I hope that all my readers got off to a good start on a Thursday filled with wonderful things, and that there will be many more to come!
 

Word-art that says "May your day be filled with positive energy, positive people, and positive experiences." 

And if you’re around people who talk too much about politics, it helps to keep in mind that because the world has been changing so fast, everyone on both sides has gotten anxious and afraid. What’s needed is more understanding and love. The song “Lotta Love” comes to mind; I have to admit, I’m fond of those ’70s songs with all the horns playing.
 

 

Nurturing Thursday was started by Becca Givens and seeks to “give this planet a much needed shot of fun, support and positive energy.” Visit her site to find more Nurturing Thursday posts and a list of frequent contributors.

May 17, 2017 · 4 comments · Categories: Musings · Tags:

Often when I wake up, my husband is already awake and getting started on the day. After saying good morning, he’ll usually ask how I am, or something similar. My usual answer is “Doing well,” in a cheerful tone. Sometimes if I am the first to wake, we reverse our lines in the scripted morning exchange.

This is all very common, of course; and certainly it is better than waking up grumpy or looking out the window and complaining about the weather. A little reassurance that everything is okay helps to start the day feeling more confident. Still, I wonder if maybe there’s some interference with awareness of genuine feelings on a deeper subconscious level. What if something isn’t quite right, but we smile and act like it’s a nice walk in a rose garden anyway?
 

Grass path through rose garden in bloom.

(Creative Commons image via flickr)
 

Literally, it is true that I am doing well every morning. Everything in my life seems to be going along pretty smoothly at the moment, without any problems worth mentioning. But taking the time to add just a few more details might, perhaps, make that answer start to feel more real.

“Doing well… it’s a lovely sunny day and I’m looking forward to getting outdoors.”

While that’s not always going to be the case, it is also possible to acknowledge having less pleasant feelings honestly, while still finding positive ways to frame them.

“I’m okay… didn’t sleep well and had bad dreams, but I’m going to take it easy today and expect to feel better after a while.”

That should be enough to satisfy the morning reassurance ritual, while also letting the subconscious mind know that there’s no need to pretend the big hungry dragon in the nightmare wasn’t scary. Feeling obligated to pretend can be draining; and when that happens below the level of conscious awareness, we don’t even know why our energy gets low. Making clear to the subconscious that it is allowed to have real feelings can help to ensure they don’t get suppressed and build up to cause problems.

May 14, 2017 · 2 comments · Categories: Musings · Tags:

Last weekend, I mentioned to my husband that I had noticed the water was running slowly in the kitchen sink’s tap from the reverse-osmosis filter. He changed the filters and repressurized the tank. At once, the water flow was much better. As with most time-change items, the improvement was much more noticeable than the slowly degraded performance from one day to the next had been.
 

Reverse osmosis filter unit under the kitchen sink. 

The water from the tap looked frothy all week. Even now, it still has a few air bubbles, which naturally happens as a result of servicing the system. Not a problem—it just takes a while for the air bubbles to work themselves out.

That’s true with many kinds of maintenance; it takes a little time for things to settle afterward. It’s not all that different from what goes on in our personal lives when we have to deal with changes in society and technology. However much of an improvement something may be, it’s unavoidable that there will be some amount of disruption.

Getting anxious when things look different is a natural reaction. But rather than letting our worries build up, we might do better simply to recognize that small disruptions happen and that, often, they’re no more of a problem than if they had been just a few air bubbles.

I didn’t get my Nurturing Thursday post up earlier because I wasn’t sure what kind of entry would best suit my feelings. I had been in kind of a dithering mood this week generally; and with several different items of positive word-art saved in my WordPress media library, I couldn’t make up my mind which to use, or whether I should try something else instead.

Then I decided that I’d better just go ahead and pick something from my media library and get a post written; so, here’s this one, which actually turned out to fit my mood today with a fair degree of accuracy. Funny how things work out sometimes—but, generally, I would say that when we go ahead and take some constructive action, they do seem to end up working out.
 

Word-art that says "The most effective way to do it is to do it." -Amelia Earhart 

Nurturing Thursday was started by Becca Givens and seeks to “give this planet a much needed shot of fun, support and positive energy.” Visit her site to find more Nurturing Thursday posts and a list of frequent contributors.

May 9, 2017 · 4 comments · Categories: Musings · Tags:

This past week has been unseasonably chilly for May, and too much rain made the river unrowable for days, so I’ve mainly been sitting indoors and trying to shake off grumpy feelings. After looking out the window at another dark and cloudy morning, I put a view of a forest trail on my art display today, with sunlight softly filtering through the trees.
 

Forest trail in springtime, with light filtering through the trees. 

Such a peaceful scene! But however much I tried, I couldn’t quite manage to convince myself that I was really just about to go for a nice long walk in the forest on a warm sunny day. The sky was still just as dark after work, and I finally got off my rear end and ran around the block a few times, just to get some fresh air even if there wasn’t any sun to be found.

Without the chilly wind that we’d had for the past few days, it actually felt pretty comfortable; and then two women driving by in a big SUV stopped to compliment me for being in shape. By the time I got back home, I was more cheerful than I’d felt earlier. I walked past the art display again and—just for a moment—almost caught myself thinking the sunlight was real.

May 4, 2017 · 4 comments · Categories: Musings · Tags:

Usually I don’t discuss politics on my blog. The main reason for that is because I prefer to look more broadly at the underlying cultural stories rather than getting into the battle du jour. Framing political issues in terms of battles and other war metaphors is, of course, one of those stories itself. Although there are many other ways to look at the process of governing, in our society just about everything in politics is routinely described as a fight. It’s not easy to step outside that cultural box and find better alternatives.

Still, we shouldn’t give up on changing society for the better, even (or perhaps especially) at times when there is nothing constructive happening in politics. The culture is not under anyone’s control; rather, it develops organically, based in large part on the words and choices that make up our everyday lives. Even the simple decision to talk about working to improve society, instead of using the language of battles and fights, can have far more impact than anyone knows. We don’t have to be wealthy or powerful before we can set those constructive changes in motion.
 

Word-art that says "How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world." -Anne Frank 

Nurturing Thursday was started by Becca Givens and seeks to “give this planet a much needed shot of fun, support and positive energy.” Visit her site to find more Nurturing Thursday posts and a list of frequent contributors.

I put a picture of a manor house surrounded by lovely gardens on my digital art display today, so that when I see it on my dining room wall, it gives the impression that I’m looking out a window at the swanky mansion next door. Of course, in real life my neighbors just have another ordinary suburban house; but I believe such images help to cultivate feelings of abundance because the subconscious mind often doesn’t distinguish between real life and the stories we choose to tell ourselves.
 

Manor house with garden in foreground. 

Most of the pictures I have displayed so far, though, are of a different kind entirely. They are nature scenes, quiet paths or forests that invite imaginary wanderings. That choice is itself a powerful message, this time from the subconscious—telling me, in no uncertain terms, that what my soul really longs for is simplicity rather than material things.

When I was a child, I had an umbrella with panels in different colors of tinted plastic. That umbrella made it great fun to go out in the rain, holding a panel of a particular color in front of my face to see everything around me in that color, while pretending I had traveled to the Purple Planet or the Blue Planet for the day.

The world didn’t seem as colorful after I got older and spent most of my time just getting things done, rather than letting my mind wander wherever it liked and having fun playing pretend. It took me a while to realize that they are not in fact mutually exclusive options. There’s no reason why we can’t get things done and have a playful mindset too, whether it is a rainy day or not.
 

Word-art that says "Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass, it's about learning to dance in the rain." 

Nurturing Thursday was started by Becca Givens and seeks to “give this planet a much needed shot of fun, support and positive energy.” Visit her site to find more Nurturing Thursday posts and a list of frequent contributors.

Today’s corporate culture places a high value on continuous improvement, which generally means learning how to question existing practices and determine whether something else might be more effective. To gain some experience with it, I am currently doing a beginner-level continuous improvement project that involves gathering and analyzing data on how my coworkers track their time and fill in the weekly timesheet. The objective is to find ways of making the process easier and quicker, which may save the company a little money if there is wasted time that can instead be used to get more work done.

While this is just a small-scale project and won’t bring about any major changes, it’s useful anyway as part of a cultural shift toward questioning why we do things in particular ways. Before I started the project, I never gave any thought to time-tracking and whether the process was as efficient as it could be. I simply jotted down my work hours on a notepad that I keep in my desk drawer, entered those hours on the timesheet at the end of the week, and took for granted that was just the way it was.
 

Small spiral notepad in desk drawer with pen. 

This cultural shift goes far beyond the workplace. Because today’s world gives us far more access to information than at any time in history, we’re always encountering facts that suggest our old familiar assumptions are likely to be incomplete. Expanding our worldview takes time and a considerable amount of mental effort. After all, our ancestors evolved in a world where things changed very little from one year to another, so they had no need to work continuously on redrawing their mental maps. The human brain’s decision-making process, still rooted in those primitive origins, relies on subconscious assumptions to a much greater extent than we generally realize.

Whether in the workplace or in the broader culture, it all starts with questioning. Diversity programs, for example, give the participants more familiarity with other cultures, which in turn leads to reflecting on the factual basis of assumptions and developing a better-informed perspective. For some groups, such as the LGBTQ community, questioning is expressly seen as an early step in forming one’s identity—although Q can mean queer, it also stands for questioning. The field of Disability Studies has to do with critically examining society’s assumptions about disability in the light of real people’s experiences. In April of every year, the Autistic community celebrates Autism Acceptance Month, which involves questioning cultural myths about autism and seeking to create a more informed and accepting society.

Because the complexity of the modern world requires so much effort to understand and adjust to what’s going on around us, sometimes it gets overwhelming. We need enough simplicity and comfortable routines to keep our stress levels manageable, but that’s not easy when we always have to deal with something new. Questioning our assumptions, whatever they may be, can get uncomfortable because we’re afraid others will judge us harshly if we have been wrong about anything.

Continuous improvement seeks to streamline the process by using familiar and well-defined methods, while looking at the data objectively and avoiding criticism of ideas as bad or existing workplace practices as wrong. We tend not to take it too personally when these projects identify more efficient ways of doing our work based on analyzing the data. In general, we don’t feel emotionally invested in small workplace details such as whether we use a notepad or something else to track our hours.

When our cultural assumptions are challenged, however, we don’t have a clearly defined process for updating them and are far more likely to get anxious and defensive about being judged. No matter what side we may take in today’s political conflicts, we often feel that our culture and worldview are under attack. Global corporate leaders, by contrast, generally look upon information about cultural differences in the neutral light of the continuous-improvement framework. Like other kinds of information, they’re seen as useful data points to inform efficient practices and higher profits.

I don’t mean to suggest that we should cultivate in our personal lives the emotional detachment of the corporate mindset. On the contrary, it is natural and reasonable that in these stressful times, many of us feel strongly motivated to preserve our cultures and traditions. We can, however, benefit from occasionally reflecting on our personal views and how they relate to society, within a calm, non-confrontational setting such as a discussion group. After all, cultural differences do not necessarily have to result in conflict; there are many possible ways of framing and addressing the issues, and in general, questioning is the first step toward discovering what might be possible.

April 22, 2017 · 2 comments · Categories: Musings · Tags:

I woke up to a dark, cloudy morning on Wednesday and felt gloomy for much of the day, brooding about past occasions when I had felt stuck in bad situations. Although that happened many years ago, it still bothered me that I had let myself get into such a negative pattern rather than taking timely and constructive action to deal with problems as they came up.

The sky brightened after a while, and I went rowing with my husband after work. We had to go slowly and carefully because the river was full of large logs and other debris that had floated downstream since the last time we were there.
 

Large log in the river. 

By then it was late in the day, but I still hadn’t managed to shake off the gloomy thoughts. As we returned to the dock, it occurred to me that some impulsive decisions I had made recently could be seen as related to that old pattern—or, more specifically, could be seen as my subconscious mind forcing the necessary action to break the pattern and ensure nothing like that would ever happen again.

“Okay, subconscious mind,” I said to myself, continuing the internal dialogue, “if you’ve been so busy protecting me from myself by any means necessary, then what was your reason to leave me feeling so totally blah the entire day?”

“To recognize the pattern, of course.” The answer popped into my head right away. It was not followed by a “Duh,” but sounded as if it might easily have been. Then the gloomy feelings instantly vanished, in what had to be the fastest mood swing ever. I felt fine while putting the boat away and getting into the car.

By the time I got home, though, my back muscles had tightened up for no apparent reason, making it hard for me to move around all evening. I don’t ordinarily have back problems, and I certainly hadn’t exerted myself too much when I was rowing very slowly around that obstacle course of monster logs. So what the heck was going on here?

Then another thought came to mind, which was that this drama had Dame Shadow’s fingerprints all over it. As I described in a December blog entry, Dame Shadow is one of my angrier and more defensive past selves. She feels like it’s her responsibility to protect me from the world’s evils when she thinks I’m not doing enough to take care of myself, which is often.

When I last had an imaginary conversation with Dame Shadow as she was getting ready to charge into battle with an army of mythological creatures in a landscape from an empire-building computer game, I came to the conclusion that she wanted recognition for her efforts, and I promised to show respectful appreciation the next time she had something to say. Gratitude for a sore back wasn’t quite what I’d had in mind, but that seemed to be where things stood for now. So I took a moment to meditate and let my mind quiet down. Then I thanked the Dame for kindly offering advice and told her that I was sorry, but I didn’t quite grasp what she was trying to tell me.

She didn’t step out into the light of my conscious mind, but I heard the fabric of her long skirts rustling somewhere not far away. “What or whom are you carrying on your back? You may want to think about that,” she remarked cryptically; and that was all I got out of her.

I realized that my back did indeed feel weighted down, as if someone had come up behind me and jumped on it. No particular images came to mind, though, and I spent the next couple of days pondering the question. Was it a younger self, heavy with old emotional baggage? Maybe another person that I had been trying to please without knowing it? Or a more general metaphor, such as having a monkey on one’s back?

Then I decided that I didn’t really need to have an exact answer; just thinking about the question was useful in itself. My back felt fine when I woke up this morning, and I wondered if perhaps the lesson might also have to do with patience—that is, setting aside any expectations that I ought to be able to get things sorted all at once. After all, everything always has another layer to it somewhere!