Pawsitively Tuesday-meaning and purpose

“The purpose of life is to discover your gift.
The work of life is to develop it.
The meaning of life is to give your gift away.”

David Viscott

 

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Do you think you are open-minded? Take this quiz

First of all,” he said, “if you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you’ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view … until you climb into his skin and walk around in it. 

– Atticus Finch, To Kill a Mockingbird.

As therapists we walked a fine line between trying to understand and sympathize with clients’ points of view while not taking on their pain.  It taught us to be open-minded.

When I took this short quiz I realized that open-minded is not just defined by “understanding” but can also be about taking action on behalf of others.

 

Here’s the quiz to find out where you stand. Score each answer using a 3 for “often,” a 2 for “sometimes,” or a 1 for “rarely.” Add them up and see where you rank.

  1. I like trying new things, such as foods, restaurants, music, and activities.
  2. I like traveling to places I have never been.
  3. I’m comfortable meeting new people.
  4. If my parent/child wanted to marry someone outside of our race I would be supportive
  5. I’m respectful of people of different cultures, genders, races, sexual orientation and religions.
  6. I’m comfortable if I am the only person of my race in a large gathering.
  7. If someone is being bullied, I speak up for them
  8. I  listen patiently to another’s viewpoint, even when I disagree
  9. When I hear gossip, I get the facts and make up my own mind before making a decision
  10. When I hear racist comments, or see racial injustice, I speak up
  11. I treat everyone with equal respect
  12. I learn about world events and believe we are all connected to some degree
  13. I am open to new ideas

Scoring:

39-33:  Congratulations! You are a world citizen, with an open mind.

32-26:  You try to keep an open mind, but might consider expanding your horizons.

25-13:  You might be closing yourself off too much from the rest of the world.

There are some studies that indicate open-minded people tend to be happier, more successful, and more charismatic than those who close themselves off or isolate.

 

This quiz and the six suggestions below came from a Baha’i blog that I  read to help me think . . . and rethink . . . about my place in the world, my beliefs and whether I am behaving in accord with spiritual tenants.

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Here are the author’s six suggestions:

1. Be more approachable

Being honest, vulnerable and authentic will facilitate more genuine and lasting friendships. Your body language can be an important factor, making you look closed off or open to others.” 

 

2. Let go of your preconceptions about other people and give them a chance

“We often surround ourselves with people like us, but there is a lot to gain from enlarging our social circle. Being respectful of others is the best way to receive it in return. 

3. See things from another perspective

“Walking in another person’s shoes helps to open our minds and makes us less likely to be critical. When we judge less, we are less likely to be judged.”

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4. Be more flexible and curious

“By being more flexible we trust that we can handle new situations. Being flexible and curious are perfect opportunities for growth.”

The measure of intelligence is the ability to change. – Albert Einstein

Be curious, not judgmental. – Walt Whitman

5. Be more trusting

“Human beings are all basically the same—in fact, we are far more alike than we are different. We share 99.9 % of our DNA. We all have insecurities, fears, talents and beauty. Focus on the positive in people and show them your best:”

 

O children of men! Know ye not why We created you all from the same dust? That no one should exalt himself over the other.  – Baha’u’llahThe Hidden Words, p. 20.

6. Don’t make snap judgements, especially when it comes to people

“According to Business Insider, people typically form a first impression within 7 seconds of meeting someone new. Therefore it takes a conscious, concerted effort to not judge hastily. Try to see each person or situation with unbiased eyes—without letting prejudice, superstition or tradition get in the way. Make your own decisions rather than listening to other’s opinions. Trust yourself once you have investigated for yourself.”

“… every individual member of humankind is exhorted and commanded to set aside superstitious beliefs, traditions and blind imitation of ancestral forms in religion and investigate reality for himself. Inasmuch as the fundamental reality is one, all religions and nations of the world will become one through investigation of reality.”  Abdu’l-BahaThe Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 433.

 

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The HeART of Chronic Conditions (including life)

Curious to the Max blog has been the place where I’ve shared more of my personal journey.  CATNIPblog has largely been dedicated to information Peggy & I have accumulated on emotional & physical health and happiness. (wealth we leave to those who have experienced it!)

Today, I clicked on the blog of a new subscriber, Savannah’s  One Mountain at a Time .  What she shared about her journey with Lupus resonated:

“Though mine is said by my doctor to not be life threatening, my immune system is prone to attacking my healthy joint tissues systemically . . .  pain comes whenever it feels like it. Flares come and go, as do my exhausted days. Describing the pain is difficult but when a flare happens or I’m in pain, it feels like bruises anywhere inside my body, and someone is either jabbing needles in them or pressing them for long periods of time. . . . I take medications and go for jogs. I live a normal, active life despite pain.”

judy’s visual journal

Like Savannah my diagnosis is not life threatening, only life altering. Unlike Savannah, who was diagnosed at 23, I was blessed in my first forty plus years with relatively good health.  In 1995 that changed for me with the diagnosis of fibromyalgia/chronic fatigue.  I admit it’s been a struggle trying to ignore, over-ride or giving in to the daily fatigue, pain and various other “irritants”.  The older I get the harder it’s been.  The best I can describe is feeling like a sandy beach being worn away by unrelenting waves and occasional pounding storms.

In public I look fine and only those who intimately know me would know if I were feeling exhausted, in pain or depressed.  When I’m feeling particularly bad no one knows as I shelter in place – stay home and lick my wounds.  Any contact, even a phone call, can feel overwhelming.

collage by judy

CATNIPblog has been my in-home companion:  A way to connect to the world and my incredibly understanding friends while expending minimal energy;  posts that remind me to eat better, be grateful, and most of all Peggy and her delightful drawings that make me smile.  

Savannah’s faith, above all, is what seems to sustain her.  Me too.  Even on my worst days my question is never “Why me?”.  I ask God for guidance, the wisdom to understand that guidance and the where-with-all to carry it out . . . one day at a time . . . sometimes one hour at a time.

judy’s visual journal

Personally and professionally I learned early on that each of us, in ways large and small, carry physical or emotional pain.  Each of us searches, longs for answers, respite and meaning.  Savannah has found meaning at an early stage in her life.  I salute her.

https://pourforpoverty.wordpress.com/

Pour for Poverty: Savannah makes bags filled with sustainable essentials that she feels serve a beneficial purpose for people living in poverty filled with clothing, food, and hygiene products, written letters, prayers, bible verses and love. She distributes to the poor throughout the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex and occasionally other cities when traveling.

“Be generous in prosperity, and thankful in adversity.

Be worthy of the trust of thy neighbor, and look upon him with a bright and friendly face.

Be a treasure to the poor, an admonisher to the rich, an answerer of the cry of the needy, a preserver of the sanctity of thy pledge.”

(Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 16, The Baha’i World Faith)

 

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Meditate with the Dalai Lama

Meditating is hard for me.  My monkey-mind jumps over and around what I’ve decided to focus on, climbs into places and spaces that have no bearing on anything  and swings from thought-branches I didn’t even know were there. 
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When I read this article written by Sanjay Gupta, MD and his invitation to meditate with the Dalai Lama himself I was a bit more reassured.  Here’s the part that caught my attention:  (jw)
“This is hard for me,” I said.
“Me, too!” he exclaimed. “After doing daily for 60 years, it is still hard.”
It was at once surprising and reassuring to hear him say this. The Dalai Lama, Buddhist monk and spiritual leader of Tibet, also has trouble meditating.”

‘”I think you will like analytical meditation,” he told me. Instead of focusing on a chosen object, as in single-point meditation, he suggested I think about a problem I was trying to solve, a topic I may have read about recently or one of the philosophical areas from the earlier sessions.”

“He wanted me to separate the problem or issue from everything else by placing it in a large, clear bubble. With my eyes closed, I thought of something nagging at me — something I couldn’t quite solve. As I placed the physical embodiment of this problem into the bubble, several things started to happen very naturally.”
“The problem was now directly in front of me, floating weightlessly. In my mind, I could rotate it, spin it or flip it upside-down. It was an exercise to develop hyper-focus.
Less intuitively, as the bubble was rising, it was also disentangling itself from any other attachments, such as subjective emotional considerations. I could visualize it, as the problem isolated itself, and came into a clear-eyed view.”
Too often, we allow unrelated emotional factors to blur the elegant and practical solutions right in front of us. It can be dispiriting and frustrating. Through analytical meditation, His Holiness told me, we can use logic and reason to more clearly identify the question at hand, separate it from irrelevant considerations, erase doubt and brightly illuminate the answers. It was simple and sensible. Most important, for me — it worked.”

Meditation for skeptics

“As a neuroscientist, I never expected that a Buddhist monk, even the Dalai Lama, would teach me how to better incorporate deduction and critical thinking to my life — but that is what happened.
It changed me. And I am better for it. I practice analytical meditation every day, usually early in the morning. The first two minutes are still the hardest, as I create my thought bubble and let it float above me. After that, I reach what can best be described as a “flow” state, in which 20 to 30 minutes pass easily.
I am more convinced than ever that even the most ardent skeptics could find success with analytical meditation.”
 
To read the entire article click here.

Pawsitively Tuesday – LIfe’s Lessons from Noah’s Ark

  1. Don’t miss the boat.

  2. Remember that we are all in the SAME boat.

  3. Plan ahead.  It wasn’t raining when Noah built the Ark.

  4. Stay fit.  When you’re 600 years old, someone may ask you to do something REALLY big.

  5. Don’t listen to critics; just get on with the job that needs to be done.

  6. Build your future on high ground.

  7. For safety sake, travel in pairs.

  8. Speed isn’t always an advantage.  The snails were on board with the cheetahs.

  9. When you’re stressed, float a while

  10. Remember, the Ark was built by amateurs; the Titanic by professionals.

  11. No matter the storm, when you are with God, there’s always a rainbow waiting.

However,

The woodpecker might have to go!

The HeART of Spirituality – Finding Balance

The unexamined life is not worth living – Socrates.

“One hour’s reflection is preferable to seventy years of pious worship”  

Baha’i World Faith

In several of the HeART workshops, held at Tapestry Unitarian, we’ve made collaged Contemplation Cards – if you’re familiar with tarot cards or vision boards these cards can be used in similar ways.  The power of the “home-made” cards is that you are not projecting your thoughts and feelings onto someone else images. All the images are your own and speak to you both consciously and unconsciously.  

The participants each made 2 cards – one that represents

spiritual balance and another that represents spiritual imbalance

Can you tell what each card represents?

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Here’s how to make your own Contemplation Cards and

How to use them

Materials:  Card stock or heavy paper such as bristol board or even large filing cards – approximately 8″ x 5″, glue sticks, scissors, magazines.

Focus on an attribute/theme or virtue (examples:  patience, honesty, love, compassion connection, detachment etc.)

  • Cut out images from magazines that catch your attention or appeal to you.    It’s often better not to think about it and trust that what you choose will inform you.  (In the workshop, to save time, I provide pre-cut images – LOTS of images to choose from.)
  • Cut away the background from the images. (Look at the images on the cards to see how the images have been cut out)
  • Arrange images on a card.  There is no right way – your intuition is your best guide – use some of your images, all of them or parts.
  • When you’re satisfied glue images down.
  • Write your focus on the back of the card.

How to use your Contemplation Cards:

In each of the options below pick one card, randomly or purposefully, on which to center your thoughts.

Using cards for Meditation or Prayer

  1. Sit in comfortable place where you won’t be disturbed
  2. Set a timer for 10 or 20 minutes
  3. Take in a few breaths to center yourself
  4. Lower your eyelids to soften your gaze
  5. Focus on an image(s) as you gaze at your card and let a virtue/feeling/word come to mind.
  6. You can also repeat a word, phrase or prayer that comes to mind (silently or out loud).
  7. When your mind wanders, and it will, simply bring it back and refocus on card.
  8. When the time is up you may wish to write down any thoughts, feelings or images that you experienced and/or answer the questions below.

Using cards for Contemplation or Journaling

  1. Sit in comfortable place where you won’t be disturbed
  2. Set a timer for 20 minutes
  3. Take in a few breaths to center yourself
  4. Focus on your card
  5. Write down phrases, words, images which spontaneously and intuitively come to mind or use the questions below as an entry into what you intuitively know.
  6. What meanings do the images hold for you today?

Jump-start questions to ask yourself or journal:

  • Are the images comforting, unsettling or puzzling? Why?
  • How did they inform your actions/behavior today, this week?
  • What was “sacred” today/in your life?
  • In what way were you blessed today/in your life by God (the universe, nature or fate)?

 Here are the wonderful ladies that participated in this HeART of Spirituality workshop and made amazing HeART.  

 

 

 

 

HeART of Spirituality – Healing

Once a month I facilitate a free, non-denominational HeART of Spirituality workshop. Tapestry Unitarian Congregation hosts it.  There’s a different theme each month.

For those of you who want to think about your own spirituality I’ll post the information and the exercises for you to do.  For those who just want a peek at the heART the participants create take a look!

judy

        *          *          *

Healing was the focus at this HeART of Spirituality workshop. 

The medium used was journaling.

Synopsis of the Introduction:

Physically, biologically anger and fear create a neurochemical cascade from the brain to the body triggering powerful stress responses. These two emotions interfere with physical healing and are incompatible with spiritual healing.  

When everything is going well we try to maintain the status quo (for good reason!).  To change, learn and grow we all need an impetus.  The most powerful stimuli for change and growth are when we face pain or fear.    

In Buddhism there’s a distinction between pain and suffering:  Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.  Suffering is based on our perception and emotional response.

Basic to Baha’i beliefs:

  • We learn how to develop God’s virtues through pain and earthly trials & tribulation.
  • God does not want us to suffer, He wants us to learn.
  • Suffering comes from our distorted perspective of spirituality and our ego needs.
  • Praying for “healing” is first and foremost for spiritual growth, not physical remedy.

My personal experience with fibromyalgia and my belief is that ultimately all healing – physical, emotional, situational,  is spiritual.

Indeed, scientific research shows that what we think and believe impacts our emotional and physical well-being.  The power of the placebo is a small example.

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First exercise – “Stacked Writing”

Stacked writing is a great way to keep things confidential and not have to hide your journal under the mattress.  You can spill your thoughts & feelings out on paper and no one (including you) will be able to read what you wrote.

Workshop Materials: I pasted colored tissue paper on large sheets of paper for the participants to write on.  These sheets were later turned into mini 8-page journals.

Your Materials:  A journal or just a piece of paper will do.  A black marker or pen. A timer

Instructions:

  1.  Write, print, scribble your thoughts and feelings all over the paper, continue writing, turning the paper in many directions (sideways, upside down) and writing on top of what you’ve written.   If your mind goes blank, keep scribbling until another thought pops in.
  2. Write for a minimum of 20 minutes, non-stop (make sure you have an easy flowing marker or pen).  Setting a timer is best so you don’t distract yourself or interrupt your writing.
  3. Focus on releasing the emotions of anger and fear.   Fill the page with sentences, phrases, words on top of each other so that what was written becomes indecipherable.

 

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Second exercise – “Found Poetry”  

Materials:  Newspapers, sheet of blank paper, (we used black construction paper but a journal or any paper will do) glue sticks, scissors.

Instructions:

  1. Focusing on the theme of “healing” cut out approximately 20 words & phrases from the newspaper.  Use your intuition, what catches your eye to choose what you cut out.
  2.  Arrange your words & phrases on a piece of paper, creating a free verse poem*.
  3. Paste your poem down when it “feels finished”.

*“Free verse is an open form of poetry. It does not use consistent meter patterns, rhyme, or any other musical pattern. Many poems composed in free verse thus tend to follow the rhythm of natural speech.” Wikipedia

Here are the participants Healing Poems.  Take a look!

Poetry, ideally, is meant to be recited out loud.  Get your moneys-worth and orate!

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