We Still Have Time to Change Pt. 3

The Skin of Our Teeth, Gladys with baby and Mom
The Skin of Our Teeth, Gladys with baby and Mom

“If you take care of your mind, you take care of the world.” –Arianna Huffington

“The very words you speak and think are your personal vehicle on your journey to happiness.” –Yvonne Oswald

After writing the posts for the last two weeks, I felt there were a lot more tools to share with those of you who are on the self-discovery path. Today I want to write about our thoughts as a tool. Our thoughts can keep us from realizing the life we want to live, or if we pay attention to what we’re thinking, they can help us create a dream life.

When something challenging happens, what are your first thoughts? I bet they’re negative. When we’re out and about, we overhear lots of negative comments from friends, co-workers and people in the next aisle at the grocery store. We’re so used to complaining and asking “Why me?”, that most of us don’t even think to look at the things that happen to us as opportunities.

When I was in college, I was going through a difficult time. Some wise person suggested I keep a journal and write down all the things I was thinking and feeling. “What a great idea,” I thought. However after months of whining and complaining in my journal, I was no closer to feeling better. Then one day I wrote in my journal, “What am I supposed to be learning from this?” That was the key phrase. Immediately I got answers in my journal. Over the next months I looked at the lessons in everything that had been happening to me. Every time I looked for the lessons, I felt better, because I found solutions, and I became aware of the blocks in my thinking that were keeping me from living my dreams.

What happened to me, is a key to the way we can change the way things are going in our inner world and the outer world. Negative thinking is a habit that most of us learned at our parent’s knee. It takes a commitment to pay attention to our thoughts and what we say. When we pay attention to our inner and outer dialogue, we can find ways to change them to positive thoughts and statements. Many of the things we say are figures of speech that we’re so used to, that we don’t even think of them as negative. For example, how often do you use the words fear and worry in your daily discourse? How often, when something good happens for someone you know, do you say, “That’ll never happen to me.” The thing is, words are linked to emotional states of being, most of which are unconscious. Since that’s the case it takes time to root out those pesky negative thoughts.

A year or so ago, I read a fantastic book which has great exercises for identifying those negative thoughts that we aren’t even aware we have. The book is, Every Word Has Power, by Yvonne Oswald, MHT, MNLP, MTLT. The book is full of those everyday phrases and thought patterns that we use out of habit, that trigger negative thinking and feeling. Reading it helped me become more conscious, and to use language in a more positive way.

Yvonne Oswald’s work is based on scientific research. Among the circle of spiritual authors I read, it’s a well documented fact that our thoughts create our reality. This is something that was known by ancient spiritual traditions, but not so many years ago, it was verified by scientists, particularly quantum physicists. If you watched the series Cosmos, you probably heard Neal deGrasse Tyson mention this fact. But if you’re skeptical, here are two other researchers talking about the same thing.

Gregg Braden is a scientist and a spiritual teacher. This video of Gregg talking about the power of our subconscious mind, will help you understand the point that I’m trying to make, that what we think creates our reality. If you still need convincing, watch this TED Talk by Shawn Achor, a proponent of Postive Psychology and a happiness researcher, about how simple practices done every day for 21 days can change our thoughts and feelings to more positive patterns.

Why do we want to change our thinking and feeling to more positive patterns you might ask? Because continuing to see the world as if everything is going down the tubes hasn’t helped us change the serious problems we face. We’ve got to consider what Albert Einstein said as the truth. “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

We’ve been doing the same things over and over again, allowing our thought patterns to turn toward the negative. While human behavior has changed for the better, we’re at a point where we need to make a quantum leap forward. Which means we need a lot of people to work on becoming happier and more loving, and thinking in positive ways. The books and videos give you some practical ways you can do that.

The final tool that I want to suggest is to switch the negative television you watch, for shows that are more positive. Years ago I stopped watching the news because I felt so bad after watching a half an hour or an hour of negative stories about what was going on in the world. Shawn Achor said in his TED talk and on Super Soul Sunday with Oprah, that we take in those negative messages and think that the world is a negative place. But it’s not true. It just takes a shift in the kinds of messages we take in and a shift in our perceptions.

Super Soul Sunday is a fantastic substitute for all the negative programming. Shows like Cosmos, or TV shows where the characters grow and the relationships become deeper and richer as the seasons go along are other great choices. Bones is one good example of that kind of fictional show. There are lots of others. You have to be willing to look for them, and resist the negative ones where competition and getting ahead is the main theme. It also helps if you talk with your family about the positive shows you watch.

Not long ago I read an article about a new therapy technique being used in research trials with young couples. The goal was to help newlyweds learn to communicate better and prevent early divorce. Instead of sitting down and talking with a therapist, the couple watched a romantic comedy together. Then they talked with the therapist about the behaviors of the characters, identifying the ones that they could relate to. In that way, the couple could identify destructive, and positive behaviors that they engaged in. Watching the movie created a non-threatening way for them to understand themselves and their partners better.

The bottom line is, the world is only a terrifying place in which to live, if you’re full of fear. You don’t have to feel fear. You can do as I did. You can ask yourself, “What am I supposed to learn from this?” When you do that, you’ll begin to see a deeper meaning in current events. And when you look for the positive things that are happening around you, the world becomes much more friendly.

Lucinda Sage-Midgorden © 2014

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I Refuse to be Pessimistic

“If all you do is spend time focusing on what the problem is, you leave no room open for the solution.” –Mastin Kipp

“As my sufferings mounted I soon realized that there were two ways in which I could respond to my situation – either to react with bitterness or seek to transform the suffering into a creative force. I decided to follow the latter course.”– Martin Luther King Jr.

“Every individual matters. Every individual has a role to play. Every individual makes a difference.” –Jane Goodall

Why do we do it? Why do we always go to the cynical, pessimistic place first? Some unexpected challenge happens, and we go immediately into a panic. I do it too.

Something happened this week that made me see that I do that. I didn’t like it and I declared: “I refuse to be pessimistic!” All of a sudden I’d had it up to here (hand placed above my head) with cynicism and being pessimistic about life.

It happened at my book club group. We got to talking about the younger generation. (We’re a group of Baby Boomers.) One of the women said that she didn’t understand the younger generation and the discussion turned, as it always does with the older generation, to concern about whether or not the future was in good hands.

This kind of discussion gets my ire up. I guess it’s because I’ve been a teacher in one form and another for thirty-five years. I’ve taught high school and college classes for fifteen years, and every year, I’m excited by how bright and thoughtful my students are. So, I spoke up and said that I have faith in the younger generation and then I declared, “I refuse to be pessimistic about the young people today! I refuse to be pessimistic about anything!” This caused the other women to pause.

Later, I thought about it and I’ve decided that a better way to say it is, “I’m determined to be positive.”

My generation went through a lot of horrible stuff. We got shell shocked, so letting go of cynicism might be hard. We suffered through assassinations, multiple wars, a loss of innocence about government, and the turmoil around the Civil Rights of humans in this country. Many of those struggles go on today. But, our children have gone through some rough times too. That’s why we need to give them a break.

Let’s face it, life’s been hard for people throughout the centuries, but being pessimistic hasn’t made us happier. So I propose, we turn our thoughts to looking for the positive things happening in our lives.

Now I know that’s not easy. Some people have depression or other mental challenges, which means their brains have a hard time going to those positive places. At least it’s hard to do without help. However, those of us who can snap out of a funk need to give changing our thinking a try. All it takes is paying attention to our reactions and what we say about our challenges both inside our heads, and verbally.

As we all know life’s not all a bed roses and rainbows. Everything worth doing grows out of commitment and struggle. The baby is born with a lot of pain and effort on the part of the mother. But the pain and struggle vanish the moment the baby arrives. The child goes to school and learns discipline so they can be educated. At each achievement the child sees the value of the effort. The artist uses talent, discipline and an open connection to something larger than themselves to create their work, which gives pleasure. Any endeavor humans undertake is fraught with challenges. But people keep having babies, and children continue to go to school. Artists continue to follow their muses and create. People still start businesses, volunteer, or work for good causes. Life goes on and society progresses. The reason we continue to strive is because we see the benefits of the effort.

So, I propose for those of us who can, let’s make the effort to stop being cynical and pessimistic about the future. I don’t mean that we should ignore the problems we face. What I propose is that we look at the problems in a new way. What if, when faced with a challenge, we said to ourselves, “There is a solution to this and I can find it.”

So, going back to my generation’s relationship with our children, what if we trusted them? What if we remembered what it was like to face the condemnation of our parents and grandparents and refused to do that to our children and grandchildren? We Baby Boomers are rabble rousers. Let’s continue to be rabble rousers and strive to understand and support our children as they make their contributions to society. After all they came into the world we built for them. We have to take responsibility for that.

My generation has done some pretty amazing things. I trust the generations coming along to do even more astonishing things that will help make this world a better place in which to live. In fact they already are.

And, since I’m not ready to give up making my contributions to society, I’m going to stop concentrating on the ills, and look for all the good things that are happening. When enough of us do that, who knows what great things we’ll create.

© Lucinda Sage-Midgorden
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