Do you laugh at least 400 times a day?

s-LAUGHTER-largeFree your mind.  What does this feel like for you?   How do you free your mind?

One way I can describe freeing my mind are those times when I am with a friend and we are absolutely helpless with laughter.  Bent over, sides hurting, and howling with laughter.  There is just something about experiencing this kind of laughter and being lost in the moment.  It is like a transaction of abandon that feels like I left the planet for a brief while.  And it is such a pure connection with another human being.  A moment when I feel free to be exactly who I am.

1373And the moment lingers long after you have parted ways with your friend.  You think of it the next morning when you are standing in line for your morning latte and you feel the power of that very same laugh burbling up from within.  A small laugh escapes you and the person ahead of you turns around and smiles with you.  Another connection.

Laughter is a gift that is one of life’s daily miracles.  It redeems us from those moments that do not feel exactly stellar.  It invites us to embrace spontaneity and maybe even some forgiveness.  Laughter leads to a moment of exquisite freedom.  It is you feeling like what it is to be totally you.

AmygdalaOne of my research projects involves looking at the effects of laughter in an educational setting.  The statistics that I uncovered in my reading vary a bit, but it is said that the average child laughs approximately 400 times a day; the average adult somewhere between 4 to 11 times.  What do you think?  Do you laugh anywhere near 400 times a day?  Do you laugh more than 11 times a day?  This disparity would be funny if it weren’t so sobering.  It has definitely encouraged me to seek more moments of laughter in my day.  The more I laugh, the more I free my mind.  Or maybe it is the other way around.  Either way, it is a cycle that I happily embrace.

A-laughIn the ways of research, the findings regarding laughter in the classroom were somewhat predictable and also somewhat surprising: Laughter can be a wonderful way to make amazing learning connections in the classroom; additionally, learning can be enhanced by engaging the limbic system — which is great for learning.  Have you ever wondered why you simply didn’t feel comfortable in a learning environment?  Laughter, used with empathy and sensitivity, is also effective in lowering the affective filter — a term Stephen Krashen has used to describe how negative factors in the classroom block how we learn and how we process a learning experience.

But caution is advised concerning our use of laughter.  What you think is funny, could very possibly offend or confuse another –> thus spiking the affective filter to go up and to raise a wall — which is not not so good for learning.  So there is the whole respect factor where laughter is present.  You have to be aware and you have to be sensitive to others when you’re trying to have fun.  It’s all good when you think about it: the presence and the absence of laughter.  They both signal connection and respect.

Which, I believe, are two good components of freedom: connection and respect.

Free your mind.  This Playing for Change recording is so very captivating.  If I listen to it once, I have to listen to it again.  So simple and complex and rich.  And beautiful.  And speaks to collaboration, beauty, talent, and freedom.

 

Try Something New: What’s Stopping You?

IMG_3357Is there something that you have been wanting to learn?  To do?  To try just once to see what it would feel like?

Is the Fear of Failure holding you back? Does it feel like a lack of resources is underwhelming your life?  Is there someone in your life who is telling you that you procrastinate and you never finish anything?  Is there a voice in your head that always gives you bad advice?  Don’t start.  You have so much to do around the house.  You have to get up early in the morning. You haven’t done laundry for a week.  The garage is a disaster.

Do you feel like you simply do not have enough time to even think about starting something new?

You make the choice.

Well, there’s bad news and good news.  The bad news:  You don’t have enough time.  The good news: You do have enough time.  You choose which news you want your inner soul to hear.  You choose.

I kept delivering the bad news to my heart, my mind, my hands, my spirit, while forestalling the good news for an unspecific time in the mythical future when “I had more time.”  I was living in a steady hum of constancy that was focusing on everything that wasn’t quite right with my life: playing an elaborate shell game with finances, juggling too many jobs with school and homework, barely keeping up with household chores, and feeling like my life had all the fun sucked out of it by some cosmic vacuum cleaner.  All of this MindSpeak was proving to be so exhausting to my Inner Spirit that I simply stopped trying to inject newness or creativity into my day.

It felt like I was buried by life’s stuff.

I wasn’t merely stuck.  I was buried.  I would find myself paying bills online while listening to a class-assigned podcast while brushing the dog while folding the laundry while feeding the cat.  I was all over the place.  All of this multi-tasking madness. . . until I thought to add a new personal challenge to the day’s mayhem: Try something new every single day.

In the beginning . . .

In the beginning, this challenge verified the bad news –> it was something that felt like an added extra that felt to be overwhelmingly huge and impossible.  My MindSpeak went into hyper-mode: When am I going to have the time to try something new every single day?!  My days already feel like pasta in a pot of water — on constant boil and threatening to spill over onto the clean stove top at any given second.

The Wooden Spoon Trick

IMG_3360But I was so craving Different in my life.  Better.  More centered and mindful.  I remembered reading that if you lay a wooden spoon across a pot of boiling  pasta that it won’t over-boil.  The pasta can boil merrily away with no more messy stove to clean up.  So simple and easy . . . and it works!  This Wooden Spoon trick reminded me that life need not be so overly complicated.  Just try . . . and do . . . and lay the spoon across the pot. And try again.  It is absolutely possible to turn a moment of my day into a gesture of mindfulness.  I can make it happen.  I will make it happen.  I scrawled across the top of the wall-mounted white board in my office with my blue marker: You’ve got this!  Try Something New!  Today!  I mean it!

It has proven to be a bit of an experiment to see how it works.

I originally intended on focusing on one single something new to try for the 30 days — in an effort to create a positive new habit.  My thought: develop some consistency and build some sense of discipline by adding only one thing for an extended period of time.  Like one of those scary-clown jack-in-the-boxes, all sorts of ideas came popping up out of my mind’s Procrastination Department.  Play piano every single day.  Save on gas and ride my scooter to work every single day.  Eat a healthy breakfast every single day.  Work out every single day.  Sort through one box in the garage and get rid of stuff.  Do one or all of these things every single day for 30 days.

What did these things have in common?

But I found that these ideas weren’t working — and they weren’t very inspiring either. And besides, everything that I was thinking of involved fulfilling some obligatory should: be healthier, practice music, save the environment, clean the garage.  All of which are very lovely ideas, but still . . . This challenge was supposed to be fun and invigorating.

As I was casting about for the best way to implement my challenge, I discovered that was working was trying something different, unique, and unexpected every single day.  Examples?  I started piano lessons — and have been pretty disciplined regarding playing everyday.  I went dancing at a casino — great stories as a result of this adventure.  I broke out the new orange-and-white kitchen towels that had been preserved in their pristine state in my kitchen drawer — now brightening my kitchen and thoroughly broken in with the hues of red wine, carrot juice, and tomato sauce.  I introduced myself to a stranger — and we have since become acquaintances.

IMG_3317You get the idea.  I called an old friend just to say hi.  I bought Swiss chard at the vegetable stand.  I wrote a long overdue letter.  I told someone about my current writing project.  I had dinner at a restaurant that I had been wanting to check out.  I took photographs of garbage.  I added kale to my morning smoothie.  I had fun with some color and painted on canvas.  And another new thing for me? I set aside judgment of “what is good” when I was done painting.  I simply valued the experience and the time spent swirling color around.

IMG_3355I started reading my horoscope.  I subscribed to a new-word-of-the-day website.  I started blogging.  I bought three tiny wooden tops, which are proving to create a really relaxing “stop point” during work and study time at my desk.  I spin the tops and, while they are spinning, I do absolutely nothing.  I learned that an absence of activity can feel pretty good.

My Try Something New Challenge has proven to be that magical wooden spoon on the pasta pot.  I not only have enough time to Try Something New, I have plenty of time.  Life’s harried pace has reduced its boil a bit.  Not completely, but a bit, nonetheless.  Nothing is boiling over and making a spilly mess that I have to clean up.

It feels like I have effected change.  Like the motion of the little tops, the vibrational ripples have been spreading.  There have been some really fun and surprising and happy results from being willing to shake things up.   I don’t understand the way that time has expanded, but it has.  What I learned about this personal challenge: The hard part was starting.  The easy part is enjoying the expansive feelings of reward and appreciation.

You’ve got this!

Vision Board 058Would you like to share in this challenge with me?  Is there something new that you have been really wanting to do?

Please, leave a reply and post your One New Thing and share how it is enriching your life.  We all would love to hear about it!

Life is a lively event.  

Try something new, spin some tops, & effect the ripples of happifying change.

What’s stopping you?

When Losing & Gaining Are the Same Thing

My journal question of the day from my 5-year journal of 1,825 Answers is: “What do you have to lose?”  This one is a True Stumper. Answers came flying at me from the left and the right.  From above and below.  And a few shot their arrows of truth straight through my soul.  I thought of the physical and the cosmic, the overtones and undertones of this question.  The tangible and the intangible. Terra Firma and Universe.  Worldly and spiritual.  Scary and serene. Serious and funny. Physical and emotional.

What I first wrote for an answer was intuitive: “Absolutely nothing.”  But then, I don’t know, something nudged me again from the inside so I added: “Absolutely everything.”  Then my rational brain wrote: “I really don’t know how to answer this.”  Then my spiritual self wrote: “The concept of loss encompasses a great deal of life’s essence and interpretation.”

I sharpen my pencil and go back to the original question on the page and cross out everything I have written and write in response to “What do you have to lose?”: Optimism & belief & my ability to love.

And I realize that I am writing myself into circles that are far too confining and . . . truth: I need not be so confined by someone else’s question.  I simply rewrite the question and cross out the word lose and write in the word gain, re-phrasing it to read: “What do I have to gain?”  By re-writing the question, I am inspired to re-write embedded self-perceptions of lack and to safeguard any existing self-perceptions of wealth — true, real-life, inside wealth.

And then I think: Wait a second.  Losing and gaining might actually be the very same thing . . . for when I re-phrase the question as “What do I have to gain?” my answers are the very same as for what I have to lose: Optimism & belief & my ability to love.

IMG_2800Nothing like a little convoluted writing to unsquiggle a simple question.  My takeaway from today’s question: Gaining is the same as Losing.  Perspective sometimes wins out over reality.  It’s time for me to think on Abundance Theory and keep focused on the sunny side.  Eventually time gets us to where we want to be heading . . . which potentially leads to the next question: Where am I going anyway?  A question to be answered on another day . . .

So . . . your journal question for today: What do you have to gain?  

If you feel comfortable sharing your answers, please, do so in the comments below.  We all grow from others’ diverse experiences and perspectives.  What do you have to gain?

Life is a remarkably lively and engaging event.  

Go forth, answer squiggly questions, and appreciate what you do have in life.  

What’s stopping you? 

 

 

 

 

Embrace Your Inner Honey Badger & Make Some Mud Balls

Escape your present reality and think like a honey badger.  Every time I watch this BBC documentary clip of the honey badger, I am so inspired by this animal’s persistence.  The honey badger’s focus on escaping the enclosure is nothing short of amazing.  It uses any and every resource it has to get to where it wants to go.  This animal truly is a marvel.  And what a lesson to all of us who doubt or fear or give up or don’t believe that something is possible.  The message straight from the honey badger itself: It is possible.  Just watch the video (4:12) and you will see what I am saying.  It is a hoot!

When I watch this video, I think about my life and about where I want to go.  Where I know I want to be. What I want to accomplish.  I am reminded of that quote by Lewis Carroll, “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.”  Well, the thing is: I do know . . . and I am expending personal resource: time, energy, creativity, etc.

But still . . . am I using every resource that is available to me?

This honey badger’s tenacity shows me that the answer to my question is Absolutely not.  The thing is: I know that I am capable of so much more.  Perhaps this is what drives the pistons of life’s dissatisfaction or confusion or self-defeat within my inner world.  I know that I have so much more inside of me to create, to offer, to be.  In the video, the honey badger even makes mud balls (!) to stage its escape.  Mud balls . . . an escape prop out of dirt and water.  Maybe I am easily moved, entertained, and inspired, but I find this very inspiring.  This honey badger never ceases to execute the next escape plan with what diminishing resources are available.  It uses ingenuity to make its goal happen, no matter what “tools” are available.

The word escape has so many different connotations.  It can mean that I am escaping from something that isn’t pleasant or that is demoralizing.  Or it can mean that I am experiencing a moment of escape, like the feeling of reveling in the sunshine on that Maui beach . . . but still with life’s root-of-reality reminding me of that which I will be returning to once vacation is over . . . something that isn’t bad but that isn’t all that great either.

Watch the video below (4:12), be inspired, and then click on the aqua-blue link to a fun and inspiring journaling prompt below.  Have fun with the prompt.  It could very well have the power to create a ripple effect into how you choose to live your life.  I wish you the very best of energy with your respective dreams and goals.

pencil stubClick on the aqua-blue link below for today’s journaling prompt: Your Great Escape Plan

Your Great Escape Plan

[Print this prompt out, 3-hole punch it, and add it to your journaling binder.   Take the writing journey and listen . . . you can’t get lost when you are following your own heart.  After all, you are the only one who can hear what it has to say.  The only one.  Relax, read, think, feel, listen, write.  Repeat.  And enjoy the journey.  It is a fine one, and one that is perfectly-made just for you, I promise.  Life is meant to be grown.]

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Your Personality . . . & the Glory of the Choice

Vision Board 058Your personality . . . what is it exactly?  Aside from the usual adjectives of fun or moody or sunny or temperamental or intense or Type A or laid back or . . . what exactly? What does it really mean to be assigned a personality type?

We’ve all pondered the big debate of Nature vs. Nurture . . . how the spark of life is blessed/cursed/or combination-therein by congenital behavior . . . or wait!  Is it actually shaped by environmental and emotional factors?  And then these is all of the vice-versa stuff that leads one to accept and embrace both and then not think much about it.

Fascinating research points to many interesting findings that help us to understand Who We Really Are, our emotional and social intelligence, and our perception of positive and negative influences.  Nature or Nurture?  It is an enormous question that no one can really answer with total authority.  Take the story of the two children — identical twins, actually — standing on the ocean shore.  They are enjoying themselves while the salt water is gently lapping at their toes.  Suddenly, a rogue wave washes over the top of them.  The same wave, the same temperature of water, the same element of surprise.  One of the twins starts to cry and scream and run from the water. The other twin splashes back at the wave while laughing.   While this story would neither withstand nor support the rigors of a research study focused on Nature vs. Nurture, I like it nonetheless.  It gives me pause: Why not laugh?  It’s a heck of a lot more fun than crying and screaming.

And in the midst of all of this wondering and debating and agreeing, I do believe that there is much to be said for the concept of timshelthe Hebrew word for thou mayest.

When I think on topics of this sort, my mind wanders back to a Time of Great Impressionability in my life, and I was reading John Steinbeck’s East of Eden.  What a book!  Well, “the story bit deeply into me,” and Lee’s treatise on timshel has stayed with me all of these curious years later — a testimony to the notion that life is one great impressionable moment after another.

It is my hope that sharing this gem of Steinbeck’s brilliance and wisdom will not act as any sort of spoiler.  The book is brilliant and one worth reading.  Like life, Steinbeck’s writing is intense and provocative and profound.  He writes the sort of story that stays with you throughout the years.  I thank Mr. Steinbeck for opening my eyes, my mind, my heart, my soul, and my sense of wonder to the notion of thou mayest“the glory of the choice.”

Last week, I came across this quite lovely Personality Test online.  I normally don’t click on these tests, expecting some sort of hook to be set before you receive your “results,” but something prompted me to go ahead and try this one.  Before reading any further, go ahead and click on the link and visualize your responses to the prompts.

https://www.buzzfeed.com/juliapugachevsky/this-cube-personality-test-will-absolutely-blow-your-mind?utm_term=.onK9zJNbz&sub=4259074_8744597

All done?

What do you think?  How much of the explanation of your visuals did you feel was accurate?  At the very least, I felt that I was given a sideways glimpse into me — parts of me that are actually true that I generally don’t consciously associate with my “personality.”  I think about Steinbeck’s artistic weaving of timshel into East of Eden . . . and I am reminded that thou mayest carries with it a personal(-ity) responsibility of creative and paradigm-shifting mindfulness that requires daily cultivation, acknowledgement, and celebration on my part.

Personality assessment aside . . . overall, we need not be so hard on ourselves.  I think we sometimes embrace the opinions of  people — people who truly don’t know us — with far too much zeal, and we assign too much authority to the editorializing that is done by others.  We have a proclivity toward jumping into the sinkhole: a morass of self-blame, regret, and guilt that we assign to nature- and nurture-defining personality quirks . . . epic actions that play with our hearts and attempt to define how we choose to forge present moments into future goals and dreams.  Or . . . is this just my personality?

I used to have a quote taped up in every room of my house: Always believe that something wonderful is about to happen.  In the midst of one particularly Challenging Time, I was re-reading the quote, and I realized that I needed to make an edit.  I crossed out about to happen and scribbled in happening right now:

Always believe that something wonderful is happening right now.  

The current paradigm of Overwhelm in that moment screeched to a halt, and life felt like it took a gentler curve toward heart-healing and happiness.  When I realized that I had a choice to become someone new on the inside, my whole life shifted.  This epiphany didn’t segue into some neat and tidy story-book ending, but it did nudge me into a new place, such that I could get back into a timshel state of mind: “the glory of the choice.”

toaster ovenI leave you today with the prayer, the wish, the hope, and the thought that today is a good day for you.  A truly good day.  One of gratitude and filled with micro moments that tell you that Now is Now and life is evolving, constantly evolving, as something that is wonderful.  If this moment isn’t all that great, just wait for the next one.  It will be here before you know it — full of promise and full of timshel.  With some refining, life really can be borne from “the glory of the choice:  . . . keeping “the way open.”

Click on the highlighted link below to download today’s free journaling exercise.  Have fun journaling and putting a new spin on perceptions and keeping your way open!

The Glory of the Choice. A Different Spin. journaling prompt

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A reminder that gifts of beauty await when we keep our hearts open.  So lovely.

 

[P.S. Here is the real Spoiler Alert: To read a longer excerpt that discusses timshel in greater detail from East of Eden, click here.  If you are planning to read the book . . . do not click here.]

Runs with Goats

changing from jeans to pajama pants

changing from jeans to pajama pants http://i.imgur.com/IXWIWe6.jpg

What is it about goats?  Goats.  They are just such interesting animals. Goats are known for their lively and frisky and erratic behavior.  It is believed that goats discovered the coffee bean.  Goats have rectangular eyes so that they can see well in the dark.  Wild goats don’t sleep.  The proper name for a group of goats is a trip — not a herd.   

Goats express so much with their faces, their voices, and their antics.  People refer to a willy-nilly and unmanageable situation as a goat rodeo.  When I see a video of a goat being a goat, I don’t see chaos.  I see Par-tay!!  Were I to have a piece of land that would allow for a happy goat habitat, I would invite a small trip to come and party.

There is something about animals that tug at our heart strings in ways that humans cannot.  When we see a roly-poly puppy at the park, we drop our defenses.  When we see a little kitten pogo-hopping across the floor, we say, “Awwww!” When I see a goat, I crack up.  Goats are just so comical.  There is something majestic and regal about having the power to be so funny.  Anything or anyone that can make me laugh out loud has my utmost respect.  It’s not easy being the jester for a human.  It sometimes takes a lot for us let go and laugh out loud. Goats.

Respect

R-E-S-P-E-C-T

Every time I hear these two songs roll up on my iPod, I feel good.  It is such a great feeling when you respect yourself and respect others.  Google’s “define: respect” is as follows:

RESPECT: (verb) admire (someone or something) deeply, as a result of their abilities, qualities, or achievements.

What a gift it is to freely and openly exchange respect with others.   toaster oven