Making Life Simpler

It’s happening. Every day I get closer to living my ultimate dream of what I call spiritual simplicity. What it really means is I’m getting rid of “stuff” and focusing on what really matters to me…people, service, experiences and learning.

Did you realize that U.S. consumers are parents to only 3 percent of the world’s children, but we blessed American dads and moms purchase forty percent of the world’s toys? That statistic boggled my brain. What toys do kids need these days to experience a happy, creative, rewarding childhood? We took baby Nellie to the park this past weekend and all she needed was the great outdoors. She played with a stick. She found joy in the swing set, the ducks, and a dog that happened by. When the malamute attempted to steal her stick, Nellie was having none of it. She became the dog and stuck it in her mouth and dared us to wrestle it from her. Nature and her imagination. You can’t buy those two things at any toy store.

       That got me to thinking how joyous life is when we keep it simple. The happiest people I know are people who pull the car over to look at a sunset, or weep at the budding of a flower, or roll up their pants to run into the ocean waves. People who aren’t too rushed to pay attention to other people. They have time to stop and “chat” with a neighbor. People who are curious. People who bend down to speak on a child’s level. People who sing along to the radio. People who dance when the music starts. People who create. People who take God at His word.

       I’ve been reading a lot about Thoreau and his quest to “live deliberately.” We mistakenly believe he went deep into the woods to get away from the din of society. Not true. Emerson’s little piece of property where Thoreau took refuge sat on the outskirts of town.

       We don’t have to go far. We don’t have to spend much. We don’t have to cave to advertisers telling us what will make us happy. We’ve got an inner voice that speaks the truth and guides us to true happiness. The problem is we’ve also got a crowd of other voices and they all speak louder. They all have opinions about how we should live.

       Silly us.

       We’re responsible for the quality of our lives. We’re responsible for our own happiness. Tomorrow I’ll make another bag of “stuff” and donate it. That makes me happier than going to the store and bringing another bag of “stuff” into our home.

       Maybe it’s my age. Maybe it’s something else. Maybe the kids should take me seriously when I tell them to pick up their “stuff.” Whatever is going on, I’m glad life is getting simpler.






Think Like Tesla

The more I learn about the human brain the more convinced I am that “thoughts” are how human beings are connected not only to each other, but to the Source of Everything. When we learn to tune ourselves to this Source, there is nothing we cannot understand. This past year I developed a bit of an obsession with Nikola Tesla, one of the most eccentric and mystical minds—maybe ever. This is the guy who developed AC (alternating current). He earned more than 700 patents and pioneered wireless communication, x-rays, lasers, artificial lightning, electric engines, radar and robotics.

You can study his biography. It’s beyond fascinating. But today I just want to share with you a few of the techniques Tesla used to tune his own brain so he could receive inspiration and insight. Then I want you to try opening your own brain to the same Source and see what happens.

Intended Meditation

            I always thought meditating was sitting still and letting inspiration find you. For me, the sitting still part is torture, especially when I’m meditating with a group. Everybody else goes limp and quiet. I squirm. I always have to fight back a sneeze, a cough, or an itch that’s going to disrupt the harmony of the group. So I do most of my meditating alone. Tesla taught me that meditating is more and being silent and aware of your breath. It’s opening up your mind to a blank screen, then creating with your brain, not just in a flat dimension, but in multi-dimensions. It’s untethering your imagination and letting it roam out “there” where there are no limits. This remote viewing or inner eye meditation allows you to see what doesn’t yet exist.

In his autobiography Tesla describes his ability to “see” an apparatus in detail. He could start a motor in his mind and leave it running until he took it apart and put it back together, all before it ever existed in reality.

Try it. Take a problem or an invention and create a solution or an answer in your mind first. The trick is not to force it or to rely on your own abilities. Open yourself to the Source of all creation and don’t be hesitate to work out the minutest details.


There’s a pun in here because in 1856 Tesla was born during a violent lightning storm in what is now Croatia. Did that contribute to his lifelong obsession with lightning? That’s the consensus. Did “light” enter him and somehow reshape his brain? Some people think so. What we do know is that Tesla was apt at brainstorming, even though he preferred to invent alone; he liked to brainstorm with his associates.

Brainstorm is a term we used to hear a lot more frequently. It means to gather others with the intention of pooling ideas to create or problem solve.

Tesla had some brilliant minds he could draw from: George Westinghouse, J. P. Morgan, Rudyard Kipling, Mark Twain, and of course, his rival Thomas Edison. He had brainstorming discussions with them all.

We tend to think we have to solve our problems on our own, especially if we feel we caused them. (That’s rubbish thinking and a topic for another day.)

There’s a freedom and a power in brainstorming. If you aren’t comfortable going to friends or colleagues to brainstorm, how about approaching your Highest Power to ask the Creator of the universe if there’s time to spare for a little brainstorming session with you? The answer will always be yes.

Fail to Succeed

These past few weeks have been painful for me as a mom. Elijah ran for a studentbody office and lost. Then he applied for a leadership scholarship and lost. He bounced right back and joined the track team. He’s that resilient. I’m not. I sting and smart and nurse my bruises for a bit, especially the ones my children experience. Oh well…that’s life and life is how we learn.

Nikola Tesla was arguably the foremost genius of the 20th century. He’s the reason you can flip a switch and have electricity in your home, he’s the reason you put on a lead apron before having an x-ray taken, he’s the reason that little Smartphone in your hand exists.

He was a tremendous success which means he was also a tremendous failure. Overcoming obstacles was how to learned and grew. He was born into poverty and war. His teachers failed to grasp his genius and accused him of cheating. He almost died of cholera. His lost his college scholarship and became addicted to gambling, at one point his shame led him to cut ties with his family, letting them believe he was dead. He even suffered a nervous breakdown before he overcame the doubts that swarmed his brain. When he arrived at Ellis Island he was 28-years-old with only a thin volume of poetry, a handwritten letter, and four cents in American currency.

What Tesla lacked outwardly, he more than made up for inwardly. That handwritten letter? It was addressed to a fellow named Thomas Edison who soon became Tesla’s employer and later his rival.

Over the next sixty years Tesla would fail again and again. He would lose fortunes. He would lose respect and support. In the end, he lost his brilliance and died alone in a New York City hotel room.

Don’t shoot me for giving away such a tragic ending. It wasn’t tragic at all. Nikola Tesla lived his dream. His passion was to improve the world and to improve the lives of the impoverished. He never forgot his upbringing and developed a love for the Earth that led him to seek clean, renewable energy sources.

Against the odds, his life was blindingly successful.

And so is yours.

You might not have his scientific gifts, no one does, but you have your own gifts. Are you tapping into them? Are you opening yourself to true inspiration? Are you pooling your resources, especially the One that has all your answers? Are you willing to risk failure to succeed?

Me? I’ve got a lot of work to do. A lot. But every time I come across someone or something that inspires me, I want to take a moment and jot it down to share with you. I’m so grateful to each of you who read what I write, who go to the trouble to tell me what you think and how you feel about the variegated subjects I throw out there. With that, I’ll leave you with one of my favorite Tesla quotes: “All that was great in the past was ridiculed, condemned, combated, suppressed — only to emerge all the more powerfully, all the more triumphantly from the struggle.”

No Ordinary Life

I keep this little image and quote nearby so that it can inspire and remind me just how precious a new day is. We’re adults here so I’ll be honest. Life can be hard. It’s delivered some brutal knocks to me…breaking my bones, tearing ligaments, and ripping out my heart a few times. But here I am still breathing. Still trying. Still marveling at all that I am and all that I have for which to be grateful.

The other day some well-meaning person asked me, “How can you be so happy when you have so little?”

“Perspective, I guess.” Was my response.

Then this morning someone referred to my life as “ordinary.”

For some reason that really ticked me off because life, by definition, is anything but ordinary. We’re feeling, moving, thinking, acting, choosing, creating, and loving human beings. No life is ordinary. Every life matters. Every moment is a gift to make our lives ours.

So what if I wash the same dishes every day that I’ve washed for the past thirty years? So what if I wear the same clothes and drive the same car? So what if I have a routine that seems rutted and boring to an observer? Am I going to die having never lived?

No way. Every person who enters my life is a teacher. Every book I read is trip to the unknown. Every time I get defeated I find new strength in the climb back up. (By now I should be Super Woman. But I’m not. I’m just me.) Yes, I’m tired. I’m scarred. I’m scared. But I’m alive and determined to make the most of however many breaths I have left.

And, like you, I have dreams that make me unique, give me hope, and goals for which to aim. I want to see Adele in concert. I want to take Elijah to Disney. Any Disney will do. I want to find ways to spend time with my G-babies so they can teach me about life. I want to love my children better than I do. I want to be a better friend. I want to travel the entire world serving children. Seriously, I want to sell everything I have left and just go from opportunity to opportunity serving for the rest of my life—not because I’m some saint, but because service makes me happiest. I want to master French. I want to share what I learn about the brain. I want to hike far away mountains. I want to earn that elusive Ph. D. I want to write a book that takes children to the heart of their truest identity. I want to hide in a hot air balloon and cuddle a koala.

I want. I want. I want.

What about being grateful for all that I already have? What about celebrating the life I have and not looking to someone else’s excitement? I may never get to see my dreams fulfilled and that’s okay. I’ve already had opportunities that have honored my sense of adventure. But it’s still good to dream and to dream brazenly. It’s good to work hard for those dreams. It’s good to let gratitude lead the way. And it’s good to stop and celebrate the small things that are really the big things, like shared time and memories made together. Because life is precious, dear friends, and you and yours are anything but ordinary.

Your Brain On Faith

africa sunsetFor the past year I’ve had some deep discussions with a dear friend who wants to believe in God, but just can’t do it. It’s made me realize that believing in a higher power, an unseen force that watches over us and guides us is a gargantuan leap of faith. I mean come on kids, faith in God is trusting that our prayers matter enough to merit answers. That WE matter enough to garner God’s attention—the Divine Being who created and controls the endless cosmos.

I happen to be a believer. I’m convinced beyond doubt that we are children of a always-loving God. Our lives have purpose. Our feelings, thoughts and actions matter. I believe that God’s plan is perfect, and it would not be perfect if it excluded a single one of His children. That makes YOU essential to the great plan.

That said, I wonder why it’s easier for some people to have faith while others struggle. For me, faith has become stronger over time and experience. My brain banks memories of answered prayers and what I deem divine interventions on my behalf. I replay faith-related emotions. Every time I re-avow my beliefs, I lay down actual protein circuitry in my brain. Believing a little creates the potential to believe a lot.

More than a few neuropsychology researchers agree that faith requires practice, same as mastering the piano. Your faith then, depends to an undetermined degree, on how you choose to use your brain. You see, the right side of your brain focuses on self, while your left side is more concerned with others. When you train your brain to diminish selfishness, you open yourself to a feeling of being connected to something bigger than just you. This isn’t just true for Christians who sense a connection to God. It works the same for Buddhists seeking Nirvana, and for atheists who desire a deeper bond with Mother Earth. It applies to all faith seekers. Once that connection is made, your brain can use what it knows to substantiate your faith.

Does this mean that faith is merely manufactured—or is it real? Why can’t it be both?

Ever since the first brain imaging technology was developed, and now that we have fMRIs, scientists have wondered if they could locate a “God spot” in the human brain. So far they’ve concluded that faith lights up a number of areas in your brain, but there is no pinpoint place that fires to testify of God’s existence.

In fact, thousands of related research projects are inconclusive. They produce data, but provide no definitive proof one way or another. And so the debates continue and the research goes on. You see, science will never prove or disprove faith. Faith isn’t scientific. It’s spiritual. But science can and does strengthen my faith. The more I learn about the brain, the more connected I feel to my Highest Power.

Now let me ask you a few loaded questions…is faith the same as other kinds of knowing or thinking? Do you believe that God exists with the same functions that lead you to believe Tide is a laundry detergent, or 10 + 10 = 20? And is faith different than religion? I say yes. I think religion can be explained. Faith has to be felt—maybe even comprehended with what Aristotle deemed the sensible beyond our five senses. He taught of an force that allows us to perceive and know something that we can’t see or explain. He taught of acquiring knowledge from a pool of knowledge that already exists. He did not determine where that pool is, only that it’s external and complex. It’s really a connection between the tangible and the intangible.

Religion, on the other hand, registers as a single operation in the brain. Religion involves repetition. It’s taught. It’s practiced. It can be reinforced so often that it gets rutted until it registers as “true,” in a very different way than faith registers.

Faith demands something of us that no one has been able to adequately explain. Faith is deeply personal. It’s hope. It’s belief. It’s understanding what seems impossible to understand.

For now I’m satisfied with the fact that our brains are designed to accommodate faith. It’s something we can consciously choose to develop if we’re open and willing.

Which leads us back to my precious friend who wants to believe in God, but just can’t —yet. That’s okay. More than okay. The fact that she’s seeking means she’ll find. Besides, spirituality is a solo journey. Yes, others might surround us, but faith blossoms from within. As much as I’d love to pour my faith into her, I can’t. All I can do is love her and make accessible anything that might help in her quest. But it is her quest. Her brain. Her heart. Her journey.

Now that I know the human brain is equipped to process and develop faith, I know how to strengthen my own beliefs. I reinforce them. I write them down. I talk about what’s not too sacred to talk about. I let my heart lead with gratitude. Gratitude is like fertilizer for faith. Ha!

Here’s to an increase in your own faith, and here’s my favorite quote on the subject, from St. Augustine, a profound Christian thinker: “Faith is to believe what you do not see; the reward of this faith is to see what you believe.”

Four Fun Ways to Keep Your Brain Young and Alert

Research is proving that what we thought was impossible is really possible. We can change our brains. Neurogenesis and neuroplasticity are real. In all of my efforts to learn about how to alter thoughts, I’m discovering ways to keep our minds sharp and our brains from degenerating. Here are my top four:

  1. Harvard Medical School suggests we hedge our future brain cell loss through cognitive stimulation. That means challenging our noggins every single day. Adding new information. Reading. Doing math problems. Hand-Eye coordination activities are best of all because things like drawing, painting, or crafting require that we use our hands in conjunction with our brains. People who play musical instruments have a definite brain advantage when it comes to aging. Engineer something that requires full participation. I’ve never considered myself smart, but Rosetta Stone and Duolingo have given me the chance to ask, “Where’s the bathroom?” in seven different languages! Anything to challenge lazy neurons to get up and move!
  2. What you feed your body, you feed your brain. As the fattest organ in your body and something that is made of 75 percent water, when your body in undernourished or dehydrated your brain does not function properly. People don’t realize that brain fog has a cause. Too much sugar. Not enough water. Lack of deep, healing sleep. Over stimulation. Under stimulation. Too many or too few calories. All of these factors contribute to your brain’s health and function. So…cut back or better yet, cut out alcohol and tobacco. Increase clean foods like fruits and vegetables and healthy fats that come from nature…walnuts, salmon, etc. If your body is suffering from high blood pressure, out of whack blood sugar levels, or high levels of LDS, you’re at higher risk for dementia.
  3. When you move your body you move your brain. Sufficient exercise releases endorphins. Endorphins are hormones that help you “feel good” to do good things. Lab animals that exercise regularly increase the number of blood vessel that feed the brain oxygen, especially to the parts that are responsible for thought. Take a walk. Go for a hike. Run. Take an exercise class or sweat to an instructional video. The fitness level of your body correlates with the fitness of your brain. That’s plenty of motive to get up and get going! And to add to this motivation, nature itself has a decided effect on the brain. It’s easy to release stress when you’re sitting on the bank of a stream, the sun warming your back. Nature is heaven’s Great Physician.
  4. Your social interactions have a tremendous effect on your brain’s health. Remember that emotions are consequences of your thoughts. You think a thought. Your brain has an electro-chemical release. Emotion results. You feel what you feel depending on which chemicals your thoughts release. How you feel determines how you act. And so the cycle begins again. YOU can change your brain’s chemistry to a degree by changing your thoughts. So think the best of yourself. Give others the benefit of the doubt and have faith that things will work out no matter how bleak your current circumstances might be. That means being careful about the people you let into your inner circle, the ones who influence you the most. Make sure they bring light, truth and love and loads of laughter. Most of all, I have to remind myself that I’m supposed to bring those things to my friendships. Healthy friendships contribute to healthy brains. There are studies that prove when a person feels threatened, that threat is lessened in the hytpothalamus if someone they love holds their hand. Love and trust—no better medicine. The best kinds of people to associate with are those who stimulate your brain. Your conversations won’t be petty and redundant. Your exchange will never focus on attacking anyone else, because a part of the subconscious brain realizes that if a person is capable of tearing someone else down behind their back, they’re capable of doing that to you—so building trust is hampered and suspicion resides in your amygdala which helps process fear and emotional memories, and your parahippocampal gyrus, which helps process and store memory. Suspicion releases adrenalin-related chemicals that can do actual brain damage over extended periods, so hang out with people you can trust. A healthy friend will challenge you with new information and ideas. They’ll be concerned about nutrition…and won’t urge you to indulge in consuming what’s not healthy for you, even though you might share a decadent meal once in a while. They’ll move with you for strength and health. They go camping. Shopping. Playing sports and games and spending time together in nature. They’ll embrace you because there is no stronger force in the universe than the power of the human touch. The brain responds to sensory data, so when you get touched, it feels that connection and responds.

So there you have my top four ideas to help you think cleaner and clearer. It takes training to stop and “think” about what you’re doing to your brain. But once you make the body/brain connection—that one affects the other—then you’ll get into the habit of making better choices. And that’s all we can hope to do…improve and progress one thought, one action at a time.

Coan, J. A., Schaefer, H., & Davidson, R. (2006). Lending a hand. Psychological Science17(12), 1032.