Meditation Benefits: Staying Calm In Chaos
Mindfulness Meditation matters most during busy times.
If you feel anxiety approaching with the holidays, consider healing your mind. Most of us have heard about the idea that we should stop and meditate more during stressful times. This is confusing, because under stress, it seems like we should DO something. Through personal experience though, I’ve learned to follow that strange advice and double my meditation during my busiest times.
When I meditate for an hour, I get frustrated, bored, impatient, scared and convinced that I need to get up and do something already.
The practice of letting these feelings pass while I sit still and soothe myself with my breath, is invaluable. I’ve practiced letting the boredom of a long line, the frustration of a drunk guest and the irritation about consumer pressures at Christmas time, pass. I’ve sat through the feeling that I better do something about this right now, and breathed my urgency away.
From sitting for longer periods, I grow familiar with the temporary nature of feelings, sensations and thoughts. I stay calm in chaos.
Meditation Benefits: Access To Your Wisest Self ( The God Within)
I am in the process of re-editing and revising My Wish.
“Make a determination to practice, at least 5 or 10 minutes, every day. Heal your wounded mind. This will help you love yourself, so you can love others.”- Venerable Bhante Sujatha
As I read what I wrote about meditation, these thoughts occurred to me:
Not meditating or engaging in self-reflection is essentially me, ignoring me.I picture my deepest self as a child, trying to get my attention while I stare right through her as if she’s invisible. The monk talks about healing our wounded minds. I believe that our minds (and our inner selves) are injured when we fail to examine them on a regular basis through introspection and meditation.
It’s like refusing to ask the wisest, most powerful, open and vulnerable person in the world.
I understand this. I struggle with my self-image almost every day as I interact with people that seem “better off” than me.
When the distinguished monks on the stage in Sri Lanka opened My Wish, I was pretty sure they would be disappointed in my book about Venerable Bhante Sujatha. I’ve learned that the more intimidated I feel, the less in touch I am with my small but mighty inner self, who always knows exactly what I need.
See, she’s not a little girl. She’s someone with the clarity of a child, the bravery of a warrior, the power of a king, and the wisdom of a dear friend who always wants what’s best for me.
I used to think that ignoring my mind and the deepest parts of myself were smart ways to move on, but I am pretty sure that ignoring our minds and our inner lives has the same impact as ignoring anything. It is not benign, any more than ignoring your hair, your body, or your house.
Neglect hurts, and somewhere inside all of us, there’s an abandoned part that will apply constant pressure until we listen, and see.
Loving Kindness Meditation: Being Your Own Best Friend
“Just wish yourself the best. Say I hope you have the best day ever to yourself. Be your own best friend.” – Vimala Bhikkhuni, Blue Lotus Temple & Meditation Center
I can also wish myself to be happy, well and peaceful and send that intention to others as well.
May I be happy. May I be well. May I be peaceful. I would not even think of saying this to myself as I stand in line in a crowded retail store, unless I’ve practiced Loving kindness meditation. Loving Kindness mediation is also known as “metta”.
This is what it means to love kindness. I put kindness to myself and others first. It is the first thing I turn to when I feel anxious or under threat or angry. May I be well. May I be Happy. May I be peaceful. May you be well, May you be happy. May you be peaceful.
It is so simple that it seems unimportant, but these practices actually fracture the trap of self-degradation and cause tectonic shifts in the way that we experience life.
As sugared-up kids knock on our doors this Halloween, reminding us about the frenzy soon to come, try to remember to wish yourself well on a regular basis, learn to use your breath as solace, and allow yourself to know and love yourself completely.
Thank you so much for reading my post. I hope that you have the best day ever.
Peace Is Not A Spectator Sport: Anne Frank’s Chestnut Tree
I am writing a short story inspired by Anne Frank, and I came across this quote in my research.
“Peace is not a spectator sport… The enemies of peace don’t need your approval. All they need is your apathy.” – President Clinton, at the Anne Frank Tree Installation at the Presidential Center in Little Rock, Arkansas in 2015.
The Anne Frank tree was birthed as a sapling from a 170 year old Chestnut Tree outside the window of the Secret Annex, where Anne hid with her family and others for two years. In 2005, the glorious white horse Chestnut began to die from a serious disease, and the Anne Frank House obtained permission from the owner to germinate chestnuts from the tree. The saplings were then donated to schools and other organizations in Anne’s name.
In 2009, the Anne Frank House donated 150 descendents of the tree to a woodland park in Amsterdam; After a three year quarantine, the last young trees were planted in the United States.
I like to think that Anne loved that old Chestnut with all her might, and that the saplings planted around the world in her honor are holding that love for all of us.
She wrote about the tree in her diary for the last time on May 13, 1944.
“Our chestnut tree is in full bloom. It’s covered with leaves and is even more beautiful than last year.” – Anne Frank, from the Diary Of Anne Frank
Anne’s resilience and optimism in the face of so much deprivation and fear -(imagine what she would give to sit underneath a tree or take a walk outside once more!) – was supported and held close by her mindful writing practice.
Mindfulness Practice Supports Compassionate Action
I’m inspired to think about the mindfulness practices that support my resilience and optimism, thankful for the luxuries of time and freedom, and heartbroken that we made the choice to turn boatloads of children away from the safety of our glorious shoreline.
Mean-spirited denial of refuge is almost always disguised as a “protective measure”. Injurious apathy often masquerades as a feeling of overwhelm – “I can’t do everything so I’ll do nothing”, powerlessness – “I am only one person. How much difference can I make, really?” and un-relatedness- I don’t have time to help “them” or “they” should have moved, stopped this sooner, asked for help in a better way, etc.
(It’s helpful to remember history: In July 1938, fewer than 5 percent of Americans believed that the United States should encourage refugees fleeing fascism. In January 1939, 61 percent of Americans opposed the settlement of 10,000 refugee children, “most of them Jewish,” in the United States.
“By 1941, the United States severely restricted refugee resettlement, in part through the Smith Act, which gave individual American consuls power to deny refugee visas, and gave Breckinridge Long, the assistant secretary of state who opposed Jewish migration, greater control of refugee policy.
As nativist voices were triumphing over refugee policy, over 6 million Jews were exterminated during the Nazi reign of terror.” – Lee Fang, writing in The Intercept
Anne Frank, barely into her teens, hiding from certain death, said this:
“How wonderful it is that no one need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”- Anne Frank
It’s not really all that wonderful when you think about it. It’s a daunting call to action, and it’s true.
The whole world is really a boatload of children, waiting to be deemed worthy of attention and care. The photo below is from the liberation of Dachau.
Four Mindfulness Practices That Support Your Efforts To Improve The World
So Start with you, and let love in to open your heart. If you need support in your efforts at acceptance and understanding, here are four practices that will help your heart stay open and connected to new, beneficial ideas for right action:
- Meditation: The benefits of this practice can’t be overstated. I find it helpful to think of it as a work out for my brain that then supports my efforts at improving everything else. Even one minute a day is helpful!
- Writing: I always recommend starting with a story about your life. While I know journaling is good for you in so many ways, I am a fan of story-telling as a way to re-understand the world around you. As we write the stories of our life, we start to THINK about the stories that might inform the reactions and actions of the people around us, and we increase our capacity for empathy.
- Reading: While it may feel like a “waste of time” when you have so many distractions competing for your attention, reading literary fiction is actually recommended for autistic children as a way to improve their ability to relate to others. This is because, unlike the exaggerated circumstances of memoirs or popular genre fiction, literary fiction usually encourages us to imagine the hidden story behind a “normal” character’s current circumstance. As we surmise the inner reasons that characters act the way that they do, we practice understanding others. This lessens our tendency to quick judgements and our empathy improves in a measurable way.
- Yoga: I really get it. I hated yoga too, but I can share enough benefits to fill a book, literally. Yoga improves your ability to stay calm in the midst of a challenging circumstance and stops the crazy cortisol rush that drives most impulsive or fear-based choices. The practice of yoga teaches stillness and mind body awareness, which helps you choose beneficial reactions and actions.
Anne Frank Was Right: We Need Not Wait A Single Moment To Begin To Improve The World.
There are more supportive practices of course, but the point of this post is simple.
If you’re challenged by too little time, money or tolerance, remember that there are practices that will support you as you “begin to improve the world.”
Turns out, we are the ones we’re waiting for.
We just have to learn about each other and ourselves first, and find the practice or practices (in my case, I need several!) that support us best. It’s not easy to remember, but we really need not wait a single moment to begin to improve the world.
Thanks so much for reading my post.
“As long as this exists, how can I be sad?” – Anne Frank, describing the chestnut tree outside the Secret Annex in the Diary Of Anne Frank
A Mindfulness Practice For Inner Peace and Well Being
Last week, I had the inaugural gathering at my new, MUCH smaller place. It took almost 6 months to have my first party because downsizing took about 30 times longer than I imagined. (and it was WAY harder to let stuff go than I thought it would be; I still have regrets about some of it. My mindfulness about this was less than stellar.)
Frankly, I was living in a cluttered mess way longer than an acceptable “I-just-moved” time frame. I can remember the moment this started to change. I was talking with a friend on the phone and I noticed a window in the hallway at the top of the stairs that lead up to my apartment. (It’s the top floor of a really cool house, and I love the word, “apartment”- makes my urban soul extremely happy).
When I noticed how the light was shining through the artistic shape of that window frame, everything seemed to change.
Soon, I loved the whole place. And once that happened, the artwork got hung,(and by the way, I found some great stuff at Savers-from people who are downsizing like me. One of my favorite finds is this vintage poster.) Once the artwork was up, I was motivated to buy a couch. (After more than an hour of conversation with my friend while we sat on a couch at World Market, an employee joked that he could get us a glass of wine. I bought the couch on the spot.)
Before I knew it, I was “settled in.”
Of course, I got blasted with three urgent deadlines on the day of my party. I had to work late and after rushing to the store for groceries, I didn’t even have time to vacuum.
First Things First
So. First things first, right?
I walked in with an armload of groceries, on the phone with a friend who is getting her MFA. Since I promised to read her a short essay, I stopped at the bottom of the stairs and pawed my computer out of my messy backpack. While I read my writing to her, I thought: “You don’t have time for this!” and then I thought: “Yes, you do. This is literally your dream, and you are not giving this time away.”
After reading the essay, I rushed upstairs, cluttered up the kitchen table with groceries, shoved the backpack in a closet, and greeted my 13-year-old dog. The moment she stretched her old body up and started towards me, I stopped thinking about anything else and said hello like this:
“Oh, it’s the love of my life! Hi Lou Lou! How was your day? Let’s take a walk. We’re having a party tonight, so we’re making it short. You are SUCH a good dog!” After I hugged her, I took her on a short, VERY slow old-dog walk. By the end, I felt my frustration and worry about the party come back, and hurried her along as best I could.
Instead of really cleaning, I threw clutter into my closet, shined up the bathroom sink, and carried on with cooking. (I thought delicious food might distract my guests from my current state of disarray.)
Mindfulness Changes Everything
When I opened my cabinet for the extra-aromatic olive oil (scent matters!), I saw the prayer that I wrote in chalk on the inside of this cabinet:
(The whole prayer is here)
That micro second pause brought back my mindfulness and I became aware of something that for me, was life-changing. In therapy, I am getting to know the different parts of myself, some of which were oppressed by trauma, and some of which were exaggerated into self-sabotage with unhealthy risk-taking and impulsive choices. I’ve learned that the person who says hello to her dog in that totally reassuring, unconditionally loving person with all the time in the world way is ME, and she’s always available when I need her.
In that moment with the cabinet open, I remembered this, and thought “ah, I can tap into that reassurance right now”.
I noticed that part of me felt worried, embarrassed and anxious. Part of me felt excited and happy to see these dear friends, and part of me felt surprisingly confident. (one thing I know I can do is make food taste really good)
My reassuring nurturing nature took over and the rest of the evening was simply divine. Everyone really enjoyed themselves and the conversation was easy and deep.
When one of my guests said “Oh, this place makes me want to totally redo my house”, I thought, WOW. This therapy stuff really works.
We All Have Many Different Parts
So, the point of this post is that the statements “I AM worried, I AM excited , I AM tired”, etc. are never all the way true.
A more accurate reflection of our state of mind is found in those times when we struggle with a choice, and say, “Part of me knows I should call, and part of me thinks it’s better to wait”.
In moments like this, we are aware that we are not one solid thing, but a multi-faceted miracle walking around “being” a human. And while trauma makes these parts more obvious and separate, we all have them.
So, the next time you feel anxious or you wake up in the middle of the night, it’s helpful to remind yourself of this fact.
” Only one part of me is worrying about my health, flipping out about these bills, or anxious about tomorrow.”
Just saying that will gently prod your reassuring, more confident nature into action.
The Buddha (or The God or The Higher Self) Within Is Real
The Buddha or the God within ( if you are not engaged in a religious or spiritual practice, you can think of this as the wisest and most compassionate part of us) is real. We all have it, but when we are feeling fear or anxiety or even elated excitement, our physiology takes over and causes us to feel as if our whole self is fearful, anxious or excited. This mindfulness is not easy to manage, or uncover; It takes a long time to discern when you are the most reassuring person, the most loving friend, the most calming influence, or the most confident encourager.
It’s best to choose uncomplicated relationships to start. A pet is often easiest. Just stop and recall how it feels to be an unconditionally loving being to your dog, for example. (The primary gift, in my humble opinion, of dog ownership is the way that a dog tends to bring out the best in us. Of course, this is the opposite if you don’t like dogs, but I just can’t understand that– ha ha.)
I find it helpful to place mindfulness reminders (prayers, quotes or pictures that inspire me) in places that normally trigger a less pleasant feeling (my popcorn, chips and other not so great food choices are located in the cabinet with the prayer inside, and the set-aside prayer often stops me from grabbing too much).
This practice is really helpful for students with test taking-PART of me feels like she doesn’t know this stuff, or interviewing, PART of me is really nervous, and many other circumstances.
Acceptance, Awareness And Wholeness
I could go on and on and ON, but I just wanted to share this relatively simple practice with you. I think many people imagine the goal of therapy and mindfulness is the integration of these separate parts into an undifferentiated whole. But, in my experience, it’s actually the opposite; It’s the ACCEPTANCE and AWARENESS of all the parts of yourself so that you can allow your true feelings to emerge, and tap into the most beneficial thoughts and actions when you need them.
(And I know I say this way too often, but I believe that these transformational moments are the direct result of taking the time to examine my life. This is why the pop psychology idea that you should never look back literally enrages me-especially as the days grow shorter-ha ha)
Have a wonderfully productive (in my case I have 5 deadlines tomorrow!?!?) and/or peaceful Sunday.
Thanks so much for reading my post,
(This Degas print was another great find, and for some reason, it makes me think of mindfulness about all my different parts.)
When the Dalai Lama said that if every 8 year-old in the world learned to meditate, we would have world peace in a generation, he was scientifically correct.
I did some research for a recent speaking engagement about mindfulness at work and it turns out that the catch in your throat as you are about to ask for a raise, meet someone new or experience a surprise encounter has a neurological component that can be healed through the practice of daily meditation. Of course there’s more to it than this simple practice, but without this practice, you are operating with the smart half of your brain tied to the crazy part, in a three-legged sack race to the hellish, hardest way of healing.
We are born with brains that are wired for survival, meaning that our fear centers and our pain centers are directly and swiftly connected to our prefrontal cortex, where our logical, thinking parts reside. Biologically, this is smart, as you want to react quickly to impending danger and freeze up or run like hell IF you are a caveman, rather than a 20th century air-conditioned and heated office and home dweller.
This is why, if you are standing in a room with people whispering in a corner, you automatically assume it’s about you (and I automatically assume it’s about me). Those whispers might mean a plot against you-not hearing something clearly is dangerous for a caveman, and your brain wants you to feel unsafe and react. It’s also a large part of the reason that we group people together and label them- pattern recognition keeps us safe in the face of danger. Neurochemically speaking, prejudice and profiling feel just like a sensible “better safe than sorry” reaction.
Our brain’s go-to neural pathways cause us to react to pain with fear and obsessive thought. When we feel pain, we are triggered to worry about it and focus on it until it goes away. This is a big part of the reason why our surgeon general recently issued a desperate plea to doctors for help with our massive epidemic of opioid abuse.
This fast-moving loop between fear, thought, pain and survival is why you feel self-conscious at the beach in a bathing suit, and hesitate to tell the truth about your life. It’s the main reason that you feel nervous around people who look “off” or different. It’s the epicenter of the shame hurricane since shame is a sure way to stop you from risking your life with full self-expression. (remember, your brain does not know the difference between stepping off a cliff and taking a bold step towards your dreams.)
When you practice daily, sitting meditation, the connection between your fear center, your pain center and your thinking center breaks down so that gossip, pain, a new financial challenge, or your dreams don’t automatically trigger your fear and survival center. At the same time, the centers of logic and empathy, your prefrontal cortex and your hippocampus, become connected with new neurochemical pathways, resulting in a healthy self and other awareness and understanding, rather than a frozen crazy story about you or them from the ancient past. (The file drawers containing every mistake you ever made and every bad thing that can happen, can be closed and only opened when you need them.)
Steady practice changes your brain and makes you less likely to be afraid or repulsed by people that are totally different from you and more likely to engage in thought about WHY they act the way they do and the ways in which they are similar to you. This is why I am saying that meditation actually is the path to world peace.
Over time, you can let strong feelings like anxiety come and go and you can handle pain better, since that neurochemical pathway is changed as well. (In brain scans, the pain center in the brain is MUCH smaller in people who regularly practice meditation and, unlike drugs, meditation actually decouples your pain center from your self-awareness center, allowing you to detach from your pain ) Some studies have found that meditation is more effective than morphine at decreasing the sensation of pain.
Meditators feel the same feelings- sometimes even more intensely as a result of their enhanced self-awareness, but they aren’t bothered by them at the same level. Meditators who meditate for years actually experience a positive permanent change in their brain; over time their prefrontal cortex shrinks back down to normal but they still experience enhanced self-esteem, calmness and empathy. They can choose the amount of attention they want to give to their thoughts at any time. This predictable result of daily meditation practice is a life-enhancing skill that literally changes the game for a human being.
Of course, there is more to healing our world and us than just regular meditation, but I think it’s a good FIRST step, rather than an add-on after being so stressed we have no choice. Walking around with a fear-thought pain-thought-survival loop in our brains makes it much harder to understand each other; Many experts estimate that we spend more than half of our waking lives worrying and thinking about stuff that doesn’t matter rather than being present.
Meditation practice actually changes this ratio-not through some unattainable spiritual path ( although as you know I am a BIG fan of faith and prayer – which also has a massive positive impact on your brain) but through SCIENCE.
The Buddha, Jesus, God and all the other spiritual giants were exactly right- you can transform your life with the steady practice of silent and guided meditations. (I just finished a religion research project and pretty much everybody says to meditate regularly, but most faithful people skip this step.)
I find it helpful to think of it this way – my brain needs meditation like my body needs water,– that’s how critical this practice is to optimal brain health and function.
It’s not always easy to start, but once a couple weeks pass, the positive changes help keep the practice going; it only takes a few days for positive results to start.
There are several apps and groups that support meditation practice. A big side benefit of practicing is meeting other practitioners-people who are investing time and effort in the pursuit of serenity and mindfulness.
When we sing together, our hearts start to beat in unison. We really are connected and my favorite monk was right when he said
“You can help with world peace by achieving inner peace-you are too small to do anything about the whole world, but with practice you can change your whole world and then their whole world.”- Venerable Bhante Sujatha
I like to think of practice as a way to thaw out, untie and let go of the frozen knot in my part of the human connection rope; As I unwrap myself from nonstop thinking and fear based reactions, I can be here, with you, with less barrier between us.
Good luck on your personal journey from here to there. I hope you can feel my love, support and gratitude for every effort made toward inner peace as I believe this is the only path to outer peace.
(well, that and outlaw profits on drugs and war weapons-sorry I had to say it!)
thank you for reading
At a refuge recovery meeting in Chicago last night, I was inspired with the idea that I could use loving kindness to help with my addictive tendencies. As I reached for the usual late night salty snack, I paused.
“May I be happy May I be peaceful, May I be well. ” I repeated this mentally a few times.
Although I didn’t feel better right away, saying this reminded me that I was in a vulnerable state. (will power is non-existent when we are tired.)
- As my own best friend, ( thank you for this, Bikkhuni Vimala), I paused, and asked myself: “Why do you want this?” I didn’t care. I just wanted to stuff my face. (That wasn’t a helpful question for me, but I am writing about it because it might be effective for you.)
- The next question did help me; Who wants these chips?
For some reason, that was easy to see; the lonely, aging girl, who is single and afraid that she will be that way forever, who is terrified that she will end up homeless, and broke. ( I know this future is not realistic, but these thoughts and my feelings are real to me when I think them and feel them- the real reasons that I want to eat, spend or drink too much.)
I understood that I would rather feel bad about eating too much or staying up too late than about being lonely or broke in the future; I can engage in accountability or find a method that helps me to stop eating too much or staying up too late, but loneliness and fear are a big part of being human. All of us have lonely feelings from time to time-even my happily married friends confess this. Most of us experience the feeling of lack, no matter how much money or stuff we have. Some of us feel bad from time to time about the way we look, feel, or speak. Feeling these feelings is rough, but in my pause I felt it all, and it lessened just a tiny bit. (I forgot to take three deep breaths this all happened in at most a couple minutes, but I can see now that breathing consciously would have been helpful as well.)
Finally I asked myself the most important question.
- Can I be kind to the part of myself that wants to stuff her face? Can I reassure the woman who wants withdraw her submissions to literary journals and stop writing her book because she is afraid of exposure? Can I love the me that is afraid to post this – that wants to take out the broke part and the lonely part and the real parts? That doesn’t want you to think that I am some analytical freak?
I was surprised that I could reassure myself – love was available when will power had dissolved and I think this is because I practice meditation frequently, and I have been graced with skilled, generous teachers and noble friends.
I remember Venerable Bhante Sujatha beaming with joy even more than usual one day – when I asked him why-he said
“I am getting better and better at loving kindness! It is so wonderful!”
I didn’t really understand why that would be such a big deal, but now I see; loving-kindness and compassion are skills that improve with practice over time. Love is a powerful, effective force for positive change and internal happiness, but it requires steady practice to be accessible when we need it the most.
I still ate some salty snack, but not as much as I usually do in my compulsive way when I am tired. (I actually enjoyed the food, instead of using the food to numb me. For me, this was a big victory at the end of a long day.)
It was as if a dear friend had reached out and gently pushed my hand away , saying to me, “Are you sure this is what you need? Can I try telling you that all is well first, then see if you still want to engage in a habit that doesn’t feel good the next day?” I felt loved and understood by this friend in a way that is hard to describe.
That “dear friend” has a name. She’s called “practice.”
(There is the biological component to most addictions that must be addressed as well but I think it is essential to become more skilled at loving-kindness so that we can be our own best friend and reassure ourselves that we don’t have to keep eating, drinking, drugging or spending too much, and that we are worth the time and effort required for recovery.)
If we want the world to heal, it’s important to remember that we are models for our loved ones and each other. While I might encourage my closest friend or my child to let go and indulge in a treat or a luxury once in a while, I would never consciously encourage stress relief with addictive behavior – but if I am using harmful behavior to relieve my stress, I am unconsciously encouraging that in others.
I am committed to be the living proof that love is all we need, and that kindness is more powerful than even the biggest, meanest force in the universe.
May you be well, may you be happy, and may you be peaceful. Be kind to you, so you can keep being you.
Thank you for reading this rather long-winded post about a moment in time!
I love you
“What makes the desert beautiful,’ said the little prince, ‘is that somewhere it hides a well…”
― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince
Scientists were surprised when they found the tangled yuck of Alzheimer’s and dementia in the autopsied brains of people who had never lost functionality. These people had some memory loss and confusion, but nothing that prevented the deceased from living a full and happy life. What was the difference? In one group of nuns, the difference was language dexterity. The nuns who had learned to speak fluently in a different language were more functional than those without this background.
People who learn instruments or new languages, engage in a vigorous course of study and teaching, or other new, challenging activities as they age, might ward off the symptoms of dementia and Alzheimer’s, even though their brains are afflicted by these diseases. The way this works is complex but we can work with the science in some very simple ways. Omega 3 fatty acids ( fish oil, flax seed), memorization ( grows your hippocampi, preventing the tangles caused by these diseases), and meditation ( literally grows the essential gray matter in your brain and musical practice ( one of the best exercises for your brain, using both halves and engaging you in the most productive, beneficial way possible-it’s like planks for your brain!)
I though about this on my hike yesterday, when I was walking backwards, down a hill. I walk downhill this way for four reasons:
- It’s really good for my calves
it protects my knees and
It helps with balance ( when I trip or stumble is regular life, I don’t fall) and mostly,
It’s a proven confidence builder
Although the studies don’t mention this, I am pretty sure that confidence is a major factor in brain health and functionality as we age. We need confidence to learn a new language, make the mistakes necessary to learn or practice a musical instrument, or to speak up when we need something or we can’t hear. It’s hard to push the button near your hospital bed to get your pillow adjusted just right or get a ride to the corner store if you feel bad asking for help!
I dated a man in a wheelchair who was very happy and I really think his main strength was confidence-he asked for help when he needed it and did not feel obligated to return every single favor. I want to be more like him as I age. I want to get better at managing impatience, criticism and other reactions to my requests in others, since I might have to ask someone to repeat something 3 times before I understand it! So, for me and for you, here are some good ways to add confidence building into your life, before you need it!
- Look up, way up, as you walk, up through the trees even, just for a moment– it’s not as easy as it sounds.
- Close your eyes on a safe pathway and MOVE-reassure yourself and your brain that you don’t need to see every micro thing in front of you to take a step
- Walk frequently in nature, and walk backwards at least part of the way- the neurochemical impact of trees, bird sounds and vastness are not replaceable by any other means, and making your way through the “wilds” even on a pre-made path, is another way to build confidence
- Meditate-it literally increases the gray matter in your brain, and naturally instills confidence and self-reassurance over time
- Learn a musical instrument-this is like planks for your brain-there is no-good substitute and learning a new skill is a great confidence builder
- Create something – writing, painting, sewing, photography, and encourage someone with more talent to give you feedback. Practice responding to criticism and improving your performance. Get better at managing impatience in yourself and other people.
- Memorize- the dictionary, some facts, poetry, each and every day. Make a goal to recite “the Raven” by Edgar Allen Poe or some other long prose. We want our hippocampi in fighting form as our brains get attacked by all the environmental and internal threats as we age!
- and, this is not a confidence builder directly, but Eat WELL – 3 cups of leafy greens, 3 cups of colorful veggies and fruit, 3 cups of cruciferous veggies every day and lots of omega three fatty acids- I know this sounds impossible, but 3 cups of spinach sautees down to an easy snack, and smoothies are a great way to get in kale,etc.- supplements are NOT the same, althought they are better than ignoring nutrition. (You can start small but just remember your mitochondria are starving for this nutrition and they will strike and quit if you don’t address their demands which means you won’t be able to move or think very well!)
There are many different ways to build confidence, BEFORE you succeed at your next challenge. Just remember, it is not going to be easy to develop if we don’t keep learning and growing. Our priceless wisdom, mostly available when we are OLD,(imagine how much life a 90 year old has seen!) benefits no one if we don’t have the confidence to ask someone to speak up or move closer.
Good luck to all of us as we grow into our respective ages. I am embracing old ladyhood with all my heart, and my habits; Hopefully, confidence will be my trusted ally to help me get the help I need!
Thank you for reading; I am confident, as always, that you are fabulous, so please, keep being YOU
And now this, from Ikkyu, an ancient Zen priest:
( he is described as “rascally”)
I’d love to give you something
but, what would help?
Self other right wrong
wasting your life arguing
you’re happy, really
you are happy.
( The symbol at the top of this post represents the chinese characters for poetry: Word Temple; I found this poem and this symbol on an excellent blog post about poetry)
The Maddest Dog of All
I’ve been assigned to do a research project about Islam. (and Christianity and Judaism and all ism’s and ams everywhere and yes I am including you too, Buddhism, Hinduism, and atheism!)
I am sick and tired of people using words like sacred, faith, or belief as a shield for oppression and violence. Until I hear people in mosques and pulpits and temples actively denouncing and discarding the idea that it is a sin to engage in sexual relations with people of the same sex ( or a bare minimum let go of the notion that those people will burn in eternal hell fire for being who they are), and that it is not ok to stay mute about issues that affect millions of people, I believe that we are getting nowhere.
And don’t start with me about the nonsense that it is ok to be gay, but it’s not ok to have gay sex! It’s the same damn thing!!! This logic is a discriminatory SNARL from a rabid dog who paces over the grates of oppression hell, growling and snapping at the hands of anyone who dares to reach up and out. Even the tiny hands of children are stomped back down when they try to be heard!
I think assault weapons should be banned for the greater good. I also think a paragraph in an instructional text from GOD that says that our trans, bi, gay or questioning brothers and sisters are going to hell unless they stop acting like who they are should be banned too-Stop treating these mad words as sacred!
Mental illness + poverty+ a lack of education + treating evil ideas as sacred words from the Almighty ruler of the universe is a recipe for the guaranteed propagation of terrorism, murder and oppression. (I guess it is ok to believe that YOU will burn in eternal hell for whatever reasons YOU choose to imagine, but it is NOT ok to teach people around the world that THEY will burn in hell for being them!)
Stop, breathe, and think. These words are outright dangerous in the hands of a non-critical or desperate or even an indecisive person. And trust me, every ism has them-(yes even yours!)
No one should have to “interpret” a commandment to kill a human who does not believe like them. No one should read that God says that women are chattel or that it is a good idea to beat children into submission or that gay sex is evil! Animal cruelty should not have a biblical safe haven. No time period or reason or context exists that makes any of this remotely acceptable.
I think it’s time for faithful people to take a stand.
Edit the books. Sit down with a big red marker and cross this flipping nuttiness OUT.
I’m sorry. I love my faithful friends. I pray in Holy Name Cathedral almost every day on my way to work. I have a special place in my heart for the beautiful practices of the Muslim people. I have been blessed with hearing and participating in the call to prayer in Abu Dhabi and here at home. I practice Buddhist precepts. I am a BIG proponent and an avid practitioner of many faith habits, but for goodness sakes, let’s add a disclaimer or discard the bad parts altogether – once and for all just do it! No religion is exempt! None is better or worse- we all have this problem!
And yes, of course you can argue about this, but please, first look at your own faith literature -subtle silences can be just as damaging when it comes to accepting discriminatory and violent practices. Read the Buddhist philosophy about sex or the rights of women;trust me, you will notice a rather serious missing.
In other religions, people are taught that being gay is a sin. This is a violent, oppressive ideal that is written down or insinuated in most sacred books and studied all over the world. (Also, the “eternal Treblinka” described by Einstein and continually suffered by other species originates from the idea in these books that we are somehow superior to all other beings.)
Stop talking to me about ‘radical extremism’ and start saying that these parts of the book that WE follow are WRONG too, and that no loving God or meditative Buddha would ever utter these incendiary words or stay silent about inequality and we do NOT believe this, nor do we think you should believe this!
Anything less is not enough in my not-so-humble opinion.
Root it out. Expose it all. And throw this rotten shit into the landfill of bad mad ideas where it belongs before it can infect anyone else!
( and please don’t talk to me about context or history! These ideas and so many others were NEVER right-never ever ever NEVER in any context during any time period for any reason!)
Thank you for reading. I love each and every one of you, especially if you disagree with me!
Now, gimme that marker!
Whoah, excuse my vertigo!
I am a little dizzy sitting way up here, on top of the shoulders of so many hard working, relentless voices for equal rights!
Regardless of your political views or affiliations, please give yourself the gift of a moment today to reflect on the fact that a woman became a presumptive nominee for president last night, (and that her gender is an untouchable issue so far(at least I haven’t heard any slurs against her for being a woman from her competitors), even in the hate campaign trail!)
Tell your daughters, your sisters, your wives and your mothers that together, we can do it!
ok, are you ready to roll? Let the battles begin!
thank you for reading my post, (and remember that I deeply honor, respect and cherish each and every one of you, no matter who you vote for. In fact I love our differences even more than our similarities.)
Now, I am rolling up my sleeves and getting ready for a grand fight! Let’s rumble!
I declare to you that woman must not depend upon the protection of man, but must be taught to protect herself, and there I take my stand.
Men, their rights, and nothing more; women, their rights, and nothing less.
I distrust those people who know so well what God wants them to do, because I notice it always coincides with their own desires.
This is why I love Muhammad Ali ( and you will too, if you read his autobiography!)
When I get back to the hotel, we rush to pack and get ready for the flight to Atlanta. I’m making phone calls to Philadelphia when C.B. Atkins, one of Herbert’s business aides, and Blue Lewis, my sparring partner, answer a knock at the door.
“Someone here with some packages for The Champ!” Blue yells over his shoulder. “Gift packages!” He comes back with two boxes neatly wrapped in white tissue, tied with red and green ribbons, and tosses one to C.B. Then he reads out loud the lettering on top of his box. “It says, ‘To Cassius Clay from Georgia.’ ” He begins tearing it open.
“Who knew I wanted cake for breakfast? Get the knife.” Suddenly, yelling and cursing, he drops the package. Blood is dripping from his hands. The package is on the floor and the body of a little black chihuahua has rolled out, its head severed from its body.
A message in the box reads: “We know how to handle black draft-dodging dogs in Georgia. Stay out of Atlanta!” A Confederate flag is the only signature. In the other box is a rag doll in yellow boxer shorts and tiny boxing gloves. A rope is tied around its throat and the head is jerked to the side to show its neck is broken. C.B. and Blue run down the hall to catch the messenger, but they come back alone. The little dog’s body is still warm, and we make the box a casket.
But I keep the doll. Without the rope around its neck it will make a good toy for my three-year-old daughter. It’s a well-made doll, a lot of care went into it, and it looks a little like me. Not as pretty, but a good resemblance.”