In Memory of Maggie

(I wrote this piece about one of my favorite canine companions in late November of 1999, almost exactly twenty years before my beloved wife Ellen passed away.)

One hot afternoon in the late summer of 1999 before I became self-employed, I stepped outside the building where I worked at the time to get some fresh but humid air in my lungs after a long stretch of being hunched over a computer keyboard.

Curled up in a nasty, dirty ball of old white fur at one side of the double doors of the back end of the building was one of the sorriest-looking dogs I’d seen in my 51 years on this planet.

I have lousy vision, but I didn’t even have to squint through my coke-bottle lenses to see more fleas hopping on that old dog than kids at Disney World. I suspect the fleas were having a better time, too, because they didn’t have to stand in line for a ride or for something to eat.

I have to confess something before getting further into this story.

Although our house is always full of pets, I’m not the world’s greatest animal lover.

Yes, I tend to get attached to them when they end up living with us, but I usually go out of my way to not add to our always over-crowded shelter for homeless critters.

On the other hand, my wife Ellen is an animal magnet who attracts stray cats and dogs the way succulent buds attract bees. For her, we could always find room and food for one more guest.

Before we had kids, at one point in our marriage, Ellen fed, counseled, and cared for eleven different stray cats, three of whom eventually made the cut and remained as in-house pets, one of which we still have. Her name is Daisy, and she’s neurotic, and that’s another story.

So, anyway, there I am, squatting in front of this smelly old pile of white fur, trying to decide if I should poke through the fleas to see if anything was still living amidst the bones.

I’m thinking at the time, “Chet, if it’s alive you’re going to have to take it home to Ellen. And if you do that, you’re going to have two stray dogs at Casa Day as well as two live-in stray cats as well as the neighborhood felines and canines that park outside the house all day and half the night. Do you really want to complicate your life even more?”

I sighed, gave into the inevitable, and poked the pile of fur.

Lo and behold, from somewhere inside the mess a body and face uncurled, with dark black eyes clouded with cataracts. Old white terrier ears perked up, and an old dog cocked her head and melted my heart.

Thus did I meet Maggie, and I immediately named her Old Dog.

Inquiring around the building I learned Old Dog had been hanging around for days and that a couple of people had been feeding her and giving her water. Everyone believed her to be between owners. “You better give her a home,” someone advised, “before she disappears. Stray dogs have a way of disappearing around this neighborhood.”

I understand that’s a problem in parts of China, too, where dog is considered a delicacy. Tastes like chicken, I’m told, though I don’t know this to be a fact. But that’s another story too.

Anyway, realizing I was letting myself in for yet another animal adventure that I could probably just as well do without, I bundled Old Dog in my arms and carried her to my car.

Hauling that mutt, I looked like Pig Pen with dirt and fleas falling off me all over the place.

I mean, seriously, if we’d had access to her permanent record, we would have discovered that Old Dog had been given her last bath in 1993.

So I brought Old Dog home and after setting fire to the car to clean out the fleas and germs, I carried her to the back yard and plopped her down by the hose.

She kind of grinned, though it wasn’t a pretty sight, what with all the missing teeth and yellow stumps and bad breath.

I gave Old Dog three shampooings and rinses in a row.

I had to scoop a mound of dead fleas out of the way to work on her paws, but I finally got her cleaned up and more-or-less presentable.

She’d been on such a bad diet for so long her fur felt like brillo pads.

Even cleaned up, Old Dog didn’t have much going for her.

She could barely walk, she was just about blind from cataracts, and she was deaf as a dumpster. If you weren’t standing right in front of her, you just couldn’t get her attention unless you clapped your hands as hard as you could. Then she’d eventually turn around, though sometimes it took seven or eight minutes.

My wife took to Old Dog like hot pepper sauce takes to red beans and rice, and she promptly informed me her name would be Maggie.

As those married for more than 25 years are apt to do, we argued about names for four days before I finally capitulated.

And that’s how Old Dog became Maggie.

We really didn’t think Maggie would survive more than a couple of days. She was starving, she was half blind, she was totally deaf, and her back legs gave way under her more often than not, and she’d fall over and then pick herself back up.

But we put her on a healthy diet with plenty of love, super green drinks, probiotics, and digestive enzymes, and, happily, over the next couple of weeks she came back to life. The vet figured she was anywhere from 16 to 109 years of age.

Well, Maggie turned out to be some kind of dog. Even though she slept 22 or 23 out of every 24 hours, when she was awake, she was a joy to behold.

I remember taking her outside to do her business during cold winter mornings. She’d perk up those old terrier ears of hers and then she’d suddenly flash on a memory of her youth, and those back legs would start pumping, both kicking backward at the same time, and she’d race the length of the driveway before stopping to rest.

It sounds nuts, but Maggie was so graceful during those bursts of speed she reminded me of Secretariat, the most beautiful racing horse in my memory palace.

I remember how she’d drive the cats crazy, how she loved to sneak into the kitchen to eat neurotic Daisy’s food all the time. It drove Daisy so batty she took to peeing on the bookcases for awhile, but that’s another story too.

I remember how Maggie always wanted to sleep on one part of the couch if any of us were down in the den watching the idiot box. On rare occasions she’d get up and stretch and walk over and crawl into my lap. Petting Maggie was like stroking a porcupine. Even adding a good oil with plenty of essential fatty acids to her diet, we never did soften down her dried up fur.

I remember how Maggie would clatter with old terrier feet on the kitchen floor when she felt good, and how she’d kind of drag herself up the stairs, suffering in silence, when she was having a bad spell.

Maggie could sneeze like a champion, and my sons nicknamed her Sonic Sneeze, and we called her that sometimes when my wife wasn’t listening.

I remember how she’d do everything but leap over the car to get in with us if we were going somewhere.

Gosh, I can remember almost everything about Maggie’s year with us, and that amazes me since now that I’m hunkered down in middle age half the time I can’t even recall my zip code.

But today, most vividly, I remember two Fridays ago when I came home to learn Maggie had been hit by a car when she was sniffing in the street in front of our house.

Two Fridays ago I found Maggie where my wife had put her in the backyard.

There she was, as still as cold stone, and still one of the sorriest-looking dogs I had ever seen.

She was dead, and I broke down and bawled like a baby.

I couldn’t touch her at that point.

I had to walk around the house a couple of times, choking off tears and letting tears flow.

I eventually made it to the garage and pulled out the shovels and went to the woods behind our house and dug her a good grave, with hard, square edges, just as symmetrical as could be.

I wrapped my old dog in a couple of towels and put her in a cardboard box, and lowered her in the hole, and covered the hole with earth and leaves.

I stood over her grave and cried some more and finally managed to speak my heart to her when I said, “Gosh, you were a good old dog, and I’m going to miss you a lot.”

Then I closed off my tears before going into the house to try to do the things we all must do when death comes to visit.

It’s been a couple of weeks now, and I still miss Maggie a lot, and I know I always will.

Oh sure, talking about her helps layer over some of the grief, and meditating and accepting her death helps some, and praying helps some, and writing about her helps some. But, you know, so far the only consolation that really helps is that I expect to meet Maggie again when I pass on.

On that happy day she’ll gallop toward me, her back feet kicking at the same time like Secretariat in his prime, and Maggie, an old dog no more, will leap into my arms, almost knocking me over with the joy of our reunion.

What a grand old time we’ll have on that day.

How to Beat Insomnia Naturally

It’s bedtime, and you’re tired so you go hit the sack.

You invite sleep by closing your eyes, but sleep ignores your invitation. You toss from left to right and then from right to left, sit up and drink some water and again try your best to get to sleep, but all your efforts fail.

If this happens once or only occasionally, on certain bad days, for instance, you most likely have nothing to worry about. However, if sleeplessness haunts you on a regular basis, you may have a sleep disorder called insomnia.

Insomnia has various causes. It can result from fear, anxiety, stress, or depression. The side effects of some medications interfere with sleep. Mental or physical exhaustion or pain can also cause insomnia. Insomnia can be transient, acute, or chronic, depending upon its severity.

Hundreds of thousands of people pop sleep-inducing prescription drugs and sedatives at bedtime to help get a good night’s sleep. The most common drugs prescribed for insomnia are benzodiazepines. The problem with these drugs is that they become addictive, if used over a long period. There are of course non-benzodiazepine drugs, but these may also cause dependence, both psychological and physical, if used continuously.

In addition, there are quite a few non-prescription sleep-inducing drugs and herbs which are used as sedatives.

Some people resort to alcohol as a sedative, but their sleep will not be of the quality desired. And alcohol consumption is not without its side effects and hangover problems.

Happily, you can overcome insomnia without drugs or pills. Cognitive behavioral therapy has been found quite effective in reducing the problem in many people. This kind of therapy attempts to correct the distortions or unrealistic ways of thinking which appear to be the underlying cause for various types of fear, anxiety, depression or stress, which in turn contribute to insomnia in many cases.

Traditional Insomnia Tips

People have traditionally used various methods for beating insomnia without pills and drugs. Here are some tips you can use to dial down any insomnia issues you may have…

  • Drink a glass of warm milk before bedtime. Warm milk contains a natural sedative called tryptophan.
  • Adding honey to warm milk will help the body absorb tryptophan faster and will also produce a quicker sedative effect.
  • Try taking a hot water bath in the evening just before going to bed.
  • Natural nutritional factors in pomegranates will help induce sleep, so try eating one a half hour before heading off to bed.
  • Aromatherapy and listening to soft, slow, lilting music are quite effective in producing an atmosphere conducive for sleep.
  • Meditation and other mind relaxation techniques are often found to be extremely helpful in this regard.
  • Similarly, insomniacs can also try Tai chi, yoga, or acupuncture.
  • Avoid stimulants at night. That means no tea or coffee or soft drinks after five p.m. because these drinks contain caffeine that can disrupt sleep.
  • Avoid smoking in the night, a couple of hours before your sleeping time. If you can quit smoking for good – all the better.
  • Lifestyle changes that help you sleep well are your best bet for beating insomnia.

Embrace Fear and Let Go

Before I started using brainwave audio technologies, I estimate I hadn’t recalled much more than tiny snippets of a dream in, gosh, at least ten years and probably many more than that.

One of the things I liked immediately when I began creating and using brainwave entrainment meditation MP3s was that I started sleeping as soundly as a puddle of snoozing cat and dreaming vividly and often. For the first time in years I could clearly recall in the mornings my imaginings of the nights before.

Well, soon after I started using brainwave entrainment on a daily basis, I dreamed that I was in the atrium of a large bank-like building, the front of which had huge plate glass windows. Granite columns rose from the polished floor to the top of the atrium, some four stories above my head.

I was walking through this atrium, minding my own business, when a man suddenly ran past, shouting, “The storm’s coming, the storm’s coming. It’s headed right for us!”

He evaporated from my sight as only dream people can do.

I walked toward the plate glass windows, looked outside, and, sure enough, a terrible storm was headed right for the building, a perfect storm with tornadoes, hurricane force winds, lightning, and pounding rain.

I started to run as fast as I could toward the interior of the building, but then a voice screamed, “We’re all going to die!”

I looked back and, yes, the tornado’s winds were driving uprooted trees and debris straight toward the plate glass windows.

I could feel myself panicking, sweating, shaking with fear, going zero at the bone.

I collapsed to the smooth, polished floor, worrying furiously about what I could do to protect myself. For lack of anything better, I crawled to one of the granite columns and then wrapped my arms around it even though I knew the force of the terrible winds would laugh at my feeble hold on safety and easily toss me about like an egg shell.

My eyes squeezed shut to avoid the glass fragments and flesh-piercing slivers that would be headed my way any second now.

I felt fear flooding through my veins.

My heart pounded as I clutched onto that column for dear life.

Suddenly, totally immersed in this dream, for no conscious reason, I calmly took a deep breath, opened my eyes, totally accepted the storm, and then watched in calm fascination as glass and trees and street signs and driving rain and other storm stuff flew past me, leaving me untouched, calm, relaxed, and utterly at peace.

Seconds later, I woke up, happy, smiling, almost in tears because of the wonderful experience of completely letting go.

For the first time since 1980, when something similar happened to me while doing a Zen breath-counting meditation, I felt completely at one with everything in the world — the good and the bad, the beautiful and the ugly, the violent and the peaceful.

It’s been many years now since I had that dream experience, but I still reflect on it several times a week to remind myself of the way I’m prone to attach to things I really don’t have to attach to and fear things I really don’t have to fear.

As a result of what I experienced while clutching the granite column in my dream, I’ve become a better witness of what I say and do — an observer who can now better embrace the still calm around which the storms of life swirl, bluster, and blow.

The Diced Diet

Let’s start 2021 off right with a detox diet that’s easy and fun to do… and it tastes great, too.

Many years ago, an Englishman named Basil Shackleton included in his terrific book on The Grape Cure a health-generating meal replacement he called The Diced Diet.

Below you’ll find complete details for his Diced Diet, which is, simply put, a recipe for one meal a day that you can use to cleanse and rejuvenate your body.

The Diced Diet
by Basil Shackleton

After I had bought my farm in the Cape and before discovering the grape treatment, I made a number of experiments with raw foodstuffs to enable me to survive.

The Diced Diet, given below, is my most successful discovery next to the grape diet.

The Diced Diet is invaluable as a whole meal, lunch, or dinner, though preferably the latter. It has remarkable healing and cleansing properties, and will, if eaten regularly as a main meal during the day, actually cure rheumatism and skin rashes, and it is a guaranteed cure for constipation.

If the Diced Diet is eaten at least during five days of the week, it is impossible to be constipated, unless there is a structure in the intestines.

The ingredients of the diet are well balanced, and the whole can be considered a perfect food.

Ingredients

2 ounces of well-washed organic raisins
One medium-sized Granny Smith apple
One ripe and well-washed tomato
Two ounces sweet milk cheese (Gouda)
Two ounces dry-roasted peanuts (no oils, fats, or salt)
The juice of half a fresh, ripe lemon
The seventh ingredient is your saliva

Method of Preparation

After washing the raisins several times in hot water, place them in a cup and allow to soak in really hot water for about ten minutes.

Then squeeze the juice of the lemon into another cup and add the raisins after they have been drained of water. This may be left for twenty minutes to half an hour. The lemon juice should just cover the raisins.

Wash the tomato, cut into small pieces, and place in a bowl.

Cut the cheese into small pieces and place in the bowl with tomato.

Then throw the peanuts into the bowl, finally adding the raisins and lemon juice.

Stir thoroughly and the food is ready for consumption. In fact, it should be eaten within fifteen minutes of preparation otherwise it begins to lose its own vitality!

Now find yourself a comfortable chair and relax with a little reading matter and your feet up if necessary because it takes at least half an hour to thoroughly masticate and swallow the food.

Remember that saliva is a very important ingredient!

If possible make the Diced Diet your evening meal, your dinner, and don’t drink any liquids until two hours have elapsed after the meal.

After a week of this food as your main meal of the day, you will feel completely revitalized, especially if you cut down on other foods and leave out meat altogether during that week.

The various ingredients can be adjusted to suit individual tastes, but no other ingredient may be added or taken away. The sweetness of the diet is controlled by the time allowed for the raisins to soak in the lemon juice. The longer the soak, the sweeter the juice.

And that, Dear Reader, is Basil Shackleton’s remarkable Diced Diet.

I’ll see you again next Tuesday with another natural health tip you can use to improve your physical well-being.

An “I Am” Meditation

For this week’s meditation, we turn to Chogyam Trungpa, who teaches:

No one can turn you completely upside down and inside out. You must accept yourself as you are, instead of as you would like to be, which means giving up self-deception and wishful thinking.

During the coming week, work on accepting yourself (and the time and space you’re currently living in) as you are and as it is, warts and all.

Once you’ve settled into a comfortable position, slowly and consciously inhale and exhale three deep breaths. With each successive breath, note how you become more aware of both your mind and body.

Now that you’re relaxed from the three deep breaths and in a comfortable physical position, let’s begin the “I Am” meditation.

This technique is very simple.

First, slowly breathe in, mentally thinking I, pause for several seconds as you complete the inhalation, and then slowly breath out, thinking AM. Again, pause for several seconds as you complete exhaling.

Note the space, quiet, and calm that always exists in every pause between breaths.

Repeat this simple meditation for at least five minutes, slowly adding more time as your practice deepens or if you’re feeling anxious.

I Am is one of the world’s simplest and yet most profound meditation techniques.

When you accept yourself as I Am, you give up self-deception and wishful thinking and attain freedom, peace, and bliss.

I’ll see you again next Monday morning with another simple meditation you can use to improve your life and sense of well being.

Brainwave Entrainment

In this section of my blog, I’ll have download links, as well as separate posts describing the various brainwave entrainment MP3s I’ve created over the years.

Natural Health

In this section of my blog, I’ll share everything I’ve learned about natural health since 1993 when I first started writing about the subject online.