May 18, 2024

Are You Ready for Here and Now?

“It ain’t over till it’s over.” Yogi Berra

As a baseball fan, this year’s World Series was particularly enjoyable. The games were entertaining and memorable. Some say Game 6 was the best baseball game ever. It’s hard to disagree.

It was in the top of the ninth when Joe Buck and Tim McCarver announced the Chevrolet Play of the Game, as it seemed Texas was on the way to its first title.

Don’t they understand baseball? The game isn’t over till the last out is recorded. That’s the essence of baseball. No time clock — just the next at bat, the next pitch, the next hit, the next out.  As Yogi wisely said, “It ain’t over till it’s over.”

Watching the rest of this fantastic game, there were at least 4 more plays, at the moment they happened, that could have been named the “play of the game.”

With the World Series over, players from both teams can be with their families until what’s next in their lives. The Cardinal players will get their championship rings, remember plays of the games, remember plays of the series, and be champions through 2011. At the same time, each player will go on with daily living. Cardinals Manager Tony La Russa retires at the top of his game, to his next pitch and ballplayers will play for the Cardinals or another team. It’s doubtful if any players just live on the laurels of 2011. Their lives are changed and, I expect, they will have pleasant experiences.

Baseball is a metaphor of life: it is always only the play of our life — so far. When the play goes well, enjoy it. When the play is difficult, learn from it. Until the end, be ready for the now of this next pitch. Here and now is what’s important. Be with family. Be ready for the pitch!



How do you feel as you prepare to do something out of the ordinary? Emotions can run amuck with anticipation, trepidation, speculation and a lot more.

Muncie Public Library hosted a signing event for our children’s book, The Kite Surprise. Our book portrays a kite festival at the beach where young Celia Belle is enchanted with what her brother, Ansel, does in the kite contest.

Story Book History: 1974, Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, age 26, an amazing kite contest. My background was kite flying poverty and here I was witnessing this amazing sky filled with kites of all colors, shapes, sizes. When I came to Muncie in 1977, I rapidly heard of Ansel Toney, the kite master in Farmland.

Back to the library event: Hot weather, summertime, Saturday netted thin attendance. However we gained the greatest treasured experience when a couple walked through the doors and introduced themselves. Oren and Marge Toney — that’s right the son of the famous kite maker Ansel Toney, from Farmland, Indiana.

What a thrill when the Toneys came to the library! Oren offered tidbits of glances into the life of his father, the kite master: Interviewed by Charles Kuralt “On the Road” CBS TV show; his dad knew how to adjust and fix things; went to the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis.

His dad, in his mid-80s, took a 67 year old sewing machine (belonging to his wife) and learned to operate it, sewing different designed kites. Eventually the machine just wore out. The manufacturer contributed another sewing machine, but fixed the old one so Mr. Toney could have someone work with him. Oren noted that the manufacturer received a great deal of publicity from that gift.

Did Oren get kites from his dad? With a little smile and eyes twinkling, Oren reported he would go to the farm, do the work and ask for a kite in return. Dad would say “you can build one yourself” — apparently as a way to encourage the son to take up the hobby of dad. Not interested! However, wanting a kite, his wife Marge ordered a kite. When she picked it up and asked for an autograph, Ansel said “who to?” She replied to Oren; it was signed and given at no charge.

Oren continued with tales about French Military kites, Delta kites (which Ansel had a fondness for designing and flying), and the Eddy kite – the green frog kite in our book.

I was thankful that, over the years, I flew kites with my kids and grandchildren. Mostly we flew the Delta kites, those favored and popularized by Mr. Toney. These kites are easy to fly and as Oren remarked, “will stay up as long as there is wind.”

Ansel Toney loved flying kites “you are always looking up.” He was known for getting out the kite which was a sure signal for the kids to come around and enjoy the day. He considered the sky a playground, maybe his own personal one during flying.

Now think about YOUR next event, tomorrow or next week! Big or small, whatever it might be: Will you greet it with anticipation, trepidation, or speculation? We never know what’s around the corner to bring that enriching treasure of memory. Meeting Oren and Marge Toney is one of our inspiring treasures.

Remember: Always keep looking up and let your spirits soar — those gifts of life will find you if you are open to them.

Toney-Kuralt Video

See how to make the Eddy Kite

A Man and His Kite – Farmland IN

Information: The Kite Surprise

Thanks for reading. Keep the wind to your back, it’s a great stress reliever.


Energy and Mental Health Review

Over the last six weeks, we have discussed energy and mental health with emphasis on the works of Tony Schwartz, author of The Way We’re Working Isn’t Working, and Jim Loehr, author of The Power of Full Engagement.  

Your mental health and energy are intertwined. Some key points of the blogs provide snapshots to jog your memory and help you on your path to managing Physical, Emotional, Mental and Emotional Energy.

  • ENERGY is the fundamental currency of performance. Without energy we have no life.
  • ENERGY includes physical activity, emotional connection, mental focus and spiritual alignment.
  • ENERGY is created from the bottom of the pyramid to the top but the motivation to change comes from the top down.
  • ENERGY capacity diminishes with under and over use.
  • INCREASE capacity by pushing beyond normal limits.  
  • CREATE positive rituals or good habits to cultivate capacity. 
  • BARRIERS to energy include negative habits that ultimately waste energy. 
  • YOUR Chronological age is fixed.  
  • YOUR Biological age can be modified with training. 
  • Training requires recovery. Most people are undertrained physically and spiritually (not enough effort) and over trained emotionally and mentally (not enough recovery).
  • ENERGY — The fundamental source is physical; the most important is spiritual or life purpose. 
  • Lifelong energy goals include:
    • Strongest possible physical pulse
    • Strongest possible emotional pulse
    • Strongest possible mental pulse
    • Strongest possible spiritual pulse
  • Take the energy audit:

Have you found this series helpful? Comment at this blog. Or go to Contact to give remarks through the form. 
Gain energy and be well.

Spirituality and Mental Health

“What is your quest?”  (Keeper at the bridge of death in Monty Python and the Holy Grail.  “I seek the holy grail.” (response of Arthur and his knights.

Spiritual Energy, at the top of the pyramid, is about character, courage, integrity and asking what am I doing on this planet? What do I stand for?

It is a classic scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail


“What is your quest…? I seek the Holy Grail.”

Think of the Holy Grail as your purpose on this earth. If we are not active with our “quest” and identifying our own Holy Grail, it will be difficult to get motivated to make changes in the mental, emotional and physical areas of the energy pyramid.

Remember while we need to create energy from the physical base up the pyramid, the
process of change is from the top down.

Think about yourself and those you know. You may be aware, for instance, of a woman who smoked until she became pregnant; then immediately she stopped, even having failed several times before. During the time of pregnancy, many women are clearly in touch with a greater purpose as they feel and know that life within them. No way will they smoke. Then some, not as physically connected with that life, will smoke again after delivery.

Similarly people who are depressed will seek therapy looking for words or medication to feel better, though they are acting outside of their established integrity and purpose.

A case in point: a person is having an affair; it is definitely against his/her moral code. There really are no words or medication to help. In fact, do feel bad if you violate moral, ethical and trust standards that you declare to stand for.

The essence of therapy then is to get in touch with what you stand for and behave congruently with your beliefs. Energy increases and mood improves when you act according to your standards.

Being in touch with your Holy Grail is a key. Religion may play a part in this. Religion may help identify what you stand for in terms of right or wrong. Connections with people who encourage, support and share a similar moral quest is important. Attending a church of choice may be part of that.

Your Holy Grail will have various parts: experiencing the joys of a grandparent or parent, connections with spouse or fulfillment of career.

My belief for my purpose is to help people to work through difficulties, grow in their purpose, and feel a higher quality of life.   As I carry out my purposes with family and career, I discover the more I get back. Interesting how that works; you give what you get. It’s a full circle.

Consider your purpose and place on the planet. Being connected with who you are and what you stand for can guide you as you consider changes for new habits in Energy.

An example may be losing weight to look better. A good enough reason, but it may not offer a true motive. Does gaining health and energy to enjoy children or grandchildren, or being present at weddings or graduations appear be more meaningful or valuable as your Holy Grail?

Take a quick snapshot of your life with family, friends, and other areas, both large and small. What makes you the smile, gives you joy, and describes your purpose? Define your Holy Grail.

Next week a summary of this series on:
Power Outage and Your Mental Health

Mental Energy and Mental Health

“Emancipate your selves from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds.” Bob Marley 

Remember training is necessary for Energy, whether physical, emotional, mental or spiritual. Training includes reasonable stress followed by time for recovery.    

Level three of energy is Mental. In both Mental and Emotional Energy, we over train; that is we over use (think too much or are quite emotional) and don’t allow enough recovery time. 

On the other hand, Physical and Spiritual, are generally undertrained; we don’t stress these enough. It’s notable that while physical energy is at the base and spiritual is at the top of the energy pyramid, the process of change happens in reverse order. Therefore we must address spiritual and mental issues before we can make ongoing change within the physical and emotional areas. 

Mental Energy is the fuel for skills such as concentration, mental preparation, visualization, self talk, time management and creativity. All of these deal with the thinking required for realistic optimism mentioned in last week’s blog. Our minds are constantly thinking and seem predisposed to processing in a negative way.   

Remember the Rodney Dangerfield joke? 
You: “Doc tell me what is wrong”
Dr:”OK, you are crazy”
You: “Hey wait, I want a second opinion”
Dr: “Ok, you are ugly too.” 

This is the way the brain tends to work… critical opinions, one after the other. One of the mental tasks is to notice and begin to challenge negative self talk. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is designed for that very purpose
James Loehr, author, Power of Full Engagement, notes the mind takes up 2% of body weight but uses 25% of oxygen. Wow! The use of oxygen speaks to the amount of energy put into thinking. 

We also know the creative mind is more active when it is in recovery, in the shower, during meditation, in nature or on that peaceful bike ride. Our most creative work is not done at work, but rather in these quiet times. Try remembering a song, or the group that did a song. It’s on the tip of your tongue, but you can’t remember it. Later as you are relaxed, not really trying to remember, there it is.

Systematic training builds mental capacity. Concentration can be improved by starting with small intervals of   5 or 10 minutes and gradually growing the time as you might physically increase weights. Then relaxing the mind is the way to recover. There is strong evidence that to be creative we must rest, in the form of meditation or a nap. (Refer tothe NASA  research in the Fatigue Counter Measure Program cited in the Loehr text,  Power of Full Engagement).

In fact, it is advisable to take a 15 minute nap every afternoon. Performance, alertness and health will improve. (Yes – tell your boss you’ve been advised to do this!)   No need to actually sleep. Just close your eyes and keep them closed for 15 minutes. When thoughts wander to work activities, just say to yourself “oh well” and get back to relaxation. If you think you may sleep too long, set an alarm or have someone interrupt. Loehr refers to this process of stress and recovery as oscillatory; he notes it is the most efficient way of using both your mind and your body. 

Loehr also writes of the plasticity of the brain. He compared physically and mentally active retired people with those that did not stay active. Those who challenged themselves physically and mentally scored up to 30% higher on cognitive tests — indicating it truly is use it or lose it. This is quite similar to the stress and recovery we need with muscles.   

Challenge the thoughts to grow. Create mental habits of stress and of recovery.   

Next week Spirituality and Energy. 


Power Outage: Emotional Energy and Mental Health

 “All learning has an emotional base.” Plato 

“Just as your car runs more smoothly and requires less energy to go faster and farther when the wheels are in perfect alignment, you perform better when your thoughts, feelings, emotions, goals, and values are in balance.”  Brian Tracy

Over the last three weeks, you have learned the importance of mental health and physical energy, increasing the base of your physical energy and growing new energy habits.

With that base of physical energy in alignment, the next step is improving and managing emotional energy. Emotional energy includes aspects like selfconfidence, empathy, trust, forgiveness, optimism, patience and self control.

When emotions are in excess, we are diminished. We know fear often compromises abilities; we know when people are watching TV they are mildly depressed; we know that ability to forgive enhances the depth of relationships and encourages healing. We can grow emotions with practice. Too much empathy and we may neglect ourselves.

How do we train in the emotional area?  Let’s look at patience. “instant everything” has amplified impatience in society. It’s up to each one of us to work on our individual patience.

To improve your patience starts with small steps. For instance, a) go to a store and check out choosing the longest line; b) let several people go in front of you at the checkout; c) buy items in two trips through two cashiers; d) wait for the train instead of going around. At times patience might be viewed as thoughtfulness.

Empathy is  understanding, being aware of and being sensitive to people around you. To improve empathy again starts with small steps. Ask yourself what others might feel in specific situations. You can even do this while watching TV and thinking of what a character may be feeling. You can consider what family or friends might feel when you have a disagreement. Then ask yourself again and again and again until you start to have a variety of ideas.

Learning any new skill takes practice. Repeat until you feel you are getting it and then do it some more. Will this be easy? Probably not! It’s the repetition that will help you improve these emotions.

It is useful to have positive emotions in our repertoire of good habits, ready to use at anytime. Key positive emotions are self-confidence, self-control, realistic optimism and empathy. Positive emotions help us enjoy life and support our energy.

The negative (fear, anger pessimism) have their place too, assisting with survival. In the big picture, these negative emotions are costly and inefficient. Your emotions affect others. Being supportive or in a good mood, helps others be more positive.

As Tony Schwartz points out in The Way we’re Working Isn’t Working, there is evidence that leaders who operate from fear or anger negatively affect the health of those a around them. Wouldn’t you like to forget some of those kinds of work days?

As with physical energy, continued overuse of emotions will equal exhaustion. When normal grief becomes prolonged, without periods of relaxation and enjoyment, depression may follow. Over using empathy can also become a problem. When people become so focused on the feelings and care of others they may neglect themselves.

Positive emotions are strengths to use freely and often. Grow those that are underdeveloped. You will find your energy increases.

Have you visited the Energy Project at


Sleep as Source of Energy: Your Mental Health Depends on It

“Like a drunk, a person who is sleep-deprived has no idea how functionally impaired he or she truly is.”  Charles Czeisler… Sleep researcher Harvard Medical School

Are you tossing and turning all night? Or do you sleep like a baby?

In his book, “The Way We are Working Isn’t Working,” Tony Schwartz is rather dramatic with the title of the chapter on sleep — SLEEP OR DIE.  He makes the case with example after example of decreased performance or decreased health when we don’t regularly have 7-9 hours of sleep. He notes we can become like a drunk unaware of our inability to perform and, in the most extreme cases, can become psychotic.

Not sleeping can become a vicious cycle. The more a person doesn’t sleep the harder they try and the more upset they can make themselves over missing sleep, thus intensifying the cycle. Evidence is clear that the resulting decrease of energy diminishes ability to combat depression, anxiety and physical illness.

So what can we do to intervene? Below are some guidelines

1.  Under the supervision of a physician eliminate use of sleeping pills. Its effects are temporary, often losing effectiveness in 2-4 weeks. A person may develop a dependence on these medications. There may be a “rebound effect.”

2.  Reduce consumption of alcohol and caffeine. Both disrupt Delta (deep) sleep. No alcohol 2 hours prior to bed time. No caffeine (a stimulant) 6 hours prior. Nicotine is a stimulant. Non smokers fall asleep faster than smokers.

3.  Exercise in late afternoon or early evening. This raises body temperature and is conducive to Delta sleep. On the other hand exercising more intensely than you are used to, close to bed time can stimulate your body and interfere with sleep.  

4.  Plan tomorrow’s activities two hours prior to bed time. Use the two hours to wind down with relaxing activities. TV is designed to keep you stimulated; it can keep you awake. Eating a light carbohydrate snack will also help produce serotonin, a chemical that helps produce sleep.

5.  Be in bright lights much of the day. This helps the body better adjust to the cycle of sleep. Prior to bed begin to dim lights in the house. This encourages the body to produce serotonin and Melatonin another chemical the body naturally produces that helps with sleep.

6.  Take a warm shower or bath to help the body naturally begin to produce serotonin and Melatonin.

7.  Make your environment conducive to sleep. This would include a darkened environment with minimal sound. Cooler temperatures are more conducive to sleep as it helps reduce the core temperature of the body.

8.  Reduce fluid intake.

9.  Avoid a heavy meal before bedtime. Do not go to bed too full or too hungry

10. If your mind is racing consider Schwartz’s idea to “Park your anxieties.” There is evidence that writing down your worries before bed time gives the mind permission to set aside those concerns temporarily and go to sleep. The same can be used in the middle of the night if awakening to worries.

This list comprises “sleep hygiene.” If you struggle to sleep, try these ideas and expect gradual but consistent change. It will take about two weeks to make a noticeable difference.


If problems persist contact me at my office for more structured intervention. Sleep tight.

Power Outage: Energy, Food, Fitness and Mental Health

“Be good to yourself. If you don’t take care of your body, where will you live?”  Kobi Yamada

How are you doing with those 2011 fitness goals? Taking small steps or have they been set aside? As we begin the second month of 2011, some have already put aside goals of fitness/energy.

Last week’s blog discussed aspects of energy, provided information for an energy audit, and mentioned Tony Schwartz, author of Way We are Working Isn’t Working. Remember the importance of energy in combating depression or anxiety.

He writes of managing physical, emotional, mental and spiritual energy,  with physical energy as the starting point.   Often  the fitness resolutions are set in the form of a weight goal. Media has trained us to be concerned about weight.   It is easy to set a specific weight and a specific time line.

These goals though become easy to ignore.   We have set weight goals many times   and have often given up rapidly.  There is evidence that even when successful,  95% of the time we regain the weight. To make it worse, as pointed out by  Judith Lutz in the Jan-Feb Psychotherapy Networker, article Recipe for Life by Judith Lutz,   research is clear that  the yo-yoing of weight increases a person’s percentage of body fat. The article also notes the somewhat startling research that   being over weight is not the cause of poor health as we are lead to believe. A major study by the Cooper institute in Texas (10 years and 26,000 men and 8000 women ages 20 to 90) demonstrated that mildly obese men were half as likely to have heart attacks as lean unfit men.

Fitness then is the key. Fitness is not as convenient to measure. What is your blood sugar level, your blood pressure, your cholesterol level? What is your resting heart rate or how far can you walk, run or ride a bike comfortably?   

Swartz talks of our “Immunity to change”. This is reference to the fact there is always a competing commitment we allow to take precedence. It may be the TV show or sugar or another convenient bad habit. A friend asks me when I return from  a bike ride…”are you going to live longer or will it just seem that way?”  This question demonstrates immunity to exercise of non exercisers.  

We often know the basics yet don’t do them. We know to eat breakfast but do not. We understand what makes up a healthy diet yet will eat as  inclination comes on, being immune to change. Often we eat by reflex, not related to hunger. Then we eat what is convenient…not noticing what we are actually hungry for.  

Where to start? Start small and simple.  Consider a simple goal. Maybe it is to eat breakfast daily. Perhaps you can begin to eat one  more fruit and/or one more vegetable per day. Or maybe it is to walk 20 minutes 5 days a week.  

Get started today with a manageable positive change in your fitness. Grow the base of your physical energy.  Grow some new energy habits. Begin to get over your immunity to change. 

Next week:    More on physical energy…Improving sleep.  

Stay warm and safe,


Power Outage: Energy and Your Mental Health

 “In the end it is not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.” Abraham Lincoln

When I see clients who are depressed, I often wonder which came first the depression or the lack of energy. Either way, energy is our most important resource. We need to maximize energy to stand up to depression or anxiety in daily life. Energy is the path for a life with meaningful activity. Without energy our lives are empty.

How do you supply energy to your body? Often we are careless with the quick fixes of sugar or caffeine. On the other hand do you take a daily walk, spend quiet time or routinely socialize with friends?

Energy is more than the physical type where we typically focus. Energy is created by four separate but related sources: 1) physical, 2) emotional, 3) mental and 4) spiritual.  

Physical energy can be understood as our physical fitness. Emotional energy is related to dealing with stressful situations and the need for security. Mental energy has to do with focus and self expression. Spiritual energy is related to the meaning we have for our lives.

We can train in each of these areas. Yes, you read that right; training is possible in each of the four areas. Training includes reasonable stress and followed by proper recovery.   

How can we properly stress the resource and yet make sure we have adequate recovery? Take patience as an example; by gradually dealing with situations that incrementally require more patience, you can train yourself to be a little more persistent, a little more tolerant. We instinctively know that if we over exercise, some part of our body may break down with injury.  It is similar to gradually adding pounds as we lift weights. How can we properly stress the resource and make sure we have adequate recovery?  Don’t lift on successive days or start the quest for patience with a traffic jam on the Dan Ryan in Chicago.

 Ask yourself — “In what area am I most fit? What area needs the most training?” Consider taking an Energy Audit at to determine your strengths and weaknesses.

Training in each aspect will be discussed in future blogs. (Source: Way We are Working Isn’t Working by Tony Schwartz and The Power of Full Engagement by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz)   



Bank of Bad Habits Part 2

“Carpenters bend wood. Fletchers bend arrows. Wise men fashion themselves.” Buddha

“Ignore people who say it can’t be done.” Elaine Rideout

Have you decided on a habit to change and fully considered reasons to do so? It’s important to note that stopping a bad habit is only part of the process.

Last week, James Prochaska’s Pre-contemplation and Contemplation stages of change were talked about. In this blog, his   next steps, Preparation, Action and Maintenance will be discussed.


You have considered, in Contemplation, what you stand for and what is it you want to model for others. You have considered how your bad habit challenges your integrity. The very fact you label it “bad” indicates it is contrary to something you stand for.    Now is the time to connect your meaning with your plan.

What plan will you make to stop the old and/or implement the new?

Generally we need new rituals, new habits to replace the lost ones. The more positive rituals, positive habits we have in our life, the less space for the negative.

For instance if, when stressed, we can teach ourselves to take deep breaths, soak in the oxygen, stop and notice how the body feels. With practice  the new ritual  of  taking deep breaths, stopping and relaxing during stressful times is created. Eventually we will do it without thinking — it just becomes natural. 

 I remember a friend who planned to stop smoking. Part of his plan was to carry no money. One day he was traveling and without thinking stopped to buy a pack of cigarettes. When asked to pay couldn’t; he had no cash. He was reverting to smoking without thinking but had anticipated that problem; He didn’t have money to buy even one pack. He has been a non smoker for 20 years. So in your plan to stop your habit answer: “What will I do when I am tempted to go back to the habit?”

Consider your habit — the times of day or an event triggering a run to sugar, or playing on the internet; make a plan to address that time. What will you  do instead? These triggers and fatigue contribute to when we are most likely to revert to the old routines.  

 Can you find a partner to go down this new road with you?  Years ago when I started my exercise habit, it was in part because Denny and I decided that we would complete a nine mile run. The commitment to each other made a difference in producing a good habit, that in hindsight I had weakly attempted for 7 years; I have now exercised regularly for 33. Include intermittent rewards for progress. Don’t use a reward that is contrary to what you are trying to establish — i.e. don’t buy a candy bar to reward passing up sugar.   

Action: Sometimes we try to start here. It is hard to do without a plan. Set a date. Go public and tell people what you are going to do. Then step over the line and begin. Remember to celebrate and reward progress.

Generally it takes about 21 days to form a new habit. It’s really not that simple. Sometimes it takes longer. Progress is not often smooth; it’s hard work. Progress is often three steps forward and two back. 

Get people in your life that will help you. Hang out in environments that encourage progress. When I began exercise, it was helpful for me to hang out at the Y.

The opposite is also true; we know that people who abuse substance, and continue to associate with others who abuse substance, are much less likely to be successful in stopping. As noted in an earlier blog “you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with”. Choose your friends well.

Maintenance:  You have the habit going. Don’t be over confident. It’s still possible to take steps back. What will you do to continue to reward yourself and  how will you be with people that encourage your new habit?

I was challenged recently when I left my employment of 33 years. Lots of rituals had been built into working in one place so long; the habit of exercise was intermingled within those work rituals; I thought regular exercise was forever. A new schedule and new freedom challenged that. It was important to adjust how exercise would fit into my new life. So far that has been done, but the confidence that I would just do this forever was a bit eroded. I continue developing the new rituals of private practice to include exercise as part of my routines.  

Don’t give up. You have determined what you want to accomplish is important. Hopefully you fully addressed that as you contemplated the change. Interestingly smokers are some of the best at stopping. It happens all the time … yet generally they are not successful until the 3rd or later efforts.

The challenge, it seems, is if this effort fails, learn from the setback and try again — sooner rather than later. Good luck with your efforts.

I’d love to hear of your challenges and successes. Just leave a comment at the blog or go to the contact page and submit the form.

Changing for Good by Prochaska is worth reading.