Awaken Spring

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Awaken Spring

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“The ghostly winter silences have given way to the great spring murmur of awakening life.” Jack London

It all began when I witnessed the new growth unfurling on one of my loquat trees. The leaves were a mesmerizing bright green, like the color of lime with a hint of sunshine.  Ah, sunshine, I thought! How I longed for warm, sun-drenched days. The darkness, cold, and wet of winter had begun to unravel my soul. 

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The rains throughout the winter, although welcome and necessary, have been torrential. The creeks are full and raging. If only we could save this H2O to quench summer thirsty landscapes.

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Our hillsides are carpets of emerald grasses. The only hint that salvation was near was the happy stalks of the ubiquitous daffodils singing to the sky an end to the melancholia. 

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I wanted to bottle a bit of this luminosity from those loquat leaves so I did the next best thing…I painted my fingernails the exact color! An odd choice, I’ve been told, but I was hell-bent on awakening spring.

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The next day, the weather reports suggested that we would bask in sunlight for at least a week. My earthy polish must have summoned the gods of rebirth. 

As if on cue, terra firma has erupted in a procession of power plants. Besides the narcissi and bergenia that have been blooming successively since January, we now witness muscari, tulip, hyacinth, ranunculus, anemone, oxalis, calla lily, azalea, freesia, Chinese fringe, blue star grass, and one of my favorite over-looked specimen, hellebore joining the parade.

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Hellebores are a deer resistant, low maintenance perennial that stirs with blooms (actually sepals protecting the flower) before other plants. Known as the Lenten rose, they prefer partial shade, are evergreen and boast flowers January through May. If you plant them on a slope, you’ll be able to see the flowers more easily as their stems face downwards. Hybrids include shades of ivory, jade, maroon, pink, yellow, speckled, and fringed combinations. 

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As the soil warms and the daylight hours grow longer, it is time to prepare your garden for seeding by weeding, hoeing, and adding rich soil. This year I have chosen packets from Renee’s Garden ( and have already jotted down when the seeds will be planted. At the end of March or beginning of April, I will be planting beets, leeks, and clarkia. In April I will add cleome, columbine, and dwarf dahlias. Brussels sprouts will wait for a summer sowing.

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Pumpkin seeds that I’ve saved will be planted in late May in anticipation of Halloween and Thanksgiving. If you want to carve them, choose a fun variety such as Warty Goblin or Super Moon. For that delicious holiday pie, the go-to favorite is Pik-a-Pie. Pumpkins need a large area to grow making it essential to plan now to give your Curcubita pepo the room to thrive.  Small pumpkins need a 12-foot area, medium pumpkins require 24 feet, and giants want a 36-48 feet space per plant. 

Are you thinking of including perennials that will attract butterflies, bees, bats, and birds? The National Pollinator Garden Network has announced it has surpassed its goal of registering one million pollinator gardens. In just three years, 1,040,000 gardens were registered with the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge. From tiny yards to public gardens, the million-plus gardens add up to a network of approximately five million acres of enhanced or new pollinator habitat. Offer a buffet with a diverse array of flowers, herbs, colors, fragrances, sizes, and shapes that will encourage these garden guards to visit and stay. 

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The elegant tulip soulangeana magnolia adds beauty and structure to any landscape and now is the time to choose a specimen in full bloom at your local nursery. Blooming time varies with varieties and micro-climates. Santa Rosa plum and peach trees are radiantly blossoming and will soon form fruit.  Crab apple will follow shortly. Hopefully, the rains won’t knock off too many buds.

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The frogs are chirping, birds are tweeting, and cows are mooing. The orchestra of nature waking up from its winter slumber is music to my ears. It’s time to polish our dancing shoes (and maybe your nails) as the vernal equinox has arrived with an equal balance of light and dark. The season of spring has sprung.

Cynthia Brian’s Mid Month Reminders

CREATE a cutting garden for summer by planting delphiniums, snapdragons, and sunflowers.

VISIT for dates of the 5th Annual Compost Giveaway. Register to collect up to three yards of free compost or “black gold” which has been recycled from the green organic bins. 

FERTILIZE lawns. Spring is also the second-best time after fall to install a new lawn or refresh an old one. If you are seeding, March and April are excellent times to scatter seed, especially before a rain. My preference is for an almost weed-free, lush green ground cover.

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ADD to your planting list aeoniums and other succulents as they require minimal maintenance and water, even in the hot months. 

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CONTINUE to pick up the fallen camellias. I know I’m sounding like a broken record but camellias have a long blooming season and the ones that drop will cause a rot for next year’s bloom. Don’t stop picking them up and don’t add them to your compost or recycle bins.

BUY seeds for spring sowing from Renee’s Garden ( 

Through March 24 you can get FREE Shipping on orders over $20.00.

STOP mowing your lawns when the grass is wet or it is raining. Hearing the growl of lawnmowers when it is pouring outside boils the soul of my inner gardener. Cutting the grass when it is raining damages the grass blades and causes ruts and compaction. Inform your “mow, blow, and go” service providers to perform other tasks in inclement weather. A healthy green lawn will thank you for your restraint. 

Happy Gardening. Happy Growing. Hello Spring!


Cynthia Brian, The Goddess Gardener, raised in the vineyards of Napa County, is a New York Times best-selling author, actor, radio personality, speaker, media and writing coach as well as the Founder and Executive Director of Be the Star You Are1® 501 c3. 

Tune into Cynthia’s Radio show and order her books at

Buy a copy of her new books, Growing with the Goddess Gardener and Be the Star You Are! Millennials to Boomers at 

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Hire Cynthia for projects, consults, and lectures.

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Donate to Fire Disaster Relief via Be the Star You Are!® 501 c3 at

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What’s this Hypnosis Stuff all about anyway??

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Health & Wellness
What’s this Hypnosis Stuff all about anyway??
Does Hypnosis Work?? Can I be Hypnotized? Will it change me forever??
My name is Ines Simpson and I have the weekly podcast – Hypnosis-Everywhere on Voice America Health & Wellness Channel
Let’s chat about this Hypnosis thing
Hypnosis is a naturally occurring event, an essential occurring event in our lives – like breathing, or walking, or laughing – its a thing we do many times a day – every day. Hypnosis is the way the Mind works. Its call focused attention. It allows us to become immersed in a book, or a movie, or another person ( we call this Love). It allows us to focus on a sport (getting in the zone) – exceeding past the place we thought we never could.
That’s what we do – naturally – all the time.
Creating Hypnosis on purpose, however, allows us to create change – positive change in our lives.
I have this little FREE book you can download with the link below – have a look – its FREE – but valuable as it offers up a lot of information. And will continue this discussion about what Hypnosis is and isnt and how valuable it can be for you – when you take advantage of it.
If you have never taken a course or have. If you’ve never had a session with Hypnosis or have – but you’ve wondered what is it with this Hypnosis deal?  Feel free to check out this book.
Or you’ve had some experience and wondered what else there may be – go ahead check out this book.
If you wonder if there is any money in it – and what kind of career it may be – full or part-time – go ahead and download this book – feel free

Shya, Will You Ever Be a Mensch?

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Shya, Will You Ever Be a Mensch?

Shya, Will You Ever Be a Mensch?

By Shya Kane

“Mensch” is a Yiddish word meaning “a person of integrity and honor.”

It was 1957, I was 16 years old and struggling. A troubled teenager, I was dyslexic and could hardly read. Somehow, I eventually managed to make it through high school and go on to get a college degree, but at that time, my fate was quite uncertain. It was hard to know how I would turn out, but things weren’t looking good. At this point, skipping school was the norm and teachers and administrators hardly noticed – and neither did my folks. They were too busy. My sister was in the process of dying from cancer, a lengthy ordeal. Understandably, my parents had a lot on their plates. They were simple people, lost in the complexities and ongoing tragedy of their firstborn’s steady decline.

I imagine they knew I was floundering, but I was in those difficult adolescent years and I didn’t make it easy for them. Eventually my parents decided to send me to spend time in the country with a lady who worked in my dad’s dress factory.

Lina and Ben Veloski lived in Spring Valley, New York. It was summer and Ben took me fishing. It’s hard to remember the details now, but I do recall that Ben would rouse me early to head down to the lake. Fishing was already a passion of mine but he had a style of fishing that was pretty boring for a teenager. We would sit in a little rowboat, drop a minnow on a hook over the side and then sit watching a bobber float on the surface of the water, waiting for a fish to bite. Sometimes it never happened. So we would pass the time by drinking brandy from his flask. As the liquid would burn on the way down, Ben would often say, “Don’t let Lina know.”

Then I met their son Marvin, who was in his late 30s. Soon he was someone I looked up to. Not only was he patient and happy to have me tag along with him, Marvin did a different kind of fishing – one where you cast a lure out and reel it back in. This was active and much more exciting. We would row over near the lily pads where the fish hung out. From there a well-placed cast could be rewarded with an explosive strike from a smallmouth bass. Pretty soon, I no longer fished with Ben and I became a regular at Marvin’s house.

For the next two years, I was a frequent weekend and summer guest in Marvin’s home. His job was as a high school shop teacher and through him I gradually gained a respect for getting an education. Marvin had a favorite saying for me. He said it in Yiddish, which I didn’t really understand, but it roughly translated to, “Shya, will you ever be a mensch?” What he was really saying, was, “Will you make a difference with your life? Will you be a contribution to humanity, rather than forever proving that your parents did it wrong?”

It’s been more than 60 years since I first met Marvin. Since then, my passion for fishing has continued to grow and I have traveled to places beyond my wildest expectations. I have raised a family of my own. I’ve been married and divorced and married again – now for more than 30 years. Like Marvin, I am now a teacher. I never thought that was possible in those difficult years when I was so busy trying to figure out who I was and what my life purpose would be.

When my mother was on her deathbed, she looked up at me and said, “Shya, I never thought you were going to make it. But you did. You’ve turned out. I’m so proud of you.”

In answer to your question, Marvin: Yes. I have become a mensch. I’ve come to realize that it is possible to be a mess as a child, yet grow up to make a difference in the world. Having a troubled childhood does not mean that this moment of my life can’t be satisfying, fulfilling and perfect. Especially when I take my attention off myself and take care of the people around me.

Since 1987, internationally acclaimed authors, seminar leaders, podcast/radio show hosts and business consultants Ariel and Shya Kane have acted as guides, leading people through the swamp of the mind into the clarity and brilliance of the moment. Find out more about the Kanes, their seminars in NYC, Germany and Costa Rica, the Say YES to Your Life! Meetups their work has inspired, their Being Here podcast or join their email newsletter. Also get information about their award-winning books. Their newest book, Being Here…Too, is available on and everywhere books are sold.

Books by Ariel & Shya Kane

Sesame Street: Celebrate Family – Learn About The Importance Of Family

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Sesame Street: Celebrate Family – Learn About The Importance Of Family

Celebrate your family with this fun-fest of five family stories from Sesame Street! First, Abby’s family has dinner at Elmo’s house, where Abby learns that different families can have fun working together to make a meal. Then, Cookie Monster realizes he’s forgotten a gift for his mommy for Mother’s Day what should he do? For Father’s Day, Rosita wants to make a video for her dad, but she needs some help from her friends. Next we meet Rudy, Abby’s new stepbrother! And finally, Hooper’s Store is throwing a special party for kids and their grandparents. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Katherine S. comments, “Each episode has an abundance of vibrant energy and many great lessons for families.  This DVD is a great place to learn about the importance of family.” Nancy F. adds, “!  It is absolutely amazing to watch with its focus on positive messages that teach kids about family values. It also shares terrific lessons about kindness and many other uplifting messages.” Ella L. wraps it up with, “Even as a teenager, I felt the happiness that radiates through the screen. This movie is musical, creative, filled with positive messages and very importantly, is representative of real life relationships.” See their full reviews below.


Sesame Street: Celebrate Family

By Katherine Schell, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 11


I absolutely love each episode of Sesame Street: Celebrate Family, because the characters are so colorful and cute. Each episode has an abundance of vibrant energy and many great lessons for families.  This DVD is a great place to learn about the importance of family.Sesame Street: Celebrate Family has five parts covering different topics with all of the different Sesame Street characters. The stories include Abby and her stepfamily visiting Elmo for a fun “father/kids’ night” learning about the different things families do together. We get to see the challenges that Cookie Monster has trying to make something for his mom on Mother’s Day. He just likes to gobble everything up because it reminds him of cookies (surprise!).  For Father’s Day, Rosita makes something special for her dad since he’s away from home. We also get to see a grandparent’s party and learn about different grandparents such as Baby Bear’s grandpa.


The main characters are, of course, Elmo, Abby, Rudy (Abby’s step brother) and Rosita. The puppeteers are fabulous with all their actions and different voices. The songs are so stinking cute, catchy and easy to follow along with. My favorite part is when Cookie Monster eats the locket he planned to give to his mom because the picture reminded him of how they eat cookies together. You probably guessed that my favorite character is Cookie Monster. If so, you guessed right.There are several positive messages throughout the DVD.  My favorite is that family is so very important, and you should take time to celebrate with them. Family is important no matter what you do or how different yours is. These episodes also touch on ways to have self-control, acknowledge your differences and give love to your family and friends. They also show that it is okay to be nervous about meeting new people, and that you can still celebrate even if your special person isn’t there. Each episode makes me want to celebrate family even more.


Sesame Street: Celebrate Family is very kid friendly. It promotes positive social behavior and treating one another appropriately. There is no bad language and nothing risky or dangerous that children might imitate. I give this DVD 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 2 through 11. Adults will also enjoy this show. This DVD is available now, so look for it. I recommend it.



Sesame Street: Celebrate Family

By Nancy Fifita, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 12




The DVD Sesame Street: Celebrate Family is incredibly adorable!  It is absolutely amazing to watch with its focus on positive messages that teach kids about family values. It also shares terrific lessons about kindness and many other uplifting messages. What I really love and appreciate is how each character highlights a different point of view that all relate back to friendship and family. This film is filled with catchy music, comedy, valuable lessons, and features funny and adorable characters.The DVD is centered on five family stories from Sesame Street!  The first adventure is about Abby and her families’ dinner with Elmo’s family. She discovers that not all families are the same; each has their own way of doing things. The second story involves Cookie Monster and Mother’s Day. He is great at creating gifts, but always ends up devouring them. He finally is able to restrain himself from eating the cookies he gives his mom as a gift for Mother’s Day. The next story is about Father’s Day and how Rosita wants to make a special video for her father. In order to complete the video she needs help from her friends. Then there’s a story about Abby and her new stepbrother Rudy! The last adventure shows happiness through a special celebration held for grandparents at Hopper’s store.


The characters we see here include Elmo (Kevin Clash), Abby (Leslie Cadabby), Rudy, Rosita, Cookie Monster (David Rudman), Oscar (Caroll Spinney), Slimy, Prairie Dawn (Fran Brill), Elmo’s Father (Bill Barretta) and Abby’s Father. I love all the messages that are taught in the different episodes. Each gives cute and warm fuzzy feelings as it focuses and draws attention to the importance of family relationships, family support and having family right by your side.My favorite moment on this DVD is when Elmo Face Times his grandparents. It is a simple gesture and form of communication, but their reaction of joy and happiness is priceless. It teaches us an important lesson that, even if distance separates us from family, there is always a way to keep in touch, especially in the world of modern technology.

I rate this DVD 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 3 to 11 and adults as well. This DVD is so adorable, with meaningful lessons and teachable moments. I’m sure that anyone that watches it will truly enjoy it!  It is available now so look for it!


Sesame Street: Celebrate Family

by Ella Ladd, KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 15



Sesame Street: Celebrate Family is a fun and entertaining DVD that both kids and parents will be able to enjoy. Even as a teenager, I felt the happiness that radiates through the screen. This movie is musical, creative, filled with positive messages and very importantly, is representative of real life relationships. I assume that the purpose of this show is to entertain children, while teaching them about the variety of families that exist. Sesame Street: Celebrate Family follows Elmo and all his friends as they navigate through different relationships and figure out what the word family really means. Throughout the series, topics such as siblings, step-siblings, parents and grandparents are discussed. Different songs about different members of one’s family showcase the love and admiration Elmo and his friends feel towards their family. The film is very well written, with loads of content and humor that kids will absorb and enjoy thoroughly. The cheerfulness of Elmo and the Sesame Street community ought to make your kids want to laugh, play and sing along with them. Their positivity is absolutely contagious.

The aspect of the show that stands most are the positive messages. Elmo even says that “families come in all different shapes and sizes.” I am impressed by the progressive way that families are depicted in this show. All the families are different; none are a cookie-cutter mother-father-kid experience. Elmo and his friends also teach kids to love their families and treat their parents with love and respect. This DVD shows that family isn’t necessarily what you are born into. It’s the connections, relationships and bonds that you build with the people around you, regardless of age, color or any other hereditary aspect. Family is thicker than blood and that message is well portrayed here.

I give this DVD 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 2 to 10, as well as adults. This is an awesome show that helps kids develop their own personal values and character. Sesame Street: Celebrate Family does indeed celebrate families. The DVD is available now so, look for it!


Sesame Street: Celebrate Family

By Kimberly M, KIDS FIRST! Adult Reviewer

This delightful DVD carries the Sesame Street legacy of learning and fun, mixed with new characters, updated theme song elements and scenery. The various segments included here celebrate family, including Mother’s and Father’s Day and introduces one of the main character’s new stepbrother.The storylines have meaning and there is nothing threatening about them. One can rely on Sesame Street for great live action cinematography, great characters and thoughtful stories. I always enjoy the uniqueness of the Muppet costumes along with the Sesame Street set. The characters bright colors stand out and help hold the attention of younger viewers.

As to the characters in this show, I like seeing the older characters along with some new ones. We see Oscar, Elmo, and Abby meeting and learning about new human fraternal twin siblings.Another favorite part for me is the segments where they sing about different types of families. In one segment, the human twin siblings argue over music until they find common ground with jazz. That’s fun!

Sesame Street excels at presenting humor in their sketches, effectively making kids and older viewers laugh along. I enjoy that this DVD celebrates all different aspects of family. It is geared primarily for young children and they will benefit by learning about sibling rivalry and other aspects of family that may be unfamiliar to them.There are no unsavory aspects to this show. Sesame Street has a long-standing reputation, since 1969 of creating conscientious programming for preschoolers and this DVD is reliably thoughtful, educational and fun. The DVD is 140 minutes in length and can easily be enjoyed by watching it in segments. I truly enjoyed it and give it 4.5 out of 5 stars. I recommend it for ages 2 to 5, as well as adults. It is available now on DVD, so look for it.



Octonauts: Reef Rescue – Amazing Way To Learn A Lot About Different Sea Creatures

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Octonauts: Reef Rescue – Amazing Way To Learn A Lot About Different Sea Creatures

The Octonauts are a team of adventurers who explore the world’s oceans, rescue aquatic creatures and protect their habitats – from the bustling eco-system along the Amazon River to the deepest depths of the Mariana Trench. Deploying a set of aquatic vehicles, Captain Barnacles, daredevil ex-pirate, Kwazii, medic Peso and the rest of the crew embark on missions around the globe before returning safely to their home base, the Octopod. On this exciting DVD, join the Octonauts as they journey to a colorful coral reef to rescue the creatures that live there! Come along with Dashi as she saves a pair of surfing snails. And when poisonous sea snakes get stranded on a beach, Peso must figure out a way to get them back into the ocean. Enjoy these adventures and more with the Octonauts! KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Katherine S. comments, “I really like the DVD Octonauts: Reef Rescue, because we experience a new adventure with each episode.  The animation is simple and has a rainbow of splashy colors.” Lukas L. adds, “The character animations are very simple and that works for me.  Also, they have the most adorable little personalities and vegetable helpers.” KIDS FIRST! Adult Reviewer Rachel V. wraps it up with, “The Octonauts are a group of anthropomorphic animals that go on maritime adventures which often include educational experiences with undersea creatures and locations. Despite how cutesy this series may look on the surface, it has a decent amount of depth in its premise, with the characters going on adventures that feel like something you might find in Star Trek.” See their full reviews below.


Octonauts: Reef Rescue

By Katherine S., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 11



I really like the DVD Octonauts: Reef Rescue, because we experience a new adventure with each episode.  The animation is simple and has a rainbow of splashy colors.  The music is also very playful, supporting the kaleidoscope of action in each different rescue mission.Octonauts: Reef Rescue has a lot of lively characters, led by Captain Barnacles, who is a bear.  His crew also includes a number of other animals including a penguin, an ex-pirate kitten and a sea otter.  The most creative characters are vegimals – yes, part vegetable, part animal.  And, each rescue ends swimmingly! (ha ha) The DVD includes eight episodes, each a different adventure.  It is an amazing place to learn a lot about different sea creatures including a convict fish, very cute baby sea turtles, a tiger shark, poisonous yellow-bellied sea snakes and my favorite – surfing snails.  I had no idea snails could surf on bubbles.


There are so many positive messages throughout this DVD.  My favorite is the importance of team work.  The episodes also show how to protect the sea habitat and how much hard work and fun it is to rescue sea life. Octonauts Reef Rescue is very kid-friendly. It promotes positive social behavior, teamwork and kindness to one another and animals. I give this DVD 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 2 through 8. Adults will also enjoy this as they watch it with their kids and will probably learn something new. This DVD is available now, so look for it. I recommend it.


Octonauts: Reef Rescue
By Lukas L., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 12


I surprisingly really enjoyed watching the loveable Octonauts: Reef Rescue. The character animations are very simple and that works for me.  Also, they have the most adorable little personalities and vegetable helpers.The stories on this DVD are about a polar bear, cat, a penguin and their friends that explore, rescue and protect underwater sea creatures and their habitats. In these episodes, we learn about baby sea turtles, sunfish, tiger sharks and more. There is always a conflict in every episode and they manage to come up with the cleverest ways to save the day.The series stars voice-talent actors Ross Breen, Teresa Gallagher and Simon Greenall and is produced by Adam Idelson.  I really like the animation and give props to the animator Willian Muir. He keeps it very simple so that all ages can enjoy watching it. It is not just the main characters that I enjoyed. Oh, no no no, I really enjoyed the animated sea creatures as well. A lot of these sea creatures have very hard textures to mimic, so they make it through very nicely, plus we get a little sneak peak of the actual animals themselves at the end and that’s pretty cool.


This is the kind of where they make learning fun, which they succeed at.  There is not really a moral, but I it definitely promotes a love of ocean life. This show is great at teaching kids about marine life and their habitat. When I was younger, I was obsessed with animals of all sorts and I adored this show. Watching it again reminds me why I loved it so much!  There are not a lot of other shows that are dedicated to teaching kids about ocean life, so that’s a plus.I give this DVD 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 4 to 9. The DVD is available now, so look for it.


Octonauts: Reef Rescue

By Nathalia J. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 10


Are you ready to dive into adventure with your favorite underwater explores? This 90 minute, eight-episode, action-packed, powerful, thrilling and stimulating DVD is loaded with excitement in every episode. You get to join the Octonauts as they go on adventures through the glamorous, lovely, attractive and stunning reef to rescue creatures in need of help.The Octonauts are a team of adventurers that explore the world’s oceans and protect the creatures and habitats therein. You get to watch the Octonauts save a pair of surfing snails through a rutted wave in the tide and save baby turtles from an enormous wave and explore the lives of sunfish, yellow belly sea snakes and colorful fish.


The lead characters are Ross Breen (Captain Barnacles), Teresa Gallagher (Dashi), Simon Greenall (Captain Barnacles) and produced by Adam Idelson.My favorite episode is the most adventurous and informational Episode 7, because it shares multiple facts about the biggest fish in the ocean, sunfish.  Fun fact: When sunfish get the case of the itchies, smart fish masticate the itches off the sunfish which stay in the sunfish’s skin.

This show promotes positive social behavior by presenting kind actions through rescuing others. It promotes team work, working together and solving problems on an ocean adventure. Sounds like fun, huh?! This DVD is a great way for kids to learn about reefs and so much more. Each episode is filled with beautifully colored stories that will keep you engaged.I give this 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 5 to 11. This DVD is now available now so look for it!

Building Resilience – Lessons for Coping with Anxiety

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Health & Wellness
Building Resilience – Lessons for Coping with Anxiety

This post is written by guest blogger Samar Habib. It is the companion to an interview on the Voice America show, Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future with Jon Wortman focusing on How the Brain Impacts Leadership Resilience. I am posting this blog because of the anxiety many people are facing with the combination of economic uncertainty, political uncertainty and geopolitical uncertainty to name a few. There are many different approaches to work with anxiety. An element that helps us navigate the anxiety and build our resilience is understanding how our brains and body respond to stress so we can counterbalance our physiology.

I’m on the balcony playing with pegs. Not quite two years old. Out of nowhere a bomb drops from the sky and explodes nearby. It’s a huge shock to my little heart. I scream. My sympathetic nervous system injects me with adrenaline and cortisol, propelling me like a rocket into my father’s arms.

I grow up in a war zone. Living in war is like being in a relationship with an emotionally volatile person. You spend years walking on eggshells, not knowing when they’re going to blow up next.

I’ve experienced both. Growing up in war and being in a relationship with a volatile person. Gradually, and without my awareness, I lose my sense of safety. Even long after I leave the war zone and that relationship ends, my anxiety remains. Just like a piece of toilet paper that gets stuck to your shoe long after you’ve left the restroom, anxiety follows me around.

And even though the world shows me everyday that it is a gentle and safe place that’s full of love, my body still expects everything to go to hell without warning.

When I look back on my life I can see how this stuck-fear turns me into a tiny Anxiety Mouse. As an Anxiety Mouse I’m afraid to leave a job that doesn’t utilize my full potential because I don’t know what will happen if I do. As an Anxiety Mouse, I’m afraid to ask the woman I like if she’s interested too, because I fear the sting of ridicule or rejection. As an Anxiety Mouse I abort many potential friendships because I don’t trust people’s intentions. And so when I finally become aware of how my fear oppresses me, or how I oppress myself with my fear, I set out to transform it. And in coping with anxiety, these are the lessons I learn.

Love Anxiety Mouse (with all your heart)

It takes me many years to even realize that I am afraid. Scientists say that when your body is used to being in a state of alert for so long, you stop noticing that it is on edge; it becomes your new normal.

In Life Unlocked, Srinivassan Pillay writes that certain brain regions involved in fear can be active without our conscious awareness. We can be afraid and just not know it. I first notice my subliminal fear in the backseat of a coworker’s car. I’m in my mid 30s. She’s very nice and invites me to spend time with her and a friend. But for some reason my chest constricts and I want nothing more than to get out of there. Instead of berating myself for this social failure, I turn toward my fear with curiosity and unconditional self-love.

When I get home, I do a meditation prescribed for people coping with axniety by Christopher Hansard in his book The Tibetan Art of Living. I lie on my back and close my eyes. I imagine that my breath is flowing in and out of my navel. And with every breath I feel warmer and more energized. I place my attention on my heart and I feel the anxious glow that emanates from it. It’s an icy cold, electric heat. I then imagine a miniature me lying in the center of my heart, just as Hansard instructs. She is perfectly safe and perfectly at peace. Nothing can harm her. And I sit with this perfect peace, together with my fear, for some time.

I learn from Hansard’s book that this peace is actually my inner wisdom and it is always there, accessible in the space between moments. For the ancient Tibetans, he tells me, this inner wisdom is the healer of the body and mind. In knowing how to contact this inner horizon, as he calls it, lies our ultimate healing. I now direct the image of my safe-self out of my heart and into the world. I color it with a bright, powerful light and allow it to radiate like a white sun. I let its rays permeate every aspect of my life.

Rest and let yourself receive the good feelings that come to you from doing this, Hansard writes. And I do.

I have just communicated with my sympathetic nervous system with guided imagery. I’ve brought the fear response under my sway. When I am not meditating I blast Anxiety Mouse with light and love every chance I get. Every time I notice her. Remembering the not-yet-two-year-old girl on that balcony, who was terrorized within an inch of her life, I wrap my now strong arms around the afraid parts of me and love the hell out of them. Wherever the fear is nesting in my body, I direct love with all my heart at it. Ultimately, it’s not our technology or our medicine but our love that heals. That’s what neurosurgeon James Doty writes in his book Into the Magic Shop, and that’s a neurosurgeon talking!

How to Send Love To Your Pain 

In the past I thought these ancient visualization techniques were archaic wishful thinking, now I realize they are truly medicine.

Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway

I’m sitting in the back seat of a taxi. Next to me sits the object of my affection. I’d really like to ask her out for dinner but I just can’t. I’m so tense, if I was a guitar string I would snap. I’ve already read a dozen books on body language and nonverbal communication and I can tell I’m giving her all the wrong signals. You’re supposed to lightly touch your love interests here and there: on the arm, a little slap on the knee, maybe even a light touch on the small of the back if you’re ushering them through a doorway. If you have hair, flick it. And you’re supposed to make meaningful and non-invasive eye contact when they speak. Ask a lot of questions. Dress to impress. Connect emotionally. Yeah, I get it. All of it. But I just can’t bring myself to put my hand on a woman I’m attracted to.

What if she feels violated? What if I come across as sleazy? What if she’s straight and I misrepresent all gay women as predatory sex fiends for all time?

So you see, I just sit there, awkward and uncomfortable. Stewing in my closed off stance, my body turned away from her. She’s talking but I’m so caught up in my own nervousness, I have no idea what she just said. Seconds later she’s out of the taxi. Gone. I just missed my chance. I go home and I’m really tempted to hate myself. What a coward. I keep replaying our time together in my head, looking for clues. Does she like me? It never occurs to me that I could have just asked.

The fastest way to deal with anxiety is to do the thing that scares you. Once you’ve done what you’re afraid of, it can’t scare you anymore. That’s because anxiety is only possible when you think about the future and about what could happen. So feel the fear and do it anyway. This is literally the title of a best selling book by Susan Jeffers. Jeffers teaches me to say I’ll handle it, every time I catch myself worrying about the consequences of doing something. I just keep saying it over and over again, every time Anxiety Mouse rears her fragile little head inside me. If I keep giving all my money away, I’m going to end up homeless myself: that’s fine, I’ll handle it. If I quit this job I’m really not cut out for, I might never be able to find something better: I’ll handle it. What if America turns fascist and they start rounding up immigrants: I’ll handle it. What if I go on vacation and come back to find that my startup doesn’t exist anymore: I’ll handle it. Whatever you fear is going to happen that you’re theoretically worrying about right now, just tell yourself, I’ll handle it. And if the worst case scenario eventuates (it almost never does), Jeffers says in another book, tell yourself I can learn from this. I’ve just blown my last chance with this incredibly amazing woman by not asking her out. I can learn from this. I’ve just blown the entire fuse box fixing the electrics on my motorcycle. I can learn from this.

After I finally overcome my fear of losing money and start investing in the stock market, it crashes! I can learn from this.

I do learn a tonne from that last one, actually. I realize how ridiculous money is; how easily it can be made and lost. My fear of not having enough is transformed into my knowledge that material security is an illusion. It doesn’t make sense to continue being afraid of losing something (material security) that no one can ultimately have, does it?

Put Fear in a Larger Historical Context

My heart rate can go from 60 to 100 BPM instantly for no seemingly good reason. The first time this happens to me, I’m in high school. I see two police officers walking towards me and I feel the fear. I do a mental check of my school uniform. It’s a crazy thought to think that police officers are going to cite you for not having your shirt tucked in, isn’t it? They pass me without incident of course and I’m left wondering what the hell my reaction was all about. The same thing still happens to me sometimes when I see Border Patrol officers in foreign airports. And during the 2014 Ferguson protests I break into a cold sweat when a police helicopter hovers over my house for over an hour. I’ve been in war zones, why should a police helicopter make me feel like it’s coming for me? None of this makes sense to my logical mind. The physiological reactions happen in spite of my logic. In search for self-understanding, I come across the concept of epigenetics. Epigenetics teaches us that we can inherit the traumatic experiences of our predecessors even up to the moment of our conception.

What this means is that what happened during the lives of my parents and their parents lives inside me too. And so it all starts to make sense. My grandparents had to flee their family homes, they and my parents were persecuted. They lived in constant terror, hiding from genocidal militias for decades. Now that context is gone, but thanks to epigenetics my brain is still vigilant against those non-existent threats. I soon realize that Anxiety Mouse wants to make sure I survive in a world that no longer exists. I take a moment to honor the experiences of my parents and their parents before them. I close my eyes and I bless the souls of the living, and the souls of those whom we have lost. My eyes well up with tears as the fear that sits inside me takes on a new meaning. This fear is not an enemy but a precious relic from my family’s history that is asking to be acknowledged and healed.

I imagine that as I am healing my own trauma, I am also healing the trauma of my entire lineage. I feel the spirits of my grandfather, aunts, uncles and cousins who were murdered in the war and to each one of them I acknowledge the pain and terror they must have faced. I take a moment to imagine what they would say to me and I listen for their messages. May you be happy, may you be at peace. Thank you for your sacrifice. I promise to live the life I am given to its fullest potential. I bless the living spirits of my mother and father. My heart radiates tremendous love and the electric ice-cold fear transforms into a tender aching, like the pain of a fresh wound. I feel my heart opening to the unhealed traumas of my predecessors and I ask that they be released now and for all time.

Bert Hellinger, a German psychologist who invented a therapeutic methodology known as Family Constellation Work, claims that we can inherit the traumas of our predecessors and live out similar fates to them if these experiences are not brought to consciousness and resolved. He calls this phenomenon systemic entanglement. We might even harbor a sense of unconscious loyalty to our fallen loved ones and end up steering ourselves toward similar fates in solidarity with them. Ivan Boszormenyi-Nagy, a hungarian psychologist who founded family therapy, refers to this phenomenon as invisible loyalty.

My body, without my conscious awareness, makes me live out the same psychosocial distress as my predecessors. My body is motivated by unconscious love and deep family ties that live in the cells of my body. As I become aware of this dynamic the healing begins and I set out to write a new destiny for my life. One based on optimism and trust.

Take a moment to expand your awareness of that steel-cold existential fear that doesn’t seem to leave you alone. What aspects are based on your direct experience and what aspects could you have inherited?

Take a moment to acknowledge the pains and losses of your loved ones. The ones you know and the ones you don’t. Ask that they be acknowledged and healed. Surrender the pain to the greater love that governs and corrects all things.

Subliminal Fear Lives in the Unconscious Mind

I post on an online forum about a rare motorcycle part I need to repair my bike. The following day, I receive an email from a man named Steve telling me has has the part and to call him on a given number. My first thought isn’t oh, great! My first thought is is this a scam? I put the phone number into Google and sure enough, Steve is calling from a motorcycle salvage yard in Southern California.

Someone else wouldn’t have had that thought. But that kind of thought is my default mode. It’s the first thing I think in most situations. Is there a threat? How can I make sure there isn’t a threat? How can I keep myself safe?

I’ve lived with this way of thinking for so long I barely even notice it, but now that I can see my subliminal fear in action, I can also see how it’s interfering in all aspects of my life. For one thing, I don’t trust my friends. This means I can never rely on them. And because I don’t give people the chance to be there for me, I’ve ended up with a lot of superficial relationships. Unintentionally, I have been isolating myself from others in this way for years.

Another example is that I never trust that things will work out for me, or that I might just get lucky. This means I don’t take risks and it also means that undesirable circumstances in my life are slow to change. I realize that for drastic changes to occur in my life I need to create momentum by taking bold action. But since I’m subliminally afraid all the time, I haven’t dared to quit that stupid job. I recognize that I need to go deep into my unconscious mind to fix this. And I quit that stupid job.

Releasing Stuck Energy

The unconscious mind is that part of ourselves that carries out the bodily functions we don’t have to think about. Things like a beating heart, breathing, digestion and life-saving reflexes. My unconscious mind is the one that’s running my fear factory because it still thinks I need it to survive. I need to find a way to tell it that there is no threat. I need to find a way to tell it all is good. The war (at least for me) is over, if I run out of money I’ll handle it, and there’s really no one out to get me. And if there were, I’ll handle that too. I’m sitting in my bedroom after a long day of reading and writing on my desk. I have no reason to be afraid and yet there is a knot in my stomach. Above that, in the center of my torso and radiating all the way up to my heart, I also feel a stuck energy. I am not thinking anxious thoughts, I am simply observing the sensations we would normally call fear as they manifest in my body. My Sympathetic Nervous System is on alert, it’s ready to respond to threat. Except there is no threat and I know this, but my body doesn’t. How do I tell my body everything is ok?

I soon realize that the sensations of anxiety that I am feeling in my body are located in what Eastern mystics call chakras. Chakras are energy centers in the body. For a long time I thought they were just make belief. But I can definitely feel this excess energy in the places where the second, third and fourth chakras are supposed to be.

In his book Becoming Supernatural Joe Dispenza puts the idea in my head that these energy centers can experience blockages because of past traumatic experiences. Sometimes an energy center can move away from its alignment with the spine.

The idea makes sense because the sensation I feel in what’s supposed to be my second chakra is not in alignment with my spine, it juts out slightly to the left. After his meditation technique, Dispenza says, practitioners notice a realignment of those energy centers with the spine and the energy flows freely again.

I’m willing to have an open mind about this. If these energy centers are real and my unresolved emotional experiences of being threatened are actually stuck in my body, then if I do this meditation, I should be able to feel the difference.

I close my eyes and prepare myself for the breathing exercise he prescribes. I squeeze the muscles of my pelvic floor as well as the muscles of my lower and upper abdomen in tandem with inhaling a deep breath. At the same time, I imagine that I am using my core muscles to move the energy in my lower chakras up my spine, into my brain and all the way out of the top of my head. Once I get to the top of my head, I focus my attention there and hold my breath for a few seconds. As I exhale, I relax my muscles and prepare to repeat the breathing cycle all over again. After several minutes of doing this I return to breathing normally. I focus my awareness on each chakra in turn, beginning with the first one at the base of my spine, making my way up to the 7th, blessing each with love and gratitude as I go. Finally I rest my awareness on an energy center that is supposedly a few inches above my skull. That’s supposed to be the 8th chakra. When I finish blessing each center, I place my awareness on my entire body all at once, which now feels like a massive, pulsating field of energy. I feel bigger and lighter. To my surprise I don’t feel the symptoms of anxiety return for several days. Could it have worked or was it just a coincidence?

Teach Your Body to Trust Again

After I quit my job, I realize that other areas of my life have to change. I sit down at my desk and I make an inventory of all the times I suspected people of ill intentions and turned out to be wrong. I make a second list of all the times I was afraid something bad was going to happen and it didn’t. Looking at the lists I can see the absurdity of some of those thoughts! And I remember just how plausible the scenarios seemed when I imagined them. For example, when one of my clients gave me a mechanical keyboard as a present, I wondered if it was possible for someone to install spyware on your computer through an external keyboard. I even asked a software engineer about it. Why did my mind take this kind and generous gesture from my client and turn it into a possible episode of espionage? And what subtle effects does this have on my ability to connect meaningfully with people?

At its core this is a trust issue. I have to teach my body to trust again.

I pick up Habits of a Happy Brain by Loretta Graziano Breuning. She explains that the feel-good brain chemicals are released when we form trust bonds. Breuning teaches me how I can increase these brain chemicals by offering my trust to others. I don’t have to trust everybody, that’s actually not such a great idea, she writes. Steve from the motorcycle salvage yard could have been a scammer after all!  But even if people go on to break our trust it’s better to assume trust initially. The joy we gain is in the act of offering our trust, not the outcome. We will feel much better for trusting people rather than living with mistrust all the time. In other words: look for people you think you can trust, initiate a situation where you’re offering your trust, and reap the brain chemical reward right there and then, regardless of whether they go on to honor or betray that trust.

Take for example the time a business owner contacts me about working with him on expanding his business. When we meet, some of his comments seem really off-kilter and abrasive to me. I feel immediate alarm bells in the usual energy centers of my body. I decide to feel the fear and offer my trust anyway. I agree to meet with him several more times. After a few encounters though, I can see that my initial assessment is correct. He is rude and abrasive, even if he isn’t aware of it, and I don’t have to spend any more time in his line of fire. I respectfully end our relationship and move on to the next business opportunity. By placing my satisfaction in my trust-offer rather than the outcome, I’m able to confidently end our relationship without feeling hurt or stupid for trusting him in the first place. And I feel good that I felt the fear and did it anyway.

7 Get Curious

Fear is an automated physiological response over which we have no control. But we can consciously maneuver our brain activity away from the automated fear response, toward other regions in the brain. We can do that by getting curious.

When my body initiates a fear response, I

  1. Assess the situation by asking myself am I in immediate danger? The answer is almost always no
  2. Breathe in deeply and direct self-compassion to the areas in my body where I feel the fear
  3. Accept the fear as a sensation completely and utterly, without judgment
  4. Investigate the sponsoring thought behind my fear. And the sponsoring thought is nearly always a fear for my survival (which isn’t being threatened)
  5. Ask myself if there is an action I can take to alleviate my concern and if there is, I take it. I don’t react or overreact, I simply act if needed

Let me give you an example:

I receive an offer to work on a very interesting project. My client and I draw up an agreement and I sign it. I start working but she doesn’t send me the countersigned copy. This triggers my fear response. My mind plays out a number of worst case scenarios. Is this a scam? Why hasn’t she signed the agreement? I notice my heart rate go through the roof and that’s when I decide to get curious about the situation. I ask myself am I in immediate danger? Obviously not, the worst thing that could happen is that I’d work for free for a few weeks. That’s literally the worst thing that can possibly happen in this situation. I accept my absurd thoughts, take a deep breath and send love to the areas in my body where I can feel the sensations of fear. At the same time I ask myself what is it that I am really afraid of?

The answer is nearly always the same for this question: the fear is for my ultimate survival. I’m not afraid of losing out on money owed in wages, the fear is much more primal than that. The fear is of having nowhere to sleep and nothing to eat. This was a reality for many members of my family decades earlier, but it is not the case for me: an able-bodied, legal resident of a country with a thriving economy. What action can I take to turn off the fear response? Send an email asking about the countersigned agreement. I do and moments later my client responds with an apology for having forgotten to return it until now. I add this to my inventory of incidents where I suspect people of having ill intentions and I turn out to be wrong.

What Are You Exactly Afraid Of?

The limbic system is the oldest part of our brain and the most primitive. It doesn’t think, it reacts. The purpose of it is to keep us alive. My fear of not having enough is ultimately a primordial fear of death. But our brains have evolved so much and are now capable of thinking. And with my thinking brain (that’s the prefrontal cortex: the area of the brain behind the forehead), I can entertain philosophical and existential ideas. One idea in particular resonates with me. The Thai buddhist monk, Ajahn Chah, teaches me that I’m going to die eventually. In fact, that’s literally the one thing we can all be sure of. We are all going to die. Eventually. And so I realize that there’s no point of living in fear of the only inevitable and certain thing. I’m not saying let’s all hold hands and run to our deaths, I’m saying that existentially it is a little absurd to live a life in fear of the inevitable.

I decide to do a meditation on fear. I begin with my first memory of fear. That’s my memory on the balcony. After that I remember being afraid of my father’s angry voice and of my teachers as they’re deciding how to punish me. I remember my fear of mean girls at school as a teenager and my fear of asking a woman out as an adult. I remember my fear of police and border patrol officers and even my fear of police helicopters. Then I get to death. And strangely everything goes quiet. I realize that I have no fear of death. Astonished, I ask myself how is it that I can be afraid of a girl making fun of me for liking her and not be afraid to die? In my lack of fear of death I realize that I can be fearless to anything I meet in life. I realize that what I possess is the ultimate bravery of all. I realize that everything I am afraid of is really nothing. I am afraid of nothing. I break into laughter at the misunderstanding that I have been living with all my life.

I Turn My Fear Into A Spiritual Path

To self-identify according to your spiritual rather than material reality is enlightenment. Marianne Williamson, Law of Divine Compensation. I’m sitting in a classroom listening to a Kabbala teacher talk about waking up and feeling uneasy, or thinking negative thoughts for no reason. And he says that whenever his teacher feels those negative emotions he says to himself what a pleasure! It turns out that for the Kabbalists this psychological tension that comes out of nowhere is a sign that you are on the edge of a spiritual breakthrough. A seasoned Kabbalist gets really excited when they get anxious for no reason.And so my first thought is this guy is nuts. But actually he isn’t. It turns out that people who are just about to have a spiritual experience first have an overload of activity in the areas of their brain traditionally associated with fear and negative emotions.

To get to a spiritual experience you first feel a lot of distress. Sorta like the story of Jesus in the desert getting taunted by the devil, and the Buddha by Mara, sorta like that. Both have their spiritual breakthroughs on the other side of their respective freak outs. For this reason I can’t call Anxiety Mouse by that name any more. Sure I still have the physiological symptoms of fear every now and then but my thoughts about those feelings are not the same. Physical sensations are just physical sensations. We assign meanings to them and why should my feeling that we call anxiety be seen as such a bad thing? How do I know it’s bad? How do I know it’s not even awesome? What if it’s like a stargate into another dimension?

Pain Does Not Equal Harm

I am on an exhilarating spiritual path. I’m exploring the influence I can have on my body and my world with my conscious mind. Realizing this, I come to see that anxiety isn’t really anxiety, it’s the perfect opportunity for me to explore what I can and can’t do with my mind to influence my body. Every anxious moment is the perfect opportunity to master the skill of this subtle influence of mind on the body. I know we’re led to believe that we shouldn’t feel this way and if we do then something is wrong, but this feeling is not harmful. I can learn so much from this! And I do. Every day.

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