Friday, November 19, 2010

Five Reasons for Laughing In Times of Adversity

Laughter flies into the face of fear and brings us back to hope.

In today’s world, we need to have courage and indulge in borderline insanity to laugh, but laughter redeems us. It takes us out of the shadows and into the sunlight. It exorcises the demons of ego and ignorance. It helps us accept our imperfections. We are after all, comical beings.

I keep a cache of films that I watch whenever I need a good belly laugh. They include among others Monsieur Hulot’s Holiday, Charlie Chaplin and his character the little tramp, along with the classics by Laurel and Hardy. Watching them I’m able to laugh at those moments when life seemed to take an embarrassing turn, or threatened to overwhelm me. For instance, the allergy attack that surfaced during my wedding ceremony and had me sneezing all the way through. (I should have known that the allergy was a strong hint about the relationship that ended in divorce!) There was the auspicious moment when I, the single mom, paddling as fast as she could exec left the house in a rush to attend a business presentation with my sweater inside out. Putting on my poker face, I promised it was a new fashion trend and the formal atmosphere shifted. I got the job and laughed all the way home.
When I was nine months pregnant I attended a ceremony with the Dalai Lama. Afterward, as I attempted to kneel to receive a blessing - not an easy thing to do when you have a 30-pound belly that defies any grace you might ordinarily possess. As I came close to ending up in a heap at his feet he gestured for me to remain standing. His belly laughter set me off. We both ended up in tears.
Being too rational not only stifles laughter, it puts the lid on creativity. Creativity happens when we cut loose from the boredom of logic and shoot for the moon no matter how absurd or impossible it may seem. Some of the world’s most creative people were laughed at for their ideas, only to have their detractors shuffle their feet in chagrin. In 1977, Ken Olson, the President of Digital Corporation said, “There is no reason for any individual to have a computer in their home.” We can all be grateful that Stan Wozniak and Steve Jobs who gave us Apple Computers didn’t feel the same way.

If there’s anything I’ve ever been sure of, it’s that the Gods have a sense of humor. We receive sound advice and then we ignore it and when we return, asking why didn’t you let me know; they laugh and laugh and laugh.

Five Reasons to Laugh:
1)When we laugh, we leave the ordinary behind.
2)Laughter helps us be freer, more spontaneous.
3)Laughter is a universal language.
4)Laughter aids digestion, comforts us and helps us stay alert.
5)Laughter helps save relationships.

When was the last time you really laughed at something you did and how did it make you feel?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Labels Are Ghosts That Cling to Our Backs

Just because the message may never be received, it doesn’t mean it’s not worth sending - Japanese Buddhist teaching.
Labeling people is something I not only distrust; it makes me sad. For instance, Helen Keller, blind and deaf, was early on labeled as dumb – something that’s not uncommon for someone who’s challenged in speaking. She was fortunate enough to meet a woman who wanted to know her, to help. In the ensuing years, her gifts were uncovered, and she went on to become a well-known author and advocate for women’s suffrage and people with disabilities. She counted among her good friends, Mark Twain and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
It’s easier to label the woman who washed clothes for years on end as the ‘help’, the one who could always be seen with her hands in soapy water, or bent over an ironing board. Then you learn when she’s retired or dead, that she saved close to a million dollars and left it all to scholarships for at risk children who promised to graduate from high school. I like to imagine that at least 10 out of those 100 went on to create a life very different from what others believed they were destined to live.
Today, labeling has become particularly insidious. It’s easy to call someone an extreme conservative or socialist commie. Sometimes, I wish I could sit down with one of them for an hour or more. As they began to preach about that person or party and the damage they’d done, I imagine a conversation that might go something like this:
1) Me: I can see that this really concerns you and I want to be sure I fully understand you’re saying. Could you please state that in slightly different terms?
(That tends to slow someone down, because they think that since you didn’t hear what they said, you’re probably slow, or even dumb.)
2) Then I would repeat what they said and ask if I got it right. Then I would give them more recognition. ‘I can hear how this concerns you. Is there anything else that concerns you about this? Can you expand on what you’re saying?
(Now they know you’re listening and they tend to talk not only slower, but more thoughtfully.)
3) After they’ve expanded on their thoughts, I tell them ‘I can see how that could
be really troubling. I’ve thought about that too, in slightly different way. I proceed to lay out my thoughts, seeking ways we can find a mutually agreed upon solution. At that moment in time, we be successful, but we may have opened a door to future dialogue.
The highly esteemed author and creator of Non Violent Communications, Marshall Rosenberg was once called to assist at a meeting of Jews and Palestinians that took place on the West Bank. The first day was rife with accusations and labels – ‘Murderer’ and ‘Thief’ as each side unloaded all of their loss and anger. Then came the second day. Each of those horrifying experiences were verbally recognized by the opposite side. Then, Rosenberg began to ask each one: What is it you really want? What do you need? What can’t you live without?
By the end, everyone in the room realized that the two things they wanted most were two things they all shared; safety, and a chance for their children to be educated. Then they began talking about small steps they might take to make those things happen.
Labels are the ghosts of our emotions and our imagination. Feeding those ghosts has them clinging to our backs. They speak through our words. They impoverish our conservations and our lives.
When you find yourself labeling someone else, stop and ask yourself:
1)Who does this person love?
2)Has he ever cried?
3)Is he lonely?
4)What changed him from the child he once was?
5)Did anyone ever tell him he mattered?
6)What is he really seeking?

Somewhere inside those questions, you may find a shared truth.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Five Reasons Why Returning to Your Senses Can Change Your Life

Their eyes are so clouded by emotions they cannot see – African Proverb
When I’m feeling dislocated or stressed returning to my senses helps me return to my self. Taste, touch, sound, sight and scent provide clarity, new energy and once again my mind is the beginner’s mind ready to dare.
What Lies Within the Senses:
1) Taste: Bitter or sour taste brings our attention to imbalance. Spicy flavors warm the tongue and the belly. Sweetness comforts. The sweet spiciness of curry in my rice adds heat to my belly and raises my energy.
2) Touch: Without touch we become isolated. Today, I shared an embrace with the checker at the supermarket who always wears a smile. He whispers the doctors have told me I’m dying. As we hold each other, we’re giving and receiving. I’m telling him ‘not yet’. His embrace tells me thank you for reminding me. We united by the knowledge of how precious the moment is.
3) Sound: The vibrant chords of Bach, Mozart and Vivaldi activate the brain. The sounds of a mournful sax brings to surface any sadness I need to let go of. The rhythmic beat of salsa makes me move. The words Once Upon a Time lead me to stories of heroes, witches, and laughter.
4) Sight: The light from the fire disperses darkness. Sunrise and sunset move me through the shifts of the day. The darkest hours of the night lead me into dreams.
5) Scent: The smell of sage freshens my memories of climbing to the top of giant rocks in the desert and discovering an oasis below me. The aroma of good food holds the promise of nourishment and community.
Five Reasons to Return to Your Senses.
1) Freedom from what has troubled you.
2) New energy comes to the surface.
3) When the senses are open, so is the mind.
4) You feel more connected to self and others.
5) With all of the above you’ve gained a little leverage to address what’s happening around you.
When we return to our senses in a series of moments during the day, dropping in whenever we feel the need, we’re gradually reforming our brains, our consciousness. We hear the messages that come from the heart.