Meditation

I have talked about the benefits of meditation.  If it has you interested but unsure where to start, meditation teacher Susan Piver is hosting a free, limited participant webinar.

The date and time :

Wednesday, April 10, 2013 1:00 PM – 2:00 PM

Click here to register

I have found Susan’s instructions to be very accessible.  Here’s your chance to talk to a meditation instructor and get your questions answered.

I have admitted to be an on again off again meditator, more off since my accident.  But, I recently found a trick that has kept me going for 2 weeks straight.  Maybe this trick will work for you too.

I used to set the coffee pot up at night and the timer would brew the coffee 2 minutes before my alarm went off.  But, now, my alarm goes off, I get up, make the coffee and then meditate until the coffee maker buzzes.  This takes 9 minutes.  Once the coffee maker buzzes I add on a round or a few of loving kindness meditation and call it done.  I have found this to be (so far) an easy way to avoid all the excuses.  Yes, its only 10 minutes or so; but, that is 70 minutes a week that I wasn’t doing before.

Meditation is training your mind in attention.  The benefits of that are numerous: stress reduction, self awareness, impulse control, cultivates compassion, patience, lowers blood pressure, supports immune function, calming, and on and on.  There is no downside.

I encourage you all to take advantage, if you can, of this awesome opportunity.

 

Advertisements

Librarian as Superhero

I recently had to go to urgent care for a stomach virus that had gone on too long. I like my regular doctor. She never seems to be in a rush and we’ve talked enough times that I’m completely comfortable with her. But, she wasn’t in the office; so, I headed off to the urgent care center near my workplace. It’s outfitted with zen doo dads, fresh water in a glass jug with lemon slices, a bowl of fresh fruit and a friendly staff.

The doctor who examined me was young. If I had to guess, I would say early thirties. When she asked me my occupation and I replied, “librarian,” she looked surprised. We talked some more about my stomach and then she said, offhandedly, “I guess your work has changed a lot, kind of disappearing.” I tried to explain modern librarianship in 60 seconds.  And took another 30 seconds to plug public libraries for all that they do beyond checking out books and one sentence about how librarians don’t just work in libraries.  But, I left feeling weird about it.

Mostly, I was so disappointed. Here is this young (and I might add, hip) physician who is so far removed from current methods of research and library service that she thought libraries would be disappearing with “everything online.”  And as if libraries were just  places where people went to get books.

It got me thinking. What are we doing wrong? Why doesn’t this highly educated, young woman understand the value of libraries and librarianship? Is it arrogance? Does she think that if she needs to research something for her job, even using a medical database, that she wouldn’t need a librarian’s help to execute a great search? If she seeks out a journal article, who curates those journal titles for the library?  Does she not understand that her public library is not only used by people  looking for a book to read; but, also by people who can’t afford to buy books.  Her library is serving people who don’t have internet access at home.  Her library is serving people who are looking for jobs, looking for group activities, looking for story time for their kids, looking to read magazines for free, looking for some new music to listen to or a movie to bring home, looking for a class that teaches them how to download books to their new e-reader, or just looking for a free lecture on an interesting topic?

I think maybe we just need to be better at sharing articles about all that libraries are doing for their communities.  We need to have a sweet or funny 3 minute spiel on the awesomeness of libraries, ready for just these moments.  Someone (was it Jessamyn West?),  said we need to have our “elevator speech” ready and I agree.  I tend to end by urging them to go visit their library and see what is happening there.  At the very least, they can sign up for a library card and borrow e-books!

Stuff like this either drives you crazy or invigorates you to go out and spread the word.  I hope you choose to take a deep breath, shake off the disappointment and go spread the word!!

When the Answer is Silence, Look Within.

Anya recently told me a story about work.  Her boss, at the start of the school year, had committed to a co-teaching approach for one of the senior level Social Studies classes.  Last week, she sprung it on the two teachers (Anya being one of them) that she was removing one teacher from the classroom in order to use them somewhere else.  Anya expressed disagreement with the plan.  The boss cut her off  and accused her of not being a team player, not having the students’ needs ahead of her own and using a “tone.”  When I asked her how she replied to this outburst, Anya said, “I didn’t.  What’s the point?”

I asked Anya to tell me word for word how the conversation went down.  I know Anya fairly well and had never witnessed her taking a “tone” with anyone even in disagreeable situations.  The more Anya recounted the experience, the more clear it became.  The principal by cutting her off and accusing her had effectively ended the conversation which is exactly what she wanted.  She wanted to shut Anya up and put her in her place.

The problem with using this manipulative tactic is that the island you are on becomes smaller and smaller.  True, fewer and fewer of your staff will disagree with you, but, that only creates an organization that is stagnate and inflexible.  If you are not open to the ideas and opinions of your staff, even when some of those opinions may be critical, your organization will never grow.  So now, the principal has not only effectively shut down a differing opinion; but, she has also damaged a relationship, discouraged future discussion and created a situation where the two teachers feel unsupported and undervalued.

Do you do this?  Are you listening and responding without defensiveness?

I can assure you of one thing.  If you tell your staff something and there is only silence in reply, you need to take a good look at yourself and the way you communicate. 

 

2012 Soundtrack

I can’t tell you how much love I have for the Alabama Shakes. I discovered them sometime last year after reading about them in Paste and searching out their self released EP and they have been in constant rotation ever since. I just don’t get sick of them. Last April, while road tripping in Vermont, we had the chance to see them live in Burlington. They are amazing live and if you like their kind of music and you have the opportunity to snatch up some tickets, do it. You will not be disappointed. Here is my little gift to you.

Some Thoughts to close 2012

SONY DSC

I haven’t had the chance to write up a post since election day; but, I wanted to say something before the end of the year.  So, I have two things.

First, if you are a regular reader, you know how much I dig the writings/speeches given by Brene Brown.  There is part of me who really cringes at anything that reeks of self help ramblings without some science behind it and Ms. Brown brings the science.  And she cuts through the mixed messages and gets right to the core of how we operate.  I love that.  I ran across an article by her that sums up bullying way better than I ever could.  I’m a believer that we live in a bully culture and encourage bully behavior and then are surprised when kids and adults “take it too far.”   We like to think we are a country of people that love the underdogs; but, in reality, we love our bullies even more.  Here’s a small excerpt:

Whether we are a sweaty-palmed 7th grader navigating a hostile cafeteria, or a laid-off worker trying to make a mortgage payment, or a young mother waiting for mammogram results, feeling vulnerable, imperfect and afraid is human. It is when we lose our capacity to hold space for these struggles that we become dangerous. We can legislate behavior all day long, but true compassion comes from a tender and vulnerable place where we understand how inextricably connected we are.

From :  The Cruelty Crisis: Bullying Isn’t a School Problem, It’s a National Pastime by Brene Brown.  Published on Psychology Today (www.psychologytoday.com) on October 31, 2010.

Read that article and pay special attention to the last paragraph.

Secondly, recently a few friends have been doing 30 or even 40 days of gratitude on Facebook.  I’m going to admit something.   As a (somewhat) reformed  eye roller,  I resist the urge to chalk all of this gratitude up to some touchy feelie, new agey bunk.  But, I also know that I feel better when I focus on the things I can be grateful for.  I feel better when I focus on seeing the good.

The amazing thing about gratitude is it can be cultivated, practiced and even developed as a reaction and the results are rather amazing.  I recently presented a program on leading with compassion.  I gave the audience a short exercise to try that several people talked to me about afterwards. So, I altered it and decided to share it with you here.

You will need a piece of paper, a pen, a quiet moment and the willingness to keep your mind open.

Think of the person at your job who most drives you crazy.  Close your eyes.  Think of their face.  Take note of the feelings that arise and sit with them for a moment.  Okay.  You are most likely sitting with negative feelings.  Imagine all those feelings are written up on chalkboard.  If you really dislike this person, your chalkboard is probably full, every inch of space being used.  In your mind, see your chalkboard filled with all of those feelings, now take an eraser and erase them.  Get that eraser into every corner until there is just chalk dust up on your imaginary board.  Great.  Now lets get started.

  1. Think of your person.
  2. Write down 3 things they are good at.  This can be anything.  Maybe they keep their desk neat.  Perhaps they are prompt.  Even if you have to dig deep, write down 3 things.
  3. Write down one thing you would miss if the person didn’t come to work anymore.  You have to write down one thing.  You can do it.  Even the most annoying, crazy person offers something that is worthy of missing.
  4. Write down one thing YOU can do to help this person succeed.

Now I want you to set down your pen, close your eyes and take a couple of calming breaths.  Relax your shoulders.  Think of your person.  Did your heart soften towards them a wee bit?  Maybe it softened a lot.  Take note of the new feelings.

I firmly believe, as a supervisor, my job is not to get people to do what I want; but, it is to help them succeed.  As a colleague, it is to help my coworkers succeed.  I understand that at times, this is impossible and that with really, really toxic people, the best course of action is to figure out ways to just reduce their toxicity.

Don’t mistake a softening heart for losing ground or giving in.  It is just about understanding that your person is just another person in the world navigating through the ups and downs of life and struggling with things as you sometimes struggle.  Try not to get bogged down with what other people are doing and focus on the things that are in your control.

2012 is winding down and I’ve heard so many people say that it was a bad year for them.  If this is you, I want you to immediately sit down and write a list of 10 things that were good about 2012.  Go!  Do it!  Enter 2013 thinking, wow, I found 10 good things about 2012, 2013 is going to be even better!

I’ve struggled to find the balances I need in my life so that I can thrive in NYC.  I think maybe I’ve spent a good portion of the year feeling a bit tired and foggy headed; but, 2012 is year that goes down in my personal history as a watershed year.  I got married.  I had this amazing, sweet wedding at an apple orchard in Vermont that is owned by Anya’s cousin and her family.  We were surrounded by people that love and support us.  There was a dude with a guitar and ten gallon hat singing Neil Young’s Heart of Gold.  Later, with his band, they did covers of Johnny Cash and other twangy greats.   After the ceremony and the toasts, with the party just getting into gear,  I looked over the lawn and saw my friend Ann, carrying a croquet mallet in one hand and a wine glass in the other, her pretty green dress popping against the blue sky and I thought, This is perfect.  Did everything go as planned?  Ha!  Of course not.  Did we panic and find someone to blame?  Hell no!  There was pie and happy people and this amazing hard cider from the orchard and the most perfect weather of the whole summer and there was this incredible, extraordinary woman who makes me laugh, reminds me not to worry so much, accepts me just the way I am and pretty much takes my breath away every day.  That is perfect and by perfect, I mean perfectly imperfect.  It truly is a beautiful life.

On Election Day

CC OBEY

 

Right now, we have a chance to take a view that is so much larger than Obama or Romney, Us or Them, My Way or The Highway. Without budging an inch in what we believe and whom we support, we could take a moment, just a millisecond, to imagine that the “other” side feels as much passion, despair, longing, and fear about the election as we do. We could care about each other, American to American. As winners, we could seek ways to include the losers as we go forward rather than further ostracize them. As losers, we could redouble our efforts to fight for what we believe in from a sense of love for this country rather than hatred for the victors.

-Susan Piver

This is a quote from one my favorite teachers.  I have been thinking about the animosity building between Romney and Obama supporters.  It is good to remember that we are not only one country; but, we are all humans trying to do our best.

Check out the whole post:

Only Us: Beyond Republican and Democrat.

The Problem with the Anti-bullying Bandwagon

Miss Blackflag via Flickr CC

“If you want to make a difference, the next time you see someone being cruel to another human being, take it personally. Take it personally because it is personal!” –Brene Brown

The anti-bullying movement is certainly well intentioned.  There is no denying that.  My problem with the anti-bullying parade of legislation, media stories and programming is that there is a self-satisfied bragging about it without any self-reflection.  Look at all the things we are doing to stop bullying!

This post was motivated by a Facebook post from one of my dear friends, who teaches in the NYC Schools.  She told a story about talking with kids in her class.  She created a space where she could safely challenge the kids and they could respond honestly and share stories not only of being bullied; but, occasions when they have actually done the bullying.  Her post responded in a litany of folks congratulating her which is well deserved; but, when I tried to steer the discussion towards how we could model the behavior we expect to see, nobody took the bait and it got me thinking.  My friend mentioned how some of the students who were the biggest anti-bullying advocates were actually bullies.

New Jersey now has the toughest anti-bullying laws in the country and Governor Christie has been quick to congratulate himself for its passage.  But, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand that New Jersey is also a state which has a bully for a governor.  Do you think that the children of New Jersey would be better served by the anti-bullying legislation or by adults in their lives who do not bully, judge, gossip and instead choose to cultivate an atmosphere of kindness and compassion?

I think it is safe to say, without referencing scholarly articles, that bullying is a learned behavior.  I’ve seen gossip and bullying in every workplace I’ve worked in.  My school teacher partner comes home and tells me some disturbing stories about teacher and administrator behavior.  In Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth: popularity, quirk theory, and why outsiders thrive after high school, author Alexandra Robbins follows several students around at schools in different parts of the country.  In one instance, the reader is a few chapters into the book before you realize that the bullied, weird girl who suffers at the hands of a mean girl and her clique is actually a teacher and is being bullied by other teachers.  Where do you think kids are learning bullying behavior?  From us.    We have created and sustain a bully culture.

It’s all well and good to discourage bullying in children; but, what are we doing about the bully inside of us?  Oh, sure, I’ve seen articles and books about bully coworkers and bosses; but, they are almost exclusively about extreme bullies and fail to capture the subtle, everyday bully.  Ask yourself the following:

  1. Do you gossip?  Do you listen to or spread stories about coworkers, neighbors, or other people in your life?
  2. Do you exclude a person from group activities?  Do you participate in group activities after work when one or more coworkers have purposefully been excluded from invitation?
  3. Do you go home and tell stories about your coworkers that include judging or name calling?
  4. Do you make fun of people in front of your children?
  5. Do you tell mean jokes?  Do you crack jokes about coworkers?
  6. Do you tease any of your coworkers?  Your friends?  Your family?  Any other people in your life?

Are you now thinking, this doesn’t pertain to me, I’m nice, I’m kind.  What are you doing right now to cultivate compassion and empathy in yourself?  Oh, I agree that we need Anti-bullying campaigns and programming; but, it starts from within.  It’s not easy.  People piss us off and do stupid things and sometimes people make themselves irresistible targets.  The library field is saturated with odd folks and sometimes it is difficult to refrain from making an easy joke about a person’s style, personality quirks, weird hobbies or social awkwardness.  I know this because there have been too many times when I have not refrained and contributed to a culture that ultimately I wanted to see disappear.  Can you go one day without talking about one coworker in front of other coworkers?

“What we know matters but who we are matters more.” ― Brené Brown,

My friend, the teacher in the story at the top of this post, is one of those rare folks who is kind and thoughtful and nurturing.  She is not perfect.  None of us are perfect.  But, she gently taught those kids something that day.  She taught them something about assessing their own behavior and how it affects others.  And she gave them a safe place to talk about it.

Do that for yourself.  Is there something in your own behavior that needs to be changed.  Do you act towards others as you wish to be acted upon?  Do you have someone in your life that can be your sounding board?  I have a few people in my life that I trust and feel safe telling things that make me deeply vulnerable.  These are people who are also on a similar path; so, I know that they understand that I don’t want some behavior I’m describing to be easily condoned with a “that’s okay” response.  They also don’t judge or use the opportunity to feel superior.  They are my partners in this quest.

“If we can share our story with someone who responds with empathy and understanding, shame can’t survive.”  –Brene Brown

What kind of person do you want to be?  Do you want to be the person people feel comfortable gossiping with or the person people trust NOT to gossip?  Do you want to be the person that makes harsh judgments about people because of appearance or some other detail about their lives? Do you want to be the person who is kind to a person even when they annoy you because you are capable of EMPATHY?  Who erases the annoyance with a gentle attitude?

  • Little by little remove the bully from your heart and mind.
  • Surround yourself with people who want to be better.
  • The Golden Rule is made of awesome.  If it is the only rule you follow, you will lead a good life.
  • Commit.  (I’m yelling, arms raised to the sky)  Commit!!  Commit to the person you wish to be in the world.

Commit to kindness.  Commit to opening your heart.  As you move through this world, leave love in your wake.