Monday, August 29, 2011

Retirement Is Not An Option: Act 3

Hi, Boomers,
It is with somewhat regret that I am signing off my blog from this bloodspot website and will now be blogging from my website: This site is a dedicated to a new direction in my professional journey: the journey of a public speaker.
It is with great joy that I am in the throws of changing directions in my life. Why not at 67 years old? There is no better time than now to rejuvenate my life and give it a different direction, still with passion and still with desire. I will not, however, be giving up teaching yoga. Yoga is my passion and my life. They are one for me and I cannot live without yoga to nourish my soul and bring peace into my life. Yoga has given me so many unbelievable gifts. I am blessed daily and I have deep and profound gratitude for these gifts. In time, I will simply scale down my version of teaching yoga.
I don't believe in retirement. Retirement is just waiting to die so that isn't an option. I believe in living life to the fullest always. When I wrote my memoir, Sixty, Sex, & Tango, Confessions of a Beatnik Boomer, I thought it was a totally fun moment in my life. The writing and publishing brought me joy and honor. But it was just a book and a book has a shelf-life if it isn't a classic or a bests seller. But a life has no such thing as a shelf-life. Life is lived on a continuum with curves and variables and losses and struggles and joys and successes. Life is incredibly interesting because it has so many nuances and levels and loves and desires and dreams and passions. What a rides this life!!
I don't know when it was that I decided to be a public speaker. Maybe it was always in me and it took writing my book to bring it out. After all, my memoir was a window to my soul. My beautiful close friends have told me that reading my book was like having a conversation with me in a private room. How splendid! A very long time ago, I was a public speaker in high school and won all the major speech contests in the state of California. Maybe that young girl of 16 is still in me and maybe that girl wanted to come out again and speak.
Seventy-six million baby boomers will are retiring or about to retire. This moment in our social and cultural and economic history will transform society. I don't know in exactly what ways, but they will undoubtedly be transformative. I wanted to take a little corner of this phenomenon and talk about what it means to retire for our generation. The clearest response to this idea is that we will not retire like our parents. Boomers will lead the way to a new paradigm of how we will grow older. Leaving the work force does not mean that we will give up on life; leaving the work force is the begging our our Act 3, the best and most exciting time our our life.
And that is exactly the reason I am altering the dynamics of the last eight years of my life. There are other passions to explore and other dreams to pursue. This is my journey. I hope your journey is as awesome.
See you on

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Feminism: Lost or Found

Hi, Boomers,
How many of your remember the feminist movement? Gloria Steinem and the feminist movement are dear to my heart. In fact, I reflect on it almost daily when I teach yoga to those young women two generations removed from my experience of forging for women's rights in the early 1970's. I feel sad that the young university women I encounter do not appreciate or relate to this compelling moment in the history of women.
If any of you female boomers don't recall much of that time (memory fades), check out the HBO documentary on Steinem and the feminist movement. I caught it the other night and was transfixed by it's energy and determination, its love and spirit. What I didn't remember so vividly was how hostile the male gender was during the years of the feminist movement. Nixon said snotty things about the movement; Harry Reasoner said Ms Magazine would last 3 editions; most elected representatives were dismissive. Yet, women of that generation moved seamlessly through the hostility of both men and women. Their cause would not be denied. It was and it wasn't.
We fought for equal rights for women. We tried to pass the 14th amendment to effect the gender adjustment. The journey was really exciting and quite brilliant. Watching Ms Steinem move through her life as an advocate for equal right and equal protection under the law was always and still is inspiring. A mover and a shaker at 75, I couldn't believe Ms Steinem is still on the path to improve the working and social conditions of women. She was radiant as she spoke about the accomplishments women have forged since the 70s. Although women are still behind the wage curve, we've added millions of our gender to the all walks of life, most importantly in business, medicine/health, and education. We still haven't been fully invested into politics as evidenced by our less than impressive numbers in Washington.
I once hit the glass ceiling at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, in the Theater Department and I will never forget what the university president said to me when I brought my complaint of sexism in the workplace to his attention. He said: "I can't help what's going on in that department. They have their reasons. If you want to do anything more in theater, get off campus." And I did and I started Nevada's first year round professional theatre and the professors worked for me.
I feel compelled to pay tribute to a woman and a movement that provoked me to excel in my life, to be the best I could be, to make an impact in my universe. I see Gloria moving and grooving and I still want to emulate her style and her energy.
I look at this generation of college woman and wonder if they have a clue about the influence of the feminist movement on our society. I have had several conversations with young women lately reflecting on the inertia of today's women in terms of their professional staying power. These women seem to lack purpose on where their life is going or even how to get the life they want and deserve. I don't know if they are marking time until the right man comes along and they can start a family. I'm not judging that or labeling that as misdirected because I married very early and had children in my late 20s. But I also believed that if I invested in education, began a career path, trusted the passionate nature of my ife's trajectory that I would gain personal and professional satisfaction and my life would subsequently be richer and fuller.
The belief in a feminist movement does not negate the possibility of falling in love or being in love or marrying and raising a family. The feminist movement was a belief in the power of women to exceed and excel completely and fully in a life's work. Ms Steinem fell in love in her early 70s and married. The tragedy is that it was a very short marriage because the man she loved and married died of a brain tumor in the third year of her marriage. It must have been truly devastating to have fallen in love finally and then to loose that love. Although, I am sure that as with most women who tragically loose a partner and a lover, the recovery is tremendously difficult. I know from personal experience how sad and humbling that can be.
However, Ms Steinem is a woman above all who is immensely knowledgeable and sure of herself, whose beliefs are strong and clear. There is a through line of truth in her life's work and that is what makes her a role model for generations of women who want to create a live of value and productivity. I will tell the group of women that I am speaking to on campus at UCLA the story of Gloria Steinem and hope they are as inspired as I was to have been championed by the feminist movement.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Smile, Please

Hi, Boomers,
Wow! Long time no hear from me. Jeezzz. I must be out of my mind. I must be nuts. I take on a new career as a public speaker and I am consumed by planning, organizing, detailing, and memorizing the speech, working on the website and just getting overwhelmed. I wish the federal government worked as hard making some progress on its inability to make decision and plan for a future in which my sons and grandchildren can receive the full benefits of being an American.
No one smiled in my classes last week. It was really grim. It began with a precipitous fall in the stock market on Monday: down, up, down,up, down, up. It didn't matter that my students weren't invested in the market. No 401k for the students, but surely staff and faculty had some savings for the future. The collective unconscious of the nation is surely in an unhappy and, dare I write, confused state. But our malaise goes deeper than Wall Street.
We used to be able to fix things in the good old U.S. And we used to be able to tell the good guys from the bad guys. We used to be able to count on people who did the right thing. We used to be able to speak from truth and not from hyperbole and outright lies. When did facts become irrelevant? When did learned men become the butt of jokes? When did elected officials ignore voters who say they want those in government to act like grown ups and speak with true authority based on information, on facts, instead of fabricating scenarios that fit their personal beliefs and political ideology.
It's hard to smile while we lose our future. It feels as if the collective unconscious is beginning to actually mourn for a past that seemed to hold more promise than either the present or the future.
I think today I heard something so arrogant and judgmental from Michelle Bachman that for the first time I was put on notice that freedom could be put on trial and now I'm not smiling. Mrs. Bachman, who just won the Iowa straw poll, was questioned on "Meet The Press" by David Gregory about not just her belief that raising the debt was a mistake without thought to what would happened on the globally (she also ridiculed the secretary of the treasury and, of course, President Obama for getting it all wrong - everyone gets it wrong but her), but also about her belief that gays are somehow not really valuable humans; they are rather a sub species who need conversion not just to the heterosexual lifestyle but to her idea of the Christian way of life. It's her way or the highway. If only we could hear God whisper in our ear and tell us what to do we could be on her same page. I wondered if she became president all gays would be isolated in society, maybe interned in lifestyle camps until they mended their ways and turned straight. She actually believes that being gay is a disorder.
She and her husband are scary people. Dr. Bachman's clinic encourages discouraged/ isolated/confused gays to get help for their sexual orientation and become straight, which suggests that they are not good enough the way they are. If she becomes president, don't be surprised if "don't ask, don't tell," which was repealed recently, will return with a vengeance.
Why is there no outrage? Or maybe there is and the anger is internalized. I'm not particularly proud of what our country is doing because it doesn't stand for the values I thought we had. We seemed to have lost our compassion, our empathy, and in its place, some elected officials and those who are running for office with millions of dollars behind them spout platitudes with no real way to implement sound ideas.
Where is the truthful vision for America? We got off track in America - Wall Street greed, two wars, outsize spending, devaluing of education, lack of job creation, not helping those who cannot help themselves, stripping social services - but did we lose all the problem solvers along with our values?
One thing I regret about America. We've lost historical perspective and we stopped listening to wise men, and instead we bought in to simplistic jingoism. This is certainly not the 21st century I envisioned.
Are we ever going to smile again?

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Mystical Magical Journey of Kaya

Hi, Boomers,
It's been a really difficult week and I'm glad it's over. Every day seemed to be a challenge none more than the death of my youngest son's dog, Kaya. Kaya was around 12 years old and a combination of half Bull Mastiff and maybe a pit and maybe an American bulldog. Aaron rescued Kaya while he was in law school at Syracuse getting a law/MBA double degree. The family thought Aaron was complicating his student life with a dog but it turned out to the opposite. Kaya was Aaron's soulmate and savior. She endured the freezing winters at Syracuse University with joy and traveled back and forth from NY to LA or Las Vegas with pitch perfect aplomb. She loved to travel and play in the snow. Dog and boy were inseparable.
When I first met Kaya, I fell in love. At the time, my significant other and I had a dobbie named Flojo because we got her during the 1988 Olympics. We also had another dog named Cleo and she was a mini doxie purchased to make Aaron happy in his new move with us to Pasadena. It was always a sight gag when I walked Flojo and Cleo.
But Kaya was magnificent. She knew she was loved and adored and gave back everything to all of us who took care of her and loved her. It was an unconditional love fest.
That's what dogs do, really. They love humans who love them back, their masters in particular without limits or conditions. It like dogs are zen creatures, holding a steady gaze out to those who love them. We cannot live without them and they cannot live without us. Kaya had cancer, probably of the stomach and Aaron didn't wait for her to suffer any more than necessary to make sure her passing was peaceful. It broke our hearts, none more than Aaron who had a rite of passage at this most solemn moment.
I tried to finish my new website content this week, but all I could think about was how profound is our attachments to animals, the loss of Kaya to my son and to our family. Nothing else seemed important. Through tears and starts and stops I managed to get some information on a page. I really don't remember what it was I was supposed to write, but it met a need to be productive. In one of the emails my speech coach sent to me, he tried to encourage me to speak out more about what I knew about the aging process, how it was that I aged so well, and what contributions I could make to the niche market I carved out for myself in the speaking world.
First thing that came to my mind was that people age better with animals. Animals increased the quality of anyone's life, whether it be dogs or cats, or fish or domesticated lizards. Animals make us happy; animals give us something other than ourselves to think about; animals cuddle; animals make us laugh; animals make us feel secure; animals give us the opportunity for physical activity, more specifically if they are dogs. It's hard to walk a cat or a lizard.
Of course, having a positive and healthy attitude about age is crucial to how we age; hopefully we are going to age with joy and productivity. Being happy with who we are at whatever age we are allows us to take on the challenges of growing older. And if we believe we can control our own destiny and are jazzed about what comes up next in life, finding our passions in life, well, then, that's even better for the aging process.
I also think that learning to be less reactive in an important part of aging. Life is in flux all the time; life changes and provides us with positives and negatives and we might think about taking everything in stride even if we don't like it much. My father used to do that all the time. I never saw the man flip out over anything in life. This idea that we stay balanced in mind and body absolutely reduces stress and anxiety.
I'm all about adapting to change. I'm all about living light and not attaching to a lot of material things. People get caught up in places and things but a healthy sense of detachment (see my blog on the 10% solution) is a must to keep issues in perspective, including ourselves. I love that line, "Get over yourself!" I actually think that aging gives us baby boomers an advantage because we have, hopefully, gained some wisdom and experience and historical perspective through our decades of learning and living.
So, the passing of my beautiful Kaya reminds me that the beauty of what we have in our lives is simply borrowed and given to us for a time. Our life on earth is a transition along the way to the ultimate end of our physical life. Kaya's energy and soul will live on and so will our soul and energy. I'm so happy to have known and played and loved with Kaya.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Faster Than a Speeding Bullet

Hi, Boomers,
One of my friends called me up today and said, "Joan, I'm really disappointed in you. You haven't blogged in several weeks. What's wrong?"
"What's wrong?" I shouted back. "Are you kidding me? What's wrong is how much I have on my plate and can't get through any of it!"
"Hold on, hold on. I'm just asking," he said quietly. "I'm just asking."
"Asking is the problem," I responded sheepishly
It went something like that except not only am I busy, but I also from time to time have difficulty deciding what I want to write about. Nothing was inspiring me except guilt that I had not written. I woke up this morning with that same guilty feeling. And then my friend called this afternoon to remind me.
I've been tackling the fifth draft of my keynote speech. It seems the darn speech never ends. I'm single minded about converting my speech coach's notes into the content and then wrestling with cuts and edits this is a full time project. I can't entertain another idea and I'm way behind on providing content to my web designer for my new website. I'm tardy with an article for the Huffington Post and I'm teaching more classes than I could ever imagine. And today I gave an interview with Dr. Diana Wiley on her radio show, Love, Lust and Laughter on Progressive Radio Network. Everything takes time.
Life has interfered with my life.
But I was thinking about a subject that I've talked about frequently in the last couple of weeks. What is it that keeps us from our dreams and finding our passions? My favorite answer is resistance. Resistance is anything that keeps us fro what we love or want to do. It is the enemy within us because it hacks away at the unlived life, a life without fulfillment. And that's really boring because it causes us to make endless lists of excuses not to do what we really want to do. I'm too old, I'm too fat, I'm too settled, my wife won't like that, my husband won't let me go, it's too expensive, it's too far, it's too stupid, I won't like that kind of play, I heard the movie was get the idea.
Stephen Pressfield in his book, The War of Art, said "Resistance is faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive and harder to kick than crack cocaine." Resistance keeps us from achieving the life we want or the life that is intended for us. Mr. Pressfield called resistance "the most toxic force on the planet. It is the root of more unhappiness than poverty, disease or erectile dysfunction. To yield to resistance crushes our spirit and makes us less than what we were born to be."
Somewhere lurking underneath resistance is fear. Often we aren't even aware that we are fearful of something or someone or situation. That's an unconscious state to be in. And it indicates that we are living in the shadow world, a world of half lights. We are only aware of our shadow (Plato's Cave), the unconscious part of our being. Of course, we will resist because we are not fully aware of ourselves. So perhaps we will not be able to discover what we are intended to do with our lives, find our passions, and open our hearts to the surprises that life gives to us many times over.
I'd love to entertain you a bit more, but I have to finish the audio on my book(s), Sixty, Sex, & Tango, Confessions of a Beatnik Boomer and Women Obsessed. The first book will be ready for purchase on Monday, July 25. Pre-sales and discounts start on this coming Monday, July 11. I'm excited. I love the people I'm working with - really young kids who seem to have a idea to fill a market for audio books. Ben came up to me at the Los Angeles Festival of Books a few months ago and said: "With that title, you should put your book on audio." He was reading my mind and I was so totally NOT resistant, I almost hugged him. It's been a great ride since.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

A Meditation on Yoga

Hi, Boomers,

I am now in the decade of my 60s, and I am still the only one who can make a difference in myself and in my life. I am fully prepared to do so and look inwardly for guidance. It has been my preference and my joy to stay connected with myself through the practice of yoga. Yoga is also the way in which I express my physical and energetic sense of self. It is through my yoga practice that I am more able to stay present, to stay internally balanced, and to enjoy good health through the principles of breath, alignment, and movements.

I like to think that yoga is an aesthetic; it is a creative dance that blends movement and expression. When I’m practicing yoga, I feel like I’m the disco queen, the sexy Latina dancer, the prima ballerina, and everything beautiful wrapped up inside me. No one is watching me, and no one is judging me. My mat is my universe. I am always amazed by what I learn daily about moving into a position without needing to get anywhere. From the flowing yoga movements come joy and renewal. I’m excited and enthusiastic to be alive and mindful of my being. New ideas often enter my mind as I breathe and flow. I let them go, knowing that they will return in time.

Yoga is derived from the Sanskrit word yui, which means to “bring together” or “to unite.” The practice integrates all aspects of the individual--body, mind, and spirit--to bring about balance and harmony in a sentient being. There are three parts to a yoga practice: breathing, physical movement (or asana), and meditation.

Breathing is the linchpin of the practice, for it yokes the body and mind together. Breath is sacred, and breathing is the major mechanism that inspires us to be present. This is not an ordinary breathing pattern, but deep belly breathing that engages every cell in the body.

I like to refer to the moving or physical component of a yoga practice as a “moving meditation” because it connects a clear mind with breath and physical movement. The movement component helps me let go of my thoughts and to distance myself from the constant need to feed my ego.

I am facilitated in creating more awareness in my life through the practice of meditation. The simple definition of “meditation” is to quiet the mind; yet this definition doesn’t necessarily mean that we have to stop thinking. Meditation suggests to us that we let our thoughts go and not get stuck on one track or loop. When we relax the mind, we relax our body as well.

There are many creative techniques that I use in mediation apart from watching my thoughts go by like clouds or watching my breathing. I challenge my thoughts and ask myself if I have any suggestions for improving the meditation. I pay close attention to my posture, a straight spine. I hold and sustain contradictory thoughts, pay attention to ambient sounds in the room, imagine a beautiful scene on the beach. Or, I might ask myself what is it I really want in life?

Brain mapping studies reveal that mediation increases happiness and reduces stress, which gives us a better quality of ife. Long–term meditation is associated with increased gray matter, increased density of the brain stem, increased thickness of the spinal cord, increased blood flow, and improvement in cognitive learning.

The manner in which I engage in my yoga practice is through the selection of small intentions rather than goals, as in “I have to touch the floor; otherwise I haven’t executed the posture properly.” The intention of moving in to a pose with patience, grace, and alignment allows me to stay in the present without grasping or forcing myself into position. If I take the intentional aspect of yoga off my mat and into my life as a replacement for the goal-oriented Western concept of pushing toward achievement, I can live my life with more ease and a deeper sense of purpose and joy. This is the essence of yoga; enjoying the journey and not heading directly for the destination.

Yoga distances myself from the daily grind of life. I cannot change the dynamics of my world, but I can effect change in myself. I follow the yogic way of life and its principles of an open heart and mind and what follows is my bliss.

On my first day of my yoga teacher training class, my teacher asked the class why he or she had signed up for training. I said, “Because I want to live forever.” I was, of course, joking, but I do know that my yoga practice has allowed me to live with greater joy.



Saturday, June 18, 2011

Master of the Universe

Dear Mr. Wiener,
Sorry I'm late to your pity party. I've been slogging through the fourth draft of my hour long speech for the National Speakers Association. I'm still an academy member, not officially a full fledged member, until I give 20 paid speeches. You probably have hundreds of paid speeches in the bag. I just gave my first - sort of - since I didn't have the speech memorized but I did give a semblance of a speech on my topic: Retirement Is Not An Option: Act 3. It sounds like a speech you might want to hear right about now. Or you can joined me Monday nights at the West Hollywood chapter of Toastmasters. I got first place on Monday night for giving an impromptu speech on, "What are the two most important characteristics of a true champion?" You might have learned something. I reflected that the two important traits of a champion were having an attitude of gratitude and recognizing vulnerability as an asset instead of a liability. That moment felt about as good as getting the academy award for best actress in a documentary. You might have used one or two of my points in your resignation speech on Thursday. It didn't sound like you had a lot of gratitude going for you.
It feels almost like a sin not to blog about you, Anthony. May I call you Anthony, Mr. Wiener? I know I'm a week late on this subject, but forgive me because I've been busy.
Anthony, your antics give us women so much fodder for the subject of men behaving badly that it's seems a shame to waste a good journalistic moment. At fist I didn't care about what you did; that is to say, share your private part with random women. I really couldn't figure out why I didn't care and it bothered me - not about what you did but why I didn't care about what you did. Should I really care that a guy was objectifying women for his own self-agrandizement? Seen that done a hundred times before. Nothing new there. Hey, look at my penis! Isn't it great? Don't you just adore it? Of course, you love it! It's a penis! All women love penis, don't you know. (I refuse to use the plural of penis. My significant other and I always argued over the plural of the word. I called it peni.)
First, not all women love penis. Why in the name of Zeus do men think we all love penis? That's an assumption that I can prove just walking down Hollywood Blvd. And if we did love, okay, dick, why do you think we want to see it on Twitter or a cell phone. That picture is just bad photography. No, dude. You love your penis and I don't love your penis. You love it most of all. All men love their dick most of all.
Anthony, when I first heard about your penchant to get the attention of random women by exposing yourself, I knew you had a psychological problem. So it was easy to distance myself from what you did. I mean, who does that besides 25 year olds who don't know any better or someone with a sexual issue or even with a random self-esteem issue. I mean talk about your adolescent behavior. I mean, talk about your narcissism, your borderline personality, your hypo-manic attention getting neediness. And your behavior had been going on long before you married, Anthony. I mean, didn't you think you had a problem. You've been displaying this behavior for 4 years prior to your marriage. Oh, excuse me, you didn't think at all because you love the thrill of the hunt; you love the risk, you risk-taker, you. You felt like you were master of the universe. Or, maybe as some people are saying, you wanted to get caught. In front of TV cameras? In front of the world? Big balls you have, Tony.
I know that most everyone was more angry at you for lying than your actual behavior. Some were more angry at you for your rank stupidity. And I kind of get it why you lied - embarrassment, of course, lost of status, of course, your wife would find out, of course - but even as you told the lie you had to know that one or more of those tattle-tale girls would want their five minutes of fame. Girls just can't keep their mouth shuts now-a-days. They love to kiss and tell or in your case, just plain tell. By the way, the dialogue between you and some of the girls was pretty sophomoric, Anthony. Do you really talk like that in bed? Time for a script doctor. So lying had no upside for you except more haters came out. And being stupid in action and deed was really beneath you because you had a rep for being articulate and bright on political issues. You really do seem to think with your dick. How cliched! That's basically why you seek therapy. Then maybe you'll get enlightened and write a book about the "penis factor." I have no idea how you are going to redeem yourself. I have no idea how you get your marriage back on track. This whole episode is pretty tragic because a fall from grace is never good. In a sick way, it would have been better just to have a commercial exchange like Spitzer. Payment for services rendered. It's cleaner even though his trick was a blabber mouth, too. I think that's an ethics violation on the behalf of his favorite call-girl. We all understand commerce even though we don't condone cheating. Morality is a sticky issue under any circumstances. You, my friend, didn't even get laid. There was no commerce; there was only behavior unbefitting an adult. No perks there.
Maybe I still don't care, Tony, that you let yourself and your wife and Congress, I mean the Democrats down. Maybe I don't care because by now I'm conditioned to expect the worst in men's behavior. It doesn't phase me. I don't even feel sad about it. I don't feel anything about it except you are a Democrat; even so it seems your job wasn't even that important to you and you let down your constituents . And the women who participated in your charade, those who hung on to your twittering longer than one second, not only played a role in your downfall, but also behaved like twittering females. The minute one of those women kept the sex game going , so dying to hold on to the pathetic five minutes of attention you gave them with your immature behavior, they also became complicit. Hey, Tony, is it my imagination or are more common today to see women behaving badly as well.
Look, Anthony, I'm not a prude in matters of sex. I like it as much as the next straight female. But I prefer intimacy in matters of sex, principally in the prone position, and I don't approve of public displays in which all of us get caught up in someone else's distorted vision (i.e., your wet dream) of what appropriate sexual conduct is about. Do you realize that there are now little imitators of Anthony Wiener's bad behavior floating around iCloud? Now more men than ever will think it's okay to show their penis because you did, and these guy also won't think they'll get caught. Darling, Tony, everyone gets caught in some fashion. Everyone pays the price. Why, oh, why, darling Tony, did you think that somewhere in your redundant mind, you thought that if men behaved in a risky manner, women would be turned on. We don't get horny that way, dude.
Here's a history lesson for you, Tony: In days gone by, man's conquest over his sex drive gave him superior powers and many virtues. It was a sign of honor not to flagrantly display the male member all the time because keeping the penis in check was a way to demonstrate a strong mind/body connection. That was true self-mastery. Today, it's just reality TV and we are all sucked into the vortex of other's people's perception of their reality.