I am not sure if it is a primarily Western mentality that presumes that life will be easy and as an extension it will require little effort. In fact, we belittle work as an encumbrance, instead of recognizing it for the value it brings to who we become as people. This phenomenon is true in many places in life, but none so much as in the world of relating. For some odd reason, we have collectively never identified or taught the truth about the significant work involved in relating to each other. In both work and personal relationships, we are continuously shocked that relating successfully requires so much attention, patience and resilience.
Archive for the 'Positivity Quest' Category
It’s hard to believe, but this weekend the New York Times confirmed the news: More work time does not equal more productivity. In fact, taking regular naps, breaking up work time into shorter intervals and recharging your body and brain with real getaways is the long studied answer to increased productivity. This conclusion flies in the face of all of our beliefs about the hard work we have long been instructed as the requirement to get ahead.
It is only recently that I have given in to the need to rest. For me, there is no choice. My mind seems to shrink in proportion with my fatigue and I have given up the idea that there is anything to push through. So now I rest, I meditate, I doze and when I come back twenty minutes or even 40 minutes later, my ideas have collected themselves. I am fresh, my mind is clear, my thoughts are directed and I can complete the task in half the time that I had been struggling through the marsh of my tired mind.
I remember many years ago when I was deep into the juggling mothering phase of life with my four kids. Back then, I was the only driver and their lives were filled up with games, lessons and play dates. Sometimes I would wake in the early morning, anxiously trying to figure out how I could cross town and get 2 kids where they needed to go within the same hour. One of my oldest friends who was going through menopause at the time, called and shared with me her frustration with managing the details of life. She said, “I can’t even take care of a houseplant.” I couldn’t imagine this space in the midst of my multi-tasking, mind mapping kid chauffeur service.
When we feel broken inside, everything around us seems broken, too. The sense of being not enough- good enough, capable enough, kind enough, or loving enough, pervades every interaction. Judgments and storylines that uphold them are easy to grab onto, easier still to invent. In a ridiculous attempt to heal we chase the story like an animal chasing its own tail. We spin out of control the harder we try to make sense of the world outside of us.
Blind positivity is not really that positive. In fact, if there is any single overarching confusion about how positivity science works, it is in the mistaken belief that one should hold positive beliefs all the time, even when things are painful and challenging. This kind of positivity is related closely to the magical thinking that is promoted by trainers who psyche you up to walk on hot coals. The recent film “The Secret” works positivity in this vein as well, that thoughts are magical and just by saying them and repeating them you will get your wish granted.
I am trying to learn how to stop feeling my children’s feelings. Today at the end of a challenging basketball game, which our side lost, I was working vigilantly to bear witness to my daughter’s frustration without feeling it. When I mentioned that I was trying to stop feeling my daughter’s feelings to another mother, she said: “Good luck- let me know how that works for you…” I am not alone in this strange space, of allowing what other people feel to saturate you. It is a strange zone- this intense emotional sharing that happens in intimate connections.
To a large extent we are what we do every day. To an even larger extent, the human experience is a habitual one. This is why it isn’t that surprising that for the majority of us, even our thoughts are habitual. I have read that as much as 95% of our some 60,000 thoughts that fill our minds and shape the way we see the world are the same thoughts we had yesterday and the day before that. It takes a lot of energy and attention to think outside the box, especially our own box. Yet, most of us don’t even realize how stuck we are in old useless thought patterns that don’t serve us and even keep us from living the life we say we want.
Today I had the privilege of teaching a class called Achieving Social Justice Through Positivity Consciousness at our local high school’s Respect Day where a group of local community and spiritual leaders offer workshops. I was invited because of the Positive Change Club. The principle wasn’t sure about the link between positivity consciousness and social justice, so I reconfigured the workshop to demonstrate how all great social movements arise out of the potential that is unleashed when we strive to be our best selves. Cornel West wrote: “Social Justice is what love looks like in public.”
My stomach was so upset last night it wouldn’t rest. So it went with the rest of me. Food feels like a foreign substance, and even my beloved juice doesn’t quite taste right. Now it is time to learn what my belly has been grumbling and burping about for so long. Why is it that we learn to live with our discomfort so well that it takes a near emergency to get us to pay attention?
“What should young people do with their lives today? Many things, obviously. But the most daring thing is to create stable communities in which the terrible disease of loneliness can be cured.” -Kurt Vonnegut
Community is one of the values of living in America that has been shortchanged in our digital revolution. It’s demise began as our historic family structures have become dismantled as part of the no-fault divorce era. This destruction of our intimate units, where fewer meals are prepared and shared together and more kids are left alone for longer periods of time, has been mirrored in the traditional places where we have exchanged small talk and created neighborhoods. As our daily physical connections to each other have waned in favor of our virtual connectivity we have become confused even about what it feels like to belong to something larger than ourselves.