We spent New Year’s Eve at our friends house eating authentic Chinese food. There are very few things which I find as luscious as immersing myself, one way or another, in someone else’s culture, and of course food is one of the greatest delights. Warm memories of these shared hours is what causes me to focus on challenges and pleasures inherent in interacting with diverse people and cultures as my topic today and is part of my commitment for 2013 to feel more joy in life through greater awareness of my moment to moment existence.
I think I first became aware of the concept of diversity, tinged with cultural awareness, as part of my work with low income or minority populations in the United States in the 1990s. Having been raised in the majority, it was shocking at first to think that people see and experience the world from such different points of view. Therefore, the context in which I learned about diversity, comes packaged a little with shame – the self adopted shame of the privilege when they realize that much of their worldview depends upon the hard work and labor of those with fewer options.
Of course travel often ignites a passion for the variety the world has to offer – and those of us who are fortunate enough to have seen many countries and levels of living will always have stories to tell of what it has meant to our lives. Coming from a large country like the United States, and being of an age where travel was originally only for the richer classes, I was in my 40s before I embraced the potential of seeing the larger world, let alone living in it. Our move to live outside of the United States was largely done to make up for some of those years of isolation.
Of course we are also a diverse couple, not being made up of one man and one woman as is the norm. This means Margie and I are aware at some small level of the differences between us and the more typical partnerships of our friends. It is through this difference that I came to my awareness of the subtleties involved in diversity. While we may know others deeply, we will never understand all of those subtleties. Much has to do with the differences in the context in which we were raised. Perhaps the biggest joy in diversity, although one that is harder to confront, is the awareness of ourselves as similar and yet different from those around us.
I feel blessed by the diversity of ideas, ages, cultures, and orientations of those around us. I enjoy working in talking to other entrepreneurs. We have a different mindset from people who choose instead to work for others, leaving much of the angst in wondering if the next business push will be successful to someone else. Margie and only enjoyed friendships across diverse age groups, interacting with groups within Kinsale where we are often a decade younger than others who attend. We also enjoy the company of many of our friends who are a decade or more younger than we are. They are similar to us in how they structure their lives, but different in worldview simply because of the difference in the time or context in which they grew up. Each of these differences and similarities reach out to us in ways subtle and yet more profound ways than can be expressed in a short writing such as this.
I hope my small musings have provoked ideas or thoughts in yourself about the pleasures you enjoy in the diversities of life. And so I close saying: Happy New Year and may 2013 bring you, and all of us, deeper understandings of the diversity around us – and more pleasure and joy in it as well.
What is the Self? is linked to the question of What is the nature of reality?- something that this website discusses from many angles.
The nature of reality is that it is what we make of it. This is a hard truth but SO visible in this short film.
Are you or anyone you know discouraged these days? Thinking about giving up?
Watch this film and then pass it on to those who need it.
Many people stay in unhealthy relationships much longer than they should, and sometimes for their whole lives. An unhealthy relationship might be one in which both parties are just not as happy as they should be, or it might be severely abusive (whether emotionally, physically or otherwise). Being in an unhealthy relationship can damage your confidence and self-esteem, and use up a lot of emotional energy that could be used much better elsewhere. Because they are so draining, getting out of an unhealthy relationship is difficult. Putting all your energy into trying to keep the relationship stable means you do not have any left to end it.
Most of us have probably been in a relationship that was in some way unhealthy, and sometimes that is just down to bad luck. Some people have a repeated pattern of unhealthy or abusive relationships. That pattern can be very firmly rooted, often caused by mirroring of parents’ bad relationship or a difficult first couple-relationship. To get out of such a pattern often takes a conscious effort. This is where positive psychology techniques can help.
PERMA and Relationships
The PERMA approach to positive psychology developed by Martin Seligman includes developing better relationships as a key part of it. PERMA stands for:
P – pleasure
E – engagement
R – positive relationships
M – meaning
A – accomplishment.
The R relationships refers to all kinds of relationships, including work and parent/child relationships, but we can look specifically at how it could be applied to couple-relationships. Building good relationships in general is at the heart of positive psychology – whether we choose to see it or not, all of us need relationships with other people. Having positive relationships helps you achieve pleasure, engagements, meaning and accomplishment too. Being stuck in a bad couple-relationship can damage your ability to achieve these things, as well as your other relationships. . See this page for more information on the PERMA approach.
How to Break the Cycle
Bad relationships trap people in a negative emotional state. People tend to stay in them because they are frightened, and fear is an extremely powerful emotion. Fear of being alone, fear of what an abusive partner might do, fear of having to resolve practical problems like housing and money – all these can seem like good reasons to stay in a bad relationship. To get out of a bad relationship, you need to positively consider your own needs. Whether your partner is abusive or just not the right one for you, in order to effect change you need to look to yourself.
Many people have a strong tendency to try and channel positivity into the bad relationship. They might try and focus on being kinder to their partner, in the hope of getting that kindness back. They might think that being positive, means being forgiving, and believing that things might change. Women in particular tend to do this, perhaps because our society tends to condition women to hang much of their self-worth on their ability to ‘catch and keep’ a man.
People can tie themselves into positive relationships because they feel trapped by shared history. This can be especially true of married couples – having asked people to come to their wedding, spend money on wedding gifts, perhaps having accepted money from parents towards wedding costs – people feel that they would be letting other people down if they were to split up. They look around their marital home and see things that tie them together – the wedding photo, the personalized ‘happy couple’ glass engraving, the special souvenirs they picked up on honeymoon – and feel that the relationship and their life as an individual cannot be separated.
We all want to be ‘good’ people, and in these ways being ‘good’ can actually become a negative thing. Being positive is not always the same as being good. It can mean being what some people would call ‘selfish’ – something we are taught to see as wrong. To have PERMA we need to be able to be positive about ourselves, and take the decisions that are right for us.
If you are in a bad relationship that you are not sure how to leave, start by looking at what you want to achieve with your life. It can help to make a list. Include things that you think you cannot achieve. Then look at how you might work towards each one, even if you think you cannot, and even if you have to do it in little steps. Look at the things you think you cannot achieve – how many of them are things you think you cannot achieve because of your relationship? If you are in a bad relationship, the chances are there are many things you would like to do but cannot, because of the relationship. Start focusing on your goals and you may find leaving much easier than you thought.
Alison Styles is a freelance writer and relationships specialist. She has spent time studying the patterns of bad relationship behavior and is committed to helping others identifying these and taking action for a better life.
Have you noticed that everyone, even people in the same family, living in the same house actually live in different realities? For instance, in my household, the importance of certain ways of living life (such as organization patterns, use of time, etc.) vary greatly between us. What is reality? I propose that it is really the tethers which hold us in place. If, we accept that we, each of us as individuals, have control over our minds and emotions, then what is we do with those minds and emotions ultimately determine our "reality". If it's a great sunny day in my heart, it does not matter whether it is rainy and dreary outside. And if I meet people who have been affected by it being dreary and rainy outside I sort of emotionally bounce off of them, not letting them affect me, because their "reality" is different than mine.
These views of "reality" came from the tethers our parents put on our spirits in order to keep us (at least in their minds) safe. That was our parents jobs. The result however, especially in a time like this one which is full of new possibilities, is to hold back our spirits from soaring. That is one of the reasons I support science and education. They help us break our tethers. And, as everyone knows who happens ever gone back for degree only to find that their families push-back on the changes these new thoughts are making in their personalities and actions, education unhooks our tethers. It also changes our view of reality. I work in and with doctoral students, emerged every day in "scientific" evidence. No one will deny that having data to support your claims about reality is like laying a trump card down on a bridge table. Data gives us new tethers, from what we build new realities. That is the reason and way that science changes our lives.
Are you with me so far? Can you accept that the way we think about our world, not to mention feel about it, determine our reality? If so, then you can probably go the next step with me which is to wonder about all the myriad of ways we can change our thoughts and feelings, and therefore have great affect on how our lives unfold. I don't mean putting the ubiquitous happy face on circumstances regardless of their difficulty. Although I don't personally feel that has a negative effect except to perhaps annoy the people around you, it also doesn't get to the heart of helping us/me move into the space where creation of something different rarely happens.
And that is what I am really musing about today, how to move regularly into the mental and emotional space where I am the creator I know I am born to be? I started this life as an artist, and that form of creation still stays with me, even though I rarely face a blank piece of paper anymore. Today I am asking, “How does my mind create?” - is there an analogy here I can use for life creation as well? First I have to address that blank piece of paper – and if we use this analogy as how we create our worldview, then we have to be able to see our world without "reality" but rather as a blank piece of paper. Regardless of what I have created up until now, what will I create with the blank piece of paper that is my day today?
My favorite art form is collage, and it's useful in this analogy. To work with a collage, you not only face your blank piece of paper, but you also bring to it elements that you have already developed. In fact you have many more elements around your piece of paper than you will ever put in the final composite that is that piece of art, some are there for color, others for image, still others for texture. So, if my day today is a piece of art, then what are the elements I have to collage into it in order to make it shine with all the magnificence that my creative spirit would wish for? Ah ha! Herein lies a few secrets that work very well for me (when I remember to use them), in which hopefully may work for you as well:
I need to include elements of open space in my collage that is my day today. It is useful, I have found, for these elements in my life to be in my morning time. Therefore days work out for the best if I take some time to do yoga, listening to Kelly Howell's the Secret of Mind Meditation, and maybe even Destiny, or Breakthrough.
Another element in this collage of my day is useful is exercise. As I forced myself to ride my bicycle and town yesterday, even though it was raining and dreary, i.e. felt, if not younger, at least hardy. When I find myself taking deep risks being faced with potentials that scare me, having my body feel hardy and alive is a must.
An element I love to include is creativity- writing like this, and, who knows maybe soon some real live collage, bring light areas to my day and are guaranteed almost to lift my spirits.
Speaking of lifting my spirits – music! One of my students (also a woman reinventing her life over 60) mentioned putting on gospel music and writing for hours. I love Billy Joel myself.
And what about the elements that scare me? In the collage that I make my day I can see these as contrasting dark spaces, something that every art piece needs in order to be interesting. It is true, I am an adventurous spirit, and I naturally keep a certain amount of risk in my life – much like I put absolute darkness in areas of my artwork. It is a great mental attitude to see them as the contrasting elements, but not something that will take over the whole.
And what about the people that I put in my collage? My life path right now is to open up to greater qualities and quantities of love. Therefore there must always be people, and I must also be open to the elements they bring to my day, whether or not they were always planned or even pleasant. In art school we had this phrase "it was a happy accident". We used it whenever the water in the painting mixed inappropriately and we had to maneuver something differently from our original plans. When the outcome was one of spontaneity and passion and other's appreciated it we knew it to be a happy accident. All the great artists know how to use that to their advantage. In my collage of my day I look to the people in my life to help me open up to those unexpected portions of my design.
Every collage, because it comes out of the fabric of the objects I put around my white piece of paper, always have a certain elements that move from one piece and evolve over time. For instance, I always sign the work with a Phoenix, often surrounded by butterflies under my signature. These elements remind me of the resilience I have in life (the Phoenix), and my ability to transform and develop new horizons (the butterfly). My collage also always includes elements of texture. I like rough spots as much as I like deep contrast. Therefore my day will not cruise through like a person on a beach with their feet up, reading a book. I will have areas where I have to work very hard to make it right. Laughter, when look at it this way I see that these rough spots, are just part of my taste, rather than something which should make me unhappy.
I'm going to use this analogy in my journal for the next month, plotting the collage of my day in my mind and orchestrating it to include all the elements that help me find life to be juicy and interesting, in addition to advancing the elements that create the new success I am looking for. I would really love to think that this analogy is useful for others, so if people reading this agree, and want to use it for themselves, I look forward to hearing the stories that evolve.
In the meantime, here is to all of us who are willing to open up the creative spaces in our minds and hearts and create new styles of collage in our lives.
I started my morning do yoga and listening, as I often do, to Kelly Howell and either or both The Secret of Mind Meditation and her meditation on Destiny. Today I was struck by her words as she reminds us to invite our highest destiny, and the skills we need to move along that path. As I think about the word invitation I appreciate the way it opens my heart and chest to consider both the meaning of inviting and being invited.
In this series of reinventing life over 60 I am wrestling with concepts of age and the processes or norms involved in aging and yet pushing back on those norms to continue to build new vistas and reinvent life. I wonder how much invitation people feel as they consider growing all? Likely not much. In fact research shows that older people often live in greater isolation and my own experience of my mother's life was that the older she got the more she said “NO” to every invitation.
I know that she experienced as well an increased sense of being cut off from the flow of life around her. And perhaps that is the nub of the challenge for all of us. I believe that my creative sense of my connection with Life Force (God, Goddess, All That Is/Jesus, Mohammed, and all the teachers) stems from being invited by these paths and these beliefs to to be my best and greatest possible human self. I also experience that all I (in this case my smaller human self) needs to experience more openness is to invite the greater energy of Life Force. Today I am conscious that it is within this mutual invitation to greatness, growth, abundance, energy, etc. from my human self to acknowledge and embrace more of the universal and from the universal to my human self to embrace more of life that we put our feet on a path towards lighthearted, successful, older years.
So what am I inviting today? As I sit down to write, to work on my new book about dissertations, I invite myself to feel closely connected with the doctoral students I work with so that as I write I will be speaking directly to them, just as now, I am speaking directly to you, others interested in making the most of older years. In other words, and perhaps this is helpful for all people, I am inviting a closer connection to other people in my life so that I may come from and openhearted place of love and acceptance. On a side note, and if you are a reader of this blog, it is always appreciated if you answer my invitation to come closer by taking the time to add in a brief comment – I love to see/know who my words are touching and the reinvention processes you are facing at whatever age you have achieved.
Today, I also invite all the access that I have developed over the years that helps me be a wise woman, both the good and the bad memories or lessons. At almost 60, I have gone through many things in life, and they all add up to the person I am. This requires of me that I not only invite the abundance, but also the memories of lack and limitation – because it was from those that I grew to the woman I am today. I hope all of my readers have gone to www.authentichappiness.com and take their strengths test. That test allows me to say with confidence that these previous 60 years I have developed strengths in leaderships, wisdom, curiosity, love of learning, and creativity. I am happiest when I am engaged with those strengths, and those strengths developed out of the hardships and failures which I faced. I invite memories of those lessons, and, with them, the memory of of my resilience and endurance in the face of crisis.
Another thing that I am inviting is confidence. Specifically, the confidence that much of what needs to happen will work out just fine with time. I do not need to control or plan for every possible outcome in order to make it happen correctly, in fact life has taught me that control is seldom, if ever, successful.
I invite a greater sense of faith that I am on a path towards developing the best, happiest, most abundant older years any person has ever experienced – and that I can develop these without falling onto the rocks created by my own fears of older age. And with this faith and confidence I acknowledge that when I look down at those rocks (potential lack of health, etc), or feel those fears, I can always look up spread my arms and once again invite the grace that comes with faith.
As I move into the rest of my day I invite a peace of mind which will flow under my words and help others experience it as well. My audience today, in addition to the readers of this blog, are doctoral students, filled with challenges and traumas in their lives, who need assurances that their work will pay off and enable them to graduate. By the focusing my strengths on these students, as people, and helping to invite their best work, I offer a small piece of grace to the world – this is the platform on which I build/reinvent my life over 60. I believe invitation to what is greater than our limited selves is a good platform, no matter from where you are rebuilding your life.
Life's journey can be seen through tarot (something I have worked with in spurts throughout my life). I love this video and hope you enjoy all the analogies as well as the superb imagery.
In my learning about the frontiers of science, mixed with years of practice in yogic traditions, I have become fascinated with issues of: time, nonduality, subjective reality, and the changing norms around these perceptions. Have you ever noticed how mutable time is? What effect it has on our psychological well-being? For these reasons I am interested in and enchanted by this video. I hope you enjoy it as well.
Much earlier in my life, I spent a great deal of time investigating metaphysics, which I define as ideas based on universally held beliefs across cultures from the beginning of time, with a focus on how the spiritual infuses our life. Along that path I was fortunate enough to participate in A Course in Miracles class and work group, who met once a week for year. Periodically, I come back to The Course and recently I have enjoyed it a great deal because of its connection to the writings/teachings of Esther and Jerry Hicks.
This article investigates the similarities between the scientific quantum realm in terms of its understanding of the role of the observer and the concepts of how our minds create our realities as per both The Course and the ideas of “living with intent.
On page 26 of the Workbook for Students (opened randomly for reading, as is my standard practice) I came across the following:
The idea for today is a beginning step in dispelling the belief that your thoughts have no effect. Everything you see is the result of your thoughts. There is no exception to this fact. Thoughts are not big or little; powerful or weak. They are merely true or false. Those that are true create their own likeness. Those that are false make theirs...
Salvation requires that you also recognize that every thought you have brings either peace or war; either love or fear. The neutral result is impossible because a neutral thought is impossible. There is such a temptation to dismiss fear thoughts as unimportant, trivial and not worth bothering about that it is essential you recognize them all as equally destructive but also equally unreal.
Why are fear-based thoughts unreal? From the point of view of these teachers we live as co-creators with the universal life force energy through the power of our minds. In essence, we live in a heaven of our own making. The Hicks tell us that because of the wonderful contrasts in our world we form strong “rockets of desire,” telling that universal force what it is we want to create. Unfortunately, when our energy and emotions focus on lack and limitation in our lives then we create that instead of what our hearts and minds desire. Those are the unreal equally destructive thoughts of the course in miracles.
What does this have to do with quantum living? Schrödinger's cat is a parable that you may be familiar with – the cat in a box that has been given a pellet of poison but is neither alive nor dead until the observer opens the box to determine which is real. This has to do with the fact that in quantum physics a particle is either a particle or a wave, with the ability to behave as both simultaneously until it is measured. When light particles are sent through a measurement device that looks for particle behavior, they behaved exclusively as we would expect particles to behave and throw the requisite themes of light as we would expect. When we are not measuring for particles the striated beams of light produced correlate as we would expect for a wave.
But where does neuroscience weigh in on this topic? Dr. Karl Pribram, delves into how information is stored (or not stored) within our brains. His holonomic theory summarizes decades of scientific evidence to conclude that how we see the world is transformed by the retina in our eye much as a lens pulls out an entire image from a beam of light forming a holographic image. We have the ability to create the whole of that image in our minds. The interpretation is more in our minds then in objective reality.
This quantum living/subjective reality/scientific and metaphysics/etc. series of articles continues to be a format through which I work out for myself and other curious souls the relationships that appear to exist between science and metaphysics. I enjoy investigating realms or topics previously thought never to converge. The “Whether we see the cup as half empty or half-full “ debate continues to remain a personal choice and becomes one that influences every aspect of our life.
I leave it to you, my reader, to determine for yourself whether and to what extent these analogies portrayed an interesting cross-section of similarity. Perhaps we should take the idea that no thoughts are neutral seriously as we choose how to live our lives?
When I was bicycling today I came to an extremely long hill. As | went up the hill I felt tired, and so I decided to take a break about halfway up and drink some water. When I got back on my bike I was in too high a gear, spun around a little, lost my balance, and had to put my feet on the ground not to fall off. Determined not to let it get me down or deter me from my goal, I went back a few paces, got back on, and began riding again. Why am I telling you this story? Because it is a metaphor for this article, one that reminded me of the life requirement of proper use of willpower as we focus our minds on what we want to achieve.
I've been reading Napoleon Hill lately. Have you read Think and Grow Rich? If you haven't, it's an early 1900s classic self-help book written by a man who interviewed over 500 very successful people and then wrote about how to employ the power of our minds to achieve outstanding results. It's a bit old-fashioned in the writing style to be sure, but there is something inspiring about this story of Andrew Carnegie, Thomas Edison, and Henry Ford. These people, like many people today, seized the moment and the potential for great innovation and literally changed our world for centuries to come.
Napoleon Hill stresses over and over the requirement for a person to be able to get back up on the bike when they fall off, or keep a single-minded focus on their dream even when everything around them appears to say it is impossible. One of the most impressive stories in the book is of his own ability to overcome helplessness when his son was born without ears. Most would have caved under the obvious reality of lack of hearing, especially after x-rays showed that there was no inner ear structure, no obvious relationship to the brain through which hearing might develop. Dreams of a normal life seem dead. Nevertheless he decided that not only would his son hear, but that his current lack of hearing would become his greatest advantage later in life. He proceeded to tell the young child that these dreams would be true. At the end, both sides of the vision did come true. Some hearing developed in the boy so that if people shouted at him he could make sense of it. His parents kept him in regular classrooms so he never felt like his disability required that he be kept apart. Eventually technology caught up with them and a set of headphones was developed that allowed for him to hear within normal voice ranges. Finally, institutions for the deaf employed him as a motivational speaker and he became a leader in that community.
My having difficulty riding up the hill on my bicycle today is a small challenge. Napoleon Hill and his son faced what appeared to be insurmountable challenges. Somewhere in the middle, are those challenges in my life that make me feel really bad and throw me off my game. Perhaps you have something where when it goes wrong, you can't get it out of your mind? All three of these differently sized challenges are solved by the same skill -- that of being able to focus on positive outcomes, create a positive emotional state as a result of that focus, and believe in the results. These three steps open us up to create the exact life we want to live.
I got back up on my bike and made it up the hill. Napoleon Hill and his son overcame great odds and his son went on to hear, speak and become a leader of the deaf community. What challenges are you facing today that may seem insurmountable? Are you collecting positive stories about how people have overcome similar challenges so that you can believe that you will as well? Perhaps you aren't even approaching a dream because all you see are the challenges that hold you back? This article and others in the Power of Mind series are meant to provoke all of us along paths that are forged to help us get what we want out of life. For me today my perseverance was to continue on a very steep hill -- what will you persevere through to get where you want to go?
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