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achieving inner peace

HOW TO COUNTER CHANGE BLINDNESS — Another IPS

HOW TO COUNTER CHANGE BLINDNESS — Another IPS

Another IPS (Inner Peace Symptom):  a growing appreciation of process.  [Creativity and change move through every situation you encounter.  Enjoy the ride ’cause there ain’t no going back!]

Change is everywhere.  Everything keeps changing, little by little.  Like a tree growing, it just keeps on.

The thing is you don’t really notice how big that tree is getting until you find an old picture and are amazed at the difference in that tree your father planted in the yard all those years ago.

tree-at-chellow-dean
“Tree at Chellow Dean” by Tim Green via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]
This is true of everything and everyone around you.

A day doesn’t seem very long but changes do happen.  Every day, there’s at least a miniscule little difference.

Things grow this way or that as time flows on – a tree, your town, your partner, your kids, your business, or even you.  There is always a little bit of change.

These changes are often so small that they are easily overlooked.

Then, “suddenly”, one day, you notice that everything is different and you are blown away.

And that is how life tends to come at you.

WHAT?  WHEN DID THAT CHANGE?

Consider what has happened in the last year.  What about the last decade?

Take a look at any chunk of time in your life and the bigger the chunk, the more changes you’ll be able to point to.

Researchers have had a field day for decades studying how people tend not to notice change as it’s happening, in the short term and in the long term as well.

They tell us it’s just how humans are hard-wired.

We notice what’s in our world in bits and pieces in a rapid and dynamic way.

We pay attention to the bits that seem to be important to us at that time and then we build constructs and stories out of our initial impressions.

Sometimes, however, our constructs and the stories we’ve built get in the way of actually seeing what’s happening now.

A fun book to read regarding this phenomenon is THE INVISIBLE GORILLA:  How Our Intuitions Deceive Us by Daniel Simons and Chris Chabris.  The two authors are the creators of one of psychology’s most famous experiments.

This YouTube video, “The Invisible Gorilla” features Daniel Simons talking about that experiment.  It was published by the Beckman Institute in 2011 and won a regional Emmy award.

As Simons says, the human mind pretty much sees what it expects to see.

We are often blind to change because we are focusing on something else that we feel is important and that needs to be processed and attended to.

Distractions that occur within the same time-frame as the change, the age of an observer, as well as the use of psychoactive drugs also may affect whether we notice some change or other.

HUH?

The guys in the lab coats call this mind-trick “change blindness” and, they say, we are all vulnerable to its effects.  It’s an everyday phenomenon.

Drivers fail to recognize changes in traffic lights.  They miss important signs and signals from other vehicles and from their surroundings.  Sometimes they don’t notice pedestrians or other vehicles in their path.

Accidents happen.

accident-in-egan
“Accident in Egan” by Ruin Raider via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
Imagine what would happen if an air traffic controller did not notice some important change on their instruments.  Yipes!

Arguments, misunderstandings and confusion are likely between people who fail to recognize that one or the other of them has changed in some way.

Eyewitness reports about any incident will differ radically from each other and, even worse, may have almost no congruence with what actually happened.

The number of big, smart and successful companies who completely failed to notice that their environment had changed is the stuff of legend.

The “buggy-whip syndrome” takes out those entrepreneurs who fail to notice the rise of some new technology or innovation that makes their product or their way of doing business redundant or obsolete. They bite the dust.

SO WHAT’S YOUR NEXT MOVE?

The researchers do say that knowing about your propensity for change blindness is a help.

They also tell us that what you pay attention to can help you navigate better through this ever-changing world.

They agree that you do have to know what is important to you and keep your eye on that.

Some of them also emphasize the importance of knowing how any major change that may occur will affect these important-to-you things.

That could be an overwhelming task, it seems to me.

warning
Warning” by Chris Tse via Flickr [CC BY-ND 2.0]
Example.  We’ve all heard about climate change and increasingly erratic weather patterns, but what does that mean to us personally?

  • Do we sell our coastal homes and relocate inland?
  • Do we stay where we are, but invest in retrofits and reinforcements?
  • Do we ignore the warnings and hope for the best?

ARGH!

It can be really hard to wrap your head around many of the major world changes and their possible effects on your life.

The final acts of some of the really big world changes are probably set for tens of thousands of years in the future.

Unless it’s your passion, it may be a bit difficult to work up serious personal concern about them in the here and now.

However, many of the challenges of other lesser changes (like you working in a failing or fading industry or your kids hitting puberty or your aging parent’s need for care) can be foreseen.

You can probably suss out at least some of the effects these changes may have on your life.

You are likely to find examples and models of different ways to deal with these sorts of changes that other people have developed and you may be able to construct specific plans that you can use to deal with them.

Doing this can allow you to gradually implement these plans to good effect.

Some Smarty-Pants advocate having an early warning system in place that alerts you to the need to work out what you can do to preserve the important things in your life before a change that could adversely affect them occurs.

I’ve lived all my life with an early warning system set up by the (American) National Weather Service that alerts us island folk of the approach of tsunamis and hurricanes.

The eerie wailing of that siren system as it is tested every month reminds us that the possibility of disaster is a given.

tsunami-warning-system
“Tsunami Warning Siren” by Wesley Fryer via Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0]
I’m not sure how I feel about having a personal early-warning system which might have the net effect of reminding me that at any time in this era of whirlwind changes my life could possibly turn to drek.

Trying to parse out every marginally likely worst-case scenario and then figuring out possible solutions or game plans for a whole array of these changes is more than a little daunting.

(It also sounds massively time-consuming.)

And then, of course, there is the Mike Tyson admonition: “Everyone thinks they have a plan ‘til they get punched in the mouth.”  This, too, is a truth.

joe-louis-monument
“Joe Louis Monument” by Amaury Laporte via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]

ANOTHER TAKE

This YouTube video, “Getting stuck in the negatives (and how to get unstuck)” features social psychologist Alison Ledgerwood’s 2013 talk at TEDxUCDavis.

It looks at another way to deal with the events and changes that happen and will continue to happen every day in your world.

Listening to Ledgerwood reminded me that change blindness can also keep us from seeing how the circumstances of our lives have changed for the better.

As she points out, we humans tend to focus on the negatives and gloss over the positive, “good” changes that happen (and keep happening) along with the “bad.”  Many of us are naturals at forecasting worst-case scenarios.

Consciously working on noticing the positives may actually be a better alternative than compulsively planning and preparing for every catastrophe and making an archive of back-up and contingency plans that may never be needed.

You only have so much time in the world.  Do you really want to spend it making plans and preparing yourself for dealing with what might happen if The-Sh*t-Hits-The-Fan?

Some people do.  Perhaps you are one of them.

If not, then focusing on practicing and stretching your ability to stay in Ledgerwood’s “gain frame” might be right for you.

AND ONE MORE

Happiness researcher Shawn Achor is well-known for his advocacy of positive thinking.

One of his books, THE HAPPINESS ADVANTAGE: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work, points out that starting from happiness (rather than using happiness as a reward) actually may work to boost your productivity at work and your overall general sense of well-being.

He also gives practical pointers on how you can rewire your brain so that the happiness that’s already in your life becomes a sustainable, self-renewing thing.

The following YouTube video is a short animated review of the book published in 2016 by Practical Psychology.  It points out some of the book’s highlights.

Here’s a poem….


I AM NOTICING

I am noticing that

I don’t do “love” poems any more.

Not the spooning-mooning kind

‘Bout you and me by the deep blue sea,

Happy, we, in our mutual blindness.

Not the angst-ridden scouring

Of a heart already rubbed raw

By the windblown sands of a broken hourglass.

Not the whining, wailing love-song gone sour,

The cry from a heart lost in the dark.

Not the golden content of love grown old,

Rubbed down by an ocean’s worth of waves and storms

That have smoothed away all the extraneous

Lusts and desires that seemed so important once.

None of that, now.

No more.

 

I’m noticing, too, that

I don’t do protest poems any more.

‘Bout all the darkness in this old world.

No longer do I peer through the gloom

With spinning post-apocalyptic eyes,

Looking for the spark of some other, brighter paradise.

No longer am I pronouncing jeremiads

Excoriating vile evils and dark deeds,

Invoking wrathful deities.

I have stopped using my head as a battering ram,

Beating against the walls of the obtuse,

Trying to fix the unbroken universe.

I am done with that.

Don’t go there any more.

 

The passion still sits, burning in my gut.

I can feel it.

(I’m pleased to report it has not leaked out, that passion,

Like some body fluid running down my leg.)

 

Now, though, it’s some giant burning bird,

Turning raptor eyes on this mirror-world.

Tiger, that old warrior, sleeps soundly,

Sprawled at my feet, snoring.

He’s tired, spent, and worn.

The intensity’s still there, but now it’s coiled around me,

A quiescent Turtle-Snake in cold sleep,

Before the warmth of yet another spring sun touches him.

 

I wonder if I am gaining

That thing the wise guys call “perspective.”

That’s a GOOD thing, right?

It could be that I’m turning jade-hard, jade-strong –

I’ve been ripped out of my earthly womb

Where the rough and raw crystalline me

Grew through the millennia,

And I’ve gone lustrous after being

Shaped and polished by some artisan’s hand.

I sit now, an art object.

 

I am finding it….unsatisfactory, I think.

I would rather be ravaged by starlight

And bruised by butterfly wings.

I would rather be riding my Dragon.

by Netta Kanoho

Header photo credit: “Kapalua, Maui Sunrise” by Mark Cameron via Flickr [CC BY-ND 2.0]

Thanks for the visit.  I’d appreciate it if you would drop a note or comment below and tell me your thoughts.

 

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YOUR WALK TALKS — Another IPS

YOUR WALK TALKS — Another IPS

Another IPS (Inner Peace Symptom):  a growing awareness that the only thing that abides is the way you walk.  [How are you walking and how is your walk talking?]

Assorted studies have shown that the way you walk down the street increases your chances of being a victim, a target for challenge, or a welcome addition to a group.

If that’s so, it seems to me, then all of the possible different ways you could walk are likely to evoke responses from the people around you and might even determine how you’ll be treated by them.

STUDYING THE MOVES

This video, “100 Different Ways to Walk,” is actually an “animation reference” put together by stop-motion animator and self-styled video wizard Kevin Parry in 2017 as a way to remind himself of the wide variety of ways a humanoid might walk.

It’s a thing Parry uses to develop the action in his stop-motion animation films.  It can also be a way for you to pay attention to the emotions and reactions different ways of walking might evoke in you.

Check it out and think on how you might react and what you might feel about a person if you happened to see someone walking past you using one of these different ways of moving through the world.

What would you think about this person?  What is your likely reaction to him or her?  Your responses to each of these ways of movement might be surprisingly different.

If you like Parry’s work, you may want to check out his official website.  click-here

My thought is that if the way you move your body can evoke emotions and reactions from other people who are watching what you do, then it’s likely that the way you are moving yourself through your world  – your actions and the ways you deal with others around you, the choices you make and the paths you take – can also cause other people to react to you in very different ways.

YOUR TALK STAYS TALK IF YOU DON’T DO THE WALK

The thing is, as American author, speaker and pastor John C. Maxwell succinctly put it, “Your talk talks and your walk talks, but your walk talks louder than your talk talks.”

“I have to start doing that!”  Oh, yeah.

“I NEED to do that!”  Uh-huh.

You hear that all the time, right?

talking-over-supper
“Talking Over Supper” by John Flannery via Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0]
Every time there’s some new study and whenever some new idea or concept starts making the rounds, the noise level gets louder and there’s a flurry of “Me-too, me-too, I’m going to do it!”

What’s your initial reaction to all that?  Maybe you throw a little bit of a cynical grin?  Maybe a little snort or snigger?

I bet you don’t really take all the foo-fah-rah seriously.  You’ve heard it all before, after all.  People tell you what they’re going to do or what they need to do and how they are going to really, really do it…but, then, they never get around to it somehow.

Or maybe they tried something and it didn’t go as they expected.  It was really hard and the results were not what they wanted.  It was disappointing and not at all the thing.

So these folks are going to try this next great thing, and this time….hoo-hoo!  They will do it.  Right.

After a while, the blathering tires out your ears.

In our younger days we might have been surprised and even disappointed by the lack of follow-through.  Eventually it’s very likely that we pretty much stop paying attention to the pronouncements and declarations filling up the airwaves.

Instead, we start paying attention to the way the people doing all that talking are walking.  We give a heck of a lot more credence to the other person’s consistent action over a long period of time.

WASH, RINSE, REPEAT

Fact.  If you change back to your old behaviors every time you hit a speed-bump, nobody is going to believe you want a different world.

Talk is inexpensive.  All of us say things all the time about who we are, what we can do, what we’re going to do and on and on.

Walking is not so easy to fake.

walking
Walking” by oatsy40 via Flickr [CC BY-2.0]
If you stay the course (as hard as that is to do) you will gain credibility.  The longer you keep walking towards that goal you say you’re heading towards and the fact that you keep on doing it no matter what is very convincing.

When your words and your actions match each other and they demonstrate who you are, then people will start to believe that what you say really is what you do.

Positive thinker Ralph Marston, who puts together the popular positivity blog, The Daily Motivator, says it well: “What you say can make a big difference, but only if it is fully supported by what you do. Walk your talk, and both your walking and your talking will get great things done.”

This YouTube video, “Why Our Actions Speak Louder than Words” was published in 2016 by biologist-turned-filmmaker Rob Nelson.   It adds another take on the matter.

Rob and his collaborator Jonas Stenstrom, another biologist-cum-filmmaker, put together a channel on YouTube, “52 Things” which is specifically geared towards “making better science storytellers with photo and video.”  They are producing a series of videos to help other science bloggers become better filmmakers.

Check out their Patreon page.  If you’d like to become a patron and support them in this endeavor, click here:

click-here

Here’s a poem:


NOTHING COMING

Hey, Braddah….

I’m sorry to see that I was right.

(I had so hoped I was wrong.)

You’re showin’ you cannot handle

Dealing straight with the trust

You were given.

 

The excuses and rationalizations

Are flying so thick,

I cannot even talk.

I have no advice for you…

No it’s-gonna-be-all-right,

No absolution.

This one’s yours

And you’ll have to fix it –

A D.I.Y. project.

 

You’re feeling guilty.

I can see that,

Uh-huh….

The shaky structure you have built

On this shifting sand of maybes and couldas and shouldas

Is getting washed away,

Undermined by the waves of murky thoughts

Generated by too many issues

That have nothing to do with me.

 

I’m sorry, man.

You’re the one who keeps on digging the hole.

And, for real, I’ve run out of hands to help.

 

Guess you’re gonna have to deal, Braddah-man….

Created by Netta Kanoho

Header photo credit:  “Haleakala Sunrise by lwtt93 via Flickr [CC BY-2.0]

Thanks for your visit.  I’d appreciate it if you would drop a note or comment below and let me know what you think.

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WORRY-BUSTING (Another Inner Peace Symptom)

WORRY-BUSTING (Another Inner Peace Symptom)

Another IPS (Inner Peace Symptom):  a disinclination to encourage catastrophic thinking and worrying.  [Worst-case scenarios rarely happen.  Allowing yourself to get caught up in mind-loops about them just makes you dizzy and paralyzes you.]

THE HUMAN DIFFERENCE

I am reading a book, BODY INTELLIGENCE:  Harness Your Body’s Energies for Your Best Life by the renowned body energy expert and holistic psychologist, Dr. Joseph Cardillo, PhD.  A fascinating read.

It starts from the premise that “you are energy, your world is energy, and everything in your world is energy.”  It goes on from there.

In it, the good doctor combines Western science, technology, psychology, holistic medicine and ancient wisdoms as well as years of experiences and stories to teach you how to tap into your own inherent human energy.  He presents helpful suggestions and strategies that enable you to access this energy and help you live your best life.

One interesting concept Cardillo points out is this:  Unlike other animals, humans have the gift of visualization.  Lucky us.

We humans can imagine events that haven’t happened and we can actually see them in our mind’s eye.  We can build whole worlds in our heads that don’t exist and plop ourselves right inside them.  We can make up epic stories about what can happen to us in these worlds we make up.

The reason you can do this, Carillo explains, is because of your brain’s attention network which relies on information you’ve stored in your memory as well as all the millions of bits of external information that’s available to you and how you gather this information together.

We humans are all so good at doing this that we can trigger very real emotional and physical reactions in ourselves.  Consider this.  In the middle of a strong visualization you can have all kinds of feelings and thoughts about the imagined scenario.  You just naturally consider all kinds of possibilities – some good, others bad.

Because we are such integrated creatures and since our minds affect our bodies as much as our bodies affect our minds, visualization can be a blessing or a curse.

You can ride so high on a tide of bliss that you lose your way, like a balloonist tossed around in high winds.  (Bliss feels really, really good.  Mostly, though, you can’t steer well when your head’s all spacey like that.)

Ideally, if you are able to ride out the less-idyllic aspects of your visualization, you can use the swift kick in the behind that’s the gift that the uneasiness and queasiness we call “worry” carries to sharpen your focus on the situation you’re imagining, to enhance your comprehension of its nuances and ramifications, and to effectively execute actions to overcome assorted real-life challenges that you are likely to face on your way to your envisioned goal.

Alternatively, you might be overwhelmed and drown in the anxieties that arise as a result of your visualization of all of the possible disasters, catastrophes and other worst-case scenarios that your mind can conjure.  This last can cause serious damage to your body and your mind.

worry
“Worry” by Kristian Dela Cour via Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0]

THE DOWNSIDE OF WORRYING

Anxiety, which is a natural consequence of worry, triggers your body’s flight-fight response.  This causes your body’s sympathetic nervous system to release stress hormones such as cortisol, which can boost blood sugar levels and triglycerides (blood fats) that can be used by the body for fuel.

Physical reactions (in alphabetical order) could include:

  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Dizziness
  • Dry mouth
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Irritability
  • Muscle aches
  • Muscle tension
  • Nausea
  • Nervous energy
  • Rapid breathing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sweating
  • Trembling and twitching

Studies have shown that if the excessive fuel in your blood caused by chronic anxiety and all that outpouring of stress hormones is not used for physical activities, there can be severe consequences.  Muscle tension, premature coronary artery disease, and heart attacks are possible.  Your digestive system gets wonky and your immune system gets compromised.

Not only that, but short-term memory loss is not uncommon.  If the excessive worrying and high anxiety continues, they can lead to depression and even suicidal thoughts.

Catastrophic thinking, worrying, and anxiety is not a good alternative.

dont-worry-be-happy
“don’t worry, be happy” by anthony fain via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

BACK-TO-THE PRESENT METHOD

This You-Tube video, “Three Steps to Overcoming Worry” was published in 2014 by depression counselor Doug Bloch who is, himself, prone to anxiety, worry and depression.

Again, here are Bloch’s Big Three:

  • Reel in your mind to the here-and-now, where you are safe.
  • Acknowledge that your catastrophic thoughts are not real.
  • Positive self-talk or action that allows you to focus on the outside world rather than hanging out in your interior spaces help break the hold of a persistent worry.

FIGHT WORRY WITH KNOWLEDGE

Another way to deal with the tendency to catastrophize and worry is to develop mastery.

Joshua Slocum was a solo sailor who set out to sea from Massachusetts in a stubby oyster sloop just shy of 37 feet on April 24, 1895.  He said he was going to circumnavigate the planet by himself in this small sailboat.  Everybody thought he was insane.

In his book about his adventure, SAILING ALONE AROUND THE WORLD, Joshua said, “To know the laws that govern the winds, and to know that you know that you know them, will give an easy mind on your voyage round the world; otherwise you may tremble at the appearance of every cloud.”

The young man giving a review about a book called THE WORST CASE SCENARIO SURVIVAL HANDBOOK in this You-Tube video published by 190 granary in 2009 obviously agrees that the best strategy is to figure out what you’re going to do ahead of time.

The book was written by Joshua Borgenicht and David Piven.

TO-WORRY LIST

Everybody has a number of concerns that are important but not in-your-face-urgent.  They’re the stuff you know you need to address at some point when you’ve got some breathing room.

The problem is Urgent has a tendency to overshadow Important – things like de-cluttering your life, developing a saner budget or diet, putting together a will, getting your important files and papers organized or upgrading your education — get buried under more mundane things like “What’s for dinner?” and “What are we going to do about _____________ (fill in the blank with some cliffhanger dilemma).”

Martial artist Jim Brault, author of several books about martial arts mindset including A PATH OF MASTERY:  Lessons on Wing Chun and Life from Sifu Francis Fong, suggests constructing a To-Worry List.

Brault says the reasoning behind constructing a To-Do List is that once you write the thing down on your list, you know you will be coming back to it and you will be addressing it so you don’t have to think about it until it’s time to do the thing.

The To-Worry List is a list of stuff you know you want or need to attend to.  These are things that you know you want to address.

They are important, but they don’t have to be done right away.  They’re the things that nudge and poke at you every once in a while or lie there waiting for you to notice them again and again and again.

The To-Worry List, he says, is a promise to yourself that you really are going to look at each issue again.  Write them down.  Let them sit.  Revisit the list and put in some time considering different approaches.

Make decisions as you figure out what you want to do as the next step to move each one forward.  Do one step and finish that step.  Keep on coming back, making decisions, do another step.

Do that often enough and your mind will begin to believe that it can let go of the worry the issue evokes.

A WORRY-FREE LIFE

My favorite take on this whole thing is this YouTube video, “The 5-Letter Secret to a Worry-Free Life” posted by Goalcast in 2017.

The video features His Grace Gaur Gopal Das, a former software engineer who became a monk, a student of the Vedas and a disciple of Radhanath Swami.

Here’s a poem.


CONTROL

Control…ummm…

What we talkin’ here?

Who is being done to?

By whom?

And who be doin’ the doin’…

Or the not-doin’.

 

Are we talking structural constraints?

Are we talking mile-high walls

And fences with concertina wire on top?

Are we talking moats?

Are we talking dead-ended cul-de-sacs

And mazes filled with man-traps

Built like cockroach motels?

Are we talking barred and shuttered windows?

Are we talking triple-padlocked gates?

Are we talking doors with twenty-seven assorted locks

Plus electronic surveillance connections

And flying spy-drones buzzing ’round?

 

Are we talking border guards and canine patrols –

Or maybe squads of trained jackals and baboons?

Are we talking shackles and chains?

Are we talking those restraining jackets and sticky stuff

They dress you in when you go mad because

There’s no place you can catch your breath

And no place you can stand up straight?

 

Are we talking economic privileges and sanctions…

A whole other can of nasty?

Are we talking societal mores and pronouncements

Set in ersatz-stone

That damn you ’cause you do

And damn you ’cause you don’t,

All of them promulgated by the fearful

Who hope to turn the Mystery into Disneyland –

Oh, of course,

“For our own protection….”

Trying really hard to shrink the infinite

Into comfortable little boxes

Available at Wal-Mart as a set of four for $5.99?

 

Are we talking mind-games?

Are we talking emotional push-buttons and whack’em down hammers

Wielded by little old blue-haired ladies in tennis shoes

And their stiff old Robber Baron honeys –

The Guardians of Propriety – in their bastions of status quo?

Are we talking poisoned slings and arrows

Shot by the stainless-steel cute crowd –

The ones with the amassed “buzz?”

Are we talking bitter, bile-laced flamethrowers

In the hands of the designated Victims of the World,

Who are on some perpetual whine or other

About how it is all Somebody Else’s fault

And how, now, THEY gotta pay?

 

Or maybe we’re talking ’bout

The prove-you-love-me moves,

The expectations and the if-then slides

From the ones in whose hands you have already placed

Your raw and bleeding heart.

 

Gee, wow.

I’m not a fan.

Does it show?

by Netta Kanoho

Header photo credit:  “Maui” by Francois via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]

Thanks for your visit.  I’d appreciate it if you would drop a note or comment below and tell me your thoughts.

 

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JOURNALIZE YOUR LIFE

JOURNALIZE YOUR LIFE

Another IPS (Inner Peace Symptom): an understanding that “creativity” is not a talent; it is a way of operating. [The coolest thing is anybody can do it.]

I guess it’s a cliché now.  One way to enhance your creativity, they tell us, is to keep a journal.  Snuggle up with your thoughts and illuminate your feelings, write down your dreams and hunches, collect quotes from the famous and the notorious.

Spend time in your own head.  Be your own psychotherapist.  Be your own guru.  At the very least, you can be your own pen-pal.

COMMONPLACE BOOKS

Journalizing your life is part of a long, long tradition.  In Enlightenment-era Europe, during the “Age of Reason” (which most people say runs from around 1685 to 1815), it was all the rage.

The smarty pants and wise guys then all kept what they called “commonplace books.”  These were personalized encyclopedias of quotes as well as thoughts and aspirations and other bits of their own writings that scholars, amateur scientists and aspiring men of letters put together.

commonplace book detail
“Commonplace book detail” by vlasta2 via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
Some folks transcribed whole gobs of books they found interesting in their commonplace books.  (One guy cobbled together parts of the Bible that made sense to him, leaving out the parts that didn’t.  This was not well-received in some circles.)

One of the leading lights of the Enlightenment movement was John Locke.  He was a systems guy and from an early age he was busy devising new systems and new ways of looking at things.

Locke developed a version of the commonplace book in 1652 (during his first year at Oxford) that was a cause for excitement among the geeks and nerds of the day.  Locke put together an elaborate system for indexing his commonplace book’s contents which made it easy for him to find passages and ideas that he wanted to revisit, review, and use.  Others followed his example.

JOURNALING TODAY

Nowadays journals come in all shapes and sizes, fancy and plain.  They’re mostly blank books that you fill in your own self.  Some are peppered with other people’s thoughts, all ready for you to use.  They’ve come to be one of the default gifts you want to give to people who are Makers (or who want to be).

You can write in them and you can turn them into sketchbooks or artsy work notepads and such.  You can even turn them into works of art.

The things are ubiquitous.  Everybody gets one at some point or other.  There are magazines, how-to videos, courses and guidebooks for making your own as well.

If you’re not particularly into deep thinking, if writing is boring for you, or if you are insecure about your art skills, receiving one of those things can precipitate a minor crisis of sorts.  (It becomes one more thing to hide under your bed or tuck behind other stuff on the shelves and ignore.)

For the people who have never been able to “finish” one of those ready-made journals, here’s a You-Tube video about WRECK THIS JOURNAL, a book put together by guerilla-artist, author, and illustrator Keri Smith.  It was published in 2012 by Penguin Books as a promotion for her book of that name.

That book took off and is the first of four volumes in a series.

Over the years, Keri Smith has made an astonishing array of books about creativity and getting your art on.  Her books include bestselling concept books like:

For many years she also maintained a popular website, Wish Jar, that is a beautifully constructed on-line journal of sorts.  It doesn’t seem to be very active these days, but the site is lovely to explore anyway.

THE JOY OF DIGITAL ARCHIVING

And that’s the other thing:  Computers can be turned into journaling tools, if that’s your bent.   You, too, can put together a digital archive.

You can fill it with all kinds of stuff:  quotes, research on specific projects, passages transcribed from articles and books, web page clippings, and random discoveries, hunches and intuitions of your own.

Some folks call clunkier, more workaday versions of these things “swipe files.”  (That term gets my back up.  It sounds like an invitation to thievery or something.)

I prefer to think of the things as a stewpot simmering away over a bunson burner or a hot plate. (Or maybe it’s a cute personal crockpot, if you’re not into minimalism.)  You can get some really good writing or art-making “stock” out of that stuff…even from the yawn-inducing junk.

FINAL THOUGHTS

I am a writer and a poet.  For me thoughts and ideas are building blocks and ingredients that can be cooked together in a variety of ways.  The thoughts you add to your archive (whether digital or paper) can add savor and flavor to your own efforts at writing or art.

Even if you fish out all the bits of meat and vegetables in a long-cooking stew, the broth holds the flavor anyhow.

Here’s a poem:


ON READING OLD JOURNALS

So…

This is what they’re for:

I wander through the pages,

Poring over the

Old maps I have drawn of

The counties of my mind.

 

I stop here and there,

Remembering the stances

I have tried that now

Lie crumpled like improbable fashion

Statements that didn’t quite work.

That mix that didn’t match…

 

Ooh!  This one’s embarrassing!

Old revelations sparkle

In the pile of dither

And the tarnished dross of

Plated costume-jewelry thoughts.

 

I see the spirals that I dance,

Around, around, around

And I have to laugh at all

The silly detours and digressions

That lead me straight back to

The core that stands there still,

Waiting….

by Netta Kanoho

Header Photo credit:  “Reflections of Maui” by Mark Faviell via Flickr [CC BY-ND-NC 2.0]

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FARM IN THE CITY

FARM IN THE CITY

Japanese farmer-philosopher Masanobu Fukuoda once said, “The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops, but the cultivation of human beings.

THE SEED IS PLANTED

went-to-sleep
“Went to Sleep With 2 Red Pumps, Woke Up With 1” by Ted McGrath via Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0]
In the poorest postal code in Canada, in the city of Vancouver, the old farmer’s vision has come to ground and taken root in a network of four urban farms located on five acres of reclaimed land.  They call it “SOLE Food Street Farms.”

The name is an acronym.  It arose out of a project, “Saving Our Living Environment” (SOLE), by United We Can, a Vancouver non-profit that operates a recycling program and employs street people and people from the neighborhood to clean up streets and alleys.  Until the farms were able to operate independently, they sheltered under the United We Can umbrella.

The project was spearheaded by visionary farmer and food-growing advocate, Michael Ableman (of Foxglove Farm fame), and his collaborator Seann Dory who worked for United We Can.  They put together a project that provides stable jobs and training and development for 25 people, most of whom live in the neighborhood where they work.  Together they have built an oasis of green in the middle of gray and black city hardscape.

DOWN ON THE FARM

This 2013 video, “The Story of Sole Food,” which was produced by Point Blank Creative with the support of Vancity and is available on YouTube, tells the tale:

The farms have succeeded beyond the two founders’ wildest hopes when they began reclaiming their first piece of ground in the parking lot of the Astoria hotel in Strathcona, the oldest neighborhood in Vancouver (right next door to Downtown Eastside, the poorest postal code in all of Canada.)

  • Every year the farms produce over 25 tons of fresh produce that includes tree fruit from a large urban orchard that grows in an abandoned railway yard.
  • The farms supply more than 30 area restaurants and sell at five Vancouver farmer’s markets. They operate a community-supported agriculture program as well.
  • They donate up to $20,000 work of produce every year to community kitchens.
  • Most importantly, they help their urban neighbors reconnect and re-ground themselves in the age-old cycles of life and growing that every farm honors and celebrates.

After the farm project had been going for several years, the MBA program at Queen’s University conducted research into the uber-local farming enterprise.

The guys in the lab coats figured out that for every dollar SOLE Foods spent on employing people who are “hard to employ,” there was a $1.70 combined savings to the person and the legal system, the health care system, the social assistance networks, and the environment through carbon sequestration and energy and transportation benefits.  A good return-on-investment, that.

empowering-people
“Empowering People With Urban Farming” by Province of British Columbia via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

A TRADITION RE-ITERATED

In his book, STREET FARM:  Growing Food, Jobs, and Hope on the Urban Frontier, Ableman details how the dream came together.

The book is a triumphant mash-up of Ableman’s philosophy about farming as a business and a traditional craft with pictures on every page spread (many of them taken by Ableman) documenting the continuing trials and tribulations of trying to build a real farm in the middle of the big city.   The best parts of the book are the stories about the relationships that have developed between the organizers, the farm workers, their clients, and the Downtown Eastside neighborhoods where they work and live.

If you’d like more information about SOLE Food Street Farms, CLICK HERE.

At the time it began, the scale of the farms was, perhaps, unique.  It was urban agriculture, growing food on a for-real farm that was run as a business with a heavy dose of social consciousness added in.  Many of the earlier efforts by assorted city planners and developers in various cities around the world focused on garden-scale projects – urban horticulture rather than agriculture.

It isn’t a new concept, this growing food in the middle of a city.  As cities grew, the food needed to feed the people was grown all around them.  Sumerians, back in 5000 BCE, were famous for the sophisticated irrigated agriculture in and around some of the world’ earliest cities in what is now southern Iraq.

But, these ancient farmers and all of their descendants in the long history of agriculture did not have farms built on top of pavement covering over the contaminated soil between buildings in the remains of demolished factories and other urban ruins. This is what makes these street farms so remarkable.  What makes them even more remarkable are the number of lives they have touched and the ones they have helped to nurture, heal and rebuild.

Michael Abelman says that SOLE Food Street Farms is “based on the belief that the simple act of planting a seed can bring new life to the world.”

[Amen to that one, braddah.]

“Sunrise at Mt. Haleakala” by D. A. Lewis via Flickr [CC BY-2.0]

Another IPS (Inner Peace Symptom):  a tendency to build bridges between your world and other people’s worlds.  [Foot-traffic on all the bridges you build brings many treasures into your world.]

Here’s a poem:


YOUNG TREE

Young tree in the ground

Started as a seed

Buried in the dark, rich,

Warm earth.

 

Slowly it split apart,

Shoot seeking the light,

Pushing against the cradling earth,

Slowly, slowly.

 

It reaches up into the light,

Day by day by day….

By Netta Kanoho

Header photo credit:  “The Hidden Radish” by Steph L via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

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SHUSH — Another Inner Peace Symptom

SHUSH — Another Inner Peace Symptom

Another IPS (Inner Peace Symptom):  a disinclination to endlessly discuss your plans and dreams.  [Every time you talk about a dream, a little bit of the energy powering that dream leaks out.  It’s kind of like letting the air out of a filled balloon to make farting noises.  After a while all the gas is gone and the balloon won’t rise.]

‘Kay.  There you are with this HUGE idea…the Biggest of the Big.  It is definitely, absolutely, without a doubt, going to be a killer!

You just have to share, right?  After all, ideas don’t live in a vacuum.  They need to be watered and fertilized, cultivated and encouraged to grow until hey-ho they bloom!  All of that.

Who better to help you lift that bale and tote that bucket than your nearest and dearest friend or two or ten or, hey…why not hundreds or thousands?

big-day-out
“Big Day Out” by Eva Rinaldi via Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0]

CHAMPION OF THE DREAM

So you pump yourself up and you spread the word.  You are gonna do this and you’re gonna do that and you’re gonna and gonna and gonna….buzzity, buzzity, buzz, buzz, buzz.   It’s all very exciting, that.

You get so into talking about that Dream that you really feel like your words are manifesting the thing out of the ethers.  You are the self-appointed Champion of the Dream.  Yup!  You’re keeping it alive.

champ
“champ” by kurge via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]
That gush of words and words and words building the excitement up and up is bringing the Dream that much closer, right?  Ummm…not really.  “The Dream” actually becomes what one group of guys and gals in lab coats call an “identity symbol” in your brain.  Its function is to make your self-image seem real.

Since both actions and talk can create these symbols in your brain, talking satisfies the brain enough that it may “neglect the pursuit of further symbols” (like actually taking action), according to NYU psychology professor Peter Gollwitzer who has been studying this since his now out-of-print 1982 book, SYMBOLIC SELF-COMPLETION.

In a study published in Psychological Science magazine in 2009, the professor and his research team announced that they had figured out that if you tell your goal and the people you tell cheer and celebrate or applaud you as if you actually did something, then your brain will think that you already did it.

The acknowledgement becomes part of your “social reality,” and may actually provide your brain with enough satisfaction that you don’t feel you have to do anything else.(Why would your brain want to bother with doing it for real?  It’s convinced that the thing is done already!  You’ve already won the prize.)

The researchers did find one interesting side effect of this phenomenon.   They say you actually are more likely to go forward with your goal or dream if the people around you ignore you when you tell them what you want to do.

Just because you’re a contrary human being (like the rest of us), when you are ignored, it becomes a part of your determination to “show” all those unappreciative, short-sighted ding-a-lings that you really are capable of doing what you say you want to do.

LOOSE LIPS SINK SHIPS…TORPEDOS NOT NEEDED

Check out this podcast published by the TEDTalks organization on YouTube featuring dream-building master Derek Sivers, author of ANYTHING YOU WANT:  40 Lessons For a New Kind of Entrepreneur.

In this short talk, he admonishes, “Keep your goals to yourself.”

There may also be a number of practical and psychological arguments for keeping mum.

  • If you tell someone your goal, the resulting attention can then increase the pressure on you in a negative way. The pressure to perform is likely to raise your anxiety levels to new heights.

This may not be helpful when the goal requires that you remain calm and composed.  (You may not want an audience or a cheerleading section when you’re taking a driving test for the first time, for example.)

  • Sometimes, when you tell people your goals, they may tend to use the knowledge as a lens for judging your future actions. They see your actions and compare them to what you said were your goals.

This can work out well if you’ve agreed to accept their holding you “accountable” for your goals – if you ask them to support you and help keep you on track.  The thing is, it does depend on how skillful they are at doing that, and whether you are actually good at accepting guidance without balking.

But, if you are prone to resent being “pressured” into doing anything (even if you ask for this help) or if the other person is less than tactful in their approach, any “helpful” commentary might actually feel like an attack or “nagging” to you.  This might cause you to move in a different direction than the one that gets you to your goal.  Not good.

  • Sometimes your idea is just too fragile and new to bear the touch of other people’s minds. Sometimes your dream has to be protected from rough handling and premature dissection. It’s a newborn, after all.  You’re not supposed to play football with it.

A lot of very good ideas have died horrible deaths because other people couldn’t keep their mouths off it.    Often it’s better to wait until your vision has evolved and grown a bit before allowing other people to put in their two cents.  A bit of voluntary, self-induced deafness might also be in order at the beginning.

The Real is:  it’s all a dance and you will react to other people’s reactions.  Sometimes it feels like you’re the little ball zooming around in the pinball machine.

pinball-bumpers
“Pinball Bumpers” by Tom Rolfe via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]

FINAL THOUGHTS

The next time you’re tempted to share your latest Big Dream, STOP.

shhhh
“Shhh” by Sonny Abesamis via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]

Go think about how you can make your Big Dream become real.  Then go try a little something that moves the process forward.  Little step by little step by little step.

Ask questions.  Resolve the problems you encounter along the way and pick other people’s brains about solutions to try.  Think and do, do and think.  Ask for help with the how of it all from people who actually know something about it.

When you have made some substantial progress at learning the basics of a new skill or have made a good start at some life-change, or, better yet, when you have a sort-of-working prototype, that’s when you’ll have something.

Share that…but only in a way that doesn’t cause others to do a victory dance for you.  (You don’t want that brain of yours to get too complacent.)  Then go back to making your dream happen.

Yeah, it’s not so fun, but it does work better.

Here’s a poem:


YEAH, YEAH, YEAH

I’ve heard these promises before, you know.

Oh, yeah…for real…that’s right.

 

Any day now,

Some day soon,

The sun’s gonna shine, shine, shine.

 

And I have waited for that dawning,

Waited for that glow that grows,

Waited…waited…waited.

 

I’ll get right on it.

Yes, I’m gonna do it.

It’s a-comin’, yes it is.

 

But all my waiting with bated breath

Just got me blue in the face,

Anticipation turning to sour disappointment.

Gonna happen,

Yes, indeedy,

Soon now; really, really soon.

 

Braddah-man, lady-sistah,

Your mouth moving but not your hands.

Your feet not walking, you only got plans.

 

No can, li’ dis!

 

The cold wind’s blowing up past my ass,

And I already know the end of this story.

by Netta Kanoho

Header photo credit:  “Drifting Away” by Chris Chabot via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]

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BOUNCING BACK

BOUNCING BACK

Resilience researchers ask why some people handle adversity better than others and go on to lead normal lives despite negative life experiences while others get de-railed by them.

After years of study, they pretty much figured out that the old guys had the right of it:  You need to stay positive.  You need to have a good crew at your back.

ONE SCIENTIFIC STUDY

This YouTube video from Big Think, “Resilience Lessons from Our Veterans” features psychiatrist Dennis Charney, the Dean of the Mount Sinai Icahn School of Medicine discusses his book, RESILIENCE:  The Science of Mastering Life’s Greatest Challenges, which he wrote with Steven Southwick, who is the Professor of Psychiatry, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Resilience at Yale Medical School.

According to the good doctors, the right kind of optimism as well as a strong support network are key factors in developing resilience.

ANOTHER TAKE ON IT

International bestselling author Paul McGee wrote HOW TO SUCCEED WITH PEOPLE:  Remarkably Easy Ways to Engage, Influence and Motivate Almost Anyone.  He did a series of remarkably satisfying podcasts published by Capstone Publishing in 2013 with riffs taken from his book.  Here’s the one about being resilient….

PULLING IT TOGETHER

Emily Esfahani Smith, in her book, THE POWER OF MEANING:  Crafting a Life That Matters, pulls together a whole body of information about resilience and gives some insight into the characteristics of resilient people and how they keep on bouncing back.

She tells us that resilient people have the following assets in their set of character traits:

  • Purpose and a worthy goal
  • A moral compass that’s tied to altruism or selflessly serving others
  • Social support
  • Spirituality (which could be defined as a “source of strength and power that is greater than yourself”).
  • A natural inclination to continue on through adversity.

According to most resilience researchers some people naturally resist adversity better than others.  Maybe it’s their genetic makeup.  Maybe their early life experiences predisposed them to this way of doing things.

But, Smith says, resilience is not a fixed trait.  Everyone can learn to adapt to stress more effectively by developing a set of psychological tools to help them cope with stressful events.

She points out three successful mindsets and strategies that center on finding meaning in the everyday that work:

OPPORTUNITY MINDSET.  If you can see a stressful situation as a challenge and not as a threat, you are more likely to just keep on keeping on.

“IT’S NORMAL” MINDSET.  If you can see the difficulties and obstacles in front of you as a natural part of how the world works, then you free yourself from stressing about how it’s all because YOU are not-this or YOU are not-that and YOU don’t belong  and YOU are not-supposed-to…and the rest of that garbage.

This mindset can set your mind free from the uncertainties about “belonging” and the doubts that rise up when you’re doing something that is not what the people you want to impress would do.   It allows you to just keep going.

“KEEP YOUR FOCUS ON THE JOB” MINDSET.  If you focus on how doing what you’re doing can help you and others live out self-transcendent values (rather than focusing on how to promote your own self and your own agenda), it’s easier to keep on moving forward.

Smith believes that keeping the life values that are important to you firmly in mind helps to protect you from the damage that stressing over some outcome or other can do.

cahill-craziness
“Cahill Craziness” by Helen Taylor via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]

MY OWN THOUGHT

All of the foregoing stuff gets me to thinking about what the old guys called “gumption.”

Merriam-Webster says “gumption” showed up in the early 1700’s as a word.  Its earliest uses referred to “intelligence” and “energy”.  By the 1860’s Americans were using the word to imply “ambition” and “tenacity.”  It has since evolved into a synonym for “courage” and “get-up-and-go.”

Bouncing back requires all of that.  It’s good to know that they can be developed, they can evolve and they can grow.

 

sunrise-over-maui
Sunrise Over Maui by Rose Braverman Molokai Hawaii via Flickr [CC BY-2.0]

Another IPS (Inner Peace Symptom):  an understanding that the thing you absolutely cannot lose is your gumption.  [Nothing is sadder than somebody whose gumption got up and went.  Hang on to that gumption!]

Here’s one more YouTube video, “Resilience:  Hard Times Motivation” published by Eric Thomas and the Marshall Training Systems guys:

Whew!

And here’s a poem:


MEBBE NEX’ TIME

There you are,

A bit shaky still as you stagger up the beach

Out of the foam.

Life took you and tossed you

Over the falls…again,

But you made it through that maelstrom

More or less intact.

 

There you are, still standing,

Dripping wet and breathing hard.

The pounding’s rubbed you ragged,

But you’re in one piece and you’re moving.

Wobbly as you are,

You’ll be reaching for your board again,

Looking for the next wave,

“Spahking-out” the next ride.

 

Eh!

Good one, brah!

Mebbe nex’ time you goin’ get ’em!

You go!

by Netta Kanoho

Header Picture credit:  “Engulfed” by Nathan Rupert via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

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TRY SOMETHING ELSE

TRY SOMETHING ELSE

Another IPS (Inner Peace Symptom):  an inclination to try and see whether you can pull something off.  [Trying it for yourself can lead to some amazing discoveries.]

I am watching a young friend who’s stuck in a major cycle of suck.  He won’t try anything new.  I don’t understand why it’s so hard for him, but there it is.  He sits around moaning about how his life is not working, but he won’t try doing anything different.

I don’t know.  Maybe he took the Icarus story too much to heart.  Icarus and his dad, a mythological inventor extraordinaire named Daedulus, were incarcerated in a famously inescapable prison by some king or other.

Daedulus, it says here, invented a way for humans to fly.  (This was long before hot air balloons and heavier-than-air planes or anything.)

The inventor and his son, the story goes, strapped on wings made of wax and feathers that Daedulus designed.  The wings worked and father and son escaped the fortress strong, but Icarus got so tripped out by the experience that he flew too close to the sun.  The wax melted, the wings fell apart, and he crashed.

At this point, the Greek chorus cuts in and dolefully groans out the orthodox lesson:  “The gods get angry at those who would dare to fly.”  Uh-huh.

(It is worth noting that Daedulus also flew and he got away clean.)

icarus
“Icarus” (at the entrance of the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton, Ohio) by The Mighty Tim Inconnu via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]
Filmmaker Stanley Kubrick had an interesting take on the Icarus myth.  He said, “I’ve never been certain whether the moral of the Icarus story should only be as is generally accepted, ‘don’t try to fly too high,’ or whether it might also be thought of as ‘forget the wax and feathers and do a better job on the wing.'”

Kubrick is famous for directing ground-breaking, innovative films (in their time) like Dr. Strangelove, Clockwork Orange, 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Shining, and Full Metal Jacket.  He was really good at the art of trying something else.

HERD-THINK

We are, all of us, trained to fit in.  The herd is stronger if everybody is all together, doing the same things, following the tried and true is the reasoning.  Everybody agrees.

Don’t stand up.  Don’t stand out.  In Australia, they call it the “tall poppy” problem:  Stand out and you’ll be cut down.  In Japan they talk about the nail that sticks up.  (It inevitably gets pounded down.)  Sheesh!  Taking a turn off the beaten path engenders dire predictions of eminent doom.

the-tall-nail
“What’s That Saying About the Tall Nail?” by Alan Levine via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]

The easiest way to “fit in,” it seems, is not to start anything, not to try anything that is not-like-the-other-guys.  It’s also a really good way to get stuck in suck…as my young friend is, unfortunately, finding out.  The problem is you can get mired in a miserable bog of your own making that is a lot like being stuck in high school forever.

fit
“Fit” by Daniel Horacio Agostini via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]

SEED THOUGHTS AND SUGGESTIONS

The antidote to all the heavy, herd-induced, foot-dragging, haul-that-barge-tote-that-bale mentality is to get into the habit of trying something else.  It doesn’t seem to matter what you try, it seems.  (Probably, though, experimentation with the latest pharmaceuticals might not be a grand idea.)

Software engineer Matt Cutts is featured in this You-Tube TEDTalk that was published in 2011.  In it he advises, “Try something new for 30 days.”

If that sounds like too big a step for you, there’s an even smaller, tiny-step method, all ready-made and on-line.

In this YouTube video by CreativeLIVE, “28 to Make: Create Something New Every Day This Month,” you can join Makers Kate Bingaman-Burt, Ryan Putnam, Erik Marinovich and Lara McCormick in their romp through a series of daily creative project ideas that show up in your mailbox when you sign up for them.  It’s a “way to get back into the habit of making cool stuff”, they say.

One of my favorite books that I dip into again and again for new things and new “heads” to try on is Mark Nepo’s THE BOOK OF AWAKENING:  Having the Life You Want By Being Present to the Life You Have.  Nepo took 14 years to write the book after coming out the other side of cancer.  They are his beautiful musings about life and loving and being heartful.

The book was published in 2000 and has since gone all over the world, being translated into 20 languages and over two dozen printings.  It is a wondrous place to put your head if you are wondering what else you could try.

Go on…give these things a shot!  Who knows what you might make?

Here’s a poem:


NOT A STORYTELLER

Blocked.

Again.

It just keeps going like that:

Erect a new idea and float it –

One more flying castle in the sky –

Then run-run-run to lasso the thing

And anchor it to the ground.

 

Work your buns off making it come real,

Then watch it crumple one more time

And dodge those stupid falling rocks

Coming down all around you.

 

The wise ones call it a treadmill, ya know.

I think I’m starting to get it.

That hamster in his cage has nothin’ on me except

The squeaky wheel’s starting to irritate the heck out of me,

And he just keeps on truckin’.

 

Okay…

Tell me again, babe:
You are doing this…WHY?

Hmmm….

Where’d I park my Millenium Falcon?

There has GOT to be a better way to do this.

 

Ya know…

I think I figured out why I don’t write novels.

I’m not a storyteller, it seems.

My timelines fall apart and nothing makes any sense.

It does not come together.

 

I guess I wasn’t born to write stories.

Nope.

I’m just doomed to live them.

(Sigh!)

by Netta Kanoho

Header Photo credit:  West Maui Mountain Sunrise by Mike via Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0]

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FINDING YOUR OWN BALANCE

FINDING YOUR OWN BALANCE

The wise guys say Life is a balance.  Physically that is a truth.  You breathe in and you breathe out.  Too much breathing in and you hyperventilate; too little and you turn blue.  Eat too much and you gain weight; eat too little and you waste away.

Balance is fascinating.   I remember that as kids, my friends and I used to try getting the teeter-totter plank to sit perfectly level on its fulcrum as we piled on.  We never did get it quite right.  We tried sitting in different positions on the see-saw board, adjusting the mix of thin and fat kids and throwing in assorted pets as part of the challenge.  It was a heck of a lot of fun.

see-saw
“Children View See-Saw” by Marcelo Campi via Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0]
This YouTube video, “Defying Gravity With Korea’s Premier Balance Artist” was recently published by Great Big Story, the result of a collaboration with Korean Air.  In it artist Rocky Byun, a “balance artist” based in Tancheon, South Korea demonstrates how he is able to find the balance point in anything – rocks, furniture…even bikes and motor scooters.  His amazing sculptures appear to defy gravity.

In another, earlier video filmed at a shopping mall in Dubai and posted to YouTube by Pretty Pink in 2013, Byun is shown performing his art.  He constructs sculptures that incorporate everything from a bunch of irregularly shaped rocks, a laptop, a motor scooter, and even a small refrigerator standing on one corner.

ORIGINS OF WORK-LIFE BALANCE

There is one balancing act that is even more difficult than what Byun and his fellow balance artists can do.  That is the one that’s been dubbed “the work-life balance.”

Everybody is supposed to work at getting that one right.  Somehow, some way, we are all supposed to aim for developing an optimal career AND have an optimal family or personal life as well.  Ri-i-i-ght.

Before the Industrial Revolution, there wasn’t much talk about trying to balance work and the rest of life.  Most people lived in the middle of their work.  Farmers, for example, lived on their farms and the whole family pitched in to help grow and harvest crops as well as take care of all the other things necessary for living.

Work and the rest of life were not separate things.  Work was just part of living.  With the developments of automation, factories, and corporate offices came the Big Divide.  It became normal for “work” to happen “someplace else.”

“Work” became a “job” or a “career” and got compartmentalized away from the other lifestyle things like family, health, leisure, pleasure, community-building and spiritual development.  The priorities of the work-place and the job or the career were often very different from the kinds of priorities one needs to set for personal development or for the growing of relationships and families.

It all takes time and effort, no matter whether you want to get good at your job, advance in your career, develop as an individual, or participate in group or community activities.  It can get terribly complicated.

The expression “work-life balance” was first used in the United Kingdom in the late 1970’s to describe the balance between an individual’s work and his or her personal life.  In the United States, the phrase was first used in 1986.

DEALING WITH THE SEPARATION OF WORK AND LIFE

By 2010 there were all kinds of studies about work-life balances and imbalances and the effect that work has on the rest of a person’s life.  It’s a given, they say:  When the work-life balance is out-of-whack, you get out of whack.

Theories abound about how one goes about finding a “proper” balance.  Everybody weighs in with their own prescriptions and solutions to the dilemma as technology makes it easier and easier to stay connected with your work-world regardless of where you happen to be.

It’s sort of ironic, that.  Now “work” happens at home again and still we separate it from the rest of life.

It would not be so distressing if there wasn’t such a lot of guilt attached to our failure to get the balance “right” and real.  You want to be a success at your work.  You want to have a grand family life and lots of friends and so on.

Everybody tells you that you can do it all, have it all.  (And the sub-text is:  What are ya?  Lazy or something?)

BALANCE OR BUST

The problem, of course, is that you’re trying to make all the differently weighted and shaped things in your life form a structure that defies gravity….flies, even.  You’re trying to be an amateur balance artist and your structures don’t come out looking elegant and awesome like Byun’s work.  Trying to get the balance right is not nearly half as much fun as the game my friends and I used to play with the see-saws.

One way to make it all work is to run yourself ragged trying to get it all done.  That one often ends up with you all twisted into a stressed-out pretzel.  Not good.

This YouTube video by Anna Stefaniak for The School of Life, “Work-Life Balance,”  lends some much-needed perspective on the subject, I think.

Another way to find the right “balance” for you is to decide what your purpose is in life, what brings meaning and mana to it…not somebody else’s pronouncements about what is right and good and real.  Just your own thoughts.

Here’s a YouTube video, “Work/Life Balance Is a Myth” by award-winning American photographer  Chase Jarvis.  In it, he points out that not everyone is cut out for the mad dash of doing-doing-doing that can lead to $ucce$$ big-time…and the real is, they don’t actually have to be.

It is possible, after all, to have a meaningful ordinary life.  It just depends on what you want and where you put your head.

 

Jarvis helped to co-found an online education platform, creativeLIVE in 2010.   The group puts together free on-line classes and works to help Creatives market their work.  The tools they provide can help other Creatives realize their own dreams.  A good thing.

FINAL THOUGHT – ANOTHER IPS

crater sunrise
“Crater Sunrise” by Chad Goddard via Flickr [CC BY-ND 2.0]

Another IPS (Inner Peace Symptom):  an understanding that you are the framework of your own life.  [You’re the only one who can balance the elements of your life to create a synergy that supports you as you dance to your own heartsong.]

Here’s a poem:


MUNDANITIES

The mundanities are three:

People, money, and time.

If you understand those things,

The world will start to rhyme.

 

If the Celestial’s your focus,

The Mundane will make you fall.

Too much of the Mundane

And you can’t see up at all.

 

The only answer’s balance

And that’s not easy to do.

There really is no recipe

For this ever-changing stew.

 

You do the best you can,

You give the best you’ve got,

You’ll rise up and you’ll fall

And for sure you’ll hurt a lot.

 

And when there are no answers

When you can’t see what to do,

You can only trust the simple truth

Residing inside of you:

 

That the Universe keeps changing,

Moving first this way, then that,

And if you follow where it leads you,

You might make it through intact.

by Netta Kanoho

Header photo credit:  “Balance” by Thomas Hawke via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]

Thanks for your visit.  I’d appreciate it if you’d drop a comment or note below and tell me your thoughts.

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