A letter to my sister | preciousness of life | Carl Sagan: freedom through scientific skepticism

I was looking over my blog stats and saw someone read this, a very early blog. I decided to post it, since it’s relevant, from a moral and political standpoint – uh, yes, at one time I believe, the two were part of the same fabric. uh, now wait a minute, maybe morality and political leadership, have rarely been paired, and that it is an exception! I mean, as long as royal leaders, and tyrants, and corporations have the reins, morality has not a fucking thing to do with the people who wish to maintain their power, control and profits.

I am certainly happy to hear from you. Naturally I think about you every time that I enter the room to look at the lovely paper lanterns you hung for Mother’s birthday party and the teepee you constructed in the yard – which I‘m still raking! Memories of things people share and artifacts that they leave behind imbue all of these things with the spirit of the person. I am sorry that we had difficulties communicating at times. I have not been ‘above’ reacting emotionally to someone’s emotional reactions towards me. However, that doesn’t mean that I can not attempt to move beyond my reactions to reach out with more compassion and understanding.

Antoine de Saint-Exupery, author, Le Petit Prince, The Little Prince

Antoine de Saint-Exupery author Le Petit Prince
The Little Prince

I went out with a family friend last night and afterwards, realized that he knows even more profoundly how precious life is, as he has lost both of his parents. Certainly, if we all had an acute awareness of death (sitting on our shoulders) – Carlos Castaneda style i.e. “the Teachings of Don Juan” – in each response to every moment, we would never be anything but kind to all people and creatures, at all times.

That sounds like a pretty heavy way to live. The context is not, to be continually fearful, but rather, continually present with the fact that every moment of life is precious. People need to accept the rights of others to be and perceive as they will. It is a rather large task, to put differences and competitiveness, jealousy, envy and judgments … aside. Yet it’s the only way for everyone to get along. (I just read in Salon dot com a rather scathing article about the writer Carlos Castaneda, saying that Don Juan was not only an astounding hoax, but that Castaneda went on to form a bizarre cult.) He nevertheless had strong poetic and spiritual points to emphasize in his writings.

It’s pretty much a life-long task, given the fact that all humans have a tendency to subjectively interpret and judge other peoples’ actions. I do it, we all do it, from personal complaints, grievances, expectations, disappointments on up to community and cultural, political and religious differences of interpretation, that result in the worst cases to prolonged wars and strife between ethnic groups and neighboring countries.

This appears to be one of the biggest challenges and aspirations for humankind; to look beyond differences and strive for understanding, compassion and kindness. The ‘tree-hugger/environmental activist side of me’ is kicking out judgements every time I see people’s actions or material opulence (not to mention hearing about plans for more gas drilling in the arctic etc.) which I perceive as offensive. I put them into a box I label offender/perpetrator; a personal judgement which is my own way of playing in the ‘us against them’ scenario. So, I’m as guilty as anyone. The obvious extreme is the fact that people are blowing each other up in the Middle East …. and that wars and conflicts and ominous actions of manipulation continue to proliferate worldwide, despite the fact that most humans have access to rather extraordinary tools.

We are technologically light years ahead of where we are emotionally!

As Carl Sagan mentions in this interview “A Way of Thinking” in which he delivers insights into the dangers in our present culture; based on the fact that we’re a science and technology-based culture, the inner workings of which few comprehend. That puts us in a position in which we are in danger of being more easily manipulated.

Sagan points out that science is a way of skeptically interrogating the universe. And that it’s dramatically important for each of us to ask skeptical questions about everything, particularly to those in authority; otherwise we are up for grabs by the next charlatan, political or religious, that comes along. He mentions that Thomas Jefferson said that people need to be educated in order to practice their skepticism, otherwise ‘we don’t run the government, the government runs us’.

New Year Resolutions | Happiness through Action | One Mini Habit at a Time

It’s the Winter Solstice as I write this, and a new moon. I posted earlier today a blog https://digesthis.wordpress.com/2014/12/21/happy-winter-solstice-new-moon-be-like-water-aboriginal-dreamtime/ mentioning the fact that it’s a good time to initiate new activities and plant seeds; coinciding with these events on our horizon. Certainly the pagan celebrations of the solstice must be the origins of the tradition of ‘New Year Resolutions’.

At this tipping point, it’s a good time to dive in.

Bruce Lee learn to swim jump in the water

Bruce Lee learn to swim jump in the water

As we all are inspired by certain images and have ideals we wish to reach, here’s what I have to say. Happiness is not so much derived by a thing, but by what you do. Sure, having something that is an excellent state-of-the-art tool is great, yet it’s what you actively do, what you craft through your actions, that results in feeling excited, enthusiastic, joyful and a sense of accomplishment. It’s through performing activities and being immersed in them and witnessing the little thresholds of achievement and just knowing the work that was put into it, that we derive happiness.

I’ve recently come across a post of a freelance writer’s guide, in Episode #20 of the International Freelancers Academy. The topic is to forget goals, and focus on habits instead. Ed Gandia states that more than 40% of the actions we do every day are not due to conscious decision making, but habits! When we are doing something habitual, we are not using all of our brain; we’re sort of on autopilot. Our minds are hard-wired that way. The mind chooses neuropathways that are already developed, the path of least resistance. That means that as we develop new habits, we’re already on our way to effectively driving change.

Specifically, he talks about creating new mini habits.

Charles Duhigg has a TED talk about his book The Power of Habit.

You can not eliminate a habit, you can only change it for a better alternative.

Though we all have various goals, often they are out of reach because we are holding them out there in front of us, and not actively participating in them. And like standing on the edge of the diving board frozen with fear, the longer we wait to dive in, the more the fear envelopes us. With this in mind, the smaller the better, so as to not intimidate yourself.

I’m working on this right now; forming new mini habits which I gradually embrace and do more of: stretching, reading, writing, composing music, contributing to the book I’m writing.

The other side of the coin, is just being present and mindful of what you are doing at that time.

Language is important as well, because this is how we  visualize and conceptualize. Eliminate ‘trying to, would like, wish to’…and

Just Do It.

We All Know This Slogan.

 

 

 

The point of developing Mini Habits, is that when we bring an action down to a small size that isn’t intimidating, we can easily jump in. Notice my change in words! Certainly, diving, jumping or just sliding in to an activity rather than looking at it from a distance, is enough of an action in itself, to push through a threshold; to consistently build new habits – gradually raising the bar of quantity and quality. Whoops, I guess that by virtue of being of western culture, the future concept of goal, slides into the picture. Best thing is to just do what makes you happy and be present as you’re doing it and go with the flow.

Bruce Lee Knowing not enough Apply Willing not enough must Do

Bruce Lee Knowing is Not enough, We must Apply, We must Do

Don’t ask me why I’m on a Bruce Lee kick, so to speak,

Steven Ho, flying kick

Steven Ho executing a flying kick

 

it just so happens that the meaning is the important gesture 🙂 Focus on what you wish to aim for, not on what you don’t want.

 

 

True happiness comes from the joy of deeds well done, the zest of creating things new.”  — Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Among many other achievements, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry is the author of the fabulous book “The Little Prince“.

The Little Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Image from The Little Prince written by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

 

Love over Fear – Jim Carrey | Supermoon Hitchabout | Lakota Sioux – Secret Within

I came across this through a FaceBook wall posting, and feel the need to share.

Jim Carrey’s Secret of Life – The Journey of Purpose

His words paraphrased:

Choose love as the lens to look through, make decisions based out of love rather than fear.

Jim Carey’s Secret of Life The Journey of Purpose

Jim Carey’s Secret of Life The Journey of Purpose

We are not only viewers, we are projectors of our reality. Fear can write a lot of this script; when one is leaning back into the past or leaping towards imagined thoughts of the future. Yet, all that is happening, is in this moment, not in the past or in the future. It is your choice to make decisions that are based in either love or fear.

Herman Hesse

There is no reality except the one contained within us…Herman Hesse

Life doesn’t happen to us, it happens for us. It’s about having faith in one’s vision, and letting the universe know what you want, working towards it and letting go of how it arrives.

You always have two choices, love or fear.

Cape May sunset

Arriving at the Atlantic, as sun was setting.

And on that note, I chose love over fear, to follow through with my desire to watch the Supermoon rise over the Atlantic Ocean. This prompted my “SuperMoon Hitchabout”. Destination, exploring the marine reserves; the Delaware and Chesapeake Bays. Not having realized just how vast this area I wished to explore is, ridiculously underestimated, I wound up staying at my designated starting point, Cape May, New Jersey, and not venturing any further. My aim was to arrive at the Atlantic ocean to see the Supermoon rise, and I did. My last ride brought me right to the Cape May ‘boardwalk’ (made of cement), as the sun was lowering in the sky.

Turquoise waters of the Atlantic setting sun.

Turquoise waters of the Atlantic setting sun.

 
Here’s a link to photos of the Super Moon in Cape May, New Jersey
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The setting sun.

The setting sun.

Pencil water color of the waters as the glowing orange sun was setting.

Pencil water color of the waters as the glowing orange sun was setting.

Supermoon rising over the Atlantic Ocean

Supermoon rising over the Atlantic Ocean

I left earlier in the day with the necessities: a backpack equipped with a sharpie, tooth brush, bathing suit, sleeping bag, sunscreen, lipstick…digital camera. Didn’t take a credit or debit card, nor had i bothered to look to see if I had ANY money. Turns out I had a 5 dollar bill and change. Packed some baked sweet potatoes, bread, cheese, fruit and a water bottle. I felt like a beer the second night, which is when I discovered I had a five on me.

 

My trip costed $1.57 all inclusive: the PBR ‘tally’ that I bought the second day, travel, accommodations, running water access (rest houses on the boardwalk), ocean-side sleeping. I might add that this included these high-tech beach sweeping vehicles which would have ground me into a pulp, had I not made the rational decision to lay the sleeping bag between the search and rescue life boat and fence at the dunes.

Due to self-imposed lack of finances, I had little choice but to catch a ride with someone. The morning I decided to go, I glanced at the local city’s craigslist rideshare and responded to a person’s ‘anonymous email’ asking people to accompany him to Niagara Falls. I suggested that my intent is to go to the ocean and explore the marine wildlife of the Chesapeake and Delaware Bays…Minutes later a text arrived on my phone. Adverse to giving out my address randomly, I told him generally where I live. It turned out that within minutes of my departure, the phone rang. I told him to meet me at a corner.

As I turned to that street, in the distance I saw a vehicle parked and someone walking around it, a vibe of commotion. As I approached, I was certain that this was him. As I got closer through the glaring sun, I saw an array of newspapers lying on the ground at the rear of his nondescript van. I leaned towards the open passenger window and before introducing myself, asked if this stuff, motioning to the ground, was his? He hastily offered to pick it up. He had driven from a neighboring State to offer me this ride. A large round man, archetypal Jewish with his scull cap perched on his thick head. I glanced at the filth in his car, the seemingly glued-on pile of coins on the floor by the passenger seat. I turned and picked up the littered papers from the ground and floated them through his window. I told him that this isn’t a good sign, and basically said, thanks, but no thanks, and walked away.

I ignored his call minutes later as I had grabbed my sharpie and was making a sign for my first destination, the entrance to the PA Turnpike. The first car that stopped was a man even scarier looking than the one I had just walked away from. I declined, “I want to get a ride all the way to this point. thanks anyway”. I rarely turn down rides. This was peculiar. The next ride was a woman who turned out to know my sister and brother, once I had offered more information. She went out of her way to bring me to my first drop-off point. The remaining rides were equally smooth and interesting, during which time I chatted with the drivers’ and listened to their stories.

 

sign so small someone would have to be close to see it

sign so small someone would have to be close to see it

Coast sign

The last Filipino American man who lives in Cape May, drove me directly to a central point in town by the boardwalk. We each smiled and laughed as I was leaving his car, knowing that I had just the sleeping bag on my back and no plans.

Dusk before moon rise

Dusk before moon rise

When I arrived the air was still, barely a breeze. I climbed onto the lifeguard chair (vacated at 5:30pm) and sat my stuff down. Two young couples were sitting on a blanket nearby visiting for the day from Philadelphia. The water was smooth, silky, lovely. The air moist, the ocean’s rhythmic breathing muted thunderclaps.

Glowing Supermoon over the Atlantic Cape May, New Jersey

Glowing Supermoon over the Atlantic
Cape May, New Jersey

What was astounding, was the color of the water as I swam, facing the glowing setting sun. The play of light was incandescent orange on a turquoise blue, mirroring the sky. I was compelled to make this water to remember it, since I couldn’t bring my camera into the water to capture my point of view.

That first night after having played a beach game on the sand for hours with a family of cousins, I then went to the boardwalk to sit down. This parlayed into a bed that first night, after meeting a Bulgarian kid on the ‘boardwalk’ where I sat on a bench. He asked with an obvious accent if I’d like someone to join me, to which I answered no. Hours later, except for his intermittent phone conversations in Bulgarian with a girl in Wildwood, we were still talking. I wound up crashing at his group house that night. I was wondering why I kept hearing people speaking Russian around me that day, then discovered first-hand, that it was probably Bulgarian I was hearing. huh? Luckily, the next evening I was already familiar with the built-in tent structures on the beach. They came in handy as I slept in a sleeping bag under the stars, when rain drops started falling at 6am. I was near these built-in tent structures (not those below) but smaller and more portable ones, easy to unravel and fasten the tarp, under which I could just listen to the drops along with the driving breath of the ocean. ‘-)

Fixed tent structures that became my makeshift home.

Fixed tent structures that became my makeshift home.

I visited the Cape May Bird Reserve, of which I have some shots too. I visited a concierge of this local Cape May Hall, where I picked up a map and started to make my way first to get information from a local reserve.

Cape May cartoon map

Cape May cartoon map

The map was dramatically off in terms of leaving streets and distances out. Trudging down the street towards the first place in tremendous heat, I wound up turning around, deciding rather to check the reserve. Hitching back to the center of town, an SUV with two plain clothed policeman informed me that “it’s illegal to hitchhike in New Jersey”. I walked the rest of the way. When I got to a traffic light to take the road to the bird reserve, I looked into the distance, and decided to hitch. A guy with his surfboard in the car picked me up. I asked what kind of work he does here, as he had a pretty fancy vehicle. He’s in the navy. The visit to the reserve was quite significant, not so much because of the birds, but because of the people who were there at the same time. We hadn’t seen each other there, yet I had glanced at two couples making their way at the end of the trail. I later recalled that the arm of the one woman was the same as that who was driving the car on my journey back to PA. They wound up leaving and arriving at the Pizza place near the reserve where I chatted briefly with an employee there, at the same time as me. They noticed me, how friendly I was. Later that employee told them that I was going to Pennsylvania, where the couple live as well. The following day the man in the couple was standing at a vendor stand, when I approached to ask if the guy had cardboard. Half an hour later, it was he and his wife who picked me up after my first ride brought me to the edge of town and entrance to the bridge connecting to the major highways.

I had been standing there in the sun and some rain drops with a sign with the letters, PA. I watched as numerous NJ, DE and PA license plates drove by, leaving the beach behind. When they stopped, they announced that they’d seen me twice over the weekend, and that they intended to pick me up if they saw me. I didn’t learn until a little ways in that they were going to within 40 mi. of my town. The three of us communicated animatedly about all sorts of things the entire drive. It was the ensuing rain drops that prompted them to leave as well, and at times there were heavy downpours en route. It was a valuable exchange for each of us, synchronistic for sure.

Orange glowing moonrise night after the Full Moon.

Orange glowing moonrise night after the Full Moon.

As I approached the beach this second night after the sun had set a while earlier, I was stunned to see this deep orange moon rising up into the low clouds. Here are the rest of the pics of the trip.

Cape May

Cape May

On the final day, sitting on the beach as I ate my last food before leaving for my journey home, suddenly something hit me on the back of my head. It was a seagull. He was doing more than just nudging me because he wanted what I had in my hand. I threw up a tiny piece of bread, and within 3 seconds there were 17 seagulls flapping their wings right within feet of my head, some just inches away. It was a little daunting.

I just got these shots.

IMG_0045 IMG_0048

 

 

 

Here’s a link to photos of the Super Moon in Cape May, New Jersey

 

 

 

As we got to the eastern outskirts of Lancaster, PA, we passed an Amish buggy with a trailer transporting a baby calf in back. My shot missed the trailer, but wow, amazing to see this juxtaposition of Plain people and their traditional ways intersecting with modern life, where they live in farms scattered around the countryside. They let me off at a convenient place and we said goodbye.

Amish buggy on the road approaching Lancaster PA

Amish buggy on the road approaching Lancaster PA

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seagull through glass

Seagull through glass

A picture I took in Wildwood, NJ through a glass roof.

A picture I took in Wildwood, NJ through a glass roof.And a Lakota Sioux Indian creation myth to leave you with.

 

 

 

 

Lakota Sioux Creation Myth

The Creator gathered all of Creation and said;

“I want to hide something from the humans until they are ready for it.

It is the realization that they create their own reality.”

The eagle said, “Give it to me. I will take it to the moon.” The Creator said, “No. One day they will go there and find it.”
The salmon said, “I will bury it on the bottom of the ocean.”
The Creator said, “No. They will go there, too.”
The buffalo said, “I will bury it on the Great Plains.”
The Creator said, “They will cut into the skin of the earth and find it even there.”
Grandmother Mole, who lives in the breast of Mother Earth, and who has no physical eyes but sees with spiritual eyes, said “Put it inside of them.”
And the Creator said, “It is done.”

ocean_sunset_framed

blurry selfie

blurry selfie

The Science of Happiness – An Experiment in Gratitude | SoulPancake | Upworthy: Things that Matter

Since I’ve been blogging about happiness a number of times and then had the surprise and delight while living back in the United States to attend these college courses for several semesters at Lebanon Valley College in Pennsylvania – a consortium on the subject of “Happiness” – I’m very happy to share this with all of you. I’m really starting to like upworthy.com the more I receive the postings. This particular video made me cry, bringing tears of gratitude, to realize what is truly important in life. ‘-)

Soul Pancake is, in their words, a brain batter of art, culture, science, philosophy, spirituality and humor.

SoulPancake is, in their words, a brain batter of art, culture, science, philosophy, spirituality and humor.

According to this SoulPancake production, scientists have discovered that one of the overwhelming indicators of how happy you are in your life, is how much gratitude you show.

They did an experiment, and encourage you to do the same.

one of the subjects of the experiment

one of the subjects of the experiment

 

another subject in the experiment on gratitude

another subject in the experiment on gratitude

The experiment, conducted by SoulPancake, can be watched in this short video on the ‘Science of Happiness – An Experiment in Gratitude’, presented by upworthy.

I’ll have to test it out too! As the saying goes, we can’t choose our family or genetics, but we can choose what kinds of people we associate with and our ‘responses’ to situations. I choose to be around people who have tolerance, respect and gratitude along with sharing humor and joy in life. ‘-) Feeling self worth and recognizing one’s value, can be disfigured, if you hang around people who constantly criticize, or for that matter, completely ignore you. Listening to one’s intuition is very important, in terms of moving towards or staying away from people, in terms of how they respond to you. Ultimately, tuning in to what makes you happy and what you love to do most, reflects those things you do best, and the path that you should be following. Often what is truly worthwhile, what has value in life, are the simple things. It has little to do with material acquisitions or wealth, and everything to do with how much one appreciates the little things and how one navigates through the little decisions and circumstances. As a single female, I recently encountered a scenario in which I began sharing company with someone who I felt did not value my presence or company. Fortunately, the ‘red flags’ went up. I can’t be happier to go in the opposite direction, and enjoy being. Enjoy!

Earlier in the year, before even concretely making the decision to return to Berlin, I was also blogging about the Science of Happiness https://carolkeiter.wordpress.com/2013/05/07/tools-for-decision-making-freewill-astrology-the-science-of-happiness/

The blog links to the Futurist, featuring two articles having to do with the subject of happiness. One written by two psychologists, David G. Myers and Ed Diener on the “Science of Happiness”. The second is about Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s concept of the “flow” theory of happiness, in which he hones into the connection between creativity and happiness.

Following are two poignant quotes by Albert Einstein:

Imagination is more important than knowledge.”

The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.”

Think about it and well, feel and digest what he means!

Eureka ! P i e r r e T e i l h a r d de C h a r d i n | Spiritual Beings Having a Human Experience |

Having spoken to an acquaintance about the direction of my eBook, I was just re-acquainted with Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, a French philosopher and Jesuit priest who trained as a paleontologist and geologist and took part in the discovery of Peking Man and Piltdown Man. His primary book, “The Phenomenon of Man” is a sweeping account of the unfolding of the cosmos. The book displeased Church superiors and some of his work was denied publication during his lifetime.

Here are some of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin’s quotes, which I find remarkable:

We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.

Someday, after mastering the winds, the waves, the tides and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of love, and then, for a second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire.

The universe as we know it is a joint product of the observer and the observed.

It is our duty as men and women to proceed as though the limits of our abilities do not exist.

Driven by the forces of love, the fragments of the world seek each other so that the world may come into being.

Love is the affinity which links and draws together the elements of the world…Love, in fact, is the agent of universal synthesis.

In the final analysis, the questions of why bad things happen to good people transmutes itself into some very different questions, no longer asking why something happened, but asking how we will respond, what we intend to do now that it happened.

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

Tools for Decision Making | freewill astrology | The Science of Happiness

As is a growing tradition with me, I tend to create and post new blogs in pairs. The other one is http://digesthis.wordpress.com/2013/05/07/the-tradition-of-human-towers-in-catalan/

Song_Hay_Double_Happiness_Oranges_streets_SF
Chinese_Character_Double_Happiness

I’m presently up against making a rather major decision; where to relocate. That’s after living in Berlin, Germany from 2006 to the ‘eve’ of 2012, returning to my home town in the States in Central PA, to spend time with my parents, and now deciding where to from here. Thing is, I’m inhibited by the economic realities which make San Francisco or New York city, less attractive.

I contribute to two blogs, have nearly completed a book project that I hoisted into full gear since I have none of the typical distractions of a thriving metropolis or family of my own, intend to further produce music (live beats on my laptop) and hopefully also play bass in a band. Following my bliss! words of Joseph Campbell.

I really am kind of a self motivator type, the type of work I do is solo (outside of visiting places that host internet access for others also doing free-lance work away from home). After a while, one can feel isolated due to not having a regular ‘workplace’ environment with colleagues that one gets to know over time. Yet that is changing, with more co-working establishments popping up in a variety of towns. Berlin had some, where I met the brothers who were about to open their cooperative work environment in Paris. La Mutinerie. They had been attending a coworking seminar in Berlin at a co-op space the Betahaus and then within 24 hours I met them again where I usually brought my laptop to work, at a cafe in Mitte, Sankt Oberholz, usually swarming with laptops, and an inordinate number of Macs. I hung there regularly, often hearing at least 5 different languages in one little space. Here’s a new one http://co-up.de

All that said, besides reaching out to get feedback from friends, I’m literally with a notepad and pen, honing in to what things are important to me and what kind of community could help me to thrive; not just artistically and with the sports and my enjoyment of outdoor activities, but also in terms of maintaining income.

Knowing that I need to finally make this decision and make it quickly, ironically, today I happened to open up a different web browser (because frankly Mozilla Firefox has been getting on my nerves by always defaulting to Yahoo as my ‘home page’ despite me re-setting it every 5 minutes).

Remembering this saying: “The definition of insanity is to continue to do the same thing, and expect different results.”

I decided to just try a different browser and

ba da bing:

upon opening Safari which I’ve used rarely, I realize that not only does it have a slicker interface design in its elegant presentation and functionality, but one window was already opened (as I tend to do when I want to go back to that material) and this was:

The San Francisco Bay Area based astrologer Rob Brezsny’s column, whose words tend to be humorous and his lean towards spiritual growth and insight into one’s own attitude. He often puts the responsibility back to the individual; to be aware of themselves, the attitudes they have and the choices they make.

This one somewhat leaped out at me, since it so resoundingly echoes my current dilemma. Oh, by the way, I’m a Capricorn sun and rising sign, with 3 planets emphasizing Sagittarius and a moon in Scorpio. All of the influences are split between 3 houses; so naturally, I read all three ‘-)) This one was quite targeted! By the way, I’ve had several people ‘do’ my astrological birth chart, interpreting it for me, and writing out all of the influences, with a rather remarkable portrait of what really has influenced me, delineating what characteristics I have, with undeniable accuracy. One of these astrologers, a woman in Taos, New Mexico, said that a person, particularly a female, should pay as much if not more attention to where her moon falls, than the sun sign.

Rob Brezsny_freewillastrology_weekMay9_Scorpio

And since this is so accurate, I began with writing two pages attempting to hone into formulating the correct questions of what I need to ask myself regarding where I should reside. Then I decided to google the article mentioned, and well, here it is, yet another angle on the subject of “happiness”; the ongoing theme I’ve been writing about, and which is popular, because more and more people are realizing that we are responsible for our own happiness.

The Science of Happiness by David G. Myers and Ed Diener
Magazine article from The Futurist, Vol. 31, No. 5

Shortly I will read it, and already have a paper out to ‘map out the foundations of my own happiness’.

Of course putting the effort behind doing the work of thinking and writing these exercises on paper, will help me towards narrowing-in on a decision.

And if I were to actually meditate on them (which I have not yet done) my heart may provide me with even more accurate and gut/intuitive information.

http://dimensionalbliss.com/2011/03/23/follow-your-heart-it-is-smarter-than-you-think/

Brené Brown’s TED talk: The Power of Vulnerability | Die Macht der Verletzlichkeit | la Puissance de Vulnérabilité

If you believe this, read no further:
if_you_can_not_measure_it_it_does_not_exist

Regarding the theme of happiness, I was introduced by my sister to Brené Brown’s TED talk: The Power of Vulnerability. It’s worth listening to.

Brown mentions ‘leaning into’ the discomfort of (any task you’re about to work on); which sounds like an echo of Sheryl Sandberg’s (Google/Facebook) book and movement “Lean In”. I don’t know who inspired who.

Brené talks of her interest in expanding perception. She realizes that the common component in the human condition is the need to feel a sense of connection. That’s why we are here and what gives us purpose and meaning in our lives.

In her research, she discovered that many people point to all the places in their lives where they feel a lack of connection, often honing into the negative feedback more than the positive. The author recalls an interview in which her interviewer pointed out the one area (among numerous positive comments) where she was the weakest (euphemistically, calling it an opportunity for growth), which stood out much more than the positive points.

Brown mentions that the one unnamed thing that unravels this connection, is shame = the fear of disconnection.

“I’m not good enough, “I’m not blank enough”

In many cases, it is a person’s fear of “allowing themselves to be seen”. Shame boils down to not feeling worthy.

She found that those people who expressed happiness and joy, felt a sense of worthiness and strong sense of love and belonging. And that in order to have this, the individual must “believe” that they are worthy of love and belonging.

What keeps us out of connection, is our fear that we’re not worthy.

In her study, Brené first isolated those who feel worthiness and a sense of connection, labeling them the “whole heartedness” group.
courage is the latin word coeur = heart

They exhibit a sense of courage and bravery, demonstrating

1. the courage to be ‘imperfect’
2. compassion; first for themselves, then for others
3. feel connection as a result of authenticity; they can let go of who they should be, in order to be who they are
4. they are able to fully embrace vulnerability; to be real is to be vulnerable

They have the willingness to say “i love you” first, willingness to do something even if there are no guarantees, to invest in things even if there is no assuredness that there will be a positive result.

Brené went to a therapist as she realized that she always wanted and needed to be in control, and now was learning that the people who are the happiest, are those who are able to let go of their need to have control. She had a ‘breakdown’, which her therapist called a ‘spiritual awakening’.

Brown isolated the one ingredient that all of these people who are happy share, their willingness to be vulnerable.

Vulnerability, at its core (means shame, fear and struggle for worthiness) yet at the same time it is the birthplace of joy, creativity, love and belonging.

We live in a vulnerable world; the most in debt, obese, addicted and medicated adult cohorts in U.S. History.

Our response is to numb ourselves to avoid feeling vulnerable and uncertain, yet, as she points out, “You can’t ‘selectively’ numb emotions.” You can’t decide that you don’t want to feel the feelings of fear, uncertainty, unworthiness, shame … without precluding your ability to feel the pleasant ones i.e. joy, happiness, gratitude. So by attempting to numb ourselves of the negative emotions by ‘drinking alcohol, eating or ingesting something else to lighten our mood’ we also are numbing ourselves to the positive ones.

She points out where we all go wrong in striving to erase our vulnerability.

We attempt to make everything that is uncertain, certain.
The more vulnerable we are and try to suppress it, the more afraid we are.
The definition of blame is to discharge pain and discomfort.
Our job is not to make our kids ‘perfect’, but to give our kids the sense that they are worthy of love and belonging, no matter what they ‘achieve’.
We pretend that what we do doesn’t have an affect on other people or an impact, yet we need to be accountable for our actions (as an individual, a corporation…) and in being authentic and real, we have the opportunity to say we are sorry, and that we’ll fix it…

Her recipe towards being happy and allowing ourselves to feel vulnerable are:

to let ourselves be seen; to be authentic, to be deeply seen and vulnerable
to love with our whole hearts, even though there’s no guarantee
to practice gratitude and joy, particularly in those moments of terror, instead of making it into more of a catastrophe
to believe that you are enough, because when we stop screaming, we will start listening; and subsequently kinder and gentler to ourselves and others

practice_gratitude

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brown also talks about the Power of Empathy, you can view the talk below.

Dr. Brené Brown on the Power of Empathy

Dr. Brené Brown on the Power of Empathy

Happiness Addendum | Recommended Reading: My Stroke of Insight

I wrote this last blog about happiness on my digesthis site, http://digesthis.wordpress.com/2013/02/28/pursuit-of-happiness-the-happy-movie-my-stroke-of-insight/

Now I have more to add about this book which I’m finishing, “My Stroke of Insight“. Jill Bolte Taylor also has a TED talk on the subject.

Nirvana is a mere hemisphere away; from the bustling, critical and judgmental ego centered left hemisphere !-)

I think the book should be required reading; not just for people who may know a stroke victim, but for all hospital staff, interns or any persons entering the medical profession who have contact with patients in general. In fact, it is very insightful for every one of us. The author discusses the ways in which our brains function anatomically, and how this translates to our consciousness and choices about how we perceive and operate in the world.

Rather than copying and pasting what I already wrote in the other blog, I welcome you to read it to get the gist of what the author describes after having witnessed having a stroke, from the point of view of a neuro-anatamist. I’ve taken notes on the book “My Stroke of Insight” and posted some here on the blog, along with the Appendix A & B, which contain important information about how to approach communicating with someone who has had a stroke and assessing to what degree they are able to communicate.

Here is some food for thought!

left_right_hemisphere_brain_jill_bolte_taylor_TEDtalk

p 29 Left hemisphere is a serial processor and right hemisphere is a parallel processor

p134 Many speak about how our head (left hemisphere) is telling us something while our heart (right hemisphere) is telling us to do the exact opposite. Some of us distinguish between what we think (left h) and what we feel (right h). Others communicate about our mind consciousness (left h) versus our body’s instinctive consciousness (right h). Some of us talk about our small ego mind (left h) compared with our capital ego mind (right h), or our small self (left h) versus our inner or authentic self (right h). Some delineate between their researcher mind (left h) versus their diplomatic mind (right h). And of course there is our masculine mind (left h) versus our feminine mind (right h), and our yang consciousness (left h) countered by our yin consciousness (right h). And if you are familiar with Carl Jung, there is our sensing mind (left h) versus our intuitive mind (right h), and or judging mind (left h) versus our perceiving mind (right h). Whatever language or terminology you use to describe these two parts, they stem from anatomically two distinct hemispheres inside your head.

p149 Dr. Jerry Joseph “Peacefulness should be the place we begin rather than the place we try to achieve.” “dual interpenetrating awareness”

p150 The more aware you are of how you are influencing the energies around you, the more say you will have (control) in what comes your way. Sure, you can’t control everything that happens to you, but you can control how you choose to think and feel about those things. Even negative events can be perceived as valuable life lessons, and if you step to perceive things from the right hemisphere of your brain, you can choose to evaluate an experience or situation with compassion.

p151 You can become aware of the cognitive loops that are running in your brain, and focus on how these thought patterns are causing you to feel physiologically in your body. Neuronal loops (circuits) of fear, anxiety, or anger can be triggered by all sorts of different stimulation. But once they are triggered, these different emotions produce predictable physiological responses that you can train yourself to consciously observe, and then allow to dissipate in a matter of 90 seconds, that is, if you choose not to feed them!

p146 She defines responsibility (response ability) as the ability to choose how you will respond to simulation coming through your sensory systems at any time. Although there are certain limbic systems (emotional) programs that can be triggered automatically, it takes less than 90 seconds for these surges to arrive and then be flushed out of your bloodstream. If you remain angry….it is because you have chosen to let that circuit continue to run. Moment by moment you make the choice to either hook into your neurocircuitry, or to step back into the present moment with awareness, and allow the reaction to melt away as a fleeting physiology.

p155 Same thing goes with ‘negative’ thought patterns, or positive ones. It is vital to your own health, and to what kinds of vibes you put out to ripple to other people you directly or indirectly come into contact with. You can choose to hold onto joyful, happy, empathetic, playful and loving thought patterns, and send these physiologically through your body and into the electromagnetic field surrounding you to move onto other people.

p148 Feeling deep inner peace and sharing kindness is always a choice, for all of us!
-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-.-
Recommendations for Recovery: Ten Assessment Questions

1. Have you had my eyes and ears checked to make sure you know what I can see and hear?
2. Can I discriminate color?
3. Do I perceive three dimensions?
4. Do I have any sense of time?
5. Can I identify all of my body parts as mine?
6. Can I discriminate a voice from background noise?
7. Can I access my food? Can my hands open the containers? Do I have the strength and dexterity to feed myself?
8. Am I comfortable? Am I warm enough? Or thirsty? Or in pain?
9. Am I oversensitive to sensory stimulation (light or sound)? If so, bring me earplugs so I can sleep, and sunglasses so I can keep my eyes open.
10. Can I think linearly? Do I know what socks and shoes are? Do I know that my socks go on before my shoes?

40 Things A Stroke Survivor May Need

We would highly recommend Jill Bolte Taylor’s My Stroke of Insight,  the story of the author’s experience with her own stroke and recovery.  We particularly like the appendix section titled “Forty Things I Needed Most.”  In fact, immediately after a parent’s stroke, it may be difficult to find time to read any more than that.  But it is well worth it:  It tells you how you can be most helpful to your parent.  Below are Taylor’s 40 things she needed most.

1. I am not stupid, I am wounded.  Please respect me.
2. Come close, speak slowly, and enunciate clearly.
3. Repeat yourself – assume I know nothing and start from the beginning, over and over.
4. Be as patient with me the twentieth time you teach me something as you were the first.
5. Approach me with an open heart and slow your energy down.  Take your time.
6. Be aware of what your body language and facial expressions are communicating to me.
7. Make eye contact with me.  I am in here – come find me.  Encourage me.
8. Please don’t raise your voice – I’m not deaf, I’m wounded.
9. Touch me appropriately and connect with me.
10. Honor the healing power of sleep.
11. Protect my energy.  No talk radio, TV, or nervous visitors!  Keep visitation brief (five minutes).
12. Stimulate my brain when I have any energy to learn something new, but know that a small amount may wear me out quickly.
13. Use age-appropriate (toddler) educational toys and books to teach me.
14. Introduce me to the world kinesthetically.  Let me feel everything.  (I am an infant again.)
15. Teach me with monkey-see, monkey-do behavior.
16. Trust that I am trying – just not with your skill level or on your schedule.
17. Ask me multiple-choice questions.  Avoid Yes/No questions.
18. Ask me questions with specific answers.  Allow me time to hunt for an answer.
19. Do not assess my cognitive ability by how fast I can think.
20. Handle me gently, as you would handle a newborn.
21. Speak to me directly, not about me to others.
22. Cheer me on.  Expect me to recover completely, even if it takes twenty years!
23. Trust that my brain can always continue to learn.
24. Break all actions down into smaller steps of action.
25. Look for what obstacles prevent me from succeeding on a task.
26. Clarify for me what the next level or step is so I know what I am working toward.
27. Remember that I have to be proficient at one level of function before I can move on to the next level.
28. Celebrate all of my little successes.  They inspire me.
29. Please don’t finish my sentences for me or fill in words I can’t find.  I need to work my brain.
30. If I can’t find an old file, make it a point to create a new one.
31. I may want you to think I understand more than I really do.
32. Focus on what I can do rather than bemoan what I cannot do.
33. Introduce me to my old life.  Don’t assume that because I cannot play like I used to play that I won’t continue to enjoy music or an instrument, etc.
34. Remember that in the absence of some functions, I have gained other abilities.
35. Keep me familiar with my family, friends, and loving support.  Build a collage wall of cards and photos that I can see.  Label them so I can review them.
36. Call in the troops!  Create a healing team for me.  Send word out to everyone so they can send me love.  Keep them abreast of my condition and ask them to do specific things to support me – like visualize me being able to swallow with ease or rocking my body up into a sitting position.
37. Love me for who I am today.  Don’t hold me to being the person I was before.  I have a different brain now.
38. Be protective of me but do not stand in the way of my progress.
39. Show me old video footage of me doing things to remind me about how I spoke, walked, and gestured.
40. Remember that my medications probably make me feel tired, as well as mask my ability to know what it feels like to be me.

Read more: http://www.oprah.com/oprahradio/Jill-Bolte-Taylors-10-Assessment-Questions#ixzz2O6cmYKcf

Pursuit of Happiness  | IDEA  | Authentic Happiness  |  PERMA | Motion

In my pursuit of happiness, a couple months ago I decided to take a trip. It appeared to be pretty spontaneous, yet I had intended to eventually make this circuit, after having lived for the last 6 years in Europe. I had moved to Barcelona in 2004 and then Berlin, Germany for a second time in 2005. It had been a while since I had physically visited these former communities and friends living there, upon returning to the United States on the eve of Christmas, 2011. My first prompt was to reach San Francisco by the day of the How Weird Street Faire http://howweird.org, which would certainly bring a lot of people together in one place, from among the community of people I knew while living in the ccc warehouse, back in the day when my housemate Brad Olsen had established the first How Weird. En route, I decided that I could visit friends in Taos and Santa Fe, New Mexico, as I made my way to the West coast. I was originally drawn to Taos, a high desert town not far from the Colorado border and nestled in the lower reaches of the Rocky mountains, for snow skiing. I had worked at the ski area there teaching skiing for several years, then later lived in Santa Fe in 2003, teaching skiing at the Ski Basin. The point of this trip was to assess where I might wish to relocate, if it happens to be in the United States, and also to visit with friends who I hadn’t seen in a while. As I mentioned in the last blog, I found a flight to Denver, with the intention of hitch-hiking to Taos, as my first destination. After staying in Taos for the first stretch, I continued hitching on to several additional New Mexico locations, and further on to California. I successfully made it to the street fair on time, and really had a delightful visit throughout. I cut my journey short however, because of a number of reasons. Though my initial incentive was to investigate Portland and Seattle as well as Los Angeles, as potential places to consider relocating, I opted against them. Basically, I intuited that probably each of these towns offer a combination of what I’m looking for in a residence; lots of opportunities for people to participate in music, cultural, art related and outdoor sports like mt. biking, ultimate frisbee and nearby mountains for skiing and snow boarding, as well as having a solid infrastructure for bicycle routes along with a good public transportation network (with the exception of LA). However, what I would miss, is the accessibility of dipping into different European languages on a regular basis, which is typical in Berlin. I studied cultural anthropology and am fascinated by languages and the movement of them along cultural migratory routes. I have to admit that I am not too keen on monotone weather either, and really prefer the dynamics of four seasons.

My visiting adventure came to a poignant exclamation mark wrap-up, when I found myself seated on a return flight to the East coast next to a woman who had just written an article http://positivepsychologynews.com/news/elaine-obrien/2012053122448 in Positive Psychology News about health, fitness and general well being. She was touching on the subject of happiness, which I’ve ironically been blogging about numerous times. The mantra of many of my friends is ‘there are no coincidences’. Elain was returning from the 2012 IDEA Health and Fitness Convention, and had just published an article about it, writing specifically about the association. Here are their publications. http://www.ideafit.com/idea-fitness-journal

With her aura of helpfulness and kindness, Elaine was ebullient as she offered information about the subject of fitness, health and Kinesiology (movement). Years ago when I lived in San Francisco and was sketching a guy sitting next to me at a bar, he asked me to draw my ‘favorite thing’. I responded with an impromptu picture of concentric circles, indicating that this was an image of the concept of motion. Here’s the original sketch on a napkin

and a subsequent version on a card I created.

Motion

I spontaneously revealed that motion is my favorite thing; both geographical, intellectual, physical, spiritual…indicating that through moving to a new place/perspective, can one acquire a new insight. I later read Elaine’s article and saw a quote of Plato’s prominently placed at the beginning: “Lack of activity destroys the good condition of every human being, while movement and methodical exercise save it and preserve it.”

Elaine writes that Peter and Kathie Davis started the group IDEA, to ‘inspire the world to fitness and wellness’, back in 1982, which has now grown to 65,000 members worldwide. They wanted to create “an association where fitness professionals could learn from each other and from the experts”. According to Peter, “Fitness professionals focused mostly on the body for the first 25 years. What we at IDEA have tried to do in the last few years, is to encourage fitness leaders to understand the mind, the body, and the spirit together in a wholeness model. Through this, we can inspire wellness and positive transformation.” Their incentive is to re-frame the way that people look at health and fitness, to recognize how integrally these are related to the pursuit of happiness. They wish to inspire people to make healthier behavioral changes towards wellness.

She also quotes Tal Ben-Shahar, “Exercise feels good, enhances self-esteem, induces calm, improves thinking, makes you feel more attractive, has virtually no negative side effects, is legal, and is free.” He teaches a course on ‘Happiness’ within the Positive Psychology department at Harvard, University, and has written a book “Happier”. Interviewed on The Daily Show, he mentions that students claim that the course makes them feel happier. He hopes to raise the level of happiness and quality of life in the community.

How do we understand happiness and how can we apply this to our lives? There’s a growing movement in positive psychology and for the first time a ‘science of Happiness’. A study done by the Nobel Prize winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman, not to be confused with con man’-)) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daniel_Kahneman has found that people are less happy if they are too distracted. Therefore, this is not merely about physical fitness and motion, but the necessity of being ‘present’ in what you’re doing. In addition, studies demonstrate that meditation can actually affect how the brain works, so that people can feel the positive emotions more fully and be more resilient to deal with negative ones. Incidentally, my frustration with my refusal to specialize, and insistence in juggling multiple projects in disparate areas, sometimes causes me to feel like I’m not making enough headway. A few weeks ago as I was sensing this, I decided to ‘randomly’ pull a magazine out from a pile of “Utne Readers” to see if the one I picked might synchronistically deliver a message. Ahhh, the one that I slid out from near the bottom of the stack spoke ardently about my ‘problem’.

A Focused Life

It was the issue with the theme of “Focus” and “Why We Are So Distracted and What to Do About It

My airplane neighbor Elaine also talked about Dr. Martin Seligman, the Director of the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania. It’s more than serendipity, that his homepage is “Authentic Happiness” His website welcomes visitors to use the tools and resources available for free.

An excerpt of his book, “Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-Being” “What Is Well-Being? The Original Theory: Authentic Happiness” describes that we not only make choices because something makes us feel good, with more measurable happiness; such as pleasure, comfort, delight, joy, ecstasy. But we also can really derive happiness by being ‘in the flow’ of an activity, when we are totally engaged. This is when time appears to stop, because we are so completely absorbed in an activity that we lose track of time. Engagement is different, even opposite to positive emotion he says, because people often become so involved in an activity that they are aware of nothing, and are not thinking or feeling. The flow involves having to employ your highest strengths and skills. With respect to this, I like to make the analogy of Luke Skywalker in Star Wars, when he talks about “using the force”. Seligman states that the third element of happiness that he defines in his book, is meaning. Summarizing his well-being theory since revising it further, it is encompassed in these measurable elements which all contribute to happiness, expressed in the acronym PERMA. Positive emotion, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning/purpose and Accomplishment.

I like the fact that my journey pulled me back to these same themes, motion and happiness, which I am engaged in perpetually, in my pursuit of happiness, fulfillment and meaning. My intention is to aspire to and maintain health, resilience and awareness, balanced with forever engaging in what I love to do, so that I can somehow contribute to inspiring and guiding others to find their own path.

https://carolkeiter.wordpress.com/2009/10/20/happiness/

http://digesthis.wordpress.com/2010/03/10/guides-to-living-longer-happier-lives-right-here-right-now/

http://digesthis.wordpress.com/2011/11/20/speaking-of-happiness-laughter-yoga-giggling-guru-madan-kataria/

http://digesthis.wordpress.com/2012/02/03/happyness-making-the-best-of-what-you-have/

http://digesthis.wordpress.com/2012/04/12/gross_domestic_problem_-why-measurement-of-wealth-depends-on-a-healthy-environment/