“The Comfort of Opinion…”

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“Without the Discomfort of Thought”

If you are unfamiliar with the man in this drawing, it is John F. Kennedy, our 35th President. This quote struck me as important in the current political/media/social climate. It tells me that having an opinion also requires me to think about what I believe. To examine my beliefs. To make sure, they are based in reality, and in fact; that they are not just rooted in what is familiar. Here’s the entire quote from a commencement speech:

“The great enemy of truth is very often not the lie–deliberate, contrived and dishonest–but the myth–persistent, persuasive and unrealistic. Too often we hold fast to the cliches of our forebears. We subject all facts to a prefabricated set of interpretations. We enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.”

The Internet Changes Everything

OK, you’re saying… but how do I know if my opinions are grounded in a universal truth or just in “my truth?” This is especially challenging when each of us has… the Internet. We have access to so much of the world’s knowledge and data, at our finger tips. Just 30 years ago, our main source of information was libraries, books, radio, television and newspapers. For those of us over 30… we have a context for understanding ‘all the accumulated knowledge known to man.’ We have the advantage of history, of experience and, if we’re lucky…an education that opened our minds.

For people under 30, who have always known a world with the internet, it’s challenging to absorb, sift, integrate and potentially challenge everything they read. How in the world can they be expected to do that? I find their ability to spot a phony, uncanny. They value authenticity above all AND they can ferret out our inconsistencies with surprising ease.

Now What

Here are a few suggestions for opening your mind. I’m interested in your ideas.

  • Get your information from multiple sources. Read/follow news sources you think you don’t agree with. Keep an open mind. Work to understand the other point of view.
  • Work to meet people who are different than you. Race, economics, religion, anything that will give you a new way to look at the world. This is a gift you give yourself.
  • Help someone. If you’re feeling lonely or lost… find a way to do something for someone else. It’s really easy to find someone if you look around. You don’t have to do any ‘regular’ volunteering… just find someone who needs to be listened to or just plain seen.

My hope is that we learn to listen to and have more respect for the young people of our planet. They have so much to teach us.

Image credit: Foundationforconsciousliving.com

The “Un” Expectation

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 Some Expectations are Good, They are Spoken

When the winter ends and we expect the spring… (and it finally comes) … it’s good. When we work hard and reap the reward of that work… it’s good. When we put our trust in someone and that trust is respected, it’s good. When we are able to tell someone what we expect and we know they have heard us, and that expectation is met, it’s good. But most of us know that expectations… especially ones that we don’t even realize are there… can lead to disappointment at best.

Some are Bad…They are “Un” Spoken

EXPECTATION – OBSERVATION = FRUSTRATION

These are the ones where our lack of self-awareness or observation about the reality of the situation, makes us vulnerable to someone else’s whims, lack of integrity or just inattention. The ones where we forget to ‘trust but verify’. Where denial about the other person’s behavior puts us in jeopardy. Especially if it’s our family that lets us down. Social norms expect/require us to ‘love’ them, but some family members don’t deserve the love and trust that ‘society thinks’ they should have.

What We Can Do

Many people have ‘reasons’ why they can’t pay attention to the needs of others. They say it’s because, they:

  • have a short attention span
  • are not ‘tuned-in’ to others
  • see how easily other people do it and think they just can’t
  • think it takes too much energy
  • believe they have too many people to pay attention to

and a gazillion more.  The truth is that love isn’t a feeling, it’s an action. And one of the most important actions we can take, is to pay attention to our own expectations of others and work to clarify our expectations whenever possible.

Together, Let’s Work on These

  1. Be aware of your expectations. This takes work, but it’s worth it
  2. Check for the reasonableness of the expectation. Do we  think that someone will always behave the way we want? That’s not reasonable. Is this something that I want? Have I listened to what the other person says about why they can’t meet our expectation? Have they let us down before?
  3. Work to verbalize your expectations. This is tough because if we say it out loud, then that gives the other person the chance to say… no. And if we don’t say it out loud, maybe they’ll do it and we’ll get what we want. But let me assure you that whatever the let down of the conversation regarding the expectation… it is better than not verbalizing what you want or expect.

Let’s see what we can do to help ourselves to love those who deserve it.

Watching the World Spin

Today Is All We Have

I was walking the other day and I happened to look up at the clouds. I noticed, for the first time in a long time, that the clouds were moving… well the clouds weren’t moving, the earth was! Such a simple thing, it happens every minute, of every day… the world spins.  Yet, I never notice it.

Maybe it’s because it makes me feel small…. it reminds me that I am but a speck in the grand scheme of the universe. Maybe it’s because I have the arrogance of thinking that just because I am alive, that the world will continue forever, without any thought or work on my part.

What’s a Human To Do?

There’s no obligation to do anything. The world will keep spinning whether I pay attention or not. So what’s in it for me if I decide to pay attention? Well, I get to:

  • breathe in the wonder that is our planet (and see if there’s something I can do, today, to maintain it’s beauty)
  • take a moment to reflect on my part in the universe (am I a force for good and caring? if yes, how do I make sure that I do that… every day)
  • stop and appreciate the ‘amazingness’ of my body and brain (seeing, smelling, hearing, moving, tasting… do I take any of these for granted?)

Take a minute, step outside, look up… notice the world spinning and celebrate the power of your humanity.

Photo credit: It goes on… and on

The Case For Joy

There Is No Joy Without Gratitude - Joy Quotes

What Happened to Joy?

I take my dog places and she is such a bundle of happiness and excitement that many people comment on how much she loves life. She bounces up and down, licks hands, and is basically ready to play at any moment. People are genuinely entranced by her sense of joy. I’ve noticed that each person who sees her, also seems almost wistful when they look at her, or they may even say something like…” I wish I was that happy” or “It must be great to be that happy.”Whatever happened to our sense of  ‘joy?’ By definition joy is:

jubilation, triumph, exultation, rejoicing, happiness, glee, exhilaration, exuberance, elation, euphoria, bliss, ecstasy, rapture

When was the last time you felt exhilarated? exuberant? blissful? What do you think happens to our sense of feeling joyful?

Too Busy to Be Joyful?

I have no illusions that the ‘good old days’, were all that good or joyful. Just because things were simpler, does not mean that they were more joyful. However, we have worked hard to create more ‘leisure’ time and one would hope that in that time, we’d find our way back to a little elation or glee.

I wonder if it has to do with focus? If we focus on being like my dog, present in the moment… expecting good but simple things, the sunshine or the rain, the ability to smile at one another, getting or giving a hug. What if we just stopped a few times a day and looked for something to feel joyful about?

Just for Today

Follow your bliss, get out of the hallway, look for the good, appreciate the moment. Let me know how it goes.

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Image Credit: Joy Quotes

Follow your bliss

Self Confidence – Hard to Come By?

I’m Afraid, That’s Why I Won’t Do…

It only makes sense that if we’re afraid, we’re probably NOT going to do something. Unless we are one of those adventure-hungry people, we’re likely to avoid things we consider too risky. Now deciding what is ‘too risky’ is personal. There’s a leap of faith in entering a room of strangers for the first time, directly facing the fear of being rejected. We can, however, push forward and understand that our attitude towards risk is in our control. We all have situations where we feel afraid. How we deal with the fear, defines us.

Tension vs. Fear

In this terrific blog post, Seth Godin highlights why tension (not fear) is essential to learning, especially for adults.

“Tension is the hallmark of a great educational experience. The tension of not quite knowing where we are in the process…not having a guarantee. The tension we face any time we’re about to cross a threshold. The tension of this might work vs. this might not work. The tension of if I learn this, will I like who I become?

It’s an ironic reality of human-hood that we learn so much as a child, then our educational system (which I wholeheartedly support) sometimes works harder to drive “compliance” (rote) than learning (how to learn). So by the time we’re teenagers, it takes an act of courage to be ourselves. We learn to fear the tension associated with learning.

“Just Do It”

The reason this Nike catchphrase continues to resonate today, is that the second part of the phrase is implied. Just do it (even though you are afraid & you have doubts). It is through the very act of being ourselves, that we actually learn the most, especially if we are willing to face the good, the bad and the ugly about ourselves (we all have some of each). Understanding ourselves is the point of living. Want to build your self-confidence? It seems counter-intuitive to take MORE risk, but that’s exactly what is required. Let me know how it’s going.

For a quick assessment of your risk tolerance, check out Are You a Risk-Taker?

Image credit: Lifehack

What’s the Question?

I Once Was Lost

Do you feel lost sometimes? Truthfully, I’ve spent most of life feeling ‘other.’ I like how Anne Lamott describes it:

“There are times in our lives — scary, unsettling times — when we know that we need help or answers but we’re not sure what kind, or even what the problem or question is. We look and look, tearing apart our lives like we’re searching for car keys in our couch, and we come up empty-handed.”

Can you relate? Are you searching through your life looking for “the” answer? I don’t know much, but I know one thing… there isn’t an answer. There may not even be clarity of the question. When I’m lost, I try to do the opposite of searching the couch cushions. I try to clear my mind and look for inspiration, not answers.

But Now I’m Found

Rather than “advice, approval, advantage, safety, or relief from pain” which is what I think I want…I look for peace of mind. What can I do, in this moment, that will bring me peace. I don’t try to dissect all the parts, pieces and people. I don’t try to understand motivations, mine or anyone else’s. I stop seeking and try to be.

Lamott continues, “Kindness toward others and radical kindness to ourselves buy us a shot at a warm and generous heart, which is the greatest prize of all.”

For today, the question is, what can I do, to have peace of mind, right now?

Photo credit: Question Mark Squircle

Short Skirts and Bra Straps

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Acceptable Dress

I was waiting in line at the grocery store the other day and the 2 women in front of me were wearing shirts with bra straps showing. I was thinking, at what point in the last few years did it become “acceptable” to show your bra straps? I’m old so I remember the days when showing a bra strap was beyond tacky… it was a signal that you were not a “lady”.

But now… these 2 middle-aged women were not only showing their straps… they were at the grocery store where everyone could see them! It made me stop and think about how ideas (as well as fashion) change and become ‘socially acceptable.’

Preconceived Notions vs. Independent Thinking

The idea of whether bra straps show or not is, of course, relatively meaningless. But I hope you see that the same social norm that said, in the 1970’s, that short skirts were ‘unacceptable’ and rebellious, now accepts both short skirts and showing bra straps.

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If we take this idea of what is socially acceptable to broader ideas… it can be useful to monitor our own thinking. What is one idea that you have, that is outdated? or unhelpful? or that everyone around you thinks is okay but you feel is wrong? or that makes you uncomfortable? Are there ideas or norms that you rub you the wrong way? Sometimes we don’t even realize it until we stop and really think about it. The other complicating factor is, how do we acknowledge our own position (that’s different from many others around us), without being judgemental of others?

Here’s My Broader Idea: We’re In This Together

I believe that I have an obligation to give back to the world in tangible ways. That I have a responsibility to:

  • find people to help in a way that fits with what I have to give
  • focus on being grateful for all the gifts I have
  • be aware of the needs of those around me
  • take steps every day to be present for everyone I meet

What’s that got to do with bra straps? I don’t know. Somewhere in my strange brain they’re connected. I have always been someone who doesn’t care much for what other people think. And finding my own way in the world is hard because it’s always easier to follow the crowd. But I’m not good at that. I hope this gives you a chance to stop for a minute and think about… your broader idea. I hope you have the courage and strength to follow through. I believe in you.

Photo credit: bra straps showing    70’s short skirts

 

Picking Your Friends

Perhaps Augustus' inevitable death was part of what motivated his introspection, which could lead easily to improving himself.

Picking Your Friends?

How do you pick your friends? Because I’m old and have had the chance to meet a lot of people, I probably have a big database in my head and heart that tells me who to trust. I’m not saying that my judgement (database) is better than anyone else’s, I’m just saying I’ve had a lot of practice. But honestly, I’ve never really thought about my ‘process’ for picking friends. So, for today, let’s think about how we pick our friends and let’s start with…

Pick Yourself First

I read an article in Quora (a site I love, full of interesting Q’s & A’s), that talked about how the Torah gives us instructions as how to recognize a person’s true nature. Here’s what it says:

[The true nature of] a person is recognized through three things: his ‘cup’ (how he acts after drinking), his ‘wallet’ (his business integrity and how he spends his money), and his ’anger’.

I’m not suggesting that there are no other criteria for evaluating friendships. Of course there are. But let’s take these 3 and let’s apply them first to ourselves.

  • Regarding drink, I come from a long line of alcoholics. Fortunately, I am not one, but we do need to view this particular aspect gently.
  • The second item, the wallet, also needs to be thought of rather gently. I grew up lower middle class in an upper middle-class suburb. The way I saw and still see the world is through a rather skewed lens. I think about the future and want to make sure I have ‘enough’ to take care of the people I love and myself. The one think I do cherish though, is my commitment to helping those less fortunate than myself. I try to put my time and money to use in a world where so many, need so much.
  • Regarding anger, this is a constant struggle for me. I am a woman and women aren’t supposed to get angry. We’re supposed to stuff it down and act calm and sweet. This is not a healthy way to go through life. Finding a way to acknowledge and deal with our anger is, for me, a life long journey.

So I suggest that before we work to ‘recognize’ anyone else’s nature, we examine our own.

My Friend’s True Nature?

Fortunately, most people are pretty generous when it comes to accepting me the way I am. I’m grateful for that. I hope that’s because I’m on a continuous journey to know myself and recognize my own true nature.

Happy Passover!

Image credit: Pinterest

A Walk Before Breakfast

We had a rare rain the other day in So. Cal. Yoshi and I were walking through the park and he went into this puddle. I snapped the pic quickly.

Comfort

Everyday, I test to see how comfortable I am. Seems kind of odd right? I’m human, of course I am looking for comfort. But being fully human means going beyond your own comfort, to do things we may not want to do… for all kinds of reasons. Some of us wait until we are pushed into the discomfort zone, for example, we get an illness that requires us change our diet or medications. We don’t like it, but we do it because we have to.

Discomfort

What if we decided that, everyday, we are going to do something we are not comfortable with, just for practice. I don’t mean at work. That doesn’t count. Each of us are expected to be outside our comfort zone at work.  (It’s often the reason we get paid.) I mean doing the exact thing you hate. Like taking a walk before breakfast. Listen, I love breakfast, it’s my favorite meal and I look forward to it everyday. So the idea of going for a walk, before I do what I want? Sounds stupid. Yet, I do it every day. Here’s why. I knew that I needed to build exercise into my life. Not the, oh I’m going to the gym for 4 months, then I stop, exercise. The kind that I would do day in and day out. So I got a dog that needs to walk, every. day. Regardless of the weather. Regardless of my mood. There are many days when I don’t feel like going out. Too bad. We gotta go. And the last thing I want to do is go for a walk, before my favorite meal of the day. Right?

Change

Getting a dog is a pretty drastic way to get “uncomfortable.”  So what can you do to be, a little less comfortable, every day.

  1. Read something challenging – either to your beliefs or your intellect. This will take work because most of us have a set of sources we read. Certain news sources, authors, etc. We talk to people who agree with us. Find one source of discomfort and spend 5 minutes a day.
  2. Don’t complain – Complaining seems to be a regular way of life. There’s a difference between relaying information and complaining. You know the difference, especially when you are on the receiving end of listening to someone else. One is stating the facts, the other is laced with “poor me” and how could this happen to me? Catch yourself before you complain. Just. don’t. do. it.
  3. Do something for someone else that they don’t expect – This will also take work. It will require you to think about someone else long enough to imagine what they would like. I don’t mean making your kid’s lunch or your spouse’s dinner. I mean something unexpected. Something that actually takes effort on your part.

Like all habits, they take energy and focus to cultivate. But when I’ve managed to make it part of my mindset, it’s like… walking before breakfast.

Photo Credit: Reflection of Wee Westie

Diversify Your Life

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But I Like My Life The Way It Is

Some people love change. They’re always creating, running around; they make the rest of us look boring. They need change in order to feel alive. Think of people you know who love to travel and meet new people. For them, the excitement of not knowing what the day will hold is great. Most of us, however, don’t like change all that much. We like our routine. I eat the same thing for breakfast everyday so I don’t have to think about it. I don’t get bored with it, I love it.

Diversification is a Super Power

To be alive is to always be on the verge of change.  We don’t have a choice. Sh*t happens. But we do have a choice of how we deal with it. We are told to diversify our money, but we are not told to diversify our lives. James Altucher, an interesting guy, created a chart called, how to diversify your life. He says, “The only way to survive, to get off the floor, to build, to have ideas, to create businesses, to have flourishing relationships is with diversification.”

Pick a Place to Start

Here are a few places to start:

  1. Diversify Ideas –  write down 10 ideas a day to exercise your “idea muscles.”
  2. Diversify the People You Meet (and Where You Meet Them) – Schedule meeting new people on your calendar, make a conscious effort to find people that are “different.” If this seems like too much, diversify where you meet them. Go to meetups, take classes, travel.
  3. Diversify What You Read – Do you get your news from the same sources every day? Try new ones. Ones you don’t agree with. Practice keeping an open mind about why they hold a different view. Get books out of the library. Ask people what they are reading. “Just 20 pages a day equals 36 books a year.”

None of this is easy, but I guarantee you will see unimaginable benefits from the effort. If you have children, think of the power of what you are modeling for them. The way to be happy and whole and able to adapt to change.

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