Yum Yuckers and Balloon Bursters

Wanted to share this excerpt from the Living in 120 square feet blog that was posted by Laura LaVoie on August 28, 2013:

“At an event not too long ago I was showing photos of our house when someone exclaimed, “Oh, how ugly! Why would you decorate your house in green?”

Most of the the time I just smile and move on but this time I looked at them and said, “Because I like green. If you don’t like green that’s fine. If you build your own house you don’t have to use any green.”

I was kind of surprised when they were taken aback. “Did that comment offend you?” they asked. Well, yes, it did. What purpose does it serve to tell me that the thing I like is bad?

Let’s recognize these differences and focus on the things we do share. Let’s all make a conscious effort not to yuck anyone else’s yum.”

For thirteen years I worked in adult day care and activity programming. I worked with a team of fabulous women who brought their love, enthusiasm, and half the contents of their home to work every day in order to put on a program for our day program attendee’s. It was our way of helping them remember, reminisce, and stay connected to life. Sue, one of the activity leaders, had just returned from the beach and was really excited to do a summer program on going to the beach. She brought in a beach chair, towels, sand bucket and shovel, and her fabulous collection of sea shells for the residents to touch. At the end of the program, as she was helping Frank (a program attendee often frozen with Parkinson’s disease), get ready to go home. She asked Frank, “Did you enjoy the seashells?” Frank answered, “I don’t care so much about seashells, but it was your enthusiasm on the subject that I really enjoyed.”

Do the stories above offer any insights?

Live for the Applause

angel 2012“I live for the Applause!” Sings Lady Gaga in her new hit “Applause”. Well, so do I; both given and received. To be applauded or recognized is a gift to be taken in. And yet, so many of us push away recognition or compliments by saying things such as “oh, it was nothing.” A response such as this is not accepting the gift that someone just gave you.

In the song, “Given To” (from the album titled “Given To” by Ruth Bebermeyer,1978), the lyrics speak to the gift of giving and receiving compliments:

To receive with grace
may be the greatest giving.
There’s no way I can separate the two.
When you give to me
I give to you my receiving.
When you take from me, I feel so given to.

Angel, a beautiful mona guenon, is our monkey teacher in Chapter 9: Feeling Important (Monkey Business: 37 Better Business Practices Learned Through Monkeys). It is rare, but occasionally a baby will reject its own mother, as in the case of Angel. This brought great psychological distress to the mother. Angel had to be removed from her and fed and reared by human hands. She came to Frisky’s Wildlife and Primate Sanctuary when she was quite young. Colleen Layton Robbins, her surrogate human mother, says that even as an adult, Angel is uncomfortable with touch. But that doesn’t mean she doesn’t enjoy interaction and attention. She eats it up! When she receives the gift of our attention, we, at Frisky’s, feel so given to.

My offering in this chapter and in this blog is to practice the gift of giving and receiving compliments and recognition this week. A fun exercise for the workplace may be to give the 6th or 7th person to walk into the conference room for a staff meeting a standing ovation—just for being them!

Two Minds: Which one needs the batteries replaced?

I can still hear the verse and see the gestures that went along with it to embed the concept of Large Mind vs. Small Mind, being recited by John Sullivan and classmates at the Tai Sophia Institute in Laurel, MD.

“There are two ways to look at anything” (as we held up two fingers on each hand and raised them in the air).
“A small minded way” (as we made a small circle with our thumbs and pointer fingers)
“And a LARGE minded way” (moving our hands apart to gesture a larger circle and raising our arms up a bit to signify a rise in consciousness).
“Choose LARGE mind!” (Here, we stuck our pointer fingers up in the air and shook our fists).

The Two Minds:
Small mind—young, immature, ordinary, everyday mind. When we are complaining, criticizing, oppositional, thinking about faults, shortcomings, obstacles, etc.. we are in small mind.
Large Mind—wise, transcendent, global, mature mind. When we are operating from awareness, mindfulness, possibility thinking, accountable, responsible, etc.. we are in Large mind.

Recently I came across a post on a message board which said this person (the one posting) was about to go on a cruise with a group of friends and one of the stops would be St. Petersburg, Russia. The question was asked by the poster, “Can anyone give me one good reason why I should bother getting off the boat in St. Petersburg? I would rather just stay on the boat or pass it by”. And, to my absolute amazement, another person agreed and said they would also just stay on the ship because they had no interest at all in St. Petersburg.
As one or two others gave some ideas for interesting things to see there, the poster came up with remarks that shot down their ideas. Wow! I found myself going into small mind around that post and even being judgmental. I chose not to comment.

Any of us can go back and forth between the two minds. I invite you to notice today, with me, if you are in small mind or in Large mind at any given moment and notice how it feels in your mind and body as you shift from one to the other.

The Success Template

Leadership with HeartI find myself drawn to titles that have numbers in them, such as “3 Surefire Ways to ______________” or “Top 7 Ways to ___________________”. I click on them expecting that this is the article that will clearly reveal to me what I have not yet discovered–the simple template for success! About 80% of the time, it is nothing new. I am either already doing it or I am finding myself resistant to what the article suggests.

This weekend past, I was enrolled in an enriching workshop out at Great Strides horse farm in Damascus, MD. The workshop, Adventures in Awareness: Leadership with Heart was led by Barbara Rector, who for four decades has traveled the world training professionals in her unique process for what horses have to teach humans: in life skills of self responsibility, clear communication, effective listening, congruent behavior, and heart centered teamwork.

And this is what I learned through our amazing teamwork with horses–there is no template for success! By no means do I mean that success was not reached in our teams. Indeed it was. The roles/positions that our team chose in each activity shifted from exercise to exercise. This all depended on what the horse felt was right. If our energies were off, the horse could read that and would stop until we had found the proper spots to walk with our team through an obstacle course. Through very little conversation and resistance, our team was able to feel the team energy and make the needed adjustments for forward moving in order to reach our goal. I have goose bumps as I recall what took place.

As Rosamund and Benjamin Zander teach in their brilliant book The Art of Possibility , leadership can take place from any chair. It did not mean that the person in the front of the horse was the team leader, it was just the role that the horse agreed felt right for this assignment.

So I reconsider how I look at the articles that I hung on to as “success templates” and now realize that they are offerings. Success is really in the energy that one is giving off and receiving at any given moment.

Dr. Who? Dr. You! Your Collaborative Role

For the past few weeks, I have been doing a three minute mindfulness reading each morning from Jon Kabat-Zinn’s book Mindfulness for Beginners: reclaiming the present moment and your life. Wow! This mornings reading resonated a little more deeply for me and initiated action.

“There are vast public debates about how to pay for health care, but what the “care” itself consists of, or even what constitutes robust health and how it can be maintained and restored, often receives far less scrutiny and even less action.

Under such circumstances, it is only wise to take on a degree of responsibility for one’s own health and well-being. In fact, this kind of personal engagement in one’s own health is an essential element of the new vision of medicine and health care, a much more participatory model in which the patient plays an important collaborative role in mobilizing his or her interior resources for healing to whatever degree possible” (p49).

I am no stranger to efforts at self care for body, mind, and spirit. But a public initiative has come to my attention lately that prompted me to be able to reach others in my county in a bigger way. This morning I filled out an application to be a provider in the Healthy Howard program. Healthy Howard is an initiative that’s unique to Maryland and the region. They bring together all facets of the community to create a public health model that can improve the health and well being of every resident. And this includes organizations and companies offering health, fitness, and mindfulness programs to their employees.

Let’s stay motivated to optimize our own health and well being! Are you with me? Just take one step this week.

Beer Vending Machines at Work?

drunk_monkey cartoonOn June 25, 2013, The Wall Street Journal ran the following article on drinking in the workplace.
More Offices Offer Workers Alcohol
I must say I had an immediate reaction to this as my husband read the headline and first couple of lines aloud. Having lived for two years in the United Arab Emirates, where you had to obtain an alcohol permit to even be able to purchase alcohol and drink it in your own home, this was a stretch for me. And, as I remind myself that my company name is Another Way To See It, I ask you, dear readers, to offer your thoughts. Perhaps I am missing something altogether. Could this be the new better business practice?

I am pretty certain that if I were to drink a beer or two with my monkey friends at Frisky’s Wildlife and Primate Sanctuary, things would get pretty wild! Keep in mind that the macaque monkey shares a sequenced genome that is 93% the same as humans. The rhesus macaque has 21 pairs of chromosomes and humans have 23 pairs of chromosomes. We’re not so different. I’m just sayin…

How to “Ass”ess Whether or Not a Client is Right for YOU

I was recently at a networking luncheon where there was a panel of speakers on the topic of “Letting Go of Perfect: The key to Success”. I was eager to hear what the panelists had to say. With certain things, I have a tendency to try so hard to hold on to perfect, that I overwhelm myself. I took notes as one panelist said she has realized that it is easier to specialize than to try and serve everybody. Once she let go of trying to serve everybody, she became more successful. She now carefully chooses those clients that she wants to work with.

At the end of the event and before heading onto the beltway, I headed to the ladies room. It seems that several others had the same idea—and so the networking continued in line. It so happens that the panelist, who shared her wisdom earlier, was in line in front of me. I thanked her for the business advice that she had shared. I could tell she hadn’t really taken in my gratitude by the way she shrugged her shoulders and by the hand gesture she made, as if to say “oh, this old thing!” “No, Really!” I responded. “I tend to take on all clients even though I may not want to, so you made me think about that.”

But how she responded to that was the REAL gem! She giggled and said “If I get off the phone with someone and can’t help but say ‘ASSHOLE’ after I hang up, then I know this is not someone I am willing to work with. Lol–this client assessment method is one I’m going to consider.

Is Upset Optional?

IMG_9912 Isadora storm 2010Upset is Optional. This is a practice that sounds easy, but is not necessarily simple. It takes enlightenment (in Buddhism, a state that is marked by the absence of suffering or desire) to be free from upset all the time. But with mindful practice, we can shift from being victims of our emotions to being managers of our emotions. When we take a moment to just notice when upset is arising in our body, and then do nothing but just observe this emotion, we are more likely to be responsive to the upset, rather than reactionary. The 13th century Persian poet, known to westerners as Rumi, states that when we take some time to welcome each emotion as a guest in our house (mind/body), it will feel listened to and leave sooner, having felt observed, noticed. We don’t have to react when the upset arrives. Just observe it. “Oh, hello anger, I know you are here. How fascinating that you have arrived here and now” I say to myself when I am in mindful practice. This gives me some time to be a manager and not a victim of my emotions.

Founder of On Purpose Networking for Women, Ginny Robertson, shared a story recently, where she was able to practice “Upset is Optional” and make the shift from being reactionary to being responsive. She had just spent several minutes sharing some thoughts with her husband, feeling the wonderful gift of having just been listened to and hoping, maybe for some validation. A moment later, her husband asked the question that she had just spent several minutes answering. She felt upset arising and noticed she wanted to say, “Don’t you ever listen to me?! I just told you what I was feeling!!” But before she reacted, she remembered that her new practice was to be more heart centered in her response to life. So she simply repeated the answer. No blame, no story, no victimhood. Mindfulness in action indeed.

In Chapter 13 (Guests) of Monkey Business: 37 Better Business Practices Learned Through Monkeys, my lovely monkey friend, Isadora, is able to transform her upset quickly and offers a teaching to readers.

Duck, Duck, Human

Every Sunday morning, I get in my car and head down to the Quality Inn and Suites in Laurel, MD to attend the Science of Mind service at the Center for Spiritual Living-Laurel. There is not a Sunday where I don’t walk away with a new practice or an inspirational story or quote that has me take a refreshed look at something I may be questioning or dealing with that week.

Two Sundays ago, the senior minister, Reverend Nancy Stepp, shared with us an experience that happened to her on the way to the service that morning. Our dear Rev. is a master at opening with a story that immediately draws your attention. Her stories always make a point that tie into the morning message and she is never afraid to be openly and humanly honest about her feelings. On this morning, she had been running a bit late, only to find that the route she most often takes had been blocked off. There was a foot race/run taking place and the police guards were there to ensure the runners safety. As she sat there waiting for the way to clear, she noticed a feeling of aggravation and impatience arising within her. The police seemed in no hurry to let the traffic back through and seemed to be happily chatting away with each other.
As she described the scenario, I noticed that a feeling of empathetic aggravation was arising within me. I have been in similar situations and could relate completely to what she was saying. My body was remembering what it was like to be held up when I was already running late.

On that very morning, I had also been held up in traffic. There were four cars in front of me, completely stopped on route 1 between Jessup and Laurel. This is normally a busy road, with traffic coming in each direction. I could not immediately tell why traffic had stopped at this point, so the first feeling that arose was curiosity. And just moments later, I saw it. A mother duck in front, six ducklings in the middle, and a father duck at the rear, were crossing this very busy road. As I sat there in awe, I noticed complete love, patience, and a disappearance of the concept of time. It was as if the Universe was in complete harmony to allow all of this to happen and without a single car coming in the opposite direction. There were no horns beeping with impatience, nobody pulling out to try and get around. There was only this moment and we were all in it together.

I noticed that morning, after Reverend Nancy had shared her story, that my body responded very different in these two situations. Why, when waiting for my fellow humans to cross, would I feel such impatience in my body and yet such reverence and awe for the little family of ducks making their way to the other side? This was an Aha! moment for me. In this new awareness, I now see there really is no difference in which species is crossing the street. Human=Duck=Monkey on the Universal scale. “I am he as you are he and you are me and we are all together” (from John Lennon’s I am the Walrus lyrics).

What’s Your “Red Bull” Word?

_red_bull_donne_des_ailes_WallFizz1A few weeks ago, our family took a hike on the Butternut trail in Worlds End State Park in central Pennsylvania. My daughter, her husband, my son, my husband, myself, and our grand dog, Juno, were all staying with my husband’s parents for the weekend. To take advantage of the beautiful day and scenery in the area, I suggested we all take a hike. I also wanted to give my father in law some time to rest, as he was not feeling so well that weekend. Thanks to google, we were easily able to find a list of local trails. Since my husband knew how to get to Worlds End in Forksville, PA, and the distance was what we figured would be just perfect given the time of day, we settled on the Butternut trail.

Perusal of the trail map before leaving the house had my mother in law give warning. “That’s going to be a very steep trail. I can tell by the elevation.” Eager to get going before we lost any more daylight hours, I replied, “No worries. We can always turn back if it gets too steep.”
The walk to the trailhead from the parking lot was flat and beautiful and at least one third of a mile (maybe half), running along the side of the Loyalsock creek. Once we reached the Butternut trailhead, we saw the elevation my mother in law was talking about. So, we all started up the steep incline, eager to see the beautiful vista the trail description boasted about. Before we even reached the top of the first hill, my breathing was labored, my head started to hurt, and I had to remove my jacket. My son was certain at this point, he had not worn the right shoes for this terrain, and my son-in-law had an aching back. It would have been fine with me to turn back at this point. My mind was chattering in the background saying that this was much more than I could handle-enough walking for the day so I said to everybody, “Why don’t we just turn back now!”

My daughter, up ahead of us all, shouts out “Come on Mom, COMMIT!”

At that point, it was if there was a power switch that was turned on in my head. I am going to do this! The biochemical reaction that goes along with each thought had switched from water to Red Bull and I was now determined to complete this hike. And I did. Between the incline, narrow trails on the edge of a steep drop, and a rocky decline, it was one of the toughest trails I think we all had ever taken.

If you don’t have a phrase that gets you supercharged when you feel like you can’t complete what you set out to do and are wavering on the edge of quitting, you can use my daughter’s words. She, after all, had gotten them from her fitness instructor and they gave me/us the power to carry on.