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

Land FillHarmonic Orchestra | Community living on Landfill Create Joy with Musical Instruments Made from Trash |

landfillharmonicA slum in Paraguay is built on a landfill. After a member of the community found a violin in the trash, he decided to repair it. This lead members in the community to take an interest in constructing recycled musical instruments from the trash. Now they’ve built an orchestra around it and are making a movie about the whole process; which shares their creativity and joy and pride in what they have accomplished to dramatically improve the quality of life in their community. http://www.facebook.com/landfillharmonicmovie

slum_landfill_Paraguay

Cateura_Paraguay_community_built_on_landfill
http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=10151279562307432&set=vb.759907431&type=2&theater

Cello_homemade_from_trash

Now, they not only embrace music and get a lot of joy from making recycled instruments, but have their own orchestra and are making a movie about their accomplishments. The makers of the instruments feel joy to have created something that others appreciate, and the people playing the music adore it, and give themselves as well as everyone else joy as they perform.

Wonderful! Landfiil_Harmonic

orchestra_performing_with_instruments_made_from_trash

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/