So much time, so little focus… Acedia – Our collective state of listlessness

“Acedia is sorrow so complete that the flesh prevails completely over the spirit. You don’t just turn your back on the world, you turn your back on God.”

Thomas Aquinas

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I sit staring at a blank page …  a blank screen with a blinking cursor. 

I’ve got nothing but time, but I can’t write.

I’ve spoken to so many people who have said similar things … with all this time, you’d think I could paint; with all this time, you’d think I’d have an amazing garden; with all this time, you’d think I could meditate, you’d think I could exercise …  there seems to be a collective state of listlessness.

Looking at the blank screen, and feeling an overwhelming need to not write … I did the next best thing, I searched to find out what this listless feeling might be. 

And lo and behold, I found it:

Acedia – the lost emotion we are feeling right now – a bodily listlessness and yawning hunger

In the midst of a pandemic, with movement and connection restricted, and with general anxiety heightened, the excitement of making sourdough bread has soured; Zoom ‘parties’ have lost their novelty  (although I am so grateful for this technology to keep me connected to family and friends that I cannot travel to see); Netflix can only release so many new series, (I find myself continuously asking my sons for recommendations for new things to watch). The news gets worse every day, yet I compulsively scroll through it, attracted to the evil that is trump, like craning my neck to see a train wreck. I desperately want to write, and yet I spend hours reading distressing articles about horrible politicians.

I open my laptop to write, but social media distracts me, scrolling through conspiracy theories and chaos; I have a pile of books that I really do want to read, and yet I pick up my phone and play Sudoku. I want to meditate more, but cannot stay focused; I am bored, listless, afraid and uncertain.

John Cassian, a monk and theologian, wrote in the early 5th century about an ancient Greek emotion called acedia. A mind “seized” by this emotion is “horrified at where he is, disgusted with his room … It does not allow him to stay still in his cell or to devote any effort to reading”. He feels ”such bodily listlessness and yawning hunger as though he were worn by a long journey or a prolonged fast … Next he glances about and sighs that no one is coming to see him. Constantly in and out of his cell, he looks at the sun as if it were too slow in setting.”

In Ancient Greece acedia originally meant indifference or carelessness along the lines of lack of care; although in modern times, when it is used, it tends to be more connected with depression.

But it was Mishka Shubaly, described as a bestselling author, cult songwriter, storyteller, and general smartass, who described it in a way that really resonated with me; and it made sense that I resonated so strongly with Shubaly’s description, he is a recovering addict and he spoke my language.

Searching for a better description of this rotting sadness, I came upon the concept of acedia. In Christian theology, it’s an antecedent to sloth, the least sexy of the seven deadly sins. Thomas Aquinas winnowed it down for me: acedia is sorrow so complete that the flesh prevails completely over the spirit. You don’t just turn your back on the world, you turn your back on God. You don’t care, and you don’t care that you don’t care.

You don’t care, and you don’t care that you don’t care … that just about summed it up for me.  So although I have not added any words to my book today, I have expanded my vocabulary with the word acedia; and I have acquainted myself with another inspiring recovering addict, so today has not been a loss … Now where is my phone, I think I have earned myself another game of Sudoku.

For those of you looking to find … perhaps not focus to cure the listlessness, but at least some calm amidst this chaos, I’ll leave you with this lovely video posted on PBS:

Transforming Health: Finding Calm in the Chaos

And if you still are looking for something else to do to try to overcome that listlessness, I will close with one of my favorite TED talks:

Anne Lamott tells us about the 12 truths she learned from life and writing. I’ve watched it several times recently, hoping to find inspiration to put words on a page…

I’d love to hear how you are dealing with this acedia. And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.

Well-Being in the Time of Coronavirus

“Nature spontaneously keeps us well. Do not resist her!”

— Henry David Thoreau

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We are being told to wash our hands, frequently; to cover our mouths when sneezing or coughing; and to practice social distancing. This is for the common good, and I support it completely and unflinchingly. We all have to protect those more vulnerable and at risk.

But not a lot is being said about how to support our own well-being in this time of Coronavirus. Reading good books and watching good films and TV series are absolutely on my list of things to do during this time of social distancing. But I am finding that walks in nature and on the beach have become even more crucial to me these days.

A dear friend of mine is staying with me at the moment. We read the news daily, well several times a day to be honest, and wring our hands and weep with helplessness and frustration. How can so many people have lost sight of the common good? And how can so many members of the current U.S. government be so selfish and greedy?

My friend says she finds solace sitting on my couch looking out my window at the big pohutukawa tree growing in my neighbor’s yard. She finds it soothing, and says it brings to her what she can only call a state of awe.

As we sit on the deck and look at the tree, I am reminded that nature heals.   According to Environmental Psychology: “Just a walk in the woods or a stroll by the beach on a sunny morning can awaken the innermost feelings of happiness and peace.”

In this time, where we are told to keep our social distance, we must be mindful of what author Richard Louv calls ‘Nature-Deficit Disorder’.

Nature-deficit disorder is not the presence of an anomaly in the brain; it is the loss of connection of humans to their natural environment. Staying close to nature improves physical, mental, and spiritual well-being. It makes us feel alive from the inside.

Research has shown that spending longer periods of time in nature has huge physical benefits. Some of these benefits include:

  • Optimum nervous system functions, well-balanced heart conditions, and reduced bowel disorders.
  • Reducing the chances of developing eyesight problems like hypermetropia and myopia.
  • Lower BMI; less fatigue and fewer chances of suffering from obesity.
  • Production of anti-cancer proteins and help in fighting terminal diseases.
  • Stronger immune system.

It has been repeatedly stated that we need to keep our immune system strong to fight Covid-19.

Other studies have shown that time in nature improves psychological well-being. This can include:

  • Significant mood improvement for all people, even those suffering from mild to major depressive disorders.
  • Reducing stress by lowering the stress hormone cortisol.

The level of stress and anxiety has skyrocketed since this virus was detected, so anything that offers stress reduction is a gift.

So even if you are doing all the right things – washing your hands frequently, covering your mouth when you sneeze or cough, and being vigilant in your social distancing, you can still take care of your well-being. The evidence is there. The studies have been done. Get out into nature!

As Frank Lloyd Wright so astutely said, “Study Nature, love Nature, stay close to Nature. It will never fail you.

I’d like to close with an inspiring TED Talk – Prescribing Nature for Health.

I’d love to hear how you are looking after your well-being in these challenging times. And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.

Surviving in the Age of Technical Overwhelm

“Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.”
– Desmond Tutu
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For those of you who missed my September Newsletter …

If you are not signed up to received my newsletter and are interested in being on my mailing list, just message me below, or email me at patti@thiswayupbook.com

Please keep reading to find out how to sign up for 2 really exciting upcoming online summits.

If you are interested in learning more about the next This Way Up Online Workshop, watch the video below. Or if you are ready to sign up, you can click here. I’d love to see you there!

Welcome to This Way Up!

Thank you for being part of this community! Keep reading for more information about dealing with A Crisis of the Heart and finding well-being; news about the upcoming This Way Up Online Interactive Workshop starting in October; and info about two upcoming events that you are invited to attend. You can always find me at ThisWayUpBook.com.

Dealing with A Crisis of the Heart and Finding Well-Being
Surviving in the age of technical overwhelm

“We have all known the long loneliness and we have learned that the only solution is love.”
~ Dorothy Day

There is a crisis of the heart impacting us at the moment. It’s showing up as depression, anxiety, and attention disorders. These are also symptomatic of a cognition crisis. Adam Gazzaley, PhD explains it as “a crisis at the core of what makes us human: the dynamic interplay between our brain and our environment—the ever-present cycle between how we perceive our surroundings, integrate this information, and act upon it.”

I explored this crisis in my recent article on Thrive Global.

The cause of this crisis is linked to the fact that we just cannot keep up with the rapid rise of technology and it is impacting our brains and our well-being. As Gazzaley put it: “Our brains simply have not kept pace with the dramatic and rapid changes in our environment—specifically the introduction and ubiquity of information technology.”

Some researchers explain that “the increasing complexity, speed, and multitasking of our modern environment has overtaken our capacities, and we live disconnected from our own self and from one another.” This disconnect from our self and from one another is perpetuating the crisis, and the crisis is spiralling out of control.

I discuss how Jack Kornfield describes reengaging the heart. There is hope! If you’re interested in reading more about this and watching Kornfield discuss wisdom, compassion and courage in uncertain times, visit patticlark.com.

It’s Here! This Way Up Is Now Available as an Audio Book!

This Way Up audiobook is now available for purchase! You can find it on Audible and Amazon and on iTunes. You can hear all about it here, along with a special invitation to get it for free!

Please let me know your thoughts if you listen to it. I’d love to hear from you.

This Way Up Online Interactive Live Workshops!

In May, I hosted the first This Way Up Interactive Live Workshop. There were ten women from four different countries taking part and it was amazing – exhilarating and uplifting! We explored many of the topics I write about in my book. But with the unity of sharing our common experience, it was so much richer than doing it alone.

Here’s what a few of the women said about the workshop:

“I really liked getting to know all the lovely ladies and the fact that we were all over the globe! And finding that other women have the same doubts and concerns about themselves that I do. It was fabulous! Keep me posted on next workshop, I want to share this.”
– Kathleen

“Thank you so much for the course. I really enjoyed it, as well as getting to know you and the group.”
– Shellan

“I enjoyed it all, but I think I enjoyed the interactive format the most. It was nice to feel the support and genuine caring from both you and the other participants. It was a very safe and supportive environment. It was very helpful to be guided through the visualizations directly, by someone I had built trust in. It was also helpful to hear the other participants’ experiences. It gave me hope, that doing the hard work and learning the tools will be worth it. I also enjoyed that we received helpful links after the session which enabled me to dive deeper into areas I wanted to work on. Your help was invaluable.”
– Stacy

Check out the video below to learn more about the workshop.

The next six-week series begins on Tuesday, 23 October at 5 p.m. PDT. The workshop series runs for six weeks: Tuesday, 23 Oct – Tuesday, 27 November.

Here is some information about the workshops:

If you want more information about the workshops, or you are interested in signing up for the next series of workshops, you can sign up here!

Upcoming Summits

You’re invited to this wonderful series:
Finding Yourself Master Class Series with the uplifting Clarissa Findlay
This event will launch on October 9.

You can sign up for this transformative Master Class here.

You are also invited to this fabulous summit:
The Unstoppable Artist Formula:
How to Claim Your Full Power as an Artist, Make Great Money, and Attract Your Perfect Audience
Hosted by the Incomparable Nikol Peterman

The Unstoppable Artist Formula launches October 29 and will run through November 8.

You can learn more about Nikol and the online event here.

Buy the Book!

“Author Patti Clark is a cross between Elizabeth Gilbert and Julia Cameron.”

This Way Up is a story of healing for women who yearn to lead a fuller life, accompanied by a workbook to help readers work through personal challenges, discover new inspiration, and harness their creative power. . .

Women spend so much of life nurturing and giving to others that when they find themselves alone—because of an empty nest, the end of a marriage, or the death of a partner—they often struggle with feeling purposeless. This Way Up provides a step-by-step way out of this sense of loss and into a life filled with enthusiasm, creativity, and joy.
Buy Online

Parting Words
“Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.”
~ Helen Keller

Thank you for being part of this movement. Watch this space for more in the months ahead.

Dealing with A Crisis of the Heart and Finding Well-Being

“We have all known the long loneliness and we have learned that the only solution is love.”
– Dorothy Day

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What can we do when loneliness, anxiety and depression take hold. We can hold on to hope.
I explored the Crisis of the Heart that is overtaking so many of us in my latest article on Thrive Global.

There is a crisis of the heart impacting us at the moment. It’s showing up as depression, anxiety, and attention disorders. These are also symptomatic of a cognition crisis. Adam Gazzaley, PhD explains it as:

“A crisis at the core of what makes us human: the dynamic interplay between our brain and our environment — the ever-present cycle between how we perceive our surroundings, integrate this information, and act upon it..”

The numbers of people suffering are staggering. In the United States, depression affects 16.2 million adults, and anxiety about 18.7 million. In New Zealand, it is estimated that one in five women suffers from depression, and about one in 10 men; with about one in six people suffering from anxiety.

Gazzaley describes a sharp increase in the number of teens impacted. American teens have experienced a 33% increase in depressive symptoms, with 31% more having died by suicide between 2010 and 2015. And in New Zealand, the percentage of 15- to 24-year-olds struggling with mental health has been steadily increasing, affecting

11.8 per cent in the past year. The estimated number of youth in NZ experiencing psychological distress has gone up from 58,000 to 79,000 in the past year. And tragically, NZ has the highest youth suicide rate among teenagers between 15 and 19 in the OECD.

What is causing this horrific increase, this crisis spiralling out of control? Grazzaley and many others argue that we just cannot keep up with the rapid rise of technology and it is impacting our brains and our well-being.

“Our brains simply have not kept pace with the dramatic and rapid changes in our environment — specifically the introduction and ubiquity of information technology.”

But it’s not only our brains that are impacted; it’s also affecting our emotions and our hearts. Jack Kornfield describes this crisis as:

Our Crisis of Heart.

“No marvellous technological developments alone  will stop continuing warfare, racism, environmental destruction, and global injustice. The source of these sufferings is in the human heart. Actions based on greed, hatred, disrespect, and ignorance inevitably lead to suffering.”

Gazzaley echoes this sentiment as he notes that “the increasing complexity, speed, and multitasking of our modern environment has overtaken our capacities, and we live disconnected from our own self and from one another.”

This disconnect from our self and from one another is perpetuating the crisis, and the crisis is spiralling out of control. So how do we get a handle on it, how do we deal with a crisis of the heart? Kornfield asks us to reengage the heart.

If actions based on greed, hatred, disrespect and ignorance lead to suffering, then it makes sense that actions based on their opposites — generosity, love, respect, and wisdom — lead to happiness and well-being.

Numerous studies have shown that there are ways to increase joy, compassion, peace, and gratitude. The benefits of mindfulness and compassion are well researched. The work of Richard Davidson, professor of psychology, is especially interesting. Davidson’s work at Center for Healthy Minds at UW Madison has shown that positive emotions such as loving kindness and compassion can be learned. This is great news; these positive emotions can be learned and nurtured to grow.

But the rapid rise of technology continues, and even as we work to hold on to the positive emotions that we are nurturing, the disconnect that Gazzaley described looms.

But there is hope. Kornfield is working with others to bring principles of heart and compassion into the field of technological development:

“Together with technology leaders, neuroscientists, and contemplatives, I have helped co-found something called the Open Source Compassion to bring principles of heart and compassion into all levels of technological development. We acknowledge that the capacities of modern technology are among the most potent of human creations. We are collaborating with companies and institutions around the world and beginning to formulate a kind of Hippocratic Oath for tech, which reads:

· We will not create technology that causes harm to humans and to life.
· If later we learn that it inadvertently does so, we will change it.
· We will strive to create technology that fosters human well-being and respect.
· We can create technology for profit, but not if it contravenes the first three principles.
· Working at all levels, we will act with professionalism and take these responsibilities as paramount.

Ultimately we must have hope; hope that there can be positive change and that love will prevail. Kornfield implores us:

Let these words be a reminder, a call.

Find your way to quiet yourself and tend your heart.

Promote love and spread the power of compassion in your work and in your community.

Have hope.

I’ll close with a wonderful video of Jack Kornfield entitled: ‘Wisdom, Compassion and Courage in Uncertain Times

I’d love to hear about how you deal with a crisis of the heart.
And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit. I appreciate it.