Monthly Archives: June 2014

Stick em up

For an audio version, click on the link below.  On a smartphone, you may need to scroll to the bottom of the message to click on the sound icon

 

 

 

Many years ago, while married to my ex-husband, we went to the bank to take care of some financial business. We were waiting to talk with someone and they said it would take a little while so we sat down in the lobby and started to wait. After some time passed, I got up and walked across the room to check in with a clerk, putting me about 20 feet away from where my then husband continued waiting.

As I stood near the clerk’s desk I noticed a man walk in. He was wearing a corduroy blazer even though it was summer time. He did not have any remarkable features that made him stand out. He walked up to the teller, and pulled out a shot gun and said out loud “this is a robbery.”

My immediate thought was exactly this:

“Oh, he must have gotten a gun for Christmas and he is showing it to his friend.”

I do not know what was going through the teller’s head, but she was obviously startled and her reactions were slow. Annoyed, the man now yelled in a much sharper tone, “This is a F—ing robbery”. He then turned and yelled to the rest of us to get on the ground face down. It finally registered to me that they were not friends and I quickly complied.

I’ll save you the rest of the detail except to say we were all safe, he was arrested as soon as he walked out the door and all turned out well. I believe the man was convicted. Yes, it was scary for a bit, but I had no resulting trauma and I doubt anyone else did either.

I’ll borrow a quote from Joshua Prager to introduce why I’m sharing this story. “And it was then I understood that no matter how stark the reality,the human being fits it into a narrative that is palatable.”

Let’s go back and look at that a little more closely. It was summer. The man was wearing corduroy. I could have said “no fashion sense” or “wow I bet he is going to get hot”.

He pulled out a gun. People don’t show their guns to friends in banks. And let’s not forget that given it was summer, why would someone be showing a Christmas gift now?

My intention here is not to highlight my mini psychosis. Actually, as strange as the idea sounds, my mind was doing something to keep from going crazy. And I did not do this simply because it was protecting me from potential trauma. This is what the mind does in everyday situations. When information comes to us that we can’t understand, information that, we don’t have a “template” for, our minds translate it into something we do understand. That is what helps us feel connection to whatever is around us.

I had a template for people making bad fashion choices so that created no confusion, I simply ignored that information. But once I saw the gun, I was at a loss. I did not have a template for bank robbery. So my mind tried to make it palatable by choosing Christmas. It was only after the robber yelled, bursting my protective bubble, that I had room for an alternative view, and probably because it kicked in the fight or flight response allowing me to move rather than think.

But here is the important part. As I stated earlier, this is what the brain does. So if I am in a conversation with another person and they are saying something I don’t understand, my brain creates a story that makes more sense to me. And this happens with big and small stories alike.

Someone tells us about a tragedy in their lives. We reduce it down to something more manageable that we can relate to. They feel discounted.

We tell someone about a fantastic experience we just had. They hear it was like their own trip to the grocery store last week and we feel unimportant to them.

Our partner wants us to “listen” to their feelings about a situation and we hear a practical solution that we offer in our own minds.

As the author of a story, we have to become conscious that our audience does not share the same set of templates in their head as we do. That means the responsibility is placed on the author to create as much detail to make it clear to the listener so they don’t have to rely solely on imagination from their vantage point.

As the listener of a story, we have the responsibility of suspending our current knowledge to try and better understand what the author wants from us. To suspend what we think we know in favor of what we might learn. It is when author and listener come together bearing that responsibility with a focus on the other person, the best stories of life are shared.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Money Pit

To listen to the audio version click the link below- on a smart phone you may need to scroll down to find the sound icon- you’ll also need to return to the website if you would like to leave a comment- or you can  email it to me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

…I’ve realized that loss creates an opening in our lives.  We can fill that space with fear, panic and anxiety.  Or we can let it be open for creating something new, something that didn’t exist before.  It can lead to something far better.  To experience something new, we have to let go of what’s old.  We have to remain calm in the face of setbacks.—art of being unmistakable

 

The house my husband and I owned prior to the one we currently live in was a house I really loved.  It had an open floor plan, a huge kitchen and a pantry, so large that when our oldest son was a toddler, he called it the “food room”.  There was an abundance of cabinets– so many that I could be careless about the space, never really filling them to their capacity.

It also had a Jacuzzi tub in the master bath that could easily be operated with a little button on the top of the tub and a sizable walk in closet.  It wasn’t perfect.  The lot was TINY and the next door neighbor had two GINORMOUS dogs that frequently rushed the fence in a threatening way whenever we went in our back yard.  And, it was in St. Peters.; a fact that did not please my husband.

One day he came home announcing that he would like to have a little more room to use for his business.  He wanted an out building or perhaps enough land to add a building.  And then, as if someone magically waved a wand, about 10 weeks later, we were living in the house where we still remain today.

I don’t exactly mean it happened by magic.  But rather that, it happened incredibly quickly.  We looked at houses for a couple of weeks, saw the one we wanted and bought.  We went home and put our house up for sale, and moved the closing to about 3-4 weeks out.  It wasn’t as if I wasn’t an active participant.  In fact, on a couple of the days, I went out with the realtor on my own and saw houses my husband did not.  When we walked into our final pick, I fell in love with a staircase.  I imagined it decorated for the holidays.  My kids fell in love with a pool.  My husband fell in love with 3 acres at the end of the lane.  Everybody had something to love….

Until we moved in.

Day one of the move I went to work.  I returned home to find my refrigerator in my new kitchen.  Only it wasn’t where refrigerators normally go.  It was stuck in the middle of the kitchen more or less.  It seemed it was a little too large to fit in the spot where it was supposed to go.

Not to worry my husband said “we’ll buy a new one.”  The only problem however, was that the spot for a fridge was made for a size that apparently no stores in St. Louis carried.  No problem my husband said.  ” I’ll cut the above cabinet out a bit and have it cut down.”  The only problem however, was that when the former owners retiled the kitchen, they grouted the cabinet stabilizer into the floor.  No problem my husband said.  I’ll cut it away and the top cabinet will come out with the stabilizer.”  The only problem however, is that once the cabinet was removed, it showed a large hole that had been caused by an obviously leaking shower from the bathroom above.  A hole that appeared to have started growing mold.

No problem he said, and I began to feel like Goldie Hawn in  “the money pit”, just not as cute.

My response was to cry.  And cry I did.  I cried that day, the next one and pretty much most of the ones after that for about 3 months.  And when I cried I said “what have we done to our lives?

the furniture didn’t fit

I had no idea what living with a well and sewer “off the grid” meant

deer ate everything and anything that resembled a flower

there were bugs everywhere since we live in woods, not to mention a snake or two

the sprinkler system groaned at night as if a dying body was living under the front porch

frogs croaked so loudly outside the window it was hard to sleep

the jacuzzi tub was small and to operate it, you have to get out of the tub to turn on the switch

the pool heater broke

every room was painted with sponge painting

and….. did I mention it has a really pretty staircase?

My poor husband was beside himself. He tried everything he could think of- short of decorating the staircase for Christmas in August, to make the house seem more enjoyable to me. But what finally came to me was the realization that I was comparing the new house constantly to the old house. Everything had happened so quickly, that I hadn’t really had time to process leaving the old one behind. And as a result, I felt not ready for the new one. I didn’t yet “live” there.

That insight provided a huge relief for my situation.

I started to realize finally that I needed to say goodbye to my old house. It’s where we lived when we had our second son. It’s the first house we bought together and several other important memories. But at the end of the day it was a house, not our home. Our home was where we lived as a family, and that place was now no longer in St. Peters. I began to allow myself to enter the process of saying goodbye. And gradually over a few days, maybe longer, I began to open myself up to appreciating what the new house had to offer our family.

We painted. We disconnected the sprinkler. We had the hole over the fridge fixed. And we got a dog. Our beloved Snickers, who loves running in the woods around our house and chasing every rodent she can find. We met new people; some wonderful people.   We have a life here now and although we probably we won’t live here forever, it gives me great joy for now. My children are growing up here. They will most likely always think of this as the house they call their childhood home. And every Christmas, decorating the staircase still remains my favorite activity.

It’s very hard to enjoy the life you are in if a significant part of your emotional self remains living somewhere else. Are there places or people that you’ve had difficulty saying goodbye? Are there opportunities in your future that you have not yet created space for by letting go?

 

 

Ginger Blah Blah Blah

For an audio version of today’s post,  click on the link below.

The question is what are we hearing? We all have a tendency to hear the parts that make the most sense to us. We hear the parts that fit in the story we are writing for our lives at the time. This is true when we are having a dialogue with others by the motives we bring. It can also occur between the voices in our own head- the difference between what our eyes experience,  and what our ears hear.

 

Let’s say I really want my husband to take me to Europe this year.

Hubby: Guess what honey, I got my bonus this year. That means we’ll be able to put the new roof on comfortably without touching our savings.

Me: Or take that European vacation we’ve always wanted to

Hubby: I don’t think we can do both.

Me: You’re right, your bonus isn’t that big. We can just wait until next Spring to do the roof with your next bonus.

Hubby, well I was planning on doing the roof this year. I mean Europe isn’t really a necessity, and the roof is important for keeping our investment in the house solid.

Me: You never want to do what I want. I’m just not important to your list of priorities. I’m always last.

Now in case you’re wondering if this is about me, we actually have a new roof on our house and I don’t want to go to Europe. But in the example, the wife hears stuff that simply isn’t in the dialogue and doesn’t hear stuff that is. Unfortunately, if the husband’s motives are pure, he is potentially trying to show his wife her value by making smart money decisions and protecting their investment.

Here is another example:   If I’m writing a story about a great guy who is going to fall in love with me, take care of me forever and grow old with me in the rocking chairs on the porch, then my hearing filter goes like this:

Event                                                                                My filter tells me

He is drinking excessively                                            wow- he just likes to have fun.

He is working at McDonalds                                        he is so humble, titles aren’t what matter

He is yelling at his mom                                               he is a really emotional guy.

And this works the other way too- If my story is I’m a piece of crap and no one values me- my filter works like this:

Event:                                                                                         My filter:

Nancy invited me to go with her and her and         i’ m sure she felt like she had to because

her friends.                                                                                I was standing there

Ginger’s owner believes Ginger is hanging on his every word. Ginger on the other hand, is only hearing the parts that seem relevant to Ginger. And why? Because most likely, Ginger came to the exchange with a motive. In her case, get out of trouble, and get her owner to play fetch with her.

Are you aware of any motives you bring to conversations? If so, think about how they filter what you hear. If the conversations are ones that take place in your own head, think about how your pre-conceived ideas about yourself or what you are doing color what you hear back from yourself in the moment. To be a really good listener, means to be attuned to what the speaker is saying, or present in the moment of what you are observing without past judgment attached.

 

Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply. Steven Covey

Plugged In

 

 

If you’d prefer the audio version, you click on the link below.  If you are listening on a smartphone, you may need to scroll to the end of the message and look for the sound icon.

 

 

In my last post I talked about how I discovered a great quote from Steve Jobs that was delivered by Ashton Kutcher. Sometimes guidance comes from unlikely places.

What is this guidance and what do I mean by it? Some people call it merely coincidence. Here is a funny little coincidence. While I was writing that last piece I didn’t even know a movie called “The Butterfly Effect” existed. Actually, I remembered the Rad Bradbury story from when I was a kid. When I shared it with my Brainiac husband a few years ago, he linked it to the term butterfly effect.   As I started writing this, I Googled “Butterfly Effect” to verify when the Bradbury piece was written. The first entry was the Butterfly Effect, a movie starring none other than Ashton Kutcher. Weird huh? But it ironically validated my point that Ashton wasn’t the source of the inspiration, only the messenger.

Have I lost you yet? I hope not, but I’ll bring it a little more into focus now. Simply stated, I think guidance is simply the way that God, or the Universe or something greater than us, collaboratively comes together in ways to help us grow. And that guidance can take many different forms. I don’t exactly have an operating manual of how this works. And I don’t have any illusion that there is a little man behind the curtain orchestrating every detail of our lives and experiences to achieve a pre-planned outcome. It’s just how my mind attempts to make sense of things that happen along the journey of this thing called life.

So now I’ll introduce you to another person’s theory and how it has shaped some of my thinking. Carolyn Myss is an interesting thinking. Some of her ideas persuade me into thinking she is a genius while others make me wonder if she needs to have a medication assessment. I’m going to just highlight one of her ideas for you now.

Think of yourself as having a certain amount of energy available to you renewable each day. Let’s just call it 100 units to make a point. You start the day with 100 units, but once you are up and about, it starts to get used. It gets used on whatever you spend energy on both mentally and physically. Things that are past, unresolved issues are big energy users. But so are places where you are heavily plugged into cultural ideals and expectations. These items very often require a lot of energy to maintain. The reason for this is simply that they are driven from the outside and so you have to align your inside in order to get them done.

Here is an example. Let’s take sisters Jo and Flo. Jo is a simple dresser. She goes for what is comfortable. She can usually be spotted in a pair of yoga pants and a t shirt. Her feet match with sneakers or slip on’s. Her hair is pulled back in a ponytail. She is clean, comfortable, and expends little energy trying to reach anyone else’s prescription of dress.

Flo, on the other hand, wants to keep up with the latest fashion. She first has to invest time to discover what that is, how to find it, afford it and finally wear it. If it is not the best for her figure type or age, she needs to adjust and compensate— more energy drain. And she has to spend more energy still monitoring the changes as someone else dictates the next signal to change.

So guidance works like this. It “comes to us” through the flow of our energy. It starts where we start in the day and gets up to the present moment. If it has to spend a lot of time circling around inside of you on a bunch of “stuck” places, it doesn’t find its way to the present moment that you are sitting in.

Again, here is the example.

Flo is driving down the street. She asks for a “sign” left or right at the next turn. Guidance comes, but spends its time wiggling around the places she has dispersed it within her psyche. By the time Flo hears a “little voice” or sees a sign, her car is already past the intersection. She has driven through concluding that no guidance was available. Although it actually was, she couldn’t hear it at the time she needed it because she no longer had enough energy/power operating in the present moment.

Something similar to this happened to me this week. I was working with a client of mine that I know really well. We were discussing her future as she is trying to decide what her next move will be in her career. In all likelihood a change in jobs will probably mean a location as well. I felt unusually blocked as I listened to her. In fact, I almost always have very strong and clear feelings when I work with her. I acknowledged this out loud to her during the session.

A few days later I was driving along and she popped into my brain. That in and of itself was not unusual as I generally process my sessions throughout the week in my head. But this time, I could see so clearly that what she needed was to slow down. I could so easily see how she was attempting to ask of herself, too many hard questions all at the same time.

I can’t say exactly what role my own energy delay played in this confusion. But I am sure that the session time we settled on was particularly late on Friday afternoon even though I had willingly agreed in advance. Sometimes that is not a problem, but it was on that day in retrospect. I was physically tired from the week and especially so on that day. My reduced energy level could not overcome her lack of clarity at that time.

So the take away from today is this. I am suggesting that guidance is available to us from sometimes unlikely places. But in order to access that guidance, it requires us to be aware of what we are plugging into, and how much it costs us to do so. We need to keep our energy (again, both physical and emotional) available in the here and now in order to access that guidance in the moment we need it.

 

Butterflies are Free

For an audio version of todays post click on the link below- if you are listening on a smartphone, you may need to scroll to the bottom of the message and look for the sound icon.

 

 

 

I often say that you just never know when and where guidance will come from. But I never expected it to come from Ashton Kutcher. Well, actually Ashton was the messenger, but the real wisdom comes from Steve Jobs. Let me clarify.

A couple of months ago Ashton quoted a little piece from his movie in which he plays the role of Steve Jobs. So, Kutcher was accepting an award and he offered advice to his young audience he attributed to Steve Jobs.   By the way, The Jobs movie is surprisingly worth watching, but if you want the short cut version of Kutcher’s speech, this link will take you there.

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fT-jbMHbiwk

“When you grow up you tend to get told that the world is the way it is and you’re life is just to live your life inside the world. Try not to bash into the walls too much. Try to have a nice family life, have fun, save a little money. That’s a very limited life. Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact: Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you. And you can change it, you can influence it… Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again.”

 

It prompts these kinds of thoughts for me.

How much depression is caused by the exhaustion of holding all of your potential locked inside? Or from trying to fit into a life that someone else decided the rules for?

How did the guy who decided to make a bunch of money picking up dog poop in other people’s yards deal with all the people that laughed at him when he came up with the idea?

Who stands to lose the most if you stop following all of the rules inside your head?

How would we be traveling today if Henry Ford, the Wright Brothers and others followed the status quo and did things the way they were familiar with? The ways people understood. The way people before them told them it was supposed to be.

What is the price you are willing to pay to color outside the lines and take a path or a project that no one else has thought of?

These are not questions to run through quickly. They require time to let you mull them around. But if you were willing to let yourself do something that doesn’t already exist, how might you change the world?

Changing the world doesn’t have to mean the whole world. It doesn’t mean your city, your neighborhood, or even your whole family. It just has to begin with you.

Have you heard of the Butterfly effect? I’m not talking about the movie, which ironically stars Ashton Kutcher. I am talking about a concept in chaos theory that took its name originally from a short story written in 1952 by Ray Bradbury. It’s called “A Sound of Thunder”. I won’t detail that story here because you can find it pretty easily online, or let me know if you can’t.   But the bottom line is that changing one small thing can have dramatic impact on much larger systems.

 

Translated it means making a change in the way you are “supposed to live as defined by others” to living in a way fueled by your own unleashed creativity can change things for years to come.

Admittedly, the world probably won’t be changed on its axis because you paint the walls in your house purple instead of white.

But someone one day, someone sounding crazy said “hey, I think we can talk to people all over the world instantaneously through electronic mediums. “ Another crazy sounding person said we could send a space ship to the moon.

Do you have some “crazy” ideas that you need to unleash?

So the next time you see a butterfly, remember it can change the world. And you are free to as well.

 

 

 

Love me tender

for an audio version of today’s post, please click on the link below- if you are listening on a smartphone,  you may need to scroll to the bottom to look for the sound icon- you’ll need to come back to the website to leave me a comment!

 

 

If you have been in a relationship for a while, this one is for you. If you are newly in a relationship, this one’s for you. And if you are not in a relationship but hope to be at some point, this one’s for you.

Boy meets girl. Boy is excited about girl. He thinks about calling her and imagines her on the other end of the line happy to hear from him. He feels good. They go out, have some fun. He goes home, thinks about her and feels good a while longer. Repeat, repeat, repeat.   He picks a daisy for her and brings it to her. She smiles. He feels good.   He leaves a little origami bird on her windshield. He tells her things he hasn’t told other people. He is a happy camper.

Girl meets boy. Girl is excited about boy. She waits hoping he will call, thinking about everything they talked about. He calls and she is happy. They go out, have some fun. Repeat Repeat repeat. She gets to know his preferences. She cooks a meal for him. He likes it. She is happy. She knits him a sweater, thinking with every stitch how happy she is to have found him.

Boy and girl get married. Its good. They have kids. Its better. And then… its not. He has more demands at work. Boy comes to girl looking for relief from the outside world. Girl has been taking care of kids all day. Taking care of boy is not the next thing on her agenda. She wishes he would notice her workload and help out. Frustrated, she zones out, maybe a glass of wine, and a couple of hours of bad TV. After a bit, he stops looking towards her and instead gets lost in hours of internet surfacing to relieve his stress. She wakes up from her numb and sees only that he ignores her every evening.

Inevitable? I don’t think so. Maybe they didn’t have a good foundation. Maybe they weren’t ready to get married. Maybe a bunch of things.

Or maybe something much more simple. When I work with couples, I frequently use an exercise that I borrow from Harville Hendrix who wrote “getting the love you want”. It goes simply like this:

This week do something nice for your partner. Even if you don’t like your partner very much. Do something that you know would make them happy.

Often people will initially resist because they don’t feel warm and fuzzy about the other guy (or gal). But the real target of the exercise is the doer-not the receiver. Because it works like this: when we think on our own about doing something for someone that we know is going to make him or her happy, we have a good feeling about OURSELVES during the anticipating. We like ourselves because we feel powerful and/or effective in knowing that we have the ability or creativity to impact another person in a meaningful way. We fast forward our mind to anticipate the other person enjoying our efforts. We make our selves feel good.

Unfortunately, many of us get settled into a relationship and we stop thinking about how we can make the other person feel good, and instead begin expecting them to meet our needs, usually leaving us disappointed, or even disillusioned. But the real tragedy is that we lose a vital part of ourselves in the process. It is the part of us that we ignited to make our own self feel good and effective. We blame the sense of loss on a shortfall of the other person. Some partners confuse “completing a checklist of tasks assigned by our partner to avoid getting in trouble” as trying to make the other happy. While that may avoid an argument, it does little to make us feel good about ourselves, because there is no “original thought from within to promote feeling good about our own nature—- except compliance which doesn’t have much gusto.

Let me make the argument another way. When we have a new baby (or a puppy), we love it immediately. It hasn’t yet done anything to deserve that love except show up. We don’t really know its personality or potential yet, but we bestow good feelings on to it. We voluntarily make a huge deposit into an emotional bank account that, has their name on the title, and see them as rich—- even though its with our emotional money.

So, if you are a boy, or a girl who isn’t feeling quite so yummy about your relationship, I want to challenge you. When is the last time that you made a deposit in the bank of your partner? Not for his or her benefit, but so that you can feel rich yourself? That’s what you did in the beginning. When our boy made the origami bird, he imagined himself as effective and it felt good. When our girl knitted the sweater she felt significant to another person, long before he knew the sweater existed, or she saw it worn. They weren’t waiting for the thank you certificate to arrive before the feeling good started. We have the capacity within us to feel good about ourselves and our connection to another, long before the receiver of our efforts acknowledges them. In fact, their acknowledgment is only icing on the cake. Don’t make it the cake or the reason to do something.

If you are still new in a relationship or aren’t yet in one, then consider this for future reference. There is a saying “a smart man knows that the things it took to get a woman, are the same ones needed to keep her”. I would suggest that smart partners know that the part of yourself you engaged and enjoyed when you begin a meaningful relationship needs to be nurtured by you throughout the relationship if you want to continue feeling satisfied. That responsibility remains with you, not your partner.

 

 

 

 

new audio versions of old posts are now here

Hi audio listeners:

Yesterday I added audio versions to many of the previous blogs.  If you are predominantly a reader- ignore this post-

if you prefer the audio version, the grid below tells you which of all posts to date contain audio.   (you’ll need to go back to the website to hear them)   http://www.drmaryphd.com/blog

Some simply aren’t conducive to an audio format.  This grid is also a helpful tool for passing some on (hint hint).

happy day!

mary

Blog title date published audio avail theme
Aint misbehavin or are they 6/8/2014 Yes what to do when you don’t like how someone else behaves
Mexican fisherman meets MBA 6/4/2014 Yes forgetting to live while you earn a living
Not all who wander pt 2 6/1/2014 no calling your thoughts back to center
Not all who wander are lost 5/28/2014 yes calling your thoughts back to center
Falling forward 5/25/2014 Yes making mistakes
Drum roll please 5/22/2014 no announcement
Can you tell me how to sleep 5/21/2014 yes following your own voice
The Golden Circle 5/18/2014 no coaching- defining your niche
Do one thing 5/14/2014 Yes motivation to get started
Response to a comment- places that scare 5/11/2014 Yes response to a comment about fear
Happy Easter 4/20/2014 no holiday greeting
Another excerpt pt 2 4/16/2014 no notes from a session
another excerpt 4/14/2014 no notes from a session
grrr 4/9/2014 Yes when the kid part of us didn’t get their way
quiet time 4/5/2014 Yes reflecting on what is good
Run to Nebraska 2/4/2014 no movie review/fathers and sons
Flying High 3/29/2014 Yes dreams, fear of success
Deep Waters 3/26/2014 yes fear
Kids vs Dogs 3/23/2014 Yes pet loss, unconditional love
If you give a kid an ipad 3/18/2014 no book announcement
Burning the boats pt 3 3/16/2014 no letting go
Looking for Dinghys 3/12/2014 Yes letting go
Burning the ships 3/9/2014 no letting go
Never Can say goodbye 3/5/2014 yes loss and aging
Everybody’s sad 3/2/2014 no mindfulness
What a difference a day 2/16/2014 Yes gratitude
excerpts from a session pt 1 2/19/2014 Yes session notes on fear
selling the drama 2/17/2014 no culture chaos
iphone apps 2/12/2014 no app recommendations
eclectic or chaotic 2/10/2014 no mindfulness
couldn’t have said it better 2/5/2014 no mindfulness
my favorite stories 2/4/2014 no website update
another one bites the dust 2/3/2014 no stars who overdose
where does the time go 1/19/2014 no quick passage of time
toilet paper up or down 4/23/2014 yes compromise in relationship
hear an angel there an angel 5/7/2014 yes reflection and mindfulness
is it always about me 5/5/2014 yes not taking things personally
crash 4/30/2014 yes mindfulness
the places that scare you 4/27/2014 yes taking risks

 

Ain’t Misbehavin- Or are they?

Aint Misbehavin- Or are they?

 

 

 

 

To listen click the link below.  On a smartphone, you may need to scroll to the end of the message and look for the sound icon.

Do you have days, (weeks or years) when it feels like someone or everyone is just not behaving “right”? Of course, right as defined by you.

The reality is we all have to sometimes experience relationships where the other person’s choices and behaviors can make us pretty darn unhappy. Sometimes we simply choose to walk away. But what about when that person is our spouse… or our boss? Yikes.

One of my favorite stories comes from Psychiatrist Harriet Lerner formerly of the Menninger Clinic in Topeka. It’s a personal story she told at a lecture many years ago about an encounter she had with her then 4 year old son Matthew. Lerner walked in her kitchen to find Matthew cutting an apple with a very sharp knife. Here is her account:

 

Lerner: Matthew, put down that knife. You’re going to hurt yourself.

Matthew: no I won’t

Lerner: Yes you will

Matthew: No I won’t

Lerner, pauses to think and comes back with: “Put down the knife because mommy is afraid you will hurt yourself”.

Matthew: “That’s your problem”.

Pausing again, realizing her son has once again outsmarted her strategy to change his behavior.

“You’re right. And I’m going to take care of my problem by taking the knife away from you.”

 

I probably think of Lerner’s story about once a week. It helps me to pause and think about “who has the problem?”

I’ll give you two recent examples.

The other night my son Alex and I went to dinner at a family friendly Mexican restaurant. The hostess seated us in a section where we were the only two people. About halfway through our meal two couples entered with small children. The waiters began setting the table up for a larger group. Within minutes blood curdling screams began to flood out of various children while they ran around the table as if someone had ignited a flame to their hair. Perhaps they were only looking for a way to put out the potential flames, but the parents responded quickly by ordering larger Margarita’s.

First thought- Those are awful people with big problems.

Second thought- I have a problem in that I am not enjoying the atmosphere where I’m eating.

I had a couple of choices. I could have yelled at them, or even asked them nicely to muzzle their children with duct tape. I could have asked that they buy a round of Margaritas for Alex and me, but he is underage and I had to drive home.   I could have asked to be moved to another section of the restaurant. But in reality we were fairly near completion of our dinner. So we finished up and left. We solved our problem. But it also turned into a great discussion with Alex, about how he and his brother behaved in restaurants when they were small. He asked how we had handled things in the past and we had an enjoyable ride home talking about stories.

 

Next scenario: My husband has a gift for calling me at the most inopportune time. Seriously, it’s like he divines the perfect moment when I’m in the car, about to go through the drive through or the news anchor is finally going to tell the story he has been teeing up through 5 commercial breaks. If you’ve ever been around me when my phone rings, I have a very dramatic ring tone to signal my husband is calling. A man with a deep dramatic voice says “Oh no, it’s Ben calling, what does he want… what   does     he   want? While dramatic music plays. (Yes, if you’re counting, that IS a lot of drama).

I mean this guy has a real problem right? Wrong. He’s just calling at the moment he either wants to tell or ask me something. The problem is mine. It’s that I obviously forget the phone has a silent option, or better still that to date, no laws have been passed mandating the picking up of a call when it comes in.   The problem has to do with why I feel compelled to answer it and interrupt MYSELF. (But I’ll figure that out on my own time)

I get it, these are small examples and when it’s your boss grinding on your last nerve more days than not it is harder. Or how about when you have a mother-in law that can rival Mrs. Wollowitz from The Big Bang Theory. I’m not suggesting a simplistic solution here. Only that you begin to look at what parts of tough situations you can have an impact on versus exhausting yourself with trying to manipulate those you cannot. And when you can’t take an action, you can still employ some of the techniques discussed in the last couple of posts, regarding the relieving of tension through philosophies of meditation and yoga.   At very least, when you feel you can’t DO a behavior to change your frustration in the moment; you can at least NOT DO something. With a clear head and reduced tension you can at least pause and use the pre-frontal cortex of your brain. This is where logic and reason are stored, rather than the Amygdala’s fight or flight response. The latter can prompt you into ordering larger Margarita’s or throwing your cell phone out the window. And remember, although Silence is Golden and Duct tape is Silver… it should still never be used on children.

 

I hope you enjoyed todays post And if you did, that you’ll forward the blog on to someone else. As always I appreciate your feedback, comments and challenges!

 

Mexican Fisherman Meets Harvard MBA

For an audio version click below- if you are listening on a smartphone, you may need to get to the bottom of your email and look for the sound icon.  I’ve added a little music, so don’t be alarmed that I uploaded the wrong file.

 

I would like to share a story with you…

To the best of my knowledge, the author is unknown:

 

 

 

A vacationing American businessman standing on the pier of a quaint coastal fishing village in southern Mexico watched as a small boat with just one young Mexican fisherman pulled into the dock. Inside the small boat were several large yellow fin tuna. Enjoying the warmth of the early afternoon sun, the American complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish.

“How long did it take you to catch them?” the American casually asked.

“Oh, a few hours,” the Mexican fisherman replied.

“Why don’t you stay out longer and catch more fish?” the American businessman then asked.

The Mexican warmly replied, “With this I have more than enough to support my family’s needs.”

The businessman then became serious, “But what do you do with the rest of your time?”

Responding with a smile, the Mexican fisherman answered, “I sleep late, play with my children, watch ballgames, and take siesta with my wife. Sometimes in the evenings I take a stroll into the village to see my friends, play the guitar, sing a few songs…”

The American businessman impatiently interrupted, “Look, I have an MBA from Harvard, and I can help you to be more profitable. You can start by fishing several hours longer every day. You can then sell the extra fish you catch. With the extra money, you can buy a bigger boat. With the additional income that larger boat will bring, before long you can buy a second boat, then a third one, and so on, until you have an entire fleet of fishing boats.”

Proud of his own sharp thinking, he excitedly elaborated a grand scheme which could bring even bigger profits, “Then, instead of selling your catch to a middleman you’ll be able to sell your fish directly to the processor, or even open your own cannery. Eventually, you could control the product, processing and distribution. You could leave this tiny coastal village and move to Mexico City, or possibly even Los Angeles or New York City, where you could even further expand your enterprise.”

Having never thought of such things, the Mexican fisherman asked, “But how long will all this take?”

After a rapid mental calculation, the Harvard MBA pronounced, “Probably about 15-20 years, maybe less if you work really hard.”

“And then what, señor?” asked the fisherman.

“Why, that’s the best part!” answered the businessman with a laugh. “When the time is right, you would sell your company stock to the public and become very rich. You would make millions.”

“Millions? Really? What would I do with it all?” asked the young fisherman in disbelief.

The businessman boasted, “Then you could happily retire with all the money you’ve made. You could move to a quaint coastal fishing village where you could sleep late, play with your grandchildren, watch ballgames, and take siesta with your wife. You could stroll to the village in the evenings where you could play the guitar and sing with your friends all you want.”

 

Here are some questions for you to think about. Try not to rush through them in a single setting, but let them soak in over a few days.

Can you relate to this story? How hard do you work towards something you aren’t really sure that you want? How much life are you willing to risk missing while you pursue a life? Do you feel closer to your goals then you did 5 years ago, 10 years ago? Or have your goals changed? Do your goals reflect your life or someone else’s?

What will you do when you reach your goals? What do you imagine that will feel like? Is there any other way to achieve them other than the path you are currently on? Have you considered the possibility that everything you really want is within your range of sight, but you may not be looking at it in such a way as to see its value?

If you like this story, please pass this blog on to someone else to enjoy.  I’d love to hear your comments.

 

Not all who wander part 2

For an audio version of this post click here- if you are using a smart phone or tablet, you may need to click to the bottom and look for the little speaker symbol or link to mp3 file.

In the last post I illustrated and discussed thinking of yoga as a philosophy rather than an exercise. As a philosophy, it becomes a tool that is helpful to you both on and off the mat.

So as I said previously, I had a regular practice of yoga. In contrast, I did not practice meditation. In fact, in one way or another, people probably suggested meditation to me about a zillion or so times over 20 something years. I even tried it a time or two, but mostly found it boring and not useful unless I was purposefully trying to fall asleep. I even started leaving yoga classes before the relaxation meditation at the end began, because if I stayed, I almost always woke up in an empty room alone. Yes, if you are wondering, that IS a little embarrassing. Sure, the room was empty when I woke up, but every person who walked out saw me their snoring away.

So suffice it to say, I didn’t see much benefit in mediation for the most part. But despite my experiences, I decided to again give it a try. And I made the commitment that I would sit for 5 minutes and try to focus on something. I found a comfortable spot in the room, sat on a cushion to make it official and I lit a candle as my object of focus. And I set a timer so I wouldn’t keep thinking about the time. It sounded something like this in my brain:

Just look at the candle, be here right now.

Oh my gosh this is boring

Just look at the candle

Candle

Candle

Did I take those steaks out for dinner?

Back to the candle stay with the candle

My leg itches

Back to the candle,

Look, I’m looking at the candle.

Just look at the candle,

Oh I have to remember to return that email

Back to the candle.

Okay, I think you get the point. My oneness with the candle and only the candle added up to about 22.3 seconds if you add all the snippets together. And so initially I concluded it was once again not useful.

But then something interesting happened. One day I was walking into work and I heard my brain start to ruminate over and over about something unrelated to what I was doing. And I heard a voice within (the okay kind of voices) say “be right here, right now”. And suddenly in that little statement I realized I had moved meditation off the cushion and into a philosophy that could be used anywhere, anytime, just as I had previously learned to do with Yoga.

The usefulness of meditation, I learned had much less to do with the moments of candle oneness and reaching some state of transcendental nirvana. But instead, its benefit was in training my mind to notice when it had wondered and to call it back home where it was needed, i.e. the present moment.

The benefit to doing the candle staring thing is to have a place to come back to. You can choose whatever you want to stare at, as long as it’s not the TV or the road while you are driving if you are trying to meditate. And it will take more than 1, 2 or 3 tries before this starts to sink in so be patient and persistent. But this is the kind of practice that makes YOU the master of your thoughts rather than the other way around. It teaches you that thoughts can come and go, but you need not follow them to wherever they desire to lead you just because they appear in that moment to compete with what you were otherwise doing at the time.

So give it a try. Remember this because it will be on a future quiz: MEDITATION HELPS TO ACTIVATE YOUR PREFRONTAL CORTEX.

I’d love to know if the audio version is working for you!