The Marina Dock Newsletter June 2005
Dear Marina Dock Members
The problem with all of these innovations and improvements to
the newsletter format, and presumably its content, is that I
now feel obligated to actually come up with something that people
are interested in reading every month. It's definitely a challenge
that requires some work.
Tonight, I ran into
a fella at the Marina Dock who just returned from a 16-month
run. He told me that during the time he was out there, the Marina
Dock newsletter arrived monthly, like clockwork, at his house.
He said sometimes he looked forward to reading it and other
times it really p***** him off, depending on whether he was
hung-over or not on of A.A. and a belly full of booze make strange
bedfellows. that particular day. More evidence - not that we
need it - that a head full
I welcomed him back, and pointed
out to him how grateful he should be for still having a roof
over his head after 16 months of holding on to old ideas. It
really is all about gratitude, no matter how much time we have
or how many changes we undergo, we must continue to cultivate
that attitude of gratitude.
SPEAKING OF GRATITUDE
The Marina Dock requires the support and input of all its members
and patrons, even those who don't always agree with how we do
things. I try to be flexible when it comes to making decisions
and allowing others to get involved. Recently, a couple of Members
decided we should have our interior doors refinished and/or
painted and new door hardware installed as well as paint and
soundproof the bathrooms. It was an excellent idea and brought
about a subtle but obvious transformation to areas that needed
some serious cosmetic surgery.
ask me how we are doing financially and I tell them we are a
Higher Power-based operation; we turn everything over to a power
greater than us, and for some reason it always seems to work
out. We seem to get just what we need when we need it. I would
however, like to point out for those of us who still believe
that "man does not live on bread alone", that we are
still amenable to donations in any size, shape or form. The
summer is seasonally a slower time for us financially, so if
you are considering a donation, this would be a good time to
do so. Of course, it goes without saying, "thank you",
to all our dedicated supporters who come through for us consistently
every month - rain or shine.
STRESS AND MINDFULNESS
According to the
contemporary Irish writer and poet John O Donoghue, stress "is
a perverted relationship with time". It's about as far
removed as one can possibly get from the term "mindfulness"
- a concept that has its roots in the Buddhist tradition which
refers to being aware of and paying attention to what is taking
place in the present.
All of us to some degree or another
are subject to the treadmill of overworking and over- consuming.
In a recent book by celebrated author, psychiatrist, and director
of UCLA's Semel Institute of Neuroscience and Human Behavior,
Peter C. Whybrow, the author theorizes that we are, in a way,
victims of our own success. Primatology and genetics, he claims,
are to blame for our frenzied pursuit of all things pleasurable.
Genes that were programmed to crave material rewards on the
Serengeti 20,000 years ago have literally gone haywire in our
economy of superabundance. Our excessiveness, Whybrow asserts,
is the result of an imbalance between biologically driven rewards
and socially driven satisfactions. We live in an age of extraordinary
affluence and extraordinary choice, constructing a set of conditions
that do not fit with our neurobiology or our evolutionary behavior.
In other words, we have become too complex and too big.
When you consider the huge number
of choices we have to confront every day - bearing in mind that
we cannot pay attention to more than 114 bits of information
per second - this amounts to about half a million bits per day.
When you consider we use up about 60 bits to decode one person
talking and understand what they are saying, it's probable that
you can't really understand two people speaking to you at the
same time. The author points out, that "all the things
that we need to do that require any kind of attention have to
be prioritized and arranged in a way that they won't interfere
with each other." So how successful are we, especially
those of us who are committed to living our lives "one
day at a time", at living in the moment? It's hard not
to be distracted by what the world throws at us on a daily basis.
How many of us can actually spend five minutes or so in a quiet
space and focus exclusively on what is happening around us right
now. Try not to think about what you are having for dinner tonight,
or the argument we had yesterday, with a person we love. Am
I making a mistake by allowing our youngest daughter to drive
alone for the first time to an A.A. convention in Toronto? If
I do, will she max out my credit card on some cute guy she met,
buying him lunch and dinner everyday, trying to impress him?
Will I have enough money to live on after I retire? Will Jim
and I break up someday? Will I end up lonely and alone? It's
difficult isn't it? Having said this, there is however, a lot
of evidence to support the idea that a mindful state of mind
can have emotional and psychological benefits, including the
reduction of stress.
The University of Rochester conducted
a formal test on the psychological benefits of mindfulness.
The research showed that people who reported being "more
in the moment" also reported more positive psychological
traits like high self-esteem, better life satisfaction, more
positive feelings, less anxiety, and less depression. Another
test focused on whether inducing a mindful state can alleviate
stress during an extremely stressful period - the time following
the diagnosis of cancer or surgery. What they found was that
patients who had cultivated a more mindful state of being, in
fact, did report lower levels of stress. More evidence suggests
that being more mindful, "living in the moment", can
reduce stress, even for those of us undergoing the most stressful
times of our lives. The researchers concluded that mindfulness
can have powerful psychological benefits. The fact that it appears
to reduce stress in cancer patients suggests that it may have
even more far-reaching "therapeutic applications".
WOMEN AND STRESS
UCLA study found that women respond to stress with a cascade
of brain chemicals that cause them to make and maintain friendships
with other women. It's a stunning finding that has turned five
decades of stress research - most of it on men - upside down."
This study discovered that women appear to have more in their
behavioral repertoire than just "flight or fight."
In fact, it appears that part of the stress response in women
involves the release of the hormone oxytocin, which buffers
the flight or fight response in women, encouraging them to tend
children and gather with other women instead. The study goes
on to say that when a woman engages in this tending and befriending,
that more oxytocin is released, which further counters stress
and produces a calming effect. This calming response does not
occur in men because testosterone - which men produce in high
levels when they are under stress - seems to reduce the effects
of oxytocin, whereas estrogen seems to enhance it. This discovery,
that women responded to stress differently than men apparently
had a classic "aha!" moment shared by two women scientist
who were talking one day in the lab at UCLA. They joked that
when the women who worked in the lab were stressed, they came
in, cleaned the lab, had coffee, and bonded. When the men were
stressed, they isolated, holed up somewhere on their own. These
two women researchers knew instantly they were on to something.
Before this discovery, nearly 90% of stress research was conducted
on men. They now realized that not including women in stress
research was a huge mistake: The fact that women respond to
stress differently than men has profound implications for health
research in general. It may take some time for new studies to
reveal how the hormone oxytocin encourages women to care for
children and bond with other women, as a response to stress.
This propensity in women to "tend and befriend" may
however, explain the long unanswered question, as to why women
consistently outlive men. Study after study has shown that social
ties reduce our risk of disease by lowering blood pressure,
hearth rate, and cholesterol. "There's no doubt,"
says Dr. Laura Klein, PhD, now an assistant professor of behavioral
health at Pennsylvania State University, and one of the study's
authors, "that friends are helping us live longer."
For example, researchers found that people who had no friends
increased their risk of death over a six month period. Additional
studies concluded that the more friends women had, the less
likely they were to develop physical ailments.
This is a summary of an article that was published in psychological
review: Psychol Rev 20000 Jul; 107 (3): 411-29.
HOW ARE WE HELPING?
Is the Marina Dock doing its share to nurture social friendships
and promote a healing experience? We think so. Although the
findings of the aforementioned research are definitely groundbreaking,
we, who are longstanding members of 12-step programs, have known
for years of the positive aspects of "living in the now."
A fundamental axiom of the A.A.way of living being "Together
we can do what we cannot do alone." This simple statement
is comforting in a world that can make us perpetually anxious
and confused, appearing powerless, maladaptive and inept, when
facing a crisis. Maybe someone among us is currently undergoing
some personal mind/body crisis or emergency, so why don't we
take a moment to support that anonymous person. Let's designate
June 10th, Founders Day, as a day of mindfulness, a day when
we take time out of our busy schedules, to reflect on our own,
as well as others, gifts and blessings - a moment of quietude
and gratitude, where we are for about five minutes or so, alone
with ourselves, secure in the knowledge that the Universe is
divinely arranged. Let us take this time to replace fear with
faith, and envelop our being in the exquisiteness of the blissful
now. I look forward to positive feedback from this experiment?
E-mail us at:
We, the Marina Dock,
must continue the good work, with your help of course.
Anthony T. Murray