Laughter is Good Medicine

Laughter is Good Medicine

Easter 21

 

“Being mindful is just pointing out all the bad stuff” someone wrote.  Being a firm believer of mindfulness, it might surprise you that I completely understand this reader’s sentiment.  Many of us go through our daily life in a fog so as to keep from having to recognize the reality.  Mindfulness brings a great deal of that to light but seeing and acknowledging our dismay is not all that mindfulness is.  It is only half of the practice.

 

Being able to see the humor in our situations in life is critical to living a healthy life.  Yesterday I remarked about the irony of a book about grace falling down in front of me.  The corner of the book had actually caught my arm and, being a new book, made a very slight nick in my skin.  Being able to see the humor in the situation, though, actually enabled the small cut to heal faster because I laughed.

 

You read that correctly.  Laughing, science tells us, can actually be the best medicine in some situations.  Ten years ago science revealed evidence that laughter helps your blood vessels function better. It acts on the inner lining of blood vessels, called the endothelium, causing vessels to relax and expand, increasing blood flow. In other words, it’s good for your heart and brain, two organs that require the steady flow of oxygen carried in the blood. At a 2005 meeting of the American College of Cardiology, Michael Miller, M.D., of the University of Maryland reported that in a study of 20 healthy people, provoking laughter did as much good for their arteries as aerobic activity. Dr. Miller did not recommend that you laugh and not exercise but he did advise that we should try to laugh on a regular basis. The endothelium, he explained, regulates blood flow and adjusts the propensity of blood to coagulate and clot. In addition, it secretes assorted chemicals in response to wounds, infection or irritation. It also plays an important role in the development of cardiovascular disease.  “The endothelium is the first line in the development of atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries,” said Dr. Miller. “So given the results of our study, it is conceivable that laughing may be important to maintain a healthy endothelium. And reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.”

 

Dr. Miller also recommends laughter as a great tonic for other ailments.  “Laughter offsets the impact of mental stress, which is harmful to the endothelium.”  The researcher can’t say for sure exactly how laughter delivers its heart benefit. It could come from the vigorous movement of the diaphragm muscles as you chuckle or guffaw. Alternatively, or additionally, laughter might trigger the release in the brain of such hormones as endorphins that have an effect on arteries.  It’s also possible that laughter boosts levels of nitric oxide in artery walls. Nitric oxide is known to play a role in the dilation of the endothelium. “Perhaps mental stress leads to a breakdown in nitric oxide or inhibits a stimulus to produce nitric oxide that results in vasoconstriction.”

 

It has been known for some time that laughter reduced one’s perception of pain, thus enabling a person to tolerate discomfort better.  It also reduces blood sugar levels, increasing glucose tolerance in diabetics and nondiabetics alike.  Laughter can improve your job performance, especially if your work depends on creativity and solving complex problems. Its role in intimate relationships is vastly underestimated and it really is the glue of good marriages. It synchronizes the brains of speaker and listener so that they are emotionally attuned.  Laughter establishes — or restores — a positive emotional climate and a sense of connection between two people, In fact, some researchers believe that the major function of laughter is to bring people together.

 

Life is messy.  That is a fact and no matter who we are, we will face the “bad stuff” at some point.  Being able to see the humor enables us to cope and move forward.  Dr. Miller advises people to do some sort of physical exercise thirty minutes a week and to laugh fifteen minutes every day.  This reminds us to not only be mindful of our physical health but also our emotional health. 

 

“I believe that if people can get more laughter in their lives, they are a lot better off,” says Steve Wilson, MA, CSP, a psychologist and laugh therapist. “They might be healthier too.”  As weird as it might sound, laughter is really a physical exercise for our bodies and our spirits.  When we laugh we go through some physiological changes.  We stretch muscles throughout the face and body, our pulse and blood pressure rises slightly and we tend to breathe faster.  This sends more oxygen to our tissues within the body which in turn creates a series of positive chain reactions.

 

Maciej Buchowski, a researcher from Vanderbilt University, conducted a small study in which he measured the amount of calories expended in laughing. It turned out that 10-15 minutes of laughter burned 50 calories.  Now do not get carried away and think you can laugh off excess weight.  After all, it would take about twelve hours of laughing to counteract the effect of eating one chocolate bar.  Still, laughing is beneficial.

 

The focus on the benefits of laughter really began with Norman Cousin’s memoir, Anatomy of an Illness. Cousins, who was diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis, a painful spine condition, found that a diet of comedies, like Marx Brothers films and episodes of Candid Camera, helped him feel better. He said that ten minutes of laughter allowed him two hours of pain-free sleep.  Research does not verify Cousins’ belief that laughter was the tonic for his insomnia, however,  Many believe a drama could have done the same thing and that anything that takes one’s mind off the day’s worries would have been effective.  Does this disprove the benefits of mindfulness?  No.  It does emphasize that our reactions to life are very important.

 

One of the difficulties science has in determining just how effective laughter is as medicine is that the cause and effect are hard to narrow down.  Two things are known for certain.  Laughter brings us together and since human beings are social animals, this improves their quality of life.  Secondly, appropriate laughter is not a harmful thing and if you enjoy, one should keep laughing.  Enjoying life is the best medicine of all.

Mindful

Mindful

Lent 34

 

Every so often a new word seems to capture our attention.  Recently the term “mindfulness” has become trendy.  It is, however, an integral part of our growing and always has been ever since the first time we fell as babies trying to walk.  During the fifty days of Easter we will discuss this topic more thoroughly but today, the Beatitudes are calling us to be mindful and aware of the events in our own lives and how our response determines the chart we course in our being.

 

Throughout this series we have discussed cause and effect and attitude.  We have compared our living to following a treasure map.  We all are truly adventures on a quest for a better life, hopefully not only for ourselves but for all humanity.  The paths we walk are not always the path we anticipated. 

 

Born Deirdre Blomfield and later adding Brown to her name, the American Buddhist nun Ani Pema Chodron practices the Tibetan tradition through the Kagyu school and Shambhala tradition.  She grew up in Connecticut and graduated from college at UC Berkley.  She became a mother(and grandmother) and taught elementary school in California and New Mexico.  On a trip in her later thirtie’s to France, she encountered

 

While in her mid-thirties, Deirdre traveled to the French Alps and encountered Lama Chime Rinpoche, with whom she studied for several years.   Soon her path led to her becoming a novice nun and then receiving full ordination with the name Ani Pema Chodron.  Ani Pema served as the director of the Karma Dzong, in Boulder, CO, until moving in 1984 to rural Cape Breton, Nova Scotia to be the director of Gampo Abbey.

 

I think this Western nun’s philosophy towards finding mindfulness in our own living is best summed up in her book titles:  “Start Where You Are”; “Comfortable with Uncertainty”; “The Wisdom of No Escape – How to Love Yourself and Your World”; “Living Beautifully”.  Her philosophy is simple, direct, and true:  “The most fundamental aggression to ourselves, the most fundamental harm we can do to ourselves, is to remain ignorant by not having the courage and the respect to look at ourselves honestly and gently.”

 

To be mindful is simply, quite simply, to be aware.  I referenced a baby learning to walk.  The child will fall several times and yet, the wisdom in getting up and trying again is the key.  We learn to walk not because of any first time success but because when we fall, we get back up and try again.  With each unsuccessful attempt, we gain knowledge.  We become aware.  We learn to be mindful of how to balance and then take that first successful step.  Blessed are the children who fall because they learn to get back up.

 

Nun and spiritual teacher Pema Chodron encourages us to view our world, being mindful of the lessons found in it.  “The only reason we don’t open our hearts and minds to other people is that they trigger confusion in us that we don’t feel brave enough or sane enough to deal with. To the degree that we look clearly and compassionately at ourselves, we feel confident and fearless about looking into someone else’s eyes. … If we learn to open our hearts, anyone, including the people who drive us crazy, can be our teacher.”  Then and truly then, will we become mindful in our own living.

Mess, Mayhem, and Order

Mess, Mayhem, and Order

Lent 14

 

My computer sits on a desk which is, like many, cluttered.  The assortment of things comprising that clutter changes from time to time but there are always three things which remain constant nearby.  There are, in no particular order, a palm-size wooden cross made by a gentleman with Alzheimer’s as a thank you for a thank you note I wrote to him; a set of hand weights; and a coloring desk calendar.  These items are not apparent to someone looking at my desk but there represent a sense of order and purpose to me.

 

Today is Pi Day.  It is also Albert Einstein’s birthday.  Albert Einstein is regarded worldwide as a genius but he wasn’t always thought of so highly.   Too poor to marry his first love, with whom he would go on to have three children, Einstein challenged the current thinking in practically everything he did.  The German-born physicist Albert Einstein developed the first of his groundbreaking theories while working as a clerk in the Swiss patent office in Bern. After making his name with four scientific articles published in 1905, he went on to win worldwide fame for his general theory of relativity and a Nobel Prize in 1921 for his explanation of the phenomenon known as the photoelectric effect.

 

 An outspoken pacifist who was publicly identified with the Zionist movement, Einstein emigrated from Germany to the United States when the Nazis took power before World War II. He lived and worked in Princeton, New Jersey, for the remainder of his life.  By the time Einstein’s wife Elsa died in 1936, he had been involved for more than a decade with his efforts to find a unified field theory, which would incorporate all the laws of the universe, and those of physics, into a single framework. In the process, Einstein became increasingly isolated from many of his colleagues, who were focused mainly on the quantum theory and its implications, rather than on relativity.

 

Einstein, who became a U.S. citizen in 1940 but retained his Swiss citizenship, was never asked to participate in the resulting Manhattan Project, as the U.S. government suspected his socialist and pacifist views. In 1952, Einstein declined an offer extended by David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s premier, to become president of Israel.  Throughout the last years of his life, Einstein continued his quest for a unified field theory. Though he published an article on the theory in Scientific American in 1950, it remained unfinished when he died, of an aortic aneurysm, five years later. In the decades following his death, Einstein’s reputation and stature in the world of physics only grew, as physicists began to unravel the mystery of the so-called “strong force” (the missing piece of his unified field theory) and space satellites further verified the principles of his cosmology.

 

These snippets of biography of the life of Albert Einstein are from the History.com website but they are found in every science book and encyclopedia worldwide.  Famous pictures of a disheveled Einstein are found in most schools and he has come to epitomize the essence of an “absent-minded professor”.  Einstein was not asked to participate in the Manhattan Project because those in charge both doubted and feared his pacifist views.  He invoked respect and nervousness from his colleagues and was not universally regarded as the great mind of science he is today until a decade after his passing.

 

Today is March 14th or 3.14 as it is written in some calendars.  The mathematical constant pi is a real number defined as the ratio of a circle’s circumference C to its diameter.  Regardless of the size of the circle, pi remains the same.  A number that goes on in infinity, it is, roughly speaking, written as 3.1415926535897932384626433832795028841971693993751058209749445923078164062862089986280348253421170679… 

 

So what does the mess on my desk, the mayhem of Einstein’s theories (a mayhem that proved to be truth), and the order that pi gives the world have to do with each other?  The same thing the Beatitudes offer us – reason.  You see, regardless of what else gets piled up on my desk, I know that they is a tool for meditation at hand – my palm-sized cross.  While the cross is a symbol with meaning, it is who made it and why that really helps me focus and brings order and reason to my moment and being.  A man not well-known to me at all found, in the throes of his declining mental ability that Alzheimer’s brings, a new talent in woodworking.  Being touched by a note I wrote to him, one of many such notes I had written, he shared that talent with me in gratitude, reminding me that we all have a reason to give thanks.

 

The weights and the calendar are things to do when confronted with the complexities and idiosyncrasies of technology.  They remind me that I can either sit or get mad or I can be patient and find something constructive to do.  Pi brings order to the circle of life, an order that Albert Einstein suspected and proved.  Without the chaos, there would not have been a need for his studies.  Without the issues we confront daily, issues mentioned in the Beatitudes, there would be no need for introspection, mediation, spiritual growth, and discernment.

 

On this day, celebrate the messiness of a pizza pie or the smoothness of a quiche with its perfect pi and delectable circumference.  Then rejoice with a fruit pie.  The pizza will be messy because every good pizza is and the quiche will combine what seems to be a pandemonium or mayhem of different ingredients.  Finally, though, the dessert pies will be made to order with the precision that baking requires.  Life requires some precision to deal with its messes and mayhem.  It is the mess, the mayhem and the resulting order that binds us together.  It is when we are at our most vulnerable that we truly discover the meaning of life and our need for each other. 

 

Post Script:  Well, you are probably reading this on March 15th because….life got messy, Mother Nature flexed her muscles,  and technology messed me up.  The thing is… Every day is Pi Day because Pi is a constant.  Just as our living should be about goodness and kindness as our constant, pi will always be 3.14 and while my own March 14th has been more akin to the Idea of March, March 15th, I take heart in knowing that regardless of the actual date, there are constant is our lives that help us navigate the messes and mayhem and bring order.

Living Today

Living Today

Lent 4-5

 

On November 1, 2016, Pope Francis offered his own updated version of the Beatitudes.  The Beatitudes are eight instances of cause and effect, given by a poor carpenter as he spoke to a crowd gathered on a hillside thousands of years ago.   Their named comes from the Latin “beatitude” which means happiness.  Each instance references something from the Old Testament but with a twist in its interpretation.  Pope Francis offered his own take with six new beatitudes.

 

The need for us to recognize this cause and effect is as necessary today as it was almost two thousand years ago.  In our modern world we see cause and effect every day.  The most striking examples are the suicide bombings which are prevalent worldwide.  These bombings are said to be based in religious teachings yet they offer no real restitution to those they purportedly are defending and their effect contributes to further dislike and discrimination of said groups of people.  They certainly do not follow the teachings of Islam.  Instead, paraphrasing Pope Francis, Islam would be better served as would all types of religion, especially Christianity and Judaism, if we stayed true to the teachings instead of responding with hatred and fear.  “Blessed are those who remain faithful while enduring evils inflicted on them by others and forgive them from their heart.”

 

We tend to think of such writings as the Beatitudes are being out of date and yet, they are very applicable to world events.  Perhaps this is why Pope Francis mentioned “Blessed are those who look into the eyes of the abandoned and marginalized and show them their closeness.”

 

As I have mentioned so many times, life is messy and living in today’s world is not easy.  Instead of fearing each other, we need to remember just how close we really are and in spite of our differences, recognize Creation in all we see.  “Blessed are those who see God in every person and strive to make others also discover him.”  Perhaps there are those who do not believe in a God of any sorts.  I would suggest to them to substitute the word Creation for God.  The fact is clear from a biological and genetic point of view that we are all reflections of each other.  We share a great deal.

 

Pope Francis continued with two more:  “Blessed are those who protect and care for our common home.   Blessed are those who renounce their own comfort in order to help others.”  Again, don’t think of just your physical abode but of our home, Mother Earth.  And finally, Pope Francis concluded with “Blessed are those who pray and work for full communion.”

 

Communion is not just something that happens during a mass or Eucharist church service.  Communion is relationship and hopefully, unity.  We are all in a relationship with each other whether we recognize that or not.  Not all relationships are great.  The connections we make, the interactions we have…These make up the brunt of our living.  Shouldn’t we try to make them as effective as possible?

 

We need to stop trying to give an eye for an eye and start showing kindness.  Period.   Not just be kind to those we perceive as being kind to us but be kind to all.  We need to not see just our differences but embrace them for the wonderful diversity and excitement they bring to life.  When we see the abandoned or excluded, we need to reach out and embrace them.  We share so much in common and there is beauty in all of Creation including those who might have been pushed to the outside.  We should respect all who offer our life and homes protection as well as those who are protecting our home, Mother Earth.  We needs to give thanks for those willing to put themselves last and us first and for those who go that extra mile to engage in relationships with all of humanity. 

 

Who can say they stand on the pedestal of right all the time?  Who can say who should have to live on the left of normal?  None of us is better than the least of us.  A rose by any other name…is still a flower.   Blessed are they who truly embrace their living for they… live.

Goodness

Goodness

Lent 1

 

During Lent our series will focus on the Beatitudes, those eight to ten, and in one location, four saying about goodness, happiness and spirituality.  While the basis for this series will be taken from the New Testament, this will not be a purely religious series.  It is a series about goodness and our search for it in an overall sense – goodness of living, of health, of being.  We will delve into such distinction as the difference between a happy person and an optimistic person and there will be, hopefully, a vignette to explain and explore our discussion each day.

 

Most Creation stories open with “In the beginning” and the world seems to have been complete, whole, and happy.  Then something happens and chaos ensues.  While it may seem hard to relate to something like that, most of us experience it every day when we go to check social media.  The science of happiness would tell us that while the caveman did not have a Facebook account and the only twitters he heard or saw were from birds in the trees, he did fall victim to the same social pressures that we do when reading about a friend’s seemingly perfect life.

 

We are all connected and the people in our lives play an important role in the basic goodness we experience and the happiness we feel.  Both of these are contributing factors to our sense of well-being and our actual physical health.  Skeptics argue that optimistic people may not necessarily live longer and we certainly have discussed that topic before.  However, recent scientific research and the resulting evidence indicate that there is a strong link between happiness and health and it goes both ways.

 

Our approach to living is key in our trying to improve our lives and the world.  Being happy will never be as simply as taking a pill and seeing the goodness in life will not be accomplished with an increased prescription for a new pair of glasses.  We can, though, take the wisdom of the ages and look at our own approach to living. 

 

Lent is traditionally a time of introspection and, let’s face it, dreary feelings of guilt and shame.  Our source material is a wonderful way to change that and improve ourselves without beating ourselves up – figuratively or psychologically.  Let’s replace those pounds of guilt with feelings of goodness and happiness!  Life will always be a work in progress.  I hope you join me for this series in making lemonade out of lemons.  Who knows?  We might even find a way to make a lemon tart or pie without fewer calories!

Embrace

Embrace

Epiphany 47

 

The University of Alabama, a major university whose football team once again competed recently for the national number one slot in collegiate football, is only forty-nine minutes away.  The bustling metropolis of Birmingham is only one hundred miles away.  Yet, for the children of Hale County, Alabama, they might as well live on the other side of the country.  They live in one of the most rural and impoverished areas of Alabama in what is known as the Blackbelt region of the state. Residents of this are at an economic disadvantage with very limited resources. The high school graduation rate is only 34% with 74% of households earning less than $30,000 per year. Almost 200 families live without plumbing and healthcare is nonexistent for most.

 

According to the United Way of West Alabama, one out of every  four Alabamians is functionally illiterate, unable to read, write, or use basic math skills and technology in everyday life.   According to the U.S. Department of Education, more than 60% of K-12 school children read below the level needed to proficiently process the written materials used in their grade levels.  Children who have not already developed basic literacy practices when they enter school are three to four times more likely to drop out of school.

 

According to the 2014 Alabama Kids Count Data Book, compiled by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, 26% of Alabama children are living in poverty; 9.7% of Alabama teens are not in school and not employed; 25.8% of Alabama children are food insecure; 40.1% of Alabama fourth graders are not proficient in reading; 20% of Alabama’s students do not graduate from high school.

 

The Sawyerville Work Project is, on paper, a day camp and because of that, recently changed its name to Sawyerville Day Camp.  It is an outreach project sponsored by the Youth Department of the Episcopal Diocese of Alabama & local community volunteers.  It takes place in the summer for just a few weeks, and for that camp session, the children that attend the camp are not framed in the light of the region’s poverty.  They are simply kids, having fun, in a place created solely for them.

 

The Sawyerville Day Camp’s location originated at the Head Start Center in the small town of Sawyerville, hence the name. Within a few years of hosting the camp, the Center could no longer accommodate the increased numbers of campers and staff volunteers. The elementary school in nearby Greensboro welcomed this project and the partnership has continued for a successful thirteen years.

Sawyerville Day Camp ministry began in 1993.  The Blackbelt Convocation knew they needed to embrace the residents of the area, not just those in their church pews and the Diocese of Alabama Youth Department needed an outreach program for senior high students.  The answer to both problems became the Sawyerville Work Project, now known as the Sawyerville Day Camp.  It is supported by many people.

 

People serve as prayer partners, staff members, organize book drives, gather paper products, provide meals and make financial gifts.  The Episcopal Diocese has committed substantial funds to this ministry.  The generous people of the Black Belt have opened up their homes and churches for staff housing and meals.  Volunteers from within and outside of the Episcopal circle lend time and talent.  High school, college, and adult staff come from all over the state to serve as counselors.  The Hale County School Board permits use of school facilities and buses.  This project is woven together by hundreds of different supporters, all working together to form the Sawyerville experience.

 

The mission of the Yellowhammer Literacy Project, born out of the Sawyerville Day Camp, is to help close the achievement gap and prevent summer learning loss in Greensboro, Alabama. The YLP works toward this mission by hosting a multi-week summer academic program in which students will participate in reading intervention, engage in creative writing, and strengthen their literacy skills. Additionally, the YLP is invested in helping students grow as scholars and citizens through participation in academic field trips, community engagement, and other enrichment opportunities.

 

Summer 2015 was a huge success for the Yellowhammer Literacy Project! When we first assessed the students in April, 58% were performing below grade level. By the end of this program, 88% of students grew by at least one reading level. Of that 88%, 66% grew by at least two levels. Nine students saw growth by three to five levels in a mere three weeks!  The Summer of 2016 yielded even better outcomes.  Not only did these students grow academically, but what cannot be tested or shown through the results is that these kids were encouraged to enjoy reading, were praised for their efforts, and became more confident in their own abilities by the end of the program. One child said it best in his final reflection, “I really am smart.”

 

The humanitarian efforts of the Sawyerville Day Camp are led by two coordinators although the success is due to the project being embraced by many.  All successes of this camp include the help of hundreds, both volunteer staff and interns as well as the volunteers who fed, donate, and serve as prayer partners.  Each child receives a swimsuit, towel, and book as well as a backpack.  For many this is the first time they have owned any of these items which serve as outward, visible signs of the larger community of caring that supports them and embraces them.

 

Now over twenty years old, this day camp has counselors who were once campers.  They believed in the promise shown by the Sawyerville Day Camp of a brighter future and by those who embraced them and they have succeeded.  Kids who once had never heard of a college are now college graduates, having learned to believe in themselves to make a better world for themselves.  People of all ages, races, and stages of life create the humanitarian efforts that result in Sawyerville Day Camp.  They come together and embrace each other.  When we embrace each other and ourselves, we make the world a better place.  Sawyerville Day Camp is but one example.  For more information, they can be reached at www.sawyervilledaycamp.org.

 

 

Stop, Look, and Listen

Stop, Look, Listen

Epiphany 35-36-37

 

From a childhood road safety game to the Stylistics and Elvis Presley to current communication techniques, the advice continues – stop, look, and listen.  Occasionally this daily blog will group a series of posts together because of their content.  Today (and Thurs and Fri preceding) is one such post.

 

Several years ago Mark McIntyre had the same idea I had about using street and railroad crossing safety as a means of better communication.  “Stop – stop the self-focused mental process so that I can hear and understand what the other person is saying. Decide to really hear.  Look – Look at the other person. Make eye contact. Observe his body language. Take in all the clues to communication.  Listen – By stopping and looking, I am now in a position to listen.”

 

Stop, Look and Listen is the also the name of a short comedic film made by Oliver Norvell Hardy in the early 1920’s shortly before he teamed up with comedy partner Stan Laurel.  Another film by the same name was made in the 1960’s which was nominated for an Academy Award in the Best Short Subject, Live Action category.  This movie was also a comedy and contrasted the safe and dangerous styles of two drivers.  The drivers were shown sitting in the street and seeming to move their bodies as though they were automobiles. 

 

I mention these two films because they were, in their own way, forms of communication.  Also communicating this phrase were two songs.  The first was written by Joy Byers and recorded by Elvis Presley in the 1960’s.  “You’d better stop real still, look both ways.   Listen or you’ll get in trouble when you see her go struttin’ by giving you that evil eye and she’s got a kind of dreamy look.  You’d better stop real still, look both ways; listen or you’ll get in trouble.”  A decade later the Stylistics sand a song by the same title, written by Jeremy Noel, William Abbott, Thomas Bell, Grant Black, Linda Creed, And Craig David.  Their chorus was “Stop, look, listen to your heart, hear what it’s saying.  Stop, look, listen to your heart, hear what it’s saying – Love, love, love.”

 

Very few people actually enter into a conversation with intentions of creating hate.  Most simply want to get a point across or express their opinion.  It all goes awry when we fail to stop our own self-focused mental process so that we can hear and understand what the other person is saying.   I am not talking about giving polite non-focused attentive looks at the other person.  I mean when you really decide to not just hear their voice but listen to their words.  We do this by first looking at the other person and making eye contact. Then we are able to observe their body language.  Communication is much more than just words being uttered.  We need to take in all the clues to communication.  By stopping and looking, we are now in a position to listen.  Now communication, real communication, can occur.

 

Think about over the past week.  When did you give someone your undivided attention?  I realize you lead a very busy life and that there are many things pressing for your attention.  Did you really make that other person a priority or was your crossword puzzle or TV show or book more important?  Someone recently told me they knew what I was trying to say because they were looking at the back of my head.  Interesting, since  I did not realize I had a caption scroll that played on the back of my head.  Of course, I do not and the person had no way of knowing what my facial expressions were. 

 

We need to stop making excuses, look at how we are communicating and then listen to each other.  We also need to seek out ways to really stop our busy lives, look at the beauty of life around us and listen to what is going on.  For example, The Menil Collection, an art museum in Houston, TX, features Stop, Look, and Listen concerts.  These are free chamber and jazz concerts open to the public at the museum which are designed to feature unconventional, interactive concert formats and fun, adventurous musical selections. Often designed to celebrate specific artwork on display in the museum, these concerts encourage us all to stop, look, and listen while we enjoy life.

 

Your local probably has similar offerings and if it doesn’t, why not help create some?  Aspiring sidewalk artists are a great way to stop, look, and listen as are subway musicians.  Once we develop the habit of slowing down enough to stop, then we are able to see the beauty that often passes us by and listen to the vibrancy of life.