Tag Archives: change

Natural Remedies for You?

3 Nov
selective focus photography of person touching green leafed plant

Photo by Alan Cabello on Pexels.com

Natural Remedies for You?

By Kathy Custren


Nature Holds the Key to Wellness

Are you sick and tired of being sick and tired? For many of us, it takes this type of an extreme stance to start looking at wellness options. Perhaps our journey consists of seeing various doctors or taking a variety of medications to help gain a healthier body balance for what ails us. Beyond anything we may attempt with help of experts, one of the easier connections we may make on our own is to dive into nature.

How does someone know if a natural remedy will work? True enough, or we might say ‘naturally,’ there are many options when it comes to natural remedies. Each key to wellness comes with its own measure of efficacy. This may sound vague compared to ‘take this pill for two weeks and check back.’ However, the concept is quite the same; in fact, natural or easy remedies may be our first instinct when imbalance or illness first occurs.

It may be our first inclination to find home-based remedies or cures that come from other family members. If something works for one family member, it may also be effective for another. Sometimes, we also just need to be reminded that our human body itself operates in mysterious ways. Trying to wrap our brain around a mystery can be what sends many people to experts seeking quicker answers or faster results.


Making and Taking Time for Healthy Balance

Like many modern humans, most of us drive and thrive on action, movement, and even accomplishment and competition. This onus to ‘keep going no matter what’ on the good side encourages us to give 110 percent to a project or goal. On the other hand, it also leaves us very little time when it comes to finding balance for our health.

Too many of us sacrifice rest or relaxation in our efforts to living a balanced and truly healthy life. Few of us look at our daily schedule with a novice’s eyes. We tend to cram in more into our schedule; on the go more hours of the day than not. We stress over large and small things alike without much care to the side effects. Yet, we know to look for side effects when medication we take is not helping, right? We are quite capable of telling when something just does not feel right.

What kind of natural remedies should one look for? It is obvious to state that we need to look for natural remedies that help us feel good or better than we do now. This can be especially true when one’s individual or family funds are low, and this is a process that takes time. Even people dealing with serious illnesses can find a natural remedy to help relieve some of the dis-ease that affects them. Some easy examples are:

Breathing – Yes, taking time for deep breathing alone can work wonders. Giving your body added boosts of oxygen can be calming in and of itself. Taking a few minutes to breathe mindfully can make a big difference. Give yourself the break to step away from stress just to breathe for a few minutes. Try it for a day or two as a natural remedy and see if you notice that you feel better. How often might we do this?

If someone is in a lot of pain, their physician may prescribe pain reliever to take throughout the day, every few hours. Depending on what causes the pain, the body may build up a tolerance to the medication. Someone who might try mindful breathing could take breaks a few times a day, without much disruption in what they normally do. Deep, mindful breathing is not a placebo for pain medication, but it can help us take a few moments to check in with our body and address the issue rather than gloss it over.

Walking, Indoors – Beyond breathing, taking a brief indoor walk can get our blood flowing. Being able to move and walk is something we can start with being thankful for—being mobile is often preferable to being immobile, as many people are. So, if you do not find reason enough to move for yourself, think of those who cannot and walk for them.

Just like mindful breathing, mindful indoor walking does not have to be lengthy or onerous. If you are at work, take a brief exploration. If you are home bound, check from one room to the next. Just a couple of minutes up and about can keep your body from feeling stuck. If you appreciate this aspect alone, it can translate into other areas of our life, so we might want to do this on an ‘as-needed’ basis.

Walking, Outdoors – Another good option for taking a break is to take a walk outside to truly connect with the natural world. Go find some grass, a bush, or a tree to touch. Feel the green or growing thing that exists outside, which we often just walk past without much thought. Connect with the local flora around where you live or work.

This does not have to take a lot of time, either. Footwear does help, but depending on the time of year, it is not a requirement. Connecting with nature does not have to be painful, so think about comforts you can bring with you outside, for yourself or other creatures. Bring along a crust of bread that you can break apart for the birds or a handful of nuts or seeds for squirrels. A simple walk around the building or a walk around the block can be a worthy natural remedy.

Frequency for walking outdoors may depend on many things but try not to let the weather stop you. If we find ways to truly enjoy being outside even during inclement weather, it helps us see that we can weather a storm. We can still make our way when the weather is rainy or otherwise cold and brutal. Being prepared with the right gear helps us tolerate whatever nature brings our way.


A Little Common Sense Goes a Long Way

Some of this comes with heavy dose of common sense, naturally. This is a big factor in finding wellness and natural remedies. We might get used to enjoying a nice walk outside and not have the gear. Knowing this, we can plan to find ways to “survive.” We cannot take safety for granted, so finding alternatives and planning ahead gives us an empowering way to exist.

Perhaps, if we have a wide enough net of friends, our search for support (whether it is for a listening ear or a spare umbrella) can bring us an easier answer. Allowing others to lend us a hand can also be a natural remedy or can open the door to finding other alternatives and suggestions to consider. ~ Blessings!

To Listen, Perchance to Act

24 May

To Listen, Perchance to Act

By Kathy Custren


As I sit here in the early morning, reading an article from early 2019 by Dahr Jamail on TomDispatch.com, the title becomes painfully clear: “We Can’t Undo This.”

The article on our climate crisis hits all too close to home; to the many truths felt by life around the planet; that I purposely avoid looking at the supporting articles and documentation to which Dahr links. There is no question that there really is no ‘going back,’ or little being done to reverse the train on which we ride.

I liked it much better when comedic philosopher Bill Hicks called life a ride, like a roller coaster, rather than consider this voyage through time and space as little more than a runaway train reaching the perilous end of the line.

As Dahr wraps up the article, he gently encourages readers to ‘listen to the Earth.’ To wit:

Listening While Saying Goodbye

It’s been estimated that between 150 and 200 plant, insect, bird, and mammal species are already going extinct every day. In other words, during the two and a half years I worked on my book 136,800 species may have gone extinct.

We have a finite amount of time left to coexist with significant parts of the biosphere, including glaciers, coral, and thousands of species of plants, animals, and insects. We’re going to have to learn how to say goodbye to them, part of which should involve doing everything we humanly can to save whatever is left, even knowing that the odds are stacked against us. [Emphasis added]

For me, my goodbyes will involve spending as much time as I can on the glaciers in Washington State’s Olympic National Park and North Cascades National Park near where I live, or far more modestly taking in the trees around my home on a daily basis. It’s unclear, after all, how much longer such forest areas are likely to remain fully intact. I often visit a small natural altar I’ve created amid a circle of cedar trees growing around a decomposing mother tree. In this magical spot, I grieve and express my gratitude for the life that is still here. I also go to listen.

Where do you go to listen? And what are you hearing?

For me, these days, it all begins and ends with doing my best to listen to the Earth, with trying my hardest to understand how best to serve, how to devote myself to doing everything possible for the planet, no matter the increasingly bleak prognosis for this time in human history. [Emphasis added]

Perhaps if we listen deeply enough and regularly enough, we ourselves will become the song this planet needs to hear.

Read the full version:

It is in this mode of hospice that I turn on my small desk fan, while noting the irony of reading such a powerful piece on climate disaster. Personal comfort being what it is, these gentle times of listening to our planetary home is encouraging; hopeful, even—ever hopeful.

Leaving a bit of hope for posterity is no small feat in the midst of such huge and vastly changing numbers. We can see it already, the human toll that is rising along with the rest as part of this natural culling. It is ludicrous to think that it might avoid us personally, but here we are. I have little doubt that this very situation happened before—where great change wiped away large numbers of “advanced and civilized societies”—leaving smaller, disparate numbers with which to start anew.

This brings Dahr Jamail’s plea to listen more into focus. Listening to our mother planet, seeking to ease burdens rather than adding to them, being part of the regrowth and sustainability, are all going to be very important as we move forward. And we are moving forward, there is no doubt about that.

Cosmically, we do have our protectors on the spiritual side of things; the energies of ancestors who lived and died before us. This is one less worry if anyone truly cares to look beyond the physical. Of course, we tend to ignore that whole side of our existence, except when it is most expedient to beg and plead for mercy, help, and strength. So many of us would rather gather in multitudes to hear musicians or watch cinematic manipulation than consciously address planetary change.

Few among us carry the label of leader when it comes to climate change and regenerative action. Even fewer worry about the ills of our planetary home and what might be done to save it. Perhaps the message of the conspiracy theorists has hit home…the aliens are waiting to rescue us. That must be it.


Beyond bemoaning the reality, the overwhelming discord that echoes back from the walls of our undeniable doom carries the general message of, “but the problem is so large, what can one person do?” Rather than getting one’s hands dirty, so many are very eager to simply wash their hands of the whole mess.

It is a lofty position in which to be, to be sure.

There is healing to be found in the very Earth itself; and as Dahr’s words encourage, each of us, Each. Of. Us., bears responsibility for handling our very own part of this endeavor.

The looming question beyond the climate is this:

What have “I” done today to help heal the planet?

There is much cleaning to do. ~ Blessings!

What Do You Do When the Tears Keep Falling?

7 Apr

What Do You Do When the Tears Keep Falling?

in memoriumThis title almost sounds like it could be a Country song, but seriously, what do you do? Tissues have become my new best friend since my old friend has departed this life. Gone in advance of when I ever thought he would. Bear with me while I process this pain. –Should I stop envisioning my friends as how I might wish them to be? Tsk, tsk… Checking out before turning 70 was not part of the plan.

Ray Keller - 1970sJames Ray Keller…what can I say about the man, the myth, and the legend? Honestly, he was all three to me. He is legendary because of how long I knew him; more than 40 years. I literally watched him turn from a teenager into a man; always knew him as Ray. Mythic because thanks to some odd quirk of fate across space and time we found and formed a unique kinship. He is someone I could rely on as far more than a friend. As one of the few people from my school days Ray defies definition. He was, using today’s terminology, an influencer, blazing trails as he made his way.

Record Label - courtesy of DiscogsThinking back to when I first met Ray, we were part of the Frankford High School Ambassadors of Song. He was a baritone, I was an alto, and we became fast friends. Ray had a keen interest in music, as well as many other things, but cared little of actual notation—preferring instead to write note names alphabetically and with arrows to indicate octaves. As one fortunate to learn the structure of music, Ray was a maverick to me; someone who thrived in the unexpected. Ray Keller at Queen show MGM Park Las Vegas 090218He could play piano by ear and using his personal notation taught himself to play Queen songs from the radio and records. A huge fan of Freddie Mercury, we got to see Queen in person back when they were popular, and in very much a rivalry with Kiss.

Ray was a fan of Horror while the genre was still in its relative infancy. He turned me on to the writings of Stephen King, Peter Straub, Clive Barker, and more, back when books were just about the only way to escape. Back when books were the main way to tell a story and imaginations could run. Boy, did they run….

Stephen King BooksWhen movies like “Carrie” and “Christine” eventually came out, you know we were among some of the first in line. Horror movie marathons featuring older film stars were a common occurrence in theaters and later at home, as Betamax gave way to VCRs. Fans of musicals, we also shared a common interest in “Rocky Horror Picture Show,” sneaking out to the midnight showing down on South Street. I guess you might say we kept each other in and out of trouble in varying degrees. Sometimes, drama was not limited to the silver screen.

Within the sphere of the cinema, Ray had a keen interest in special effects. I can recall the occasional evenings in his basement bedroom that included a video camera, ropes, knives, and quite a bit of stage blood. Imagine walking home after dark to explain that to your parents as a teenager. We soon kept ‘theatrical garb’ for just such occasions, so as not to draw quite as much attention; live and learn.

Family 2010Ray’s mom, Hannah, also holds a special place in my heart for letting me into her family, even though she already had another daughter with the same name. Ray had a brother and sister older than him, and three younger sisters who treated me like one of their own. I felt part of the clan, always welcome to come by anytime, sit and stay, admire their many pets, play Scrabble, or watch TV.

Roller skating was Ray’s favorite mode of transportation, when he wasn’t walking fast. As a person with much shorter legs, it was not easy keeping up with him in so many ways. But he’d grab me by the hand and off we would go. He lived with my family for a few months while still attending school, and despite the somewhat rocky road we made an interesting time of it. Ray got a job working with my mother for a little while, but he eventually had to leave a most stifling situation.

Ray was to graduate in 1977, the same year as my friend Sandy, but just missed having enough credits. This meant a stint of summer school that technically meant we graduated together in 1978. After graduation, we went different ways, sort of. We both found employment and would meet to catch up with what each other was doing. Ray holds a distinct place in my life of being the first man to ever purchase clothing for me, “just because,” an Easter outfit from a downtown shop complete with hat. What started out as ‘window shopping’ turned into something totally unexpected, as was generally the case where Ray was concerned. He was also the first person with whom I had a drink, and several.

Barbra Streisand Donna Summer Enough is EnoughWithout going into too much detail, which could fill a book or two, we were in and out of each other’s lives over the next few years. The two of us literally dancing around Center City clubs and Frankford neighborhood hangouts. Ray would get an apartment, then I would. Donna Summer was our favorite singer during the heyday of Disco, when LPs and extended singles were in fashion. Together, we would sing and dance to Donna Summer songs. When Donna teamed up with Barbra Streisand on “No More Tears” we had much fun singing parts. This eventually led to an interesting video shoot in the street outside Ray’s apartment, amid traffic no less, lip synching to “Last Dance” in full costume with mic. It was quite a hoot.

Just after 1980, while I worked as a legal secretary, Ray worked as an optician two blocks away. This meant we could ride the el back and forth together. We would compete on the ride into town to be the first to finish the crossword puzzle in the Inquirer, then the one in the Daily News on the way home, and we would check each other’s answers. If work schedules permitted, we ate lunch together many days.

Then he moved, and I moved again and met my first husband through my new neighbors. Ray stood with me during my marriage, then after a few weeks said our farewells as I traveled out of state. He was my rock just a few months later when I returned to Philly very much alone and pregnant. Ray essentially returned the favor of staying with me by generously taking me in for a few months and caring for me as my belly grew, and I slowly got back into my family’s good graces.

About a month after I moved back with my parents in 1982, he became “Uncle Ray” to WOF Vanna Patmy firstborn son. We already had such an unconventional relationship, in raising each other into young adulthood. So, it was especially meaningful when he found his soulmate in Jim Campbell. Ray found success on a trip to California, with significant winning on the TV show, “Wheel of Fortune.” I remember being invited to travel for the taping, to be part of a small cadre of friends to cheer him on, and regret being unable to make the trip. Of course, Ray rose to the top, convivial soul that he is; sorry, was. He was the big winner with over $30K that day, and I most likely still have the episode stashed away on VHS.

Marriage of Ray Keller and Jim Campbell 100998Not long after, Ray and Jim made the decision to move to California. The power of the internet took over where phone calls were once the norm. For more than 30 years, I got to eavesdrop on their lives together as much as they would share. Legally married in 2008 (hooray!) they posted many photos of their cars, dogs, Legos, friends, trips to Ikea, holiday decorating, life changes, vacations, cruises, and special trips back home to visit family. I messaged Jim more than Ray, really; and admit to being a lurker in Ray’s later years, while maintaining contact with his sisters.Ray & Jim Cruise 2018

And now Ray is gone…seven weeks shy of his 59th birthday. One of those people I could never imagine ever being out of my life. A caring soul who lived his life and touched others with such passion, artistry, and fullness. Our own existence is diminished by his passing. So, the shedding of tears happens quite readily. Once the sadness ebbs and stock in Puffs rises, the celebration of life will continue, in much the way Ray taught me many years ago. Rest peacefully; as John Holland says, ‘Your loved ones are just a thought away…,’ and this is and has been very true. Influencer that he was, no doubt Ray Keller is enthralled by his more cosmic surroundings; cheering the rest of us on from the multiverse.

The Forest for the Trees: Doing What We Do Best

16 Jun
silhouette of a man during sunset

Photo by Johannes Plenio on Pexels.com

The Forest for the Trees: Doing What We Do Best

By Kathy Custren


The Forest for the Trees

Part of what intrigues me so about The Conundrum these days is that there are people, very good people, who have such a difficult time with discernment. Oh, vision clarity is not the issue. Unlike yours truly, many can see perfectly well without the aid of corrective lenses. But somewhere along the way, one’s visual acuity or ability to process what we see is called into question. We can describe it as not being able to see the forest for the trees.

Take the issue of life—a large topic, to be sure; but there are those of us who are unable to see the fullness of life. We may have many salient points about the sanctity of life and how important it is to live a good and virtuous life. In our zeal, we hit all the important points about how miraculous and precious it all is, but at some point after that, we fall off from truly committing to the full picture. We see the tree just fine, but not the forest in which it sits. In fact, there is probably a logging project going on not that far away. Forest for the trees, forest for the trees…we struggle with borders and boundaries on a regular basis, and while we tussle over these ill-defined lines, the sand shifts under our collective feet. We are at a point in time where we cannot avoid dealing with our collective consciousness in the forest that surrounds us. –And make no mistake, the other animals in the forest are watching our every move.

Why is it that we are unlikely to equate the taking of, by way of example, a potential human life, with as much gravity as we could the life of an existing tree? Do our rose-colored glasses need that much correction? Try as many do to argue the point, “but it’s only a tree,” a life is still a life, right? We feel pressed to provide rights to one type of life over another. Perhaps this is our problem—the stigma or prejudice we assign to life itself. We hold one type of existence differently than we do another, and this is what permits any number of atrocities to take place. Welcome to our world today.


Playing God, and Other Sundry Pastimes

You see, the issue is not in condemning or annihilating the forest, but in playing god…in thinking we have the right to pave the way—whether it be for profit or some other ‘way of being.’ Ultimately, we are taking one life for another, which is the condensed version of selectivity. As imperfect as we human beings are, where do we get off (a) taking life, (b) telling others they cannot take away life, or (c) enjoying the ability to create life in the first place?

The gods of yore (read your mythology) were keen on the entertainment aspects we puny humans once provided them, and probably still do. They are just a lot quieter now with their storytelling, seeing what their folly has wrought. And while on the supernatural topic of dimension and timelessness, we must remember the concept of reincarnation/karma, which speaks to the transformation of energy and the ability we will undoubtedly get to perfect ourselves if we so choose. We are so wrapped up in the physical that we tend to forget the spiritual aspects associated with being here…the forest for the trees, yet again.

So quick are we to point, ridicule, and stigmatize others, that we cannot see the forest ourselves. The interconnectedness we share whoosh! goes over our heads. The one planetary home on which we exist has cycles and timelines much greater than our own, and rather than paying attention to that story, we would much rather inflict our own narrow view. Bottom line, when we disrespect life it has a way of coming back around to haunt us, ultimately.


Into the Mix We Go—Now What?

Our forebears tried to warn us; they have left clues if we care to take notice. But, our collective visual problems come into focus yet again. We have trouble seeing correspondences within our own age, in active and real time, let alone thinking about ‘the past.’ We tend to leave such analysis to the history books that end up being rewritten to mask the atrocity of our impact on the planet. So, we should worry about ‘the future;’ and rightfully so. There is a shifting role of ‘the bad guy’ in the story—the antagonist—that should keep all of us on our toes. No matter what name we call that character, be it the devil, monster, disease, death, or any number of labels, we fear its presence and fight to overcome it, whatever “it” may be.

This fearsome, fighting mentality leads us to assign ‘war’ to just about everything, and look at us today. We have wars against drugs, crime, terror, “the other” or “the stranger,” and the labels go on. Forest for the trees again; as we are busy fighting wars, there is much collateral damage; so much for the sanctity of life. We tell ourselves that we are fighting a war to at least provide an excuse, as we drill down even further into the personal lives of people who, for a variety of ‘personal’ reasons, would choose to not let another life be born into this existence. Data drives the human machine as much as profits when it comes to caring: health care, life care, what is the real cost of the medicine that keeps us alive or that keeps the lights on at night? Suicide numbers are actively on the rise, so the choice point becomes crystal clear to many—and can we really blame them? Can we? When it is their choice between ‘this life’ and whatever takes place on the other side?

Hypocrisy aside, can we just let these people sit with the pain and reach that conclusion for themselves? Might we at least make the idea of simple existence a little less painful; perhaps cause a little less suffering? We are talking much more than just feeling an occasional pang of anxiousness here. Our collective pain reaches the level of our collective soul and cries out for attention. When we are unable to sleep at night, all of that suffering must go somewhere. If we really wanted to make a difference on a larger scale, why not target the bomb and weapons makers that annihilate entire swathes of living things off the face of the planet? Why choose instead to make life even more miserable for one who is carrying an unborn without the means to provide for it; or who come to our shore seeking asylum from even greater terror and death? We say we want to change lives, but am I and so many others missing the forest here? What support are we giving people who are here up to the point where pregnancy and one new life becomes a larger problem for “everybody?” Where is our humanity when one more hungry mouth to feed becomes unbearable? Nature has its own way of finding balance on a variety of levels, and let’s just contemplate that one a moment, shall we?


Social Media: Processing the Horrible

There is an overarching reason why social media is so consumer-driven. When we consider that we digest more than just nourishment, we cannot ignore the use of virtual reality to process some horrible things. For all those who avoid the internet like the plague, there may be some comfort in that; if not denial. For those of us who are online throughout the day, every day, we worry about the effects of over-consumption and how it might play on us psychologically. Plato’s cave? What is real and what is an illusion?

  • Fake news (from those ‘in charge’) to distract us from horrible changes; many of us would knowingly be in the streets…911…’false flags’…missiles on the way to Hawaii – an oops with deadly results.
  • We ‘elect’ people into positions of governance but fail to direct (provide feedback to) them; instead we get on social media and share memes and thoughts, thoughts and prayers, while few of us attempt to advocate for change or—heaven forbid—actively do something.

Social media goes beyond advertisement…we are not just sharing ideas on the newest restaurant in town or our favorite recipes or sports teams…we use it to process news on all levels, local, state, national, and international. Recent storm damages, wartime skirmishes, human trafficking, and animal poaching and abuse, all find space between the photos we share of our latest meal, Suzie’s school concert, or Uncle Joe’s traveling dart team. I am grateful for the ability of social media to bring us together and share ideas, so let us use this technology wisely. We must bring about great change if we really, really want to make this world a better place.

The way we all process the most horrible parts of our existence means that, in the midst of “all” the things that assail our senses, greater numbers, greater attention, greater energies are spent in managing our time and attention. Can we spend time better by being off the virtual reality and back in the real world and work? We must deal with both the offline and online versions of ourselves—the real and the spiritual combined—and what we bring into this world. So, time and change must apply to both.


What Price, Love? The Real Cost of Our Humanity

Is it me? I grew up under the now liberal(?) Christian notion of people loving one another, being a helper, and doing what we can to make the world a better place. So, seeing overwhelming inequality and suffering mixed in a culture of war and death does not sit very well with my psyche—how about yours? We know we can do better. I come from a time, not that far from this present moment, when people were taught to be kind to each other—where bullying, graft, and greed were seen as evils and faults to eschew rather than inspirational parts of our personality. It is not an ‘ego thing’ to care about others; in fact, we might say this lack of empathy is another human failing that we must address.

It goes beyond ‘to each his own,’ and if it means taking a hard look at what we call our borders and boundaries then let’s do that—maybe it is the right time? Here in the United States, I still like to think the founding fathers had it right—we either unite as one or we die alone. We are stronger together. The natural order does have us looking at the real cost of what it means to be a human alive today, and the price is as incalculable as the unspeakable name of God. Both were once revered and sacrosanct; today, both God and life are trivialized—both subjugated to the realm of control, and quite uncomfortable to wear.

When we lose sight of the forest, we also lose sight of its value. When we lose the knowledge that unites us, we separate like a rogue cancer cell might, enveloping and annihilating the health of the surrounding area and all within it. ‘As above, so below’ comes to mind. We have a collective body of pain and trauma to address and heal, and now is as good a time as any, timeless beings that we are.

Join with me in my fervent and daily prayer: Heaven help us, until we can help ourselves and each other.


Mother, Sister, Writer, Editor, Advocate, Optimizer, Cosmic Interpreter, and Devotee of Positivity, Kathy Custren writes about The Conundrum since 2007. Connect with “Consciousness Live” on WordPress and Facebook. With united hearts, let us move humanity forward.

Conscious Quickie: Change

6 Jan

Conscious Quickie for January 6, 2017 is Change.

Here we are, almost a week into the new year, and it is a good time to be conscious of change. Many of us resolve to make various changes, so how is it going? Are we remaining conscious of the many ways change can affect us, or that we can effect change? Is there one main thing you seek to change this year? It is never too late to change, even though some people believe ‘you cannot teach an old dog new tricks.’ Change is a constant thing, as nature shows us. We can change with each breath we take, since the one we take now is different than the last. Our conscious awareness is the same way; what is true now often changes with greater understanding. Do not sweat the details, but remain aware and conscious of the little steps we can take to change every day ~ Blessings!