Wednesday, December 31, 2014

" and a deep blue sky.."

The New Year arrived
 in utter simplicity-
 and a deep blue sky.
               -Kobayashi Issa

Friday, December 26, 2014

"Enjoy where you are.."

"Happiness, not in another place but this place...not for another hour, but this hour.” Walt Whitman

     Researchers and social scientists repeat over and over like haunting song lyrics every 365 days that New Years resolutions don't work. So enough already. Instead of trying to lose weight, give up chocolate or promise to pay down debt  this year, how about trying something realistic that you'll actually enjoy.  Here are five simple ways to feel happier in 2015.

*Get more rest.*  If you've ever forced yourself to stay awake for 24 hours you begin to understand why sleep deprivation is considered a form of torture. Our bodies need sleep to recharge both mentally and physically.  Can't go to sleep earlier? Try catching a quick nap during the day. Believe it or not sleep researchers report sleep greatly affects our sensitivity to negative emotions. During one experiment  using a facial recognition task, researchers studied how sensitive participants were to positive and negative feelings. Those who worked through the afternoon without taking a nap became more sensitive to negative emotions like fear and anger. 

*Do one thing at a time.*  Sounds deceptively simple but amazingly most human beings fail to master the art of  performing one single activity well.  Want less stress and worry in your life? Live each moment. Now is now, not the past or future.  Put down the smart phone, turn off the TV, close the laptop; not only pay attention to WHAT you are doing but WHY  you are doing it. As you slow down you will find yourself savoring each bite of food, each songs melody, each photograph you admire,  each word from a loved one, each sunset you've ignored. (And you know you have.)

*Go Outside*  Want to feel better fast? Exercise has always been one of the most effective ways to boost your mood. Exercise can help you relax, increase your brain power, and even improve your body image, even if you don't lose any weight.  Something as simple as a ten minute walk can make you happier and healthier. Studies also show that pet owners who regularly walk their dogs are less prone to heart issues and depression.

*Practice Gratitude*   Gratitude is a keen awareness that no matter our circumstances we have something or someone to be thankful. At our lowest or weakest moments we may depend upon our gift of gratitude to realign our perspective with what is truly important in our lives.  Keep a gratitude journal, perform random acts of kindness, volunteer, give to charity. Place more focus on what you have and less on what you don't.

*Take Charge*  Remember this always, you deserve happiness. Happiness is a birthright. Happiness is a choice. But don't ever expect other people, places, objects or things to make you happy. In order to take charge you have to let go of waiting. Let go of finding Mr. or Miss Right,  the perfect job, the next house, the next child or having enough money. You and you alone are responsible for your own happiness today, tomorrow and in the coming year. 

   With love and peace - Happy New Year !

Saturday, December 20, 2014

"Although its been said many times, many ways...."

"If Higbee thinks I'm working one minute past 9:00, he can kiss my foot. Ho ho ho."

     How well do you know your holiday movies?  Take the following quiz and find out. Name the character and the film or show. The answers are below. But no peeking! Do you want to be on Santa's Naughty List?...again!

1.-"I just don't understand Christmas, I guess. I like getting presents and sending Christmas cards and decorating trees and all that, but I'm still not happy. I always end up feeling depressed. "

2.- "Only I didn't say "fudge." I said THE word, the big one, the Queen-Mother Of Dirty Words, the "F-dash-dash-dash" word! "

3.- "We're kicking off our fun old fashion family Christmas by heading out into the country in the old front-wheel drive sleigh to embrace the frosty majesty of the winter landscape and select that most important of Christmas symbols."

4.-"You smell like beef and cheese, you don't smell like Santa."

5.- "Oh, Christmas isn't just a day, it's a frame of mind... and that's what's been changing. That's why I'm glad I'm here, maybe I can do something about it."

6.- "Then there would be millions of disappointed children around the world. You see, children hold the spirit of Christmas within their hearts. You don't wanna be responsible for killing the spirit of Christmas, now would you... Santa?"


7.-"Strange, isn't it? Each man's life touches so many other lives. When he isn't around he leaves an awful hole, doesn't he?"

8.-"I must stop this *whole* thing! Why, for fifty-three years I've put up with it now. I must stop Christmas from coming... but how?"

9.- "Oh, Vermont should be beautiful this time of the year, with all that snow."

10.- "It's a poor excuse for picking a man's pocket every December the 25th. But as I seem to be the only man who knows that... take the day off. "

11. "I hope you aren't expecting a lot from Santa. A federal offense probably puts you on the naughty list this year. "

12.- "You know, I think this Christmas thing is not as tricky as it seems! But why should they have all the fun? It should belong to anyone! Not anyone, in fact, but me! Why, I could make a Christmas tree! And there's not a reason I can find, I couldn't have a Christmastime! I bet I could improve it, too! And that's exactly what I'll do! "

Answer Key:  1.)Charlie Brown-"A Charlie Brown Christmas 
2.) Ralphie Parker-"A Christmas Story"  3.)Clark Griswold- "Christmas Vacation"  4.) Buddy the Elf-"ELF"  5).-Kris Kringle-"Miracle on 34th Street  6.) Bernard-"The Santa Clause" 7.)Clarence-"It's a Wonderful Life"  8.) The Grinch-"How the  Grinch Stole Christmas  9.) Judy Haynes-"White Christmas"  10.) Ebeneezer Scrooge-"The Muppet Christmas Carol"  11.) David Martin-"Holiday in Handcuffs"  12.) Jack Skellington - "The Nightmare Before Christmas"

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

"All endings bring new beginnings."

“Now, for my younger viewers out there, a book is something we used to have before the internet. It’s sort of a blog for people with attention spans.”
― Stephen Colbert

             The Colbert Report's first episode aired  October 17th 2005 on Comedy Central. Following an amazing ten year run  the show will end this Thursday, December 18th 2014.  As an offshoot of Jon Stewart's The Daily Show, The Colbert Report is a cerebral parody where an audience gets "blown away by the USA" as Colbert pays homage to the self-important, unquestioning hardcore patriotism of "The O'Reilly Factor" or the Rush Limbaugh's and Glenn Becks of the world. Colbert's on air persona "steers the great ship of NEWS through the channels of TRUTH."  Colbert coined the 2006 Merriam-Webster "Word of the Year" "truthiness"   which means- "truth that comes from the gut, not books." or "the quality of preferring concepts or facts one wishes to be true."

       As a satirical newscaster Colbert was able to bring a humorous perspective to the problems facing our nation and shed light on  difficult issues around the globe. His brilliant segments with political figures, authors, actors and musicians introduced us to our own dormant level of intellectual aptitude. Stephen Colbert and his exceptional team of writers  for the The Colbert Report have earned numerous Emmy's, Peabody Awards and even a Grammy.  As a lover of comedy, it's been a rare and special experience to be part of a devoted legion of fans known as the "Colbert Nation".  There will be an irreplaceable void in our late night skies.
   Many Colbert fans including me, admit one of our all time favorite interviews was part of Grim Colberty Tales, a two part series with late children's author Maurice Sendak (Where the Wild Things Are, Chicken Soup with Rice).  During the entertaining  witty exchange Sendak is being refreshingly honest and true to himself. The link below will take you to the Comedy Central website where you can watch and share all of The Colbert Report's greatest moments.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

"But I have promises to keep."

"He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow."

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening 

                                                            by  Robert Frost

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village, though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sounds the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

"We have to explore the world within us."

“Imagination is the source of every form of human achievement. And it's the one thing that I believe we are systematically jeopardizing in the way we educate our children and ourselves.”
― Ken Robinson

         Sir Kenneth Robinson is one of the most recognized international advisors on education. The innovative English author and speaker has inspired school systems, teachers, art programs, governments, and non-profit organizations worldwide which include the Royal Shakespeare Company, Sir Paul McCartney’s Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts, the Royal Ballet, the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts, the European Commission, UNESCO, the Council of Europe, the J Paul Getty Trust and the Education Commission of the States. Robinson was Professor of Arts Education from 1989 - 2001  at the University of Warwick.UK. He was knighted in 2003 for his service to the arts.
        Always at the forefront of education, Robinson has stated, "If you're not prepared to be wrong, you'll never come up with anything original." Creativity is more than the arts, it encompasses every thing we do. Creativity is a disciplined process that requires skill, knowledge, and control. But along with the process comes the ability to allow ourselves to make mistakes. Our mistakes make us far more than break us.

 "The challenges we currently face are without precedent. More people live on this planet now than at any other time in history. The world's population has doubled in the past 30 years. We're facing an increasing strain on the world's natural resources. Technology is advancing at a headlong rate of speed. It's transforming how people work, think, and connect. It's transforming our cultural values." Robinson stated in an interview with ASCD ( Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development)

     In the thought provoking video above entitled "How are You Intelligent?", we receive a beautiful glimpse of how our perception of imagination, intelligence and creativity need to radically evolve in order to ensure our survival. 

Photo credits:
Fredrik Lonnqvist
Nicky Kelvin

Sunday, December 7, 2014

"A note of inspiration."

"It occurred to me by intuition, and music was the driving force behind that intuition. My discovery was the result of musical perception." (When asked about his theory of relativity)—Albert Einstein (1879 - 1955) Theoretical physicist 

      A popular story circulating right now is the discovery of a digitized collection of Albert Einstein's essays and correspondences. One specific letter unveiled by astrobiologist, David Grinspoon was composed in November of 1911, addressed to chemist and two-time Nobel-Laureate, Marie Curie. Einstein's intent was to reassure Curie she was indeed a brilliant scientist, imploring her to ignore the ignorant comments of tiresome trolls who Einstein refers to as "reptiles". His encouraging words applied far beyond professional life. Marie Curie was being persecuted for having an affair with a student of her deceased husband Pierre, named Paul Langevin, who was estranged from his wife at the time. Due to the anti-Semitism of the day, Curie was doubly shunned for her associations.
     Einstein was a champion for the disenfranchised and the inspiration for thousands of scientists worldwide including the originator of quantum theory, Max Planck and theoretical physicist, David Bohm. He was the catalyst for millions of researchers and students around the world. So who was the muse for one of the greatest minds in human history? Einstein found his greatest motivation came from listening to and playing music. Genius to genius. His greatest inspiration--Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
     Einstein once revealed that while Beethoven created his music, Mozart's  "was so pure that it seemed to have been ever-present in the universe, waiting to be discovered by the master."   As in physics, it was noted Einstein believed beyond observations and theory lived the music of the pulsating cosmos, "pre-established harmony" enchanting us with the most stunning symmetries. Or simply put, Mozart seemed to pluck his music from the air as if plucking a heavenly harp that belonged to him all along. Learning to play violin at age 5, Einsteins affinity with Mozart began at the age of 13 and continued throughout his adulthood, even inspiring him through some of his darkest hours struggling at a patent office, enduring a difficult marriage and  his constant money troubles. So much more than physicist, Einstein was fully engaged in politics, an eccentric ahead of his time who supported women's rights and lobbied for equality. Einstein understood the beauty of E=MC2 as much as the beauty of harmony and melody. Music has a power to unite and inspire the most remarkable insights. His deep love for music was essential to his own perception of his life's journey.
   " Life without playing music is inconceivable for me,” he once said, “I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music… I get most joy in life out of music.”


Thursday, December 4, 2014

" Take my hand."

“In order to do anything about the suffering of the world we must have the strength to face it without turning away.”
― Sharon Salzberg,
A Heart as Wide as the World: Stories on the Path of Lovingkindness

          Empathy isn't New Age, feel good philosophy designed by pacifists or created by socially conscious "tree huggers".  Empathy isn't singing Kumbaya around a campfire or some sissified solution for anger management issues. Empathy requires more strength and courage than many of us will ever know yet is essential for our own survival. It seems we are in great deficit right now. The ability to understand and share the feelings of another human being allows us to resolve critical conflicts locally and internationally. Empathy isn't pity or condescending because when you practice empathy you are equal to another, not superior.

    Contemporary cognitive researchers often differentiate between two types of empathy: “Affective empathy”  or the sensations we feel in response to others’ emotions. These feelings can include mirroring what another person is feeling, or detecting when people are stressed, fearful or anxious. “Cognitive empathy,”  or “perspective taking,”  is our ability to understand or identify other peoples’ emotions. This also includes non-verbal clues such as identifying facial expressions and body movements. Studies suggest that people with autism spectrum disorders have a harder time expressing empathy. Scientist's have proven that animals have the ability to empathize with each other and humans. Sociopaths and narcissists on the other hand have almost no ability or desire to feel another persons emotions.

      Why is empathy so important? Think about this. Putting yourself in the "other person's shoes" or "seeing things through someone else's eyes." is the force that instills trust in our relationships. Have you ever loved someone so much you wanted to be able to experience every emotion they were feeling? You want their happiness and security as much as you want your own. The true measure of our empathy is how we treat human beings and especially animals who have no "use" or benefit to us. Considering the thoughts and feelings of others allows us to make intelligent and informed choices. Empathy is a difficult skill to exercise because it requires us to take a good hard honest look at our motives and closely examine our selfish behaviors. How do we recognize pain in others? How do we identify suffering? What is the root cause of their suffering? We have to imagine ourselves in the same situation. We have to be open and curious about the perceptions, thoughts and ideas of others. We have to ask questions. We need to know history, the stories of hope, fear, passion and dreams. Most importantly we have to listen without our own judgments. With awareness comes the motivation to take positive action. Actions that will heal lives rather than destroy them.