THE GIFT OF MUSIC

 

Photo: Xavier Ryan, 2014

Photo: Xavier Ryan, 2014

We are one week out from Christmas now. The cards are out and most of the shopping is done. I still have cookies to bake and a Christmas Eve meal to plan. There is an on-going battle to keep Maggie and Millie (my 9 month old kittens) out of the tree. I’m losing. Being drenched by a water bottle or having a can of coins shaken at them fazes them little. They are junkyard-tough, little kitties

I wondered if in the run up to Christmas, there was anything I could offer that would be useful. Upon reflection, I have come across something that might be. My life with its ups and downs, pales to those who are dealing with serious illnesses. Recently, I watched a movie called Alive Inside. It deals with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. Music therapy has been found to be very successful at reaching those who have become withdrawn especially as memory seems to fade. Music stimulates more parts of the brain than anything else and it can bring back connections thought long gone. The problem is that not many people know about it and most nursing facilities don’t offer it. The best kind of music for this purpose is something from an individual’s past, something that makes an emotional connection, something from childhood or early adult years.

So during the holidays, if you are visiting someone with dementia, especially those who are withdrawn, please consider bringing the gift of music into their lives. Forgo the cookies, candy, flowers, or hand-knitted scarves. Take an iPod, CD player, etc. and offer the gift of music to those who are in need of connection.

Here’s the movie trailer. You can watch the full movie on Netflix.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5FWn4JB2YLU

For more information: www.MusicandMemory.org

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Filed under brain science, healing, health

Modern Literature for Children with an Emerging Sense of Consciousness

ellisnelson:

My interview on Sacred Parenting. Please support this wonderful, new blog!

Originally posted on Sacred Parenting:

Interview with Ellis Nelson: Teen & Children’s Fiction Writer

Ellis Nelson QuoteSince childhood, Ellis Nelson has had an interest in Buddhism. Before arriving at her current occupation, where she is able to write books from her home in Colorado Springs, she served as an Air Force officer, a government contractor, and a teacher. Publication of her first novel, Into the Land of Snows, was in 2012. Since then, she’s continued to create mystic gifts for older kids.

The following is in reference to Into the Land of Snows: “In Ellis Nelson’s well-crafted story, we journey along with the main character into a land where wisdom and mysticism continue to thrive. ” -Naomi C. Rose.

I had the divine privilege of interviewing Nelson this week. She dished about compassion, connection, and even gave us some solid and straightforward parenting advice.

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INTO THE LAND OF SNOWS (YA)

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A troubled, sixteen year old Blake travels to Base Camp on Mt. Everest to spend time with his physician father.  When a deadly avalanche occurs, Dad is forced to rethink things and sends Blake off the mountain.  Now accompanied by a Sherpa guide, and in possession of a mysterious camera, Blake undertakes a journey which will challenge everything he believes.  In the magical Himalayas, he will be forever changed by what he experiences.

WHAT READERS ARE SAYING:

“Into the Land of Snows takes the reader into a world so different, so beautifully challenging in its vision of life that the reader is drawn-in completely.” Karin DeMer

“Well-written with engaging and believable characters, this story has it all: adventure, mystery, magic, and wisdom.” Naomi C. Rose

“Yes, this is a “YA” novel, but to call it a cross-over, or even transcendent, would not be an exaggeration.” Kevin Robinson

“The journey that you will be taken on is an exciting, fast-paced adventure that will have you gasping for breath in some parts and reading with your mouth wide open in amazement only to find yourself laughing a few pages later.” Book Peeps

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Filed under Books, YA

DO YOU SEE THAT?

   HALLUCINATIONS by Oliver Sacks

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I used to think hallucinations were associated with a particular kind of person- someone who would stand out in a crowd- someone who would need … medication. But that’s not wholly true. I suffer with migraines and, on occasion, I have aura in the classical fortification pattern (those zigzag lines). These are visual hallucinations. So on another level, I know hallucinations can affect many who wouldn’t stand out in a room or need medication.

Hallucinations by Oliver Sacks is a fascinating book because it reveals the diversity found in the human experience. Forget what you thought “normal” meant. It won’t be useful anymore. Turns out, there are many perfectly happy, functional people who have hallucinations.

Photo: Erik Charlton

Photo: Erik Charlton

So what do we mean by a hallucination? Different definitions have been used throughout history. Even today there is confusion over exactly what a hallucination is, because the boundary between hallucinations, misperception, and illusion aren’t always clear. Sacks begins with the idea that a hallucination lacks external reality. (Keep in mind that for a Buddhist, we slipped into nebulous territory by assuming an external reality independent, discrete, and concrete.) Anyway, seeing or hearing (also tasting, feeling, or smelling) things that are not there will qualify as a hallucination for the book’s purposes. Hallucinations appear real to the one experiencing it because the perceptions are fully working to create that reality and project it into the world. This is different from a memory or the use of the imagination where, in the mind’s eye, both are experienced. Hallucinations are further characterized by being involuntary, uncontrollable, and often possessing color or detail beyond everyday average experience. Brain imaging now allows scientists the ability to monitor electrical and metabolic activity while someone is hallucinating.

Photo: Jens Maus

Photo: Jens Maus

Sacks chose to avoid any analysis of dreams (although he does cover those hallucinations experienced upon falling asleep or waking up ) and the subject of schizophrenia. He does hint at the level of stigma associated with seeing (or hearing) things and how patients will not disclose this is occurring. Oftentimes, people will avoid using the term hallucinating and call it other things. Modern society equates hallucinations with insanity. Sacks cites a 1974 case published in Science where eight healthy pseudo-patients presented themselves at various hospitals complaining about hearing voices. Seven were immediately diagnosed as schizophrenic without any other symptoms. The other one was diagnosed with manic depressive psychosis.

The book takes up the breadth of human experience in which people have hallucinations due to medical conditions and drug use (both prescribed and recreational). There are many first person accounts given in the book. They are all candid and insightful, and open the opportunity to grow our compassion. Some of the medical conditions discussed are Charles Bonnet Syndrome (blindness), deafness, Parkinson’s, migraine, epilepsy, PTSD, and delirium. Various injuries, sensory deprivation, sleep disorders, and grief may also bring on hallucinations. Although the chapters on out-of-body, near-death-experience, and ghosts are interesting, I disagree that science has a full explanation to offer us. From Sacks’ point of view, all mystical experience probably would also count as a hallucination. Again, a limited view.

This is a very informative and enlightening book, sharing what in many cases individuals are afraid to share with the general public and their doctors (for good reason, apparently). It does much to decrease the stigma associated with hallucinations and enlarges our understanding of the range of what it means to have a human body with human perception.

Oliver Sacks: TED TALK- Hallucinations

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Filed under Book Review, Books, brain science, dreams, health, hypnogogic dreams, hypnopompic dreams, schizophrenia

COFFIN RACES 2014

EMMA-CRAWFORD-POSTER-

Last Saturday, my husband and I ventured into Manitou Springs for the annual Emma Crawford Coffin Races. We haven’t done that for probably fifteen years and wow what a change! It has become a huge event. The town of 5000 swells to 20,000 and it’s hard to move. The atmosphere is festive and friendly, and the crowd is young with many small children.  A parade led by hearses circles the square so that all the teams can show off their creativity.  I really liked the Ghoules Verne and Steampunk teams, but there were also Pirates, assorted monsters, Bumblebees (?), Egyptians, etc.  There were over thirty teams competing on Saturday with each race run with two teams. Every team had an Emma and a suitable coffin. Years ago, actual coffins or plywood facsimiles were used. Nowadays, most teams use something that resembles a handcart- good for safety, but lacking in authenticity. A fun, free event!

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Photo: B. Marshall

Photo: B. Marshall

 

Photo: B. Marshall

Photo: B. Marshall

 

Photo: Craig Forhan

Photo: Craig Forhan

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Filed under Event, Halloween

Reaping Grimly: How to Make the Traditional Zombie

Another seasonal blast from the past.

A Real Tale for Halloween

 

Wade Davis is a Canadian anthropologist and ethnobotanist. He has written extensively about culture, botany, the environment and he has become a noted photographer. Davis has done hundreds of interviews, inspired many documentaries, and even was the source for three X-files shows. And Wade Davis has met a zombie. Not the made-up kind delighting so many Americans nowadays, but the very real kind. A poor, unschooled man who was victimized by his family.

Back in the 80s Wade Davis wrote about his experience investigating the zombification process in Haiti. His book The Serpent & the Rainbow propelled him to worldwide fame and a Hollywood movie followed in 1988.

Drawn to Haiti by legends concerning the existence of zombies, Davis wanted to investigate the botanical or chemical aspects of the phenomena. Soon he was drawn into the vodoun culture of the Haitian witchdoctor (bokor). Escape the cities of Haiti for the countryside and fear and magic play a very real role in the society. Wade Davis knew the story of Clairvius Narcisse and before long the two would meet.

In 1980, Clairvius Narcisse approached a woman in a marketplace and identified himself as her long gone, well- dead actually, brother. She was shocked to say the least, but then so is his story. Shocking. Clairvius told a tale of being drugged, buried, resurrected, and made a slave on a sugar plantation. Apparently a brother wanting Clairvius’ land sold him to a bokor. Having “died” in 1962, Clairvius escaped the plantation a couple of years later only to wander aimlessly for the next sixteen. Now having learned of his brother’s recent death, he felt safe enough to make himself known to the sister. A local doctor developed a questionnaire to establish once and for all, if the man was who he claimed to be. Clairvius answered everything correctly and the doctor along with his village accepted him as the true Clairvius. Had the curious tale of Clairvius Narcisse been isolated, maybe it could have been dismissed easily. But there are many tales of zombies in Haiti long before Clairvius and after.

Davis’ investigation into the world of vodoun and the zombie led him to advance the hypothesis that tetrodotoxin (TTX) was the chemical agent used by the bokor to induce a death-like state. A mixture of toad skin and puffer fish, either rubbed on the skin or ingested through food, seems to accomplish this. Breathing slows, the heartbeat weakens, and victim appears dead even to medical personnel. In the tropical climate of Haiti, bodies are buried quickly and the bokor likes it that way. A zombie in the ground for more than eight hours risks asphyxiation. The zombie is dug up and restored to life possibly with an antidote. Delivered to a plantation, the zombie is kept in a semi-permanent induced psychotic state by force feeding a datura paste. Datura destroys memory and wreaks havoc with gaining any sense of reality. It is also known to produce powerful hallucinations.

All of the chemicals used or potentially used are powerful enough to cause real death so the bokor has to be knowledgeable and proficient in their use to be successful. Davis also credited the culture of fear and belief that underlies the creation of the zombie. There are powerful cultural influences that must be in place to create and maintain a zombie.

Are zombies scary? Maybe not, they’re victims, but the idea that you or I could be made into one makes me uncomfortable. That’s why I try to make sure my siblings are happy with me and I’m not more valuable “dead” than alive. Happy Halloween!

 

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Filed under Books, Halloween, Spooky stuff

HALLOWEEN ODDITIES

I don’t know what it is about Halloween and fall that makes me want to go back and revisit the past but in doing that, I realized I have several pieces that really fit the need for the strange, creepy, and odd for this time of year. Here’s one in case you missed it.

THINKING INSIDE THE BOX

(A revisit to a post published a few years ago.)

A HALLOWEEN TALE

Over the past few years my husband has endured a long commute from our home to his work in Colorado Springs. To make life easier, we will relocate to a small town nearby. Now this isn’t just any town, this is QUITE a town.

 Manitou Springs got its start by catering to the tuberculosis sufferer of the Nineteenth Century. Emma Crawford and her family (practicing Spiritualists) relocated there in 1889 seeking relief for Emma through the mineral springs and mountain air. Young Emma was engaged to a railroad engineer, William Hildebrand. Legend has it that one day she hiked to the top of Red Mountain where her spirit guide appeared. She tied a red scarf to a tree and later it became her dying wish to be buried there. Emma never married William. She died on Dec.4th, 1891 at the age of nineteen.

Emma

Her fiancé and a dozen others carried Emma’s coffin to the top of Red Mountain where they buried her fulfilling Emma’s request. Emma’s grave became a popular hiking location for other Spiritualists throughout the next couple of decades. In 1912, the railroad removed her remains and re-interred her on the south side of the mountain. Heavy rains in August of 1929 unearthed her coffin and sent it careening down Red Mountain. Her bones were discovered 7200 feet down in a canyon. Emma was eventually reburied in Crystal Valley Cemetery in an unmarked grave. And that could be the end of the story, but it’s not.

coffins

Remember, I told you, Manitou is a different kind of place. Enter the quirky creativity and entrepreneurial instincts of this town’s folks.  Around Halloween each year the town celebrates The Emma Crawford Festival with a parade and coffin races. The coffin races feature a team of five (one person plays Emma and the other four act as pallbearers and push the coffin). Creativity and speed both play a role in judging the races. There are also prizes for best Emma and best coffin. It’s quite a spectacle and a great day out for family fun. Not your thing? That’s OK. There’s always the fruitcake toss early next year.

I have since learned that Emma’s Wake is held each year at Miramont Castle in the center of Manitou Springs. Rustle up some Victorian funerary garb for this event!

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Filed under Halloween, Spooky stuff