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Life Lessons From A Combat Marine: An Interview with Natalie Shand-Spellman

Staring blankly at the computer screen, I wondered for the umpteenth time how to explain that Jennifer Garner doesn’t really work at CIA Headquarters, that her character doesn’t actually exist, and whether there couldn’t possibly be a better use of my time as an intelligence officer than answering a flood of emails from individuals clearly lacking a true grasp of reality. At twenty-nine years old, I could have most certainly used Ms. Natalie Shand-Spellman’s purpose-cising technique.

Ms. Spellman is the author of the book Drop Stress Like a Hot Potato: Transformative Stress Workbook with Life Coaching for Busy Women.

Coach Nat, as she is known, describes the book as an illustrative, transformative, life-coaching, mental health, and stress management workbook. It is for individuals who feel broken, overwhelmed, lost, confused, grief-stricken, lonely, hopeless, and helpless. In the beautifully designed book with therapeutic colors, Coach Nat guides readers through a unique stress transformation and a mental re-framing journey that will improve their mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical well-being. Also, readers will learn the strategies to discover themselves, master their emotions, manage life, overcome negative thoughts, improve their mental health, and experience growth in all areas of their life. At the end of the book, readers will know how to live their best life in harmony and balance while performing at peak levels.

Coach Nat knows something about performing at peak levels – she served in the United States Marine Corps. I asked her to tell me a story about her time in the Marines and a specific experience that shaped her personally. She went on to describe her experience in Marine Corps boot camp:

When I first got to boot camp, I was the weakest because I had difficulty assimilating to the grueling boot camp training. I struggled with the required skill training to advance in the boot camp program, and I also moved at a slower pace than my peers. My leaders wanted to teach me a lesson, so they masterminded a plan to put me in charge of the entire platoon. They assigned me this leadership position during the Crucible, which was the most intense and final test before earning the United States Marine title. It was hard work, and I had to pivot from the weakest link to one of strength. I had to quickly learn how to motivate my peers when it was tough and challenging. I dug deeper into my mental fortitude and discovered my dormant strengths. I tapped into those strengths and quickly learned to turn my other weaknesses into power. That experience taught me that I was stronger physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually than I had previously thought.

She went on to lead a small military troop in Iraq.

Natalie’s current work and her new book were shaped by this military experience. She talks about dealing with lost identity, brokenness, emotional turmoil, and ill health due to stress. I asked her to tell me more about the “lost identity”:

I dealt with a quarter-life crisis after returning home from Iraq. I once led a small military troop and had a promising military career. I had a vital mission to protect the freedom of the United States and was purpose-oriented with great patriotism to serve my country. I had excellent camaraderie amongst other Marines because we all shared the same core beliefs and values. We were sacrificial and willing to put our lives on the line for our country. On returning home, that military state of believing, being, and living was non-existent since others around me did not share my military core values and beliefs. I also felt like a fish out of water because my civilian friends and family could not truly relate to or understand my struggles. My family, as well as society, expected me to assimilate back into a culture I had left behind years prior.

Furthermore, it was more complicated because I was dealing with PTSD unbeknownst to me, and my environment significantly triggered me. I suffered in silence because no one around me understood my struggles. While I functioned superficially, I felt lost because I was no longer a leader with a purpose and a mission but rather a young woman who was once again struggling to find herself in a world where she felt misunderstood.

With today’s youth so seemingly lost, I asked Natalie about why she joined the military in her youth, and if she would recommend it to today’s youth:

The United States Army initially recruited me. I was guaranteed a two-year contract and a $50,000 sign-on bonus. Weeks later, I met the Marine Corps recruiter on my college campus who looked sharp and dignified in his official military uniform, unlike the Army recruiter. The Marine recruiter was highly skilled and sold me the Marine Corps dream with no bonus; it was also a four-year contract, not two years. The Marine Corps dream package promised intangible leadership traits like honor, courage, and commitment. Those were the skills I needed, so I forwent the bonus from the Army for the title of US Marine. I wanted strength and courage to be the best.

I believe today’s youth can benefit from some essential life skills and intangible leadership traits that the military offers. Those traits include discipline, integrity, honor, courage, commitment, perseverance, passion, and mental fortitude, which are high-performing skills for great success. Additionally, when you serve in the military, you tend to mature quicker and be more equipped to handle life’s challenges.

Military service can benefit anyone who chooses that path to success and patriotism, but if you’re not ready to join the military, Coach Nat has created something called Boot Camp for Life. Boot Camp for Life is a proprietary approach to life coaching that she developed to incorporate her military, clinical, and life coaching skills to provide a unique, transformational, intense, and result-driven experience for clients in her coaching program. This program aims to create a shortcut for individuals who want those life skills, traits, maturity, and high-level tools to handle life optimally without enduring the grueling training of the military. This way, there is hope that one can achieve purpose and mission-driven results in their life in a shorter period rather than spending years in military service.

Natalie Shand-Spellman is a great example of the crucial skill she credits the military with having given her- perseverance.

You can find more about Coach Nat at natalieshand.com.

This article was originally published on OpsLens.

My New Year’s Gift To You

What is manifestation?

If you look it up, here is the definition:

noun

noun: manifestation; plural noun: manifestations

  1. an event, action, or object that clearly shows or embodies something, especially a theory or an abstract idea.

Another more common way to describe it, in today’s world is: The word ‘manifestation’ means to create something or turn something from an idea into a reality. In psychology, manifestation generally means using our thoughts, feelings, and beliefs to bring something to our physical reality.

What if you could do something for just 15 minutes each day that would help you manifest what you wanted in your life?

Back in October of 2022, I stumbled upon something that, admittedly, I was very skeptical of at first. But I tried it, and it actually WORKS. It’s called the God Frequency.

The God Frequency is a 15 minute soundtrack that changes your thinking patterns. It uses a specific sound wave therapy method called binaural beats to retune the brain’s thinking pattern. Binaural beats have been linked to increased concentration and alertness, as well as problem solving and improved memory.

Sounds a bit kooky, right? But, if it could possibly help you it’s worth a try, isn’t it?

Here’s what happened to me within the first 4 weeks of listening to the God Frequency each day:

One of my writing clients began offering more writing jobs.

A brand new customer bought out my ENTIRE Etsy shop.

I was published in a prominent international magazine, which then brought on a referral agent agreement with a great company.

I received money from a long-forgotten class action suit.

I found some cash in the bottom of an old purse.

I received some random small amounts of money from different companies that I have purchased items from in the past, and a large discount on a product I wanted to buy for my kids.

Some online surveys came to me from out of the blue and paid me for about 5 minutes of my time.

I received ANOTHER amount of money from a long-ago class action suit.

I received not only one of my expensive makeup products – but SIX of them as a gift.

And the surprise “manifestations” just keep coming the longer I’ve been listening to it.

Everyone can use some good luck. My hope is that you try this – what do you have to lose?

Give it a try. Consider it my New Year’s gift to you.

Powerful Mind Powerful Soul: An Interview with Sheila Vaske

There it is, in the pit of my stomach.  A creeping feeling, perhaps best described as a feeling of dread, has crept over me each day from as early as I can remember.  As an adult it made the simple process of getting out the door every day to go to work an uneasy experience.  I fought through the feeling day by day and forced myself to do what I had to do to make a living.  Contradicting this feeling, I’ve always had an ability to accomplish goals that most would not have the courage to execute.  At twenty-five I moved myself, alone, across the country and established my own home and career, purely out of determination.  I’ve traveled all over the globe for months at a time, alone, sometimes staying in foreign countries where I did not speak a bit of the language.  I never stayed in a position or situation I didn’t like; I always had some innate courage that has pushed me to live what has turned out to be a very full life.  Yet this feeling of dread has been my constant companion and has even grown progressively worse since 2020.

I’ve become curious to see if other people have this feeling.  If they are familiar with the feeling, how do they combat it?  In my quest to find solutions I recently had the opportunity to interview Sheila Vaske, author of Powerful Mind Powerful Soul.  Ms. Vaske was, among other things, the creator of her own jewelry line, V’Enza.  She describes her jewelry business as being like one of her children.  She was truly guided spiritually to create the line; every piece was birthed by her, and she gave it everything she had.  Her mission and purpose of the business was to inspire and heal as many people as she could through her creations.  Unfortunately, due to many unfavorable circumstances, Ms. Vaske was forced to let the business go.  As the jewelry line was just at the point of scaling into a national brand, the COVID shut downs began.  All of the national contracts that were about to come to fruition came to a halt and Ms. Vaske lost everything.  She describes this time as one of the first in her life that she grieved.  She felt so much pain and became very angry.  She was angry about what she had lost and even angrier about what had happened to the world.  She recognized that an ugly divide had arisen and created hatred.  It took a huge toll on her physical and mental health. 

Ms. Vaske was no stranger to health problems.  At age eleven, she was diagnosed with scleroderma and told she had five years to live.  Coincidentally enough, my grandmother died of scleroderma.  If you’re not familiar with this very rare disease, the way it has been described to me is that your body turns into scar tissue from the inside out.  It is very painful, making even the slightest touch excruciating.  As an infant, I met my grandmother as she was dying in her early fifties.  It is extremely rare for a child to have this disease, and Ms. Vaske lost about eighty percent of function in her right hand and arm.  She describes the look of her arm as being as if it had been burned in a fire.  As expected, this brought on a lot of insecurities as an adolescent. 

The turning point for Ms. Vaske was when her ninth grade health teacher spoke of the power of the mind.  He said, “Whatever you give attention to has power over you”.  Ms. Vaske, who had become a case study at Boston Children’s Hospital, made the decision then and there.  She stopped all medications.  She stopped going to the hospital and visiting doctors and simply made up her mind that she would no longer give the disease her attention.  She would not feel sorry for herself and she would not let it control her. 

At that point, her mind took control and changed the trajectory of her life.  She began doing everything she could to regain her health and that included function in her hand and arm.  Within months, she had regained function of both.  People began noticing her arm not because it looked strange, but because it looked amazing.  They would compliment, instead of cringe, at the appearance of her arm.  This miraculous recovery made her realize the power of our minds.

In today’s world, where so many are struggling with depression and anxiety, I asked Ms. Vaske what her top tip would be for getting through it.  Her answer did not surprise me. 

Take time out from social media and all media in general.  Turn off the television, video games and even movies.  Get off of your phone and take ten minutes each day to reflect on you.  Pretend you live in a bubble and create your own personal space.  Make that bubble beautiful.  Stop following the crowds and pave your own personal way.  What is good for one person may not be the answer for all.  Create your light and spread it everywhere you go. 

If you share my constant companion, this feeling of dread, realize you are not alone.  The goal is not only to manage this feeling, but to get rid of it.  Stop consuming the toxins that are coming at you from all angles and face yourself.  Our young people today are the most at risk.  As Ms. Vaske so rightly points out, many of them do not use senses any more.  Of the five senses, the youth of today perhaps use one or two.  They have lost touch with their intuition because everything is done, said, and felt for them.  They are the ones who truly need the older generations’ help.  Suicides, depression, and anxiety are the real pandemic.  We can be the teachers and achieve change by example.  Perhaps this is the remedy that can at least placate my constant companion.  Maybe it can be yours too.

This article was originally published on OpsLens.

Just Make it Up!

…Archie wasn’t sure he could endure the nun with the paddle on this one.

Pushing the thought out of his mind, Archie opened his laptop and made a decision. He would just make it up. That was it. He couldn’t see traveling to the hinterland of Pakistan/Afghanistan and actually risking his life.

He felt as if he had been liberated as he started typing his cable. He had learned long ago that keeping it brief was best, especially when lying.

Upon completion, he slapped his laptop closed and felt a sense of deep accomplishment – he would still have plenty of time to visit that French restaurant he had seen.

From the latest in the Mingling in the CIA series, Archie.

I’ve Been Published in Oceanographic Magazine!

I have recently had the honor of working with international publicist Kerrin Black and the people at RanMarine Technology to highlight their water-pollution-gobbling invention, the WasteShark.

One of my articles about the WasteShark has just been published in Oceanographic Magazine! Check it out==>

An Accidental Environmentalist

What do whale sharks, robots and plastic pollution have in common?

A new plastic gobbling invention is taking a ‘bite’ out of marine pollution and making a difference in the global fight to clean oceans and waterways. Inspired by nature and created to preserve nature, the WasteShark’s design and purpose was modeled after the slow-moving, filter-feeding whale shark, one of nature’s most efficient reapers of marine biomass.

The WasteShark is an invention of Richard Hardiman, CEO of RanMarine Technology, a drone technology company based in the Netherlands. As Mr. Hardiman puts it, he invented a machine. In doing so, as his young son quite profoundly said, he created a life for his family out of his head. Mr. Hardiman took an idea that popped out of thin air into his self-described noisy mind, stepped away from his extreme dedication to procrastination, and just did it. He took action; he executed on the idea. You see, many people have great ideas, but what separates a successful idea from a passing brilliant thought that never goes anywhere is the execution…. To read more, please click here.

My piece for Oceanographic Magazine

Thailand to Pakistan via… Denmark?

Archie sat wide-eyed and frozen, like the proverbial deer in the headlights. He barely had time to respond before another officer chimed in and spouted out so much detail about some terrorist network that Archie’s head was spinning.

“Um, well Bisaam definitely wants to travel. He’s mentioned Denmark – is that something we can do? Pakistan might be a bit of a struggle for him. I mean, um, financially…” Archie trailed off.

The officers around the table exchanged looks. Henningway just bowed his head for a minute.

“Denmark?” one of the officers said, mouth hanging open in disbelief.

“But Pakistan is closer to Thailand than Denmark,” another officer stated the obvious.

“CTC has the funds. In fact we have excess funds that we have to use or they will be re-appropriated,” a portly guy who appeared to be the Group Chief chimed in, laughing. “You know, everyone wants to get in on the counter terrorism thing these days. It’s where the money’s at.”

From the latest in the Mingling in the CIA series, Archie.

Prostitutes in Phuket

Archie knew Barry, Oliver and Allen went way back, but Archie was new to the division. He put on his best kiss-up face and strode over to the group.

“Hey Arch! Did you meet any more ladyboys in Thailand?” Oliver bellowed.

Archie turned a bright shade of red. The group burst into laughter as Oliver and Allen launched into a description of Archie’s activities with prostitutes in Phuket. It was a literal blow-by-blow of events in which Archie could not even remember participating. Besides the lurking dread he felt upon the sudden realization that he had possibly slept with a Thai transvestite, he felt he could almost die of embarrassment.

How could they bring this up in front of the Chief?!

From the latest in the Mingling in the CIA series, Archie.

The Secret to Happiness- My Inner Thongsuk

I can still hear the click-click-click of her flip-flops as she swayed down the hallway. I can see her clear as day, in her white blouse and long wrap-around Thai skirt. Early every morning she would sweep, tirelessly and somehow gracefully, every inch of the house’s teak floor. She would do the laundry, some by hand in a bucket, suds flowing down the pavement beside her while she scrubbed. She rhythmically ironed all of the clothes. She would cook fantastic meals and she would wash the dishes by hand. She seemed content and always had a joking remark at the ready. She had warm eyes, a wide smile and a wicked sense of humor. She was Thongsuk, our maid in Thailand.

All of the foreign families had maids in Thailand, and likely many of the Thai families did too. But Thongsuk was exceptional. Only as an adult do I now realize that she personified the Buddhist ideal of accepting what is. As an elementary-school-aged-child I only knew she was authentic and warm — genuine and funny.

In the afternoons I would meander out to the backyard where I would find Thongsuk. With a sideways glance and a mischievous glint in her eye she would respond, “You have eye!” to my very American greeting, “What are you doing?” Perhaps feeling low due to being deemed “too skinny” during the school day, my latest schoolgirl crush not noticing me, or any other such youthful worries, she never failed to cheer me up and put things in perspective through her presence alone.

Some days I would retreat to her kitchen and sit with her while she worked. I would happily eat the crunchy little fish that she set in front of me with their heads still intact while she bustled about getting that night’s dinner prepared for us. I was fascinated by her little altar to Buddha in her modest maid’s quarters. I felt instantly at peace when I was with her. She was inspiring at a time when I did not know what it meant to be inspired. She was my friend — I loved her.

As an adult, I find myself frequently channeling my Inner Thongsuk. I myself can be extremely restless and distracted. I am always working on a new project and don’t feel content unless I am creating and moving on to the next thing. But I have realized that the secret to being happy is to accept what is. I find peace in having no, or low expectations. I practice being present in mundane chores. I actually enjoy washing dishes by hand and cooking large meals.

This is not to say that you shouldn’t have goals and work toward accomplishing them. Thongsuk had an outside life that I knew almost nothing about. I’m sure she had her own worries, goals and struggles. But in today’s productivity-obsessed, fake-positivity-spewing world, how many people do you know who are truly happy or content? My experience is that most people in the United States seem pretty darn miserable.

Expectation is the root of all heartache. Desire is the root of all suffering. The quotations abound. That’s correct, the secret to being happy is to anticipate nothing. If restlessness, unhappiness and misery is all you have to lose, why not give it a try? You just might find your Inner Thongsuk.

This article was originally published on brainhackers.com and also on OpsLens.

Check out Europe’s leading mind coach – Karl Morris Mind Factor

Soil Life: An Interview with Aaron William Perry

Some of my earliest childhood memories are of digging in the dirt in our yard. I would spend hours digging up worms and huge rhinoceros beetles, as well as unearthing rocks and breaking them open to find beautiful glimmering crystals inside of the otherwise unimpressive-looking slabs of rock. My very first experiences were with soil, rocks and creepy-crawly living things. Perhaps I was a lonely child, or, more likely, I instinctively knew that connecting with the soil can actually help one thrive.

I recently spoke with Aaron William Perry, the founder of the Y on Earth Community. The Y on Earth Community is an action-oriented educational non-profit organization that provides curated seminars, workshops, and immersive leadership retreats, as well as a diverse array of digital and print resources dedicated to the transformation of our culture, society, and economy toward stewardship, regeneration, and sustainability. They connect the dots between personal, family, and community strategies for enhanced health and well-being on the one hand, and global strategies for stewardship, regeneration, and sustainability on the other hand. The organization serves as headquarters to a growing global network of ambassadors, and hosts the Y on Earth Community Podcast, on which notable authors, scientists, business leaders, influencers, and sustainability practitioners appear as guests.

Mr. Perry has authored several books, many of them centered on the topic of well-being. Soil features prominently in many of his books, to include a set of children’s books, one of which is aptly titled Celebrating Soil.

Mr. Perry describes five key practices for feeling better, to include more movement like yoga and walking; eating organic, natural foods; connecting with and touching the living soil in our gardens (and houseplants); connecting with wildlife and nature; and cultivating special well-being practices like meditation, aromatherapy soaks, reading books, and socializing with friends and family. I asked Mr. Perry if he had to choose one thing that the everyday, average person could do to feel better, what that one thing would be.

His choice was the fundamental importance of connecting with the soil, which, when we touch and hold it with our bare hands, causes beneficial microbiology to pass through our skin into our blood, enhancing serotonin production, helping reduce depression, anxiety, stress, and even – according to recent scientific studies – helping boost immune system function and cognitive performance. Soil is central to our experience as human beings – hence the etymological connection between our Latin-derived, English term “human” and the term “humus” for soil, also related are “humor” and “humility” both of which we could all probably use more of in our lives.

Mr. Perry explained his five core Thriving practice themes: Soil, Movement, Food, Nature, and Wele (which is the middle-English term meaning “well-being,” from which our contemporary term “wealth” originated (giving us a clue that true wealth is rooted in well-being, wholeness, and a healthful life). He emphasized the importance of connecting with plants. Whether houseplants, foods and medicinal herbs in the garden, flowers in the yard, or trees nearby, these are all living creatures who possess the alchemical power that converts sunlight into food and life-force energy, which we too often write-off as some simple scientific process called “photosynthesis”. He says that when we truly connect with, befriend, and cultivate relationships with living plants, we open our hearts, minds, and bodies to the wonders of the Viriditas of which the medieval mystic and polymath Hildegard von Bingen spoke about 900 years ago – the “gold-green healing energy of the Divine life force that flows through the plant kingdom”. Human life is impossible without the plants, and at the personal level, thriving is not likely without a deep, intimate connection with living plants.

Mr. Perry talks about ways people can “get smarter”. He covers this in his books also, as part of overall well-being is related to using your brain. His number one choice to accomplish this smarter life? Again, connecting with the soil is key. Also, slowing down, gardening, and sitting with your flower patch and/or the trees, observing, listening, relaxing, and receiving the deep A.I. – the “Authentic Intelligence” that flows through the living biosphere of our shared planet Earth. He states that this connection is our birthright and is an essential requirement for any of us who want to truly get smarter – and feel better – in our own personal lives.

Reading to increase your brain health and well-being is something I truly believe in. Read, be curious, and always strive to learn something new. It does not have to be text book reading, fiction can also help your brain grow and thrive.

Mr. Perry’s latest book Viriditas: The Great Healing Is Within Our Power, has been described as an eco-thriller and a novel that makes serious topics fun to read.

This article was originally published on OpsLens.