Maybe Everything Doesn’t Have to Be So Hard?


As I said.  Maybe everything doesn’t have to be so hard?

Maybe all we need to do is find our natural position in the world and then lean into it?

Maybe that’s what it takes to blossom?

I know that’s easier said than done.  I know it can be hard to feel that what we have, naturally, to give to the world is what the world needs from us the most.

I know that in a world that constantly advertises its vacancies for people who are prettier than we are, or smarter, or thinner, or richer, or faster or fleeter of foot than we’ll ever be, it is hard not to see ourselves as inadequate.  Not to try to be some of those things that the world seems to want us to be.

But maybe you and I are wasting our precious time here trying to become something we aren’t?

Maybe that energy would be better employed working out who exactly we already are and what we can already do and then developing that? No matter what the world thinks?

Have a look at Rory McIlroy in the clip below.  I wonder if those commentators would have seen then, what they see now?

To see things in the seed, that is genius – Lao Tzu

(P.S. – this video is also for my husband and children – bet you never thought I’d use a golf example, guys…)

Being Who We Are


How important is it to you to be able to be and think and believe in freedom and safety?
How important is it to our societies to afford citizens these rights?
What happens when these freedoms are denied and meet with punishment and even torture?
How does this oppression curtail our development as societies?
As people?

How commonly are these rights withheld?

Love the One You’re With


Newborn child, seconds after birth. The umbili...

The field of interpersonal neurobiology is an exciting new area of research. The more that is discovered about how the brain works, the clearer it is that it is endlessly open to development and change as it rewires itself every single day. It turns out that how you choose to think really does have an effect on your brain – especially when it comes to love.  Loving relationships have the greatest effect on the wiring and rewiring of the brain.

In 2006, researchers in Virginia gave electric shocks to the ankles of women in happy relationships and measured their anxiety beforehand and pain levels during the shocks.  What they discovered was that the same level of electricity administered when holding their partner’s hand reduced their blood pressure and their brains showed a lower neural response to the pain.  Women in troubled relationships didn’t experience the same relief from holding their partners’ hands.

To quote from Diane Ackerman‘s very interesting article, The Brain on Love

All relationships change the brain — but most important are the intimate bonds that foster or fail us, altering the delicate circuits that shape memories, emotions and that ultimate souvenir, the self.

Every great love affair begins with a scream. At birth, the brain starts blazing new neural pathways based on its odyssey in an alien world. An infant is steeped in bright, buzzing, bristling sensations, raw emotions and the curious feelings they unleash, weird objects, a flux of faces, shadowy images and dreams — but most of all a powerfully magnetic primary caregiver whose wizardry astounds.

Brain scans show synchrony between the brains of mother and child; but what they can’t show is the internal bond that belongs to neither alone, a fusion in which the self feels so permeable it doesn’t matter whose body is whose. Wordlessly, relying on the heart’s semaphores, the mother says all an infant needs to hear, communicating through eyes, face and voice. Thanks to advances in neuroimaging, we now have evidence that a baby’s first attachments imprint its brain. The patterns of a lifetime’s behaviors, thoughts, self-regard and choice of sweethearts all begin in this crucible.

We used to think this was the end of the story: first heredity, then the brain’s engraving mental maps in childhood, after which you’re pretty much stuck with the final blueprint.

But as a wealth of imaging studies highlight, the neural alchemy continues throughout life as we mature and forge friendships, dabble in affairs, succumb to romantic love, choose a soul mate. The body remembers how that oneness with Mother felt, and longs for its adult equivalent. (1)

So, what can we learn from this?

That we need love to be healthy and balanced and happy?  We all probably knew this.

But it also says that every smile, every loving touch, every kindness is worthwhile because it resonates and shapes the brain of the recipient.  It says that we should be careful with each other – even when it’s difficult.   And generous with our love – whenever possible.

This song reminds me of Diane Ackerman’s article – I have no idea why, the link is pretty tenuous – but I really like both the song and the video anyway.  So, here it is –

(1) Diane Ackerman, The Brain on Lovehttp://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/03/24/the-brain-on-love/

Stranger Danger


Have you ever sat into a stranger’s car by accident? 

I’ve done it lots of times.

I spent most of my life thinking it was commonplace – thinking that it happened to everybody – until I told my sister a couple of years ago. She explained – between screams of laughter – that No. Everybody doesn’t sit into stranger’s cars. No. No. No. She has never done it. And no it isn’t commonplace.

I was surprised.

Even though I know they’re not reading, I’d like to take this opportunity to apologise to all those unsuspecting and terrified looking men behind the wheel of the many cars I have jumped into – uninvited – over the years. All those men innocently sitting behind their own steering wheels, after children’s football matches and in supermarket car parks and outside small shops parked on double-yellow lines. I now realise that the look on their faces and their white knuckled hands on the steering wheel were not to do with the cold weather or gentle surprise but rather because they thought they were being hijacked by a (very) strange woman. Sorry.

In this conversation with my sister I also discovered that it is also not all that common to sit into the driver’s seat of stranger’s empty cars in filling stations. That – to be frank – was a real killer.

I once sat into a very swanky car in a crowded filling station after paying for my petrol (gas to my American friends). I sat in and struggled for a few seconds to get the key in the ignition. Then I realised my mistake and had to get out and walk back to my much humbler vehicle while the people filling up their cars with fuel looked on in amusement. Some of them even laughed. I flicked my head and acted like I had meant to sit into the swanky car. Such a rebel. Such a joker. Such a daredevil. Such a felon. Nobody was fooled.

I have done this sitting-into-the-driver’s-seat-of-the-wrong-car-after-paying-for-my-petrol thing lots of times, but the weidest of all was when I sat into a car and my knees hit the steering wheel. I am a tallish woman (5’8″ – or 1.73 metres to my European friends). Did I think – “Oh no, I must be in the wrong car!”

No.

I am embarrassed to say that exactly what I thought was – “Who moved the seat in my car for goodness sake!”

Which proves to me that my default position in the world is that I am right.

I come from a long line of people who think they are right (including that sister by the way even though she might deny it). Engage any of us in conversation and we’ll tell you that of course we know we aren’t always right. That we know we can make mistakes. That we are fallible and always learning.

But you know what they say – what does being wrong feel like? The same as being right – until you realise that nobody moved the seat of your car and in fact you are sitting into some other (probably) woman’s car and if she sees you she’ll think you’re trying to steal her car. Even if it isn’t very swanky.

Not Just a Material Girl Part (1)


Two things can be true at the same time.

In order to create harmony within our societies we need to first create harmony within ourselves. How many internal and external struggles exist because we try to style ourselves as entirely one thing or another?

On the one hand we might see ourselves as totally rational beings, devoid of a ‘higher nature’ and motivated only by narrow self-interest – we’ve even given that story of ourselves a name – homo economicus.

On the other we might try the ascetic route and disappear into our non-material side to the extent that we deny – or at least don’t entertain – our physical/material selves.

Maybe it’s time we dropped the dichotomies?  Maybe it’s time we recognised them as the unhelpful and fragmenting conceptual constructs that they are and instead tried to see the whole picture in everything?

On an instinctive and intuitive level we know we are multi-dimensional beings – emotional, physical, mental, spiritual – we call our ‘dimensions’ by different names but we really do know our reality is much more than a simple physical, or even psychological, truth.

As Jordan Peterson, the Canadian psychologist points out,

Modern people are fundamentally materialistic…and the fact that we’re materialist in our scientific philosophy has made us extremely powerful, maybe too powerful for our morality but extremely powerful from a technological point of view. But it’s also blinded us to certain things and I think one of the things that it’s really blinded us to, is the nature of our own being.

Because we make the assumption that the fundamental constituent elements of reality are material we fail to notice that the fundamental constituent elements of our own reality are not material. They’re emotional, they’re motivational, they’re dreams, they’re visions they’re relationships with other people, they’re conscious, they’re dependant on consciousness and self-consciousness and we and we have absolutely no materialist explanation whatsoever either for consciousness or self-consciousness and we don’t deal well from a materialistic perspective with the qualities of being.

And everyone knows those qualities exist I mean for most people there’s nothing more real than their own pain. Pain transcends rational argument – you can’t argue yourself out of it, it’s just there. And materialist or not there are very few people who will allow the claim that their pain is merely an epiphenomenon of some more material process. Pain is fundamental. Consciousness is fundamental. (1)

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Photograph – The photo of the Schie sisters at 71 – is part of a larger series, taken by photographer Barbro Fauske Steinde in 1989.
See the rest of the photo series of the Schie sisters on our web sitewww.arkivverket.no/webfelles/manedens/mars2009/hovedside….

(1) Jordan Petersen – Virtue as a Necessity

Stories Are Us


We use stories for everything – it’s how we understand the world. 

We tell ourselves stories to explain what happens inside our heads – “I think I fell in love with her that day I saw her walk across the street in the rain.”

We tell ourselves stories to explain what happens inside our bodies – “As soon as I eat mushrooms I can feel the blood rush to my head.”

We tell ourselves stories to explain what happens outside us – “Everything was OK until the day he got that job and left for China.”

Even when we go crazy we invent new stories to explain the surreal world to ourselves.  To others it may be hard to understand what we are thinking and doing but even so, regardless of how mad we really are, within us we are following a definite, coherent narrative that makes sense within it’s own world.

We work our way through the maze that is life because we narrate our lives to ourselves,

to each other,

out of the past,

into the future.

Coarse and delicate, soft and hard, terrifying, comforting, hopeful, black and white and grey and red and pain and flow and plans and hopes and kisses and tears and touches and blows and green and hot and then and then and then…

The destiny of the world is determined less by the battles that are lost and won than by the stories it loves and believes in.  
-Harold Goddard

Finns Finish First


Schools in Finland have turned out to have some of the highest test scores in the world.  How have they achieved this?

Not by creating a two-tier educational system – there are very few private schools in Finland.

Not by setting up a rigid system of standardised testing – there is only one state exam which pupils take at the end of secondary school.  All other tests and measures are designed by individual teachers in individual classrooms with their own individual pupils in mind.

Not by rigid academic streaming or emphasis on rote learning or ‘hot-housing’.

The answer to ‘how’ the Finns have attained their academic excellence is a lesson itself in both education and irony.

Since the 1980s every effort has been made to ensure that all Finnish children have exactly the same opportunity to learn, regardless of family background, income, or geographic location. Finland offers all pupils free school meals, easy access to health care, psychological counselling, and individualized student guidance.

In fact, as the Finns weren’t trying to attain academic excellence when Finland’s students scored so high on the first PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) survey in 2001, they thought there had been a mistake. But subsequent PISA tests confirmed that Finland – unlike, say, very similar countries such as Norway – was producing academic excellence through its particular policy focus on equity.

All of which would suggest that education is more a system of getting things out of children – developing their natural capacities – rather than putting things in. It’s a bit like gardening – with a suitable, healthy nurturing environment all plants have a good chance of thriving.  Children seem to be the same.

A good lesson for most other governments.

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http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2011/12/what-americans-keep-ignoring-about-finlands-school-success/

Who Am I? (And Who Are You?)


Antonio Damasio is a neuroscientist who has spent his life researching the functioning of the brain.  His research has led him to offer a number of theories on how neurobiology influences our thoughts, decisions, feelings and actions.

His latest work is centred on our sense of self – that inexplicable feeling we all experience of having a distinct self.  Sometimes this self is clouded, sometimes confused but there is always, within every human being, a strong consciousness of self.

Here he speaks about some of his theories surrounding this fascinating subject –

The Roots of Rights


On December 10th, 1948, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).

Nowadays, when we think of human rights, what exactly do we think?

Do we think that human rights are nothing to do with us?

That human rights are best left to activists?

Experts.

Professionals.

Eleanor Roosevelt, Chair of the UN Commission that wrote the UDHR, had a very different vision of human rights –

In small places, close to home—so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person; the neighborhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm or office where he works. Such are the places where every man, woman, and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world.

Butterfly effects for human rights?

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