Finding Purpose

“The purpose of human life is to serve, and to show compassion and the will to help others.”

― Albert Schweitzer

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Almost 60 years old, and most of my friends and I still talk about finding our calling, finding life’s purpose. What are we truly meant to do?

Dave Isay, founder of StoryCorps explains:

“Finding your calling — it’s not passive. When people have found their calling, they’ve made tough decisions and sacrifices in order to do the work they were meant to do.  In other words, you don’t just “find” your calling — you have to fight for it. And it’s worth the fight. People who’ve found their calling have a fire about them,”

Isay has listened to thousands of people tell their story and describe fighting to find their purpose.  He describes his amazing work with StoryCorps in this great TED Talk – Everyone Around You Has a Story the World Needs to Hear:

 

A wonderful article in Daily Good elaborates on Isay’s findings by outlining the 7 lessons Isay describes in his new book:  “Callings: The Purpose and Passion of Work.”

I love this first Lesson:

1. Your calling is at the intersection of a Venn diagram of three things: doing something you’re good at, feeling appreciated, and believing your work is making people’s lives better.

 

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That diagram shows the ‘sweet spot’ – intersecting three things: Doing something you are good at; intersecting with the knowledge that you are making people’s lives better – service; and feeling appreciated for this work.  This idea mirrors Albert Schweitzer’s quote:

“The purpose of human life is to serve, and to show compassion and the will to help others.”

Your calling takes courage and doesn’t always pay well. But we know it when we are doing it.  We get in the flow; we feel good about ourselves and our work; time flies; and although the pay check may not be great, we keep doing it because we know it is right for us.

So I think it’s quite fitting to close with this video entitled: How to Know Your Life’s Purpose in 5 Minutes!  After all, at almost 60 many of us are running out of time!

I’d love to hear if you’ve found your life’s purpose and how you found it.  And as always, thank you for taking the time to visit.  I appreciate it.

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Creative Positive Reframing

“Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers.”
― Voltaire

Creative Positive Reframing:  Taking limiting beliefs and creatively transforming them so that they become supportive rather than destructive.

This is what I am calling the process that I outline in my book – This Way Up.  So today, the second of August, 2016, I’m letting all of my readers know that Creative Positive Reframing is now *named! (*kinda trademarked, if you will)

The process involves several steps, but one of the central points is the use of questions. We are often advised to use affirmations when we are trying to rid ourselves of a bad habit or in getting out of a negative thought spiral. And it’s a wonderful, helpful tool. However, sometimes if we are using affirmations that do not feel real to us, our brain rejects it, and challenges us on it. For example, if I am struggling to save enough money to buy a car, and I say to myself, ‘I am wealthy and have plenty of money for a new car’, my head will say, ‘that’s not true’ – and then my brain will work to prove that I am wrong.  Affirmations sometimes work brilliantly, but sometimes they don’t; and if they don’t seem to be working on certain problems, there is a body of research that shows that the use of questions instead of affirmations works very effectively. Questions spark the brain’s tendency to work to solve problems. Ask a question and your brain will toil to find an answer, so that your brain is working with you, instead of against you.

I read a great article in Daily Good the other day called Living by Questions.  In it, poet Jane Hirshfield explains:

To ask a good question is a way to carabiner yourself to intimacy, a doorknob that turns only one direction, toward open. A good question can send you on a long journey in rain and cold. It can terrify, bringing you straight into your own fears, whether of heights or of loss or of all the mysteries that never go away—our own vulnerability, the heart’s utter exposure, the capriciousness and fragility of events, of relationships, of existence.

In times of darkness and direness, a good question can become a safety rope between you and your own sense of selfhood: A person who asks a question is not wholly undone by events. She is there to face them, to meet them. If you’re asking a question, you still believe in a future. And in times that are placid and easy, a good question is a preventive against sleepwalking, a way to keep present the awakening question that’s under all other questions: “What else, what more?”

What a stunning description, so, well, poetic!

I will go into more deteail about Creative Positive Reframing in future posts. But for now, I’d like to close with a TED talk – ‘How to Ask Good Questions.’

 

I’d love to hear what you think about the name I’ve chosen for my process – ‘Creative Positive Reframing.’ And any thoughts you have about the use of questions.  And as always thanks for stopping by, I appreciate it.

Being Too Busy

“Beware the barrenness of a busy life.”
― Socrates

Busy – So damned busy!  It seems like everyone I speak to  recently is saying the same thing. Too damned busy. Argggghhh! The way it manifests for me is that I feel chaos in my brain.  I feel like there isn’t enough room in my brain for everything that I need to keep track of. I keep telling people that I wish I had that little tool that Dumbledore used in Harry Potter, the pensieve. Well not the pensieve itself, which is the shallow stone or metal basin used to review memories; but instead the tool, the little crochet hook thing itself that Dumbledore uses to take the thoughts and memories out of his head. He explains:

I use the Pensieve. One simply siphons the excess thoughts from one’s mind, pours them into the basin, and examines them at one’s leisure. It becomes easier to spot patterns and links.

I’m not as concerned with the patterns and links, but mostly just to extract the excess chaos out of my head!

With this in mind, I was touched by the latest article in Daily Good: The Disease of Being Busy.

How did we get so busy that we no longer have time for each other? What happened to a world in which we can sit with the people we love so much and have slow conversations about the state of our heart and soul, conversations that slowly unfold, conversations with pregnant pauses and silences that we are in no rush to fill?

This disease of being “busy” (and let’s call it what it is, the dis-ease of being busy, when we are never at ease) is spiritually destructive to our health and wellbeing. It saps our ability to be fully present with those we love the most in our families, and keeps us from forming the kind of community that we all so desperately crave.

I love the way the writer, Omid Safi,  explains about haal

In many Muslim cultures, when you want to ask them how they’re doing, you ask: in Arabic, Kayf haal-ik? or, in Persian, Haal-e shomaa chetoreh? How is your haal?

What is this haal that you inquire about? It is the transient state of one’s heart. In reality, we ask, “How is your heart doing at this very moment, at this breath?” When I ask, “How are you?” that is really what I want to know.

I am not asking how many items are on your to-do list, nor asking how many items are in your inbox. I want to know how your heart is doing, at this very moment. Tell me. Tell me your heart is joyous, tell me your heart is aching, tell me your heart is sad, tell me your heart craves a human touch. Examine your own heart, explore your soul, and then tell me something about your heart and your soul.

I want to remember this the next time someone asks me how I am doing. I do not want to go into a litany about how insanely busy I am these days. I will try to remember to answer from a place of how my heart is doing at that very moment. And when I ask people about how they are, I will hope they can tell me something about their own heart and soul.

But is there anything that we can do to avoid this avalance of busyness?  In this short video –  I feel too busy! How can we get out of this busyness trap? Oliver Burkeman gives us some ideas.  The one that resonated with me is to make sure that we choose what’s important, and to schedule time for the stuff that fills us up instead of continuing to do what depletes us.

It will never all get done, so until I find that elusive pensieve tool, I shall endeavor to make time for the things I love and choose what’s important!

 

 

I’d love to hear how you avoid the busyness trap. And as always thanks for stopping by, I appreciate it.

 

Living a happier life

“Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.”

– Dalai Lama


Happiness seems to be the ultimate goal for so many of us, but the question always comes up, HOW?  How can I live a happier life?  I get asked this question in workshops and by friends when I talk (sometimes ad nauseum!) about living a happier life.  So I did some research about how to answer this basic question.

On one of my favorite website, Daily Good, there was a post recently by Action For Happiness. Action for Happiness outlines the 10 Keys to Happier Living.

These keys are simplified by the Acronym: GREAT DREAM

Giving – Do things for others;

Relating – Connect with People

Exercising – Take care of your body

Appreciating – Notice the world around you

Trying-out – Keep learning new things

Direction – Have goals to look forward to

Resilience – Find ways to bounce back

Emotion – Take a positive approach

Acceptance – Be comfortable with who you are

Meaning – Be a part of something bigger

For each of these ten keys –  there is information, questions, resources and a range of suggested actions to help you apply them in your daily life. It is well worth exploring this wonderful site!

Interestingly, as I researched this more, I was taken back in history, to about 300 BC, to the work for a man called Epicurus.  As an aside, I was quite drawn to his name, interestingly, because on the Enneagram, I am a Type 7 – The Epicure or The Enthusiast.  If you are not familiar with The Enneagram, it’s a model of human personality, which divides personality into 9 Types.  I slot quite well into Type 7 – I’m a planner and I have a need to be happy!

In the healthy state, the need to be happy induces Type Sevens to explore the world and genuinely appreciate what they find. They derive great happiness as a result, thus their need is satisfied and a balance is reached.

At the healthiest level: Assimilate experiences in depth, making them deeply grateful and appreciative for what they have. Become awed by the simple wonders of life: joyous and ecstatic. Intimations of spiritual reality, of the boundless goodness of life.

Of course there is the unhealthy, obsessive side to this as well.

In the unhealthy state, the basic fear of being being deprived can cause Type Sevens to numbly seek new and different sensations and adventures without truly appreciating the experience. This means they will derive little happiness from all the highs, which further increases Sevens’ feeling of emptiness and basic fear of being deprived. The cycle continues to build up.

Type 7s also have a history of debauchery and addiction . . .

Desperate to quell their anxieties, Type Sevens can be impulsive and infantile: do not know when to stop. Addictions and excess take their toll: debauched, depraved, dissipated escapists, offensive and abusive.

But that is another story!  I digress . . .

Back to Epicurus.  At the heart of Epicurus’s Philosophy is a simple thought – that we aren’t very good at knowing what will make us happy.  He boiled happiness down to three basic ingredients:

  1. Friends
  2. Freedom/Self-Sufficiency
  3. An Analyzed life

The 10 Keys and Epicurus echo each other in many areas – the main one being that we need friends and connection.  And they both reflect the Dalai Lama’s sentiment that Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.

I want to close with Epicurus On Happiness, well worth the 20 minutes to watch and to help answer the question How Can I Live a Happier Life?

 

I’d love to hear about your thoughts on Epicurus and his philosophy of happinss, and how you live a happier life.  And as always, thank you for stopping by, I appreciate it.

 

 

The Power of Music

“After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music.”

– Aldous Huxley


My friend Tam sent me a beautiful video recently about the power of music.  It brought tears to my eyes.  I was thinking about it yesterday during a Creative Empowerment Workshop that Deb and I were running – I looked around watching the participants do their art, all listening to music.  Many were listening to the music that we supply, softly playing in the background; a few others had their own music playing on their ipods, but everywhere I looked people were immersed in some sort of music.  Near the end of the workshop, one participant said: “I really like the music you play during the workshop, I feel calm when I listen to it.”

Friedrich Nietzsche once said: “Without music, life would be a mistake.”  Too harsh perhaps?  But reading this article in one of my favorite blogs, Daily Good, I am moved to see Nietzsche point.  The article describes music “bridging life and death.”  It is an interview with the woman who founded  The Threshold Choir, Kate Munger.  In the article Munger describes the beginning of The Threshold Choir.

“In November of 1990 I was invited to spend a day with a friend of mine who was dying of HIV Aids. He was comatose, but very agitated.  I sat down by his bedside and didn’t know what to do. I waited and waited. All I knew to do, to calm myself, was to sing. So I sang one song and I sang it for two hours. I sang it over and over again. I watched his breathing slow, and he got much calmer. And I got much calmer, because it was a song that was really soothing to me personally. So as I got comfortable, he got comfortable and at the end of the experience I felt like I’d touched something very deep.”

Attached is the video that Tam emailed to me.  A lovely representation of the power of music.

Please let me know your thoughts on this video, and I’d love to hear any stories you have about the Power of Music in your life.

And as always thank you for taking the time to visit, I appreciate it.

A Moment of Silence

“A moment of silence, please, for the lost art of shutting up.”

– Neil Genzlinger (American Playwrite)


I belong to a wonderful book club!  The No Guilt Book Club.  We go along to the group each month and have a glass of wine, or don’t; talk about books we’ve read, or haven’t; share some books, or don’t.  No Guilt, No Rules!  It’s fantastic!

Last night at book club, my friend Anne talked about the time she spent at Thich Nhat Hanh‘s Retreat Centre, Plum Village.  She explained that everytime a bell rang, a phone rang or any alarm sounded, everyone would take a moment to stop, be silent and mindful.  Imagine that, instead of rushing and hurrying everytime we hear a phone ring or an alarm sound to take just a split second and use that as a reminder to be silent and mindful.  When I asked her if she continued it after she left, Anne laughed and said no.  Of course not!  Who has time?  We are all so busy, who has time to take a moment to be silent every time a bell rings?

When I got home from book group last night, I got my newsletter from Daily Good.  In the email, there was a link for Fred Rogers’ (of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood) acceptance speech for his Emmy for the Lifetime Achievement Award.  Now don’t get me wrong, Mr. Rogers Neighborhood was never my all time favorite show, however I found this speech very moving.  He asked the audience to remember the people who had loved them into being.  What a wonderful way to put, to think about the people who have loved us into being.  He then asked the audience to take ten seconds of silence to think of the people who helped them become who they are.  It was very moving in that grand auditorium at the Emmy Awards, with everyone dressed in their finest to take a moment of  silence.  There were tears and a lot of emotion.

I don’t fool myself into thinking I will pause and be mindful every time I hear a bell in the future; but I am going to try to be silent for at least a moment every day – and to just breathe and just be, and perhaps think of the people who loved me into being.

Please take a moment to watch this speech by Mr. Rogers, and perhaps take a moment of silence to think of the people who loved you into being.

 

 

Please let me know your thoughts on this speech, and any methods you use to remind yourself to be mindful.

And as always thank you for taking the time to visit, I appreciate it.