Tuesday, October 30, 2012

All Conferenced Out!

Sparkling ocean in Florida. Copyright (c) 2006 Wendee Nicole Holtcamp

So there I was at the Charlotte airport on a two-hour layover headed home (2 days early than planned due to the Frankenstorm headed to the Northeast), and I posted this status on Facebook:

2 hour layover in Charlotte :/ And no free wifi.

And then, right when I post, I hear Debbie Fords voice in my head, "Are you looking for what's right or are you looking for what's wrong?" -- which is one of her "10 questions" to ask when making decisions, or pretty much always in life. And of course I had posted what's wrong. So I decided to follow it up with what's right:

A safe & on-time flight. No delay in next flight. I'm healthy & happy & reading a great new book: The Happiness Project. I randomly met a cool guy in the airport restaurant in Raleigh: a businessman with a PhD in anthropology whose headed to central Africa in a couple weeks with his wife to see chimps & mountain gorillas (So jealous). Lots more :)

I was headed home from the National Association of Science Writers (NASW) conference - the third and final conference I have attended in the past month! I am all conferenced out. First it was SXSW-Eco in Austin, followed by a week at home, then the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Medicine in the Media program - which was absolutely fantastic! That was in Potomac, Maryland but I got to spend a day in DC with a friend. Home a week, then to this conference held in Raleigh, NC. I headed home two days early due to the Frankenstorm... I tell ya, from the moment I arrived in Raleigh, it was one craziness after another!

I arrived one day before the conference to see an old friend who moved to NC 8 years ago, but she got sick at the last minute, so I had to find a hotel room and something to do.  I decided to cab it to the Duke Lemur Center (which, it turns out, is the actual home of Zoboo of Zoboomafoo -- a kids show on PBS about a coquerel's sifaka - a type of lemur). They also do a lot of research, and I got to do a tour and see a lot of the lemur species, an 'aye aye' with its freaky weird long finger, and a slow loris with its huge cute eyes. They have large enclosures of the Duke Research Forest where some of the lemurs roam in a more natural habitat, but I didn't get to see them because that's only on the "behind the scenes" tour. It was really neat to see the place though!

The next day, I had lunch with one of my favorite editors at Beyu Caffe in downtown Durham.  I had the Thai Sauteed Veggies and mmmm it was so good! After that, I headed over to Research Triangle Park for the start of the conference. The first day we had half-day tours, and I took a tour of the company Medicago and their greenhouses where they are using a tobacco relative to make flu vaccines, rather than chicken eggs as are normally used. Then, we went to an EPA research facility where I learned about the use of cleaning robots to study how they might decontaminate from an anthrax bioterrorist attack. While my friend and colleague Nancy and I were on the tour, one of our other roommates checked into the hotel only to find out they had given our hotel room away! This was just the start of my travel woes!

We had to scramble to get another room at a nearby hotel - which we did, thankfully. But they were double rather than queen beds, and we were planning on having 2 to a bed. The first night in a place, I sometime can't sleep so well in my 'old age' especially when other people are there (I never used to be this way... could sleep anywhere, head hits the pillow and I was out!) but I tossed and turned for hours so by 1am I gave up, and went down to the lobby and got my own room. Then the comedy of errors began... the first new room reeked of cigarette smoke. Then I realized I'd left my cell phone in the other room with sleeping friends, and so I just needed to make sure the alarm would go off. I tried to get the alarm clock to work but that thing would not work for the life of me (maybe it was the 1am stupor... I dunno), so I picked up the phone for a wake up call instead, but there was no dial tone. Argh. So I got on the elevator, went back to the other room, snuck in quietly and found my phone, then back to my new room.

In this crazed sleepless, tired, discombobulated state, at 2am, I decided to postpone my Costa Rica trip. As much as I can't WAIT to go to Costa Rica and see the sloth sanctuary, I just feel like I've been traveling too much, and I'm traveled out for a while. I need to stick at home and get some work done and make some money, and also wasn't too keen about traveling on my own. Originally my friend was going to go but she had to do something else. And, in this same state of affairs, I called the airlines and switched my ticket home from NC to 2 days earlier; I got in last night at 1am. The conference was interesting but honestly I didn't think it held a candle to the SEJ conferences. I'll stick to them from here on out, I think! I am super happy to be home, and am about to dig into a new article.

Sir Walter Raleigh wearing a lab coat in honor of the NASW conference. The sky was darkening as Hurricane Sandy approached.

Nancy and I went out and had mojitos at the Marriott bar one night! :)

And a bonus pic of my sweet kitty, who thinks she is my "armrest" while I work on my laptop .

Thursday, October 11, 2012

love, self-sabotage and chocolate

White calla lily, Green Gulch San Francisco Zen Center. Copyright (c) 2007 Wendee Holtcamp

Sonnet 13

And wilt thou have me fashion into speech
The love I bear thee, finding words enough,
And hold the torch out, while the winds are rough,
Between our faces, to cast light on each?—
I drop it at thy feet. I cannot teach
My hand to hold my spirit so far off
From myself—me—that I should bring thee proof
In words, of love hid in me out of reach.
Nay, let the silence of my womanhood
Commend my woman-love to thy belief,—
Seeing that I stand unwon, however wooed,
And rend the garment of my life, in brief,
By a most dauntless, voiceless fortitude,
Lest one touch of this heart convey its grief

- Elizabeth Barrett Browning

I opened up my chocolate bar (organic fair trade dark chocolate currants and almonds) and there was this poem that spoke to my heart. I bought the bar specifically for the poem, as all these Chocolove bars have inside. I remember reading one from one of the best moments in my life, my Thanksgiving spent in solitude and gratitude at Owl Mountain near Abiquiu, New Mexico back in 2005 - the John Donne poem in my post chocolate foibles, about unintentionally eating maggot-infested chocolate - yum!

I started the Debbie Ford online class, Overcoming Self Sabotage, along with a small discussion group of friends and colleagues to share lessons with. I've also been listening to Eckhart Tolle's The Power of Now on audio-CD and when his voice doesn't put me to sleep -- it is very relaxing and calming, and wise, but sometimes that isn't good when you're on a road trip -- I have gained some wonderful insights. As far as style, I think I prefer A New Earth (which I blogged about here and here and here) but this is good too. I really am fascinated by the concept of the pain body. He describes it as "accumulated pain [that] is a negative energy field that occupies your body and mind." It gets activated and overcomes us at certain times, but it is not us. I am not my pain body. It is an "involuntary acting out of old patterns."

It would do wonders if people could see that when someone's pain body is activated, it is not them. They are acting from the ego, from unconsciousness. Yes, ultimately an individual is responsible for actions made during any time, but when recognizing that someone's pain body is activated, you can step back and witness and not judge, not react, and not be so affected by things. Easier said than done, perhaps, but worth trying.

Other bits of wisdom that resonated:

"If the pain body takes you over, [an enlightened or conscious] partner will not mistake it for 'who you are.'"

"Humanity is under great pressure to evolve because it is our only chance of survival as a race."

"The ego believes through negativity it can manipulate reality to get what it wants."

"As long as you make an identity out of pain, as long as your sense of self involves embracing pain, you cannot be free. You will unconsciously resist or sabotage every attempt to heal your pain because you want to keep 'yourself' intact and the pain is a part of you."

This last one was very profound for me. Oprah did an online study of A New Earth and has an exercise related to dissolving the pain body. At any rate, I also hope to share more insights from the Self-Sabotage class since I am the Queen of Self-sabotage, but alas, not today.

I just returned from a wonderful visit to Austin for the SXSW-Eco conference, and got to visit and stay with my friend Deb, who is a documentary producer and is involved with the new film (also by my friends I trekked through Nepal with in 2007- Tim Gorski and Jon Kane) How I Became an Elephant. I also stayed with new friend, former film exec Kee Kee Buckley who traveled solo across the U.S. with her dog Yoda in her Prius, "Princess Leia" and is now writing a book about her adventure. You can read some of her journey at her blog Seeking Shama and not only that, she will appear on Friday's Ricki Lake show "How to Stop Stress from Killing You." Oh, and I should mention that she blogged about giving and receiving, touched by the story of the "free car" I received in a divine act of providence! I truly love connecting with friends, old and new - it makes me feel alive and not so alone in the universe to connect and share wisdom, stories, and love with fellow truth sojourners!

SXSW-Eco was pretty cool, but I was a bit of an emotional wreck to be honest, and keep forgetting things (I'm going through some intensely challenging emotional stuff with my daughter). The highlights of the conference for me included hearing Annie Leonard, who created the short film The Story of Stuff -- she is a rock star -- and Bill McKibben, Larry Schweiger and Ted Nordhaus in this incredible session called The New Environmentalists. I will be writing about some other ideas that came out of the conference. I will keep you all posted when the articles come out.

Meanwhile here are a couple articles that came out in the latest Environmental Health Perspectives: