Category Archives: How do you define success?

Time to think: The power of quiet time

My friend, Jennifer, thought of me when she read a New York Times article last week: “No Time to Think” by Kate Murphy. Jennifer thought of me because I am not like the people described in the article—people who are so afraid of being alone with their thoughts they actually administer electric shocks to themselves if left alone with nothing but their thoughts for as little as 6 minutes.

postcard poem ArleneJennifer is the friend who coined the “Laughing Thinker” phrase I use as part of my bio; I take it as a compliment that she sees me as both profound and happy. I love to think. During the day when I am at home, I never turn on radios or TVs. I live in silent contemplation all day, and I love it.

During the Christmas season I work part-time at a bookstore in a shopping mall. Many of the younger solo shoppers enter our store with ear buds in both ears. I think, “They can’t even go shopping without some din in their ears?” Are they really so afraid of their own thoughts? Apparently so.

Why is this a problem? What does it matter if people shut themselves down? According to researchers, the main reason people don’t want to think too much is they don’t want to dwell on the negative or ruminate on their problems. But if we don’t allow ourselves the time to sort ourselves out, it hampers ability to empathize with others. 

Lost creativity is another cost. Murphy writes, “. . . an idle mind is a crucible for creativity.” Thinking about problems outside of reality adds new dimensions to the issue and allows for novel solutions to challenges.

Empathy and creativity melt away so many negative issues. At this time of year, it’s tempting to rush, rush, rush and party, party, party. At this time, some of the negative family, friends and financial stuff we suppress the rest of the year raises its unavoidable ugly head for us to deal with. So, at this time of year it’s more important than ever to foster thinking time.

Winnie the Pooh and Tigger were onto something: Think, think, think, and laugh a little too.

Laughing Thinkers

Laughing Thinkers

___________

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/27/sunday-review/no-time-to-think.html?utm_source=pocket&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=pockethits&_r=0

 

A good time of year to dance: Hafiz

At this time of year, many people for many different reasons contemplate God or the God-ness in our world. These two poems by Hafiz, as translated by Daniel Ladinsky in The Gift: Poems by Hafiz the Great Sufi Masterreminded my that, more than anything, for whatever reason, this time of year is good for dancing. And better dancing than fussing about details or interpretations.

The God Who Only Knows Four Words

Every

Child

Has known God.

Not the God of names,

Not the God of don’ts,

Not the God who ever does

Anything weird,

But the God who only knows four words

And keeps repeating them, saying:

“Come dance with Me.”

Come

Dance.

_________

What Should We Do About That Moon?

A wine bottle fell from a wagon
And broke open in a field.

That night one hundred beetles and all their cousins
Gathered

And did some serious binge drinking.

They even found some seed husks nearby
And began to play them like drums and whirl.
This made God very happy.

Then the “night candle” rose into the sky
And one drunk creature, laying down his instrument,
Said to his friend—for no apparent
Reason,

“What should we do about that moon?”

Seems to Hafiz
Most everyone has laid aside the music

Tackling such profoundly useless
Questions.

________

Arlene, dancing like nobody is watching.

Arlene, dancing.

Puppy rooms: Evidence the world is getting better

I know the world is getting better and better. My evidence: Puppy rooms.

My daughter brought this to my attention. It’s exam time at universities, and these institutions of higher learning have started providing therapy dogs to help students deal with stress.

Oh, how I wish such a thing were available when I was in university.

Of course, every good idea must have its detractors, and at least one columnist suggested that work is the ideal solution for extreme stress. Give that man a puppy!

This story reminded me of an entertaining TED talk video featuring Hans and Ola Rosling. These Swedish researchers discuss “How not be ignorant about the world”. At the TED conference, the Roslings asked audience members to answer with their predictions about three topics:

  • How did deaths per year from natural disaster change in the last century?
  • Women aged 30 spent how many years in school?
  • In the last 20 years the percentage of people living in extreme poverty . . . increased, stayed the same, or decreased?

The respondents tended to take a dim view of societal events.

In general, we believe everything is getting worse, we believe in a large, increasing gap between rich and poor, we believe countries need to be rich before they can improve social conditions, and we exaggerate the number of people harmed by things that scare us. But in every case the results were better than people expected and improved today over what happened in the past.

The Roslings suggest if we want to interpret the world, to “turn our intuition into strength,” we might follow their “rules of thumb” and assume that:

  • Most things improve
  • Most people are in the middle economically
  • Most countries improve their societal conditions and then benefit economically
  • The things that scare us (terrorist, shark attacks) harm few people.

My unscientific examination of the societal conditions in Canada suggest that this country is indeed a better place today than it was three decades ago. My evidence: Three decades ago my university had no puppy room; today my daughter’s university does.

I rest my case. 

___________

TED Talk: Hans and Ola Rosling –

 

 

Imperfect but authentic heroes: Daniel Alfredsson

In Ottawa, Canada where I live, one of our hockey players earned some time in the spotlight last night. Daniel Alfredsson, who played for the Ottawa Senators NHL hockey team from 1994 to 2013, soaked up a shower of adulation on the day he announced his retirement from the game.

We Ottawa Senators fans adore Alfredsson, affectionately known as Alfie. He is so good, fans of opposing teams boo him, and that’s a sure sign of high quality play. We adore him even though he left our city for a while; we adore him because he left our city for a while to stand up for his principles. We adore him even though he made occasional (very rare) missteps; we adore him because he made occasional missteps. We adore him even though he spoke the brutal truth when our team did not play well; we adore him because he spoke the brutal truth and didn’t feed the media stock soundbites.

We think we want heroes of the bulletproof variety. We expect to lose faith in them if they fail. But we don’t. We like our heroes real, and that inevitably means fallible.  Heroes that stick, the real, durable sort, gain that status because they don’t try to be heroes. They live their truths—win, lose, gain, fail—because they don’t know any other way, not to please us.

That’s what I’ll remember most about Daniel Alfredsson. I’ll remember his determined style of play, I’ll remember his last-second, save-the-day goals, and I’ll remember his role as an ambassador for mental health awareness. Most of all, I’ll remember his authenticity.

Authenticity. The word crops up around me more and more often these days. Unconventional heroes proclaim themselves in this transformational age of authenticity, and we love the real people who beam with joy once they shed a false faςade. How can we not love Ellen DeGeneres and Neil Patrick Harris? Their authenticity reassures millions of LGBT people around the world. And how can we not sigh with relief when we learn that the adorable Sean Mendes gets zits just like the rest of us?

 Be real, everybody. If you are, you’ll be a hero to someone.

2 secrets to lasting relationships: Kindness and generosity

shared-joyEver wonder why some relationships stick and others peel away? Scientific research might have some insights into this.

An article by Emily Esfahani Smith published in The Atlantic and Business Insider outlined the research of John Gottman and Robert Levenson at “The Love Lab” at the University of Washington. Gottman and Levenson watched newlyweds interact with each other and then checked in with them six years later to see where the relationships ended up.

Gottman and Levenson divided the pairs into two groups: masters and disasters. After six years, the masters still maintained stable relationships but the disasters were separated, divorced or struggling.

When observing the two groups, Gottman and Levenson noted the physiological responses. The disaster couples’ hearts beat quickly and their sweat glands activated, but the masters stayed calm. They affectionately behaved kindly to one another, even in disagreement.

The physiological reactions can be explained by the kind of “scanning” couples choose. Partners either scan their environment and their partner seeking things to appreciate and say thank you for, or they can scan looking for partners’ mistakes. Disaster couples’ bodies reacted in a way that prepared them “to attack or be attacked.”

Wanting to know more, Gottman invited 130 couples to a retreat to watch them interact. Esfahani Smith writes:

Throughout the day, partners would make requests for connection, what Gottman calls “bids.” For example, say that the husband is a bird enthusiast and notices a goldfinch fly across the yard. He might say to his wife, “Look at that beautiful bird outside!” He’s not just commenting on the bird here: he’s requesting a response from his wife—a sign of interest or support—hoping they’ll connect, however momentarily, over the bird.

The wife now has a choice. She can respond by either “turning toward” or “turning away” from her husband . . ..

Turning toward or turning away from partners affects the relationship. Disaster couples turn toward only 33 percent of the time. Masters show the kindness of turning toward 87 percent of the time.

Generosity comes into play around “shared joy.” Master couples actively celebrated the joyful news of partners. Disaster couples either ignored it or diminished it. Apparently it is just as important to be present for our partners when things are going right.

What frequency is your scanner set to? 

_______________

Read more: http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/06/happily-ever-after/372573/#ixzz3KNfwGsWO

3 important answers to 3 important questions: Tolstoy

three-questionsI shared the book The Three Questions by Jon J. Muth with my Sunday school class on Sunday. Muth took an original short story written by Leo Tolstoy and reworked it with animal characters to appeal to children.

In the book, a boy named Nikolai goes on a journey to seek answers to three BIG LIFE questions:

  1. “When is the best time to do things?”

  2. “Who is the most important one?”

  3. “What is the right thing to do?”

His steps lead him to encounters with a heron, a monkey and a dog. Each of these characters answers the questions in a way that reflects personal biases. The heron suggests the best time to do things arrives only after everything has been planned in advance. The dog believes the most important one is the one who makes the rules, and the monkey knows the right thing to do is to have fun all the time.

Not satisfied, Nikolai climbs a high mountain to seek the answers to his questions from a wise old turtle. When he reaches the top of the mountain, he finds the wise, old turtle with a shovel in his hands digging a garden. Knowing that a young boy digs much faster than an old turtle, Nikolai takes the shovel and finishes turning over the hard soil. When he is leaning on his shovel after the last shovel full of dirt, he hears a cry for help coming to him out of the windblown forest. He follows the sound and finds a panda knocked out by a fallen tree. Nikolai rescues her and takes her to the turtle’s house to get warm. When the panda wakes up, she asks, “Where is my child?” Alarmed, Nikolai runs back to the forest where he finds the baby panda, shivering and alone.

Before Nikolai departs, he and the wise old turtle reflect on the answers the boy has found to his three questions.

  1. “There is only one important time, and that time is now.”

  2. “The most important one is always the one you are with.”

  3. “The most important thing is to do good for the one who is standing at your side.”

Muth concludes: “For these, my dear boy, are the answers to what is most important in the world.”

Tolstoy sure was one wise old turtle.

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