A Mindful Walk

Usually I just go mindlessly about my business. A recent lecture by professor John Ratey though inspired some of us to try to walk together mindfully, instead of engaging in the lighthearted banter we usually engage in.

I started by noticing the sounds of my footsteps and noticing the architectural details and gardens of the houses and campus on our route. Eventually, I began to notice more of the details of the sidewalk, the plants themselves, and restaurants and stores that I hadn’t noticed before.

After a few minutes, my other senses kicked in one by one. First, I began to notice smells: the aromatic fragrance of the pine trees and evergreens, the loamy smell of the earth, and the savory aromas wafting from the breakfast kitchens. Then came the sounds: the footsteps of my companion, cars driving by, the sound of a lawnmower, the birds. The birds! An orchestral accompaniment to my walk. Then came the tactile: the perfect temperature, slight humidity, the breeze on my face, the feeling of breakfast in my stomach. My vision then expanded. Tunnel vision expanded out to 180 degrees. I saw more in my peripheral vision such as other pedestrians, the landscape, the shape of the autumnal trees, the sky and its reflection on windshields. Finally came my emotional response: delight, interest, appreciation, gratitude, amusement, and then awe.

Now, extrapolate back to my usual, mindless M.O. How much of my world am I casually strolling past without notice? How many times do I allow my mind to wander to the aimless, negative, or obsessive, instead of cultivating my appreciation and amusement? I’m basically squandering these micro-moments that cumulatively comprise how I experience the world…all I have to do is to challenge the mindless default.

Fear?

By:  Guest blogger, Rahmel (Ray)mond Reeves (Age 15)

Fear. What is fear? Is it a feeling, thought or decision? Where does it come from? Does it come when you think about your next report card, or does it comes when you think about love? Many fears come and go but the main topic that scares me the most is if I’ll lose love.  Love is what allows us to be stronger and motivate us to do better, if you lose love, you lose hope. All your potential and character would cease to be shown because without love there’s hate. Hate is pain, stress, guilt, depression, suicide, murder, drug overdose, and darkness. In the world we live in all you hear about is hate, but you never hear about love. This world is hurting because the people on it can’t love one another. No one cares enough to give love. Why can’t a person come to school without worrying about what someone will say, why can’t you walk from the store at night with a hood, Arizona, and skittles without being accused as a threat. Why can’t you change something without being threatened? This world is filled with hate and covered with hope. The only thing that keeps a single mother that lost her job and is getting evicted in two day , who also has a blood clog in her chest , that the doctors said wouldn’t  let her live more than a week, moving with her head up. Hope is what keeps a homeless man from getting weaker, even though his last job told him he wouldn’t be able to work because he’s disabled and stupid. Hope is what keeps your 15 year old son from killing himself because the world said he was different and wouldn’t amount to anything, and made him feel like the world was better without him, because no one understood him, no one knew that his father left him when he was younger, no one knew he got teased because of his weight, no one knew he use to live in a basement and eat stolen noodle mixed with stuffing just so he wouldn’t be hungry, no one knew that kids at school would call him names and try to put him down, no one knew he loved and cared for so many people but couldn’t find love for himself, no one ever knows , because they’re blinded by hate, But because of hope there’s change, motivation, and love. So what is fear? Is it a feeling, thought, or decision? Where does it come from? Does it come when you think about your next report card or does it come when you think about love?

Dreams: Revealing Your Inner Wisdom

I used to go through life with much certainty about who I was, what I was doing, and what I believed.  It’s not so much that I don’t know those things anymore; I’m now more open to other interpretations and shifts.  Sometimes I shift because of new information, new perspectives provided by others or by my accessing my internal wisdom.

The best way to access my internal wisdom has been to be more in touch with my feelings.  The only problem with feelings is that to access the good you also have to deal with the uncomfortable ones.   I cannot find my joy and awe if I’m hiding my resentment and anger.  I can’t know what brings me positive if I turn off the negative.  It’s like trying to use a GPS when your north indicator is broken.  You’ll probably spend a lot of time driving in circles, sort of like I did on the freeways of San Antonio last night.

I have since discovered that dreams are also a potent way to access your wisdom or intuition.  I know, there are many studies that both endorse and discredit intuition as decision-making tools.  I’m not saying they’re perfect, but perhaps they’re more a guide to your inner desires.   Dreams cannot be taken literally.  The meaning behind them has to be teased out in the context of your life.

I have had pretty much the same dream for years, with the same theme but variations on the details.  I’m in school with my BFF from high school and college, Suzanne.  It’s no big deal:  there are no shaming moments, triumphs or failures.  Occasionally I feel unprepared but mostly I’m just in school.   Interestingly, I’ve also never really been able to dream of other people in my life.  They’re usually faceless strangers, or they’re Suzanne.  Period.  I’ve never understood what this dream means.  Not surprisingly, I’m better at interpreting others’ dreams than my own.

I was reflecting recently that I’ve started to dream of everyone in the last few weeks.  No longer just faceless strangers, but now my kids, my Ex, my sweetheart, my current friends and co-workers are part of my dreams.  Everyone, except Suzanne.  I still love Suzanne, in fact I’m here visiting her in Texas.  But the Suzanne dreams are gone.  What has changed?

You got it.  I am back in school, as a student now, since August.

That’s pretty freakin’ amazing, don’t you think?  My subconscious has been telling me for years to go back to school.  No way would I have known even what to study 5-10 years ago. I never even heard of positive psychology until about 2 years ago.  But somehow my subconscious knew what I needed.

Last night I dreamed I was looking up  a colorful, autumn tree at my neighbors, who were sitting near the top, enjoying the vista.  They had a beautiful view and assured me it was lovely there.  I passed them cookies so their experience would be even better.  Of course I’m not supposed to go climb a tree, but maybe my inner self believes that the future (or maybe the present) is pretty cool and everything will be OK, or maybe that I need to take a look at the bigger picture and re-evaluate.

Joseph Campbell, comparative mythologist extraordinaire, believes that dreams provide the metaphors to your own mythology, and how to find meaning or truth in your life.  Public myths (including religion) are society’s explanations and guide to how the world works and how to live in it.  Our dreams are our private guides to understanding and living our lives.  Listen to yourself through your feelings and dreams.  Honor your own wisdom.

My Age, My Asset

In light of my trip to the mall today, and what I’m likely to see in the mirror, I’m reblogging this old post, which I need more than ever.

Silver Lining

I made the mistake of looking at myself in the mirror during aerobics class.  Chicken wings, muffin top, apple-shape.  Sounds like a smorgasbord, instead of the effects of one too many.

My self-esteem is as good as the next woman, but sometimes I can’t help but cringe when I look in the mirror.   We always hear about the unrealistic expectations of beauty we have that are perpetuated by the media.  I have been no exception to that influence, as you’ve probably figured.  It was much worse for me when I was a teen and young woman than it is now.   I know better, now that I am in my ripe middle age, that these supermodel images are not reasonable standards. That doesn’t stop me from going there sometimes.

Wrinkles, grey hair, double chin, cellulite.

Young men and women these days still seem to have especially high standards for their appearance. …

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12 More Reasons You Will Want to Exercise

You already know the physical reasons why you should exercise:  better cardiovascular health, endorphins, more energy and improved mood.  Here are some other reasons you should find some physical activity at least 30 minutes, three times per week:

  • Type A personalities – can become more Type B
  • Decreases depression and anxiety – can be as effective as antidepressants or psychotherapy
  • Protects against anxiety and depression
  • More resilient to stress
  • Enhances learning and emotional control
  • Autism – improves behavior and decreases internal noise
  • Attention deficit disorder – activates the part of the brain that’s “sleepy” in ADD
  • Better impulse control and aggressive behavior
  • Improves cognition – keeps your mind sharp as you age and may enhance academic performance in youth
  • Improves quality of life
  • Increases self-esteem
  • Improves sleep quality

Now that I’ve tripled the reasons for you to exercise, and said that it only takes 30 minutes, three times per week, will you do it?  If I told you it doesn’t have to be the sweaty, stinky, boring treadmill at the gym, it can be a brisk walk in a beautiful park, ballroom dancing with your sweetheart, or climbing the stairs at work, would you do it?  I thought so.

 

Sources:  John Ratey, Spark;  Mutrie, N., & Faulkner, G. (2004). Physical activity: Positive psychology in motion. In P. A. Linley & S. Joseph (Eds.), Positive psychology in practice (pp. 146-164). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

Your Life’s Purpose

What are you here to do on this earth?  Do you know?  Do you know what you are uniquely suited for?  Do you know where your talents, interests and values converge to create amazing, meaningful experiences?  Do you jump out of bed every day and think, “I can’t believe I get to do this today!!”

I thought not.

If you’re like most people you probably like or love what you do every day and like or love who you’re with every day.  And there are probably elements of your life that are filled with that purpose.  For me, being a Mom has always been that and always be that.  But I also never wanted to be a Mom full-time (defined as the 40+ hours/week type Mom) for my whole life.  Being a Mom makes me feel like there’s something higher, more important than myself.  That feeling of transcendence is what I’m referring to, and it’s something humans have searched and longed for through the ages.

These days it seems rare to find people searching for their life’s purpose.  We seem to search for a better car, house or phone.  We search for a better-looking mate, cooler friends, or fancier vacations.  At some point in our lives, we stop and realize that these material, superficial things are not what gives meaning and purpose to our lives.  They just make us feel like we want more and that what we have is not good enough.  Thus the mid-life crisis which happens, oh, about now.

What are we searching for?  Joseph Campbell (The Power of Myth), expert in comparative mythology, calls it our bliss.   He describes it as “being in accord with the grand symphony that this world is, to put the harmony of our own body in accord with that harmony.”  Martha Beck (Finding Your Own North Star) calls it our essential self  that forms before birth and consists of your desires, preferences, emotional reactions resulting in your identity. It’s distinct from the social self that is your essential self  buried under filters, restrictions and expectations from self and others.  Paul Coelho (The Alchemist) calls it your Personal Legend, or the thing you want to do, deep down inside, more than anything.

The essential self pursues her calling and in so doing, taps into her own flow and the flow of the universal energy (Spirituality, An Eye-Opening Endeavor).  When you tap into that universal energy, that energy can be shared with others, and in so doing, helps that other person also feel the universal energy and helps them tap their own.  That flow experience also builds positive emotion and success, so the more you pursue it, the more positive emotion and success you experience, and up you go into a positive spiral.  This is called Broaden and Build by psychologist Barbara Frederickson (Positivity: Groundbreaking Research Reveals How to Embrace the Hidden Strength of Positive Emotions, Overcome Negativity, and Thrive).

Sounds good in theory, right?  Yes, it’s hard to find your calling because of our social selves rule much of our time and attention.  We quit paying attention to the things we love because we’re told (either directly or indirectly) that other things are more important:  making big bucks, pursuing a prestigious job, getting good grades.  Pretty soon we forget the things that brought us joy.

Realizing that most of us are mostly living as our social rather than essential self is important to be able to rediscover that essential self (see Breadcrumbs on the Trail of Authenticity).  Once we shed those expectations of self and other, we can be more open to where our talents and interests lie.  We can discover the markers of flow and joy, even if we’ve taken them for granted our whole life.  We can find ways to apply them in a meaningful way and thus craft our Personal Legend.  I am also a firm believer that if you love and are excellent at what you do, then you will be able to be successful with its pursuit.  It may not enough to maintain a McMansion, but you may decide that McMansion is not as important as it once seemed especially when it compares to living your bliss.

Spirituality, An Eye-Opening Endeavor

One of the things I love about my Masters in Applied Positive Psychology Program is that it requires me to stretch in ways that I wouldn’t necessarily figure out on my own.  This week’s assignment was to do the Person-Activity Fit Diagnostic assessment in Lyubomirsky’s the How of Happiness.  The test provides suggestions on areas of life on which you can focus to increase your happiness and well-being.

The test identifies four areas, three of which I felt already quite happy with the degree to which I am constructively using them in my life (working on goals, forgiveness or nurturing).  The fourth, spirituality, is an area that I’m interested in developing but am still so, so green.  Though I’ve always sensed there’s more to life than meets the visible or measurable eye, science is about quantifying for the purposes of proving or disproving hypothesis.  The unseen and the undetected is beyond even hypothesizing, much less measuring.

The divorce timed with my discovery of the work of Jill Bolte Taylor led me to begin a journey of spiritual exploration.  With this current exercise, I’ve been focusing on some of the questions posed, including contemplating one’s future.  I know that my future is intimately tied to my calling – developing people – but what does that mean in terms of spirituality?

Fortunately my sweetheart is much farther along in the spiritual journey than I am.  He says that being in the sweet spot, or flow, with the things you love to do is tapping into the universal energy flow and is a spiritual activity.   Even appreciating the beauty of others, of humanity, and of our beautiful world is transcendent.  I didn’t even know what that word meant until recently.  I guess that means I’ve always been spiritual though I never had a word or conceptual framework to describe it.

If I have a gift, it’s being able to see the beauty and potential in every person.  My mission in life is cultivating that.  I love doing strengths coaching in particular because it is so clearly a way to see and elevate each person’s unique talents so they may tap into that flow and universal energy more easily.  Interestingly, I was only able to realize this gift when I gave the same gift to myself.  Life coaching also allows one to find one’s personal wisdom and focus on what they do best.

I apologize as this must sound so incredibly naïve to those of you who are advanced in this area.  What is your perspective on this subject?  What does it mean to be spiritual?  What’s the connection with your calling/passion and spirituality?