Thursday, May 27, 2010

Inspiring your soul

"I breathe white light through the skin of my soul every day, and I hope you do too."
Thomas Sullivan

I was reading this month's 'Sullygram' - the eloquent and thought provoking monthly missive from Pulitzer nominated author Thomas 'Sully' Sullivan, and Sully's words moved and inspired me so deeply that I just wanted to share them with you here.

They talk about freedom, personal agency and the magic that is life. They evoke a call to action towards excellence and to live at your life enhancing best. They remind us to get out into nature and revel in our world.
"The cues to magic are all around you.  Take the trees.  Don't they always seem to stand straighter in spring, like they are launching in slow motion, trying to reach escape velocity?  But in the end they never quite summon the courage to let go of the earth.  People are like that.  Maybe that's why we wind up buried in dirt, as if we collapsed into our own roots.  And yet, if that mortal destiny is inevitable, there is no reason for it to be premature.  Nothing is stopping you from transits in nature, from soaring where you can, trying to reach escape velocity -- and sometimes doing it!  Gravity should have no effect on your spirit, your mind, your heart.  I'm always astonished to see people whose every instinct screams that truth at them, and yet they remain spiritually inert.  Sadder still if, when they are shown how to become permanent escapees, they succumb to fear or guilt or some other useless rusting chain.  You wouldn't think that would happen.  The power of imagination and inspiration is within them, but something negative keeps them grounded like nested birds in the unknown night.  To never achieve starlight or circle the silver moon or meet the sunrise before its appointment on the new horizon seems like such a colossal waste to me and an affront to creation.  I celebrate reaching for optimization in every way.  You don't have to BE optimum; you just have to reach for it.  The magic is in the effort"

So true! So true! The magic is in the effort. The magic is in doing the best you can every day. Sure some days will be better than others. It's a journey. Celebrate your life by focusing on enhancing it. Strive for excellence. Use your powers of imagination to dream great dreams and inspire yourself to action. Never let the gravity of daily life effect your spirit, your mind or your heart.

Breathe white light through the skin of your soul every day!


yours with life inspiring wishes,
Grant


ps For those who would like to sign up for Sully's monthly 'Sullygram', delivered to your email inbox, go to: http://www.thomassullivanauthor.com/sullygrams.htm
and click on the link to email Sully to be added to the bcc list.

You can also follow Sully's tweets at: http://twitter.com/thomassullivan



And for those interested in reading some of Sully's books:






Friday, May 21, 2010

Life Enhancing Activities

"Miracles are not accidents. We create them through our choices."
Masami Sato
 

You know, I've been pondering about what makes something life enhancing or not. And as far as I can tell...

Life Enhancing Activities promote:
  • Increased self-esteem
  • Pleasure
  • Comfort
  • Wellness
  • Education
  • Creativity
  • Choice and Flexibility
  • Success
  • Independence
  • Spiritual well-being
  • Connection

Useful yardsticks

So if you are ever wondering if what you're doing is life enhancing, just rate it against the above criteria. And if it falls short, ask yourself whether your actions are life enhancing or life denying. If they aren't life enhancing, if they don't promote positive values in your life, then you might want to stop and replace them with more life enhancing ones.

You know, it's just a life enhancing thought....

....that's worth putting into action!


life enhancing smiles,
Grant



The Scientific American Brave New Brain: How Neuroscience, Neuroimaging, Psychopharmacology and Epigenetics are Enhancing the Future of Mental Power



Life Lines: 365 Life-Enhancing Meditations and Inspirations on Love, Peace, and Spirit from Around the World



Belief Therapy: A Guide to Enhancing Everyday Life

Monday, May 17, 2010

Appreciating the ones you love

The little imperfections that make them perfect...

Hi, a good friend just sent me this wonderful and short vidclip and after watching it a couple of times, I felt it was worth sharing with you. It truly is life enhancing. After a bit of research I found that it comes from a TV Commercial by the Singapore Government 'ThinkFamily' initiative. The vid is moving and heartfelt. It's worth watching. It's all about appreciating the people you love and about "the little imperfections that made them perfect..."

I hope you enjoy it and that it enhances your life right now and reminds you to aim for excellence rather than perfection in how you do loving and relating.



smiles, Grant

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Life Enhancing Tips

I saw this wonderful and uplifting presentation at a friend's place the other night, and just had to share it with you. It's full of life enhancing tips and some absolutely amazing and beautiful photos. You know it's definitely worth the time to enjoy this now and reinforce the positive messages it provides.

TIPS FOR BETTER LIFE

See more presentations by HoneyTiti | Upload your own PowerPoint presentations



and here are the life enhancing tips, summarised:
  • Take a 10-30 minutes walk every day. And while you walk, smile.
  • Sit in silence for at least 10 minutes each day. Sleep for 7 hours.
  • Live with the 3 E's : Energy, Enthusiasm, and Empathy. Play more games.
  • Read more books than you did last year. Drink plenty of water.
  • Eat more foods that grow on trees and plants and eat less food that is manufactured in plants.Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a beggar.
  • Make time to practice meditation, and prayer. They provide us with daily fuel for our busy lives. Dream more while you are awake.
  • Smile and laugh more.
  • Try to make at least three people smile each day. Don't waste your precious energy on gossip.
  • Don't do negative thinking about things you cannot control. Instead invest your energy in the positive present moment. Spend time with people over the age of 70 & under the age of 6.
  • Life is too short to waste time hating anyone.
  • Don't take yourself so seriously. No one else does. Forget issues of the past. Don't remind your partner with his/her mistakes of the past. This will ruin your present happiness.
  • Realize that life is a school and you are here to learn. Problems are simply part of the curriculum that appear and fade away like algebra class, but the lessons you learn will last a lifetime. You don't have to win every argument. Agree to disagree.
  • Don't compare your life to others'. You have no idea what their journey is all about. Make peace with your past so it won't spoil the present.
  • Your job won't take care of you when you are sick. Your friends will. Stay in touch.
  • Forgive everyone for everything. What other people think of you is none of your business.
  • However good or bad a situation is, it will change. Get rid of anything that isn't useful, beautiful or joyful.
  • Envy is a waste of time. You already have all you need. The best is yet to come.
  • No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.
  • Don't over do. Keep your limits.
  • Your inner most is always happy. So be happy. Do the right thing!
  • Call your family often. Each day give something good to others.
  • Please, forward a link to this to everyone you care about: http://enhancingmylife.blogspot.com/2010/05/life-enhancing-tips.html



wishing you much life enhancing,
Grant



Thursday, May 13, 2010

Overcoming the negativity trap

I've been reading a fascinating novel called "Generosity: An Enhancement". It's about a woman ostensibly afflicted with hyperthymia — an excess of happiness. The book poses the question: What if there were a happiness gene and it could, through genetic engineering, lead to treatments that make us all forever positive and filled with an abiding happiness?


It's superbly written and provides a deep social satire of the issues of temperament, social acceptance, human generosity and the scientific commercialization of our genome.

Halfway through the book, one of the characters describes a thought experiment on loss aversion:
"Imagine you are in a deserted parking lot and a twenty dollar bill blows right in front of you. There's no one in sight you can return it to." "How do you feel?"

"Now imagine some time later, you are in a store. You approach the cash register with a purchase, reach inside your pocket for the twenty, and find it's missing. You accidentally threw it away when disposing of some crumpled tissues." "How do you feel now?"
The character Russell feels the difference.
"The freebie was fun; the lost panics him... The bad is crazily out of proportion to the good, and it's the same twenty bucks."

Our brain bias towards negativity

Unfortunately, we have a Brain bias towards negativity. Wikipedia describes it as: "A psychological phenomenon by which humans pay more attention to and give more weight to negative rather than positive experiences or other kinds of information."

This negativity bias shows up in many aspects of our society and our lives.

I've blogged before about how we have more negative words than positive words in the English vocabulary and therefore in our ability to make distinctions and discriminations in our world. It's easier to express yourself negatively than positively.


Negative things are more attention-getting than good or positive things. They affect the Reticular Activating System more strongly. That's why the News is filled with FUDGE (Fear, Uncertainty, Disaster, Greed & Envy). You rarely see news or movies based on positivity, love, kindness and joy. Happiness does NOT make interesting news.

Research on negativity bias has also shown that:
  • If a person has a good experience and a bad experience close together, they will feel worse than neutral. This is true even if they would independently judge the two experiences to be of similar magnitude.
  • Negative information in the simple form of negation has greater impact and creates more attention than similar positive information in the form of affirmation.
  • When put in an environment with a variety of information to pay attention to, people will immediately notice the threats instead of the opportunities or the signals of safety.
  • Negativity is 'sticky' - our minds naturally and quite spontaneously tend to fixate on the negative and overlook the positive, especially when under stress.
  • Loss aversion is a related process to negativity bias and involves the innate tendency to be more impacted by the negative experience of loss than by the positive experience of gain - we fear loss more than we appreciate gain.
An evolved predisposition


You see, the brain has evolved with a greater sensitivity to negative, threatening or unpleasant news. The bias is so automatic that it can be detected at the earliest stage of the brain's information processing. As an example, studies done by Dr. John Cacioppo at Ohio State University, showed people pictures known to arouse positive feelings (a Ferrari, or a pizza), negative feelings (a mutilated face or dead cat) and those known to produce neutral feelings (a plate, a hair dryer). During this process, researchers recorded electrical activity in the brain's cerebral cortex indicating the magnitude of information processing taking place. The results showed definitively that the brain reacts more strongly to stimuli it deems negative. There is a greater surge and spread in electrical activity throughout the brain. In this way our attitudes are more heavily influenced by bad news than good.

Need to track for and overcome the negativity trap

Knowing that your brain has a bias towards negativity puts you back in control. You have a choice. Millions of years of evolution may have wired in a predisposition towards negativity, but learning and behaviour can change the structure and wiring of your cortex. You can learn new responses. You can build unconscious competencies that change your evolved patterns. You can overcome the negativity trap!

Pattern interrupt and focus on positivity

The key to overcoming the negativity bias is in the following steps:

Knowledge >> Awareness >> Pattern interrupt negativity >> Replace with positivity

Through repeated practice of this strategy you will build new parts in your multi-mind and can overcome and transcend negativity bias. Using this process, you will have stepped out of the trap and created patterns that continue to enhance your life.


Amplifying the positive

You'll notice that over the course of the last year this blog has introduced you to many, many tools for focusing on and amplifying positivity in your life, behaviour and mind. We've explored the power of positive words. We've encouraged skills and a passion for delight, compassion, forgiveness, generosity, savoring positivity, gratitude and appreciation, amongst others. All life enhancing skills. You might like to revisit some of those blog posts to refresh your mind about them.

Start today to notice whenever you are celebrating or amplifying the negative and immediately replace that emoting with a more positive, optimistic and fun loving attitude.

Positivity is life enhancing. Build it as a key focus into every day, all your relationships and every life enhancing moment.


great wishes,
Grant



Positivity: Groundbreaking Research to Release Your Inner Optimist and Thrive




Daily Dose of Positivity: Mental Supplements for Better Health




The How of Happiness: A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want


Sunday, May 9, 2010

Freedom from vs Freedom to

This week's blog post continues our exploration of freedom.


An important distinction

In exploring freedom it's useful to note the distinction between 'freedom from' versus 'freedom to'.
"freedom from anger, fear, want, hunger, pain, disease, stress, depression, debt, poverty, necessity, violence, war, advertising, addiction, etc."
"freedom to live, love, think, believe, talk, share, travel, buy, sell, act, create, share etc."

Freedom from

Freedom from oppression in its many forms is vital for living a great life. Whether it's freedom from addiction, from coercion, from co-dependency or from grasping after desire, the freedom to do as you choose and to create your own destiny relies on throwing off the shackles that bind and limit your freedom to think, feel and act.

Freedom to

Freedom to make up your own mind. Freedom to choose what you want. Freedom to live in whatever life enhancing way you desire. This is what you must fight for in your life.

A balancing act

Of course, as Sully pointed out in his thought provoking blog interview on Freedom, we all choose to give up certain social freedoms in order to gain other freedoms in exchange: "...we all give up some freedom/choice to gain security. Laws are just such a social contract (e.g. I'll give up my freedom to rob you for the security that you won't rob me)."  There is always a trade and a balance.

Maintain your freedom

But for you to maintain as much 'freedom to' you need to ensure you have and continuously keep your 'freedom from'. Watch this carefully.

If you allow yourself to become addicted to any substance, thing or behaviour you have given away your freedom. This is a trade that is not balanced. It's a one way street to misery and is ultimately life denying.

If you give away choice or lock yourself into double-binds, then you have taken away more of your precious freedom.

So I encourage you to watch for and guard assiduously your 'freedom from' and in that way you'll keep your choices open and maximise your flexibility - your 'freedom to'.

It's a subtle distinction this difference between freedom from and to. But it's a life enhancingly crucial one.



"He is free who knows how to keep in his own hands the power to decide."
Salvador de Madariaga


wishing you life enhancing choices,
Grant



Emotional Freedom: Liberate Yourself from Negative Emotions and Transform Your Life



Beyond Freedom & Dignity - B. F. Skinner

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Food for thought: Delightful Repasts

 
I have to say... I love food! All sorts of food! Delicious food!


I think that creating and eating delicious food is life enhancing! Great food delights and pampers the senses. It stimulates, communicates and assuages our more primitive heart-brains and gut-brains. Taste links to and drives so many of our pleasure circuits. Delicious food is comforting, uplifting, joyful and sometimes even orgasmic (especially if it involves chocolate :) Yes, used intelligently and appropriately, food is truly life enhancing.

I'm also magnificently blessed by living with a wonderful and beautiful person who shares my passion for cooking and savoring fine food. It's true, I'm spoiled. Anyone who has enjoyed a delicious Fiona meal or sampled some of her culinary delights, will whole-heartedly agree that she is a wondrous creator of delectable comestibles.

Combine some wondrous food with a great wine and you've got the makings of an evening of life enhancing bliss!

So it will come as no surprise, given my focus and passion for great recipes and delicious food, that for today's blog post I've served up a wonderful interview with a person who shares a passion for both food, cooking and writing. Jean, is a freelance writer who writes about food, etiquette and entertaining for numerous publications. I was introduced to her wonderful blog Delightful Repast and instantly felt a kindred spirit. On her blog you'll find recipes that warm the body and soul, recipes of the sort to become a family tradition. She has a passion for good food, and for making every meal a life enhancing "delightful repast".

To set the scene (or table perhaps) for the interview with Jean, I'd like to share with you a couple of snippets from the FAQ on her blog. They'll give you a feel for why I was keen to ask her to share her thoughts, ideas and passion with you here.

What is the origin of the name of your blog?
My husband is very polite and humorous, often simultaneously, and has said to me after nearly every dinner I've ever made for him, "Thank you for the delightful repast." How could I name my food blog anything else!

I chose the subtitle A Tradition of Good Food because I was born into a tradition of good food, the product of a father who, having grown up on a monotonous diet during the Depression, spared no expense when it came to food and a mother who was an inspired cook with "perfect pitch," able to taste any sort of dish and recreate it.

How would you describe your food?
The short answer would be: comfort food with flair. I love classic comfort food prepared with care and the finest ingredients. Beautiful presentation is important. It adds immeasurably to the enjoyment of a meal. I use as many local, seasonal, organic ingredients--as natural and minimally processed as possible--as I can. My recipes are not the "open a can of this and a package of that" sort. And "doctoring up" a mix is not my idea of baking. (Not that there's anything wrong with that; I just happen to enjoy the process as much as the result.)

Life Enhancing Interview with Jean @ The Delightful Repast

Ok, so with the base ingredients nicely covered, I invite you now to sit back, relax and enjoy the following taste treat: Food for thought - A Life Enhancing Interview with Jean @ The Delightful Repast

Q. What do you think is life enhancing about delightful repasts? Or about creating delightful repasts?

Food is so much more than just fuel for the body. It delights all five senses and provides emotional, as well as physical, comfort. I have memories from the age of two that indicate I have always viewed the kitchen as the heart of the home. My childhood was rather chaotic, but I choose to hold onto the good memories, most of which happen to center around food. I think if my family of origin could manage to gather around the dinner table together at the same time every evening and enjoy a delightful repast, any family can!

My husband and I don't eat in front of the television, and we don't allow the telephone or anything else to interrupt our dinner. We don't use paper plates or plastic cups, and we don't use different dishes, glasses and flatware than we use for company. Everyday life, not just special occasions, IS our life. So why not make an occasion of everyday dinner?

Also, when you take a moment to be thankful for the food that is before you, it helps you really appreciate all that you have as well as life itself. And I think that quiets down the endless list of "wants" we tend to have in a materialistic society.


Q. What are the values that direct your cooking and recipe/food/ingredient selection?

Food is such a significant part of any household's budget that the choices we make in the marketplace can make a real difference. Saying "No" to pesticides, chemical additives, preservatives, food coloring, irradiation and genetically engineered foods puts our consumer power to work for a better world as well as better health for ourselves and our families.

My four main requirements for produce or other foodstuffs are that it be: 1) seasonal; 2) locally grown/produced, or at least grown/produced as close to home as possible; 3) organic, or at least as chemical-free as possible; 4) grown, harvested, produced and distributed in a socially, as well as environmentally, responsible way.

I've been vegetarian at various times in my life, and ideally I would be vegan; but that's not going to happen. So I try to eat meat less often and choose meat that has been produced under the best conditions. We need to insist on humane treatment of all animals and proper working conditions for those who work in the meat industry.

Buying only in-season produce grown as close to where we live as possible supports our local farmers. I see it also as a way of preserving the rich farmland of my county and fighting the urban tide. (Remember "pave paradise, put up a parking lot"?) It's a little  frustrating when I hear people lamenting the loss of another patch of farmland to commercial development then I see them buying the imported versions of the foods that are grown right here.

Although we have access to nearly any food at any time of year, eating with the seasons leads to more pleasure in dining--the pleasure of anticipation and change as well as the pleasure of superior quality. I prefer to skip the out-of-season imports and enjoy the anticipation of the first asparagus of spring and the first juicy apricot of summer.  

Then there's the matter of waste. Our society has never, in my lifetime, been very mindful of waste. Now, more than ever before, we need to be. From childhood on, I've always been conscious of not wasting meat, simply because I did not want that animal to have died in vain. Unfortunately, I was not always so conscious of wasting other foods. But the earth has paid a price for the production and distribution of those foods, and so to waste them is a serious matter. 

Am I perfect in all my food choices? Of course not! But I feel good about each healthful and earth-friendly choice I do make. And, for anyone who is just starting on the path, I would like them to know that it gets easier all the time. It sounds daunting, as if every grocery shopping trip would take hours and hours of careful deliberations. But, really, it becomes automatic.
 

Q. How can people make their meals and food creation more delightful and life enhancing?

Most parents think they are doing everything they can to give their children a wonderful childhood, but many are missing the mark simply by undervaluing the simple things in life. Take an average family of two adults and two children, coming home after work and school (and an excessive number of extracurricular activities), going their separate ways in a house that's larger than it needs to be, each engaging in an expensive electronic activity that isolates him from the rest of the family, each eating a different meal in a different room. Doesn't sound like the stuff of fond memories to me!

Wouldn't it be wonderful if parents and children could go to the farmers' market or farm stands together, or even tend a few tomato plants in the back yard, and prepare and enjoy dinners together? And parents can use cooking to teach their children about their heritage and to keep cultural traditions alive. I honor the memory of my grandmothers every time I cook Southern (paternal grandmother) or English (maternal grandmother) food.

Setting a nice table for family dinners is life-enhancing. Don't save the tablecloths and cloth napkins, the "good" dishes and glasses, and the candles for company. Use it all, enjoy it, let it enhance your everyday life. And don't save "manners" for company either. Turn off the phones. And, for goodness sake, no texting at the table! Whether it's with adults or children, guests or family, I enforce "electronic etiquette" in my home!


Q. What is your most life enhancing recipe?

That is something that changes constantly. On a day I'm missing a loved one who has died, the most life-enhancing recipe I could prepare would be one that is in some way connected to that loved one. On a day I find someone in need of comfort, the most life-enhancing recipe I could prepare would be whatever is that person's favorite comfort food. But if I had to choose one food category to describe as most life-enhancing, that would be bread. Making bread makes any day better! [Check out Jean's delicious bread recipe here]


Q. Who are your role models or exemplars for a) Delightful and Life Enhancing repast creators, and b) for living an enhanced life?
My mother was an inspired cook with what I can only think to call "perfect pitch." She had the ability to taste any sort of dish and recreate it. I inherited her passion for cooking and for reading and began cooking with her when I was about four. We would often do both, cooking and reading, at the same time. Her version of even the simplest thing was vastly superior to anyone else's. I didn't know why that was until I got a bit older and recognized that she never impatiently slapped anything together (not even a tuna sandwich for a child), but always prepared things with care. She would take that extra moment to make a subtle adjustment to the seasoning that would make all the difference. And I also learned presentation from her. Which, I suppose, is why you will never find a commercial container, such as a bottle or carton, on my table!

Both my grandmothers, and my great grandmother, were good cooks as well. Cooking things that they cooked, I'm sort of communing with these women all the time in my kitchen. Also, my dear friend Dorothy, who died 11 years ago, frequently comes to mind in the kitchen. And I can't peel a potato without recalling my wonderful mother-in-law saying "Hon, you're taking half the potato along with the peel." And I am constantly making new food memories with my living friends.

I feel fortunate that I didn't have to find my role models on television! Don't get me wrong. I love watching cooking shows (just the ones on PBS--I don't have cable or satellite). But people are celebrity-mad these days, and I think that's sad. Of course, it's good, I suppose, that someone can be worshiped for their cooking as well as for their acting or athletic ability.

That being said, Julia Child was one of my early influences. When she started in television, my mother and I enjoyed watching her show together. I was very young then, but I had been cooking since I was four! My mother would be so pleased to know that I actually met Julia not long before she gave up the Cambridge house and chatted with her several times during her final years at various small foodie events in California. I had always intended to invite her over for afternoon tea but never got around to it. Lesson learned: never procrastinate when you're dealing with someone in her 90's!

There is a lot of food snobbery now. I talk to people all the time who are in a cycle of competitive cookery with their friends. They rarely have anyone in for dinner because they feel they would have to muster up an enormous amount of energy since expectations are so high in their circle. I say, it's time to get real. We're all busy, stressed and tired; we need friendship and comfort, not poached lamb brains on a bed of hummingbird tongues with a rose-scented trockenbeerenauslese reduction (and that's just the first course!).


Q. What are the most life enhancing devices you own and use, either in the kitchen, or in your life?

I love using dishes and kitchen equipment that belonged to my mother or grandmothers or other people I love. I continue to use a particular type of rolling pin (that Julia Child denounced as being too small, and perhaps it is) simply because it's the model my grandmother used. And my teapots and tea kettles--because I drink tea several times a day and it's part of my heritage. 


Check out Jean's blog

Well I trust you enjoyed that delightful repast of ideas. There are some life enhancing distinctions in what Jean has shared, and I hope today's focus on the importance of good food and delicious meals will inspire and remind you to enhance your own life with your own delightful repasts.

You might also like to wander over to Jean's blog. Her blog post this week is about her grandmother's and great grandmother's cream gravy, a Southern thing. The post tells how, as a young girl, Jean got interested in genealogy and struck up a correspondence with her 89-year-old great grandmother that she'd previously never met. Along the way, she shares some of her Grandmother's history, traveling from the South to Oklahoma in a covered wagon! The cream gravy sounds delicious, and of course, there's a link to Jean's delicious life enhancing bread recipe. Check it out: The Delightful Repast


wonderful and life enhancing wishes
Grant

Some more food for thought:

The Way to Cook - Julia Child



Sweet Serendipity: Delightful Desserts and Devilish Dishes



The Tenth Muse: My Life in Food