Today my weekly Sage Woman Chronicles post will appear on Dorothy Hoffman Sander’s blog at agingabundantly.com. I don’t remember exactly how we met, except that it was through social media. She and I have similar educational backgrounds, though her B.A. is in Economics, she studied Theology and spiritual direction, and my first major was in Religious Studies. By coincidence we graduated with those degrees in 1979, though hers was an M.Div. and mine a B.A.
Though our life paths have been different in many ways, in others they are very similar. Dorothy was a stay at home mom, and entrepreneur. My husband and I have no children, we’re both artists. I studied and taught theatre he is a visual artist. However, Dorothy’s story and mine come back together as we both became full-time writers in our fifties. We are also both seekers and that has been one thing that brings us together again and again in our various social connections.
“We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.” ~ Walt Disney
“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.” ~ Albert Einstein
“As children, our imaginations are vibrant, and our hearts are open. We believe that the bad guy always loses and that the tooth fairy sneaks into our rooms at night to put money under our pillow. Everything amazes us, and we think everything is possible. We continuously experience life with a sense of newness and unbridled curiosity.” ~ Yehuda Berg
For the last week or so I’ve been getting ready for a new semester, while at the same time doing a long overdue clearing, and reorganizing of my office. I thought I’d feel better getting these tasks done, but I don’t. I feel anxious and restless as evidenced by the fact that I’m having a difficult time meditating, not able to concentrate on my Tai Chi, and on top of it all, reading at night has become a chore. All of this is not like me at all. Finally this morning I understood what’s going on. It’s because I’m not making time to write. My mind is filled with all kinds of ideas for the projects I’m working on, but I haven’t taken the time to put them into the computer. The only writing I’ve done is to keep up with these weekly blog posts.
This break in my creative expression has caused a great deal of tension between what needs to be done, and what I long to be doing. The tension is getting so bad that I’m feeling shaky, muddled, and irritated.
My sister and I were talking on the phone about this very thing the other day – we talk almost every day – and she was saying that her back has been bothering her, she’s having trouble sleeping, and her job has become extremely boring. The reason she is experiencing these irritations is because she’s planning a new venture but there have been irritating little things holding up the process. However, instead of waiting for the perfect time to get started, she’s just going to begin. I’m excited for her and I completely understand what she’s experiencing. I’m feeling like that too. So I’m going to follow her example and go back to making writing my top priority again, even though I’m not quite finished with my other tasks. I know doing this will restore the balance in my well-being.
Recently I’ve written about how I’m working on changing my thoughts so I can create a new life, and during that process it has been driven home in a bigger way than ever before that our health and happiness depend on being able to do what we love. Yes, we may have to hold down that job to be able to write or paint, or garden, but making as much time to do what we love best in the world is extremely important. I feel sad for people who don’t know what it is they love doing above all else.
Some advice I picked up from Elizabeth Gilbert’s book Big Magic, is just what I need to be concentrating on right now. Perhaps it will help you too. The advice is this, if you want to live a creative life, you need to follow your curiosity. I love doing this. It’s something I learned from my dad. He would watch something on television, or get an idea from something he read and then he’d follow the thread to learn more about the subject. His curiosity knew no bounds. Often when we were taking family trips, he’d look for fun detours so we could learn something new and interesting. I loved those side trips.
My recent descent into restlessness just points out the fact that I’ve let myself get into a rut. It’s time to shake up my life and try some new activities. Which is why I’ll go back to writing the fantasy story I began this summer about a girl and a dragon. To that end I’ve been reading lots of young adult fiction, fantasy and medieval historical books. Though I love reading these types of stories, I’ve never tried to write one before. These books have given me an education about how to turn a known genre on it’s head and make it new and exciting. That’s what I’d like to do. It’s a fun challenge. But just recently I tripped myself up when I made the decision to read a mystery. While I love a good mystery, reading one now doesn’t help my process of writing a fantasy story, which is why I’ll go back to learning as much as I can from the genre I’m now working on.
As the summer is winding down and we’re getting back into fall and winter routines, I will look for other interesting opportunities and activities to help feed my creativity. I hope you’ll join me in trying something new. Who knows where our curiosity will lead us.
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“Everyone is handed adversity in life. No one’s journey is easy. It’s how they handle it that makes people unique.” ~ Kevin Conroy
“Knowing your own darkness is the best method for dealing with the darkness of other people.” ~ Carl Jung
“The more you do stuff, the better you get at dealing with how you still fail at it a lot of the time.” ~ John Mulaney
It’s most likely happened to you, those times when the refrigerator or stove gives out just when a house full of people are coming for dinner, or your car breaks down on a trip. Even though they are small annoyances, they drive us batty. We recently had just such a small, and expensive annoyance. Our heat pump, which is both our heating and cooling system, blew the motor two weeks ago. Admittedly it is old for a machine. We had some minor repair done to it during the winter, signed up for the maintenance program and took a sigh of relief. But the company never called to do the spring maintenance and didn’t returned our phone call to ask when they would come. Then the motor blew on the unit. Fortunately the issue with the old company was resolved, but that meant starting over again with a new company.
I won’t relate the whole boring story. Let’s just say that after four repair visits and more money spent than we wanted, I learned something important. It’s how we handle the little annoying events in our lives that help us identify areas in our thinking and feeling that can be improved.
I’m not proud to say, sometimes when tiresome little things happen, I get upset. And being an observer of human nature, I wonder why I let those little things get to me. I’ve been thinking about that a great deal these last two weeks.
Like the quote by Carl Jung above suggests, I’ve spent a lifetime examining my dark side and it’s only been in the last few years that I’ve felt less haunted. Most of the time now, I’m happy. So why let something so small get to me. It may have to do with the fact that for most of the summer, I’ve been doing some reprograming of my thought and emotional patterns.
A few years ago I came across articles, books and interviews about the exciting advances in brain research. Contrary to what doctors and brain researchers thought previously, our brains are elastic rather than becoming set once we reach a certain age. This “neuroplasticity” allows us to change the neural pathways in our brains throughout our lives. When I read The Biology of Belief: Unleashing the Power of Consciousness, Matter and Miracles by Bruce H. Lipton, Ph.D, I was convinced that I could rid myself of ways of thinking that still held me back.
In my search for a program to fit my needs, I discovered people like John Asseraf, Drs. Daniel Amen, David Krueger and Joe Dispenza. Their work gave me the tools I needed to rid myself of old limiting patterns of thought so I could be free to enjoy success when I published my books. In the spring I began a meditation program with Dr. Joe Dispenza, author of the book and meditation series, Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself. And that brings me back to my reactions to each new little setback with the heat pump repair.
When anyone decides to create new thought patterns, part of the work is to recognize the old ones we’ve held onto for so long. Most of what we think is automatic, like programs running in the background on our computers. We’re completely unaware of them, unless we take the time to do some deep self-examination. It takes diligence and questioning why we’re thinking and feeling the way we are in any given situation to make the necessary changes. That’s difficult because most of the emotions we feel are triggered by learned subconscious responses, and unraveling those takes dedication.
That was a great deal of technical jargon to get to my point. What I’ve learned from these past two weeks is that my decision to change my thinking is working, because as soon as I got upset about the heat pump, I was conscious that I had more old thought patterns which need to be disconnected. Just observing those patterns helps me replace them with the new happier ones I’m creating. I’m grateful for this new knowledge and even though it may take me a long time, I will continue to work toward a happier more successful life.
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“One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say.” ~ Bryant H. McGill
“The art of effective listening is essential to clear communication, and clear communication is necessary to management success.” ~ James Cash Penney
“Efforts to develop critical thinking falter in practice because too many professors still lecture to passive audiences instead of challenging students to apply what they have learned to new questions.” ~ Derek Bok
“Responsibility to yourself means refusing to let others do your thinking, talking, and naming for you; it means learning to respect and use your own brains and instincts; hence, grappling with hard work.” ~ Adrienne Rich
Every few semesters, I revamp the classes I’m teaching. I think it’s boring to teach the same thing over and over again. I’m in the process of revamping the acting class materials for this fall and I decided to incorporate more exercises in listening. It’s a great skill for acting and for life in general. In fact, my first instructor in good listening skills was my father. That skill has served me well both in my work in the theatre, but also in teaching, and in life.
To me listening is much more than just hearing the words someone is using to express their ideas. Deep listening involves matching what the person is saying with their body language, facial expressions, and the emotion behind their words. In a way, listening involves our entire body. Empathy is part of it but trying to decipher all the physical, emotional and cognitive messages is part of it as well. It’s such an important skill I wish we were using it more.
It’s sad to say, but in a way we read the memes, or the one liners coined by the media and think we understand what someone is saying. We think we understand their point of view. But what my dad, and theatre have taught me is that there are many layers of meaning behind what someone says, and you can’t sum it up in a headline. When we do that, we belittle that person in our mind. It’s disrespectful. That’s why it’s important to listen to what people from a political, religious, or social group are saying, and to actually consider their point of view and why they feel the way they do. Which means critical thinking is a big part of listening. It takes a great deal of worthwhile effort to even remotely understand another person’s perspective. When we take the time to try to understand another person, even if we fail, it honors both them and us because we learn something.
Listening also helps us distinguish between propaganda and persuasion. When I taught American Lit at the high school level, I designed a unit on the difference between the two. Sometimes the lines between them get blurred. We all fall into those traps of believing the propaganda, thinking that we know the truth. The bad thing is, propaganda is subtle brain washing. That’s why listening and critical thinking skills are such important things to teach ourselves and our children. In my opinion, not knowing how seductive propaganda is might be part of why we’re in this weird situation this political season.
I won’t go into all of the propaganda techniques here, you can look them up for yourself, but advertisers, the media, and politicians use propaganda to get us to buy their product, believe what they are saying or vote for them. It takes a lot of diligence to sort through the red herrings, attempts to divide us, or buy into their false causes.
Images can also be propaganda. I showed lots of examples of posters which use images, mostly from WW II, to skew the audience’s thinking about the enemy. Now we have social media to spread images which divert our attention from the real issues at hand. And that brings me back to deep listening.
It’s important to watch people as they talk, and to try to understand exactly what they’re saying. What emotions do they express? Does their body language and do their facial expressions match their words? Are they really saying anything of consequence? If we practice deep listening in our work places, with our loved ones, in chance encounters, and to people in the media, we might learn something important about them and ourselves.
So, I’m making it my mission this semester to teach my acting students better listening skills, and I hope that they use them long after the class is over.
Thanks for reading. I appreciate your comments and hope you share this post with your friends.
“The truth is that there is no actual stress or anxiety in the world; it’s your thoughts that create these false beliefs. You can’t package stress, touch it, or see it. There are only people engaged in stressful thinking.” ~ Wayne Dyer
“Deep listening is miraculous for both listener and speaker. When someone receives us with open-hearted, non-judging, intensely interested listening, our spirits expand.” ~ Sue Patton Thoele
“There will always be bumps along the road to real solutions. Getting past the bumps requires attention and awareness.” ~ Deepak Chopra
“Until we learn to honor and respect what other people believe, I think we are doomed.” ~ Patricia Polacco
This election season I have felt so stressed out. I know I’m not alone in that. Moderate Republicans no longer recognize their party, and far left progressives, like me, are angry about being marginalized. It’s almost like I’m back in the 60s and 70s with so much unrest going on. Sometimes it feels like we’ll never accept people of other races, religions, or political points of view, or that the poor will ever have a chance at a good life. The problems in our world seem insurmountable. No wonder so many people are discouraged.
Yesterday while I was looking at Facebook, I saw a link to an article on Unworthy about just how deep the corruption of our government goes. It was depressing to see the data collected from records going back over 20 years or longer. The study was done by Professors Martin Gilens of Princeton University and Benjamin Page of Northwestern University and it points out that our elected officials don’t listen to us. Instead they cater to the wealthy and powerful that give them money. No surprise there. It was another depressing confirmation that everything is falling apart in our country. But then I realized that’s been true throughout history. From the earliest civilizations down to now, the wealthy manipulated Emperors and crushed the poor. Kings and despots conquered and pillaged to gain vast territories. There really is no difference between then and now. However, it’s also true that there have been revolutions, and rebellions against what the wealthy think is the natural order of things. Perhaps we are at a critical point in human history since millions of people all over the world are demanding more equality.
About a month ago, I got to a point where I was so angry about all the, excuse my language, crap that’s going on, that I had an extremely painful gall bladder attack. That was a wake up call because according to Louise Hay, the gall bladder is where we hold our anger. I was forced to take a good look at what it was that was ticking me off. And I was grateful when shortly after my attack, Deepak and Oprah had another 21-day meditation experience about “Getting Unstuck.” I was stuck and needed to find a way out.
On day 19 the centering thought was “I want a ‘yes’ that’s good for everyone.” It was just what I needed to hear. No matter what the situation in which I find myself, I need to remember that everyone deserves to live well, they deserve to be heard and appreciated. It’s hard to do that when someone wants to grab all the good stuff for themselves, but I’m working on appreciating those people too. After all, we sometimes need to be presented with what we don’t want to get a clearer picture of what we do want.
Most of us believe that there has been progress throughout the centuries. Evolution is helped by individuals doing their own personal work, which has helped humanity move ever so slowly from the win/lose mindset to the win/win mindset. It’s exciting to see so many groups arising to take care of the needs of the poor, or the disenfranchised. If we were to do a true comparison between societies now, and those back through the centuries, we’d see how far we’ve come, though there is always more work to do.
So for today, at least, I feel comforted and optimistic about our future. I remind myself that things change whether we want them to or not. It’s probably my positive outlook on life, but to me, what looks like a disaster is just another opportunity to make a new, better choice. That’s how I choose to see this crazy political season. I also remind myself that all kingdoms fall, eventually. So, the hold the wealthy have over our government won’t last forever and I’m going to be voting for the people who will put a few more nails in the coffin.
Thanks for reading. Feel free to share your thoughts or share this post with your friends.