Archive for the ‘Research Papers’ category

Inducing Strength: The Musical Drug

January 15, 2015

I’m ten minutes away from driving into the gym parking lot. The music is pushing through my overly used iPod connector, through my overly used car stereo, into my soon to be deaf ears, and then into my hell bent mind. Lucky the windows on my runner are tinted because anybody who saw me on my way to the gym would surely think I have lost it! This week, all I needed to hear from the time I left work until the time I left the gym floor was “All is Fair in Love and Brostep.” Skrillex did the trick…flipping me out…getting me loc…putting me into that fiery zone.

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The zone. It’s that place where I become unapproachable. It’s the place where music makes chills course through my body and mind like one thousand steeds. I feel powerful and in complete control. I feel strong. I look angry, but it is the happiest time of my day. If there was a hidden camera in my vehicle, you could see me making tough faces and roaring to psych myself out for the iron. It works. I actually don’t need pre-workout supps. Only music. Tonight I discovered that it is indeed a biochemical reaction that I’ve been using to my advantage for years. The reactive chills make me push it harder.

For several years, scientists have published papers in scholarly journals such as Current Biology and Nature Neuroscience on this very topic. Why am I not surprised that there is science behind my reaction to sound? MasHerrero, Zatorre, Rodriguez-Fornells, Marco-Pallares, and Salimpoor have been studying the heck out of music. I wonder what they actually listen to? They are researching the effects of music on our bodies and minds. Their latest studies are reward based, but these researchers have actually documented and graphed how music can change us in mysteriously scientific ways!

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The biochemical mechanisms at play (no pun intended) really trigger a curious high with a release of dopamine. Dopamine is the lovely neurotransmitter which is pleasure based and is associated with food, drugs and sexual arousal. Salimpoor says that “dopamine is important because it makes us want to repeat behaviors. It’s the reason why addictions exist, whether positive or negative.” No wonder I keep on wanting to bench press a car ha!? Haha… He also said “it’s not the music that is giving us the ‘rush.’ It’s the way we’re interpreting it.” I love music and can’t live without it!!

And so…I leave you with this tune that gets me super pumped. “All Is Fair in Love and Brostep” features the Ragga Twins. The song was produced by Skrillex and was written by Sonny Moore, Trevor Destouche and David Destouche. Pure awesomeness!!! It’s all about “da energy an de powa.” Turn it up and feel it!

Unique Identifiers: A Closer Look at Biometric Technology in New Mexico

December 3, 2014
Biometrics_by Felicia Lujan_December2014

|Biometrics~ A digital composite by Felicia Lujan. This composite is composed of 13 layers, 8 masks, 3 color overlays, and a Gaussian blur. The composite includes images of binary code and components of ocular, palm vein, and voice recognition scans.|


**NOTE: This research was
not intended to promote or
renounce the use of biometric
systems, though I do find the
technology extremely interesting
and useful in most cases. I
understand that the use
of this technology is considered
controversial by some. I intend
to continue my exploration into
how biometric technology is
being used around the world
for the greater good.

________________________________
I am an archivist with a deep love of technology, which is one reason I pursued a masters level certification in digital information management. A little over a week ago, I was in a meeting that reignited my interest in biometrics. I must admit that I was naïve in my assumption that my state was not a pioneer in this industry. First off, I didn’t know that the central nervous system of New Mexico state government (aka the State Data Center at the Department of Information Technology) utilizes biometric technology as a method of security. After that meeting I came home curious about how involved New Mexico is when it comes to biometric research and implementation. The writer, the researcher, the analyst, the special agent in me took over and that night I added biometric engineer to my list of dream jobs that I would love to have. So…what type of education does a biometric engineer need? Most commonly, a biometrics engineer has: a computer science degree; a computer language certification like Java or C++; and good problem-solving, people, and technical skills.

I found an informative link online titled “Become a Biometrics Engineer: Education and Career Roadmap.” Hum? Well, according to this plan, there are only 7 “popular schools” specializing in advancing a career in biometrics. The page said that “biometric technologies include complex equipment designed to analyze personal identification markers unique to each individual, such as fingerprints, ear lobes, vein patterns, voices, and iris shapes.” Through this research, I discovered that the technology is not limited to “individuals” or people here in New Mexico. I did know that biometric engineers were software developers, but there was a lot that I didn’t know before I embarked upon this research over the Thanksgiving break. Ear lobes? Veins? Hum? Didn’t know those were used as unique identifiers? We are all well aware of the TV shows touting the sexy use of biometrics, like CSI and most recently my beloved Scandal, but that’s just on TV right? A dead guy’s index finger couldn’t possibly be used to confirm his identity? Could it Shonda? Maybe I should ask Chien Le?

The most information dense white paper I discovered was written by Chien Le of the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at Washington University in November of 2011. Le wrote A Survey of Biometrics Security Systems and his research introduced biometric security systems. It also outlined application fields for biometric technologies, solutions, middle-ware and software, advantages and disadvantages, acronyms, and the future uses of biometrics. Damn! Chien Le beat me to the punch didn’t he?! Here it was…all laid out for my thirsty mind. Le’s paper says there are “seven basic criteria for biometric security systems.” These are “uniqueness, universality, permanence [hummm?? Do I hear digital preservation?], collectability, performance, accessibility and circumvention.” I don’t completely understand some of the criteria, but it was very useful to read over the types of biometric solutions outlined by Le. Current technologies include: facial recognition detectors, fingerprint readers, voice recognition, iris scanners, vein recognition, DNA biometric systems, and 2D barcode scanners, among others.

This technology can have good uses, but there are many privacy advocates who are against the use of any biometrics. In December of 2013, Scientific American published Biometric Security Poses Huge Privacy Risks by Oliver Munday with a byline which read “without explicit safeguards, your personal biometric data are destined for a government database.” The article starts with the sentence “security through biology is an enticing idea.” Yeah it is. Is that all it is though? An idea? I think not. Maybe I’m not worried about privacy as much as I should be? The article is basically a call to United States Congress for “lasting protections against the misuse of biometric data.” Munday quoted an attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation who seems to fear that biometric data will be used genetically to test for criminal predisposition. I’m actually not sure that’s a bad thing? I guess my only concerns at this point would be relative to health information and insurance coverage. When it comes to physical security and data security, personally, I think that biometric technology is necessary. It is a way to uniquely protect data, which in the end equals the preservation of knowledge and heightened security.

Over the weekend I started whittling through what I found. I read a great deal of articles and a few white papers before I started to look at projects going on closer to home. The more I researched this topic, the more information I found. I was most interested in how biometric systems actually work, so I focused my mind on the technical aspects. I had questions like…what are the major components of a biometric system? Who uses these systems? One of my questions was answered in Le’s paper. I have a sore throat now, so last night I wondered…what if a person needed to use voice recognition and something was wrong with their voice? How is that accounted for in designing a successful system? According to Le, there was no solution. A voice recognition system will not recognize a hoarse voice wave. So now that we have some background on the basics of biometrics, let’s take a look at what I found going on right here in my state. I was able to locate information on at least ten concrete areas where biometric technology is being used in New Mexico from at least 2003-2014. I’m sure there are many projects I missed, but frankly, this could be a thesis and maybe even a dissertation. This is just a quick look at highly visible projects I came across over the last week.

We will start with the New Mexico Department of Information Technology (DoIT) since it is a meeting with this office that rekindled my interest in this technology. DoIT is “responsible for infrastructure IT services provided 24x7x365 which includes: the State’s telecommunications system, two-way public safety radio, digital microwave, the State’s core data network and internet connectivity, and the State’s Data Center.” It is here, in the State Data Center where biometric technologies are being used for data security. I felt impressed with my state when I learned that and tomorrow I will get a tour of the center. “The State’s Data Center provides a secure facility with redundant power and cooling which houses many of the State’s critical IT systems including the State’s mainframe and agency servers. This division also provides enterprise system services which include the State’s consolidated email system…” It will be interesting to see what type of biometric security the agency is using as of late. I am guessing a finger or palm scanner?

The two strangest projects I found information on were tied to the use of biometrics on kids and animals in New Mexico. On April 3, 2013, there was a news release put out by KOAT (channel 7) titled Los Lunas School Offers Biometric Scans at Lunch. What? Seriously? Yes. Seriously. The school apparently tried to implement a palm vein scanner in the lunch room instead of good old meal tickets or cards. Parents were not happy about the suggestion of using infrared wavelengths (electromagnetic radiation) during the lunch hour to ID their children. The parents fought off the proposal which would have allowed scanners to recognize a unique vein pattern in the child’s palm and they won. I wasn’t sure which seemed stranger…scanning kids or scanning animals? I also read about how the New Mexico livestock industry is using Retinal Vascular Pattern (RVP) for livestock identification. RVP is the pattern of blood vessels at the back of the eye. It’s is being called the new way of branding animals. I wonder how ranchers feel about that since they must prefer the old burn and freeze methods? What’s a brand without cowboy symbology right?

I discovered that the national labs and the air force bases are also using biometrics. Of course, this was no surprise. I read a white paper Chris Aldridge prepared for Sandia National Laboratories and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in June of 2013. Sandia Report No. SAND2013-4922 is titled Mobile Biometric Device (MBD) Technology: Summary of Selected First Responder Experiences in Pilot Projects. This report was concentrated on the use of MBDs to enroll individuals in databases and perform “identification checks of subjects in the field area,” for “military, law enforcement, and homeland security operations.” The report was a multi-agency/multi-state project with 3M Cogent Systems and involved: Iowa, Colorado, California, D.C., Texas, Washington (Seattle), Arizona, Virginia, West Virginia, Illinois, Wisconsin, Arkansas, and Idaho. I think the most interesting part of this study used a “mock prison riot” for first responders out of West Virginia. We all know how critical that information is given New Mexico’s prison riot history. Many of the agencies studied for this report are using “Fusion devices.” Fusion was developed by 3M Cogent Systems for the Department of Defense. A large part of studies in this field are tied to law enforcement, but currently the technology trend is leaning towards cyber security.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) says biometrics are important because they: secure facilities, protect access to computer networks, counter fraud, screen people at our borders, and fight crime. The NIST says this technology is used to manage identities for: first responders at the scene of a natural disaster, border patrol, soldiers in theater, and police officers on the street. It makes sense that the following projects are closely related to the projects cited in the Sandia report. In New Mexico, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) uses the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) to support criminal justice DNA databases. The National DNA Index System or NDIS is part of CODIS. The FBI uses biometrics to analyze data from DNA databases and for latent print analysis. Holloman Air Force Base is using the 49th Security Forces Defense Biometric Identification System which is comprised of hand-held scanners. The scanners are used to screen people entering the base to verify the access authorization. Identity is established using barcode technology and fingerprints. In February of 2011, it was announced that Santa Fe County was using biometrics to “remove aliens convicted of a crime.” It can also be noted that between 2003 and 2005, the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) researched the use of biometrics in handgun grips while working with a New Mexico biometrics company. The NAE was interested in developing biometric grip sensors, but a 2005 report declared the tests a failure.

I also located evidence of the health care systems in New Mexico using biometric technology. The University of New Mexico Hospital (UNMH) offers Biometrics Screening Services as part of Employee Health Plans. These screenings are said to align with recommendations of the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF). Ommmm…Maybe this is where my privacy fears rest? In 2013, the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine released a Joint Consensus Statement on Biometric Health Screening for Employers. According to the “statement,” the United States Center for Disease Control and Prevention defines biometric screenings as “the measurement of physical characteristics such as height, weight, BMI, blood pressure, blood cholesterol, blood glucose, and aerobic fitness that can be taken at the worksite and used as part of a workplace health assessment to benchmark and evaluate changes in employee health status over time.” I am a fitness freak, but that seems crazy? What if something is wrong with me and I don’t know? The statement outlines the “purpose of screenings” and I found it kind of scary. What if they find out I experience shortness of breath or I’m genetically predisposed to cancer? Will they drop me from my insurance plan?

In New Mexico health circles, I also located a “Fingerprint Techniques Manual,” which was prepared by the New Mexico Department of Health. The manual had very interesting graphic illustrations on the fundamentals of fingerprints. This training tool covered from patterns to arches to loops to lines to deltas to cores to whorls to scars of the fingerprints. The machines can read all these intricate things. The Division of Health Improvement uses this technology as part of the Caregivers Criminal History Screening Program. Makes more sense than the biometric screenings. I feel comfortable with this use. This type of use can protect people from abuse or other forms of criminal activity. I was rather impressed with the 36 page manual. It reminded me that about 15 years ago I applied for a finger print technician position with the Department of Public Safety. I was crushed to learn that these people don’t make very much. I don’t know…I guess you have to be a biometrics engineer to make it out there!? What I do know is that I found a great deal of information about how New Mexico is actively participating in the biometric industry.

I gained useful knowledge through this research into biometrics and then regurgitating what I learned. My son just asked me what I was writing about and when I told him he looked at me with the curiosity that I love and see in myself. I told him “I’m writing about biometrics. Do you know what that is?” I explained with words and then decided it was easier to show a nine year old a catchy tech video with visual candy. Together we learned about the future of biometric systems. Between October and November of this year there were several videos on the use biometric technology. The National Science Foundation released information on a project by a young man studying the use of ocular biometrics in the video game industry for disabled people. In October the Telegraph out of the United Kingdom released a video declaring that we would simply kill passwords with biometrics and CBS news declared that biometric palm scans will help keep hospitals secure.

The future of biometrics is here. It is everywhere and happening all around us. Biometrics is about identifying who we are and not who we say we are. Tonight I learned that the most accurate method for a biometric reading is the heartbeat or an electrocardiogram (ECG). Makes sense ha? It’s symbolic actually. Symbolic because the heart is at our biometric core. It is the giver of life. The heart represents how we feel and who we are. That beat is indeed is a unique identifier.


Sources:

News release, Santa Fe County and All New Mexico Now Benefit from ICE Strategy to Use Biometrics to Identify and Remove Aliens Convicted of a Crime, released on ice.gov, February 15, 2011

White paper, A Survey of Biometrics Security Systems by Chien Le, Department of Computer Science and Engineering, Washington University, November 28, 2011

News release, Los Lunas School Offers Biometric Scans at Lunch, released on koat.com, April 3, 2013

White paper, Mobile Biometric Device (MBD) Technology: Summary of Selected First Responder Experiences in Pilot Projects by Chris Aldridge, Sandia Report No. SAND2013-4922, prepared by Sandia National Laboratories and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, June 2013

Article, Biometric Security Poses Huge Privacy Risks by Oliver Munday, released on scientificamerican.com, December 17, 2013

Publication, Fingerprint Techniques Manual, prepared by New Mexico Department of Health, Division of Health Improvement, Caregivers Criminal History Screening Program, no date

Various internet searches for basic information in articles and videos

Are Pre Workout Supplements Harmful or Helpful? : Creatine

September 27, 2014

The Pharmacy Brute

We discussed in the last two articles about beta alanine and l-citrulline and their benefit in pre workout supplements. Now lets take a look at one of the most known white powders used by beginners and pros alike; creatine.

If you missed the last two articles you can find them here:

http://pharmacybrute.wordpress.com/2014/08/20/are-pre-workouts-harmful-or-helpful-beta-alanine/

http://pharmacybrute.wordpress.com/2014/08/14/are-pre-workout-supplements-harmful/

Creatine is a chemical that is primarily located in human muscle. It helps the formation of ATP in the body which is our main source of energy. It is this energy that we all need to do anything and everything. Without ATP we die. Period. If we weren’t able to create ATP even for a couple of minutes, we’d fall over and probably die. That’s how crucial it is.

Creatine has been popular for several years and no doubt if anyone has been to a gym in recent memory you might have seen someone sucking down creatine…

View original post 1,366 more words

Banshee: Exploring the Origins of a Witchy Woman

August 22, 2014
Banshee by Felicia Lujan

~”Banshee” a Digital Composite by Felicia Lujan~

What is a banshee? Is she a spirit? Is she a figment of our imaginations? Is she a monster? Is she a being of light or a lover of the darkness? Something I read recently sparked my curiosity with regard to the origins of these mysterious women who are supposedly supernatural. The dictionary defines a “ban·shee” as “an Irish legend” and “a female spirit whose wailing warns of an impending death in a house.” Banshee appearances and accounts have largely been captured and passed on through oral traditions; however, there are a handful of documented accounts and attempts to make sense of the stories.

A Princeton University web site defines the banshee as a “woman of the side” or a “woman of fairy mounds” or a “seer.” She is said to be a “female spirit in Irish mythology, usually seen as an omen of death and a messenger from the Otherworld.” This messenger or “fairy woman” is often “keening at the death of important personages.” Important personages? Yes…that is a word! Many believe the banshee can predict death. Many have heard the “mourning call” of the banshee in the late hours of the night when a person is going to die. This happens most often around woodland areas, though there are some accounts by water. A tale from 1437 says that King James I of Scotland had an encounter with a “banshee who foretold his murder…” Her cries may have been “so piercing” that they were able to shatter glass.

The university web site says that “the banshee can appear in a variety of guises. Most often she appears as an ugly, frightening hag, but she can also appear as a stunningly beautiful woman of any age that suits her. In some tales, the figure who first appears to be a ‘banshee’ is later revealed to be the Irish battle goddess, the Morrígan. The hag may also appear as a washer-woman, or bean-nighe (washing woman), and is seen washing the blood stained clothes or armour of those who are about to die.” I would like to learn more about the Irish battle goddess. The banshee is also rumored to appear in other supernatural life forms. She may appear as a “hooded crow, stoat, hare and weasel.” In Ireland, these are animals which the locals associate with dark arts and witchcraft.
Syracuse Herald_1.2.1898_Syracuse_NY
In an 1898 column titled The Easy Chair, the Syracuse Herald said that “a genuine Irish banshee is a little old woman in a red cloak…” A little old woman doesn’t seem that scary, but maybe? The column was spurred by the review of a play titled Number Nine. In numerology, the number nine symbolizes karma, spiritual lightening and awakening, mysticism, and divine wisdom in addition to other things. It is not clear who reviewed the play, but it was apparent that their curiosity was spurred by the mythology shrouding the banshee. The column goes on to say that…“she appears only to announce unpleasant events, such as one’s demise” and that “she does not always appear.” According to the author of this column, the banshee may make an appearance only in sound by wailing.

By 1929, the story of the banshee seems to be associated with the death of important people. If you recall the 1898 column and the number nine, this may be due to a growing association of the banshee with karma. The Buffalo Center Tribune ran a short piece titled Believe in Banshee as Herald of Death with regard to the death of Baron O’Neill. Neighbors of the family mogul “declared they heard the wail of the banshee the night before near the ruins of Shane’s castle on the shores of Lough Neagh. The castle was formerly the O’Neill residence.” Maybe people used the banshee as a way to understand the death of corrupt officials? “Baron O’Neill was eighty-nine…” Really? The number nine shows up again? The article says he “had had a long career as judge and member of parliament” from 1863-1880. Maybe he was a bad man?
Buffalo Center Tribune_1.10.1929_Iowa
In 1942, Virginia Moore published a poem titled The Banshee in the scholarly Poetry journal. Her poem captures the darkness and the light of banshee mythology, which may be seen by writers as a deep symbol of both death as well as the afterlife. Moore wrote…“Lightly, lightly, Ever brightly, Moves the banshee, certain death. Cry and call out, Death will fall out. Hold – you cannot hold – your breath.” It is interesting how she frames the poem with light. When you read about the banshee in historical news articles, she (not he) is always fixed as a creature of straight darkness. This is one reason I love writers. We see deeper than the dark. Moore closes her poem with…“Brilliant yellow, Is this fellow, Is the banshee, plumed and bright. Lovers hearing. Listen, fearing. Hark! Who treads the plushy night?”
Elyria Chronicle Telegram_6.28.1935_Elyria_OH

Patricia Lysaght studied banshee folklore in the mid to late 1970s. In her white paper titled Irish Banshee Traditions: A Preliminary Survey, Lysaght took an in-depth look at the folklore of this mythical apparition based on manuscripts from the 1930s in the archives of the Department of Irish Folklore with the University College in Dublin, Ireland. This female scholar went straight to the source. She says that “the explanations of how the banshee came to be are not only few; they also seem to have a limited distribution, or even to be individual fabrications.” That was interesting to learn. It confirms that more often than not, the early origins of these oral stories were not recorded. She did locate an account of a local custom by Co. Tipperary. Tipperary said that “long ago people used to pay women to moan in the corpse house just when the corpse would be leaving for the church.”

Could this be how the mythology of the banshee started? Were women paid to wail and moan when someone died? Maybe we will never know if a banshee is a spirit or a figment of our imaginations or a monster that encompasses the light and darkness? What I do know is that my unending curiosity associated with the origins of mysterious things will never die, much like the tales of the banshee.

Santa Fe New Mexican_10.31.1976_Santa Fe_NM

Sources:

Princeton University Web Site (Accessed August 21, 2014)
https://www.princeton.edu/~achaney/tmve/wiki100k/docs/Banshee.html

The Easy Chair~ Syracuse Herald~ Syracuse, New York (January 2, 1898)

Believe in Banshee as Herald of Death~ Buffalo Center Tribune~ Buffalo Center, Iowa (January 10, 1929)

How it Began~ Elyria Chronicle Telegram~ Elyria, Ohio (June 28, 1935)

The Banshee a poem by Virginia Moore~ Poetry (Vol. 59, No. 5, 1942, Page 247)

Irish Banshee Traditions: A Preliminary Survey by Patricia Lysaght~ An Cumann Le Béaloideas Éireann (The Folklore of Ireland Society), (Page 94-119, 1974-1976)

Down the Old Santa Fe Trail~ Santa Fe New Mexican~ Santa Fe, New Mexico (October 31, 1976)

Death by Curare: A Love of Blowguns

April 24, 2014

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~“Blowing Poison in the Amazon” a digital rendering by Felicia Lujan~

For some time I have been fascinated with blowguns. These low tech tools or weapons used mostly by indigenous peoples in the rainforest are also referred to as blowpipes or blow tubes. A blowgun is traditionally made of a long tube of organic material such as bamboo. The tube is used to fire poisoned darts or other projectiles by blowing air by mouth into the tube.

I first became intrigued with the blowgun when one of my all time favorite fantasy films was released in 1985. I was a ten year old girl with a wild imagination. In Legend, a poisoned blowdart was used by the evil goblins to kill a unicorn in a dark fairy tale which I favor. I now own that movie and still watch it often. The blowgun made such an impression on me that I authored a poem titled “Blowdart” in February of 2013.

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~The talking book and player on the chair in my office.~

For the last few days, I have been listening to a talking book while I work. This book along with a book my son and I read on poison dart frogs, made me want to research further into the history and use of the blowgun. After listening to my talking book, and doing some research, I am more fascinated by not only blowguns, but by medicine men.

Listening to Tales of a Shaman’s Apprentice has been so interesting. The book was read and written by Mark J. Plotkin, Ph.D. Dr. Plotkin is a famous ethnobotanist who searches “for new medicines in the Amazon Rainforest and said “everytime a shaman dies, it is as if a library burned down.” This is a very sad realization. There is so much oral history to be lost with death.

Dr. Plotkin spent an amazing amount of time studying the shamans of the northeast Amazon and his book is indeed mind blowing. There is something about actually listening to him tell the story. I could hear his love and enthusiasm for the Amazon, nature and research in his voice. I was particularly struck by his interest in the indigenous use of blowguns.

The indigenous peoples of the Amazon, South and Central America, and South East Asia utilize blowguns as do the Native Americans of North America. These people have used both round projectiles as well as handmade darts for ammunition. I tend to favor those cultures which lace the tips of their darts with poison. This is done to cause paralysis and death.

image

~A Poison Dart Frog~

The type of toxins used on tipped darts to cause paralysis and death vary from culture to culture. Indigenous peoples use curare, a plant based extract or the frothy secretions of toxic frogs to tip darts. Native Americans have been known to extract toxins from the Golden Poppy. The amount of poison used, and the level of penetration seem to play key roles in the life or death of the receiver.

image

~The Golden Poppy~

On September 17, 1864, London’s Illustrated Times published a short piece titled “The Woorali Arrow Poison.” This historic news article says “from the fact that this poison, introduced into the system by the blood vessels, causes paralysis and death in the course of a few minutes, it has been erroneously inferred that death by curare is perfectly free from pain of any kind.” Dr. Claude Bernard’s experiments with curare showed that “one limb after another becomes gradually paralyzed…” He assumed death by curare was not painless as an animal retains intellect during the course of paralysis, which “gradually extended to the respiratory organs” causing suffocation.

On September 16, 1993, the Indiana Gazette ran an article on Dr. Plotkin by Nita Lelyveld, a writer with the Associated Press. He is truly an amazing man. The article was titled “Scientist Learns Healing Secrets from Rain Forest’s Medicine Men.” In this piece, there is a photo of the handsome scientist discussing “blow gun poisons with an En-Yeh-Pah Indian in central Venezuela.” What a great image! It was awesome to read this story. I’m in love with this ethnobotonist. Again, Dr. Plotkin’s professional passion was evident.

image

~The handsome ethnobotanist discussing “blow gun poisons with an En-Yeh-Pah Indian in central Venezuela.” ***Photo Courtesy of the Associated Press~

At the time of that article and the release of his book (1993), Dr. Plotkin was working with Conservation International. He is still on a conservation mission. That is commendable. Today he is president of the Amazon Conservation Team. His team is working with indigenous peoples in order to protect our magical rainforests. He is a very special man with a love of poisoned darts, blowguns, and medicinal cures.

When I first became intrigued with the blowgun, I was just a girl. I had and still have a wild imagination. As a young girl I could never understand the importance of conservation and preservation. If it were not for experts like Dr. Plotkin and the late Dr. Bernard, people like me would never learn about some things. I can only imagine what it is like to be a scientist studying in the rainforest. It must be an empowering, humbling and fulfilling experience.

I am not a scientist, but I am a writer. Through writing I can mentally experience those things I may never be able to do. Through writing, I can spread Dr. Plotkin’s message. Through writing, I can shoot a blowgun. Through writing, I can extract toxins and make curare. Through writing, I can become a poisoned dart. Through writing, I can administer death by curare.

Thrills, Magic, Health, Faith and Riches: In Pursuit of Treasure

April 10, 2013

In Pursuit of Treasure by Felicia Lujan
If I had to create a definition for the word treasure, it would not be traditional. In my eyes treasure can be many things. I don’t believe that precious metals and gems are the only physical things which possess value. For example, an archaeologist would consider old bones to be a treasure, and a historian would find wealth in certain records. An entomologist would treasure the discovery of a new insect, while a lover of code may prize a new script.

Within the last couple of years, a book by the Santa Fe author Forrest Fenn has been sought-after by treasure hunters. Thrill of the Chase: A Memoir is a book Fenn has used to drive people into a maddened search for a treasure chest the author has hidden. On March 9, 2013, a 34 year old woman from Texas was found after she got lost in Bandalier National Monument while searching for the treasure. This month, officials with the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish threatened to file charges against a man they found digging under a descanso (roadside memorial or grave marker) for the treasure. What are these people thinking?

Web sites across the world proclaim the words “somewhere in the mountains north of Santa Fe, a magnificent treasure box is hidden. Will you find the treasure? Join the chase!” The book is only being carried by one bookstore here in Santa Fe. The delirium led me to consider the human fascination with treasure, so I decided to peer into a small part of this history.

Dictionary of Folklore Mythology and Legend

~Funk and Wagnalls Standard Dictionary
of Folklore Mythology and Legend (©1949)~

Why are humans so fascinated with the hunt for treasures? Aside from the fact that many people are extremely broke right now, what drives them to partake in the hunt? According to the Funk and Wagnalls Standard Dictionary of Folklore Mythology and Legend (©1949), “gold has been consistently the most highly prized of metals thorough the ages…” The book says that “gold was so highly valued, it early became associated with religion. It was used to make idols, as tribute, and as offerings to the Gods.” This means that the symbolism of gold has been ingrained into humans since it was first discovered. Not only has the warm colored metal been associated with the heavens, but the Chinese “believed gold leaf” was “the most perfect form of matter; an unguent containing it was the most powerful remedy of Chinese medicine as it gave renewed life to the human body.”

I have discovered that gold was “a potent curative force” in “early medical practice,” and that it was associated with the Gods. I believe that the value of this metal is inherent in our collective memory for at least two good reasons. I found some interesting articles and books which explore lost treasures. I thought it would be great to share these stories which begin in 1902 and end in 1963. These stories shed light on the quest for treasure and the hunters who obsess about the hunt. The Dictionary of Folklore Mythology and Legend also describes hunters who “go into a trance” while being under the spell of “hunting magic.” A search for gold could not both invite and “repel” madness~ could it? For as long as many people can remember, there have been oral stories of: money walled up in houses; gold being buried in mountains; and unknown treasures which are not considered “lost.”

The Santa Fe New Mexican ran an article on July 24, 1902 in the “Special Correspondence” section of the paper. In this article, it was reported that there was “supposed hidden Spanish Treasure” in Grant County. The special report said that the treasure was hidden in an “old cave near San Lorenzo.” Apparently over the years many people tried to locate the Spanish treasure. I had to laugh out loud in the silent library when I read that the “treasure-seakers” had found many skeletons, but not any treasure. I guess if you were talking to a person interested in straight forward wealth, bones would just be worthless? On the other hand, an archaeologist would find much wealth in that type of finding.

Wealth Hidden by Baker

~Article printed in the Roswell Daily Record
on August 3, 1922~

On August 3, 1922, in Racine, Wisconsin it was was reported that the “lure of hidden treasure” surrounded “an old building on one of the principal streets.” The Roswell Daily Record issued a news release titled “Wealth Hidden by Baker During the War Be Sought by K. of C.” This was a very interesting story. It was reported that a “miser’s hoard of gold” was “buried there, according to pioneers.” It was apparently a “mystery, more than half a century old” that members of the Knights of Columbus wanted to solve. The article seemed to speculate that a German baker starved his wife to become rich. The reporter described her as a “gaunt, silent woman.” During the Civil War, the baker feared “the loss of wealth” so he “withdrew his savings, cashed all his securities and bonds and under cover of darkness buried the treasure somewhere within his house.” The poor starved wife wasn’t even told where the treasure was buried. The baker figured that if she was captured, she would be tortured to reveal the secret location. After the baker died, the wife searched for the loot to no avail.

In the book Hidden Treasure in the Wild West by Oren Arnold (©1966), the author wrote about “Pancho Villa’s Mountain Bank.” Here was one case amongst many cases of hidden treasure being buried in a mountain scape. “The poor people of Mexico considered” Pancho Villa a hero. According to the book, Villa had told his friends “I have some money hidden away in a secret mountain bank.” The hero assured the people by telling them “when it is needed for our experimental work here, I will go get it. Perhaps we can build a testing laboratory with it and hire good scientists. I will look into the matter soon.” What a nice thought! Unfortunately Villa was killed on July 20, 1923. Arnold’s book says that “when he had driven his automobile to a nearby town, old enemies ambushed him.” Before he could reveal the location of his mountain bank, “the harsh staccato bark of machine guns sounded, and Pancho Villa, the great liberator, fell across the steering wheel, dead.”

“Writing in a geological bulletin published by the New Mexico Bureau of Mines in 1935, K.C. Dunham told” the story of Padre LaRue’s mine. In Mines of the Old Southwest by Jack D. Rittenhouse and Rex Arrowsmith (©1963), I located information on the “Organ Mountain Silver Mines.” Arrowsmith was a geologist and gave a particular professional flavor to his account of the mines. The report said that LaRue was “stationed at a hacienda in Chihuahua (Mexico)” and that the priest “was told by a dying friend of placers and a fabulously rich gold-bearing lode in the mountains two days’ journey north of Paso del Norte.” LaRue migrated north with others to the Organ Mountains so that he could find the gold. According to the report, they located the gold, and then buried it at the request of Padre LaRue. The priest was located by the Church in the City of Mexico and he was later “murdered” by a soldier for not divulging the location of the treasure. In case number three, the secret location followed LaRue to his grave.

Treasure Land Map_Campa Book

~Treasure Land map in Arthur L. Campa’s book
Treasure of the Sangre de Cristos: Tales and
Traditions of the Spanish Southwest (©1963)~

The only thing I found in common with the small amount of stories I looked at for this research was the fact that all the men died without telling anyone where the treasure was buried. It is possible that all of these stories were simply not true. It is possible that there was never any treasure at all. Though I guess I could say that as an archivist, I do tend to value stories as a type of treasure. I do find a sort of wealth in that! The author who really put this into perspective for me was Arthur L. Campa. In his book Treasure of the Sangre de Cristos: Tales and Traditions of the Spanish Southwest (©1963), Campa published a “Treasure Land” map which focuses on New Mexico treasures. The map shows places from the north to the south (Taos, Sangre de Cristo Mountains, Cuba, Las Vegas, Santa Fe, Sandia Peak, Albuquerque, Tome, Magdalena Mountains, Santa Rita, Mesilla, and the Organ Mountains among others). I was particularly intrigued with Chapter 11~ “Natural Phenomena and the Growth of Legends.”

It is more than safe to conclude that the value of treasure is inherent in our collective memory for several reasons. Campa said that “legends are an interesting product of folk society, the origin of which dates back to pre~Christian days, to Greece, Babylon, and the valley of the Nile. They are so deeply imbedded in the cultural texture of the folk thinking that today, as in the days of the Greeks, even geological formations assume anthropomorphic shapes and are indued with the attributes of folk heroes.” Contemplating the forces which drive humans to insanity can be a good way to peer into the mind. Where are are these behaviors and beliefs rooted?

The treasure Forrest Fenn says he buried may or may not exist. We may never know. Maybe Fenn will take the secret to his grave like so many did before him? Then again “a simple story may be gradually embellished with whatever attributes are important to folk, and with whatever concepts are current and acceptable at the time when it begins.” According to Campa, “very often the actual fact or historical account that gives rise to a particular legend may be totally forgotten, lost, or modified to such an extent that only the legend growing from the original happening survives.”

Finding the Beauty Within

July 8, 2012

*****Finding the Beauty Within*****
Digital composite by Felicia Lujan. Includes two images- one of a Roman statue of a woman (using a colored pencil artistic filter), and an abstract spiral design.

Following is my overdue look at beauty for analysis
by Sahm of the Arkside of Thought
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Beauty… What is my interpretation? I have never been asked. Beauty can be many things. It can be shallow. It can be deep. It can inspire. It can cause pain. Maybe you will spend your whole life looking for beauty because you are asleep? If you look up the definition of beauty, you will find definitions which say “a combination of qualities, such as shape, color, or form, that pleases the aesthetic senses (especially the sight)” or “a combination of qualities that pleases the intellect.”

The first question I asked myself when I started to write this was— when you think of beauty what do you feel? So I had already decided that beauty begins with a feeling. Feelings come from our psyche and our soul. Yes we all have eyes, and beauty can be superficial, but I think real beauty is so much deeper. It may also depend on: our professions; how we were nurtured; how we dream; or even what we care about or value. Like what about the book by Gary William Flake titled The Computational Beauty of Nature: Computer Explorations of Fractals, Chaos, Complex Systems, Adaptation? Or what about the article by Przemyslaw Prusinkiewicz and Aristid Lindenmayer titled The Algorithmic Beauty of Plants: The Virtual Laboratory? Are computers and plants beautiful? I think they are!

If I were writing my very own dictionary, beauty would need to be defined using multiple facets. For instance- I believe that the word beauty can be defined at least three ways. The hierarchy would start on the most basic level and would then work down to the most complex. I would also note that beauty does not simply apply to people. The most complex level would include those people and things which can be deemed beautiful because they touch us in profound ways. There is a great piece by Percy Bysshe Shelley titled Hymn to Intellectual Beauty. In this hymn, the writer mentions “unseen power” and the “spirit of beauty.” The most complex definition of the word beauty would include things which touch us to the very core. These are the things which will melt your mind. I must admit I have grown tired of the simple ways of looking at beauty. When you are truly awake, you will see all the beauty around you. It may be beauty you have never noticed or maybe the beautiful things you have missed.

My first definition would be superficial beauty. This would include the eyes or sight, and a symmetrical look at other people or things. I mean— how perfect are things visually? A second definition would be inner beauty or an asymmetrical look at people or things. That would be the beauty within ourselves or the beauty within another person or thing regardless of looks. What can I say? You know the third definition is my favorite and is also all encompassing. My third definition of beauty would be conscious beauty. This would be the ultimate form of beauty. This form of recognizing beauty involves all of our senses- sight, touch, scent, and listening. It is more than superficial beauty, and it is more than inner beauty. This type of beauty is something that moves you in a way that you have never been moved. When are you awake?? Now, when you think of something beautiful, what do you feel? When you experience conscious beauty you will tap your most intimate, and deepest feelings. Your spirit will be touched. That is true beauty.

UNM Ph.D. Can­di­dates Baca and Turo Spill Knowledge

June 4, 2012

For those of you in the Albuquerque area, these lectures would be great to attend. Unfortunately, I will be unable to go because we have been so busy at work, and tomorrow is also Election Day (don’t forget to vote 🙂 ). I have known Jacobo for many years. I met him when he was working in the Political Archives at UNM. That now seems like eons ago. He is also a patron of the archives. I did get to attend his lecture for the 2012 New Mexico Statehood History Conference in Santa Fe. On May 4th, he delivered a presentation titled John Collier’s New Mexico Boundary Bill and New Mexican Sabotage, which was well researched. If you get a chance, you may want to check this one out.

***************************************************************************

Historians Offer Two Talks about New Mexico History on June 5

May 30, 2012 | By Karen Wentworth

Originally published on the UNM web site under the “research.”


Two Ph.D. can­di­dates in His­tory at UNM will speak on Tues­day, June 5 at 1 p.m. in the Waters Room (105) of Zim­mer­man Library on the UNM Cam­pus.  The talks are co-hosted by  the Cen­ter for South­west Research and Spe­cial Col­lec­tions, the His­tor­i­cal Soci­ety of New Mex­ico and The Office of the State His­to­rian as part of the 2012 His­tory Schol­ars Lec­ture Series.

Jacobo D. Baca, a Ph.D. can­di­date in the Depart­ment of His­tory at UNM speaks on “Pueb­los and His­panos in the Era of Fed­eral Relief: The New Deal, 1933–1945″ on Tues­day, June 5 at 1 p.m. in the Waters Room (105) of Zim­mer­man Library on the UNM campus.

Jacobo Baca

Dur­ing the New Deal, the fed­eral gov­ern­ment inau­gu­rated more than a half-decade of inten­sive stud­ies of Pueblo and His­pano vil­lages that demon­strated sim­i­lar­i­ties between their depen­dence on and rela­tion­ships to the land.  Led by Indian Com­mis­sioner John Col­lier, activists-turned-bureaucrats held on to their notions the Pueblo Indi­ans and His­panos were fun­da­men­tally dif­fer­ent peo­ples whose for­tunes depended on mutual hos­til­ity and depri­va­tion.  Build­ing from these ideas they fash­ioned dur­ing the cru­sade for Pueblo land rights in the Pueblo Lands Boards fight of the 1920s, advo­cates worked to use New Deal lib­er­al­ism to repa­tri­ate land to Pueblo Indian communities.

They faced stern and steady oppo­si­tion to their uni­lat­eral pro-Pueblo approach from Sen­a­tor Den­nis Chavez, who stood firm against Collier’s will to aid the Pueb­los at the expense of sur­round­ing His­pano vil­lages.  This lec­ture focuses on how the Indian Pueb­los and His­pano vil­lages in the Tewa Basin expe­ri­enced New Deal reform and how this reform impacted their ral­tion­ship with one another and with the fed­eral and state governments.

Baca is work­ing on his dis­ser­ta­tion “Somos indi­gena: Eth­nic Pol­i­tics and Land Tenure in Mod­ern New Mex­ico, 1904–2004.”  In it he explores eth­nic pol­i­tics and mod­ern land tenure in the Indian Pueb­los and His­pano vil­lages in New Mexico’s Tewa Basin.  He also stud­ies the chang­ing rela­tion­ship with fed­eral, state and local gov­ern­ments and how that impacted social and struc­tural rela­tions among the Pueblo and His­pano peoples.

Bryan W. Turo will speak on “An Empire of Dust: Thomas Ben­ton Catron and the Rise of Cor­po­rate Enter­prise in New Mex­ico, 1866–1921.”  As a Repub­li­can Party boss in New Mex­ico for half a cen­tury, Thomas Ben­ton Catron con­tributed to the growth of the ter­ri­tory and its incor­po­ra­tion into the larger frame of democ­racy and cap­i­tal­ism in the United States and abroad.

Bryan Turo

But more than that, Catron’s life can help to explain how Amer­i­can cul­ture and insti­tu­tions infil­trated the west­ern ter­ri­to­ries in the years fol­low­ing the Civil War.  This lec­ture will explore how Catron grew an empire out of the acqui­si­tion of land in New Mex­ico and other parts of the west and how he used it to make money in the form of joint stock companies.

Turo was raised in White Plains, N.Y. and com­pleted his Bachelor’s degree in Bing­ham­ton Uni­ver­sity.  After tir­ing of harsh win­ters, he moved to Tuc­son, Ariz. To earn a Master’s in His­tory at the Uni­ver­sity of Ari­zona in 2008.  Since then, he has lived in Albu­querque where he is in the process of earn­ing a Ph.D. from UNM.  He stud­ies U.S. his­tory, with a focus on the West and South­west.  He is cur­rently fin­ish­ing his dis­ser­ta­tion on the life and times of Thomas Catron.

The lec­ture is free and the pub­lic is welcome.

Preparing Snow White for a New Hunt

May 31, 2012

Tomorrow is the day I have been waiting for! The movie I feel like I have been waiting for all my life will open, and of course I have tickets for opening night! I’m sure the movies will be packed, but it will be well worth it to see Snow White and the Huntsman starring Charlize Theron (as the Evil Queen Ravenna), Kristen Stewart (as Snow White), and Chris Hemsworth (as the Huntsman). I am absolutely sure that I will love the movie, and I am in eager anticipation. I started preparing this past weekend by changing my web site background to feature Queen Ravenna, and a quote from her magic mirror. Tonight I decided to look into some historical aspects of this classic fairytale to edify myself. I was so pleased to discover that Snow White has come a long, long, long way baby! Snow White was once portrayed as a timid, girly girl (sometimes in a corset) who waited for her man.

1908- San Antonio Newspaper Ad

The new day Snow women are tough and domineering yet still beautiful, and in need of a lovely touch from the men they desire. I have not seen Kristen Stewart in action as Snow, but I am sure that she will pull through in a strong and sexy role tomorrow night. The most current version of Snow was in the TV series Once Upon a Time (of course a favorite). In this series, Mary Margaret took on more of the traditional timid traits of Snow, while her fairytale counterpart was a woman who knew exactly what she wanted. We can’t really understand this fairytale without looking at some historical perspectives. I was curious where this tale originated? All I knew was that it was created by the Brothers Grimm. There have been several white papers published with regard to the tale, but I wanted a fresh look.

1913- Des Moines News Ad

I was able to confirm through two scholarly sources that the Brothers Grimm did publish the first version of the Snow White fairytale in 1812. In 1977, the Journal of American Folklore published a white paper titled Initiation and Meaning in the Tale of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs by NJ Girardot. In his paper, Girardot discusses the 1812 “classic Grimm story of Snow White.” Another date confirmation for the origin of this tale derived from Guardians of the fairy tale: the Brothers Grimm by T O’Neill. The author published his findings in a 1999 issue of National Geographic. O’Neill says that the Brothers Grimm, Jacob and Wilhelm, “named their story collection Children’s and Household Tales and published the first of its seven editions in Germany in 1812.” The book included the tale of Snow White.

After taking a close look at newspapers from the time period in which the Brothers Grimm published their German fairytale classics, I came to some interesting conclusions. Most of the digitized newspapers I located were published in London, which is not far from Germany. There were three things I was able to establish in my research. First, “snow white” was actually used as a descriptive phrase during the time period I looked at (1812-1820). Second, Snow White as a character is highly symbolic of purity, innocence, and love. Third, though Snow White’s contemporary character has morphed into that of a capable female, the symbols which permeate the character still remain true (in my opinion with the addition of strength).

From 1812-1820, London newspapers published articles and advertisements describing many things as “snow white.” The papers talked about how to “turn sugar into snow-white powder,” and how “summits alone were snow-white.” They also described the “colour from the snow-white Limestone,” snow white doves, snow white hands, snow white dust, snow white culinary salt, snow white pages of books, parties decorated with snow white favors, snow white chenille, snow white palfrey bead, and snow white sheep. I think that since the phrase was used commonly to describe things that were pure or beautiful, the Brothers Grimm borrowed the phrase in creating the Snow White character. By 1820, there is evidence of the phrase snow white being connected to innocence.

Tickets for Snow White and the Huntsman
opening on Friday night (6.1.2012)

In some historical versions of the tale, the Queen orders a huntsman to kill Snow White and return with one of her organs as proof. There are often different organs requested from the huntsman as proof of Snow’s death. Most say her heart (yes— so very symbolic), but there are apparently some which call for the delivery of her lungs, or liver. In some versions, the Queen eats these organs though she does not realize they are not actually from Snow White, but other animals. Once the Queen’s mirror tells her that Snow is still alive, she visits the cottage where Snow is living with the dwarfs. On her visit she “laces” Snow White up, and makes her faint. It was interesting that I found some early advertisements in newspapers which featured corsets during what was called a “Snow White Sale.” Yikes- look at that waist!

1908- San Antonio Newspaper Ad

There are still other symbols to explore as part of this tale, like the poisoned comb, the poisoned apple, the magic mirror, the glass coffin, the evil queen, the brave and captivating prince, and of course the magic kiss. Since this classic has been analyzed and re-analyzed over and over again, I will provide my symbolic breakdown with a focus on the new film. I will write something this weekend once I can report my findings. Popcorn, a double flavor Icee, Ravens (my bird sign), intricate weapons, and heart stopping gazes! I can’t wait!!! 🙂

Tough: Training Your Mind for Battle

May 22, 2012

_______________________________

All men can see these tactics whereby
I conquer, but what none can see is the
strategy out of which victory is evolved.
=>=>=>=>=>=>=>=>Sun Tzu
______________________________

Almost every morning as I drive off to work, I pass several members of the New Mexico National Guard running. The look on their faces would not be described as effortless. I am familiar with the difficulty of the path they run, and it is far from easy. The guardsmen and one guardswoman continuously trek the dirt path along the frontage road in the early hours of the morning. Today was the first day in many, many, many days that I have seen these people run with a fully loaded military backpack. While I was driving by each (and I may have passed three or four), I tried to imagine how hard running like that would be? I mean the packs had to weigh at least 80 pounds? I glanced into the rear view mirror to look at my son, and I noticed he too was in awe. There we were, both amazed. Being the nerd I am, I used the time to slip in a bit of education, because I felt inspired. I asked Daryn “why do you think they are training like that?” Though he is very aware of the importance of fitness, he responded questionably “because they don’t have cars???” Hum? I laughed and then I went on to explain.

After I dropped him off for his last day of 1st grade, I continued on to work. During the drive, the word battle came to mind. Daryn and I had talked about the need for these men and women to prepare. This is one reason they were running with the heavy packs. We had talked about the preparation for a war- physical battle, but I realized what I had not told my son was that the guardsmen were also preparing for mental battle as well. All battles start in the mind, and if our minds are strong, we shall endure any war. So what is the definition of the word battle? The physical definition of the word is captured by a noun, but the mental definition of the word can be captured by both a noun and a verb. Battle as a “thing” (or noun), is defined as “a sustained fight.” Battle as an “action” (or verb) is defined as a “fight or struggle tenaciously to achieve or resist something.” The Nation Guard motto is “Always Ready, Always There.” What a great motto! The guard is “the oldest component of the Armed Forces of the United States and one of the nation’s longest-enduring institutions.” The guards were preparing for battles, with each beginning in the mind.

New Mexico National Guard Building in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
I took this photograph on the way home from work today.

After looking into the fitness programs with the guard I found a regimen published in 1998. The regimen is called “Battlemind Training.” The program is specifically designed for “Building Soldier Resiliency.” The regimen was designed by Carl Andrew Castro of the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research. He is with the Department of Military Psychiatry, in the Division of Psychiatry and Neuroscience. Battlemind training ha? I like that. Apparently this is a very tailored kind of training, which prepares the guard for combat (physically), as well as for a return home following combat (mentally). What a great program! Castro defines battlemind as “a Soldiers inner strength to face adversity, fear, and hardship during combat with confidence and resolution.” He says that “in essence it is psychological resiliency.” The intensive training was designed to “develop psychological resiliency which contributes to a Soldiers will and spirit to fight and win in combat, thereby reducing combat stress reactions and symptoms.” There are two criteria associated with this training and they are “self-confidence” and “mental toughness.”

In 2008, Graham Jones published an article titled Managing Yourself: How the Best of the Best Get Better. The article was published in Harvard Business Review. A business review you ask? Why would an article about fitness be published there? It is because athletes and intellectuals all face the same battles. The differences between the athlete and the intellectual may be: the environment (in the office and/or on the track); the methods (how we fight and/or weapons used); individual thresholds for stress and pain; and commitment to a goal and/or end result. All of these things play a key role in the physical and mental battles each of us face. In many cases, (more cases than some are willing to admit) intellectuals and athletes are one in the same. It is just that the smarts that an athlete chooses to employ as a weapon of choice are focused differently. In his article, Jones says that the main obstacle to achieving “the impossible” may be a “self-limiting mind-set.”

*****Digital composite by Felicia Lujan*****
“Mental toughness” backpack we should all
run with. The backpack composite has an
image of neurons, and words that enhance
the “mind-body connection.”


The author is a sports psychologist who consults with Olympic and other world champions in various sports. During a time when Jones “teamed up with an Olympic gold medal swimmer,” he compared sports to business. This is obviously why his article was published in Harvard Business Review. He said “sport is not business, of course, but the parallels are striking. In both worlds, elite performers are not born but made.” This is so true. He goes on to say that “the real key to excellence in both sports and business is not the ability to swim fast or do quantitative analyses quickly in your head; rather, it is mental toughness.” Jones also says that “elite performers in both arenas thrive on pressure; they excel when the heat is turned up. Their rise to the top is the result of very careful planning- of setting and hitting hundreds of small goals. Elite performers use competition to hone their skills, and they reinvent themselves continually to stay ahead of the pack.” Maybe while running with a backpack!?

The Journal of the Indian Academy of Applied Psychology published a white paper by E. Bhambri, P.K. Dhillon and S.P Sahni in 2005. The paper was titled Effect of Psychological Interventions in Enhancing Mental Toughness Dimensions of Sports Persons. I loved that these three researchers of the mind referred to something they called the “mental toughness dimensions of sports persons.” It is great to see academics acknowledge the mental fortitude of athletes. This team’s research found that “sports persons who enter the competitive arena soon realize that there is more to competition than simply learning the physical skills. It is one thing to possess the physical and mental skills and yet another to be able to use them when needed. Every athletic contest is a contest of control. Control of the delicate mind-body connection, which is dramatically clear within the competitive arena.” I love these guys! Yes- yes- the mind-body connection. Do you think that it takes just as much mental toughness to write a white paper as it does to run 14 miles? Of course it does! These researchers even acknowledge the fact that some athletes “spend so much time on physical practice to get an edge in the competition, yet they ignore one of the basic aspects of the game that is mental skill.”

Battles… We all have all sorts of wars to win. Some of our battles will be quick and painless, but others will be long and difficult. The battles we face can bring us to our knees. If our “backpacks” in this life get really heavy, there are a few things we can do. The choice is ours and ours alone. We can drop the backpack and walk or stop completely. We can ask a friend for help carrying a load that is hard to handle alone. Or…. we can trek on and endure by making the most of our innate ability to utilize the mind-body connection. Be inspired… Trek on…

Battlemind Training: Building Soldier Resiliency by Carl Andrew Castro, Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, Department of Military Psychiatry, Division of Psychiatry and Neuroscience, 1998

Managing Yourself: How the Best of the Best Get Better by Graham Jones, Harvard Business Review, 2008

Effect of Psychological Interventions in Enhancing Mental Toughness Dimensions of Sports Persons by E. Bhambri, P.K. Dhillon and S.P Sahni, Journal of the Indian Academy of Applied Psychology, 2005

Inked: Marking Identity

May 17, 2012

I find explorations into the concept of identity intriguing. Identity is complex, and there are so many variables which constitute individuality. Some of the variables playing into identity can be inked in vibrant colors, or even gray scale. These marks are often dismissed and may be seen as nothing more than novelty, however, it is time for those dismissing to take a closer look. As portions of society slowly awaken from and shun restricting stereotypes, more people are opting to become carriers of ink. I love it when I see intellectuals rocking symbolic pieces. The puncture marks have stained the skin, but are a reflection of the what is beneath the skin. A tattoo is communicative, it can tell people: who you are; where you have been; what you find important; who you have loved and who you hate (if it has been removed or covered); where you are from; as well as mistakes you have made and achievements you are proud of. These signs or visual messages are created to “mark (a person or a part of the body) with an indelible design by inserting pigment into punctures in the skin.”

***Felicia’s Wizard Tattoo by Leo Gonzales***
I went to school with Leo and I graduated with
his brother Frankie. Leo and I were in art class
together for many years. I always loved his dark
art. I have had this tattoo for many years and I
love wizard imagery. When I decided I wanted
this marking, there was no question that it would
be by Leo. I think he is still in Albuquerque, New
Mexico if you are looking for a superb artist
to ink you up! Visit his web site at:
http://leogonzales.com/

In 1874, a London newspaper had a typescript of what appeared to be a criminal case. The Hour News report noted the following: “I understand that your Lordship was at Stonyburst with Roger Tichborne, and that during that time he had tattooed on his arm Faith, Hope, and Charity. The family were aware that he was tattooed; and if you could ascertain when and by whom he was so tattooed it would tend to settle the question.” The tattoo played a major role in the arguments for this case. In this case not only the identification(s) of the wearer were important, but the identity of the artist was also in question.

1874- Newspaper
Transcript of a Criminal Case in The Hour News of London

The lovely Pacific arts include the “patterned” and “permanently coloured” skin of the Māori which is “high relief incised and scarified.” At a 2002 symposium of the National Māori Graduates of Psychology, Ngahuia Te Awekotuku presented a paper titled Ta Moko: Culture, body modification, and the psychology of identity. In this paper, the author cites a work from 1921 which reads “Taia o moko, hai hoa matenga mou. Of your moko, you cannot be deprived. Except by death. It will be your ornament, and your companion, until your last day.” When we talk about where we are from or who we are, the markings of the Māori are critical. According to Awekotuku’s paper, the 1840 “Treaty of Waitangi was signed between the many (but not all) Māori chiefs, and the British Crown. It is significant that a number of the signatories actually chose to inscribe the document with a small pattern from their facial moko, this subtle glyph effectively conveying their mana, or chiefly authority, to the process. Other legal instruments, particularly land deeds, were similarly authorized. Within a few years of its signing, the settlers breached the treaty, and decades of conflict, aggression, distrust, atrocity, and invasion ensued. The tattooed face became a powerful symbol of resistance for many Māori, whereas for others it seemed in decline.” Today, the “contemporary realities” of the Ta moko – Māori tattoo “manifests pride, celebration, and identity.”

In 2007, Emilio Mordini and Corinna Ottolini published a white paper titled Body identification, biometrics and medicine: ethical and social considerations. A section of the paper was devoted to “Personal Identification and the Body.” The authors say that “the human body lies at the heart of all strategies for identity management, from Homer to globalization. It is obvious because for most people a sense of personal identity includes an embodied component: when describing themselves they describe those aspects of their physical bodies which can be easily codified: height, hair colour, sex, eye colour.” I found it very interesting to read that they understand the fact that “body requires mind.” They even go as far as to call “the human body” a “language and a fundamental means of communication” by recognizing and receiving “communication directly from other bodies, allowing posture, gesture, and imagery to develop as alternative means of transmitting knowledge and feeling of various states of being.”

Last but not least, Mary Kosut called tattoos “ a form of visual communication created within a multiplicity of contexts” in her study titled Tattoo Narratives: The Intersection of the Body, Self-Identity and Society. In the paper from 2000, she discusses the “personal and social aspects of embodied storytelling” relative to the markings. I love that she argues “that the tattooed body is a distinctively communicative body.” Like Kosut, I agree that tattoos have “a great deal to say, not only about the identity of the wearer, but also about the culture in which she lives,” and that tattoos serve as a “conceptual latchkey—a tool that may enable researchers to begin to unlock the complicated relationship between the body, self‐identity and society.”

So who are you? Ink up!!!
___________________________________________

Related Post:

Māori: Origins of a Warrior by Felicia Lujan_January 26, 2012
https://myvoyagethroughtime.wordpress.com/2012/01/26/maori-origins-of-a-warrior/

___________________________________________
Sources:

1874- Newspaper

Transcript of a Criminal Case in The Hour News of London

2000- White Paper

Tattoo Narratives: The Intersection of the Body, Self-Identity and Society by Mary Kosut, Visual Sociology, Vol. 15, Iss. 1

2002- White Paper

Ta Moko: Culture, body modification, and the psychology of identity by Ngahuia Te Awekotuku, The Māori and Psychology Research Unit, University of Waikato, Proceedings of the National Māori Graduates of Psychology Symposium

2007- White Paper

Body identification, biometrics and medicine: ethical and social considerations by Emilio Mordini and Corinna Ottolini, Centro per la Scienza, la Società e la Cittadinanza (Rome, Italy), Ann Ist Super Sanità, Vol. 43, No.1

Foolish: The Illusion of Intellect

May 9, 2012

The Fool- A Tarot Card- “El Loco?”

Today I read a post about The Fool card in Tarot. One of my favorite gals- Lily Wight of The Arcade of Arts & Arcana posted Tarot art – The Fool on May 9, 2012. I absolutely loved the art work created for that card. Ms. Lily reblogged the tarot post from Tiana Setka’s Divination Blog. After reading the post, I started to contemplate what it means to be foolish? The word foolish can be interpreted in so many ways. The synonyms for the word foolish include: stupid, silly, idiotic, unwise, imprudent, thoughtless, and of course irrational. The antonym for the word foolish is simply wise. At any given time I could be described as all of thee above. Since I take pride in wisdom, how is it that all of thee above can possibly describe me? I am at a loss for words it seems. I guess that my apparent inability to explain my simultaneous identification with synonyms and an antonym for the word foolish, will insure that I remain a humble human.

In 2004, the European Psychologist Journal published a white paper titled Why Smart People Can Be So Foolish. The paper was published in Volume 9, Number 3 (2004) by RJ Sternberg. Sternberg stated bluntly in his article that “not only stupid people act foolishly.” Is that indeed a fact? I do agree. He said that smart people who “tend to act foolishly” can be connected to “five cognitive fallacies.” Those fallacies or misleading notions include unrealistic optimism. Unrealistic hopefulness and optimism come with inevitable disappointment. The author goes on to say that “the antidote to foolishness is wisdom.” Hum? Is there really an “antidote” to foolishness? Maybe I could use a dose of that antidote? What about you? Or is believing that there is indeed an antidote yet another form of unrealistic optimism? You decide…

Deane P. Lewis compiled a web site in 1999 titled Owls in Mythology & Culture. Lewis says that “throughout history and across many cultures, people have regarded Owls with fascination and awe. Few other creatures have so many different and contradictory beliefs about them. Owls have been both feared and venerated, despised and admired, considered wise and foolish, and associated with witchcraft and medicine, the weather, birth and death.” Here we see a similar pattern demonstrating a range of human characteristics which travel from one extreme to another— fear and respect, hate and love, wise and foolish, as well as birth and death.

We can also look at the myth of Pandora in regard to a wise fool. Pandora is sometimes referred to as the first of the women on Earth. It is said that Zeus himself commanded Hephaestus to create the most beautiful woman from Earth and water. To me— creating her from “Earth” would be symbolic of the human form. Think of the phrase “from dust to dust.” Hephaestus then gifted her with the breath of life. As the myth goes, Zeus wanted her to be almost perfect, and foolishly human. This woman was Pandora, and she can be seen as the fool of fools for unleashing the secrets of Pandora’s box or in some versions of the myth, a jar. The jar was as beautiful as she, but she was never to open it. She is said to have been so tortured by what may be in the jar that she felt compelled to lock the jar away in chains so that she would not be tempted to open it. Eventually, Pandora thinking she was so intelligent opened the jar. When she opened the intricate, and inviting container, Pardora simply unleashed a world of pain. What a fool!

The patterns of our human character often demonstrate such a colorful spectrum of extremes. Just as we must be born, we must die. Just as we must be loved, we must be hated. Just as we must smile, we must cry. It is unfortunate that no matter how hard we try to remain wise, the foolish illusion of intellect can blind and burn the eyes of our souls.

Smoke and Mirrors: My First Lucid Dream

April 20, 2012

This morning it was very hard for me to get out of bed. The second I opened my eyes, I could feel an indescribable ache in my head. I couldn’t understand why I felt so horrible? In my moment of contemplation, I realized that I was smoking in my dream. I am not a smoker, but yet I was blowing smoke like my first name was Puff (yes the Magic Dragon). But it was just a dream? Wasn’t it? I laid around for awhile. I tossed, I turned, I debated calling in to work because I literally felt sick. When I finally got out of bed, I rushed over to the bottle that I felt would give me some hope for the day. I popped an 800 mg Ibuprofen, washed it down with some caffeine, and then convinced myself that the headache would disappear. By the time I darted out the door for the day, my headache was gone. I thought about it all morning… I mean how strange is it to have a headache from smoking in my dreams? I did dream about many other things, but I knew the smoke caused my head to ache. As the day progressed, I wondered… Did I ever really have a headache at all? Or was it all in my head? No pun intended! I know in my waking life any kind of smoke often causes me to get real headaches, but can it cause a headache in the dream world as well, or did last night mark my first concrete proof of a mind-body connection?

Let Me Dream- Bookplate of Anita Herriman Vedder (ca 1870-1923)- Item No. LC-DIG-ppmsca-15533- Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA

The more the day went on, the more I believed that my experience was purely metapsychological. Now I know that I was likely still asleep when I believed I awoke with a headache. I know that I had the first lucid dream that I can actually recall. It was a lucid dream with something that is called a false awakening. Metapsychology is basically the psychological connection between mind and body. Many say that metapsychology is “beyond what can be studied,” but am I not studying it right now? “Meta” is derived from the Greek word for transcendence and/or going beyond something. For example… Have you ever had a dream where you were doing anything physical and then really woke up with soar muscles? Apparently I am not the only person who has experienced this type of phenomenon. There are some extreme cases out there. Some people wake up with scratches, bruises, and other serious injuries. Just look for yourself, and follow some of the subject threads available online. Since I am a woman who prefers well rounded research, I prefer to look at four things to make my own conclusion. Those four things are: my personal experience; the experiences of everyday people; scholarly approaches; and scientific studies.

In lucid dreaming, the person dreaming can control what they do in a dream. The dreams are often realistic, but are still fluid enough to be influenced by the dreamer. Maybe because I love writing and being creative, I am able to control some of the data which infiltrates my mind (to some degree)? If I was indeed having my first identifiable lucid dream, then it is highly likely that I experienced a false awakening from that dream. If this is the case then it makes total sense that I was in my own room when I opened my eyes and discovered I had a headache. During a false awakening, the dreamer almost always thinks they are awake because they are in the exact place where they originally drifted off to sleep. Some scholars would say that if I had a lucid dream last night, it would make sense that I was not even awake when I thought I woke up! I probably actually woke up just seconds before I actually got out of bed.

A Study in butter the dreaming Iolanthe- butter sculpture of sleeping woman by Caroline S. Brooks (c1878)- Item No. LC-USZ62-93747- Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA

In 2007, the Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association published a white paper by Peter Fonagy and Mary Target. The paper examined Theory and Psychoanalytic Thought, and was titled The Rooting of the Mind in the Body: New Links Between Attachment. Fonagy and Target studied “the relationship between psychoanalysis and attachment theory” and they described that relationship as “complex.” The scholars researched the “whole idea of the mind comprehensively expressing itself exclusively through bodily referents,” and state that this expression derives from Sigmund Freud’s studies of the “ego” and “body-ego.” According to the paper, “any separation between cognition and physical manifestations at the level of brain, bodily sensations, or actions is an artifact of the cognitivists’ computer metaphor, which implies that cognitive processes can be independent of the body, just as software exists more or less independent of hardware. In general, it is the link of brain and body that generates mind and consciousness. Emotion, mood, and motivation act in concert with cognition, primed by evolution to ensure the survival of the person as a whole.”

Dr. Donald DeGracia published his study in 1997 out of Wayne State University titled Paradigms of Consciousness During Sleep. In his study, Dr. DeGracia attempts “to conceptualize conscious sleep experiences.” His paradigm research confirms that “the most common conscious sleep experience is dreaming.” The paper goes on to say that “dreams are a form of conscious awareness during sleep, and that “when we dream, we are consciously aware of visual, auditory, tactile, kinesthetic and emotional content, as well as thought (both cognitive and metacognitive) and to lesser extents smells, taste and pain.” Hum?? Very interesting. This PhD has discovered that “in a lucid dream, the brain undergoes some kind of change that gives the dreamer metacognitive access to their waking memories. Hence, it may be that a lucid dream is a dream in which the dreamer can compare their present condition with their waking life. It is this ability to compare the dream experience to waking experience that really appears to distinguish lucid dreams from nonlucid dreams.”

The dream of Pilate's wife by Alphonse Francois (c1879)- Item No. LC-DIG-pga-01296- Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA

So here is my conclusion… I am 99.9% sure that I had my first recognizable lucid dream. Amazing… It seems that I may have been dreaming I had a headache because I was tapping into latent memories of my experiences with things that cause my head to ache! I had a headache because my mind caused my body to believe it should. I would even go as far to say that muscle memory could have been at work here. I can thank the long gone love of my life, Sigmund Freud for a few things today. Some of those things include: his beautifully sexy brain; the ability of his once lively mind to spark my contemporary mind; his amazing breakthroughs in 1895 relative to the philosophical study of the relationship between the body and the mind; and his still unmatched 1899 study on the Interpretation of Dreams.

Sources:

Theory and Psychoanalytic Thought,
The Rooting of the Mind in the Body:
New Links Between Attachment (2007)
Peter Fonagy and Mary Target
Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association

http://apa.sagepub.com

Paradigms of Consciousness During Sleep (1997)
Donald J. DeGracia, PhD
Wayne State University
www.med.wayne.edu/degracialab/metaphysics/paradigms.pdf


Blood Diamonds: Tragic Riches

April 7, 2012

Tragic Riches digital composite by Felicia Lujan. Image includes 4 contemporary images, 1 archaeological image, and 7 layers.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Whether we fall by ambition, blood, or lust,
like diamonds we are cut with our own dust.”

***John Webster
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Marilyn was an iconic woman. I can’t help but wonder if she had some part in our materialistic attitudes with her 1953 film Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. When the sexy Monroe performed Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend with the attention of handsome men in flawless suits, she likely created perpetually spoiled monsters. Luckily, some of us are able to dismiss the bourgeois and stay practically beautiful. I do not feel that diamonds are a girl’s best friend. Not my best friend anyhow…… I much rather prefer a symbolic diamond in the rough to a physically polished stone. As Thomas Browne Sr. once said, “rough diamonds may sometimes be mistaken for worthless pebbles.”

I rarely insist on having nothing but the best, except for when it comes to coffee! I am proud to say that my inner pampered maiden left this building long ago. I am rich in ways which are complex and reach far beyond the tragedy of mindless consumerism. William Shakespeare believed that his “crown” was in his heart, not on his head. He felt that his crown was not “to be seen,” and that his crown was “called contentment,” which “seldom kings enjoy.” Maybe women insist on having diamonds to fill a void that should actually be filled with happiness? Who knows? Still, it should come as no surprise that those precious stones created under extreme pressure are also shrouded in just the same as an end product wrapped around your finger, or hanging from you neck.

I was prompted to write this post by one of the most powerful quotes in the movie Blood Diamond (2006). Jennifer Connelly as Maddy Bowen says “people back home wouldn’t buy a ring if they knew it cost someone his hand.” This quote makes me feel bad for wearing the one diamond that I rarely go without. Blood Diamond remains one of my all time favorite movies. The movie is a captivating and heartbreaking political thriller which stars Djimon Hounsou, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Jennifer Connelly. I love all of them in this film. It was on television last weekend (but I also have the movie). The Blood Diamond movie is about conflict diamonds which are mined in African war zones. The movie brings the viewer up close and personal with a look at the rebel violence associated with the Sierra Leone Civil War (1992-2002).

I loved actor Djimon Hounsou as the driven Solomon Vandy in the 2006 film Blood Diamond.

In November of 2011, Erica Hernandez published an article titled Are blood diamonds a thing of the past? In the article Hernandez, talks about Christmas and “buying gifts for loved ones.” She says that “the thought of buying, or receiving” a diamond “from a loved one may momentarily excite you, but considering the incidents those diamonds may have encountered on their way into your hands might make you think twice.” Within the last decade, blood diamonds have been of such a concern, that the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme was instituted to help certify that diamonds are conflict-free. I just wonder how often that is really the case? When it comes to money, the brightest of hearts seem to darken like clouds on the most dreary day. Even though there are efforts to stop the trade of these violence riddled stones, it is still up to the consumer to ask about what it is they are consuming. Like with so many other things in life, education is easy to ignore. It takes heart and mind to listen, and ultimately to care.

The Pepperdine Dispute Resolution Law Journal published a paper in 2012 by Shannon K. Murphy. The paper was titled Clouded Diamonds: Without Binding Arbitration and More Sophisticated Dispute Resolution Mechanisms, the Kimberley Process Will Ultimately Fail in Ending Conflicts Fueled by Blood Diamonds (Vol.11). Murphy opens with the quote “in America, it’s bling bling but out here it’s bling bang.” She says that “conflict diamonds” that have been “mined in the resource-rich nations of Africa, have led to the displacement and death of millions.” Her research statistics show that “roughly $8.5 billion worth of diamonds are exported from the African continent each year, with over sixty-five percent of the world’s diamonds originating in African countries.” Wow! It is disheartening to think about. Her paper is actually very informative.

In the end, it is best to ask questions before you purchase diamonds. The seller should be able to tell you more about the stone you are about to spend thousands of dollars on (what if it was your life?). Ask for a certification– ask where the diamonds are from– just ask. I know one thing is true for me- each time I look at the diamonds I have (which are few, and many of them are family heirlooms), I will wonder where they came from? I may wonder if a little boy shot someone that he really didn’t want to shoot, or if a man suffered unspeakable torture so that I could parade a sparkly thing. The older I get, the more I realize that there is true power in education. If you can do anything at all to make a difference in this world, you can continue to learn, change, and grow.

Sources:

Are blood diamonds a thing of the past? by Erica Hernandez (2011)- http://collegian.csufresno.edu/2011/11/18/are-blood-diamonds-a-thing-of-the-past/

Clouded Diamonds: Without Binding Arbitration and More Sophisticated Dispute Resolution Mechanisms, the Kimberley Process Will Ultimately Fail in Ending Conflicts Fueled by Blood Diamonds by Shannon K. Murphy (2012)- http://digitalcommons.pepperdine.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1008&context=drlj

Dragon Heart-Tiger Mind: Working Through the Pain

March 14, 2012
*Baby Doll from Sucker Punch* Her character embodies the mind/body connection with regard to pain.

*Baby Doll from Sucker Punch* Her character embodies the mind/body connection with regard to pain.

…¤~•~¤…¤~•~¤…¤~•~¤…
…¤~•~¤…¤~•~¤…¤~•~¤…

I assess the power of
a will by how much
resistance, pain, torture
it endures, and knows
how to turn it to its
advantage.

…Friedrich Nietzsche

…¤~•~¤…¤~•~¤…¤~•~¤…
…¤~•~¤…¤~•~¤…¤~•~¤…

The infamous poet and philosopher Nietzsche (1844-1900) recognized the necessity of will power. Enduring pain is a major part of being human. At times, pain can seem unbearable, still without pain, true pleasure can never be experienced.

Yesterday I made a stop by Sunflower Market to pick up a few snacks, water, and some Tiger Balm. Over the years I have relied on the balm to get me through some of my physical injuries. Like many, I have a demanding life. Between the gym, home, and work, it seems like I gotta lube up with the extra strength every night. In passing through the line, my Tiger Balm caught the attention of the woman ringing me up. She asked what I was buying, and I explained. I told her I have been working out for years, and that this stuff “was the best.” The little man sacking my snacks happily added “people swear by the stuff!” The woman looked again curiously at the small glass container, shrugged her shoulders, and insisted that she would “just work through the pain.” And so we must. On my drive to work I thought about how I work through the pain. I wondered how others worked through theirs? We all have pain. In my bag, I had some balm to rub on my wrist, but there is no balm for the mind…

The extra strength Tiger Balm I picked up yesterday...

The extra strength Tiger Balm I picked up yesterday…

So what is pain? Dictionary.com defines “pain” as “physical or mental suffering” or “to hurt.” On the contrary, the phrase “feel no pain” means “to be intoxicated.” Intoxicated by what? Drugs? Alcohol? Maybe… That can work sometimes for a temporary fix, but the pain remains. What is the true intoxicant and natural painkiller? If you want to kill pain, endorphins can help you work through. Bring on some heart, and some endorphins, and you could be a painless super hero! The natural pain killers are similar to opiates (peptides our bodies produce). They can alter, and can even block the perception of pain. The word endorphin is actually a combination of two words- one of which is morphine. I guess the natural painkiller thing makes sense right?

Now that we can sort of define pain, how do physical and mental worlds fuse and/or diffuse to promote or demote pain? The September 2009 issue of Scientific American Mind featured an article titled MIND on Pain: The Psychology of Pain. The article was written by Howard L. Fields. The author talked about how “pain reaches into our psyches.” Ouch! Yeah- it does… Fields said that “our expectations, mood and perspective on pain powerfully influence how much something actually hurts—and the decisions we make every day.” I couldn’t agree more. In his research, Fields discovered that “most people think of pain as resulting from physical injury or disease, but psychological factors play a huge role in pain perception.” Anybody ever seen the movie Sucker Punch? I love me an amazingly strong, still beautifully soft woman. The Baby Doll character completely embodies the mind/body connection. If you want to see a hot movie about displacing mental and physical pain, that is one to watch.

Oh- and what about the US Pain Foundation mission? The foundation is on a mission, “empowering fulfillment, despite the pain.” I use the heart of a dragon, the mind of a tiger, endorphins, and Tiger Balm to work through my pain. In the end, I respect and appreciate my pain. Pain makes me a better person. The steady sting makes me run faster, push harder, inspires my creativity, and makes me a better writer. That’s how I work through my pain. How do you work through yours?


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