Gemma 'Coco' Dolenz  

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By cocodolenz, Aug 3 2015 01:00AM

Let’s say we meet a friend one afternoon and we say ‘Hi” How are you? And they reply. “I have such problems” You might question whether it was a good idea to ask them how they were in the first place. So you might say, “well how are you right now? I don’t see your problems.” They may then say, “well yes, I’m fine, but my problems are a burden.” I suggest that when we look to the cause and cure of human problems, we look not to the experience that caused the problem. We look to our reaction to that experience. What happened to us is important, true. But not as important as our response or reactions to the experiences.

One person may find themselves out of employment and they might say, “This is a great problem. I am troubled by this.” Someone else might come along and say “Well what an opportunity I have. I have been waiting to get free from this awful job. Now I can go out and do what I want to do and I am going to do it. “And they do. This is an example of the difference in reaction. And our reaction is the key as to whether we are going to be burdened with problems and elicit a type of response that will cause us to enter into despair or if our reaction is of a constructive nature, we turn it to our advantage and move on.

In the first scenario, we can anticipate great difficulties, and our anxiety conditions our reaction, as we react to things that have not yet happened. And these, are the greatest burdens of all. These are the greatest troubles of all. These are the things that will drive a person down in their attitudes of life. These are the things that seem to pull the rug out from under us emotionally and we find ourselves sinking deeper and deeper into a state of emotional depression. Not because of what ‘has’ happened, but because of what we think ‘might’ happen.

Interestingly enough, our anxiety seems to project itself and we end up doing exactly what we don’t want to do. We make the errors, stub the toes, suffer the various aches and pains, all because of our reaction to what we think ‘might’ take place. It’s like a self- fulfilling prophecy. It has been found that this physical anatomy of ours, this nervous system of ours, does not distinguish between that which is real and that which is imagined. Our feelings, our reactions about what has happened or that which we think ‘might’ happen is just as effective and just as debilitating, just as detrimental (or just as vitalizing) as if the occasion were real.

We know that exercise does it, but did you know when you and I are in a happy mood, which is just the thoughts we are currently having about something, endorphines rush through our body making us feel better. Find more reasons to laugh. It's an everyday, immediate way to give yourself an endorphin rush. The act of laughing stimulates the production of endorphins and helps you feel good instantly. Laughter helps to relieve stress and has many other physical and emotional benefits.

What does all this have to do with problems? Well I have found that answers & solutions to a problem (challenge) come easier to me when I am in a positive more receptive frame of mind. Doesn't matter how I got there. So the cause of problems? - Our reaction to experiences, our thoughts. The cure? - Choosing a different reaction - different thoughts. Simple, but not necessarily easy. But well worth experimenting with. Till Next time.... Namaste

By cocodolenz, Jul 30 2015 10:33PM

My mom used to say to us kids, “go out and play” to get us out of the house when we were making too much noise, or just being ‘under her feet’. When we did we always found something to do; ride bikes, play tag or statues on the front lawn with friends or go to the park. Today play might look a little different like reading that new book sitting by your bed, making art, listening to music, watching that movie you’ve been anxious to see, or browsing Netflix and finding a gem.

These days, it seems harder to give ourselves permission to ‘go out and play. “Oh, I’m way too busy for that. I’ve got too many things to do, after all there’s so many things to consider, and to understand and sort out in my mind, before I can ‘play’. There’s all those conversations with people at work I need to have (in my head), and my ‘to do list’, and fix the broken leg on the piano and I have all these problems I have to solve, and____________________ (you get the idea). I must do these first ‘before’ I can allow myself the luxury of ‘playtime’. “ Rubbish- Nonsense-Baloney!

So I decided to try an experiment. I wanted to find out what would happen if I just dropped all the mind chatter, the shoulding on myself and briefly walked away from it all. I admit at first I felt a bit guilty, but I soon felt lighter, unstuck, and funny enough, even bodily aches and pains let up. My world did not come crashing to a fiery end. Hmmmmm… Interesting. And the multitude of ‘to do’s and ‘problems’’? Yes, they were there when I got back yet oddly enough some of them evaporated while I was playing. I was able to come back to the rest of the day, refreshed and re-energized.

I am reminded of something his Holiness the Dali Lama said:

“If a problem is fixable, if a situation is such that you can do something about it,

Then there is no need to worry.

If it's not fixable, then there is no help in worrying.

There is no benefit in worrying whatsoever.”

― Dalai Lama XIV

That about sums it up. Simple. During my short ‘playtime’, just a few hours, I stopped working on my problems, and I felt an inner centeredness and remembered afterwards that I may ‘have’ problems (or challenges, as I choose to call them) but I am not them. I am whole and complete in and of myself. Namaste.

By cocodolenz, May 17 2015 06:18AM

Earlier this month I had the honor of officiating at my nieces wedding. We stayed in a lovely B& B in the Virginia countryside called Field Stone Farm.

The Bed & Breakfast had gardens which were absolutely beautiful. Sloping gently up the hill in back of the 1770 farm house were various beds, connected by pathways of green lawn. Lilac trees in full bloom were spotted around the area, and in the beds were tulips, blue bells, daffodils, geraniums and more, all at different phases of growth and bloom, working together in harmony creating eye candy beyond description. A half dozen of huge, of hat I was told were white rhododendrons flanked the patio flag stone wall with buds the size of walnuts ready to shortly burst into bloom. Various planters sat around the area alone and in groups, planted with blooming flowers and vines, spilling over with color and texture. Around the corner was the garden gate with a rustic wooden plaque which fittingly said ‘Garden Gate’. Inside the gate large beds were eagerly waiting to be planted, lying ready to receive seeds in the warm May sun.

As I walked around the grounds, it was obvious that this garden with its abundant foliage had been well thought out by its curator to make sure that there was always something in full bloom. The tulips were spent, with a few petals fallen on the ground. Daffodils which had been in full bloom early in the month, were now stalks waiting for next year, as they added nutrients to the soil. The Bluebells were profuse as were various other flowers, which I can’t name, filling the beds with their leaves, flowers and scents, of different sizes and shapes. Then there were the old trees overlooking the grounds as sentries might do, silently surveying all they watched over.

The wedding party was small, some 40 guests who came from all parts of the world to celebrate the marriage of the bride and groom. Close childhood friends, college friends, colleagues, parents and siblings. I was fortunate to preside over the beautiful ceremony which had been carefully crafted by myself, the bride and the groom to be deeply personal and meaningful to them.

Over the course of the weekend, we enjoyed a pre-wedding Bar-B-Q at the B&B, then the wedding ceremony the next day with a reception to follow, dinner and dancing, an after party late into the night and the next evening a bon fire complete with roasted marshmallows under the clear Virginia sky. On the way home I got to thinking about the people I met and the sometimes deep discussions and conversations I had over the three days. The majority of the guests were thirty somethings with highly active careers which brought them to all points of the globe. I met physicists, members of the State Department and the Foreign Service involved in not only life changing but sometimes dangerous work, teachers and retired medical professionals, steel workers, business owners, actors, writers, woodworkers, and artists. The happy proud parents were there, as were assorted siblings. This multifaceted garden of people surrounded the couple with one thing in common; their love and support of the bride and groom. Each with their stories, connections, and individual presence adding to the joy of the occasion.

I was amazed at the energy this group of young people had. They all obviously work very hard and they play hard as well. Three of the couples were expecting within weeks, but it did not stop them from dancing the night away till I thought we were going to be celebrating a few births as well as a wedding. I thought about the white rhododendrons back at the B&B. Their buds ready to unfold, ripe with potential just waiting for their ‘time’ to open and become fully realized. As I write this, they, the flowers and the couples have more than likely given birth.

There were those of us who watched the festivities from the sidelines. Content to leave the dancing to others. I sat. Watched. Listened. Remembered. Remembered my earlier days, when my busy days were packed with work, hobbies and raising children. All of my ‘petals’ in tack and full of color. I sat there enjoying the present moment and the richness of my remembering and the gratitude I have for where I am now, savoring every moment. I watched these intelligent and fascinating young couples full of energy, in the thick of things, making a difference in their fields and thought about the garden back at the B&B, the bluebells, young and fresh, the Queen Ann’s lace strong and proud, the lilac trees full with their lavender scented blossoms. Smaller groupings emerged as old friends gathered to tell stories and re-connect with each other. I saw those of us who were single and few of words, exuding warmth and grace in their smiling eyes as they silently watched over the group. Strong and steady.

Yes, the garden with its contents in differing phases of development and our little wedding party were very much the same. Each a beautiful expression of the life force in action. A perfect out picturing of the circle of life as it continues to unfold, always in the midst of changing. Each stage necessary. Each stage complimenting the previous and the ones to come as they bring their own texture, fragrance and color to this garden we call life.

By cocodolenz, Mar 24 2015 05:11AM


I was thinking about a conversation I had recently with a dear friend who shared with me how much she missed her mother who had passed away last year. She told me about the moments when she missed her mom so much that she found herself in such a dark place. I know too well about those 'moments'. I suggested that instead of denying, fighting or trying to avoid the darkness surrounding, the ‘what is” that we are dealing with to try instead of becoming ‘mindful’. We can pull ourselves out of the darkness by consciously bringing in the light.

We can accept the fact that ‘what is’ is sad, however, mindfulness lets us ‘be’ with that feeling in a new way - by experiencing the present moment. We all have those dark moments; I’ve heard it said that they come with the privilege of living in a human skin. I like that thought, it helps to remember that, yes, we re human with all its variety of emotions and experiences. But, we don’t have to let that darkness consume us.

Light traditionally has symbolized the presence of Spirit, the true Self, Infinite Intelligence, God or whatever you want to call it; I perceive it as the Life Force behind all creation. It is always present….. As scientists explain to us, energy changes form, but cannot be destroyed.

It doesn’t have to be a struggle - No pushing or forcing - No denying or avoiding the darkness; it’s just simply allowing the light to reveal itself and in doing so it dispels a sense of separation. We can then begin to see the moment through new eyes – eyes that see beyond the darkness.

“Thought which is built upon a realization of the Divine Presence has the power to neutralize negative thought, to erase it, just as light has the power to overcome darkness; not by combating darkness, but by being exactly what it is: LIGHT.” Dr. Ernest Holmes

Try this Mindfulness Practice – by Dennis Merritt Jones – he says to do it thoughtfully and slowly allowing yourself to open to the experience.

•Take an unlit candle with you into a dark room at home.

•Sit in the darkness for several minutes and be aware of your breathe; allow yourself to feel immersed in the darkness. Think of that dark room as how you feel inside.

•Light the candle and watch how the flame casts a gentle glow that naturally dispels the darkness, filling the room with a soft light.

•Think of the room as your interior being, and the light as a loving Infinite Presence gently filling you up.

•Finally bless what the darkness represents to you and…. Let it go.

•Surrender your grief to the light.

•Notice that you don’t have to chase the darkness away, curse it, or bargain with it – you simply have to call forward the presence of light and, in the process, the darkness fades into the nothingness from which it came.

•As you enjoy the soft light of the candle, imagine that all you have done is remember the radiant presence of love and light.

So the Practice is to remind our self that in those unavoidable moments of darkness, we just have to remember to be present in the moment and ignite the candle of our own conscious awareness of the Presence of Life, which is infinite and eternal.

By cocodolenz, Mar 3 2015 08:59PM

Here is a wonderful warming soup-stew from the Tuscany area of Italy. Ribollita means 're-boiled' or cooked again, and it does gets better if you can leave it for a couple of hours before reheating. I found the recipe at my niece Ami's home and it has become a favorite. It's one of those recipes that one can add more or less of an ingredient depending on individual preference, or exchange one for another. I used grated parmeasean instead of cheddar.

It occurs to me, that here is a perfect metaphore of our lives. Yes, I always seem to go there. There is no 'one right recipe" , we all make it up as we go. We may start with some basics, but as we go along, we add this idea and that idea and throw out ones we don't care for, add ones we like more than others, and end up with our own individual expressions. If all the 'ingredients' compliment eachother, then we have a flavor-filled hardy life which only gets better with time.

In the end, we are our own "Master Chef'.

Okay so on to the recipe. Feel free to experiment. Seasonings are up to you. I used salt, pepper, oregano, and a little Dash but all those veges really provide their own great taste.

This recipe will be included in the soon to be published DOLENZ FAMILY COOKBOOK. Look for it later this year.

RIBOLLITA - thick Tuscan soup

This recipe serves 6

Sharpen your knives - get set - go!

Ingredients -

1 onion, sliced

3 cloves of garlic, sliced

2 carrots, chopped

3 potatoes, chopped

1-2 ribs celery, chopped

1 leek, sliced

2-4 zucchini, sliced

1 can borlotti beans (or kidney or pinto)

1 can tomatoes

1 savoy cabbage, sliced

1 pould spinach or kale, chopped

1 quart bouillon/stock or water ( I used vegetarian)

3 tbs tomato paste/puree

2-4 slices stale bread or ciabatta

2 tbs parsley, chopped

grated cheddar (or parmesean)


salt and pepper

Directions -

1. Saute the onion in a large pan and when it is golden, add the garlic. Adding more oil if necessary, now put in the other vegetables except the beans, tomatoes, cabbage and spinach or kale.

2. Stir the pot, then cover and let the ingredients cook gently on a low heat for 10 minutes or so. (Chop your kale or spinach during this time.)

3. Now add the beans, tomatoes, tomato paste/puree, cabbage and spinach or kale. Pour in the bouillon/stock or water to cover the vegetables and bring to a boil. Season, then simmer for 20 minutes or until the potatoes and carrot are softening. You can partially mash the ingredients if you wish, using a potatoe masher or a wooden spoon.

4. Break the bread into the soup, ensuring it is well absorbed. Add more water or broth if necessary. Now you can leave the soup to stand a couple of hours or longer, this allows the flavors to expand and the soup ingredients to merge. Reheat gently and scatter on the parsley and grated cheese before serving.


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Here you will find whatever's been on my mind.  Maybe something about what I've been reading recently or an indepth look at 'what's trending'.  Your thoughts and comments are welcome.

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