Stop and Smell the Flowers

It’s been unseasonably warm these last few weeks and some of the dandelions have popped up in the yard. Boomer took time out to join me to stop and smell the flowers; something our busy, hectic lives can make difficult at times. This week, I made an effort to get outside and enjoy the nice warm temperatures. I sat out and sunned myself while listening to one of my audiobooks. I sat outside and groomed the dogs, so I wouldn’t have to vacuum the fur up in the house. Besides it’s been in the mid 70s for the last 6 days, record breaking temperatures for Central New Hampshire. I unbelievably was stung by a bald faced hornet on November 9th – my left index finger has been inchy ever since and I have had to pop Benadryl every 4 to 6 hours. But it’s been a glorious few days of weather which I know will end very soon and we will be in for our long, cold, winter.

Meditation

For the last five years or so, we have been trying to get in the habit of mediating. We’d be on a roll for a while and then something would interrupt our flow and we wouldn’t mediate, then we’d try again but never been able to make it stick.

This year has been different, in more ways than one. We’ve been meditating on a fairly regular basis this year. The quarantine kicked it into high gear, and we are on a regular roll. I found mediating particularly helpful in early March when the shit was hitting the fan for our family in more ways than the lockdown and COVID19. Our family was dealing with some personal stuff which highlighted to me how life continued despite the quarantine. I found that there were more moments where I started to feel panicky, the anxiety levels were entering uncharted territory. Mark and I weren’t able to be together for three weeks (one week away, two weeks in quarantine) – away from me and the kids. He’d been out in the Petri dish, we had to be cautious.

It was during this time that I clung to my meditation sessions although I had altered when I did them. Mark and I always start our day out with mediation but during that time we were separated I needed to mediate at night when I was alone in our bed. I never have trouble sleeping – it drives Mark insane since I can fall asleep in the midsentence while talking to him in bed at night. He needs to read and unwind. My head hits the pillow and I’m out cold. By 8pm. I wake anytime between 4am and 5am usually though.

But in mid-March when everything was so uncertain, I needed help falling asleep as my mind would race with all sorts of thoughts. I turned to my mediation app which I knew had nighttime, help you fall asleep mediations. I need guidance to help settle my mind.

The app we use, Insight Timer has all sorts of meditations that you can easily filter the length of time, whether you want background music or not, whether you prefer a male or a female voice, the benefits you seek, etc…They also offer courses and after over a year of using the app, we have decided to give a try. Later this morning we will do Day 8 of our 10-day course, each day has been building upon the next; teaching us how to body scan and different visualization techniques. It also keeps track of how much we’ve mediated and rewards us with milestones that help encourage you on your progress. Since using the app, I’ve meditated for a total of 2.5k minutes and reached 7 milestones. One of which is 128 days with at least one session and another being that I have meditated 23 consecutive days. I believe that is a record for me. As I said doing it everyday in the beginning was the challenge as we worked towards working it into our routine.

Since Mark has been out of quarantine, we have gone back to our usual morning sessions. My daughter would join us in the mornings when she was here – sometimes coming downstairs to sit with us in the family room while we meditated, other times simply joining in from her bedroom upstairs as she would sometimes wake up to our sessions. I’d love to get my son more involved as I know it would be a good habit for him to get into. He was usually sound asleep when we meditated. We have found our sweet spot to be around 7am before 8am when the phone starts to ring and we start off our work day. We work from home, so we have control over the schedule but have found it best to get things started earlier than latter here in the homestead.

Life is always about having to deal with unknowns, they just aren’t usually on the intensity level that they have been recently. Life will always throw you curve balls and you just try to deal with them a pitch at a time. The mediation sessions have helped me deal with each pitch, by helping me to take a step back, take a deep breath and calm my mind and my body which has allowed me to take on the challenges of life a little more effectively.

Looking for the Silver Lining

What is the one thing in life that you are most excited about right now? Why?

That is Fandango’s Provocative Question for the day. Interesting that I read this right question right now since I’ve been a little sad today so it’s a good time to be looking for things to get excited about.

I have much to be excited about as I look around. I have my garden which I planted alongside my daughter who I got to spend time with for ten weeks during quarantine. Sorry for the reason, but so thankful for the time with her. The garden should provide plenty of healthy, fresh produce for me and my family if we have a good season. I need it too since having my two adult children live under the same roof again depleted our rations of canned tomato sauce and salsa a little more than twice as much if it had been just Mark and I. But it made me smile each and every time they opened a jar of our homegrown goodness and raved about how good it taste.

I’m excited to work in the garden and be outside with the sun shining and even if it’s not. After a number of months being cooped up inside because the weather was too miserable to enjoy being outside for any given time, I’m not too picky about when is a good time to spend out in the garden. Just as long as there aren’t too many bugs and it’s not too hot. My garden has fantastic sunlight so I have to pick and choose my hours which tend to be early in the morning and after 5pm.

I’m excited about the new chickens we have now! Khaleesi, Gertrude, Ethel and Lucy have joined our homestead. It’s always a thrill to walk into the hen house and see the daily deposit of freshly laid eggs. Which in turn has made us excited about breakfast and any recipe that has eggs in it. I get excited now to do the weeding since the hens love the dandelions and eat them right up, it no longer feels like weeding and more like harvesting. I know human enjoy eating dandelion leaves in salads and making tea or wine but until now they were just weeds. So I’m excited about that – it goes for all weeds pretty much too. Plus the chickens are so much fun to watch they make me excited to just come out to the yard and sit and watch.

Finally I am excited about the flowers which are beginning to bloom and I know will blooming throughout the summer and into the fall. I have a short season up here on the mountain, so I am grateful for the time we are given and excited to see it all unfold.

It can be difficult to get excited about the future when we are dealing with so many unknowns. But it’s in times like these where you need to take a deep breath, take a step back and look for the good things, they don’t have to be big things, just small positives. It’s easy to see the negative, especially when you are looking for it. When you are looking for it – that it all you will see. It’s harder to look for the positives, the good things – not matter how big or small they may be. But once you start to look for the positives, I thik they become easier to see.

Distractions

Head’s Up!

How many times have you been talking to someone and they are distracted by their cellphones, checking their mail or some all important thing that can’t wait until you finish your conversation? Or you were late to do something because you’re cell phone distracted you? Have you ever bumped into someone or something or took a misstep because you were too busy looking at your phone? You wouldn’t be alone if you have, although some people’s misfortunes end up on You Tube or the national evening news, such as the man who fell down a manhole because he was distracted by his cell phone. It’s a world-wide problem apparently and a quick Google search turned up a slew of videos of people too distracted to pay attention to their surroundings because they were looking at their phones.

The cellphone is one of the biggest distractions that people face on a daily basis, whether it’s at home, work and unfortunately in the car while driving. Businesses have had to make rules about their employees having their cell phones out because it interferes with how well they do their jobs. In 2008 over 1,000 people were sent to the ER with an injury that resulted from texting and walking; doubling from what it had been the two previous years. [I could not find a more recent stat for texting and walking but if it had been doubling two years running ten years ago, it certainly doesn’t bode well for today’s numbers I imagine.] Distracted driving accounted for 25% of all motor vehicle fatalities in 2018, and in 2015 , cell phones alone accounted for 14% of distracted driving resulting in motor vehicle fatalities. Somewhere along the line people began to be so consumed with checking in on their virtual lives rather than paying attention to their real ones, risking personal injury, even death to themselves and others. Common risks associated with distracted walking include: everything from minor sprains and scrapes to more serious injuries such as broken bones, concussions, spinal cord injury even death – not just to yourself but possibly another person(s) as well.

Inattentive Blindness

Scientist have been doing an increasing amount of studies into the human’s ability to visually perceive things. They once believed what the human eye took in was more like a video tape, but studies have demonstrated it is something far less precise when people are not paying attention. The term ‘inattentional blindness’ was coined in 1998 by Arien Mack, PhD of New School of Social research and the late Irvin Rock, PhD, of the University of California, Berkeley when published the book, “Inattentional Blindness,” describing a series of experiments on the phenomenon. Mack came to the conclusion that there is no conscious perception without attention. To me this is similar to the difference between hearing and listening which I discussed in an earlier blog post, Listen. Barring any medical issues, similar to the way hearing is an automatic physical process so is seeing – they are two of the five human senses: sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch. However, similar to the way one must pay attention in order to effectively listen, so one must also do so to effectively be able to visually perceive what’s going on around them.

Constantly having your head in your phone or staring at your computer screen endlessly for hours on end is not healthy. It doesn’t take a medical degree to know that. Perhaps, it takes a little common sense, which in that case – society may be in trouble.

Are we really capturing the moment when we take photos?

I saw a headline flash across my Alexa EchoShow the other day while working at my desk. It said that a recent study concluded that taking pictures detracts from a person’s overall experience. Kind of hard for a photographer to read but as someone who has been behind the camera for over 40 years now, I completely agree.

A number of years ago when my children were actively playing on their lacrosse, hockey and football teams, I would watch them through the lens of my camera. My daughter was goalie and as the mother of a goalie let me tell you – watching your kid get pelted with missiles that are aimed at them traveling upwards of 30-50mph is very difficult. A mother’s instinct it to defend their young when they are under attack and having to watch and do nothing wasn’t an option for me, so I hid behind my camera, narrowed my focus just on her and not the players on attack.

Many times, hours after the game when the house was quiet I would go over the game photos and find that I relived the game all over again. I would have whole different perspective on the game simply because I had narrowed my focus so much. But did this detract from my overall experience of the game at that time? Absolutely, I wasn’t “present” for the whole game experience. I wasn’t sitting in the stands with the other parents, talking about our kids and cheering them on together; choosing instead to sit on the sidelines by myself with my face in the camera. I wasn’t taking in the entire scene – stepping back and taking in the bigger picture of my environment.

Pay Attention

I remember listening to a security expert who was talking on the news shortly after one of the school shootings who was advising kids and adult alike not to get their cell phones out during these intensely dangerous situations because you are not entirely taking in the situation when you are doing that – even if you are just holding your phone up and not looking through the lens.

“Using phones can distract people from the actions they need to be taking in the moment, such as running, hiding and listening to directions from first responders.”

– Ken Trump, Security Expert with 30+yrs experience

The power of observation can be a very effective tool in our life skills and one that should be given a little bit more attention these days. It may be the difference between life and death. If you think you are more observant than the next person, check out a few of these videos to see how well you do.

The Monkey Business Illusion

Brain Games – Inattentional Blindness and Smooth Pursuit

Selective Attention Test

How’d you do? Next time you take out your cellphone while your walking, think twice about it and remember that you are missing a lot of what is going on around you.

Sources:

Distracted Walking – Safety.com

Sights Unseen – American Psychological Association

Takes Steps to Avoid Injury – National Safety Council

Heads Up, Phones Down – National Safety Council

Texting and Walking Injuries – Reader’s Digest

100 Distracted Driving Facts & Statistics for 2018 – Teensafe.org

Listen

Hello?
Is there anybody in there?
Just nod if you can hear me
Is there anyone at home?

Comfortably Numb – Pink Floyd

Do you ever feel like when you are talking to people – whether it’s in person or on the phone that they are not listening? I was chatting on the phone with my daughter earlier, she had called me; when after telling her a little tidbit of info, I was met with complete silence. Hello? Hello? I knew the line hadn’t dropped out because I could still hear something on the other end of the line.

“What? What did you say again? Sorry, I got distracted by something on my screen.”

Communication comes from the Latin word communicare, meaning “to share”. Thanks to my high school Latin teacher, Mr. Frank Smith, I always look at the root word when trying to fully understand words. Communication is a two way street, although I find that these days more and more people seem to think it’s a one-way street. People are more concerned with making sure their points are heard than actually giving the effort to actually listen to someone else’s thoughts or ideas. The key to all effective communication is listening.

Listening is a huge part of the communication process and should not be confused with hearing. Hearing is defined as “the faculty or sense by which sound is perceived.” So as long as you don’t have a medical hearing impairment – hearing is an automatic physical process. Listening on the other hand is completely different. Listening requires focus and concentration. It’s the ability to accurately receive and interpret messages in the communication process. It’s not a passive process and a good listener is as engaged in the communication process as the speaker.

Group Of Business People Actively Listening To Speaker Giving Presentation

Today, sadly, too many people don’t know the difference between hearing and listening. “I hear you” is not the same as “I’m listening to you.” I’m sure many people think that they are indeed listening, but they actually are not. In some cases, people are simply thinking about what their response will be once you’re done talking – that is, if they are polite enough not to interrupt you in order to get their point across. Part of the problem stems from the fact that the average person’s speaking rate is 125-175 words per minute compared to the average processing rate which is 400-800 words per minute. So that leaves plenty of time to daydream and get distracted by your own thoughts or something completely not related. FOCUS PEOPLE. This is one of the biggest barriers to effective listening.

Too many times while visiting with friends or family who we don’t see all that often, I notice everyone has their phones in their hands while they are talking. “I’m listening – I’m just multitasking”. “I have to check my email – don’t worry I’m listening.” “I’m just playing a word game, keep talking – I’m listening.” how many times have we all heard this. The listener isn’t being an active participant in the conversation if their phone is in their hand. I’m equally guilty of this when hanging out at times. I’ve been accused of “not being present” because I had my head in my phone while claiming “I’m just looking at my Instagram feed!” Guilty as charged.

Listening serves a number of purposes given the situation and the nature of the communication. According to the website skillsyouneed.com one of the eight purposes to listening is to: “to specifically focus on the message being communicated, avoid distractions and preconceptions.” (I think we need to teach this specifically in schools because no one out there gets the second part of this statement.)

Let’s break this down, I think most people would agree that when you listen its for the purpose to hear someone ‘s message being communicated. But its the rest of the statement which people don’t heed: “avoid distraction and preconceptions”. Wow! Where to begin… I already mentioned the cellphone being a major distraction which I think most people would agree is an obvious barrier to effective listening in all of our lives. But let’s focus on this other part, the “preconceptions”. I don’t think very many people actually listen with an open mind. People have their beliefs and that’s that – my way or the high way. Or so it seems more and more these days.

The second and third purposes of listening is “gain a full and accurate understanding into the speakers point of view and ideas and to critically assess what is being said.” Wait a minute, this is particularly where for me listening deviates from hearing since when you hear something it’s just automatic, when you are listening you have to know take that information and actually processes what is being said.

The fourth purpose of listening includes the power of observation. When you listen to someone you should be looking at them, observing the non-verbal signals accompanying what is being said. This enhances your understanding of what’s going on.

Fifth on the list of purposes of listening, is to show interest, concern and concentration. If you have ever been a public speaker and stood before an audience – big or small, or even if you are talking to your best friend – there is nothing worse than talking to the top of someone’s head because their attention is more on their phone than what you are saying. which leads to the sixth reason which is to encourage the speaker to communicate fully, openly and honestly. Something which can be difficult if you think the people you are trying to talk to are not fully present.

When you are “multi-tasking” while listening to someone else, you are being selfish, rather than taking a selfless approach, in putting the speaker first. Lastly, one of the biggest reasons for listening is to be able to arrive at a shared and agreed understanding and acceptance of both sides’ views. This last reason proves to me that no one in politics actually listens to one another.

This year I am trying much harder to put my phone down particularly when I am around my family and friends. Emails can wait and certainly word games can be played in quiet moments when I’m alone. When I go out I may have my phone with me in my pocket or purse, but I keep it put away so I’m not distracted nor tempted by it. It’s really the only way to fully listen and pay attention to what’s going on around us. So next time you are talking with a friend and you notice that you are looking more at the top of their head than their eyes, you’ll know they aren’t really listening to you.

“Listening is art that requires

attention over talent,

spirit over ego

and others before self. “

– Dean Jackson