This past week was, well, like many of the weeks that preceded it, in this year of pandemic. Meaning, my days, for now, look similar from week to week. Work, eat, meditate, write, sleep. Not in that order, or, rather, sometimes, yet not always.
Yet, as you know, there is a trip coming to Los Angeles. Only a couple more weeks, and I’ll board an airplane for the first time in over 15 months. Pretty wild.
Anyway, let’s take a look at some of the writing that occurred this week.
I am enjoying being out in the sun right now, and am looking forward to more sun as we move towards summer. Yes, I love the sun and the heat. As I lived most of my life in LA, where it is sunny, well, almost all of the time, I have a special affinity for sunshine.
Being out on hikes and working in the garden when it is sunny, is especially lovely.
As I wrote in last week’s entry, the Summer Schedule is out and registration starts Monday, May 17. Our summer offerings are on the small side, yet, we have plans for a large fall term. Exciting.
The team and I are also now talking about introducing more in-person classes, as possible, this fall. As I’ve written before, I see the next 15 to 18 months as a slow reintroduction to in-person classes, while also continuing to offer remote classes.
With the reintroduction of in-person classes, including the team back in the office beginning this summer, will come mixed emotions for, well, everyone, me included. Exciting, yes, and also anxiety producing. Normal.
That, as a team, we are aware of this truth, simply means we can talk through these emotions as they arise and work through them together. Lovely.
Navigating Difficult Situations
Invariably, you have, and will continue to be presented with difficult situations; we all have and will. It’s part of being a human being. I was presented with a couple this past week. Both of these situations are work related, and are, well, navigable. Just like all difficult situations.
When we stay present to what is known, and get clear on what caused the difficult situation to arise in the first place, we make a space to create new possibilities.
In both of the situations I was presented this past week, I, first, listened, then did my research, and learned. Once I was clear on what was happening, I was ready to create.
And, you know what?
From the space of clarity, anything is possible. Both of these situations presented me with challenges, and, at times, felt, well, not so great. Yet, once worked through, I was able to create new ways forward.
When you are presented with difficulties, remember to stay present, listen, learn, and then create.
From the space of clarity, we get to then stand in the current reality. And, on a team, or in a family, when we are all clear and understand the current reality, no matter what the reality is, we can all work together to move forward. Beautiful.
This past week, I’ve been reflecting upon my emotions, as you might have noticed and/or read about in some of my poems. As we continue to move forward with vaccinations, it occurs to me that there will be emotions about the pandemic that will arise for all of us. Some we will see coming, some we will not.
Before we discuss this topic more, let’s take a look at the writing that occured this week, and the writing slated for next week.
This past week, I found myself drawn more to poetry. In fact, in the past two weeks, I’ve written about 10 new poems. All of which, I will share in the coming weeks. I’ve been feeling moved this week by several concepts, which did make their way into the following pieces.
The poem Keeps was initially inspired by the WDYS #74 prompt from Keep it Alive, by Sadje. The prompt this week reminded me of my hikes in the local area in which I live. Hikes where I am present to only my footing, the scenery, such as the earth, the foliage, the beautiful sky, and any wildlife that comes by. Beautiful.
As thoughts enter my mind, I let them pass through, and remain in that moment, just walking along the trail being one with the Nature that surrounds me.
It is quite meditative to walk, practice your breathing, and just listen and watch. There is healing in each foot step, each breath, and in each moment. If you’ve not tried meditative walking/hiking, I suggest giving it a try.
The poem Elixir was an acknowledgement to the present moment and the illusion of time. I’ve written several times about the social construction of time, and when you really understand that time, in fact, is illusory, you are freed from self-imposed limits bound in time.
We all live outside of time, yet also live in it, as we choose. A paradox, and not.
As I mentioned previously, I’ve created a bunch of new poems, and am excited to get them scheduled. I feel more poetry coming, so will continue to write and reflect on new concepts and insights as they come.
I am also continuing to work on a post on silence. I had an insight this week about a post on communication, and will probably start that sometime in the next week or two.
Alas, I’ve not made much progress on the Leadership from Within series. Though I’ve not made much progress yet, I will continue to endeavor to write this series. I see it as a possible book in the future, and have a lot of thinking and feeling about the topic to share.
Vaccinations are opening up more here locally. In fact, I am pleased to report that I am on an official waitlist for my first dose. I was told I should get a call in the next week or two.
Though I am pleased about this progress, both as a State and a Country, I realize that there is much work to do across this country and the world to ensure that everyone that wants a vaccination has access.
I will not pretend to know the answers to this issue. I will say, however, that I look forward to a day when those in legislative positions and positions of power in this country and around the globe think more collectively and collaboratively about serving the common good, which includes all of humanity. Everyone, everywhere.
With anticipation and excitement also comes apprehension, fear, and indifference. It’s just how it works. Which means that whereas some people will feel the former, some will feel the latter, and many of us will feel both.
When I was told that I would be put on a waiting list for my first dose of the vaccine, I was excited and anxious. Excited about the movement, and anxious about the unknown.
It is important for me to stay grounded in the current reality, which, yes, includes the vaccination being distributed to more and more people across the State. The current reality also includes, however, the fact that some people will not want to get the vaccine and some will not have access to the vaccine due to systematic inequalities in this country and around the world.
The latter of which fills me with sadness.
It also occurs to me that the landscape of how the pandemic, and respective responses to it from a systems and organizational perspective, are still completely unknown. Which simply means taking things as they come, developing plans and iterating those plans as needed, to ensure we continue to serve as many people as possible with educational options that fit their needs. Important.
The invitation I will send out to the team this week will be to recognize the emotions as they come for what they are. Responses to stimuli in your environment, and in your mind. Meaning, emotions are something we get and feel, they are not who we are.
Emotions, like our thoughts, do not define us. We choose.
Alright, that’s all for this week.
Have a wonderful week and please stay healthy and well.
Expanding our Patience While Limiting our Reactivity By Understanding and Practicing Our Emotional Intelligence
The past few weeks, I’ve been thinking more about patience, and just how important being patient is in all aspects of life. For sure, patience was, and is, something that I continue to be present to, as patience was, and still is in some ways, something that is a developmental opportunity for me.
How do you feel about the concept and practice of patience? Do you think it affects how we interpret the world, and how we, for instance, function at home and work?
I think it does affect all aspects of our lives, whether we are aware or not.
In this post, we’ll explore a couple of ways to expand the concept of patience by unpacking the stimulus response system, and by exploring ways we can increase our patience, or, conversely, decrease our reactivity. Ready? Good. Here we go.
The Stimulus Response System
In some ways we are programmed to respond to our environments. As we navigate our environments, our brain takes in data and information, let’s call them inputs, processes them, and then runs through a selection of outputs, or responses. Pretty simple, yes?
Yep, pretty straightforward. The issue? Good question. Well, if we never question our responses, and simply react, we can become reactive, which means that an event occurs and we react without pause. Super helpful in an emergency situation.
In a non-emergency situation, however, it is not always as helpful. There are ways, however, that we can slow down the stimulus response system, which creates a space for more choice.
Emotional intelligence has been written about for a long time. Very simply, having emotional intelligence means that you understand that there is a space between a stimulus and response, and you can access this space. Accessing the space between a stimulus and response, also means that you are able to make more choices and handle emotions that arise more readily. Important.
Learning about and practicing emotional intelligence is important for all aspects of life, and is particularly effective in our relationships. When we can slow down and increase our choices, we, at the same time, increase the outcomes that are possible in each situation.
Home and Work
As we learn more about our emotional selves we create the opportunity to reduce reactivity, and understand our own humanity. For instance, anger was something that was present for me a lot of my adult life. There are many reasons this is so, knowing today, I was only ever upset with myself for not living the fullest life possible. Knowing this is helpful.
Additionally, understanding that anger can arise, and not mean that I am an angry person is also helpful. We must be careful with the concepts we internalize. If we internalize concepts, such as anger, as part of who we are as a human being, we then become an angry person. It’s just how it works. If, however, we understand that anger is an emotion that, like our thoughts, will arise, yet is not indicative of who we are as a human being, we are immediately freed from the concept. Super helpful and liberating.
Further, it is important to understand that our emotions not only affect us, they affect everyone around us, even if we are unaware. It’s not possible, for example, to carry anger, and to not give it out. We will. And, when we do, then all we see is anger, because, in fact, that’s what we are creating.
However, when we learn about and practice strategies that can increase our emotional intelligence, and at the same time, slow down our reactivity, we have new choices. New ways of being, and of releasing old concepts that we once believed in.
Emotional intelligence has a direct impact on our patience. When we slow down our impulse to react to external stimuli, such as other people and events, and internal stimuli, such as thoughts and emotions, we create a space to choose being patient over being reactive. Important.
And, in the space we create to be more patient, we get to choose from a plethora of ways to respond (not react) to a person or event. Powerful.
There is one practice that has been instrumental in my practice of my own emotional intelligence, and that is meditation. I’ve written about meditation lots of times, and, in fact, it has been scientifically documented that meditation decreases reactivity.
As our reactivity decreases, we see and experience the world more slowly, our patience increases, and we are able to understand our thoughts and emotions on a deeper level. Which also means that we will understand everyone in our lives that much better as well.
And, when we understand ourselves and those we love and care about better, our relationships begin to blossom. Our relationship with ourselves, yes, and with everyone else. A beautiful cycle.
Well, I’ve been fortunate enough to receive a recent nomination for the Sunshine Blogger Award, and, well, I’m quite honored. I would like to thank Krishna, of LIGHT+LOVE 🙂, for the lovely nomination. If you’ve not done so, please visit Krishna’s sight. It is truly of light and love. Thank you again, dear, Krishna.
Alright, so how about some questions. Ready? Good. Here we go.
1. What are your thoughts about Christmas?
As many of you know, I grew up in Los Angeles, and am from a family that did celebrate Christmas every year. It was quite a magical time, the fall season as it moved into Autumn, and then into winter. Which, of course, is always mild in LA. As a matter of fact, last year on Christmas day it was supposed to be over 90 degrees. Very warm indeed for December.
Not so in the Pacific Northwestern part of the United States where I currently live. Nope. Rainy, cold, and, yep, sometimes snow. Like when I was a child, I still do love the holiday season, of which Christmas is one.
2. What are your stress busters?
I have three.
As I’ve written about before, meditation is, well, has been for me, transformational in my life. I started three years ago, which at that time was simply called breathing, because I could not sit still long enough to meditate proper. And, you know, like everything, it’s about the practice. Setting your intention to do something, and sticking with it. 5 minutes became 10, and so on to today.
I don’t walk as much in the winter as it is so cold and rainy, yet do try and get out as often as possible. Cardio as often as needed. Simply meaning maybe once or twice a week.
3. How is your relationship with God?
It is excellent. The Divine shows up everywhere today. As I wrote about in one of my recent poems, it is really about connection.
4. How many languages do you understand, and which are they?
English, and I can understand and speak some Spanish. Alas, I have much work to do in this area, and am actually continuing my study of Spanish now.
5. Name your 3 favorite films.
Hm. This one is harder. Alright, I’m going to name three films I enjoy, though I cannot really say if they are my favorites, per say.
Most of my leisure time is spent writing. I also work a lot, so with work and writing, there is not a lot of time leftover. However when time is created, I do enjoy walking, playing golf, seeing my two boys, talking with my friends and family, reading, of course, and watching television a little each day.
7. Do you enjoy solitude or do you always need someone to be with you?
I once always needed someone to be with me. Went hand-in-hand with not being able to sit still for more than a few minutes. Not so today. Though on the bell curve, I would place myself on the downslope towards extroversion, I love my introverted self, and have a large inner-life.
8. What do you hold most important in life?
My connection with the Divine and with my community, colleagues, coworkers, family, and friends. Yes, including all of you!
9. What will you do when you feel sad or clueless in life?
I spent a lot of years, most of my adulthood, really, running from my feelings. Not so today. When I am sad, I let the sadness come. If I’m not in a location where that is appropriate, I take the time needed to be with that sadness, or hold it only until I am in a space where I can cry as needed. Feels so much better to cry as needed, than to hold all of that sadness inside.
When I am clueless? Hm. I don’t ever really feel clueless. I am often unsure. I think feeling unsure is very normal. When we are comfortable being unsure, which can be uncomfortable, we are more open to all that life can bring our way. I work on a highly innovative team, and in highly creative spaces, there is a lot of unknown. I find the unknown, yes, at times, uncomfortable, and also quite exquisite
10. Do you believe in miracles? Briefly explain one please.
Oh, yes, for sure. I believe everything I see and feel is a miracle. The world is quite wondrous, beautiful, and amazing. I love all of it. It is a miracle to me as I sit here typing responses to these lovely questions, listening to some wonderful classical music, and the sun, just a moment ago, was shining right on my keyboard and monitor as I continue to write about the Sunshine Blogger Award. Pretty miraculous.
11. Do you love cartoons? Which is your favorite?
I once loved cartoons. I don’t know that I love them today. Not sure I’ve given it much thought. What I can say is that I’m old enough to remember very old cartoons, like the Flintstones and the Jetsons, and when Pixar started making the most amazing 3D cartoons ever. Was astonishing to me at the time. I still find the technology involved in cartoon-making extraordinary.
Alright, there we go. 11 questions, 11 answers. That was fun. Thanks again, Krishna for the lovely nomination.
Now for my nominations. Instead of 11 more, well, I’m going to nominate all of you. Why? Because I truly find you all inspiring. Seriously. As I’ve mentioned many times, I have as much fun reading your blog’s as I do writing mine.
And now? How about a sunshine poem to end this post? Okay, good. Here we go.
Does envelop me In a cloud of heavenly Delight, growing up in your Embrace
Was, and still is, One of my favorite sights
Dawn breaking with Such anticipation, of Your reception to my Hallowed participation
In your majestic creation,
And, each day You come again, Showing me the resilience Of your aurora
Which casts life-giving Sustenance To all of the fauna, And flora
I greet thee with my thanks, And welcome you back Again and again, friend,
For you’re the sun, Shining bright, and are Absolutely one of the best Parts of my life
Well, let’s start with this past week’s reflections, shall we? Good. Here we go.
Alright, so this past week, I’ve been reflecting a lot upon inspiration. What is inspiration, where does it come from, how can we get more of it, and what do we do if we run out of it. Very important questions. And?
Well, this week I’ve also been reflecting upon the creation of a new series. A series that can encompass a multitude of topics, and, yep, this is it, and inspiration will be the first topic.
Some of these developmental discussions will be longer, and some will be shorter. It will depend.
Alright, for this entry, let’s tackle the first question on inspiration. Ready? Good. Let’s go.
Where Does Inspiration Come From?
I really do love this topic, as it seems so simple, right? Inspiration, well, it’s all around us. Some people say they find nature inspirational, or other people in their lives, such as their friends and family, or coworkers. And, that is beautiful. Truely. Yet, there is something missing here. Do you know what it is? Hm.
It is the viewpoint. Meaning?
That inspiration does not live outside of you. Nope. It lives inside of you. We look outward and place inspiration onto other things and people, yet that inspiration comes from within. Always has come from within, and always will come from within.
Why does this matter to your development? Good question. Here is one, of many, reasons why.
When we know inspiration comes from within, we stop looking outside of ourselves for our own inspiration. Being aware of the source of our inspiration is important to our development, because when we fully realize that our inspiration comes from within, we are not bound to the changing tides of people and things. Simple. And?
Well, we know that change is inevitable. It is part of life. Yep. And, when we get clear on the fact that inspiration does not live in the changing world, that, in fact, it can be developed, and maintained, regardless of external circumstances, we become more powerful. Really.
Does that mean that we don’t ever feel down, or stressed, or sad? No, it does not. We are meant to feel all of our emotions; to feel them, know them, and learn how to talk about them.
And, yet, we can still find our inspiration even during the most stressful times. Why? Because even though we may consider a situation stressful, we know that our inspiration is always there. Waiting for us.
Alright, so what can we do to connect, or reconnect, to our own inspiration? I think there is one thing we can all do that will assist in making our connection, or reconnection, to our inspiration stronger. What’s that?
Make time for yourself. A must.
When we create time for ourselves, to be with ourselves, just for ourselves, we get to know ourselves better. And, the more we know ourselves, the more clear on our own inspiration we become. Really.
Next time, then, when things are really hectic, and you are feeling overwhelmed, stop. Stop doing what you are doing, and go for a walk, sit down under a tree and look around, or look up at the beautiful stars in the sky. Stop and just be.
For it is in this space, where your inspiration will find you.
The Leadership Psychology of How We Think and Feel
This past week a colleague of mine and I were talking about leadership. Well, to be more accurate, we are always talking about leadership. Fun.
Anway, this colleague was talking about the upcoming leadership group training they would be facilitating, and they were talking about how important it is for leaders to understand how they think, feel, and act.
After reflecting upon the concept of thinking, feeling, and acting, which I totally agree with, another concept occured to me. Speaking. Also important.
Thus, the idea for this first-half of the two-part article on Developing the Self was created. Before we get into our discussion, however, let’s reset the first installment in the Leadership Series.
We also discussed 2 things that are very important to be clear about early on in any leadership development journey, which are
Understanding your leadership style.
In this second installment, we will discuss understanding yourself as the very first step in a leadership development journey. Why? Good question.
Let’s take a look, shall we.
There are two ways we will approach this discussion.
Ready? Good, let’s go.
Right, so, what in the world is leadership psychology? Well, in this context, we are going to address two main concepts. Thinking and feeling. Both are very important to understand for anyone in leadership.
If you don’t know why you think and feel as you do, you’ll never be able to understand how and why others think and feel as they do. Simple.
And, as a leader, you must understand how the people in your team, organization, business, and or family, or friend network think and feel. Very important.
Having an impact starts with us. Each of us. Understanding how and why we think and feel as we do is a necessity in any leadership role. Any and all leadership roles.
An entire article, nay, book can be written about how we think in regards to, well, just about everything in life. Leadership included. It’s that important.
In fact, how we think drives everything else we will discuss in this article. It all starts with the mind. The quality of our mind. Meaning? Good question.
As I’ve written about in other articles, human beings are meaning-makers. Meaning, pun intended, that we take in data, information or stimuli, and we convert those stimuli, whatever they are, into narratives.
We do this to make sense of the world, and our place in it. A simple example can illustrate this point.
If my thinking is about the past, and all of the wrongs I’ve suffered, or bad things that have happened, I will bring these thoughts, feelings, verbalizations, and actions into the present moment. And?
I, in essence, will recreate the past. Reliving, as possible, past trauma again and again. And, so will everyone else I am interacting with and in relationship with.
However, if I am aware of my thoughts, and how I think, I can work on the thought impressions, called samskaras in sanskrit, and, over time, release them.
When they are released they stop showing up as a thought. It takes time.
These samskaras, thought impressions of old patterns and habits, loose power when you inquire into why they are there in the first place. Meaning, that creating self-awareness for a leader is a crucial aspect of leadership development.
When we have some sense of our own self, we can step outside of those thought patterns or habits and create new ones.
And, it is in the creation of new thought patterns where true empowerment is found for leaders, first, yes, for themselves, and then for their teams, organizations, families, and friends.
There are four things I do on a regular basis to increase my self-awareness.
Each of these contributes to self-awareness in unique ways, and they combine to increase clarity, calmness of mind, well-being, and insight into who you are as a human being, and how you relate to yourself and everyone else. Very important.
As was aforementioned, how we think really does affect, even predict, how we feel, speak, and act, and how we feel on a general level and even on a more specific level, which is very important.
Important to how we relate to ourselves and everyone else.
I grew up in a household where people definitely displayed emotion, yet it was still hidden, and definitely not talked about. And, that’s not a demerit. Why?
Because my parents were not shown how to understand their emotions and then how to constructively talk about them. It is far more normal, especially in the United States, than people might imagine. And?
Not helpful to your own development, nor is it to your teams, organizations, families, or friends. If you don’t know why you feel the way you do, you will not understand how others feel.
And, if you are unable to understand how you and the people around you feel, you cannot talk about feelings in productive and constructive ways.
However, when you know how you feel, understand why you feel as you do, and learn how to talk about emotions in healthy ways, you can navigate more complex conversations and situations as they arise.
And, in leadership roles, nay, in life, complex situations and conversations happen all the time. Sometimes every day.
In addition to meditation, diet, exercise, and weekly coaching, there are a couple of other things I do to understand my feelings and emotional state.
Journaling, and reflecting upon how you feel, is a very important process; especially when we are truly interested in understanding how and why we feel as we do. Some questions I typically ask myself are as follows.
What is the feeling that I am feeling?
What is the thought that is driving that feeling?
Where did that thought come from?
When you understand what you’re feeling, what thought is driving the feeling, and where the thought came from, you can begin to acknowledge the feeling.
When we can acknowledge how we truly feel, we can then release that feeling once we’ve gained true understanding. And, true understanding may mean working on a thought/feeling combination for some time.
Now, I’ve written most of this section with an assumption in mind. That, the work we do to understand how we feel, is needed mostly when we experience “negative” feelings, or emotions.
The emotions and associated feelings that bring us pain, discomfort, worry, and anxiety, for instance.
Why is it important to work on these “negative” emotions and feelings?
Because if we don’t understand how we feel and why we feel as we do, we will regularly give out all of that “negative” emotion to other people. And?
And, then, yes, we are giving out all of our anger, frustration, sadness, or whatever other feeling we have to everyone around us, and we are doing so unintentionally.
If you want to see an example of how this looks, just go to the grocery store and hang out for a while. You will encounter someone that is completely unaware of their emotional state. It won’t take long.
It happens all the time, every day. As was aforementioned, especially in the United States, where there is still, yes even in 2020, stigma about talking about our emotions. Not helpful and extremely unhealthy.
Now, understanding our feelings does not mean that we run out and tell everyone that we meet that we are frustrated, for instance, and here are the reasons why. A paradox? Yes?
Understanding your emotions and why you feel as you do, helps you do the exact opposite.
When we understand why we feel as we do, we can hold our emotions more, and find the right times to talk about them in appropriate ways; meaning healthy and constructive ways. Very important.
Alright, though I have more to say on both of the aforementioned topics, for now, that concludes the first part of this second installment in the leadership series. Next?
We will take a look at Leadership Sociology. And, yep, you are correct, Leadership Sociology and Leadership Psychology are connected. They influence each other. A reciprocal relationship, if you like.
For now, remember, leadership psychology as defined here, understanding how we think and feel is an important first step in developing ourselves, yes, as leaders, and even more importantly as human beings.
When we are open to our own development, we can create contexts that are growth-oriented for everyone. It works that way.
Remember, it starts with you, with me, with each of us. Therefore, when we catch ourselves looking outside of ourselves for answers to why we think and feel as we do, we must remember to look within.
Because, my friends, within ourselves is the only place we will find the answers.
Self-expression is one of the most empowering experiences. Being able to feel and say what is needed. Important. Often, people hold back, as I once did, for the sake of “not rocking the boat,” or fear of reprisal. The issue?
When we hold back how we feel and what we think, we are actually still continuing to communicate those feelings and thoughts. Though, because we’ve been holding back, they will come out in a less than productive communicative way.
Today I find it better to express the truth about how I feel and what I think, even when, and, maybe, most importantly when, it means how I feel and what I think may spur a difficult conversation. It is really okay, and is needed.
We communicate more about how we feel and how we think nonverbally than we do verbally. That is the truth. Which is why it is so important to be transparent with ourselves, first, about how we feel, and what we think, and then to communicate that to those we care about.
Again, if we choose to not communicate how we feel and what we think, we will still communicate these feelings and thoughts through nonverbal communication.
Whether that is an skance glance or gesture, or some other form of nonverbal cue. And? People close to us will pick up on it, even if they are unconcious of it, and, yep, will react to it. The issue?
When we lead communicative experiences that are healthy and transparent, we have the opportunity to create a context that is free of the fear of reprisal, or the inauthentic experience of “not rocking the boat.”
By the way, when we actively try to “not rock the boat,” know that the boat is probably already rocking. And?
It can be settled a bit by being open and communicative about how we feel and what we think.
Shaping Our Experience
Communication really does shape our experience. As my awareness has grown over the past three years, I am able to notice when my nonverbal cues are picked up on by other people, and, likewise, when I pick up on theirs.
It is an interesting experience, and is one that is ultimately empowering. We have the potential to create contexts that are communicatively healthy once we are aware. Aware of just how important healthy communication is, both verbal and nonverbal.
We all get frustrated, and, yes, even angry sometimes. That happens to us all. It is part of being human.
However, it is important to practice communicating with others when we feel this way; and, to take the time necessary to understand why we are frustrated or angry in the first place.
For, as we know, when we are frustrated or angry, we are not frustrated or angry because of what other people are doing. We are frustrated or angry with how we are thinking and feeling about what other people are doing, or what we are doing, or not doing. It’s always that way.
All communication starts with us. How we communicate with ourselves is the beginning for how we ultimately communicate with others. And?
When we take the time to communicate with ourselves, which includes listening, we understand ourselves that much better; and, we also understand the people we love and care about that much better too.
And, for me? That’s what it means to live and love a communicative life. It’s about taking the time to practice communication. Practice communicating with ourselves, yes, and then with everyone else. It is quite lovely.
For me, it then follows to ask the question, is high sensitivity binary, as in you have it or you don’t? Or, rather, is high sensitivity a spectrum of experiences? Hm. Good questions. Let’s take a look, shall we?
Alright, so let’s first define binary and spectrum. Ready? Good. Here we go.
There we go. Again, for the purpose of this conversation, you can think about a complete or wide range of related sensitivities, as a spectrum of sensitivity. Make sense? Good.
Now, why is this important? Good question.
Sensitivity as a Spectrum
Because if we think about sensitivity as binary, we limit the experience of being a sensitive human being; and, we also limit our own experience of what it means to be sensitive.
As we discussed in the previous post on sensitivity, being sensitive is not a problem or an issue, it is, rather a gift. And, being able to own that gift, and really internalize it as such is an important and empowering experience.
And, at the same time, it is equally important for everyone to have access to the possibility that they are also sensitive. Why?
Because understanding our sensitivities, whatever they might be, is such an important aspect of being a human being. Truly, truly, this is so.
People that are highly sensitive often turn to substance abuse and other forms of self-abuse in order to dull their sensitivity. And? It is extremely damaging.
Yes, of course, for the person with sensitivity, and also, for those around them. Both. Yet, it need not be that way. Truly.
Are You a Highly Sensitive Person?
Here are a couple of questions you can ask yourself to see if you too might be a highly sensitive person. Ready? Good. Here we go.
Are you sensitive to light?
How about being sensitive to cold or heat?
Maybe you are sensitive to noise?
Are you easily overwhelmed?
Do you feel your own emotions more?
How about feeling other people’s emotions more?
Now, you can use these questions, if you choose, to start an investigation into your own sensitivity. Yep. Oh, me?
Yes, to every question listed above, and more. I typically score between 17 and 19 on the highly sensitive person questionnaire, which I recommend everyone take. Everyone. Seriously. Why?
Sensitivity As a Gift
Because finding out that I was a highly sensitive person was pivotal in my life. A gift, as was previously stated.
Therefore, I want to make sure everyone has the opportunity to explore their sensitivity, free from bias and judgment. Yep, that’s about it.
Further, I believe that everyone is highly sensitive in some way. Really. I do.
Remember, sensitivity is a spectrum, not binary. Meaning, that it is quite possible that everyone in some way is highly sensitive to something. Yep. Possible. And?
Removing the Stigma of Being Sensitive
Well, removing stigma about sensitivity, especially in the United States, is super important. Especially for young boys. Really.
Young boys are often raised to dissociate themselves from their sensitivity, yet, that is so very unhealthy. It is unhealthy for them as a developing child and youth, and is also unhealthy, as we’ve discussed, for them later in life.
What is healthy?
Proper education about sensitivity. For instance, positive reinforcement and education about what sensitivity means; and, knowledge about how to cope with emotions. All. Important.
Bottom line? Sure. Here we go.
We all have sensitivities. We have to. Why? Because we are all human, and all humans have senses. And, these senses are, at times, maybe all the time, sensitive. And?
That is perfectly okay. More, as we’ve discussed, it is a gift.
Embracing our sensitivity creates more possibility. More possibilities about ourselves and our lives, and more possibilities for those around us.
When we model acceptance of our sensitivity, we remove the stigma about sensitivity and create spaces that are more inclusive and loving.
And, I for one, think that acceptance, inclusivity, and love are needed in this world. Nay, they are very much needed in this world. Today, yep, and, well, tomorrow too. And, for all time.
Meditation is and has been an experience that, well, quite frankly, has transformed my life. How? Yep. Here are three ways.
Increased focus – the focus you develop in meditation, focusing on the breath, or some other object, carries out to every area of your life.
Developed patience – sitting for any duration of time, free of people and distractions, can be difficult, thus, doing so, greatly develops your ability to be patient. Both with yourself, and, of course, with others.
Greater presence – when you sit in deep concentration, you also get to know your own mind much better. Meaning, that you can see your mind as your awareness grows. And, with a more expansive awareness comes an ability to shift your attention from yesterday and tomorrow to today.
When we intentionally create quiet time for ourselves, to be with ourselves, away from all people and distractions, we are able to breathe, reflect, and just be.
It takes time and assistance to develop a meditation practice. I mean to really develop a practice that is sustainable.
Meaning, learning from someone that has been schooled in the art of meditation is helpful. I still see someone regularly about my meditation practice, and, well, as I’ve written before, about all of life.
Remember, it takes time to develop a meditation practice. Example? Sure, here you go.
My initial meditation practice, what I then called breathing, was only once or twice a day for 2 to 5 minutes at a time. I could literally only sit still for that long. Yep. Today? Well, today, my meditation practice is much longer.
It just takes a dedication to practice. Practice daily, get some coaching, and it will come. Really, it will.
Someone once told me, we are what we put into our bodies. I know, I know. A very common saying, and you’re right. Yet, it is also very true.
I spent a lot of years putting very unhealthy things into my body, yet have learned the truth of the aforementioned statement.
It’s really about energy and clarity. When you eat more whole foods and put less refined sugars into your body, you do have more energy, and equally more clarity.
What does that look like? Well, there are countless iterations of healthy diets. Really. What does mine look like today? Sure. It’s pretty simple.
Fruits and veggies
Beans, nuts, and some grains
That’s basically it. Now, there are other things I do eat, for instance, I removed dairy from my diet about a year ago, so I now eat a dairyless oatmeal yogurt product. However, the core of my diet is listed above.
Now, also know that diets iterate. For instance, though at the moment, I’m not eating eggs, for example, eggs have been in and out of my diet several times in the past three years. Yep.
Well, when you combine eating healthier with meditation, guess what? Your ability to be present also increases. And, there is another benefit. What, you ask? Yep.
Clarity. With a healthier diet and regular quiet time for ourselves comes more clarity. Fun.
This is a fun one, as there are two ways I think about exercise today. Ready? Here we go.
Cardio and exercising to exercise – sounds funny, maybe? Well, what I mean is exercise, such as running, jogging, or hiking, lifting weights, if you like, and biking.
Contemplative exercise – yep, really. What I mean here is taking a walk, by yourself, no headphones, phones, or other distractions, and just walk. Just like that. Contemplation time, just for you.
Both are important. Why?
Well, being active, and in motion, is good for the body and mind. It gets all of your muscles and joints moving, and gets your heart rate up.
And, spending time with yourself on a walk, for instance, is very healthy for your mind, and yes, your body too.
We all need time by ourselves, to contemplate, to just be present to all that’s around us, free of the myriad of distractions that typically hold our attention. Very helpful.
Okay, this is a very important one for me today, and, well, it is also important for you, and for everyone.
When we spend time inquiring into why we feel the way we do, we gain insight on what’s happening with ourselves, yes, true, and we also gain a better sense of our own humanity, and our shared humanity. Truth.
When we ignore our emotions, regardless of the type, guess what? They just sit under the surface, and sort of fester, if you will.
They don’t just go away, especially those emotions we would associate with “negative” experiences, thoughts, or feelings, such as sadness, worry, or anxiety. Yep.
Spending time writing out how we feel daily, if possible, has been a helpful practice for me. When we do this, we can ask ourselves questions, such as, why did that incident or situation, bother me?
We can then trace it back to where the originally thought, experience, or feeling originated. Takes practice, yet is a super helpful and therapeutic experience. And?
As we work through our emotions, we become lighter. Really. We end up carrying less emotionalness inside of us. And? Yep, we also become more present. True.
Alright, so we’ve covered 4 areas that contribute to our overall well-being, and presence. That was fun.
Here are some closing thoughts to round out our discussion.
Meditate, or create quiet time for ourselves
Watch what we eat, reducing our intake of refined sugars and increasing our intake of whole foods
Get exercise, including contemplation time
Work on our inner-selves and our emotional well-being, well?
We understand ourselves much better. And?
When we understand ourselves better, guess what? We know when we are present, and when we are not; and, when we catch ourselves being distracted, we can let go of that distraction, regardless of what it is, and refocus on the present moment.
After all, it is really only the present moment that we ever have. Yesterday and tomorrow do not exist. Really. And guess what?
The more present you become to yourself, the more present you become to everyone and everything. It works that way; and is presently beautiful that way.
In the first installment of the Social Construction Series, we discussed why understanding social constructionism is important to our daily lives. How we interpret our world, think and feel about it; choices we make, and practices we keep, or let go of. Important.
In the second installment, we discussed the importance of understanding that all knowledge is socially constructed. All of it. And, how the production, distribution, and access, or lack thereof, to knowledge affects our lives. Also important.
In the third installment, we discussed the importance of understanding that our identities, every part of them, are also socially constructed. Giving us power and the freedom to create our identity as we want it to be, not as someone has said it should be.
In this fourth installment, we will discuss the social construction of reality; and, why considering a different way to think about reality as important to our lives, to your life. Important to the human being you are today, and the human being you want to be tomorrow. Ready? Let’s go.
Well, what exactly is reality? How does it function, and why do we understand our world as the reality it is? Hm. Let’s define reality, shall we. Here we go.
Reality is a true, or factual account of a situation inherent with problems that exist in contrast to what you’d like your reality to be. Hm. Not sure about these definitions. How about you? Let’s look at a different way to think about reality.
Here you go.
“Human existence is, ab initio, an ongoing externalization. As man externalizes himself, he constructs the world into which he externalizes himself. In the process of externalization, he projects his own meanings into reality. Symbolic universes, which proclaim that all reality is humanly meaningful and call upon the entire cosmos to signify the validity of human existence, constitute the farthest reaches of this projection.80 b.” ― Peter L. Berger,
Alright, so what do you read here? Okay. Well, let me tell you what I read.
That reality, all reality, is a projection of what it is that we think it is. That’s about it.
Reality is about a created truth, our factual account, of a situation inherent with problems, and possibilities, that is seen to exist.
And, who prey, creates it and sees it? Well, you do, I do.
Our realities, however, are different. Your reality is not the same as mine, which is why having general statements, as in the aforementioned definitions from Oxford, are problematic. They’re not inclusive enough, and leave people wanting, and, in some cases, confused.
Right, well, what then?
Let’s take a look at 5 reasons why understanding the social construction of reality as a fluid representation of a world, nay many worlds (over 7 billion in fact), is important to your life. Ready? Here we go.
A Fluid Representation of Many Worlds
If we begin to consider reality as fluid, always shifting and moving, we release ourselves from the false notion that reality is in some way a static, or solid, representation of that which we see. Make sense?
Reality is influenced by several key factors. Here are a few.
Our current state of mind
Our emotional state
Our present situation
Complex, yet simple. Another fun paradox.
Let’s look at each of these in more detail.
1. Our current state of mind
What we believe, we see. Yep. True. If we believe the world is full of bad people with hidden agendas, guess what we’ll see? Yep. A world full of bad people with hidden agendas.
Conversely, if we believe the world is full of good people with noble intentions, yes, that is what we will see.
Now, the world is not binary.
The world is full of both, that which we will find good and that which we will find bad. The point is that, what we expect to see, is what we will see; and, that then becomes our reality.
2. Our emotional state
Our emotions, like our mind, are powerful. How we feel, especially if we are sensitive to our emotions, like I am, influences how we see the world.
If we feel hopeful, we will see hope. If we feel despair, yep, we will see despair. It works that way. Again, complex, and yet quite simple.
Of course, we know that we have many emotions within us, and they come and go like waves in the ocean. Here, then gone, here again, then gone again.
The point is when we are unaware of our emotional state, we are not aware of how our emotions are influencing our perception of reality.
3. Our past
When we focus on our past, especially when that past is full of things we label as a problem, we can literally bring those problems into our present reality. Really.
If we are focusing more on what happened yesterday, than the present context, we are creating a disruption in the reality right in front of us, and, in effect, replacing that reality with an alternative version from a past time.
However, when we are aware that our minds work this way, we can catch ourselves living in the past, and shift our attention back to the present moment, and let go of the past.
4. Our present situation
If we are not at peace with our present reality, we will continue to see issues and problems. In effect, creating even more issues and problems as possible.
When we fight against the reality we see, we make our current reality into a larger problem, and, at the same time, increase our own pain and suffering.
However, if we recognize this pattern, or habit, we can disrupt the habit and replace it with understanding and grace. We can change our reality into something that is more congruent with what we want to see. Finding more peace and harmony in the process.
5. Our future
When we are scared of the future, or feel like the future will only ever be a reproduction of the past, limited and painful, that is what our future will be. Simple. That which we put our attention on expands, and becomes our reality.
Yet, when we let go of our past, and remain open to our future being all that we want it to be, we can begin to shift our attention and create a reality that is quite different.
We can begin to create the future reality that we want to manifest. One that is full of possibility.
Reality is fluid and dynamic, not stable and static. And, we have the power within us to create the reality we want to live into. We do.
There are over 7 billion worlds (realities) on this planet. One reality for each of us. Yep. The paradox?
Sure, here you go.
Though there are over 7 billion worlds on this one planet, there are certain things we agree on. Yep. Example? Sure, we all mostly agree that a tree is a tree, right? The sun is the sun, the stars are stars.
Yet, know that a tree, the sun, and the stars were not always called such. They weren’t. There was a time when they were called something else, and a time when they were called nothing at all. They just existed. That’s it.
Know that the reality you want to live into is available to you. Has been, is, and will always be available.
Reality is socially constructed by each of us every minute of every day. Next time you find yourself frustrated about your current reality, ask yourself why that’s so.
Here are a couple questions you can ask yourself.
In my current state of mind, am I expecting to see frustration?
Is my emotional state having an impact on how I am seeing my reality?
Am I thinking about my past experiences, and bringing them into my present reality?
Am I not at peace with my present situation?
Am I thinking that the future will only ever be a reproduction of my past?
When you ask yourself these questions, see what you get back. And, shift your attention away from these thoughts and emotions, and to the present reality. And?
Begin to create the future you’ve been waiting for. Make that future your reality now, today. You are the only one that can do so.