No matter what the situation
we are responsible for our own mind states
A short presentation by the always entertaining Robert Sapolsky, showing how prolonged exposure to the stress response causes more problems than stress itself:
Not holding on is tough to do because we are not honest a lot of the time which is because of fear - the fear of losing our self-image. The social pressure to get ahead and win is so ingrained that we are anxious about failure.
This anxiety about doing becomes an anxiety about being, because in a driven life, doing is being: you’re supposed to be doing and you are assessed by it.
One of the more embarrassing and self-indulgent challenges of our time is the task of relearning how to concentrate. The past decade has seen an unparalleled assault on our capacity to fix our minds steadily on anything. To sit still and think, without succumbing to an anxious reach for a machine, has become almost impossible…..The need to diet, which we know so well in relation to food, and which runs so contrary to our natural impulses, should be brought to bear on what we now have to relearn in relation to knowledge, people, and ideas. Our minds, no less than our bodies, require periods of fasting.
The snow returned briefly yesterday, and today there is a bitter north wind. When times are grey or cold, or if our mood is blue (as this week is purported to be) we need to consciously notice the moments of colour and warmth in our lives, explicitly savouring them a little longer. We have to let positive facts become positive experiences. Just as Mary Oliver does when she pays attention to the red bird in this poem. What were or are the moments of colour in your day today that you can be grateful for? Who or what brought warmth? Allow yourself to feel good if you achieve something however small, if someone smiles or if you notice a good quality in yourself. As studies have shown, the more you take in the good in little details, the more your brain tilts towards the positive in an overall sense.
Still, for whatever reason —
perhaps because the winter is so long
and the sky so black-blue,
or perhaps because the heart narrows
as often as it opens —
I am glad
that red bird comes all winter,
firing up the landscape
as nothing else can do.
Three posts on how to shift your relationship with work, stay more mindful, and reduce stress. My father used to say that hard work never killed anyone, and he was right: some degree of being kept occupied by work is good for our creative energies. Furthermore, work allows us make a contribution to the world. However, modern work is frequently driven by non- stop deadlines and busyness. This can spread into our whole day by the fact that we are in constant connection through emails 24/7, notifying us of work to be done or forgotten. If we refuse to buy into this constant activity we are made to feel guilty or disloyal.
As Marc Lesser says: Our daily incessant busyness – too much to do and not enough time; the pressure to produce a to-do list and tick off items by each day’s end – seems to decide the direction and quality of our existence for us. But if we approach our days in a different way, we can consciously change this out-of-control pattern. It requires only the courage to do less.
He goes on to give three thoughts on how to begin doing less. They are our starting points for reflection on balance in work:
1. We do less by taking the time to rest mentally and physically in between or outside of our usual activities, perhaps instituting a regular practice of meditation, retreats, breaks, and reflection.
2. We do less by pausing in the midst of activities: mindfulness practice (such as coming in touch with our breath in between reading or sending emails) and walking meditation are two examples.
3. We do less by identifying and reducing unnecessary activities. In this case, “unnecessary” means those things that are not in alignment with what we want to accomplish.
Marc Lesser, Accomplishing More by Doing Less