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Notes from a Crusty Seeker

Psychic Messages?

Sometimes the messages I receive are really straightforward — like my dog vaulting out of bed at 4 a.m. this morning and demanding we go for an emergency poop.

Sometimes they’re questionable — in the form of sudden information that fills my cranium about something I have no way of knowing.

Sometimes they’re nothing spooky at all. Really just the product of observation — like the character Patrick Jane explains in the TV series, The Mentalist. I love that show. In this New Age carnival we’re in, it seems like everybody wants to declare their extra-sensory perceptions, and most of the time I think there’s nothing psychic about knowing stuff. It’s just a matter of watching and listening.  Read More 
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DIY Dentistry and Paper Conservation

I have always been fond of my teeth. I say this not with vanity but with gratitude to my maternal grandfather who, I was told, was responsible for them. I say this because according to two clowns called the GratiDudes, as well as many studies that I wrote about when I was employed for a magazine (which I will not mention because I’m feeling grumpy today about being laid off) (all right, it’s Spirituality & Health) — according to these sources, being grateful is the antidote for grumpiness, of which I’m feeling. Did I say that already? Read More 
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How to Get Fat and Sound Evolved Even if You’re Not


Knock, knock.

Who's there?

It's the self-proclaimed "head honcho" of a company called KnockKnock.biz that has created, among other things, "The Self-Hurt Series" of books (How to Traumatize Your Children, How to Get Fat, How to Have an Ill-Behaved Dog, etc.), The Savvy Convert's Guide to Choosing a Religion ("Get the Best Faith for Your Buck! 99 Religions to Choose From!"), and a self-diagnosis guide for hypochondriacs titled The Complete Manual of Things That Might Kill You. In the tradition of all great tricksters and contrarians, Jen Bilik has approached self-help and spiritual seeking by turning everything on its head — creating a body of work that is not only laugh-out-loud hilarious, but so thoroughly and seriously researched that if you simply do its opposite, you may end up healthy, happy, and very well-informed.

"I am a pricker of sacred cows," says Bilik, who actually loves self-help books and is committed to a path of self-awareness. "But so much in this arena is so earnest! And there's a lot of Kool-Aid drinking going on. I believe that the dark side of self-help is that it makes us feel like we're supposed to be perfect: If we read this book and we're told how not to obsess, how to love ourselves and our bodies, if we're told those things and they don't result in lasting change, we feel guilty. I feel like it's the corollary to women's beauty magazines which set a standard that none of us can attain. The self-help standard is perfect balance and happiness."

Along with a team of researchers and editors, Bilik decided to deal with the inevitability of mistakes by instructing us how to consciously make them: "If you want a child who can't do anything for him or herself and will have to depend on you into his or her fifties, how do you get there? We'll tell you!" she says with a grin.

Who buys this stuff?

Says Bilik, "I believe it's the same people who buy self-help books. People who are tired of feeling like they have to be perfect. People who have senses of humor about their core endeavors. It's also an acceptance of the truth." She reaches for a box. "My therapist loves these," she says, handing it to me: Therapy Flashcards: 60 cards for maximum psychobabble that promise to make you "sound evolved even if you're not."











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Fierce Giving

Fierce Grace came to mind as I entered the New York Blood Center a couple of days ago. Fierce Grace is filmmaker Mickey Lemle’s deeply moving documentary about spiritual pioneer Ram Dass after his stroke. When it came out in 2002, I watched it about five times because I had a screener copy from the job I was at. I wish I had it now. Fierce Grace alludes to the transcendent goodness in the brutal events that eventually move us into wisdom.

When I heard that the blood banks in New York City were literally dry, I was overcome with fierce compassion.  Read More 
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magicJack and Happy-Go-Lucky

“Do you have some kind of really cheap service where I can pay for incoming calls only?” I queried the friendly Verizon customer service woman after holding for a quarter of an hour. She seemed perplexed and said there was no such option, and had I not found my exorbitantly expensive unlimited plan, plus 3-way calling, unuseful? (All right, she didn’t phrase it exactly that way.)

Because I felt as if she was really interested, I explained that I’d been downsized out of a job being the hub of a virtual office, and I no longer required such services, plus which, I’d now purchased a magicJack at my local Radio Shack.  Read More 
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Chaos Help

“Advancements always come from chaos,” said the carpenter as the little house-like structure he’d made of carefully stacked three-inch pencils toppled to the table. This was yesterday in the Orientation room at the NYC Department of Labor … where I and 60 other battered, depressed, resentful, tired, or slightly drunk, recently unemployed people shared each other’s company. Read More 
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Starting Anew

Like a lot of people, I have to learn the same things, as if for the first time, over and over. Today I re-learned that when you're in a funk, connection and action can totally transform you. I was recently laid off from my job at Spirituality & Health magazine, and to say I've been grieving is an understatement. But what a difference friends and action can make.

For a treasure trove of possible work activities, I recommend Idealist.org. I ran into an opportunity there that inspired me to contact an old book design colleague. She said "Yes!" to partnering on a job bid. (For a fabulous designer, check out Davidson Design, Inc.)

For a feeling of community and lots of help, check out Linkedin.

Life is good when you've got friends and action. Happy New Year.











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