Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Understanding, not winning

I've mentioned before that often if I find myself in a contentious disagreement with someone close to me, I ask myself the question, "Would I rather be right or would I rather be in relationship?" It's always a good reminder.

Because of that question, I was interested recently when I read further in a Karen Armstrong book I have, Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life. In one of the chapters, she discusses Socrates and his style of dialogue. Armstrong talks about the competitiveness and aggression found in ancient Greek dialogues and debates. However, she says that Socrates didn't like that model.

"In true dialogue, participants 'must answer in a manner more gentle and more proper to discussion.' The Socratic dialogue was a spiritual exercise designed to produce a profound psychological change in the participants, and because its purpose was that each person should understand the depth of his ignorance, there was no way that anybody could win," Armstrong writes, quoting from Socrates.

In other words, it's more about understanding than it is about winning! What a difference that could make to our discussions and disagreements, right? If we were truly interested in understanding what the other person thinks, why and what investment that person has in that perspective, we would enhance the relationship—and learn things in the process.

I think it's worth a try, don't you?

Monday, May 28, 2018

It takes age and youth working together

It's important no matter what age you are—whether at the young end of the spectrum or the mature end—to feel confident about your gifts and your usefulness to society. Sadly, we often hear negative comments about either end of the spectrum. Young people are too lazy and unwilling to put in the hard work and long hours required, we're told. And older people are told they're unproductive and over-the-hill in addition to being too expensive to keep in the work force. Just a side thought here: Some people are referring to us older members of the population as "perennials" because we blossom again and again. We're not finished just because the number "65" figures into our lives!

So one study done in an auto plant discovered something that really just sounds like common sense to me. Researchers studied teams comprising all young workers, teams of older workers and still other teams that were mixed. Can you guess which ones were more productive? I'm sure you can. Yup, the mixed groups. They had the knowledge and experience of older workers and the skill and speed of the younger ones.

That really doesn't seem surprising, does it? So it is important that we adjust our attitudes and realize it takes age and youth working together to make a healthy society. Let's appreciate each other and work together! It's called balance.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Bringing justice

I don't know about you, but I'm all about addressing injustices where I see them—particularly those aimed at women and children. Sometimes we hear about them from a variety of sources, including the news media. But there are so many instances of which we know little to nothing. They simply do not get discussed much.

The other day I read about something that definitely affects women, particularly women in poverty. I hadn't even realized that menstrual supplies had been in the news lately. How did I miss that? Activists have been trying to repeal what's called a "tampon tax"—a sales tax levied on menstrual supplies in 36 states. The rationale for this tax is that these products are luxuries, not necessities. What?! Who knew? Are we to return to the days of rags?

In addition, I learned that menstrual products aren't covered by food stamps or WIC coupons. Neither are soap, toilet paper and other basics of hygiene. Isn't that odd? So women in poverty can't use their stamps or coupons for such necessities. What are they to do?

This may seem like an odd subject about which to blog, but it points out to me the importance of staying informed and aware so that we can bring justice to those who are without money, status and voice. Oh, yes, and justice to half the world's population! Raising awareness is one way we can bring justice, and it's not to be discounted. It's part of being human and showing compassion.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Laughter is healing

I just got off the phone with my dear sister. Many times, we are quite serious and talk about a wide range of topics from our childhood to our kids and grandkids to national and global events and so much more. But we also are both pretty zany and have a well-developed sense of humor. So we started doing plays on words (one of our favorite things to do since we're both wordsmiths!) and ended up laughing hilariously.

By the time we said "Goodbye," we were both laughing so hard that we barely squeezed out our goodbyes.

I love when that happens. Of all the things I suspect I may lose as I age, I really hope my sense of humor isn't one of them! I really want to hang onto it as long as I can—preferably until I take my last breath.

There are plenty of things to disturb and depress us, a plethora of things to bring sadness into our lives. So it's really crucial that we not lose the ability to laugh—to find the humor in everyday situations and even to laugh at ourselves. If there's nothing in your life about which to laugh, YouTube videos abound with comedy sketches. Even dog and cat videos online will get you laughing, guaranteed.

Are you still exercising your funny bone? Don't forget to add laughter to each day if you can. You'll feel so much better! It truly has healing properties.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Both joy and sorrow are temporary

We know all too well that both joy and sorrow are part of life. What we don't always think about is the temporary nature of both those emotions and the experiences that spur them.

Author Joey Green puts it this way, "When you experience joy, remembering that 'This too shall pass' helps you savor the here and now. When you experience pain and sorrow, remembering that 'This too shall pass' reminds you that grief, like joy, is only temporary."

This quote puts a little different twist on things, doesn't it? We often think that times of sorrow will pass. But so will those times of joy—so best we savor them and make the most of them while we can.

All our emotions are temporary ... and will pass. Keep in mind the transitory nature of all things, and it will help you keep a healthy perspective on life.

Reading Green's quote certainly grabbed my attention and is a good reminder to me. How about you?

Friday, May 18, 2018

Dreams & fears

This is the month for graduations. I have one grandson graduating from college next week and one granddaughter graduating from high school next week, too. Both of them are filled with dreams of what their future might contain. Understandably, it's an extremely exciting time for them both—and for all graduates. Frightening, too, no doubt, as they face unknown futures.

That doesn't really change as we age, does it? We still have dreams. We carry excitement about things that lie ahead of us. We also face fears about what the future might bring.

Do you have dreams that are waiting for you to put some legs on them? Go ahead—reach out and grab hold of them. Make them happen.

Do you also feel fearful about what the future could bring? Perhaps questions about finances or about potential illnesses or decline? Don't be afraid of those questions. Face them head-on, do what you can to alleviate the concerns and then try to let go of the outcome if there's nothing more you can do.

Remember the saying, "Courage is fear that has said its prayers."

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Love, honor and heal

I have a beautiful coffee-table book titled Finding Ourselves on Sacred Ground by Jan Phillips and Ruth Westreich. This book contains their photographs accompanied by prose and poetry to inspire. The other day I read this:

"Your spiritual practice is the space and place where you love yourself—honor, heal and collect yourself. It is where you lose and find yourself, where you hear the sound of intelligence knocking and open your arms to welcome her gifts.

"It is the communion table where yin and yang, light and dark, masculine and feminine, body and soul dissolve their borders and melt like chocolate into each others' arms.

"What use can you be to yourself or others when you fail to heal your open wounds, drink in the light, thresh and winnow the grist of your life?"

Phillips and Westreich have given us a lot upon which to reflect in those words, haven't they? There's an invitation to love self and to find healing for our wounds. These things are so important for, just as they said, "What use can you be to yourself or others" without that? As we know, wounded people wound others—if those wounds are not healed. I'm sure you have experienced that just as I have, both by being on the receiving end and also being the one who has wounded others.

Resolve to tend to your spiritual practice today.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Look. You'll find beauty.

Why, oh why is it so easy to get sucked into negativity? I can blame the news. I can blame others. But I need to come back to myself and ask why I can't focus more on the positive when there's so much beauty all around.

Because getting drawn into negativity is too easy, I really resonated with two things I read today in my Blue Mountain Arts Collection called A Daybook of Gratitude: How to Live Each Day with a Thankful Heart:

Ella Wheeler Wilcox writes this, "Look for something to be thankful and glad over each day, and you will find it. Consider each disappointment and trouble as so much experience and as a temporary lesson set for you to learn...."

Yes, oh yes!

And G. Allison Phelps wrote: "Just to look at the sun going down behind green hills; just to watch rain falling on a quiet lake; just to see spinning tops of sand, created by winds whirling over a desert; just to be able to imagine oneself upon a ship, docking at a pier in a strange and distant port; just to be able to touch the hand of another and feel oneself become a part of that other; just to breathe the evening air and hear the voices of children, raised in laughter; O! just to feel one is a part of all the scheme of things entire—such are the blessings humans have."

Really, there is nothing I can add to that.

Friday, May 11, 2018

'Born to wonder'

I've blogged several times about wonder, a trait we often fear we've lost as adults but that we see so openly in children. Should we not feel wonder at what our bodies do for us? At the many ways our bodies function, abilities we take so for granted? Our arm reaches for something high on the shelf without our even being conscious of all the inner workings that make this possible. We think, we walk, we run, we speak, we hear ... year after year, decade after decade ... incredible!

We see the butterflies and hummingbirds return from long journeys as spring declares its presence once again. Should we not feel wonder at these things? We see the earth green up, flowers grow, sunrises and sunsets set the earth aglow. Wow!

I read Steven Charleston's wonderful words in his book Cloud Walking: A Spiritual Diary, "You are a child of innocence, born to wonder all your days. ...Innocence is not the absence of pain, but the ability to face truth as an adult while still seeing with the eyes of a child. Innocence is hope. It is vision. It is love. God grant that each of us, for all the darkness we have endured, will always have the grace of innocence: the belief that what is to come will be better than what has been."

So even as we face the realities of our lives with illness, pain, failings, disappointments—yet wonder and innocence still remain. Let's not lose sight of them. They are there. We only need pay attention—and believe.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Here's to nurturers of all types

This weekend is Mother's Day here in the United States. I am fully aware that this can be an extremely difficult day for women who have wanted so badly to get pregnant and give birth to a child but are unable to do so. We need to be sensitive to that.

In the past many decades, I've had a much broader view of what Mother's Day means, though. I see it as a day to honor women who give birth not just to a child but to ideas, organizations, music, art, books and other creative ventures. There are so many things that need birthing and creating. Mother's Day is a day to celebrate women who nurture, and there are so many things in need of nurturing.

Some Mother's Days I send cards to women who give birth and nurture in these other ways, too. It often catches them off guard and, I hope, helps them feel appreciated for what they add to our society and to the lives of many.

Who do you appreciate today? Why not let them know?

Monday, May 7, 2018

Try more laughter

Last week I took a friend to her cataract surgery, staying with her while the medical staff prepped her. Of course, the prep time was the longest; and the surgery itself was only about 20-30 minutes of the 3-1/2 hours we were at the hospital. My friend began to be a bit nervous after about 45 minutes of prepping, so in addition to encouraging her to take deep breaths, I tried laughter.

At one point, when a nurse finished inserting the needle for the intravenous fluids, I joked that it was a good thing she didn't stick it in her arm or leg as did Tim Conway in the Carol Burnett show's episode called "The Dentist." If you have never seen that, follow the link or Google it to see the YouTube video of it. It's absolutely hilarious. The laughter that will result when you see it is almost guaranteed to make you healthier!

So we all had some good laughs and lightened the pre-op room. And that brings me to my point: We all need laughter and humor in our lives. Life can be so heavy and serious at times. And we all have read more than once about the healing properties of laughter. So I urge you to find ways to either introduce or keep humor in your life. It'll help balance you. And it makes all your body functions operate better. You will simply feel better and lighter.

What makes you laugh? Find something to induce a good belly laugh for yourself (and others) today. We can all use more of that!

Friday, May 4, 2018

What's calling you?

Ah, it's that wonderful time of year, where I live anyway, when winter finally truly lets go and allows spring to enter the door. Flowers are starting to flout their colors. Birds are singing. And in just another day or two, I should see amazing hummingbirds at my feeder. Rebirth. It's such an exciting time of year—and all the more so this year, it seems, because we waited extra long for it to arrive.

It makes me reflect on what in my life could use renewal and new birth. I don't yet know what's ahead for me, but it's always good to ponder what might be. What could use my attention? What's calling to me now? Do I need to make any changes, either in direction or in attitude? Is it time for something new to blossom and bloom? Or perhaps it's time to clean out something in my life, whether physical or emotional? To declutter and let go?

How about you? What does spring call forth in you?

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Random Words of Kindness

If we didn't think there was already a plethora of offensive remarks being volleyed back and forth, this week there are even more. Social media sites are buzzing. What can we do as individuals to help change this culture? To find our way to some sense of civility?

I keep thinking of the phrase, "When they go low, we go high." I need to remember it in my daily life. If each one of us practices that, will it spread—like the proverbial ripples in the pond? I don't know, but it's worth a try.

Remember the Random Acts of Kindness movement? Perhaps that needs a revival. Or perhaps we need a Random Words of Kindness movement.

What do you think? Are you ready to do your part? I certainly would like to try.