Monday, October 31, 2011

Zion National Park, Day One

On the Plateau
I just returned from my trip to Zion National Park in Utah. It was a whirlwind mini vacation with lots to see! Where do I begin? On the flight to Phoenix we saw the Grand Canyon from the air, landed in Phoenix, and flew on to Las Vegas. We ended up in Springdale, Utah after a long drive through Nevada, Arizona, and Utah. Springdale is a lovely little town just outside the entrance to the Zion park. 

Lauren hiking through the Canyon
On Friday Gilda, Lauren, and I decided to hike the Observation Trial. This trial offers spectacular views, and very varied terrain. At the beginning of the trail you immediately start at an incline and make your way up dozens of long switchbacks. What's interesting for a New Englander is that there's sand on the trail, which can be hazardous, and yet much of the trail is semi-paved with cement. Also, since the altitude is high, the air is thin and you feel it. It took some gasping and getting used to, we admit. 

A view of Angel's Landing, which I hiked the next day
After a series of switchbacks you come to a large canyon which you wind your way through. It is a lot cooler and therefore the vegetation is similar to New England. At a couple of points you make your way through tunnels of sandstone rock and arches. There are crevices and holes you can climb into, which Lauren attempted to do.

Then comes the most difficult part, a series of grueling switchbacks that seem to go on and on. At this point you hike through a canyon of amazing sheer cliffs all around you as you climb and climb. Then you reach a plateau, finally, which I think was my favorite part of the hike. It's flat for about a mile, with a rocky terrain similar to hikes in New England, and there's actually many sand dunes that reminded us a lot of Cape Cod. The views from this angle are spectacular. 

From the summit of Observation Point
Finally you come to the last bit of trail, and you are out on a jutting rock cliff surrounded by 360 degrees of mountains and cliffs, with the Virgin River below. It's simply amazing! 

By the way, watch out for the ground squirrels. They are very cute but will steal your lunch and burrow into your pack!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Two's Company, Three's a Crowd

Yes, you did it. You are guilty
If you want to have a bit of linguistic amusement, check out the vocabulary associated with groups of animals. Some words are just downright funny, and the visuals are priceless. How would you like to face a parliament of owls? How about a mob of emus? Now that's a bad day.....

1.   A gaggle of geese
2.   A congregation of alligators
3.   A sloth of bears
4.   A clowder of cats
Are emus aggressive, or is that ostriches?
5.   A coalition of cheetahs
6.   A rout of coyotes
7.   A murder of crows
8.   A mob of emus
9.   A siege of herons
10. A cackle of hyenas
11. A prowl of leopards
12. A parliament of owls
13. A muster of peafowls
14. A rookery of penguins
15. A nursery of raccoons
16. A harem of seals

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Mt. Monadnock, Jaffery, NH

Moving on up
My Zion Leukemia/Lymphoma Team had our last hike of the season this past Saturday at Mt. Monadnock in New Hampshire! It's hard to believe we've been hiking together since May, and next week we leave for Zion! Some of the team will be leaving this week.

Monadnock is a very popular mountain in New Hampshire, and climbed by many, but I wouldn't call it an easy hike. With the wet leaves and flowing streams of water covering all the boulders, we had to be extremely careful. For our ascent we began on the White Dot trail, then crossed over to the Cascade Link trail. We then took the Red Spot trail and finally ended on the Pumpbelly trail. The final quarter of a mile was very steep with large boulders, but the view was magical. Monadnock is known for its open slabs of rock at the summit.

At the summit we did not stay long, as it was very windy and somewhat cold. We had a little snack, snapped some pictures, then began our descent. The descent was crowded with people and somewhat treacherous. It was very steep and very wet and mossy. I took the White Dot trial but I think my companions took the White Cross trail. In any case I was separated from my fellow hikers, and reached the headquarters 45 minutes in advance of everyone else. I waited for a bit and had some hot cocoa. Physically I felt good, but on Sunday and Monday I was very sore, especially in my hamstrings!  Thank goddess for trekking poles!
Joey, Laurie, Me, and Gilda
Suddenly it's Fall!

The Happiness Trap

Upon recommendation from a friend, I'm reading The Happiness Trap, by Russ Harris. ACT therapy, or Acceptance and Commitment therapy, is new to me, and it's exciting to check it out. Here's one of the first quizzes in the book. Naturally I answered b for every question....

Control of Thoughts and Feelings Questionnaire
© Russ Harris 2008

This questionnaire has been adapted from similar ones developed by Steven Hayes, Frank Bond, and others. For each pair of statements, please circle the one that most accurately fits how you feel. The answer you choose doesn’t have to be absolutely 100 percent true for you all the time; just pick the answer which seems to be more representative of your general attitude.

1a. I must have good control of my feelings in order to be successful in life.
1b. It is unnecessary for me to control my feelings in order to be successful in life.

2a. Anxiety is bad.
2b. Anxiety is neither good nor bad. It is merely an uncomfortable feeling.

3a. Negative thoughts and feelings will harm you if you don’t control or get rid
of them.
3b. Negative thoughts and feelings won’t harm you even if they feel unpleasant.

4a. I’m afraid of some of my strong feelings.
4b. I’m not afraid of any feelings, no matter how strong.

5a. In order for me to do something important, I have to get rid of all my doubts.
5b. I can do something important, even when doubts are present.

6a. When negative thoughts and feelings arise, it’s important to reduce or get rid of them as quickly as possible.
6b. Trying to reduce or get rid of negative thoughts and feelings frequently causes problems. If I simply allow them to be, then they will change as a natural part of living.

7a. The best method of managing negative thoughts and feelings is to analyze them; then utilize that knowledge to get rid of them.
7b. The best method of managing negative thoughts and feelings is to acknowledge their presence and let them be, without having to analyze or judge them.

8a. I will become “happy” and “healthy” by improving my ability to avoid, reduce, or get rid of negative thoughts and feelings.
8b. I will become “happy” and “healthy” by allowing negative thoughts and feelings to come and go of their own accord and learning to live effectively when they are present.

9a. If I can’t suppress or get rid of a negative emotional reaction, it’s a sign of personal failure or weakness.
9b. The need to control or get rid of a negative emotional reaction is a problem in itself.

10a. Having negative thoughts and feelings is an indication that I’m psychologically unhealthy or I’ve got problems.
10b. Having negative thoughts and feelings means I’m a normal human being.

11a. People who are in control of their lives can generally control how they feel.
11b. People who are in control of their lives do not need to control their feelings.

12a. It is not okay to feel anxious and I try hard to avoid it.
12b. I don’t like anxiety, but it’s okay to feel it.

13a. Negative thoughts and feelings are a sign that there is something wrong with my life.
13b. Negative thoughts and feelings are an inevitable part of life for everyone.

14a. I have to feel good before I can do something that’s important and challenging.
14b. I can do something that’s important and challenging even if I’m feeling anxious or depressed.

15a. I try to suppress thoughts and feelings that I don’t like by just not thinking about them.
15b. I don’t try to suppress thoughts and feelings that I don’t like. I just let them come and go of their own accord.

To score your test, count the number of times you selected option “a” or “b.”
You may like to repeat this test and see how your ideas have changed, after you have finished reading The Happiness Trap, or completed several sessions of ACT.

Monday, October 17, 2011

And Now Let Us Once Again Turn to the Buddha

Sharon Salzberg's excellent book, "Loving Kindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness," has provided me with solace and guidance many times over the years.. It is now that I am turning once again to some of the wisdom in this book. A few years ago I wrote down several meditation mantras from the book, in a notebook entitled: Metta Book. Keep in mind that all of these mantras are directly from her book. I am writing them out as a kind of self-therapy. Some of the metta loving-kindness meditation I am not ready for yet. Please see Salzberg's  book for more details..

Exercise #1 Metta Towards Self
"May I be free of danger."
"May I have mental happiness."
"May I have physical happiness."
"May I have ease of well-being."

Exercise #2 Metta Towards Self
"May I be happy; may all beings be happy."

Exercise #4 Metta Towards a Beloved Friend
"May you be free from danger."
"May you have mental happiness."
"May you have physical happiness."
"May you have ease of well being."
"May you be happy; may all beings be happy."

Exercise #6 Asking Forgiveness for harm you have done
"If I have hurt or harmed anyone, knowingly or unknowingly, I ask their forgiveness."

Exercise #8 Offering of Forgiveness to Yourself
"For all the ways I have hurt or harmed myself, knowingly or unknowingly, I offer forgiveness. I forgive myself."

Exercise #10 Direct Metta towards difficult aspects of yourself
"May I accept this."
"May I be filled with loving-kindness towards this."
"My I feel compassion towards this."

Exercise #13 Compassion toward the self
"May I be free of pain and sorrow."
"May I find peace."
"May I find a loving acceptance of pain and sorrow."
"May I find peace with things as they are."

Exercise #18 Equanimity for the Self
"May I accept things as they are."
"May I be undisturbed by the comings and goings of events."
"I am the owner of my own karma. I can choose my intentions and actions."

The Precepts
1. Refrain from killing and physical violence.
2. Refrain from stealing, taking that which is not given.
3. Refrain from sexual misconduct, using sexual energy in a way that causes harm.
4. Refrain from lying, harsh speech, idle gossip, and slander.
5. Refrain from taking intoxicants that cloud the mind from clear thinking.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Phippsburg, Maine

Ellyn scouting for Vikings
Got to spend part of the weekend in Phippsburg, Maine, located not far from Bath and Brunswick, with a bunch of good friends. This area of Maine, with its endless coastline, jutting peninsulas, and numerous islands, is gorgeous, quintessential, Maine. To top it off, we had summer like weather throughout. We enjoyed hiking near Popham Beach, and spent the day on the beach at Hermit Island. I didn't get to spend the whole weekend, so my friends enjoyed more. We also shared a delectable dinner Sunday night, with lobster, pasta, and salad. It was quiet and beautiful at the house, and it was situated right on the water. We played games, sat around relaxing, and drank copious amounts of coffee.
Me on the dock