From Overcoming Adversity
Ten TEDTalks to Change Your Life (for the better)
Here are 10 TEDTalks to change your life, per a request from Grandview Heights staff who took the Mindful Growth course with me last week.
#1- Kelly McGonical, “The Upside of Stress” – McGonical shares how the way we view stress changes the physiological repercussions that stress has for us.
#2- Brene Brown, “The Power of Vulnerability” – Brown discusses her research on the “whole-hearted” and how their ability to be vulnerable also allows them to be courageous.
#3- Brene Brown, “Listening to Shame” – Brown talks about the inverse of vulnerability and how shame keeps us from connecting with others.
#4- Matt Killingsworth, “Want to be Happy? Stay in the Moment” – Killingsworth shares his research on how “mind wandering” keeps us from being happy; his study is the largest on happiness to date.
#5- Carol Dweck, “The Power of Yet” – Dweck explains how mindset shapes our ability to grow.
#6- Angela Lee Duckworth, “Grit: The Power of Perseverance” – Duckworth describes the key to success in any field (grit) and why we should bring it into schools.
#7- David Steindl-Rast, “Want to be Happy? Be Grateful” – Steindl-Rast describes gratitude as the root of happiness, not a product of happiness.
#8- Julian Treasure, “Five Ways to Listen Better” – Treasure gives a quick, informative talk on the value of silence and listening.
#9- Amy Cuddy, “Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are” – Cuddy explains how a two-minute practice can give you more confidence and change the ways others see you and the ways you see yourself.
#10- Larry Schwartz, “Nature. Beauty. Gratitude.” – Videographer Schwartz presents the video on gratitude narrated by David Steindl-Rast along with his other time-lapse nature images.
Mindfulness- A Super Power: Q and A with Grandview Heights
I spent some time today with the staff from Grandview Heights City Schools exploring mindfulness practice. In session one, we explored informal mindfulness practice (otherwise known as living mindfully in daily life). In session two, we explored formal mindfulness practice (sometimes known as meditation).
We started out with a difficult prompt:
Have you ever done something because of an overwhelming emotion that you later came to regret? What were the effects on you? What were the effects on the people around you?
We then watched this excellent (and funny) short video “Why Mindfulness is a Super Power: An Animation” featuring the voice of ABC news correspondent and author of 10% happier.
In case you don’t know Dan Harris’s story of finding mindfulness, here is a five-minute video of his story. In short, he had a panic attack on national television that prompted a reevaluation of his life, and he has become a self proclaimed “evangelist” for mindfulness practice since that time.
Here is the Q and A from the sessions:
“What Would You Do Even If You Failed?”: Risk and Vulnerability
“What would you do even if you failed?” These words from Elizabeth Gilbert guided my time with a group of teachers, coaches and administrators with whom I have been working for the last couple of months. This particular class session was focused on risk and vulnerability.
I’ll begin with a story that I shared with the teachers about how I got started teaching mindfulness.
In the winter of 2015, I was contacted by a woman whom I respect and love. She wanted me to write a chapter for a book written for teacher and by teachers. The content and format was totally up to me.
At the time, I was in a major life transition. I knew I was going to be leaving my job, but I had no idea what I was sending myself into afterward. The only piece in place so far was that I would be starting a counseling program through Methodist Theological School of Ohio (where I am now a student).
During this huge life transition, I had begun a number of practice that had helped me. One of them was mindfulness. Honestly, without my formal meditation practice, I don’t know how I would have stayed grounded through all of the experience. (To read more about my personal mindfulness journey, you can click here; this is actually the beginning of the book chapter that I wrote).
“Marriage is Not a Love Affair”: The Shadow Side of Committing
This was the worst moment:
After telling the kids we are going on a date night, Jamey and I sit in our car staring out at the Olentangy River glistening in the dark. I am trying to hand him a very long letter; he doesn’t want to take it.
He reads part of the first page and crumples the papers in his hand, “I can’t read this. You are making the worst mistake of you life.”
The letter tells him I want a divorce.
This was another bad moment:
A week before, I sit in another parking lot, this time by myself. I am in the middle of panic attack. My head might explode, so I hold it between my knees and try to remember my meditative practice. My hands are shaking. I felt like I might be going crazy. I feel like I might die. How am I going to do this, and why? How did it come to this?
I need to get out. I need to breath. I just want it all to be over.
This was the antecedent to these other two very bad moments:
I am sitting in my therapist’s office and I am telling her: “I feel very clear about this. Things are not changing. My feelings are not changing. I have to make a change.”
“Sounds like you know what you need to do. Our next appointment is in two weeks. Why don’t you tell him before we meet next? You are ready.”
Marriage is one of the most profound and deeply complicated commitments one can make. I believe firmly that regardless of who you are, it is impossible to know and comprehend the truth of it until many years into the experience.
Before I go to into what I mean by this, what I think I have learned after a decade of marriage, I think its important to tell part of our story, my husband’s and mine.
“Is this Hell or Enlightenment?”: Ten Days of Silence in Pecatonica, Illinois Continued
The following will be my attempt to summarize my ten days of silence at the Vipassana Center in Illinois. If you want to get the gist on what Vipassana is before you read it (which I would recommend), check out this post. It has some of the rules, guidelines and a little about the ideology- all good background for what I experienced.
In my program, I am required to take multiple courses on drugs and addictions. Last semester I took a chemical dependency course where I was required to write a paper about popular street drugs. One drug I chose was Ayahuasca. Why? Because people I knew who didn’t use drugs were talking about this substance and seemed interested. This was strange. Here is my opening paragraph from the paper:
“If there was a chance to experience [improved] healing and wholeness in the matter of twenty-four hours, but the path to reach that end goal was going through hell, would it be a temptation? This is not [only] a figurative hell of bad emotional places, but a literal hell of demons battling and slithering serpents, a replaying the worst experiences of one’s life, a sweating, panting, heart pounding experience complete with nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. For most people, this particular path would probably not be a temptation, which is why the drug Ayahuasca will probably never enter main stream society as anything other than a subversive and interesting sub-culture fad. However, [according to some] for those who are willing to venture into the dangerous and terrifying possibilities inherent in using the drug, there is the possibility of a renewed self and an extended spiritual experience- a calculated risk not without serious dangers and consequences.”
This drug was not, and is not, a temptation for me, so I want to make it clear that I do not advocate for the drug nor am I a user. This being said, I had no idea that Vipassana would be, for me, the closest I could ever get to this experience without taking a mind-altering substance.
Welcoming Our Worst Selves
I have written previous posts about unconditional love, including the love of self. It is a popular topic on the blog because it is so inherent in human nature, at least in our society, to love with conditions, a.k.a., “When I accomplish this, then I will be worthy” or “When I behave in this way, that is when I am deserving.”
When the good times are rolling, it is easier to be self-congratulatory or pleased with the results we have garnered through our hard work. There is nothing wrong with this, but it is not love. Not if when the bad times roll in, we can’t still accept our selves whole-heartedly, forgive, and say “you are enough, even now.”
I am, briefly, having one of the latter moments- a time when my worst self is out on display. Despite all of the hard work in self-acceptance and careful introspection, I find it is easy to slide down that slippery slope of “What’s wrong with you?” in these type of moments (occassionally at least).
Student Empowerment: Goal Setting and Grit in the Classroom
Mind tools describes the acronym SMART goals in the following way:
I like that there are multiple interpretations of these categories according to this definition. For example, in any context, goals that are significant, meaningful and rewarding are factors that should be considered if one is going to take the time to plan and reflect on a new practice or strategy.
A few weeks ago, I worked with Laura Garber in the classroom on a lesson where she wanted students to explore grit as a way to meet meaningful SMART goals. The lesson had the following learning targets:
Transformation Through Art: Mindful Creativity Connections
This week I worked with students in the Mosaic program with Kim Leddy and Steve Shapiro. We wanted to provide students with an introduction to mindfulness and mindful creativity while also introducing the themes of transformation, identity and change.
Before I came into the classroom, Kim and Steve had used a variation on this mindfulness lesson (originally for teachers and staff) to introduce neuroplasticity and mindfulness to students. In the lesson, they also had students write metaphors for their brains. Student responses ranged from “a runaway train” to “Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory.”
This lesson prepared students by providing opportunities to think about what their brain is like now, and what they might want it to be like in the future with the understanding that they can make changes with focused attention. It was a great lead in to some creative, messy work.
Personal Transformation: A Post-Traumatic Growth Story
“Only to the extent that we expose ourselves over and over to annihilation can that which is indestructible be found in us.”
-Pema Chodron, When Things Fall Apart
There are times in life when a choice is made to “expose ourselves to annihilation” as Pema Chodron states. We make a choice to let go of a relationship that no longer works, to be vulnerable with someone we love, to expose a secret we have worked hard to keep, or to let go of a job in order to move into a next phase of life.
There are as many other times, however, when it takes no bravery at all to fall past the cusp of difficulty into the darkness of total annihilation. We have made no choice, and yet everything is different, harder, worse, and it seems it may be that way always.