A message to me: Let It Be

let it be

let it be (Photo credit: paval hadzinski)

  Picked up the book “one minute mindfulness” by Donald Altman the other day while getting some necessities at the local drug store. I have read these kinds of books before, but I need a constant reminder of the things that the books claims to provide. It says that it has “50 simple ways to find peace, clarity, and new possibilities in a stressed-out world.”

   Well, who doesn’t want peace and clarity?

   Finding peace and clarity for me is an ongoing process. I get caught up in the everyday drama of trying sometimes just to get through the day.  Doesn’t sound like much fun does it? Sounds like existing instead of living as Oscar Wilde warned us (in the quote I posted yesterday):

“To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.” ~ Oscar Wilde

Books

Books (Photo credit: henry…)

So in my enduring attempts to seek peace and clarity I turn to books—my main source of comfort, and my teachers. I have learned over the years that anything that labels itself simple is anything but simple. I think books should be more honest and tell the truth—the ways they provide sound simple, but they are hard. It is hard to change but in recognizing this, it is less overwhelming to contemplate.

Today I am going to put Altman’s Exercise called “Let It Be” to work—at least in my psyche and hope it works its way out into the physical world. Here is his suggestion, number 29 in his field of 50:

“For one minute during the day, let go of one belief or behaviour that you typically cling to. If you always eat all the food on your plate, leave some and learn how to let it be. If you normally expect your partner to do something in a certain way, try to take on the task yourself or surrender to the way it is even if you don’t feel it’s as it should be. Let it be. Every day, let one more thing be, just for the fun of it.”

I do not always eat everything on my plate so it is the second half of his exercise I have to concentrate on: Let it be. Not as simple as it sounds. At all.

The Beatles sang that “Let it be” were words of wisdom—do you agree?

Setting the Bar Low

“Every man has one thing he can do better than anyone else and usually it is reading his own handwriting.” ~ G. Norman Cole

Tongue in cheek

Tongue in cheek (Photo credit: pcgn7)

On first reading, this quote made me smile. Then it made me think, as I am sure that is what it was meant to do, however tongue in cheek the wisdom may seem.

We do not seem to see our strengths but know all our weaknesses. Sometimes we bask in our failures. Marinate in what we deem our mediocrity and lack of success instead of seeing that success is in the eye of the beholder, but that eye is often much too critical.

I am not saying that we should be satisfied with just being able to read our own writing, I am saying it is a stepping stone–a metaphor for accepting ourselves and the fact that maybe we have something of value to say.

What do you think?

Published in: on June 28, 2013 at 9:50 am  Comments (38)  
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Life Is the Creative Act

Creativity

Creativity (Photo credit: Mediocre2010)

“If you’re alive you’re creative. We “reduce and  deflect” our creative selves in many ways. Life is the creative act, not the canvas or the blank  page.”            ~ Patti Digh, “Creative is a Verb”

I like to think of myself as artistic.  There is no real concrete proof of this, yet I keep trying to find my “artistic” self.  She seems to be playing a game of hide and seek with me that I have not yet won. I keep seeking, and while my artistic self is wily and still in hiding, I continue to try to coax her out into the open and tag her.  (Lest you worry – I do understand that tag and hide and seek are two different games). I used to love playing “frozen tag” where you would chase your prey and tag them and they had to stand in the spot where you tagged them frozen into place—that is what I want to do with my creative self: seek her, find her, and freeze her so she cannot get away.

The first step to being an artist is to realize that we are all creative beings. I like to think that my primary way of satisfying my creativity is in writing. But I would like to expand on that creativity to include other forms of inspired, inventive, and innovative methods of expressing myself, other than letting the dust settle on my furniture and doodling in the grime.

I particularly admire artists who can paint and draw or find other mediums to express themselves in a way that lends just that little bit more beauty to the world. Of late, I have been reading the book “Creative is a Verb” by Patti Digh, who believes that if we are alive we are creative. I love this all-inclusive definition of creativity. It gives me hope that someday I will produce something beautiful, but if not, then just the mere act of creativity is enough.

Digh includes a poem by Osho in the introduction to her book which I found inspiring:

When I say to be creative

I don’t mean

you should all go

and become great painters

and great poets.

I simply mean

let your life

be a painting

let your life be a poem.

Osho’s poem is inspiring, but so is Digh’s advice that we should fully own “that we are creative beings, whether we will ever call ourselves writers or artists” or pick up a pen, brush or camera, or show our art, sell it or “create something fantastically unique.” And I love this line: “What if we owned that making dinner was a fully creative act?” (My cooking, if nothing else is creative and sometimes edible.)

Apparently, we should not limit our definition of creativity, but instead—“Open up. See more, Live Deeper.” That is what Digh believes art is, creativity is, and life is.  So, even if I cannot draw something besides a stick figure that is recognizable, I am still creative. So there.

Extreme Optimism: An Extreme Sport

Is the glass half empty or half full? The pess...

Is the glass half empty or half full? The pessimist would pick half empty, while the optimist would choose half full. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Extreme optimists do not have their safefuards up and are unrealistic.” ~ Tali Sharot, author of  The Optimism Bias

The notion that holding low expectations will protect us from disappointments is known as defensive pessimism.  So saysTali Sharot, author of “The Optimism Bias”. She seems to know whereof she speaks as she has her doctorate in psychology and neuroscience. Smart girl.  But she has dashed one of my illusions quite abruptly with her statement. I always thought that if you did not expect much, then when you happened on a good thing, you appreciated it more. Apparently not.

Sharot says that having low expectations does not diminish the pain of failure and does not protect us against negative emotions when unwanted outcomes occur. So, I am giving up being a defensive pessimist. In the past I have called myself an optimistic pessimist, or a pessimistic optimist thinking I had everything covered. I hoped for the best, but was not surprised when it did not happen; at the same time I had doubts about the best happening, but hoped anyway. This can be very confusing—hence, my life (and quite possibly yours too.)

Sharot says that optimists are people who hold positive expectations of the future and expect to do well in life with all the accoutrements of that life: good relationships, a productive job, good health, and that illusive thing called happiness. (Illusive as everyone is happy in a different way, contrary to some schools of thought.) In other words, optimists have hope—but a hope that embraces their goals in such a way that they stay committed to them—which Sharot says makes reaching them “more likely to become a reality.”

Echoes of the Optimism Bias

Echoes of the Optimism Bias (Photo credit: jurvetson)

Her findings that pessimists die younger than optimists, and are more likely to “perish prematurely as a result of accidental or violent events, such as car crashes drowning, work accidents and homicide” have convinced me to give up my ‘glass half empty but hoping it will be full’ attitude. From here on in, my cup runneth over – full or not, I am going to hold a positive expectation that it will be full. BUT….there is always a but isn’t there (oh sorry, I am being defensively pessimistic again), Sharot believes we have to guard against being an extreme optimist.

Extreme optimists do not have their safeguards up and are unrealistic. They think they are going to live longer than others (hey, I call myself middle-aged—yet if I lived the same number of years I have currently under my belt, I would be giving Methuselah a run for his money); they do not sign prenuptial agreements (me neither);  they do not get frequent medical screenings (stupid, I know, but me again); and think they can complete a project in record time without considering the stuff that can get in the way of meeting their deadline (I used to do my weekly column the morning of my deadline day, which sometimes made it hard to complete when I got sick. Now I at least try to do it a few days ahead of time, hence—old dog: new trick).

So, I guess, in a way I am an extreme optimist as I always think, no matter how bad things are, that they are going to get better. Mind you, sometimes getting through some of the stuff we have to get through can be a bit of an empty glass situation at times—but hey, I still contend you cannot appreciate the good stuff without having the bad stuff to compare it to. But then again, there is no doctorate in psychology or neuroscience in my background—so what do I know?

Sharot’s finding are quite clinical. Life is not clinical—it has its ups and downs, and some sideways. My father-in-law had a favourite saying that I am just now beginning to understand: “It is a long road with no turning.” Sometimes it is a long road with no turning and we have to take the bumps as they are served up.

In the meantime, I am not going to label myself as it is all just a bit too bewildering, baffling and befuddling (as opposed to bewitched, bothered and bewildered). In this column I started out as a defensive pessimist, ran the gamut from pessimistic optimist to optimistic pessimist, then found traces of extreme optimism (which in some corners is called stupidity) in my personality. Methinks, I doth protest too much.