As I was checking the headlines on my ipad’s news app, the choices on the top tool bar were U.S…. World… Politics... Business… Opinion… Health… GoodNews…… Snickering lightly to myself, “Yeah, they now have a category for that to help us feel better after reading all the others.” When I went to college I eyed a journalism major, thinking my love of writing might be used to keep others informed. I was told journalism is “a utility to empower the individual” through the coverage of background material, a presentation of the facts and a neutral explanation of the issues involved. It was also the time of the Vietnam War, Richard Nixon, the Kent state shootings, the oil embargo, to name a few, and that curriculum felt very heavy and serious on my 18 year old shoulders. I did not see myself at that time of my life as “a watchdog of society” and so chose a different course to pursue in life.
News that is open to someone’s interpretation coupled with our love of freedom of expression necessitates one to sift between fact and fancy. Furthermore, disturbing news causes pessimism, stress, anxiety and depression. Research has proven that more positive news is needed to outweigh the violence and destruction that we’re exposed to every day. Happily there is a news movement called constructive journalism. It involves presenting stories that are more solution oriented. Different from “feel good stories”, like a fireman rescuing a cat, this form of writing looks to increase understanding, not drama. Not only better for our health, it increases our attention span by keeping us from turning off and turning away. Even though journalism will always have to report on negative issues, presenting situations in a more sensitive, positive way will inspire people to take action and help. Human interest stories increase trust and hope. Together we can look for unsung heroes that inspire us and ideas that work or might work.
I got into conversation with a recent visitor to the gallery who was a teacher of statistics. He explained that statistics gather, assess and use data to provide strong evidence to calculate risk and therefore support decision making. Yet invalid assumptions or a poor application of statistical methods can lead to incorrect conclusions. I found it interesting to hear that logic and rationale, therefore, were not totally reliable.
Intuition is the other side of analytics. It is the way the brain processes, stores and then retrieves information on a subconscious level. Sometimes it is ridiculed as a pseudo science but it has been a guiding force all of our lives, revealed in our dreams, hunches and inspirational thoughts...that gut feeling.
So I decided to try my own experiment. Using a nickel, I chose heads, flipping it mindlessly four times to test statistics and probability. My assumption that there was a 50/50 chance of getting heads was proven correct as the coin landed with two heads up and two tails. Then I flipped the coin four times to test the 50/50 statistic, but this time did not flip until I was intuitively guided to the image. Two times I thought it would be heads and it was. Two times I thought it was tails and it was. My intuition in this test was not guided by the 50/50 statistic but rather a "knowingness" that popped into my mind.
Definitely not the most sophisticated test but nonetheless, I concluded we need both conscious and unconscious thought processes to help us survive in an ever-changing, uncertain environment. Logic and intuition stand at opposite sides of the crossroad. Facts found in research and combined with intuition and experience produce the most effective result. I found it comforting to know/feel there is a system available to make good choices that positively affect our lives.
I recently immersed myself in the task of making our gallery website a user-friendly site that is quickly and easily accessible to anyone searching for thought-provoking, symbolic artwork. I had put this task off for some time as the whole topic of search engine optimization (SEO) struck me as quite technical and therefore scarily complicated and daunting. I checked out “Search Engine Optimization All in One for Dummies” from the library with the notion the nuts and bolts of website maintenance would be presented in a language that could be easily grasped by a beginner (hence, my attraction to the title). When I picked up the book, it was actually 9 books in one- 737 pages. My heart skipped a beat. I had a feeling I would be renewing the checkout a couple of times unless I threw in the towel after the first week! Having made it to page 106, I skipped some topics and studied others and am pleased to see marginal improvements. Each problem I resolved, each obstacle I overcame filled me with a sense of accomplishment and a greater insight of keywords and meta descriptions.
Our world is changing so fast. It feels as if each day presents another opportunity to learn something new- through the people we encounter, through the situations that challenge us to rise to the occasion. Perhaps on some primordial level, we learn out of the necessity to adapt and prevail in order to survive. More often we are drawn to subjects that inspire us. In my case, I was perhaps less stimulated about the subject of SEO and more motivated by the websites of successful visionary artists whose popularity had been greatly enhanced through their knowledgeable use of the internet.
“We learn so that we can connect with one another’s humanity and with one another’s ideas”, said Sydney Chaffee, a humanities teacher at Codman Academy in Dorchcester, Massachusetts. “We learn so that we can grow together and become smarter as a collective. We learn so we can make the world smaller.” Thus, we are all microcosms in our personal laboratories taking courses in the grand university of life on this planet. Through trial and error, we acquire knowledge. The process of assimilating and distributing enables us share our experiences, hopefully with good judgment, to enhance other people’s life journey. Just as the material sparked our interest, perhaps it will similarly ignite a curiosity slumbering in another’s mind. Important to remember, however, is Kahlil Gibran’s statement on self-knowledge: “Say not, I have found the truth,” but rather, “I have found a truth.”
About this time of year I used to ask myself, “what do you want?” Now the more pertinent question I pose is, “why do I want what I want?” Am I looking at my current state of existence from a feeling of lack based on the envy of the perceived golden life of others? Or is the question posed from the standpoint of that which I seek is a logical stepping stone in the creation of more who I sense I can become. Maybe it is a combination of both. I have come to understand it is this tension in my emotional frequencies that causes the static, a tug of war between the higher self that watches, quietly aware and fulfilled and the everyday self, constantly in motion that sifts and sorts and analyzes. Isn’t that what life is about…choosing which emotion you are going to wear today based on your current life situation? Reality can be both confusing and deceptive – a sea of nothingness or a vast ocean teeming with yet to be seen potentiality.
Through contrast, we acknowledge a state of being strikingly different from something else. Knowing what we don’t want helps us to identify what we do want. When we become a gardener of our thoughts, nurturing those of joy and gratitude and plucking those of regret and resentment, we cultivate wellness and prosperity. However, being composed of a myriad of socially imposed experiences, this is a skill that is not acquired overnight.
We make the most of ourselves first for ourselves and then for others because that is how we can give and receive the most. Possessing an indefatigable spirit, we are all heroes in the making.
I have become increasingly aware of the quality of my thoughts- overall not too bad, but still a work in progress to become more accepting, less judgmental. According to the law of attraction (which I wholeheartedly accept), each of us can create whatever we choose through our thoughts and emotions. It’s all about the attention you devote to frequency of vibration you emit.
I look at those who appear to live a life of ease, enjoying abundance with apparently minimum effort of their own. Things just appear to fall into place and even more embellishes their life. They appear to be relaxed and completely confident that everything is taken care of and will always work out for their benefit. So if this works for them, then why not for me…why not for anyone who recognizes that they too can be prosperous? For me this is the strongest proof for the law of attraction and Alfred’s favorite saying, “the more you complain, the more it will gain; the more you praise the more you will raise.” Still there is a part of me that stubbornly insists, “I’ll believe it when I see it.” Why does this doubter hide in the crevasses of my brain? Acknowledging that I, as well as Alfred and many others are in and out of enlightenment, I surround myself with the wisdom of many great minds- Napoleon Hill, Dale Carnegie, Wayne Dyer, Louise Hay, Esther Hicks- who all professed the opposite, “You’ll see it when you believe it.”
Today, in the midst of sorting through my thoughts, embracing the positive and disarming the negative, I went into a 7/11 convenience store. Behind the counter a tall, slim, dreadlocked young man with a Jamaican accent greeted me with a brilliant smile that lit up the store. After only a few short exchanged pleasantries about the fortunes of life, he said, “My grandmother always told me whatever you put out in the universe is what you get. And I believe her.” Beautifully and simply said. So I continue to structure my thoughts, actions and emotions to acknowledge that the glass is half full and getting fuller every day in every way. It’s an ongoing process just as growth, just as life. But after all is said and done, it feels good to feel good and that alone is a blessing.
Part of the responsibility of being human is to examine the circumstances of our life. Our destiny is not easily revealed, because it is too hard to comprehend, too frightening. Thus the search for enlightenment proceeds, one step at a time, revealing things that are at times unpleasant, but must be unveiled in order for us to learn and grow. Adversity provides us with opportunities to learn some tough lessons that help us to improve our life situation and to move forward.
No matter how well we plan ahead, things will not always go as planned. There will always be unexpected obstacles and setbacks along our path that appear to completely derail our efforts. However, self-awareness can be a valuable tool for guidance. When we focus on what is happening right in this very moment we can actually do something. As things happen only in the current moment, we can apply the lessons we have learned in the past without dwelling in the blame and the pain. We can strive toward our goals (our dreams) without shackling ourselves with doubts of “what if”.
An old Chinese proverb states, “the gem cannot be polished without friction, nor man perfected without trials.” Each situation we master gives us the strength to face the next one. Even though life seems to be a continual struggle, if we take a moment, we can also remember the beautiful events. If we are able to keep our energy focused on the seed of benefit which may be found in every adversity, we will be able to appreciate the uniqueness of who we are.
* Walt Disney was fired by a newspaper editor for lack of ideas. Disney also went bankrupt several times before he built Disneyland.
* When Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone in 1876, it did not ring off the hook with calls from potential backers. After making a demonstration call, President Rutherford Hayes said, “That’s an amazing invention, but who would ever want to use one of them?”
* Wilma Rudolph was the 20th of 22 children. She was born prematurely and her survival was doubtful. When she was four years old, she contracted double pneumonia and scarlet fever which left her with a paralyzed left leg. At age nine, she removed the metal leg brace she had been dependent on and began to walk without it. By 13, she had developed a rhythmic walk, which doctors said was a miracle. That same year she decided to become a runner. She entered a race and came in last. For the next few years every race she entered she came in last. Everyone told her to quit, but she kept on running. One day she actually won a race. And then another. From then on she won every race she entered. Eventually this little girl, who was told she would never walk again, went on to win three Olympic gold medals.
Our troubles don’t define us...how we handle them does.
Given the wide array of subject matter in Alfred’s paintings, it is interesting to listen to viewers’ comments and questions and equally interesting to listen to our responses. Like a dance, we flow between offering our opinions when the need arises to speak up and remaining silent when we recognize it is more productive to shut up. Either way we impact our collective destinies realizing what is said can do significant harm or positively change someone’s world.
Communication forms a daily part of our lives. Yet constantly talking is not necessarily communicating, especially when it involves interrupting or redirecting the conversation to one’s own concerns. Stephen Covey once said, “listen with the intent to understand, not the intent to reply.” Then when we do reply, we put your words in the context of adding value and purpose to the conversation. We march to the beat of our own music without steamrolling others who are doing the same. When we discover a personal truth—whether concerning an issue in science, history, spirituality or any other subject matter—we should maintain a conviction about it, all the while recognizing our own intellectual fallibility. The pursuit of knowledge requires an open-mindedness for the world is a university and everyone is a teacher. It is not important to be right or wrong; important is how we handle ourselves in either case.
How many times has information been passed on to you that has later revealed itself as incorrect? To complicate and confuse things more, a second opinion turns out to be the exact opposite! So where do we find the truth -verifiable facts that accurately portray our reality?
Lately we hear so much about fake news. But is this a new trend? Deliberate misinformation has circulated for centuries, only it was called propaganda- Wikipedia is full of historical examples. The purpose of journalism, according to The American Press Institute , is “to provide citizens with the information they need to make the best possible decisions about their lives, their community, their societies and their governments.” It should be a professional discipline that assembles and verifies facts.
There are several credible sites we can use to recheck news stories, posts on social media and phony reviews for online products or services. Any information that have questionable URLs (.co), use low quality grammar, that get rave ratings or are not transparent about their identity are probably not reliable sources. If the news you are reading makes you really angry or really smug, this too could be a sign that the facts are not legitimate as they rely on extreme reactions to get re-shared or retold.
When we base our perception of truth on what we read or hear, we have to be cognizant and cautious not to accept anything immediately at face value. Check multiple sources when you seek advice and then run it through the filter of your own common sense. To borrow from the popular public service announcement, “the more you know” , the more you are able to discern fact from fiction. Using our basic ability to perceive with practical judgment allows us to know what to question and what to trust. Never stop questioning.
The human body requires water, not only to sustain the cells and organs that are predominantly comprised of it, but also for maintenance and lubrication as well as other purposes, such as controlling body temperature, heart rate and blood pressure. Water is also key in flushing waster and toxins from our bodies. While our bodies require a regular intake of water, it is also important to be aware that it is constantly leaving the body as well. We lose it whenever we breathe, sweat and use the bathroom and that water needs to be replaced. Things such as physical activity level, a person's current health and the climate in which they live as well as the weather at any given time are also factors to consider when determining an appropriate level of water consumption. Not all water intake has to be from water exclusively, however a lot of it should. About 25% of the water we get is received from the foods we eat. Fruits and vegetables are a great source, counting toward your daily intake. Adding lemon or lime or infusing it with fresh fruits or herbs, gives water a fresh taste and makes it easier to drink more.
Some warning signs of dehydration are dark urine or an inability to urinate for an extended period of time, dry mouth, fatigue, inability to produce tears, extreme thirst, headaches, dizziness or muscle cramps. Conversely, it is also dangerous to drink too much water. When excessive amounts enters the body, it dilutes the sodium in your blood which can be very harmful if it isn't replaced.
(Source: "Hydration 101" by Lindy Callahan, from Ageless, The Bulletin Special Projects, Bend, Oregon)
When life flows smoothly, we think we have achieved a state of inner peace. Our relationships are harmonious, the bills are all paid and there is still money in the bank, we are healthy and energized to enjoy all the pleasures just waiting to be chosen. We are happy and satisfied. Yet everyday life isn’t always like that. If we are able to remain calm and balanced during the turbulent, emotionally charged phases, than we truly live in that blissful consciousness that so many frantically search for.
Inner peace is within reach of everyone. It is not dependent on material status or popularity, on where we live, our age or our health, or any other outer circumstance. Thinking futile, anxious thoughts is a habit that can be changed. The first requirement is to become aware of the incessant chatter that creates mental chaos and then to become willing to consciously act differently. It’s almost like we have to step outside of ourselves and become the neutral observer. When we see the impact of our emotions, our dislikes, judgments and fears, have on our body, this realization liberates us from the attack/defense mechanisms that we let control us. In doing so, we begin to understand that we are someone of much greater intelligence than the discordant energy that is rocking our vessels. Thus, it becomes a great asset to be able to silence the mind.
Our life is shaped according to our thoughts and the field of possibilities is immeasurable! The present moment is all we have to work with. It is our tool for transformation. When we resist what is, we energize a problem, making it even more powerful. Accepting what is, however, doesn’t mean giving up. It just means that we put ourselves in a better position to take action when necessary. Somewhat counterintuitive, when you accept what is, it loses much of its power to rob your inner peace. It just is. When we see more clearly and objectively, we can take the appropriate action to change our situation. Being able to keep oneself strong in the face of stress and discord emits a powerful frequency to which others will be attracted. With this disposition of serenity, we not only become more of who we are, but so also do they.
Alfred A. Dolezal
Eagle Crest Resort
Original Oils on Canvas
Limited Edition Series