Category Archives: spirit
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.
Jennifer 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.
Fifteen years ago on this date at about this time in the morning, I received a phone call. My mother told me my father had dropped dead of a heart attack.
I reeled upon hearing the shocking news. I sat on the family room couch in a daze.
I was home with my five-year-old daughter and two-year-old son. My daughter quickly figured out that all was not well. I pulled her close and told her the news. Without saying a word, she left the room.
A short time later she returned and handed me this picture. “Now you’ll always remember what your father looked like,” she said.
I framed the soul-laden picture and hung it on the wall in my office. It is one of the many pieces of art on our walls that holds great meaning and tells a story.
Is the art on your walls soul-laden?
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?
If you watched the video from my Friday post, this follow-up talk gives a more complete picture of the effects of vulnerability on even the most high-profile “experts.” Brené Brown talks about the repercussions of the first TED talk, and how becoming the “Vulnerability TED action figure”changed her life.
Even she, author of Daring Greatly, had not realized how she had been engineering her life to stay small.
“Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.” —Brené Brown
Click here to see her talk:
“Researcher storyteller” Brené Brown touches on some of my favourite topics in the TED talk link below.
Like many people still learning to feel comfortable with the idea that Darwin and the divine are not mutually exclusive, she had to dismantle her “If you can’t measure it, it doesn’t exist” philosophy. When she wasn’t able to beat back vulnerability and uncertainty with her measuring stick, she had a breakdown/spiritual awakening. (Funny how often those two go together.)
Her research with people who lived wholeheartedly showed four common traits:
- Courage to be imperfect.
- Compassion for others and themselves
- Connections with others made possible because they did not try to be what they thought they should be but lived authentically
- Vulnerability and a willingness to do something with no guarantees even when it was uncomfortable.
When people did not live wholeheartedly, they numbed vulnerability through shopping, food, or addiction. They tried to make the uncertain certain.
She mentions religion. At their best, religious communities show courage, compassion, connection and vulnerability. At less than their best, they try to make the uncertainties of faith and mystery certain.
If you’ve never seen her talk before, I think you’ll find it inspirational. If you have seen it before, watch it again. I think you’ll find it inspirational.
“. . . never wait for science to give us permission to do the uncommon.” ~Dr. Joe Dispenza
I took this picture on our Canadian Thanksgiving walk at Shaw Woods. It’s difficult to grasp this picture at a glance, so I’ll walk you through it. The sheer rock face to the left used to be the surface on which the tree grew. The clump of brownish tangle forming a V shape opposite it are the roots of the tree. We know the tree sustained itself for many years on that precarious and not-very-nourishing place because it grew to a substantial size. You can see the circumference of the trunk above the heads of my mother and my son. Their size gives you some perspective on the size of the tree.
The roots of the tree could not penetrate the solid rock to grow deeply, so root tendrils reached out horizontally over the slanting rock in their search for sustenance.
Such a precarious state could not endure. At some point, a storm-driven gust of wind exerted such pressure on the tree that its roots peeled away from the impenetrable stone and it toppled. Without deep roots solidly anchoring it into the ground it could not survive a storm.
We can learn lessons from this tree.
Metaphorically speaking, to survive life’s storms, people need roots entrenched deeply into solid, anchoring sustenance: faith, nurturing friendships, loving family. Sure, some can survive for a while by spreading themselves thinly over precarious and not-very-nurturing surfaces, reaching out for sustenance through such things as jobs, money or alcohol and drugs. Like the tree in the photo, some people last surprisingly long that way. But eventually a storm comes with a wind too strong to withstand: the job disappears, the money dries up or the alcohol and drugs destroy ability to function effectively. Then the shallow roots peel away and everything topples.
Are you deeply rooted and ready for a storm?