Saturday in the Park

Spring in Savannah 009.JPG

It’s Day 16 of the Get Stuff Done 1 x31 Challenge and today your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to find your happy place and spend some time there.

You may even opt to spend more than the 5-15 minutes on this one since surely it will spark joy. (See Day 15 for more on that.)

There was a study into drug addiction done in the late 1970’s by Canadian psychologist Bruce Alexander known as the Rat Park study* that has come up enough times in conversations lately to make me want to check into it further and share it with you.

I did some research and found a fabulous TED talk by Johann Hari called “Everything you think you know about addiction is wrong”. In Hari’s talk, he references the Rat Park study in which Alexander hypothesized that it wasn’t the addictive property of a drug that causes addiction so much as the living conditions that contribute to the struggle.

In a nutshell, given the choice between living in an isolated cage (or otherwise intolerable situation) with unlimited access to drugs or living in a rat “park” with interesting scenery, healthy food, lots of toys, enough space for mating, and equal access to unlimited drugs,  rats who lived in the park choose to avoid the drugs despite their assumed addiction.

This theory was also used to explain how some Vietnam vets who had done a lot of heroin during the war were not addicted or continued to use drugs once they returned home. Or it may explain how you can have a hip replaced and be given a steady stream of morphine while you are in the hospital but not need to head to rehab before you head home.

What does all this have to do with you spending Saturday in the park?

The implication for us is that when we can find our park, our happy spot, our place of personal power and purpose, we don’t need to depend nearly as much on all the those things we may be slightly addicted to – be it Pokemon, shopping, gambling, smoking, sex-drugs-rock’n’roll, sports, social media – to do it for us.

We are wired for connection and meaning. As Hari so eloquently describes it, addiction to the drug of choice may seem like the only answer for those who can’t “bear to be present in their own lives”.

If you can be present for your own life with all the intricate and intimate connections and activities that give your life meaning as well as break your heart, you will most likely choose to do what supports and sustain that, rather than destroy it.

That’s why today I’m inviting you to spend this Saturday in the park, even if you can only go there in your mind. My hope is that you never lose sight of what matters to you and why. Take trips to your “park” any day of the week, so you seldom lose your way.

Feel free to share your happy spot memories or photos in the comments below.

 

 

Today’s photo was taken at Forsyth Park in Savannah, Georgia.  It’s one of my favorite parks to walk and spend time in when I visit my nieces there.

*Click here to see how Stuart McMillen has brilliantly illustrated the details of the Rat Study  in comic strip form. You can also see how this artist is using crowd sourcing to support his passion. I love it!

No Matter What – Day 19

It’s Day 19 of the No Matter What Game.  You can play along by answering the prompt by Gillian and sharing your response in the comments below.  Or email Gillian at www.gillianpearce.com to have your own prompt sent to you.

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G:  If you had unlimited funds that had to be used to investigate a scientific or medical problem, which one would you investigate?

P:  The timing of this question is perfect.  I just paid a visit to my acupuncturist today which usually turns into an all consuming discussion about health and disease.

It also means I load up on supplements in addition to being stuck with over 70 needles from head to toe. Consequently, I coined a slightly nuanced phrase for this experience… being needled and dimed to death.

Naturally he’s an excellent doctor, cares deeply for his patients, is constantly furthering his education, and restores my chi to its righteous position, so I consent to all of this.

To answer Gillian’s question, because Bob says often I don’t really answer her questions and he could be right, I don’t have a specific medical problem or scientific conundrum that’s near and dear to my heart.  There are so many medical and scientific issues deserving more attention, research, and funding it’s difficult to pick one.

My passion has always been fitness, health, and wellness. I’ve been a certified ACE fitness instructor for almost 30 years and last year became a certified Eating Psychology Coach. My focus has been on prevention instead of disease management and what we can do to sustain and restore health rather than eradicate disease.

I’ve been blessed to come from a sturdy stock of Midwesterners who are relatively free of any major diseases.  But we live in toxic times and I know unless I detox on a regular basis, I’m as susceptible as the next person to experiencing a debilitating disease.

That’s why at the end of this week I’ll switch my focus for the next 21 days to Detoxing No Matter What.  I won’t be blogging about it every day like I have with this round of the No Matter What Game.  I’ve found that most people are not that interested in hearing about it unless they are doing it as well and I’m not interested in pushing it on anyone. People get interested in detoxing when they are ready, not when I want them to be.

I will, however, chime in with the highlights.  Or when I’m having a meltdown.  It’s all part of the process. No matter how many times I do it.

Anyway, I know there are fascinating scientific problems and medical breakthroughs on the verge of being solved and changing life as we know it. I also know I’m more of an artist than a scientist, so I can’t write intelligently about these issues without doing a little research.  But I do believe the best results come from tapping into the brilliance of both art and science.

So my best answer for today’s question is to pass it on to you. I’m guessing some of you may have some very definite answers, experiences, and stories on this topic.  And some of you may be scientists and medical professionals. So please, leave your response in the comments below. I’d love to hear your take on this.

Thanks for reading and playing at home. 🙂

This Thing Called Love

Two hearts on the branch of a tree, retro look

Valentine’s Day defines February in much the same way Christmas defines December.  Whether you’ve jumped on the love bandwagon or not, you’re bombarded with images of a world ruled by romance and populated by passionate partners.

It’s not that I’m against love.  Oh no.  I’m all for it.  I believe love is a many splendored thing and, like Burt Bacharach, what the world needs now is love, sweet love.

It’s just that the idea of love that’s been sold to us needs a little revision.  From fairy tales to scary tales (“reality” tv like “The Bachelor” or “The Bachelorette”) to promises of soulmates and twin flames, how can the real possibly compete with the ideal?

For me it’s the imperfections that endear another to me.  I’ve had my share of “perfection.”  It’s intimidating, exhausting, and self-indulgent, not to mention impossible to maintain.

What I absolutely adore in others are the things that make them unique.  Things like sneaking private code words into a public presentation.  Or consoling an elder by singing show tunes, mesmerizing a history class by reciting the Gettysburg address in its entirety, knowing how to solve story problems or anything to do with algebra, naming the constellations with confidence, caring deeply for the environment, or always making time to give a dog a bone.

I also adore this uniqueness in inanimate objects.  Last night I fell in love with the sunset.  Not just because it lit up the sky with shades of red, orange, and magenta, but also because it created a kaleidoscope of colors reflecting off the clouds in the opposite direction.

Up until then I was feeling tired, cranky, and creatively challenged.  Once I stopped and marveled at the sunset, I felt energized, inspired, and deeply loved.

The thing about love is that we so often limit it.  There is no lack of love. There is only a lack of awareness of it in its many forms.

It is freely offered to us in a smile from the toll booth attendant, a bird landing on our windowsill, a door held open by a stranger, a warm breeze blowing at our back, a cat napping next to us, a toddler being tickled, or a song sung soulfully by a street musician.

Yet we don’t expect love from life in general.  We expect it from those we love.  And we usually expect it on our terms.

The heart is synonymous with love.  It’s no coincidence that both “hear” and “art” are contained within the word heart.  There is an art to love that requires us to hear, open, allow, touch, feel, see, taste, experience without fear.

We’ve all had our share of heartaches, heartbreaks, and heart “attacks.” No one willing signs up for these.  Yet in my experience, the greater heartbreak is not to love at all.

Though you may choose to celebrate Groundhog Day, Presidents’ Day, your birthday, anniversary, or the new moon with more exuberance than Valentine’s Day, if you allow love to sneak up on you in small, unsuspecting ways, you might just find it every day.

I would love for you to share your perspective on love in the comments below.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

“If the only prayer you ever say is thank you, it will suffice.”  – Meister Eckhart

It’s here once again.  My favorite holiday of the year.  A day dedicated to giving thanks and appreciating all that is good and plenty and ours to experience.

It’s been an amazing year.  As often as possible I’ve attempted to blog about it because for me, an experience isn’t assimilated until it’s articulated.  Once I committed to learn, grow, and connect in a very public way, each risk I took  opened the door to the next big thing.  Often times opportunities overlapped, making life that much more interesting.

My writing life has been full of plot twists, unruly characters, unexpected drama, comic relief, tragedy, mistaken identities, and happily ever afters interrupted by reality scripts.  Had I been given a choice of superpowers, I may have picked a talent that would more clearly catapult me to super stardom or super service. But for argument’s sake, I’m going to assume I did have a choice and my soul choose writing.  Consequently I will wield my words accordingly.

It’s interesting that the thing others find extraordinary about us is often the thing we consider the most ordinary.  We mistakenly believe if we can do something, so can everyone else.  It’s almost preposterous to think people will pay us to do what we do naturally.

But it happens every day.  Yesterday, for example, I consulted an expert in web design for speakers, writers, and coaches. In about twenty minutes I discovered I could take my business to a place I’ve not been able to get it to in twenty years.  Yes, it will require a considerable investment of time, effort, focus, and vision as well as cash.  But I am thrilled to know there are people out there who are extremely good at the things I am not.  Aligning myself with them,  frees me up to focus on what I do best while they do what they do best.

I also had a chance to catch up with friends who have believed in my dreams long before there was evidence they would come true.  Talking with them was so nourishing because they have been there, listened to, and participated in every iteration of my evolution and still support the ongoing unfolding with unbridled enthusiasm.

So yes, I love it that there is a day devoted to giving thanks.  Because in my world, despite a few failures and downright disasters, so much to be grateful for remains.  Here are a few things on my gratitude list.  I’m grateful for you, for a couple of days off work from a good job, for time to walk the dogs, connect with family and friends, eat good food, watch movies, stay home while other people shop, play cards or board games, spend time in nature, and write until my heart’s content.

What about you?  What are you thankful for this year?  Share if you dare in the comments below.

PS – I know the holidays can be rough for those of you who have suffered a loss or multiple losses or are struggling with financial, health, or relationship challenges. In these instances it may feel impossible to feel grateful.  Yet I do believe the saying, “There is always something to be grateful for.”  It may be hard to believe this when you’re feeling incredibly low, but I’ve found that identifying even the simplest thing to be grateful for helps the healing begin.