Midlife Paradise: Are You Already There Without Knowing It?

The following words by Voltaire came to mind as I was recently taking a group of people through a retirement/follow your dream workshop:  Paradise is where I am.

At one point in the workshop participants rate nine various areas of their life, on a scale of 0 (totally miserable) to 10 (whoopee, it’s my ideal).  The next portion involves each person listing 15 “must haves” that would make their life ideal. Lists are then swapped with partners, who take each other through the process of coming up with their top five. From here participants are asked to define what success would look like if they were able to live the five “must haves” at a “10” level.

Most people usually have all sorts of ideas of what would make their life ideal but one individual was having difficulty. Each time she thought about what was ideal, she discovered that she, for the most part, was already living her ideal life. 
She had come into the workshop looking for “paradise” only to discover it was where she was.  She had to go through the process and see it in written form to grasp the concept. What an eye-opener!

Are you living in paradise without even knowing it?

Action Steps

  1. Take 15 minutes and define what paradise might look like for you.  Really get into the feeling of it.
  2. Once you’ve defined it, identify three things you can do within the next week to move you closer to your definition of paradise.

None of us lives in paradise all the time but the more clarity you have as to what it looks and feels like, the greater will be your motivation to spend more time there.

Out-of-the-Box Thinking

Many hundreds of years ago in a small Italian town, a merchant had the misfortune of owing a large sum of money to the moneylender. The moneylender, who was old and ugly, fancied the merchant’s beautiful daughter so he proposed a bargain. He said he would forgo the merchant’s debt if he could marry the merchant’s daughter. Both the merchant and his daughter were horrified by the proposal. The cunning money lender suggested that they let providence decide the matter.

The moneylender told them that he would put a black pebble and a white pebble into an empty bag. The girl would then have to pick one pebble from the bag. If she picked the black pebble, she would become the moneylender’s wife and her father’s debt would be forgiven. If she picked the white pebble she need not marry him and her father’s debt would still be forgiven. But if she refused to pick a pebble, her father would be thrown into jail.

They were standing on a pebble strewn path in the merchant’s garden. As they talked, the moneylender bent over to pick up two pebbles. As he picked them up, the sharp-eyed girl noticed that he had picked up two black pebbles and put them into the bag. He then asked the girl to pick her pebble from the bag.

Now, imagine you were standing in the merchant’s garden. What would you have done if you were the girl? If you had to advise her, what would you have told her? Careful analysis would produce three possibilities:

1. The girl should refuse to take a pebble.

2. The girl should show that there were two black pebbles in the bag and expose the moneylender as a cheat.

3. The girl should pick a black pebble and sacrifice herself in order to save her father from his debt and imprisonment.

Take a moment to ponder over the story. The above story is used with the hope that it will make us appreciate the difference between lateral and logical thinking. The girl’s dilemma cannot be solved with traditional logical thinking.

Think of the consequences if she chooses the logical answers.

What would you recommend the girl do?

The girl put her hand into the moneybag and drew out a pebble. Without looking at it, she fumbled and let it fall onto the pebble-strewn path where it immediately became lost among all the other pebbles.

“Oh, how clumsy of me,” she said. “But never mind, if you look into the bag for the one that is left, you will be able to tell which pebble I picked.”

Since the remaining pebble is black, it must be assumed that she had picked the white one. And since the moneylender dared not admit his dishonesty, the girl changed what seemed an impossible situation into an extremely advantageous one.
— Unknown

:  Sometimes we twist our minds into a knot trying to find a solution and often believing that there really isn’t one that makes sense.  If we can just let go and think of the problem in a different way, the answer might be right there.

Is there a problem you’re trying to solve? Breathe deeply, ask for the answer, then let it go and allow your creativity to take over.

Lose Weight and Improve Your Brain Power by Getting More Sleep

Turn off the lights!

Turn off the lights!

I’m currently listening to an audio book that describes, in great detail, life in the 1700s.  No television, computers, cell phones or electric light bulbs. People generally went to bed after dark and got up at sunrise. Candles were used but even then people’s sleeping patterns were more in tune with their circadian rhythms than today.  Where people once averaged 10 hours of sleep a night, now the average is around six.

Our modern lifestyle allows us to cram more and more into each day.  Lights that burn day and night, flickering computer and television screens, not only in offices but in bedrooms, and a schedule that often makes getting even 6-7 hours of sleep a luxury. What is this doing to our biochemistry?

A recent paper from Rockefeller University looked at how artificial lighting changes our 24-hour circadian rhythm.  Mice were placed into an environment that had a 20-hour day instead of the standard 24. Six weeks later these mice had gained weight, were more reckless in their behavior and were less flexible mentally than the mice that had stayed on the 24-hour cycle.

Another interesting study, published in the journal Neuroscience, states that when people don’t get enough sleep they tend to make overly optimistic decisions.  This provides scientific evidence for what casino managers have long known — keep the lights flashing and the machines ringing to encourage  people to keep playing until they have lost all their money.

Based on these, and other studies, we may well be playing havoc with our brains, our metabolism and overall body chemistry.  Makes me think that life in the 1700s and before wasn’t so bad, at least when it comes to getting adequate sleep!

Baby Boomer Lifestyle – Conflict Resolution in Retirement

One of the emotional issues facing those of you who are considering retirement is the amount of time you will be spending with your spouse.  When you change from spending 8+ hours a day outside the house at your work to suddenly spending 24 hours a day with your spouse, conflict inevitably comes up. You both have your own interests and agendas.  Sometimes they’re miles apart!

Not only is the conflict unpleasant but it affects your health.  To keep your stress level down and your heart healthy, resolve conflicts by working together to meet the needs of everyone concerned.  Honest communication is the key. Here are some tips that work during the majority of conflicts:

  • Take a breath and count to 10.  Breathe slowly and deeply to calm down your emotions if you’re feeling angry.
  • Have the intention of working cooperatively toward a resolution or agreement. Focus on the positive not the negative.
  • Attack the challenges, not the person.  You are looking for a solution, not trying to be a winner or turn the other person into a loser.
  • Don’t waste time on “who started it.” Work together to figure out the next step to remedy the situation.
  • Focus on the future not on all the wrongdoings and emotions of the past. Avoid using phrases such as “You always…..”
  • Really listen to the concerns of the other person.  Come from the heart and do it without judgement. Agree to give each party a specific amount of time to speak (say10 minutes), without interruption.
  • Come from a place of respect. Name calling and unkind words will only escalate emotions on both sides. If you can’t control your emotions, walk away after agreeing to a cool-off period.
  • Avoid blaming the other person and take responsibility for your feelings. Start your sentences with “I” rather than “you” and express your emotions. Don’t make the other person guess what you’re thinking or feeling. They’ll inevitably be wrong, causing further conflict.
  • Brainstorm some positive solutions by beginning with what you both agree on rather than on what is lacking.  If you look hard enough, you will find something.
  • Know your goal.  What do you want the person to do?  How do want them to behave? What are YOUR needs? Be specific.
  • Think about where you want to be in five years time.  Will this conflict impact that scenario?  How do you want to remember it?

So take a deep breath, listen, be fair, be flexible and remember that there is always a solution!

Midlife Walking the Walk

Walking the Walk

Walking backwards I thought was real keen,
Browsing through what I’d already seen.
The downside was, if there was a pit,
I again fell headlong into it!

But I got tired of always being bound
By the past, by what I’d already found.

Walking sideways caught everybody’s eye.
They always said, “Now, there’s a careful guy!”
But, inching along at such a slow rate,
The downside was, I was usually late.

And I got tired of being left behind,
And began to look for a way to shine!

Walking tall always seemed to be the best,
Facing the challenge, testing the test,
Rattling the cymbal, banging the gong.
The downside was: noise died, I was gone.

I found myself without a clue
Not knowing where to go or what to do.

Then from within, a voice said to me,
“Stop trying to do. Let go. Just be.”
The pain of becoming is now my plight,
The downside is: I know the voice is right.

I try hard to walk the walk and just be,
But somehow, it keeps on eluding me.

I remember what happened before:
Ups and downs by the score;
But my fears of the unknown creep in,
And oops! I’m walking backward again.

— John Dean Williamsen-speaker, author

Do you find yourself frequently focusing on the past and allowing those thoughts and beliefs to shape your today and your tomorrow?  It’s been estimated that some 70%-80% of our daily thoughts are negative which means that you may be spending a considerable amount of time reliving past negative events. Doing so causes them to become more deeply imprinted in your mind. Isn’t it time to let them go?  Why not imprint positive thoughts.  It’s just as easy; they’re both just thoughts!

Action Step

Become aware of whether your thoughts about past events are positive or negative.

Enjoy the positive ones – they will uplift your energy.

Take your focus off the negative ones by finding something positive in the moment. Be grateful for whatever it is.  The more often you do so, the less you will find yourself pulled back to events that keep you locked in a cycle of negative patterns.

Midlife Health – Sweep out the Extra Calories

One Easy Way to Get Rid of Extra Calories

Fiber is one of the best things you can eat if you are watching your weight. It acts like a broom in your digestive tract sweeping out sugars and carbs together with their calories.

There are two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble.

Soluble fiber expands as it combines with fluids and makes you feel full.  It slows digestion and the absorption of simple carbohydrates (like sugar), to prevent blood sugar spikes. Good sources: Beans, apples, psyllium husks, flax seeds and oats.

Insoluble fiber provides food for the colon’s good bacteria and helps to keep bowel movements regular. Good sources – Brown rice, nuts, seeds, celery, most fruits and vegetables

The recommended amount  is about 25-30 grams of fiber a day, which is more than double what the average American gets.

A study conducted by David J. Baer of the US Dept. of Agriculture’s Human Nutrition Research Center found that women who doubled their fiber intake from 12 to 24 grams a day, cut their daily calorie absorption by 90 calories. That’s a 9.4lb weight loss in a year. Add in exercise and watch the pounds drop off.

Tip: Because fiber binds to water, you will need to increase your water intake if you increase your daily fiber. Be aware of not increasing your intake too rapidly as gas or diarrhea may result.

Here’s my favorite high-fiber recipe.  It’s quick, easy and great for breakfast-on-the-go!

Orange Bran Flax Muffins


11/2 c oat bran

1 c all-purpose flour

1 c flaxseed, ground

1 c wheat bran

1 Tbsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

2 oranges, quartered and seeded

1 c brown sugar

1 c buttermilk

1/2 c canola oil (or butter)

2 eggs

1 tsp baking soda

11/2 c golden raisins

1. Preheat the oven to 375 F. Line two 12-cup muffin pans with paper liners or coat the pans with nonstick spray. In a large bowl, combine the oat bran, flour, flaxseed, bran, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

2. In a blender or food processor, combine the oranges, brown sugar, buttermilk, oil, eggs, and baking soda. Blend well.

3. Pour the orange mixture into the dry ingredients. Mix until well blended. Stir in the raisins.

4. Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pans for 5 minutes before removing to a cooling rack.

Makes 24

Per muffin: 186 cal, 4 g pro, 30 g carb, 8 g fat, 1 g sat. fat, 18 mg chol, 3 g fiber, 140 mg sodium

Recipe courtesy of Flax Council of Canada and Saskatchewan Flax Development Commission

Flax Facts: Use ground flaxseed; it provides far more nutritional benefits than does the whole seed.

Midlife Inspiration: Are You Standing on the Inside?

Bounce Back or Stay Down!

Bounce Back or Stay Down!

The Balloon Man
A father took his boy into a toy shop. The boy got away from his dad and found a statue of a man made of balloons. The boy looked at it for a minute, and then he drew back his fist and 
hit the balloon man just as hard as he could. The man fell over, and then popped right back up. 

The confused boy backed off and looked at him again and then hit him again as hard as he could. Again the man fell over, and again he popped right back up. 

The boy’s father walked around the corner and saw his son hit that balloon man. The father asked his son, “Why do you think he comes back up when you hit him and knock him down?” 

The boy thought for a minute and said, “I don’t know, I guess it’s because he’s standing up on the inside. — Unknown

We have a choice as to how we think.  We may feel out of control when life throws us one blow after another, but we can always choose our thoughts.  We may not physically be able to bounce back up every time but when our thoughts have us standing up on the inside, we reflect that on the outside.

Are you standing up on the inside? When another challenge surfaces, and by midlife we’ve had plenty, do you bounce back up or do you stay down, feeling defeated and wallowing in self-pity? It’s your choice!

Are You the Wise Woman or the Traveler?

The Stone

A wise woman who was traveling in the mountains found a precious stone in a stream. The next day she met another traveler who was hungry, and the wise woman opened her bag to share her food. The hungry traveler saw the precious stone and asked the woman to give it to him.

She did so without hesitation.

The traveler left, rejoicing in his good fortune. He knew the stone was worth enough to give him security for a lifetime. But, a few days later, he came back to return the stone to the wise woman.

“I’ve been thinking,” he said.  “I know how valuable this stone is, but I give it back in the hope that you can give me something even more precious. Give me what you have within you that enabled you to give me this stone.”

–Author unknown


When I read this story it brought to mind a movie I saw this past weekend – The King’s Speech. The story revolves around England’s Prince Albert, soon to become King George VI,  and his unfortunate and debilitating stutter.  His wife hires an Australian speech therapist to help Albert overcome his impediment. The two become lifelong friends as the therapist, who has no conventional credentials, uses unconventional means to teach Albert how to speak without stuttering.

It was what the speech therapist had within that changed Prince Albert’s life. His experience, desire to make a difference and genuine concern enabled him to give Albert something more precious than any amount of money – self respect, self-worth and confidence in being more than he ever thought he could be.

What do you have within you that can change someone’s life?

How to Cook a Wife

(Advice to young men by an old man)

Start Cooking Early and Regularly

Start Cooking Early and Regularly

I was recently looking up a recipe for my annual baking of the “great” Australian Christmas cake when I came across this amusing “recipe” in a 30-year-old edition of the Qantas Flight Hostess Club cookbook.  Yes, once upon a time I was a Flight Hostess, back in the dark ages when it was still a glamorous and much sought-after career.  The recipe gave me a chuckle so I thought I’d share it with you.  All my male readers, please make a note of the excellent advice given!

How to Cook a Wife

  • Having caught a wife, light the fire of love and see that a steady heat is kept in the domestic oven.
  • Dress her generously and handle her tenderly, for a woman’s feelings are easily bruised.
  • Butter her freely with compliments and stuff her with flattery, to which add a handful of chestnuts about her being the most wonderful woman in the world and that you never loved before and you could never love again — and so on.
  • Be sure to season with a little time and do not on any account omit a bouquet of sweet herbs.
  • Garnish with theater tickets and an occasional restaurant after the play, and serve with a rich sauce of affection.

This dish can be highly recommended as the pièce de résistance of the family menu.

The reason so many men fail in cooking this dish is that they do not regulate the heat sufficiently.  They start with too much fire which they soon neglect and let go out after a short time.

Midlife Health: The Emotional Side of Back Pain

Many years ago I read the ground-breaking book Healing Back Pain: The Mind-Body Connection by Dr. John Sarno, which proved to be quite an eye-opener. Dr. Sarno’s work has been taken to the next level in the book Back Sense: A Revolutionary Approach to Halting the Cycle of Chronic Back Pain by a team of Boston area medical professionals. The premise here is that a large percentage of back pain is related to painfully tense back muscles rather than damaged or defective tissues. While there may be physical causes (ranging from accidents and injuries to tumors or infections), the pain cycle is often triggered by emotions such as stress over pain, worries about the future, financial worries, living with a difficult spouse, etc.

Mind-Body Practices for a Healthy Back

  • Put it in Writing

— acknowledging your negative emotions can help you dispel them, reducing stress and enhancing immune function.

  • Take Note of Your Beliefs

— the mind is extremely literal in creating exactly what words you think about. You experience what you think! An excellent example of this comes from a colleague who spent many years constantly reinforcing the thought that she wanted to marry someone RICH.  She did – his name was RICH!!!! I’ll leave you to guess whether or not he had any money!

So …… constantly repeating phrases like the following can actually contribute to the creation of back problems or pain:

My back is killing me

I can’t stand this

I don’t get any support

I feel backed into a corner

I won’t back down

He/she’s always on my back

I can’t stand it!

  • Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

— stewing over things you can’t control or that don’t make a difference only add to muscle tension.

  • Get Plenty of Rest

— when you skimp on sleep, your ability to handle stressful emotions decreases.  Small problems can send you “over the edge” more quickly, increasing muscle tension.

  • Eat Healthy

— comfort foods high in sugars and fats may briefly reduce stress hormones but in the long run, a well-balanced, healthy diet contributes to better brain chemistry, emotional stability and less stress on the body.

When you do need to ease the pain of that aching back, try one of the natural remedies listed in the last newsletter. My two favorites are Arnica cream, a healing and soothing homeopathic remedy for the relief of bruises and sore muscles, and Zyflamend a unique herbal formula by New Chapter, which promotes healthy inflammation response and normal joint function.

© 2010 Evelin Saxinger, N.D., ACH

All material is provided for informational or educational purposes only. Please consult a physician regarding the applicability of any opinions or recommendations with respect to your symptoms or condition.

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