Stress Less…Go Fly a Kite!

kitesI can fly a pretty cool kite, especially after we abandoned our yard and the kite eating tree for the open space of Maine beaches and the quasi-exclusive world of kite enthusiasts. Our kite is not of professional caliber but it is still cool because it was purchased on a trip to Sausalito. Yes, it was made overseas and could probably be purchased in other venues; however, it is a special California kite that survived a rigorous airport check-in and an overhead bin crunch to get here.

Kites were invented in China, where materials ideal for kite building were readily available: silk fabric for sail material; fine, high-tensile-strength silk for flying line; and resilient bamboo for a strong, lightweight framework. . Ancient and medieval Chinese sources describe kites being used for measuring distances, testing the wind, lifting men, signaling, and communication for military and even rescue operations

I’d always associated flying kites as an activity for kids, simple and easy to assemble, rolled tightly and inexpensive. Anything more elaborate was a decoration, perhaps suspended from the ceiling or matching a designer’s vision of a room’s theme.

It’s joyful to see children with an adult, running to get a kite aloft perhaps after some stops and starts, watching it rise high above. Many of us have memories of such an experience and the delight in a successful lift-off on a windy day. But much more frequently, kites have become elaborate and colorful, often requiring strength to launch and monitor. Beaches are an attractive place with wide-open areas and running room. There is an art to moving the kite in tune with the air currents and I’ve yet to see an unhappy person working the lines from below. When there are multiples or very active kites to watch, people stop and pay attention. It’s almost hypnotic. It’s outdoors. And most of all, it’s fun for you and anyone who looks up for a minute or two or more!

• Buy a kite
• Go to the beach
• Go to the park
• Assemble as directed
• Fly the kite
• Share the joy
• Give it away
• Create new memories

©MWeisner2017

Journaling- To Write or NOT to Write?

imagesCA38GE3VWhat happens when we assign a name to an activity that was once not formalized as more than just writing? There is a seriousness, a decisiveness attached to it that is different now. You can find journals for travel, calling out to you with the illusive guarantee of a record to be kept alongside photos, ticket stubs and other mementos of trips taken. Baby books are timelines of another journey, so precious it is impossible not to note milestones on their pages. Fill in the blanks and your diary will come alive, your thoughts preserved for future reflection…or not.

It is easy to be overwhelmed by the myriad of options. After all, an abundance of stores and sites are dedicated to selling beautifully bound journals, pens and more. I should know better by now. I have shelves and drawers filled with them, gifts from friends or purchased by me, begun half-heartedly or abandoned to a newer addition. Each volume beckons with a promise of being the one that will be the keeper of my words, the container of my thoughts, the chosen one…or not.

At its best, journaling has a meditative quality. It is a peaceful activity, a grounding experience, an internal process that stops time for the moment. It is a good habit and once engaged, provides a platform for expression that is very personal. Likewise, there is no end to the self judgments that abound when not doing it in the proscribed form.

What are some other ways to get going when you are not inspired?
• Set a timer for 5 minutes and just write, sans punctuation, only stream of consciousness
• Select a single thought, object or memory and write-dig deep and just write
• Go backwards. Start with the end of your day and complete with the beginning.

If the “written” word is not the best way for you to express yourself:
• Speak or sing your thoughts into a recording device
• Draw, collage or use color in ways to convey your inner feelings
• Use music/instruments as a medium

Access your creativity in ways that support you best and perhaps intersperse one method with another. After all, it is about YOU finding YOUR voice and the best way for YOU to express yourself is changeable!

©2016 Maureen Weisner

Mistakes, Mistakes, Mistakes…

rogowski-225x300“The greatest mistake you can make in life is to continually fear you will make one.”

Mistakes, mistakes, mistakes…if we are human, we have all made them. We may have compassion for other people, yet too frequently we refuse to stop punishing ourselves for past missteps, indiscretions, poor planning, lack of judgment, etc. The list could go on forever. Too often we examine our own actions under a relentlessly unforgiving spotlight, long after the event has occurred. Yes, we have all experienced hurtful behavior and may have been the responsible person, yet for the most part it is possible to make amends or corrections.

What is it about holding onto those memories that make us squirm? Most people think of memory as a vault for storing information, however it is more like a tailor stitching together logical threads into a pattern that makes sense. Recent research looking at the accuracy of memories, suggests that the only true memories are those held by amnesiacs. Apparently each time we revisit a memory, we tweak it a bit. In this view, a positive memory separates what is useful from what could upset or distract us. Forgetting is therefore an important part of memory and thought which is critical to our emotional wellbeing. While revisiting bad memories may not be a formula for happiness, we may have a tendency to do this.

From this moment going forward, put a statute of limitations on your mistakes. Stop punishing yourself. Give yourself a deadline. According to Dr. Alan Zimmerman, you might even create a short script for yourself like, “After this date (specify), I will not put myself down or beat myself up for this mistake or that failure (specify). It’s done. It’s over. I refuse to spend any more energy ruminating about it.” Moreover, hold yourself accountable for doing it. The blame game is so de-energizing and once you release yourself from the fatiguing dance; your confidence will improve, oftentimes dramatically.

With respect to the question of forgiveness, a bolder step is posited by Stanford University consultant, Dr. Fred Luskin, author of the book, “Forgive for Good”. He says, “You can let go of a grudge you’ve held against someone even if you never see or speak to that person again. Forgiving takes place inside the person who has the change of heart, not the person who is forgiven.” He never suggests that the behavior was okay or that the offender gets a pass on their actions. Rather, it is about taking care of oneself and not being the person who takes poison and waits for the other person to die. In fact, in the act of forgiveness you are the person who has taken back their power.

The same truth applies to self-forgiveness. When you forgive yourself for past mistakes, you also free yourself from the attachment to them. It takes a conscious effort to change old patterns of behavior. However, when you can take even a small step towards shifting your thoughts from blame and hurt to self-healing and peace, you are achieving a new level of self-care. Greater self-knowledge begets greater self-confidence and an opportunity to give “self-punishment” a rest.

ACTION:
• Who do you need to forgive?
• Write the script?
• Speak it aloud as many times as you find necessary
• Stop and give yourself a BIG hug!

©2015 Maureen Weisner

Letting Go of Control

282080_151733851568813_7813470_nA poem : She Let Go by Safire Rose

“She let go. Without a thought or a word, she let go.
She let go of fear. She let go of the judgments.
She let go of the confluence of opinions swarming
around her head.

She let go of the committee of indecision within her.
She let go of all the ‘right’ reasons.
Wholly and completely, without hesitation or worry,
She just let go.

She didn’t ask anyone for advice.
She didn’t read a book on how to let go…
She didn’t search the scriptures.
She just let go.

She let go of all of the memories that held her back.
She let go of all of the anxiety that kept her from moving forward.
She let go of the planning and all of the calculations
about how to do it just right.

She didn’t promise to let go.
She didn’t journal about it.
She didn’t write the projected date in her day-timer.

She made no public announcement
and put no ad in the paper.
She didn’t check the weather report
or read her daily horoscope.
She just let go.

She didn’t analyze whether she should let go.
She didn’t call her friends to discuss the matter.
She didn’t do a five-step Spiritual Mind Treatment.
She didn’t call the Prayer line.
She didn’t utter one word.
She just let go.

No one was around when it happened.
There was no applause or congratulations.
No one thanked her or praised her.
No one noticed a thing.
Like a leaf falling from a tree, she just let go.

There was no effort. There was no struggle.
It wasn’t good and it wasn’t bad.
It was what it was, and it is just that.

In the space of letting go, she let it all be.
A small smile came over her face.
A light breeze blew through her.
And the sun and the moon shone forevermore.”

 

Journaling…To Write or Not to Write

imagesCA38GE3VWhat happens when we assign a name to an activity that was once not formalized as more than just writing? There is a seriousness, a decisiveness attached to it that is different now. You can find journals for travel, calling out to you with the illusive guarantee of a record to be kept alongside photos, ticket stubs and other mementos of trips taken. Baby books are timelines of another journey, so precious it is impossible not to note milestones on their pages. Fill in the blanks and your diary will come alive, your thoughts preserved for future reflection…or not.

It is easy to be overwhelmed by the myriad of options. After all, an abundance of stores and sites are dedicated to selling beautifully bound journals, pens and more. I should know better by now. I have shelves and drawers filled with them, gifts from friends or purchased by me, begun half-heartedly or abandoned to a newer addition. Each volume beckons with a promise of being the one that will be the keeper of my words, the container of my thoughts, the chosen one…or not.

At its best, journaling has a meditative quality. It is a peaceful activity, a grounding experience, an internal process that stops time for the moment. It is a good habit and once engaged, provides a platform for expression that is very personal. Likewise, there is no end to the self judgments that abound when not doing it in the proscribed form.

What are some other ways to get going when you are not inspired?
• Set a timer for 5 minutes and just write, sans punctuation, only stream of consciousness
• Select a single thought, object or memory and write-dig deep and just write
• Go backwards. Start with the end of your day and complete with the beginning.

If the “written” word is not the best way for you to express yourself:
• Speak or sing your thoughts into a recording device
• Draw, collage or use color in ways to convey your inner feelings
• Use music/instruments as a medium

Access your creativity in ways that support you best and perhaps intersperse one method with another. After all, it is about YOU finding YOUR voice and the best way for YOU to express yourself is changeable!

©2015 Maureen Weisner

Managing Your Weaknesses

triathlete_by_whimsy3sh-d5z74chI can say with confidence that I am not a baseball fan. My husband and son are quite knowledgeable, even if they root for opposing teams. In New England it is sacrilege to be a Yankee fan, but growing up in New York gives this branch of the family a pass on divided loyalties. What I do know about baseball is quite limited, except for the Joe Pepitone home run ball caught by my husband on one of the most exciting days of his youth at Yankee Stadium. It has a special place and a special case, prominently displayed in our den.

So, even if I don’t care about baseball currently, there must be some childhood memory of growing up around it and the importance of it in our culture. At that time Sandy Koufax was a legendary World Series MVP, an All Star and Cy Young Award winning…pitcher and NOT a hitter. With this talent, no one expected him to hit home runs, just make some contact and not get hurt in the process. In fact, a tongue-in-cheek assessment of his skills came from rival Whitey Ford who said, “I know Koufax’s weakness, he can’t hit!” As an all-time great, no one would ever think of him as a weak batter. His strengths as a pitcher, made his weaknesses as a hitter insignificant. Legendary business analyst Peter Drucker said it best:

“The effective executive…knows that one cannot build on weakness…To make strength productive is the unique purpose of organization. It cannot, of course, overcome the weaknesses with which each of us is abundantly endowed. But it can make them irrelevant.”

Weakness is not a “dirty” word and we all have weaknesses. Even if you are good at something you hate to do, it can still sap your energy. Don’t dwell on what you’re not good at or obsess over how to “fix” it. You’ll probably never get to a high level of performance around these areas regardless. Workplace research data taken over decades bears this out. People who play to their strengths daily are much more engaged, less likely to quit and much more likely to contribute to high performing teams. Should you ignore your weaknesses and only focus on your strengths? Think of the tri-athlete whose strength is not swimming but who bikes like the wind. She will focus on learning the most efficient way to manage the swim component because it is an integral part of her overall time. Since biking is her strength and she probably enjoys it the most, she can also train harder on improving her technique or even purchasing new equipment for the event. It’s also possible that with positive attention to managing/improving her perceived weakness, it could even become a strength!

• List 10 things you are good at
• List 1 area you would like to improve

©2014 MWeisner

The Three Rs: Ruminate – Regret – Refocus

rogowski-225x300Does your thinking have you stuck in a rut? Rumination, or dwelling persistently on distressing situations from the recent or distant path, saps our energy, confidence, and ability to solve problems. We all know someone like this, and it could even be YOU. When Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living,” he was probably not referring to an endless and counterproductive focus on the past.

Get over, over thinking. It’s a trap, a habit that can be changed. Are we primed to ruminate? According to psychology professor, Stephen Ilardi, memories are linked to powerful emotional associations. Common themes may be familiar to you like: “I can’t believe I said that or replaying what might have been a better or faster response in a personal or professional setting. When an unpleasant event puts us in a despondent mood, it’s easier to recall other times when we’ve felt terrible, which can set the stage for a downward spiral. If events in the past were negative, then present and even future events will also go wrong. We think we can “fix” the problem by playing it over and over. On the contrary, the more we do this, the more it ramps up activity in the brain’s stress-response which can eventually sap motivation. No winners here.

Yes, this is much more typical in women than men. In a series of studies, women were more likely to accept undue responsibility for other’s well being. They also were less likely than men to believe they had control over negative emotions or important events in their lives.

Ruminators are not worriers, who tend to live in the future and are concerned about what could happen. Their anxiety is forward focused on what has yet to happen. The ruminator already has a scenario and replays it. Not only does this send you into the past without a time-machine and an eraser, but it takes your attention away from the present and the opportunity to focus on what you have learned and how you can change.

We have all had unpleasant memories or regrets about things we said or did. You cannot change history, but if you cannot let it go, call Jane/John/Jasper, apologize and move on. Sometimes that is easier said than done, but it will put an end to at least one cycle of personal discomfort and afford you some closure and even relief. It’s also important to recognize that some behaviors are habits that you have the power to short circuit and change the outcome before it becomes another “thing” to focus on looking backward. 
©MWeisner2014

Spring Clean Your Closet

spring-cleaning-your-closetShould it go or should it stay? Each season I approach my closet with a mindset of reorganizing everything to make way for shifting clothes from one space to another. It’s the kind of task that is energizing in anticipation of warmer weather and fewer layers to consider. There’s a beginning, middle and end if I can remain focused and unattached  to the garments. Sometimes it is very straightforward and sometimes there are stops and starts, events to recall, and reminders of places where I’ve worn a particular outfit. Good thoughts and others mix in with the texture, fragrance and times of the past season…evocative and worth the pause to summon up memories.

However, when getting down to the real business of a seasonal closet reorganization it is easy to get off track and lost in the land of wishful thinking. Sometimes it calls for a merciless extraction exercise to leave you with physical and psychological space. It’s time to purge using the following guidelines:
• Stained
• Doesn’t fit now, didn’t fit then, won’t fit in this century
• Not trendy
• Smells
• Doesn’t convey the right message
• Worn out
• Wouldn’t buy it now
• You keep trying it on but wouldn’t wear it out of the house

Lastly, a reason often overlooked is the clothing you connect with a bad memory. It might be the gorgeous coat that you splurged on but you associate it with the winter you lost your job, faced a difficult family situation, got dumped or were going through a rough patch. Toss it! If it’s a piece left behind by a painful ex, a previous friendship, or anyone negative. Toss it! When you purge your closet of bad memories it is empowering and now baggage free, you can shop for replacements, adding things that you love!

©2014MWeisner