Do you remember the old nursery rhyme, "Sticks and stones may break your bones, but names will never hurt you?" The truth is that words an cause us great pain which can last longer than it takes for a broken bone to heal. In current times this is more true than ever before. In fact, there has been a proliferation of unkind, unsavory, reprehensible words, phrases, ropes thrown around and at people. here is an old Jewish folktale that illustrates the harm of unkind words and gossip.
"The words we use can hurt as well as heal... yet there is more to kind speech than saying nice things.
There was once a man who loved to gossip. He loved the attention it brought him, and could not stop himself from speaking about others, sometimes sharing the good they did, but most often sharing the mistakes they made.
In time, however, he realized the harm his speech was causing, and he sought to make amends. He went to his rabbi and explained the situation and asked how he could make amends.
The rabbi thought for a moment and instructed the man to go to the marketplace and purchase two of the finest feather pillows he could find. He should then take his pillows to the top of the mountain overlooking the village, tear them open, and spill the feathers into the wind.
The man was surprised and pleased at the rabbi's advice. He thought repentance would be much harder than this. So, he ran to the marketplace, purchased his pillows, and within an hour had scattered their feathers into the wind.
He returned to the rabbi all aglow. he was ready to be forgiven for his gossiping. Not just yet, the rabbi told him. there was one more thing to do. he had to return to the mountain and repack the pillows with the feathers he had scattered.
"But that's impossible," the man said. "Those feathers have gone everywhere, there is no way I can take them back now."
The rabbi nodded solemnly and said, "What is true of feathers is true of words. Once spoken they can never be retrieved. The harm caused by gossip cannot be undone."
What is the antidote? One idea that I recently read about involved going back over our lives and making note of everyone that helped us, was kind to us, cared for us. With that acknowledgement we give thanks to each one. This can create a perspective shift to focusing on others' good qualities and helps us let go or ease some of those 'word hurts.' For our own part it might help us to keep the feathers inside the pillow casing.
Comments are welcomed.
What is the first response to a news alert about an impending disaster, catastrophe, pandemic or an alien invasion? The numero uno course of action is to jump into cars, don running shoes, fire up devices and head to Cosco, Walmart, supermarkets, Amazon to participate in the toilet paper panic hording games. The origin of this bizarre phenomenon was the result of a joke that ran amuck in 1973. This was not unlike that famous radio broadcast of the reading of the War Of The Worlds when people freaked out thinking they were under an alien attack.
The situation in 1973 began with legitimate concerns that the country might experience a shortage of gas, electricity and onions (Yes, onions). A congressman issued a statement that there could be a shortage of T.P. After reading that statement, Johnny Carson, then the host of the Tonight show did an opening monologue about toilet paper. The snafu was people took him seriously and started to run out to stock up on toilet paper. The Hording Games were on! The higher levels of anxiety and panic, the greater the stockpiling. Those who were slower to react and found empty shelves, must have suffered a different kind of anxiety and panic.
Here we are almost 50 years later having repeated the same madcap behavior with the initial outbreak of Covid 19. Why am I writing about this? A recent poll asking people what they would do if learning aliens were visiting planet earth. The number one answer? You guessed it, stocking up on toilet paper. When I heard that, I went tumbling down a rabbit hole lined with Charmin, Cottonelle, Cascade, et al. I couldn’t help myself. I had to do a deep dive into the wild and wacky world of T.P. brands as well as the psychology of panic buying.
Here is what I learned in 25 words or more. According to psychology, panic buying is, in part, due to need for control. When everything around us is uncertain and chaotic, the tendency is to stockpile proportionately to the perceived disaster. Having assorted stockpiles seems to provide a semblance of control in an untenable situation.
Moving on. One final item. Did you ever wonder what the brand or type of T.P. is best for your bum and the plumbing? If you are like me, the answer is, no. During my research I stumbled upon that information. In another 25 words or more, here are 2 items on the researchers’ check list which determined top tissue. One, was the feel of the stuff on skin. Another important factor for plumbing longevity was how fast the T.P. disintegrated. The bottom line is Charmin Ultra Soft came out on top. You also cannot go wrong with T.P. made from recycled paper, It disintegrates the fastest. And, no worries, the recycled paper is not previously used toilet paper. Okay, now, I’m done. Go out and enjoy some retail therapy.
Comments are welcomed.
The other day I heard someone compare the pandemic to a marathon. Metaphorically speaking there is something to it. The person was a radio talk show host and recently had a conversation with a promoter who sets up marathons throughout North America. Part of their conversation was about those who quit before finishing their run. Let’s take a 27K marathon, for example. Most people who find they have reached their limit are likely to quit around the 20K mark. If they’ve made it to 26K they are not likely to quit. When people can see the finish line they tend to complete the run.
Back to Covid and the pandemic. The longer this goes on the more difficult it gets to hang in. We are all so weary and fatigued from the past 16 months. I know there are people throwing caution and their masks to the wind. Many are finding it harder and harder to stay the course. Yet, this is not the time to go astray. From what we are told, it would seem we are well beyond the 20K mark. The end is beginning to appear on the horizon. If we can get that second or third or fourth wind, continue to follow the science protocols, I do believe we’ll cross that finish line. The grand prize will be reclaiming the lives we once knew. So worth it.
Comments are welcomed.
Are you happy? What if you were just happier? With what the planet and all of us personally have been going through these past 16 months or so, can we be happy? Happiness is not an either/or situation, rather a continuum. We may not be happy, but we can be happier. We can focus on doing what makes things better, what improves our well being.
Let’s look at the happiness paradox. Studies have shown that happiness is good for us. However, those who value and pursue happiness, may actually find themselves worse off. It becomes a matter of pursuing happiness indirectly through it’s elements. For example, we know that looking right at the sun can be harmful. Yet, if we use a prism and see the sun rays refracted into it’s beautiful colors, we can enjoy the sun through those elements. And so it can be with happiness. What are the elements of happiness that can improve our well being and make us happier. That, of course, is for each of us to decide for ourselves. What might make me happier may not be on your top 10 list. We can assess what will improve our mental, physical, emotional, relational, spiritual well being and do those things that will make us happier.
One last optimistic point. As we come out of the pandemic we can experience resilience 2.0. Resilience is often defined as the ability to bounce back after adversity. In the current condition we have the opportunity to bounce back even stronger gaining adaptability, hardiness, hope and purpose.
Comments are welcomed.
I am a big fan of Ellen Langer, Professor of Psychology at Harvard. She has studied mindfulness for decades. Her position is that without meditation, mindfulness is about noticing new things. Below is a tip from Langer I reprinted from Angela Duckworth’s weekly newsletter. Langer finishes with a study with children, the results of which could apply to adults and how we mindfully listen to each other or not.
“I was once at a horse show, and a man asked if I’d watch his horse while he went to get it a hot dog.
I scoffed. I have a PhD. My whole life, I had been a straight-A student. I even memorized what was underneath the pictures in textbooks to ensure getting my A’s. If there was one thing I knew, it was that horses are herbivores. A hot dog? Pshaw.
He returned, presented the hot dog on his palm, and to my surprise, the horse ate it. It was at that moment that I realized everything I knew could be wrong.
From where did my mindlessness derive? I think it all went back to middle school. Memorization and the teaching of absolutes (horses don’t eat meat) can lead to mindlessness.
We are all mindless much of the time, even though we don’t realize it. But there is a solution: mindfulness without meditation.
Mindfulness, as I study it, is the simple process of actively noticing new things.
When we notice new things, we recognize the inherent uncertainty in everything. We realize how much we don’t know. We come to appreciate different perspectives and ambiguity.
In a recent experiment, my collaborators and I randomly assigned summer campers to two conditions. Half the campers were interviewed about themselves and their camp experience by an adult who was instructed to “pretend that you are interested in their answers.” The other half completed the same interview with an adult who instead was instructed to try to notice the children’s emotional state and body language, especially the ways in which each camper differed from the others.
After the interviews, the campers who had a conversation with a mindless adult thought less of their own abilities, even if only positive content was discussed. In contrast, those who interacted with a mindful adult felt better about themselves and their performance at camp. They also liked and trusted the adult more. And they inferred that the mindful adult liked them more.
When you pay attention to kids, treating them as the individuals they are, you model mindfulness. You’re teaching children how to understand others, that a certain behavior makes sense from that person’s perspective or else they wouldn’t have done it.
Comments are welcomed.
My entire life I have been a girl without a hobby. Of all the people I’ve known throughout my life, I was the only one who was hobby-less. After all these decades, not saying how many, I have found my hobby calling. When you read my story, you may say I am just a copy cat. Who isn’t in one way or another?
Here's what happened. One of the morning news programs reported the Italian artist, Salvatore Garau, had created an “immaterial sculpture” that sold at auction for $20,000. You did read this correctly. The sculpture is invisible. It is entitled Lo Sono - I am. When I stopped laughing, I went on line to see if it was a joke. No joke.
Garau explains his sculpture is comprised of thoughts and spirit which can have density and take up an amount of space. Imagination is also essential to appreciate this art form. I’m thinking it all may have something to do with quantum physics and Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle. Don’t ask.
Believe it or not he had another one – Buddha In Contemplation - at the Piazza Dell La Scala in Milan. It was outlined by tape on a stone walk. Hold on, we’re not done yet. His Aphrodite Cries has been placed in front of the New York Stock Exchange. There is a white circle on the ground where the sculpture can be viewed. With one’s inner eye, I suppose.
You might wonder who is crazier – the artist or the person who paid $20,000 for a piece of immaterial art. It might be a toss up. Then again,Garau may be part genius pulling this off. BTW, a set of instructions went with Lo Sono. It was to be displayed in a private home in an area of 150 cm by 150 cm with no obstruction around it. Of course, there should be nothing to impede absorbing the full scope of this masterpiece.
Now back to my story. This tale of conceptual art gave me an idea. Before I lost my eyesight I did enjoy painting now and then. Obviously that has not been an option these past years. Why not take up immaterial painting? All I need is an easel and my thoughts and spirit. It seemed that an actual easel would be a good idea to provide boundaries to work within. Real paint and brushes are superfluous when creating from some quantum physics state of imagining. Yes! Immaterial painting would be my long sought after hobby. In fact, I will start today by painting peonies in a vase using varying shades of pink.
It would be very much like Van Gogh’s Sunflowers in a vase using varying shades of yellow and nothing else. Sunflowers had special meaning to Van Gogh. They represented gratitude to him. Peonies are special to me. They bring back happy memories of my childhood. My peonies memories elicit joy, simplicity, whimsy, light heartedness. At very, very long last, I have a Hobby. Go figure.
There are three morals to this story:
One: If you don’t love and enjoy what you are doing, stop doing it. Something will call your name. When you hear that call, listen.
Two: Logic will take you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere. - Albert Einstein
Three: A hobby may not always need to be a physical activity. Treating others with respect, kindness, compassion, lending a helping hand whenever possible and having fun along the way seems like a pretty good hobby to me.
Comments are welcomed.
When my daughter was quite young, I came across this wonderful little book entitled, The Little Brute Family by Russell Hoban. We kept this book over the years. I’ve referred to this story in my workshops based on happiness and kindness for grade schoolers.
If you are unfamiliar with this book, here is a synopsis. In a dark and shadowy part of the woods lived a little family of Brutes. There was Mama and Papa Brute, Brother and Sister Brute and Baby Brute. Mama and Papa Brute snarled and growled, Brother and Sister Brute fought and kicked each other and Baby Brute howled. They ate sticks and stones for their meals. No one ever said, “Thank you” or “How lovely or “How delicious,”” because it wasn’t. Papa would go out each day to gather more sticks and stones. Brother and Sister fought all their way to school. Mama stayed home and thumped the furniture and yelled at the Baby. That’s how they lived.
One day Baby Brute was out walking in the woods when a little wandering lost good feeling floated over him. It felt so good that he caught it, put it in his pocket and brought it home. The good feeling popped out of Baby Brute’s pocket and hovered over the table. Suddenly they were saying, “Thank you and how delightful.” When Papa went to gather food, he brought home berries and salad greens. Everyone said, “How delicious,” because it was.
That little wandering lost good feeling no longer wandered, but stayed with the Brutes. At the end of the story the little Brute family changed their name to Nice.
What does this have to do with me? Glad you asked. Full disclosure, I have been feeling depressed, irritable and my sense of humor ran away from home. I haven’t even enjoyed my recent morning walks. You could have called me Cousin Brute. Then a few days ago something changed. I don’t even know what brought about the change, but I felt like my true self again. When I went out for my walk this morning I felt something deep inside. It was like that little lost good feeling. I began to smile for no reason. Even chuckle to myself. My sense of humor had found it’s way back to me. I am no longer Cousin Brute. Am I Cousin Nice? Pretty much. Color me grateful.
Comments are welcomed.
It was truly a Mr. Rogers kind of day. In recent weeks I feel like I have lost some of my cool and tolerance for the current lockdown. I did get vaccinated which feels like a get out of jail card. That gives me more hope for sooner than later. What added to my intolerance was an unexpected heat wave. I do not do well in hot weather. This blast came on so suddenly, the body didn’t get a chance to adapt. Consequently, I was feeling rather sick throughout the spell. I pretty much languished the entire stretch of hot and humid days with the vapors (at least that’s what they called it a couple of centuries ago) and less than stellar brain function. Then a real blessing occurred.
My BFF who lives about a 20 minute ride from me, had an appointment in our favorite neighborhood. I haven’t seen her in 15 months. D also was vaccinated which made an easier decision to meet in person, still sporting masks. You can’t be too careful. We did a couple of errands, purchased a couple of sandwiches and found a bench right outside of a Starbuck’s. I haven’t had a Starbuck’s coffee in a long time so purchasing one was a real treat. I had brought disinfectant wipes, lots of hand sanitizer and even some gloves just in case. We felt quite safe to picnic on that bench.
What made this such a positive experience from the get go was a big change in the weather. The temperature dropped considerably and the humidity was gone. I felt like myself again.
Picnicking on that bench, enjoying maybe the best Starbuck’s coffee ever, having in person conversation, lots of sunshine, a cool, gentle breeze and for an hour or so life was normal. This definitely qualified for a do again.
This leads me to talk about savoring positive experiences and some of the benefits. Savoring is the noticing and appreciation of the positive things in our lives, and then the decision to intentionally enjoy them for as long as possible.
Savoring leads to improvements in our overall health and well-being. When we attend to positive feelings and emotions, our bodies are flooded with “feel-good” neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin that reduce stress and calm our nervous systems.
Savoring positive emotions propels us on a trajectory of experiencing more positive emotions which creates an upward spiral and can lead to more happiness.
Savoring also leads to increased gratitude and appreciation.
When experiencing an event that brings joy, delight and goodness, take the time to dine out on all of the positive aspects in which you participated, whether a receiver or a giver. The benefits will be palpable.
Comments are welcomed.