The 1960s were all about the magic of the mind. We were fascinated by the subconscious and its hidden powers.
The Amazing Kreskin really did amaze us. When I was in sixth grade, Dad bought me this Kreskin’s ESP game/kit. The pendulum I always felt was hokey, but spent a lot of time with the cards.
Each had a color dot, or unique symbol, and we were supposed to discern (not guess) which color or symbol it was. Of course, I never mastered the thing, but it did awaken in me a curiosity about larger things.
In 1966, a cosmetic surgeon named Maxwell Maltz authored a book titled “Psycho-Cybernetics”. I remember seeing it around the house a lot. Also, Dad would do things, experimentally, to teach me.
Once, on a cool autumn evening, I was playing with friends and decided that I wanted to go into the house. As I came in the door, Dad was seated on the couch in the living room, to my right.
“Why did you come in?”, he asked.
“I dont know”, I replied, “Just felt like it.
He smiled and said,”I made you come in.”
He’d been experimenting with some of Maltz’s techniques, visualizing me coming through the door, and I did. Does that prove that Dad’s experiment worked? Of course not, but it was enough to pique my interest.
At 61, I still cant tell you what color underwear you’re wearing, or the name on the label, but I am very aware of an interpersonal connection that goes beyond the visual.
What brings me to this, today, is Maltz’s emphasis on Self-image. If there is one thing that I swear by, from all of those things, it’s that we can change our lives by changing the self-image.
In general, people who see themselves negatively, will have a more negative living experience than people with a positive self-image.
The last three years of my life are a testament to this. In 2015, I was in the darkest place of my life. Beaten down by circumstances, I’d taken on a victim mentality and felt absolutely like a waste of skin.
In 2016, I realized what was happening, and began to change that image. Since then, life has been a continuous chain of improving circumstances.
That isnt to say that nothing negative has happened. My car/home was stolen, and more, but it has all brought me further along a growth curve.
Today, I’m speaking to groups and leading mindfulness workshops. For a lot of this, I credit my dad, introducing me to the things I needed to know.
If you’re interested in learning more, you can read Dr. Maltz’s book, Psycho-Cybernetics. Of course, you can also contact me, and we can talk about ways that I might be able to help.
This is the first time that I’m cross-posting between these two sites. Please, let me know your thoughts about this way of sharing.
On my travel page, VagabondStew, I posted an article about a hitchhiking trip from Dallas to Denver. (Ellie Hoskins article, to your right.) It relates the story of an afternoon I spent talking with an an older woman, as she prepared me a meal. What I want to do here, is to relate that story to mindfulness and illustrate some ways that I’m learning from Ellie Hoskins, even forty-six years later.
Out of respect for her, and the etiquette of her time, I’ll refer to her as Mrs. Hoskins. She was a beautiful and gracious woman, who took time out of her day to entertain an adolescent stranger in her home, and to make him feel important. I am grateful for Ellie Hoskins.
On a late July day, in 1972, Mrs. Hoskins sat on her porch, enjoying the shade and watching the cars go by. As she did, a young man came walking up the sidewalk, wearing a broad brimmed hat, carrying a homemade pack made of corduroy. “Mornin’!”, she called, little knowing that she was about to make a life-long impression that would affect countless others, in time.
If you’ve read the story, then you already know what she did and how grateful I was, and still am. Here’s the way that I interpret that story today.
Mrs. Hoskins was a mindful woman.
Although that term was not used at the time, as a traveling Methodist minister, she had undoubtedly spent many hours in prayer and meditation.
She knew who she was.
Considering her own frailties and her place in this world, even at eighty-six years old, she knew who she was, and didnt hesitate to express it.
Time in meditation and walking mindfully can also help us come to understand who we are, and how we fit into our own worlds. If you’re religious, you’ll find this in the words of scripture.
She was not hesitant to be kind. We shouldnt be, either.
It may sound cliché to say, but Kindness is one of the most important attributes to develop, if you want to be happy. Acting kindly immediately releases serotonin, which makes you feel good.
A consistent practice of kindliness reduces stress, which is good for your heart. People who practice kindness are less likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke.
Think about it.
In your meditation, today, think about Ellie Hoskins and others like her. Who has shown you kindness? Have you expressed your gratitude for them? If not, I’d encourage you to take a few reflective minutes. It’ll be good for you.
Leaves in the Stream…
Most modern humans see things from a self-centric viewpoint. It’s what we’re taught from birth. When things go wrong, we’re supposed to look for a lesson or reason. Most of the time, though, there isnt one. Life is just happening, and we’re there.
I believe that we move as participants in the flow of Life, rather than the focus — proverbial leaves in a stream. Floating downstream, the leaf is not the point. Nothing the stream does is for or about the leaf. Flowing over stones, between the roots of trees, plunging over waterfalls, these would all happen just the same if the leaf werent there. Life is like that. By accepting that this flow is neither for us, nor about us, we can let go of the guilt and responsibility of “doing it right“. By simply taking an objective viewpoint and moving in harmony, we are free to enjoy each moment for its own wonder.
However, if we perceive that everything happens with us in mind, life can be overwhelming. We begin to ask, Why me? Am I supposed to learn something from this? Should I have done something differently? Then guilt climbs in, and regret, and depression. While I believe that God exists, and is involved in our lives, I dont think that all of reality is customized for each individual. In most cases, something simply happened and you were there when it did. Most of the time, things arent about us. They’re just part of the flow.
Understanding this has freed me from the guilt and regret that I used to experience. It leaves me free to float, accepting what is, and to respond in whatever way seems best. I’m grateful for that.
It’s early October and the trees are decked out in fall colors. Night air is cool. Where I live, some mornings begin with frost. Autumn is one of my favorite times of the year. As it passes, though, a tiny voice in the back of my awareness says, “The Holidays are coming”. That, of course, triggers different emotions for different people. Some are excited, but increasing numbers of Americans arent.
More and more, we hear people say things like, “I cant wait for the holidays to be over”. Some people seem to thrive on the scurry and hurry, but many feel overwhelmed. In fact, a Forbes article from November 2017 reported that a third of Americans would rather skip the holidays altogether. An article from the New York Post, December 21, 2017, tells us that 41% work too hard to achieve perfection, while 54% struggle to slow down and enjoy it. The time of year that’s supposed to be about peace, goodwill, family and friends, can often seem like a giant ball (think Indiana Jones) of holiday stress.
So, what’s going on? Where’s all this stress coming from and what can we do about it?
While there have been lots of studies on the subject, the simple answer seems to be that we expect too much. Think about that 41% who are trying to build the perfect holiday experience. In 2018, if you want to replicate that Waltons feel, you’re probably going to be disappointed. What about struggling to slow down? We rush to get kids to school and ourselves to work, then back to school for holiday programs. Between, office potlucks, cocktail parties, gift exchanges, church functions, and family gatherings, it’s easy to get to the “When is it going to end?” place.
In the midst of it all, there are some things we can do to take the edge off and get back in flow. As a long time mindfulness practitioner, here are some things that I’ve found very helpful.
You are the boss of you
You can say no.
Control your own schedule
During the holidays, our calendars fill up quickly. It can be difficult to make time for all of the activities. So, dont. Choose a few activities that you really want to participate in, and politely decline the rest. Leave yourself lots of breathing room.
Only buy gifts for the important people in your life
Parents and kids, of course, fall into this category. Pretty much everyone else is peripheral. You dont have to participate in every gift exchange that comes along. There are alternatives. If your leads group or book club wants to exchange gifts, you can suggest a group donation to charity. This will save you money, and shopping time.
If you find yourself in a moment of panic, freeze for ten seconds. Close your eyes and breathe slowly. Focus on the breath as it moves in and out. Allow your shoulders and face to relax. Feel that calm relaxation move through your body Take one last breath, hold it for two seconds, aaaaaannnnd….you’re good.
In every day, leave at least half an hour for stillness. A time of quiet mindfulness can be a marvelous therapy for stress. Ideally, a time of mindful meditation each week is excellent. Apart from that, you may want to vary your experience. If you like music, listen to something soothing. Shine your shoes. Take a bubble bath. One woman I know likes to iron. The soft sounds, fragrances, and easy rhythm of it are soothing to her.
As the holidays approach, you can use these simple strategies to keep stress to a minimum. Also, if you’re in the Denver area for the holidays, Selah Mindfulness is offering a limited time series of sessions called Holiday Hideaways. They’re designed specifically to address the stress that comes at this time of year. Click the link to find out more.
Lego. The magnificent, multi-purpose toy that enchants and infuriates us. Infuriates? Well, only when you step on one. Enchants? Absolutely.
You know the deal. You get this box with a picture of a castle or a helicopter on it. You’re excited, but there’s a catch. When you open the box and tip it up, your cool new toy is all in pieces. It may be the world’s most versatile metaphor: You can’t play until you do the work. Today, though, we won’t be exploring any of those applications. Instead, I want to tell you a story.
Recently, I met an incredible woman who shared with me some of the struggles of her life, and how she has weathered them. Then she told me about her autistic son. His story was not presented as a struggle, but a blessing. One of the things that she related was how the activity of assembling Lego toys was soothing to him. It was a thing that helped him to get calm, when things began to get out of control. Without diminishing the import of her narrative, I want to apply this principle in the context of mindfulness. Can such a mundane thing be thought of as Mindful? Of course.
In the modern world, the practice of mindfulness most commonly has two basic interpretations. One is to be aware of what’s happening around us at this moment. Hear the breeze moving through leaves. Feel it brushing your skin. See the grasshopper resting on a blade of grass. Notice the ripple of water, or the sound of a distant siren. The other is to focus on one thing. In meditation, most choose breathing, or a visual object. Some use mantras or a mala.
Legos can be used in a couple of ways. As you work to build the toy, attention can be on the actual activity, or on the texture, color, and other attributes of individual pieces. You can also observe the sound and feel as they click together. This is a great mindfulness exercise for kids, but adults can enjoy it, too.
One thing that I want to emphasize, before closing, is that everyone has something to teach us. This woman that I met out of the blue, had a marvelous story. As a guitar player, I used to get together with others to jam. It was always a fun time, and a thing that I realized very early on was that everybody knew something I didn’t. There was never a time that I didn’t learn a new lick or song. It was the same with artists. That’s how all of life is. We can learn from every single person we meet, if we’re willing to take the time.