Power Up!

Life is a lot like rock climbing or cliff hanging. You know where you want to go but the most immediate need is the next foothold. The next hand grip. You are in the moment of living. Not dying. Hopefully you’ve prepared for this. Even down to the tiniest details, since it’s usually the details that get us. Your clothes, your gear, your metabolism. This is not the time to have a wardrobe malfunction.

It’s true we seek comfort in gurus, psychics and charismatic leaders, but mostly we want someone who can show us the way we should live. Someone who has climbed before us. But like the person who has a terminal illness, no one experience is like another. If you knew you were dying, you might find great joy in meeting one last time with family and friends. Those long talks near the end may strengthen your friendships and make life full of color that you never knew existed. Exquisite love and sunshine. There are others though that won’t go down peacefully. Verbal assaults fly from them as they angrily accuse others of not caring or understanding. Sobs filled with anger and resentment pushes those around them far away. Or at least to the next room only to peek in occasionally. I’ve known both. I’ve also known those young people that never experienced their first kiss. It leaves you wondering about your own life and how short it all seems.

I watched a Ted Talk recently, which I’ll post below. Jane McGonigal talks about her concussion and how she was required to stay in bed for three months. With depression overwhelming her, she had to remind herself how to live. So she made it into a game. She learned to defeat suicidal thoughts and hopelessness. She found allies from friends and family and created power ups with positive thoughts and things that made her smile. She suggests 4 quests that make us resilient. So let’s use her techniques to get ready for our life. You know that difficult days will happen. It’s life. What else is there to expect?

There are four strengths you need to work on. She gives us four quests.

Quest 1. “Stand up and take three steps, or make your hands into fists and raise them over your head for 5 seconds. Worth +1 physical resilience. It turns out the best thing you can do for physical health is not sit still. (The whole audience raises their arms, and she notes some who did both: “Overachievers, I like that.”)

Quest 2. “Snap your fingers 50 times, or count backward from 100 by sevens.” That’s worth +1 mental resilience, which gives more focus and willpower. The research shows that those are both like muscles, and get better the more they’re exercised.

Quest 3. “If you’re inside, find a window and look out of it, or if you’re outside, find a window and look in. Or think of a baby [your favorite animal] and do a Google or YouTube search for it.” This gives +1 emotional resilience. She suggests you try to experience three positive emotions for every one negative — that improves your ability to respond to any challenge.

Quest 4. “Shake someone’s hand for 6 seconds or send someone a quick text, e-mail, thanking them.” That gives +1 social resilience. A great way to increase social resilience is gratitude. (By this point, the audience is incredibly loose and happy. It seems to be working.)

McGonigal has one last bit of science. “People who regularly boost all four kinds of resilience live 10 years longer than everyone else.” That’s where she gets the seven minutes she’s just granted us.

I took the above excerpt from TED Blog and you can read the entire thing if you are interested or just watch the video.

One Foot in Front of the Other

English: Fog in Wayanad

No one looks at the middle. We see beginnings and we see endings, but it’s the stuff in the middle that really counts. Without the actual journey there would be no adventure. It’s the best part of the story. Yes, the warrior’s calling is exciting. The moment of realization, that mission to complete, gives you a burst of energy. And the promise of the happily ever after keeps us going. But we all know where the true tale is. The place in the middle. It reminds me of the classical poem, Ithaca.

When you start on your journey to Ithaca,
then pray that the road is long,
full of adventure, full of knowledge.
-K. P. Kavafis (C. P. Cavafy), translation by Rae Dalven

I have the bad habit of forgetting about the journey and just remembering the result that I want. Even thinking that I’ve messed up, when really I just need to keep walking. It’s difficult to recognize the path when you’re travelling. Obviously you know where you started. You gathered your supplies, you’ve gassed up your car, bought new tires and began your journey. You have your maps and your GPS programmed, so you know your destination. What about the middle? Stop at a rest stop? How do you know you’re still on the right path? That’s the moment I often panic. There’s a blank, somewhat boring, unscripted moment that comes after I’ve started. I look around at the scenery and don’t recognize any of it. Probably because I was sidetracked. I was off smelling the flowers and petting the dogs. I forget to set up mile markers for myself. Rest stops. Ah, but the flowers and the dogs are all part of my journey.

If the journey is the thing to enjoy, what would that look like? It’s not all about the destination. It’s not just about the rest stops and the progress markers. What does enjoying the journey look like? I do think I’ve missed the point in life. Life is in the living they say. If that’s the truth, then I want to know what it is that I’m missing. When you have a baby you certainly aren’t thinking about their end game. You enjoy the baby with the soft skin and chubby cheeks. Yes, there are dirty diapers, but we usually don’t dwell on them. We enjoy the process of them growing up. Is that the way it should look?

What about the Zen Buddhist way of thinking? They talk about experiencing the whole process. Not just the good but also the “bad.” Actually they teach not to label any of the experience. Don’t label anything as either good, bad, pretty or ugly. That’s difficult, but I think I understand. While a dirty diaper is unpleasant, it isn’t a bad thing that’s avoided. It’s part of a healthy digestive system. Sickness is unpleasant but it’s a part of life. An experience as much as childbirth.

So my journey, if it is long or slow, short or fast, will be my journey. It may include writing, flowers and petting puppies. If we catch up on the other side, when we finally make it out of this dark forest, I’ll listen to your journey and you can listen to mine. Good times! Check out I Walk.