Serenity in an Age of Anxiety

Cannabis   Cannabadiol, a substance found in hemp and other cannabis family plants, is the new “it” food additive. Coca-Cola is watching the cannabis market with an eye on a CBD infused drink.[1]Last year, EverX introduced a sports drink with 10mg of CBD that promises to improve workout recovery.[2] There is CBD infused cereal, tea, gum, protein bars and chews with a bonus caffeine kick.  It is only a matter of time until CBD laden toddler teething biscuits and CBD boosted multiple vitamins are available at a store near you.


CBD’s meteoric rise in popularity is threatening to ruin a good thing. Unlike kale, the ‘it’ additive from a few years back or DHA, its predecessor, CBD is not ground up food or a brain-enhancing fat with no known toxicity. Nor is it like the usual vitamins or plant-based nutrients typically used to fortify foods. While there are always a few critics worried about potential toxicity from the nutrient fortification of foods, these have been theoretical worries. With the exceptions of calcium and vitamin D fortification, which are significant enough to correct dietary deficiencies, the small amount of vitamins or açaí essence added to make products look healthier are generally insignificant. For CBD, this is not the case.


Humans make CBD already. It is an active compound that modulates dozens, if not hundreds of biological pathways. There are receptors on most cells of the body that are specifically designed to bind CBD. In fact, CBD is part of an entire endocrine-like system that maintains homeostasis.  Anyone who takes CBD will be adding it to what they already make. While it has wide and wonderful inflammation and mood modulating properties, it is not something that if a little bit is helpful, loads more is better. Yet, that is exactly the philosophy driving the industry.


CBD is an expensive additive, so many products will advertise its presence as a marketing ploy, but will contain little. But some, like EverX will contain potentially therapeutic amounts. The average consumer could easily lose track of how much they ingest between food and supplements. Since we do not understand our internal endocannabinoid system well, who knows how this will affect people? It would be a gigantic uncontrolled experiment.


Uncontrolled experiments can lead to illuminating discoveries or blow up the lab. Given CBDs tenuous legality, if this ‘if-some-is-good-more-is-better’ free for all goes badly, we may lose over the counter access to CBD altogether.  That would be tragic. Use CBD therapeutically and thoughtfully, not indiscriminately.




butterfly by Anatoli StyfIn one year, Carmen’s* life fell apart. First, her husband left her and moved in with one of her best friends. Unbeknownst to her, he had borrowed money over the years to cover expenses and they were in debt. She loved her house but could no longer afford it. Just when she came up with a plan to rebuild her ravished finances, she was laid off. Finally, her youngest daughter left for college.


Childless, houseless and jobless, Carmen was lost. Her anxiety level, which was high under the best of circumstances, skyrocketed. She had grit, but she lacked a larger perspective. Without a developed spiritual life she could not see any purpose or have a framework to process all she had endured. She worked hard and was a good mother and wife, but her good behavior did not matter. Life was not fair. She upped her anti-anxiety medicine and tried to push down her bitterness.


Carmen’s bad situation is made worse by her unexplored spiritual side. She has no belief or theory about what she is doing here or what it all means.  There is no larger reason or even a philosophy to help her weather hardships. When the going gets rough, she pours an extra glass of wine and ups her medication. There is nothing wrong with these coping tools except they do not create happiness.


Part of reason Carmen never thought much about the meaning of life is because she never bought into any of the explanations provided by her early religious education. God and his self-appointed representatives on earth did not seem to be helping her much. By early adulthood she had thrown all of that religious and metaphysical stuff out the window. The only thing she could depend on was herself. She would remedy her anxiety herself and not worry about what it all means or what happens later.


There are many stories about people like Carmen who hit rock bottom, discover their true selves and find peace of mind. Eckhart Tolle and Neale Donald Walsch come to mind. We are told pain will force you to take action. When you lose everything you will let go, understand what is important and be full of gratitude. But why wait? Why let agony be your teacher when it is so much easier to learn when life is not in spiraling down the sewer. While some people learn best when under pressure, Carmen is too stressed and angry to think about anything except surviving the day and putting one foot in front of the other.


Look around.  Unless you are exceedingly lucky, something hard is coming your way. Your beliefs will evolve in response to those circumstances but a solid sense of purpose and a reason you are here will help tremendously when challenging times come. Now is the time to find something to believe in.

*Not her real name.







Connection‘Twelve adults and children were killed when a gunman opened fire….’


‘I am leaving you for someone new.’


‘The cancer has spread to the bones.’


Life is hard. People disappoint. Bodies are designed to fail. The difficult and painful cannot be avoided. If the definition of happiness is loving what is, to be happy, you have to make peace with unacceptable circumstances.  Grit and resilience are helpful for swimming through troubled waters but don’t engender peace. Peace and happiness require a larger context; something that explains why bad things happen to good people.


Science offers little. We are born; we live; we die. It is the cycle of life where we are asked to accept our part in the perpetuation of the continuous cycle. Small comfort for the lonely and those who want to know more. Religions fill in the gaps left by science with stories and promises to sooth our anxieties and threats to control our worst impulses. Behave now and later God will reveal the plan that makes all the difficulties and pain make sense. These explanations are suspicious. What kind of God sets up an insane obstacle course full of suffering where nobody can agree on the rules?


Kindness tends to generate kindness but no amount of good behavior prevents unacceptable things from happening. Ask anyone who lives in one of the 49 countries run by a dictator. Life does not  necessarily get better for the innocent. Only the sheltered or faithful believe everything works out in the end. Everyone else looks around and thinks, “I don’t think a loving God is responsible for this mess.”


Yet it is possible to be at peace. If our nature is a love that endures no matter what happens to our body or the bodies of those around us, we can accept the unacceptable. We can see life not as a reaction to the whims of a capricious God but a dream where we forgot who we really are. A dream where a God is not punishing anyone. A dream of duality, as a Buddhist might say, where we are separate from the love that connects all of us. We are miserable because we forgot and feel separate from the field of love that connects all of us.


Bodies get sick and die. People will leave our shared dream and we will miss them but they are not lost or in pain. Mediums who talk to the dead consistently report they are at peace and do not wish to return, no matter how violent or premature their departure. They are not suffering.


You don’t have to believe in mediums or God or the Buddhist idea that life is a dream, but to accept the unacceptable, believe in something. Something that does not suggest the crazy things that happen mean you or someone else is unloved or deserves punishment. Something that leaves nobody out.






Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood was not on television where I grew up.  My children missed the show’s heyday also. So it was a surprise when late in life, long after Mr. Roger’s had gone to the great neighborhood in the sky, I became a fan. Not of his television shows, puppets or music, but of him. I became a fangirl when my friend, Ian told me stories of how Mr. Rogers famously accepted everyone exactly as they were.  He made everyone feel liked with a non-judgmental attitude. Whether he liked them or not we will never know. Even when he disagreed with someone’s behavior he remained kind and accepting. He stated what he would like changed but did not criticize the person. How does someone become that person?


I believe appreciation is a holy thing, that when we look for what’s best in the person we happen to be with at the moment, we are doing what God does; so in appreciating our neighbor, we’re participating in something truly sacred.  Fred Rogers


Fred Rogers, an ordained Presbyterian minister as well as a TV personality, died in 2003.  His essential message was unconditional love.  “Won’t you be my neighbor?” was how he asked children and adults alike to connect. It is also the title of the 2018 documentary by filmmaker Morgan Neville. (Available on iTunes and Pay for View.) He cultivated love and supported the universal need to be loved with the frequent reminder, “you are an important person just the way you are.”


“I want to be like that,” I declared to Ian, who laughed. He either did not want to be like Mr. Rogers or thought it was an unrealistic goal. I disagree.  Psychological and happiness research tells us that in addition to food and shelter, humans need connection and purpose to thrive.  Mr. Rogers striped the academics down to simply, ‘everyone wants to be loved’. It is the begging, cutting off and lashing out in the absence of love that makes people hard to like or appreciate. He somehow knew how to ignore all the fuss and see the true person underneath.


There is no reason why we all can’t channel Mr. Rogers. I will practice by reminding myself that angry, fearful and selfish behavior is a call for love.  Especially when I am the one doing them. I will accept people as they are, though I may not like or condone their behavior.  What I ‘like’ is not as important as the person behind the actions. ‘Won’t you be my neighbor?’ is the enduring message.


Thanks, Mr. Rogers.  It took several decades but I finally understand.









Courtesy of StockSnapTaking one hundred percent responsibility for your life is not popular or easy.  Can’t you just blame your parents, spouse or coworkers when life does not turn out the way you expect or want?  Everyone else does. We believe there is an explanation for why something went wrong and we will feel better if we identify the person responsible.  If that person is not pointed out and you are involved, the blame may fall on you. You would be revealed as the unworthy person you secretly fear you are. Consequently, we blame anything and everything outside ourselves to keep the spotlight focused elsewhere.


The downside of blame is it inevitably lands on us. There is always enough to go around. The most painful criticisms can fly our way from the lips of those closest to us because they know us best and can personalize them. They are personalized but not personal. Attacks can be a misguided attempt to hurt us, but mostly they are the weapon of choice for those trying to avoid blame and responsibility themselves.


Blame is a weapon that inevitably turns on the wielder and fosters resentment, hopelessness and unhappiness. You insulted me and are a jerk,’ weakens both parties and increases bitterness.


‘That felt like an insult and I will take responsibility for my bad feelings,’  strengthens the person willing to take control of themselves.


Responsibility without blame builds resilience, confidence and compassion.

‘That less qualified hustler took my job,’ increases bitterness.


‘I am feeling vulnerable in this economy and need to explore what I need to do differently,’ is self-empowering.


People will still lie, cheat and steal and need to face the consequences. Consider a self-empowering scenario where you notice what happened and take action but without disparaging the other party. If someone steals your purse, call the police but understand the thief is in a situation where she felt the need to steal and hope that improves in the future. In a blame scenario, because of her actions, you now believe the world is an unsafe place full of terrible people.


You may not lie, cheat or steal but blame is still a knife with two edges. As long as you are looking for someone to blame, self-blame is ready to fill in the blanks. If you do not believe this, watch your thoughts for a day. Notice how often you automatically blame others for how you feel. Or how often are your thoughts self-critical and belittling. Try a one day, no blame challenge.  For 24 hours, do not blame anyone for anything (including yourself).   If another driver grabs your parking space, notice but stop further thoughts. When your partner does not pick up dinner as promised, come up with an alternative without demonizing or criticizing her in your mind.


See how you feel at the end of the day. You may be a bit calmer and stronger. Or perhaps you will be ready to burst with all the unspoken criticisms and accusations.  With practice, you can get rid of the blame habit and embrace full responsibility for whatever you feel.