with Intimate and Personal belonging.  By wrestling and discussing the concepts we learned over time to have a more balanced appreciation for the connections across all four types.


Understanding your engagement style and spaces of connection is important for finding your relationship road map.  Somethings can’t be learned.  But emotional and social intelligence is something where having knowledge and self-awareness can make a world of difference.  Did you ever have someone come up to you at a social gathering and they were just doing the TMI (too much information) dance?  You can see the discomfort in the group when folk are talking about the Red Sox, weather or favorite movie and someone tries to give a detailed description about their failing marriage or knee replacement surgery struggles.


The reality is that all of us will cross in and out of all four of these spaces of belonging, if not every day most likely every week.  It is helpful to know how to recognize what relationship “country” we have walked into.  If you are in public space connection and are expecting deep personal relationships to quickly develop, you will be greatly disappointed.  You might even blame the group or yourself.  Knowing our comfort zones and how to navigate different spaces will help to create more satisfying connections and experiences. 

Let me know in the comments what are your preferences? 

Where do you feel the need to develop greater skills? 

Which of the connection spaces do you need more of, less of? 

Rethinking Relationships

Part I

“In a world of ‘Likes,’ ‘Followers,’ and ‘Friends,’ it’s difficult to discern who belongs, how they want to connect, and what you can do to encourage belonging to you. (Joseph R. Meyers author).”  Today it is even a challenge to define who is our neighbor, who are our people and where do I belong.  The division and conflict between “tribes” and ideologies has never been more apparent, as division over beliefs is prioritized over belonging and community.

So, who IS my neighbor?  Is it that anonymous person who sends me an email from some foreign land with the promise of quick riches or is secretly seeking to get my PayPal password? Is it the Bank Teller who manages to smile and say have a nice day when I am the 50th person who has also forgotten to write an account number on their check. Is it your several hundred friends listed on your Facebook page (for those who partake) or other social media?

I ran across a book several years ago that reframed how I looked at relationships.  For me, it transformed my thinking and perceptions in the world of connection.  Working as a pastor and therapist at the time, I was biased toward close and personal relationships.  I took for granted the importance of connecting with people in brief social contacts.  During the year after my late wife died, I sometimes didn’t know what to do with all this ‘alone’ time.  On some weekends I would go for a hike and meet a couple on the path that was walking their dog.  I would say, “great looking dog.”  That would lead to a three-minute connection and pleasantries with someone I most likely would never see again.  These connections are important.  Positive connections in social space are important to our emotional wellbeing.

In today’s virtual world of connection and instant news, it can also feel like we are bombarded with a type of connected yet disconnected world of everyone living virtually next door. Joseph R. Myers, drawing on the work of anthropologist Edward T. Hall, has shed some light about relationships, connection, and space (The Search to Belong: Rethinking Intimacy, Community and Small Groups). He states that our educational training may have prioritized meaning and believing over belonging and connecting.  I would add that our American culture leans toward valuing doing (work) over being present with each other. People more than ever are struggling to make connections and report feeling isolated.

The Washington Post reports,While research on the benefits of social connections has generally focused on the importance of “strong ties,” or the intimate relationships we have with family and close friends, a growing body of research is shedding light on the hidden benefits of casual acquaintances, too. Surprisingly, these “weak ties” (that funny colleague, for example) can serve important functions such as boosting physical and psychological health and buffering against stress and loneliness, researchers have found.”

That isn’t to suggest they take the place of stronger more intimate relationships.  Those are also clearly very important.  But it does give us pause to reflect on our own relationship patterns and connections.

Consider your own need for personal space or connection. If we place you on a bell curve, some of you will come out on the 15 per cent who have a more distant engagement style.  You are more reluctant to share personal information. Others of you will be on that other end of the 15 percent who will have an “in close” engagement style where you don’t feel like you are really connected unless you know a person’s hope/dreams, what makes them tick and what is most important to them.  Most folk fall somewhere in the middle.  One style isn’t superior to the other.  They each have their strengths and constraints. 

Understanding differences and perceptions is important in developing friendships and entering new groups.  What one person might perceive as distant and aloof might be seen as respectful of boundaries and privacy, by another.  What someone might judge as intrusive behavior without boundaries, could be described as friendly, warm, and engaging by another.  It all depends on your relationship engagement preferences.  I would be curious to read in the comments your own preferences.  I also would be interested in your experience of social media.  In my experience it is a connected yet somewhat disconnected platform.  It certainly doesn’t replace face to face get togethers. Yet, the number and variety of comments I received when I posted about my grief after Liz died was extremely meaningful and supportive.

 In Part II we will take a closer look at Myers four different spaces of belonging and connection and how they can help us evaluate our own preferences and relationship needs.