Grief and sadness fill the world. There is so much loss, disappointment and frustrated attempts that impact so many people that I have come to believe that these are not just feelings but real entities that have weight and even take on a form inside of us. One of the dangers of learning to feel deeply is how impacted you are by the feeling experience of others. The Buddhist name for this practice is tonglen, when you deliberately breathe in the grief, fear and sadness of others and allow it to transmute into peace inside you, breathing out love and compassion. I need more practice at this- turning our collective pain into peace.
Join Wendy while she works to master the art, study the science and discover the practice of positivity one day at a time. The growing body of scientific research in positive psychology proves without a doubt that shifting your thinking habits from negative to positive creates a thriving life. When you train yourself to remain open, curious and lean towards wonder, surprise, gratitude and occasional moments of awe, the way you see your life changes the life itself.
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I was in the courtyard yesterday after a long break. This is a space that I have been working on for close to three years now, transforming it into a welcoming, reflective space where kids can go and get a breath and remember themselves and their potential. The efforts were inspired by a series of tragic events, most specifically, the deaths of two students at the coast. They were swept into the ocean and drowned in front of their friends. The horror and grief of this event rocked our community and inspired us to create a permanent space to celebrate life.
I am building this renewed writing practice as an extension of my ongoing mediation focus on learning to deeply feel my body. Each morning I bridge the dream world with a guided meditation deep into the felt sense of living inside myself. Breath work is foundational in every meditative practice, because it is the one autonomic function that is also at our command. Just learning how to pay attention to air moving in and out of the body slows the mind, and with time and practice pulls you into a quiet rhythm in your belly.
Jim took his life on Friday evening. The last time I saw him, I was at his newest restaurant with my son Luke for a late lunch. He was there and spent time talking to us, about old times on the soccer team where Luke and his son, Henry played together for many years. We talked about their respective plans for college and he shared more about how he plans menus for his new restaurants. His restaurants had been favorite eating places since we moved here over a decade earlier. I had spent many hours by the side of a soccer pitch, getting to know his three younger daughters and throwing around the occasional conversation about growing a business in our small community. Jim was one of the few people with whom I looked forward to sharing my stories of my growing business. That late fall afternoon, he seemed calmer and more available than ever before.
I have a very old Rhodesian Ridgeback for a companion. She is 12-years-old and can still break out on an impressive run when we walk. But when she sleeps, she shudders and her breathing is raggedy. Ridgebacks are smart- some books suggest that they are as smart as a four-year-old child. I know that Coco knows things and that her anxious looks as I walk out the door without her are real. I have always taken my dogs with me to work. They have been the mascots at my office and in some quiet ways have built the bridges between people.
It was four years ago at the New Year that I began my Positivity Quest, which became this daily blog for three of those years. At the same time, I also started a daily meditation practice, regular exercise routines and a high school club. Writing it all down during those years taught me what I knew. Picking away at words, writing and scrapping sentences, reorganizing paragraphs until I fell asleep, fingers on the key board, was the Masters program of everything I was trying to learn in the positivity practice.
It has been four years since I began my Positivity Quest in Hawaii. Back here for a quick week, staying with my family who is much grown up over the last several years, has given me pause to reflect on how this work of positivity has transformed me and my life.
First, I think it is important to reflect on the inner work of positivity that began with a prolonged and, at times, desperate attempt to extricate negative thinking from not only how I speak, but how I think. Early on, I instituted a wrist band method, which was to act as a physical sign to interrupt the habitual negative thoughts. What I learned and have witnessed over and over again in myself and others is that negativity is so sticky because it is so familiar. Most of the trash thinking that haunts us has been swimming through our brains day after day for as long as we can remember. Stopping negative thoughts is like breaking a smoking habit you didn’t know you had. Still, it is doable. For me it took the better part of 4 months of vigilant attention, which really isn’t bad in reversing 48 years of negative thought patterns.
This week I am bowing down to the body. Our body condition is our first reality and the one that supersedes everything else. I am reminded of this as I work on our new Positive Community Cures project which trains teens to make organic food for acutely sick people. We have a woman on our staff who has, in her 20s, struggled with cancer. We are bringing food to another woman in her 20s who has lymphoma. One third of everyone you know will have cancer in their lifetime.
I have never believed in waiting for the right time. Maybe it is my comfort with chaos or the fact that I have never encountered a moment when everything is how I thought it would be, but mostly I think its because I have seen too many people not go for what they wanted because they were waiting for the right time to do it. So on this note, I was just informed that my turn has come up on a waiting list for a puppy.
Rare are the true healers, doctors who are not only skilled in their craft, but generous with their attention. Jerome Hobbs was a studied and skilled acupuncturist and naturopath; but it was his gentle manner, easy laugh and abiding curiosity that made his patients well. I was blessed to be one of his long time patients seeing him at least monthly over ten years. I can still close my eyes and hear the calming symphonies piped into the treatment rooms, feel the soft washed flannel gowns and the warmth of the infrared heat lamps. My memories of those healing hours are so vivid because it was one of the few spaces of my lifetime that I felt so fully attended. From the moment the door swung open, and his familiar smile accompanied by the question, “What should we work on today?” His attention was undivided and he listened deeply not only to the energetic pulses in my body, but equally to the layers of story that held them, as he placed needles or offered his strong hands in one of the bodywork therapies that were second nature to him.