About a year ago I read an article in Parade, the Sunday LA Times supplement. It was about Sandra Day O’Connor’s latest initiatives. (She was a Supreme Court justice before retiring a few years ago.) Almost defying the impossible, that newspaper clipping made its way to its proper folder and file. Then a few days ago, there she was in the Times, once again sounding the drum about her mission to boost our country’s lack of knowledge about American civics.
And you know what? I think it’s a fabulous idea. Recently I talked with my friend who is waiting for a letter instructing when to report to take the pledge of allegiance to the USA. She was studying to take the citizenship test, and getting a thorough grasp of the foundations on which our great nation is based. I quickly learned that there was no way I could pass the test without a major refresher course. Oops!
So back to 83-year-old Sandra Day O’Connor: In 2010 when she came across a poll proving fewer than a third of us could name the chief justice of the Supreme Court, she (and I’m sure a few of her pals) came up with an online program made up of online games to educate students. It includes all kinds of civics topics such as checks and balances, amendment rights, houses of government, courts, elections, etc.
What a simple, clever, and effective idea — iCivics. I’m guessing she has the connections to gather people to help her create the curriculum and learning games and to make them fun and available. No doubt there will be an ability to get some good testimonials as well as celebrity endorsements to make civics cool to do. Some marketing firm should be able to help spread the word!
From a stronger knowledge of how the government operates, we will start to have a bit more gratitude for the rights we have, and this can’t help but spill over to other areas of our lives. Every little bit helps! Hooray for Sandra Day O’Connor.
How good is your knowledge of civics?
Do you feel like ships passing in the night with your significant other? Did something happen that rocked your relationship to the core? Are your interactions with your partner becoming more about logistics and less about your connection?
That’s what was happening to a couple I saw recently. Tom and Ann’s best friends unexpectedly filed for divorce, which was a big wake up call to attend to their own neglected relationship. They knew they still loved each other, and wanted to keep their family together, but differing communication styles landed them in opposing camps. Rather than risking long, draining battles, Tom chose to withdraw, put his energy into volunteering, exercise, and business. Ann took on running the household, but her constant little digs let Tom know how unhappy she was.
Giving the cold shoulder and continually criticizing are clear sings that issues haven’t been resolved. Unfinished business causes you to focus on what’s not working. “You” versus “me” thinking prevails, and sooner or later, the other person becomes an enemy rather than ally. Your rose colored glasses get dirty lenses, and you can no longer see what drew you together. You stop doing the very things that once fanned your love.
All is not lost. These four simple tips will get you back on the same track and stoke those flames once again:
1. Set up time to talk and listen. Each person gets uninterrupted time to talk about what’s on his or her mind while the other listens with a genuine desire to understand. This is not a discussion. It’s a time to just talk and listen. While listening, strive to walk in the other person’s shoes. Tom and Ann committed to talk-and-listen for ten minutes, each evening after dinner. For five minutes one would talk without interruption, then they would switch roles.
2. Offer genuine appreciations and praise. Attending to the positive is not “sucking up”. It’s paying attention to the half full. Look for the good whether it’s a characteristic, quality, or action. Look hard. It’s buried there somewhere. Then voice it. Ann decided to say something nice to Tom before he left the house each morning. It was hard at first, but got easier. Eventually she actually enjoyed coming up with a different appreciation every day.
3. Participate. Ask, “How can I help right now?” or “What can I do?” and do it. Tom discovered that just asking these simple questions and doing simple things melted Ann, and made him feel good, too.
4. Give. Little gestures offer love in a tangible form. Volunteer to do the dishes. Run an errand. Bring flowers. Call the other person at the office and leave a sexy message. Write a love note. Ann surprised Tom by planning a date night, complete with finding a sitter and arranging a dinner reservation followed by a stroll along the wharf.
Try these tips and watch with amazement as love grows and the results multiply. Small steps done thoughtfully, can shift years of habit. Remember, captain’s steer huge ships with tiny rudders. So shift your direction and watch how everything changes towards a brighter horizon.
Indeed, attitude is everything. Our attitudes, or core beliefs, cause us to feel sadness, anger, and fear or joy, love, and peace. Not only that, our attitudes dictate how we think, feel, speak, and act.
According to Attitude Reconstruction, there are only 12 pairs of core attitudes. For example, Paul, a client I saw recently was a single dad with two children aged ten and thirteen. He was working two jobs to barely make ends meet. One of the attitudes he had was being in the future based on the past. The pervasive attitude is associated with the emotion of fear.
Being out of the present shows up in worrying about his kids and having enough money for unforeseen expenses.
Paul’s thoughts and words were peppered with “what ifs,” worst case scenarios, and excessive planning. What if I lose my job? What if something happens to the boys and I’m not around? What if an unexpected expense comes up?
His actions were reflected in sleepless nights, even though he was exhausted. He spent his days buzzing around at warp speed – never taking time to relax.
There is good news for Paul. There is hope. He could use any of his five tools to change this attitude – his emotions, thoughts, intuition, words, and actions.
The opposite core attitude, associated with the emotion of peace, is to reside in the present. In order to do this Paul decided to use the tools of his emotions and his thoughts.
He learned to shiver out the fear, especially when he found himself agitated and dwelling about what might happen in the future. This means quivering like a leaf on a tree or a dog at the vet — up the spine, out the limbs, and in his neck and jaw – with vigor for just literally one minute.
While trembling he repeated: “I just feel scared. It’s okay. One thing at a time. I’ll do what I can and the rest is out of my hands. I’ll handle the future in the future.”
As strange as it sounded, Paul found that shivering really move the fear energy out of his body. With just a bit of practice, he found it easier to enjoy time with his kids, be more present at work, and sleep better.
Her perspective is that of a young Korean woman. Lee says that Kim is who she wished she could have been growing up. Rather than being the stereotyped quiet Asian girl, the main character, Kim, is the opposite: she tells you exactly who she is and what she’s thinking. “It’s not easy being a girl, stuck with mean parents, a dumb boyfriend and annoying friends,” Kim declares.
Up to now, Lee has produced a series of seven comic books and a line of products such as T-shirts, dolls, aprons, tote bags, iPhone cases, and mugs. But now she’s coming to television this summer on Mnet, an Asian American channel with her new cartoon show called “Angry Little Asian Girl.” I for one am going to check it out.
Kim has a group of gal pals and a “Korean” mom, Mrs. Lee, who like Lela’s mom instilled the message of “work harder” “try harder” “achieve something and be somebody,” and “make money.” Kim tells it like it is, contrary to what Lela, like most girls, were taught — stuff what she was thinking and feel humiliated instead.
Lela Lee has paid her dues. She started cartooning while she was at Berkeley almost 20 years ago. However, Lee doesn’t just give voice to the Asian girl. The things she says and issues she addresses ring very clear for me, a middle class, Caucasian woman. I too, rarely spoke up for myself and I know that I was not alone. Lee speaks about universal issues, such as family, frustrations, food, and society in general from the perspective of many a silent female.
I believe Lela’s cartoons will be a refreshing alternative to all the medical murder and reality shows. I’m here with applause. Fabulous. A needed voice. Hopefully it will be fresh, fun, right on the money, and for her mother’s sake, make her a lot of cash.
Two things caught my attention in the last few days. First there was an article in the LA Times and other publications, that reported that in July 1999, David Whipple of Utah stashed a McDonald’s burger in his coat pocket and forgot about it. When his wife discovered it a year later, it looked like he’d just purchased it. (He has the receipt.) So they did a little experiment, and kept it to see what would happen. Now 14 years later it still looks the same, except that the pickle has deteriorated.
McDonald’s issued an explanation as to why that might not be so unusual, but I think the message is clear. If mold and fungus won’t eat it, then we probably should steer clear too.
In contrast, I then had the pleasure of attending a lecture by Alice Waters of Chez Panisse fame. Here’s a gal who has had a restaurant in Berkeley, California for 40 years and it’s going stronger than ever.
What has she learned? Alice believes the root cause of our country’s negative slide, (with the rest of the world unfortunately following) is fast food. She spoke of fast food values, such as uniformity, efficiency, availability, cheapness, drudgery, more is better, and dishonest labeling. Alice pinpointed the beginning of our downward spiral began in the 50s with TV dinners and has now completely taken over.
Where is the light in the darkness? What’s the opposite? Alice believes it’s a “slow food culture” such as she learned while studying in Europe many a year ago. That doesn’t just mean eating slow, but having more connection with the growing and preparing aspects of food. And I was delighted to hear the best way to engrain a slow food culture was to start in the schools, as 20% of people are in school at any one time. This is where true education and influence occur.
For the last few years she’s been consulting with Yale University because they’re interested in transforming their food offerings. And locally, Alice has been involved in the Martin Luther King School in Berkeley, with planting veggie gardens, new menus, and free lunches so that children learn food skills at an early age, eat nutritious food, and cultivate an appreciation of this other way of operation.
Her belief is food can transform culture! I love that. And I would add, we can transform our culture if hand in hand, schools start to teach children about emotions and how to express their sadness, anger, and fear physically, naturally, and constructively. By doing so, they’re offered solutions instead of reverting to the destructive attitudes and behaviors that we’re witnessing in society today.
So what about it? Slow Food and Attitude Reconstruction can change the world!
In the wake of all the gun violence we’ve had recently, I went on a campaign to advocate for OK Rooms, places where people can go and safely move out their anger energy in a physical and constructive way. They’re effective. They reduce violence on a personal, national, and global level. And I see them as a low cost solution: release anger from the body by pounding old phone books with a flexible plastic hose, pushing against a wall or door-jamb with all your might, yelling loud noises into a pillow, or lying on your bed to kick and scream.
Emotions are just that: E (energy) in motion. If we get rid of that energy in a safe place, we won’t be taking our frustrations and peeves out on people and things of value.
I thought I’d share my observations, based on my experiences as a psychotherapist for over 30 years, with some of our politicians who request input from their citizens. Most politicians seemed focused on gun legislation at the expense of getting to the real root of the problem –underlying anger. However, if we express our emotions, like a young child melting down with a temper-tantrum, we drain the anger energy and transform ourselves back to our present and loving selves.
So I wrote emails to President Obama, Vice President Biden, the Office of Public Engagement …. Michelle Obama, Senators Boxer and Feinstein, my Congresswoman, and Illinois politicians such as Rahm Emanuel and Senators Kirk and Durbin of Illinois. And though our government says, ‘we’re listening, please let us know your views,’ the reality is that I received only two meaningful responses! (Well actually I received three, but the one from Senator Boxer was a form letter that wasn’t relevant to my email.)
So kudos to Senator Richard Durbin. He responded in one week. And kudos to Lois Capps’ office. I just received an email yesterday – 5 weeks later, but the first paragraph at least made me think that someone did read what I had written. The rest of the letter was generic about how much needs to be done and what she is doing.
So to the rest, I say, “Come on folks. If you ask for input, let us know you’re listening. Don’t you have a ton of interns that would willingly help to keep you in touch with your constituents?” There are millions of people with good ideas to help our country reverse some troubling trends.
And I say to people like me who made the effort, “keep at it!” Sometimes it takes a plane circling several times before it can make a safe landing.
What about you? Have you gotten any action as the result of contacting your local elected officials? Please let me know of your success stories!
I had a huge insight while talking with a client today. Carole was trying to get clarity about her long-term boyfriend, who had left their home a few months ago and was now planning to take on a summer job out of town.
When I asked what she was feeling, she reeled off a list about being abandoned, angry, sad, upset, and usurped by his parents and sisters who had taken him in.
It was obvious to me that as long as she was focused on him (an outward focus on other people, things and situations is the hallmark of unexpressed anger) she was going to feel awful feelings.
I pointed this out and then repeated my question about what SHE wanted today and where SHE stood when he had left. Carole said she likes living in the house alone with her dog and wants to live separately. She also knew she wasn’t willing to fall back into her old role of “the playing house thing” and feeling responsible for dinner on the table each evening. Her best-case scenario was that they would live separately and remain good friends.
In refocusing on herself and what was true for her, Carole was no longer in the grip of how terrible he’d been and how much she’d been wronged. With this simple switch, she felt clear and strong enough to speak her truth when they reunited at the end of the month.
Just that simple refocusing from outside (he did me wrong) to within (what was true for her), brought her so much more peace, strength, and confidence.
It’s a lesson we must all learn: getting absorbed with what’s happening out there takes us to funky places; staying within our heart and listening to our intuition brings us back to our true domain, our Self.
It’s so nice to read that science is validating what I see in my private practice most everyday. Dr. William Frey of the Ramsey Medical Center in Minneapolis found that tears produced by onions were 98% water, were different in chemistry than tears produced by an emotional reaction. Why does that matter? Those tears contain not only water, but measurable toxins as well. The body is actually shedding the stress hormones and toxins that we’ve accumulated when we didn’t allow ourselves to cry. Dr. Frey also found that emotional crying increases the production of endorphins – that feel-good hormone we experience through exercise and states of excitement. So crying is a double win!
When people allow themselves to cry, they wash themselves clear. But there’s an important caveat here. According to Attitude Reconstruction, while crying you must keep your mind from dwelling on negative thoughts about how pathetic, passive, terrible and worthless you are. If you cry while thinking “I’m such a loser. If you don’t tell me how wonderful I am, there must be something wrong with me,” the sadness will never go away.
Trash-talking silently or aloud while crying will never move the sadness out of your body. It only keeps you feeling bad and sad. While crying, you must either name what is true, what you are feeling in your body, such as – “I feel sad. I need to cry. It’s okay. I feel hurt.” Or you can focus on the reality you know about yourself when you are clear, something along the lines of “I am whole and complete.” “My viewpoints and needs are as important as yours.” Or “My job is to take care of myself.”
Don’t be surprised if thinking constructive thoughts about yourself evokes even more tears. By focusing on what you know when you’re feeling joy (the opposing emotion to sadness) you’ll be contradicting and neutralizing all those ancient destructive messages you took on, usually at a very young age.
I’m sure in the not-too-distant future, research will find the same results about the emotions of anger and fear: toxins and stress hormones decrease when people express them constructively and physically. If you feel anger, pound, push, and stomp. If you feel fear, allow your body to shiver and quiver, instead of distracting yourself or reverting to some destructive behavior. If you emote while not indulging in destructive mental chatter, you’ll feel better, lighter, happier, and experience more of the emotions of love (the opposite of anger), and peace (the opposite of fear).
Emotions are just pure sensations in the body. Express that energy out of your body in a constructive and physical way, and you’ll experience an amazing shift. Your body, mind, and heart will thank you for doing what’s natural.
What experiences have you had of the healing benefits of emoting? Let me know.
Oprah disclosed in the upcoming April 2013 issue of ‘O’ magazine that she is “functionally illiterate” in mathematical or technological skills. Thank you so much for coming out! Many of us feel confident in one or several domains but find ourselves challenged to the max in others.
That certainly is the case with me: math – OK; tech – only average (it depends on the task); directions and instructions, especially about physical things like dance steps or golf swings, or foreign languages – “functionally illiterate” as Oprah says.
The problem with areas we don’t excel in is that often we become ashamed of our so-called shortcoming. We’re apologetic. We get embarrassed because we seem extra slow to pick up a task others find a breeze. To compensate we find excuses not to do certain things. But often there is that nagging “What will they think of me?” or “Are they making fun of me? mentality that erodes our self-confidence and self-esteem.
Why? Because we identify with our actions, rather than remembering that we are something more than what we do or don’t do or have. It’s so important to remember to be kind to ourselves in areas that are a challenge. Calling ourselves names does not help.
We all have assets and liabilities; strengths and weaknesses. It’s time to embrace all aspects of ourselves instead of hiding our perceived foibles. To openly proclaim our disabilities will help us all see that we are all the same.
Here are some tips about how you can befriend your disabilities:
1. Remember that everyone has abilities and disabilities, whether physical, mental, or emotional. Own them both proudly to remember that we are all the same. Repeat 100,000 times, and especially when you start to feel ashamed, embarrassed, etc., something that contradicts your old thinking. Maybe it’s “I’m fine, even if I can’t…” or “I am not my abilities” or “I am not what I look like…” “Everybody has a disability.”
2. Deal with the emotion that comes up for you when your mind locks and you can’t do whatever task in front of you. Emotions are just pure energy in the body, so if you feel scared – frozen – shiver and quiver with gusto for literally a minute. If it’s anger, stomp around, push against a wall, or yell into a pillow. If you feel sadness, find a safe place and have yourself a good cry.
3. Contradict those sabotaging messages. Instead of telling yourself “I’ll never be able to grasp this” or “I can’t do math,” tell yourself, “I can do this, one step at a time and at my own pace.” Praise yourself for persisting and every tiny victory in areas that are particularly difficult for you.
4. Speak up when you get lost. Ask for extra instruction. Say “I have trouble grasping what you are saying right now. Could you please say that again, explain that to me again, show me that again….”
5. Break the seemingly overwhelming task (like balancing your checkbook) into a series of small doable steps. Do it, even though it’s difficult, shivering as you do to help you stay present and focused. Persist. Practice extra long and hard. With practice we can push through our obstacles, even though they don’t seem easier over time. Or we can choose to delegate those tasks to others (with their permission) and help out in other areas when you see that someone is flailing.
6. Bring your disabilities out of the closet and talk about them as fact. You’ll be amazed at how much closeness these kind of self-disclosures bring. If someone makes a joke about it, say something along the lines of “I just wanted you to know this is extra hard for me, but I’m committed to learning/doing … my best.”
When we need to do something that is difficult, we have a choice. We can own them, ask for extra instruction, and practice extra long and hard. With practice we can push through our obstacles, even though they don’t seem easier over time. Or we can try to delegate those tasks to others and step forward when others are flailing.
Either way, it’s time to embrace all aspects of ourselves instead of hiding our shortcomings.
Hooray to Oprah (and to me!) for our open admissions. Is there anything you struggle with that you are willing to come clean on? Tell us.
Last Wednesday a great being came from India and through town as part of a world tour to offer us folks inspiration, encouragement, information, and experience. I definitely needed a boost. Luckily I had been getting Amma Karunamayi’s newsletter so I knew she was coming. For those of you who haven’t heard of her, she tours the world with the goals of giving people a shot of her kindness and love. It’s been quite a few years since I’ve been around one of those folks, whose life mission requires the total sacrificing of their own egos. With admiration, my hat’s off to her for a life of service and giving.
A couple of hundred people or more crammed inside the Santa Barbara Unity Church and designated the day for just being with ourselves, in silence, in the presence of someone who has done a lot of training to get to her level of functioning and power.
In this particular program, each person could write their concerns on a 4×6 card and then come up and spend a couple of minutes where Karunamayi would take the card, and you’d sit in silence together. Now you might think that’s hooey, but the reality is I do feel like there is movement within me. As a friend who was also there emailed me later,
“That was a day well spent… That night I crashed and slept the best I had in some weeks. Still feeling her work rippling through me. I’m sure it’s the restarting of every program inside me after she changed them!!”
Karunamayi gave a brief talk after performing a short ceremony and said simple things we’ve all heard before to help our cause. Everyday, do at least (like 15 to 20 minutes) of one of the following:
1. Meditate (time to put everything else aside)
2. Yoga postures (simple physical poses that open and move the body and quiet the mind
3. Pranayama (simple breathing exercises that balance and quiet the mind)
4. Love God more than before
Her message is not new. However we need to be reminded frequently because it’s too easy to get swept away by life’s beckoning.
Focus on being self-realized – which means being the best we can be and aligning ourselves with the flow, God, nature, etc. As we attend to ourselves first and set aide a few minutes to connect with our silent inner-self, we become more beautiful and peaceful, and will naturally share ourselves — our heart, our love, with others and the planet.
Pretty simple. I continue to feel appreciably better! I’ve dusted off some of my old CDs and listening to them is like a sweet candy for my whole being.
It’s the least we can do for ourselves to ease the turbulent times we all face. Take just a few minutes a day to pause and see what happens.
What do you do to drop everything for a few minutes and just be? Let me know?