Giving Perspective to Our Suffering

Upon reading the Art of Happiness, there have been many points of enlightenment I have been able to take away and apply to my own life. Yesterday, I did not experience a very positive day at work and overall. I found myself ranting about some people who I feel had wronged me, being stuck in situations I can ultimately change, etc. In the moment, I was not so aware of these trivial “sufferings” I allowed to shift the energy of my day until I transitioned perspective. There is an idea in the book, the name of the meditation escapes me now, but it is essentially an exercise to visualize the sufferings of another person. Perhaps this is someone without a home, plagued with a terminal illness, or abused by the society in which they live. The Dali Lama encourages us to visualize and feel the suffering of these people in order to give perspective to your own suffering.

My visualization had specifically been that of a young girl living in a third-world country. She lives in, not a home, but a tent without running water or plumbing, having no access to professional opportunity for herself, or even in the least, sanitary working conditions. This visualization made me feel shamed and ungrateful for the life I live and the woes of this day which had irked me. To make a trade in my suffering for hers, would I yearn for what I deem my current “suffering?!” Of course. In fact, this young girl probably wishes she had the problems I had. I live in a safe community and sanitary conditions, in the least. I have a roof over my head, a bed to sleep in, an education and job to allow me to be finically well and able.

Ultimately, I found this practice to be beneficial today, specifically, to begin a new day on a more positive and reflective note. Where is that girl right now, I wonder? Is she sitting comfortably at a desk job, writing a blog post she has time to peacefully write, garbed in clean and sleek clothing? I doubt it.

So, whatever may bother you today, meditate on the sufferings of another bring perspective to our own lives.

Question: If You Were To Invite Three People to Dinner Who Would They Be? – Alive or Dead

Upon recent conversation with my significant other, we had discussed the three people (alive or dead) we would want to invite over as a dinner guest. I’m sure throughout life these choices have changed and will change, as if it were a lifetime- long game of musical chairs. Currently, off the top of my head, at this time of in life, I have selected—Barbara Corcoran, Brene Brown, and Oprah (though, originally chose Tupac Shakur for somewhat similar reason).

Although it seems like a strange pairing of people, I feel each of them add a unique perspective given their life work and experiences.

Barbara Corcoran is a notable real estate businesswomen and investor on the popularized show, Shark Tank. My own real estate interest aside, Barbara Corcoran’s mindset, creativity and street-smarts is what is most admirable. Her success story tells a tale of a fellow Jersey girl from modest beginnings rise above challenge and build a real estate empire through her creative wits and lessons from her mother. This crediting to her mother has been especially interesting, paralleling the manner in which her mother raised Barbara and her 10 siblings with her own future business achievements. One story in Barbara’s memoir, Shark Tales, which stood out to me had been her mother’s ability to single-handedly get all of her children washed and clothed in assembly-line fashion. The efficiency of her parenting presented the impression that being a parent was her business and she treated it as so. Furthermore, as someone whose mother is also a great motivator in my life, I take to this accrediting on a sentimental note as well.

One Question to Ask: Being someone who is very much an action-taker, what would be your advice to someone who is alternatively learning and preparing for action but is struggling to make the leap? What can they do to begin closing that gap between learning and taking action?

 

Brene Brown is an American research psychologist and story-teller. I am a newer follower of Brene Brown, having listened to my first book of hers, The Power of Vulnerability, a few months ago, but have followed her work quite diligently thereafter. Brown’s psychology focus is in that of shame and vulnerability. Such topics are definitely a hard listen, but Brown makes light of much of these topics through her own personal stories and kind-hearted nature in her delivery. It is important to have Brene Brown at the dinner table because of how much of an impact her work has had on truly becoming more comfortable with myself, my past and my relationships. Her work has allowed me to forgive myself for not being perfect and, conversely, and somewhat ironically, soak into the opportunities that come with imperfection. Her good-natured delivery has allowed me to laugh off things that have brought me worry and feel more normal in feeling a certain way by exposing the folly of us human beings in believing it’s “just me” or “I’m the only one” feeling this way. It’s not just us.

One Question to Ask: What do you do when you feel you are taking something too seriously?

 

Oprah is an American journalist, media-mogul, businesswomen and motivator. In reflecting on why I would want Oprah to be at my dinner table, I think back to the book report I did on her in the 5th grade. It shook me. The trauma and tragedy Oprah had endured herself at a similar age was something I could barely read about and she had to experience it. Through all of the abuse and loss she experienced as a child, she grew up to now be one of the most influential and wealthy women of our time. What she was able to achieve in her life, never discouraged by her failures, is a testament to her mental strength. Furthermore, I have always been fascinated by the way Oprah conduct an interview, from the linguistic quality of the questions she asks to her genuine engagement with her guests. As a writing creative myself, it is interesting to dissect the reasons behind the pairing of words, and how Oprah has been a master of this to intentionally prompt her guests to share intimate experiences. This is a masterful craft, not a skill that can be executed by just anyone. Oprah has made such word-play her expertise, just as a musical artist does so similarly to prompt listeners’ emotions.

One Question to Ask: How can we ask better quality questions to enhance our connections with one another?

 

Ask yourself this question! Who would you invite

Embracing “Fluidity” and Feeling Connection

I’m not sure others share in this experience, but there are many times I have interactions with people and cannot help but observe them—the way they talk, listen and present their ideas. These intriguing people are who I can only best describe as having a sense of “fluidity” in the way they are. Some characteristics of people with this “fluidity” are open, attentive, curious, shameless, spontaneous, and non-judgmental, to name a few that come to mind. I observe these individuals from the perspective of a student, yearning to adapt this more fluid way of being in my everyday interactions.

All of us, myself included, can be guilty of having our minds drift during conversation with a colleague, worry about a friendship or family matter in the middle of an experience that should be wonderful, truly not listening to someone who is close to you because we are distracted, ashamed to voice a more raw version of an opinion because we feel humiliated in its potential inappropriateness…

These sort of actions are indicative of not living our life with fluidity, something that seems to come so naturally for some and not for others. I have learned overtime that much of this hindrance comes from insecurity and shame.

Insecurity and shame are the feelings that have us retract from our real and natural self to adapt to environments and social circles in fear of turning others off or not fitting in. On the other hand, people who present themselves in this fluid way appear, conversely, to be secure and shameless, free of worry or care for the thoughts and opinions of others. As a result, they often seem to experience connection more easily. Now, whether or not that is true of them, I am not sure, but the more I am exposed to people I at least perceive to be this way, the more I am inspired to work on letting go of my shame and insecurities to live a more fluid life, regardless.

The one thing that does give me hope that the fluidity in these individuals is genuine, is the look in their eyes. I don’t know exactly how to explain it but the look in their eye is that of a portal, as if I can see right through their pupil with no wall blocking our connection. All of us are guilty of unconsciously stunting connection at times with small actions such as holding back texts you want to send, letting the mind adrift during conversation or responding with what your audience wants to hear rather than your own opinion in an effort to feel more accepted. Ironically, acting in this less-fluid manner has us feel less connected, more insecure, more self-conscious, and in turn… Still not feeling accepted.

I encourage us all to embrace the actions of the “fluid” by truly listening to one another, be genuinely curious of one another, act on intuition, say what you want to say when you want to say it, don’t hold back opinions and be more courageous to disagree (one I personally must work on the most). We are only forced to be ourselves this way and we have no choice but to prompt more connection.

Can Any Form of Focus Be Considered Meditation?

As I lobbed the hackie sack back and forth between each hand, I felt focused. I had been focused on having the hackie sack land into each hand to ensure it did not drop. During this time people have been passing and conversations had been occurring in the distance, but I did not see or hear anything. All I saw was the focus of the ball and my two hands as if my eyes were a camera adjusting the aperture for a clear focus on the hackie sack and blurring the background imagery. My focus was not on time, for it was not on anything but the present moment.

After the conclusion of this brief 3-5 minute focus (some might call it a distraction. To each their own), I realize the feeling in my head and the focus that it ensued was no different than the feeling of focus traditional meditation provides. Meditation encourages all of us to recognize the present, for our minds not to wander. People may paint a generalized image of meditation of one sitting in a quiet room, legs crossed, and eyes closed as waterfall sounds play in the background. This is a perspection of traditional mediation practice of focus on the breath and single-focus.

So, am I suggesting this time of play, throwing a hackie sack diligently from palm to palm could be considered a form of meditation? Yes, I am.

I then began to think of all of the moments in my life when I have felt a similar focus. What I had concluded were moments when I am working out, studying, reading, or writing. The similarities between these activities is the discipline to have a single-focus. Most of the time, when we are truly engaged in such tasks, we do not notice time or distractions. When we are focusing on one current task, our mind IS single focused and is not wandering. We are present.

I often hear of people struggling to maintain the discipline of meditation (myself included), and I think this revelation for myself, at least, has relieved the pressure to find time to practice a 10 minute breathing exercise, and rather encourage me to find an opportunity to meditate in many different ways in my everyday life. By recognizing new forms of meditation, perhaps we can all do a better job in taking advantage of opportunities to be present.

So,

Indulge in that new book you bought

Write a blog post to share with your audience

Free write in your journal

Let’s get creative about meditation and find new ways to engross ourselves in the moment.

The Correlation Between Creativity and Vulnerability

It was interesting to watch an interview with Donald Glover (also known as Childish Gambino), who seems to be trending heavily right now, Issa Rae and other writers who were speaking about creativity and how they have cultivated their creative expression. What I found to be the most intriguing had been all of their mention of the correlation between creativity and vulnerability!

Much of the conversation revolved around the writing of their shows and movies, and how improvisational acting was completely different. They spoke about how improv acting is completely raw so it requires a NEED to be vulnerable or you will fail.

When you think about what improv is, it makes sense. Improvisational acting is unscripted, and instead, actors work off of the unanticipated dialogue between other actors and their energies. As Glover expressed, to be creative and succeed in improv, you need to be vulnerable and not think about how you look, how you should, act or what you should say. Rather, you need to get into a space where the mind is free to accept and work off of the energies of those performing with you.

He speaks of the writing he does for Atlanta, where he encourages many of his actors to perform improvisational scenes. He claims he provides two scenarios for the actors to work off of, and come time for the scene he encourages them to spontaneously choose to take the scene in one direction or another to create an unexpected need for improvising with the other participating actors.

As a result, Glover believes this vulnerability, this freedom to be expressive forced by the unanticipated conditions of a situation and the accepting of one another’s’ energies, creates for a more real and interesting portrayal of a scene. Issa Rae had then expressed she does something similar in her show, Insecure, which I happen to be a watcher of, so it makes a lot of sense when I found out that improv is also a critical component in her narrative. Much of the conversations, expressions and situations in the show seem so free-flowing and real-life, and it is because oftentimes they are.

Understanding the correlation between creativity and vulnerability sent me into one of those rabbit-hole thoughts, I so often mentioned. I thought about how such a high percentage of us with creative talent, and I do believe everyone has some sort of creativity within them, end up never expressing our talent because we refuse to be vulnerable. School teaches us to be invulnerable, to acquire a degree, leading us in a direction of obtaining a stable job and following all of the rules to lead a “secure” life.

Essentially, this conditioning is killing creativity everywhere. We doubt our talents and our capabilities. We not only want a parachute when we jump out of the plane, but we also need it to land exactly 100 yards away from our house or we don’t want to do it at all. As a result of this conditioning, we hide our vulnerabilities and, in turn, our creativity, some of which will be hidden away forever for no one to see… EVER.

If you are willing to be vulnerable, perhaps you will be able to discover a creativity you never believed to be there or perhaps it will give you the courage to express the creativity you always knew you had. I don’t think its matter of who is and who is not creative, it who is willing to be vulnerable enough to express new ideas and show themselves to others who will probably judge them. Many of us, myself included, rather not most of the time. But, let’s break though this conditioning and get creative! Woo!

#WhenIWas15

In honor of LinkedIn’s apparent 15th birthday, the site is trending #WhenIWas15 to encourage members to post what they wanted to be when they were 15. Reflecting on my teenage years, I remember myself to be someone not all that much different from who I am today. Still, my career aspirations changed drastically throughout the years, so it is fun to think about.

At 15 years old, I remember loving chemistry, of all things to be interested, considering someone who is now heavily interested in reading, writing and real estate. I remember taking my first chemistry class and believing I would grow up to be a researcher doing who knows what. This aspiration soon died and converted into a desire to be a nutritionist. Even today, I can see myself having pursued a career in nutrition, since I love to learn about new ways to improve my health. I had dismissed the idea after learning of the long road and low salary of the average nutritionist but that should not have discouraged me. At the time salary seemed like the most important thing to consider.

I have learned a thing or two about choosing a career 10 years later (wow, it has been that long since I’m 15, huh?) and I would give this advice to my 15 yr. old self had I known.

  1. You don’t have to know what you want at 15, going into college, during OR THEREAFTER OR EVER… Continue to shamelessly explore your interests
  2. Do not choose a career path based on Glassdoor salaries
  3. More education does not necessarily equal more pay or more opportunities
  4. Networking is the most important thing you can do when exploring careers and finding mentors
  5. Do not be afraid to change your mind. It is never too late.
  6. Always strive to learn something new everyday

Feel Like a Kid Again!

I never really noticed how little time I have spent around kids in recent years. Now that I have been spending more and more time around children, it might sounds strange, but I have learned so much. I see the way children express themselves and I am envious of their innate ability to be so present, free from thought and shamelessly expressive.

I see the way children tell their parents “I love you,” their grandma, “I miss you,” how they dance like no one is watching, express excitement that you can FEEL beaming from their eyes. It’s so beautiful, unplanned and unrehearsed. It is merely their instinctual emotion.

This is what it would be like if we were all able to be present, thought-less and shameless. Our thoughts and conditioning can hold us back from so much, it hinders the ability to express these instinctual emotions. As adults we rather torture ourselves and question our emotions, rather than act on them. We question whether we look ok, whether we said that right or what we should say next.

A child just does. That’s it. They are not yet consumed by the stress and conditioning the world brings them up in. They just are. Again, beautiful.

With this, how can we not trust a child? When a child tells us they love us or misses us, we have to take their word. They are not thinking about their expression being the “right thing to say,” “what they should say,” and they definitely had not been thinking, “Yeah, next I should tell them I miss and love them.” No! A child is present and acts in the present. They enjoy moments, which adults often take for granted because of the conditioning adults have experienced throughout their lives.

Children cannot help but be vulnerable but they do not see it as vulnerability. They see it rather as play, joy, fun. So, I encourage all of us to learn a thing or two from these children and act as they do. Embrace these moments free from thought, worry and shame and we can feel like a kid again.