"I love writing.
I love the swirl and swing of words
as they tangle with human emotions."
James A. Michener
I love the swirl and swing of words
as they tangle with human emotions."
James A. Michener
I first heard the phrase, “Saving Ourselves from Ourselves” from David Houle, a globally renowned futurist who uses the phrase to explain our environmental and climate crises. These powerful words also aptly describe the deficiency/insufficiency syndrome apparent in our society. The deficiency, the lack or shortage of, refers to the dwindling respect shared in our daily activities. Political leaders and some notable influential figures in the media have slipped from being positive role models to embodying negative examples of crude behavior. This in turn results in an insufficiency, the inadequate and incomplete cohesion binding humanity today. The lack of manners, the loss of patience and a sense of entitlement has barricaded ourselves from our own truths and from the values of others, for we are all students and teachers. Although it is the tendency of people to compartmentalize thoughts and emotions into neat, tight boxes to feel safe and in control, rudeness and aggression have become the tools to do this… and it is contagious.
As times change, we have become more relaxed in our body language and with our manner of speech. Quite often we don’t look each other in the eye. It has become quite common to hear “no problem”, instead of “you’re welcome”, a response that flattens gratitude with a cold and distant feeling. People seize the freedom to say whatever they feel forgetting that at times it might be better to “bite your tongue, turn the other cheek”, forgive and let go. Choice is available to us at any time and empathy can be empowering, for self-respect and mutual respect are intertwined. Balance is important in every aspect of our lives.
Respect takes several definitions: to oneself, to family, to others, to nature, social norms, laws, race and culture. It builds feelings of trust, safety and well-being. Everyone needs to have their opinion heard for no one has the absolute truth and in doing so, allows a consideration of new ideas. Education and travel enables us to learn about the world and cultivates a thoughtful, open-mindedness. Individually and collectively we are the cause of the problems in our society. By taking responsibility for our thoughts and actions, we can also become the solution.
It is interesting to listen to customers' responses when Alfred & I ask if they might be interested in taking a drawing class. Many times, they will answer “oh no, not me…I can’t t even draw a straight line!” Our reply is, “look around you… how many things in your environment require a straight line? And for those that do, there is always a ruler!”
There is a difference between those who choose a more technical, logical field and those who power from imagination and intuition. However, there is no rigid defined boundary that separates either. Some of the most creative people in history also had an amazing logical mind, for example, Leonardo da Vinci. Interesting research shows that creative people tend to be smart yet someone with a high IQ is not necessarily an imaginative mastermind. In an article in Scientific American, Why Are Some People More Creative Than Others, Ralph Beaty suggests that the creative brain is wired differently and combines brain networks that normally don’t work together.
We are all creative to some degree. Tasks in our modern, everyday lives can use both logic and inventiveness: cooking, gardening, home renovations, making Halloween costumes... Creativity is a skill that can be acquired, but like any other skill, needs practice. Alfred has been painting over 50 years and will not hesitate to describe the stages all his paintings go through. It’s a lot of work, but also a lot of fun. One must be curious, open-minded, playful, passionate, persistent and a risk-taker, but most important be interested in the subject. Without this attraction all the above will eventually fizzle out.
Freedom of expression is a powerful motivator that tunes our overall well-being. It helps to clarify our thoughts and feelings and plants mileposts along our journey of self-discovery. Along the way, the creative experience can be a source of great joy.
Trust life to surprise you. Do you remember an extraordinary, joyful event in your life that left you exclaiming: “that was amazing…it’s a miracle!” Yet when you take time to notice and appreciate, so many miracles occur around you on a regular basis. For example, spring always follows winter, a tree can grow from a tiny seed- incredible occurrences happen every single minute without our knowledge that impact the lives of millions. Yet, the nature of life today does not often lend itself to recognizing the miracles happening around us and often to us. In the book, “Toward a Meaningful Life”, Simon Jacobson writes:
“The difference between a miracle and an act of nature is only in frequency. Imagine the sun were to rise only once in our lifetime. Everyone would rush to see it, proclaiming it the most miraculous event they had ever witnessed. But since we experience a sunrise every day, we see it as just another part of our lives.”
You are no different. Miracles are subjective depending on your own perception and your openness to their possibility. Your wishes and prayers pave the way to the portal and open the potentiality of the extraordinary. The conscious, ever-changing and evolving universe will support every belief you hold. You write the story of what you want to create and by the strength of your belief and the power of your positive expectation, draw to yourself the circumstances, conditions and people that punctuate each paragraph. With perseverance comes knowledge. You learn to get out of your own way and to step around doubt, fear and the well-meaning negative opinions of others.
Never underestimate the power of your mind once you focus your intention. In doing so the law of attraction initiates the right time and the right place for the miracle to unfold.
Who am I, anyway? Am I my resumé?”- such a poignant line from the 1987 movie, “A Chorus Line”. Dancers auditioning for a large production soon find that they not only have to share their performance abilities but also divulge the hopes, fears and experiences that have impacted their lives and career.
Since “all the world’s a stage”, each of us performs our own life’s dramas. Thoughts and emotions control our day in an endless process of evaluating, judging and labeling. But describing ourselves by our biographical data only reveals fragments of our constantly changing existence. Who we are now is most likely different from who we were ten years ago and considerably different from decades ago. With this growth hopefully comes a more mindful intention to align with a greater common good. By tapping our intuition we discover opportunities for new beginnings while focusing on nurturing our creative innovations. And there are those peaceful moments when we are able to turn the volume of the mental chatter down, sometimes off altogether, as in meditation. In doing so, we don’t cease to exist, we reach a heightened sense of awareness. We see ourselves as the viewer, the watcher.
Who we are is an ongoing process, one in which we seek directions as to how we would like to engage life. The path to self-discovery is a journey, letting go of the things holding us back while picking up strengths and values along the way.
Wilma Rudolph was once told that she would never walk again. Born prematurely on June 23, 1940, in St. Bethlehem, Tennessee, the 20th of 22 children born to dad Ed across his two marriages. Stricken with double pneumonia, scarlet fever and polio as a child, she had problems with her left leg and had to wear a brace. It was with great determination and the help of physical therapy that she was able to overcome her disabilities. In 1960, Wilma Rudolph became the first American woman to win three gold medals in track and field at a single Olympics.
The indomitable spirit enables us to tackle the impossible and never give up. People who never give up inspire others and we all need this from time to time, especially when the answers you thought you found don’t work anymore. Without courage and perseverance, hope fades away and life becomes meaningless. And would one achievement mean as much without the contrast of the effort it took to get there?
We can use our problem-solving abilities to live in harmony, not only employing our mind power but also applying our acceptance, forgiveness and compassion. It is our responsibility not only to take care of the earth but also of each other. Some Samaritans appear in the news and are widely applauded; many more make a meaningful impact without recognition. Wonder, an important aspect of human nature, thrives in a free society of individuals. It has been linked with curiosity and the drive behind intellectual exploration.
You persevere to attain a greater good punctuated by periods of relaxation, incubation, expectation and rejuvenation. When you realize that what you do does make a difference, you become more mindful in choosing the difference you want to make. And Wilma Rudolph summed it up nicely: “Never underestimate the power of dreams and the influence of the human spirit. We are all the same in this notion: the potential for greatness lies within each of us.”
Let’s face it, some days are just crummy. And for some, those days seem to last a very long time. Unhelpful thinking forms a pattern, gains momentum and attracts more of the same and thus becomes their perceived reality. In this autopilot mode, negative thoughts control how they feel and how they act. Worry, anxiety and depression soon become interspersed throughout their daily activities as the body releases more stress hormones.
Anais Nin once said: “We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.” The biggest indicator that we are out of alignment is by how we feel. Yet this chronic mental habit can be broken by consciously making a choice to stop thinking that way. Once we recognize that there are solvable and unsolvable worries, we can begin to make a choice. For example, if one negatively views himself as unhealthy because of high cholesterol or extra pounds, he can make better diet choices and exercise more. If a negative thought is beyond our control, meditation and mindfulness can be valuable tools that will provide relief through detachment. Releasing judgment, focusing on our strengths and practicing gratitude all help to raise one’s vibration and one’s spirit. Most important, it helps to know there is a higher guidance system standing by to show the way…as long as we don’t get in the way by offering thoughts of opposition.
At times I have to pull myself out of trying too hard to solve a problem to bring about a desired result. Overthinking soon initiates frustration and anxiety. Finding something good about the situation and remembering my accomplishments lessen the resistance and open up new channels of creative thought. Questioning what I can learn from an unsavory event and what I can do to evoke a better outcome or better yet, prevent it altogether, puts me back on track. Uncertainty and unpredictability will always be a part of our experience. “Worrying about the future doesn’t prevent tomorrow’s troubles, it just robs today of its strength and joy.”
I notice when I scroll through the online news headlines how much space is devoted to the latest activities of the rich and famous. The coverage devoted to Prince Harry’s and Meghan’s Oprah interview- before the anticipated show, the show, after the show, even weeks after the show- still more reports and more details appeared multiple times of day. And they were only one of other celebrities jostling for the spotlight and prime time. Why is so much coverage devoted to this type of journalism? Why do we care? One would think there has to be a demand or interest. “Here’s everything you need to know about the latest...” is quite an enticing opening sentence.
Perhaps it is our human need to compare and justify. Following a celebrity’s life serves to divert attention away from our own. Temporarily, issues with money, relationships, and career fade into the background when we can so easily escape into someone else’s life. Wondering what it would be like to live a more carefree existence, this sense of envy might be tinged with admiration or disdain. Subconsciously we might feel that person is not deserving of the advantages they have. One could also argue that the wealthy have more ability to take action and therefore are more likely to be engaged in business or politics that affects our everyday lives, even if they lack the qualifications. Surrounded by their posh mansions, their copious amount of money, their fame and popularity, they appear to be happy, successful and to some degree, invincible. The special privileges handed to them due to their high-profile embody a life so privileged, exciting and different while many of ours may feel so routine and humdrum. According to most money experts, it has a lot to do with a flawed correlation between more money/lavish lifestyles and increased happiness.
But are their lives really that rosy? And why are we attuned more to their negative news than their positive? When we hear about the challenges that confront individuals who appear to have it all, it helps us to justify that our less worldly existence is somehow not so bad after all. Not having to deal with the paparazzi, the haters that criticize our weight, our hair, our fashion choices offers its own reward- a sense of relief and peace gained by living in obscurity.
It’s a natural instinct to look up to the successful, not the unsuccessful, as a model to copy and follow. However, the bond that unites is that we all want to feel that everything is going to be fine. Anxious to be heard, recognized and admired- we all just want to be cool, secure and free. Our higher personal truth, independent of the perception of another's prosperity, appreciates our own unique identity. When recognized, we can develop a level of prosperity that provides well beyond our needs and is the nourishment that expands the quality of our existence.
As I write this editorial I find myself weary of words… so much dialogue these days, so many opinions, and yet, ironically, I share mine. As I weigh the values of each- the strength of silence versus the necessity of communication- I wonder how one recognizes when to speak up and when to refrain.
Used in a mindful manner, I believe silence can be a bridge to building a more impactful narrative. When you are silent, you listen more. Those who are comfortable with silence know how to hold the moment in a non-confrontational manner that evokes an honest, emotional connection from another. Practicing the pause increases our own mental clarity and self- awareness. Acclaimed business writer, Steven Covey, outlined a key relational principle as “seek first to understand and then to be understood.” How very true!
If an issue directly involves you, you might take the opportunity to speak your mind. If voicing your opinion adds value or clarity to the conversation, then express it. However unwanted commentary can be a little annoying, especially if it meanders with little purpose or goal. Very often we throw out an opinion to others and watch to see if it is supported and authenticated. Knowing when to stay quiet and when to speak up can be tricky but thinking about the consequences beforehand, whether your words add positive clarification or if they contribute to more confusion and harmful action, helps you to decide which to chose.
Silence can be both ethical and unethical. In some cases it is a legal right. If you are being arrested, you do have “the right to remain silent.” The Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution permits you not to answer specific questions when you may, by the answers given, incriminate yourself. However, remaining silent also can be highly unethical, especially when it allows others to believe what we know for certain is not true. When witnessing a wrongdoing, remaining silent equates to acceptance. This is the time to be morally responsible and to speak up. As William Faulkner once said, “Never be afraid to raise your voice for honesty and truth and compassion against injustice and lying and greed. If people all over the world would do this, it would change the earth.”
In our loud and stressful environment, silence can be a soothing balm that eases our mind and releases tension. Yet we yearn for dialog that portrays integrity and humility and inspires through a clear positive vision. I wonder what we would talk about if we were only allowed a certain quota of words?
I recently had to clear my mother’s house from decades of her belongings. So many items had memories attached and a significance that was impossible to quantify in value when we had our garage sale. Quite a few vintage items were sold; a lot was boxed and shipped to my house; much had to be donated. All the things that once defined my mother’s personality had to be objectively categorized- from the broken and outdated to the family heirlooms and whimsical, kitschy souvenirs.
When we moved across the U.S. we were in a similar position: sort, pack, sell, donate, dispose of. Alfred said at the time, “I will think twice before I ever buy anything again.” Yet we find our basement and garage shelves getting crowded once again.
We spend a lot of our lives wanting things, accumulating things, maintaining things, replacing things, but I wonder how much time do we actually cherish them? How much do we actually need or use? New stuff provides instant gratification and this emotional response can be addictive. As soon as we purchase the latest version of this, not long after, a better version of that appears- especially true in electronics. The more you have, the more you crave because a material thing can never fill an emotional void but rather satisfy a psychological need of a different caliber.
If you want to buy something that will lead to happiness, spend money on experiences. The items I treasure the most usually have a memorable participation attached to them, usually in the presence of someone who means/meant a lot to me. Spending money to increase your skills, competence or self-expression connects you to others and satisfies a psychological need of a different caliber. Therein lies the grand a-ha. Less stuff allows us to focus on that which is truly meaningful. Start the day with a mental review of all that you are grateful for. During the day practice random acts of kindness and compassion. And before you slip into sleep, think of the small things that brought you pleasure. You might be surprised just how few material objects make the list. In doing so you will soon be attuned to that which truly brings you happiness.
The idea of freedom must be redefined with each generation. Time changes everything, but most of all, it adjusts our perception of ourselves and of others. Having a sense of the past, we immediately become aware of how history has a way of repeating itself. People who live in freedom often take it for granted and have forgotten the path that was taken to open the opportunities we now treasure. But too much of a good thing can be dangerous as order and independence must be balanced. All freedom requires a compromise between an individual’s rights, the obligations of the state and the wellbeing of the world. In its highest sense, it is a fundamental value that celebrates the diversity of humanity.
On a personal level, freedom allows us to challenge our comfort zone and to determine our course in life. Through independent action, we determine our higher purpose experienced through our principles. With the ability to move freely about, to tap into the resources that come from a peace of mind and to express appreciation and empathy, we are truly empowered. Recognizing complete responsibility for self and the choices made, we put aside, if only temporarily, our fears, worries and doubts. Viktor Frankl wrote in his book, “Man’s Search for Meaning, “the ultimate freedom we have is a choice of attitude.” It helps us deal with tough situations and keeps us on the right path to living a meaningful life. What a supreme freedom- to choose the responses that create our greatest fulfillment.
Perceptions From a Curious Mind
by Patti Dolezal