Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Just Sing!

"If you can walk you can dance, if you can talk you can sing."
- Zimbabwean proverb

Music evolved as a social tool. The pleasure from singing together provides an evolutionary reward for gathering cooperatively, instead of staying isolated in caves. When we sing, the musical vibrations move and energize our body. Sounds fuel and alter our physical and emotional states.

Dr. Julene K. Johnson, a researcher who has focused on older singers, began a five-year study to examine group singing as a method to improve the health and well-being of older adults. He found that group singing becomes both exhilarating and transformative. Songs shared with other individuals return as thrills to all. Harmony adds to the delight.

Graham Welch,  professor of music education at the Institute of Education, spokesperson for the National singing program for school children, Sing Up, commented, “Psychological benefits are also evident when people sing together as well as alone because of the increased sense of community, belonging and shared endeavor.” 

Singing in front of a crowd, like karaoke, also builds confidence and well-being. Tra La La La La.

Researchers have discovered that singing is like a tranquilizer that soothes nerves and elevates spirits. 

Elation arises from endorphins, associated with feelings of pleasure. Singing releases them. 

Oxytocin, another hormone that cycles during singing, alleviates anxiety, stress, and enhances feelings of trust and bonding. 

Studies have found that singing lessens feelings of loneliness and depression.  

Singing also provides some of the same effects as exercise, with the release of endorphins. The singer experiences an overall lifted feeling and stress reduction. 

As an aerobic activity, singing provides more oxygen into the blood for enhanced circulation, to promote a good mood. 

Singing requires deep breathing, another anxiety reducer.

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D summarizes the beneficial effects of singing alone and in groups:

1. Memorizing the words to songs improves brain function, including the ability to store and retrieve memory.
2. The exercises associated with group singing improve deep breathing and that has the added benefit of adding to relaxation and stress reduction.
3. Performing in front of an audience and as part of a group inspires self-confidence and self-esteem.
4. Group interaction in a singing group ends social isolation and fosters relationships of all kinds.
5. Group participation is fun and allows people to get away from daily stresses and worries.

Energize in song.  Sing in the shower.  Sing in the car.  Sing on and on.  

Monday, February 27, 2017

Into the Storm

Before the storm, the sea flaunts its personalities. 

During their flights of defiance against the wind, seagulls ripple on the currents like kites. 

They evade the force as long as possible, wielding magic in the thrust of wings. 

Pigeons circle in formations catching the drafts. 

Subtle changes alert the birds' radar to seek shelter before intensity could whip them from the sky. 

Pelicans and seagulls find protection on the edges of cliffs as winds broil. Cormorants rise into the branches of pine trees and preen. A winter sea and sky toy with the color wheel and capture a view that defies a camera's eye.

In India, darshan means getting a view. The clouds escape to reveal a panorama of the Himalayas from the foothills. The Himalayas give up their darshan. They're letting you have their view.

The Pacific ocean has provided a darshan on its day of wonder. It doesn't show itself right away. The tease encourages a search for your own words and imagery of discovery. 

The sky provides an opening. Where does it lead?

As the storm passes, the sea
calms and reflects its blue.

Discover ways to explore a winter scene in words.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Connect with Nature

As post-Romantic subjects, we have become used to defining our identities apart from the everyday, through various forms of leisure and imaginative escape. Our idea of nature, like art, has helped to enable such forms of self-definition. To embrace an everyday nature means shifting also how we define our selves, no longer through forms of imaginative escape of transcendence but though our ordinary lives, work, actions and relationships.   - Scott Hess “Imagining an Everyday Nature” from ISLE Winter 2010.

During my morning run, flowers explode from nooks and around corners. Birdsong chases me as mockingbirds, crows, house sparrows, seagulls, and cormorants enchant the breeze.

I watch others pass in cars and on foot and wonder how many can name the trees, flowers, or bushes in their neighborhood?  

Do they take them for granted along with the birds and insects as they swerve out of driveways, talking on cell phones? 

When they return home, will the television and computer screen push them away from a natural environmental influence?  

Take time to slow down and redirect attention to our place in the web of nature around us beyond the technology that defines our lives.

Take a stroll and marvel!  Winter and early spring explode and put on a show for the benefit of everyone. 

Use your eyes, nose and fingers to explore the magic of seeds into blossoms.

Listen and identify the birds in your garden. 

Be grateful for ways nature balances and shows you how.

Find ways to connect and identify with everyday nature.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Mine for Mysteries

The answer is never the answer. What's really interesting is the mystery. If you seek the mystery instead of the answer, you'll always be seeking. I've never seen anybody really find the answer. They think they have, so they stop thinking. But the job is to seek mystery, evoke mystery, plant a garden in which strange plants grow and mysteries bloom. The need for mystery is greater than the need for an answer.” 
- Ken Kesey

A Chinese poem reveals the true measure of a mountain's greatness is not its height but whether it is charming enough to attract dragons.

Life gathers joy with mystery and fabulous.

What if you planted a garden where strange plants grow?  How would you describe them by colors, textures, scents, and sounds they make? 

Imagine an orchestra or a wild concert of blooms. Discover magicians within the petals. Discover ways to choreograph the dance.

Place yourself into an encounter of strange and delve into the wonder and magic. 

Move from the actual into fun and fantasy with words.

Flavor your writing with mystery and see where it leads.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Examining Truth

Truth is a great flirt. ~Franz Liszt 
There is no truth. There is only perception. 
~Gustave Flaubert

We hear the word, "truth" bandied about these days in politics and the media. Quotations abound with philosophies about what truth means. Few provide details beyond the use of abstractions. 

What does truth look and sound like? How does one show the truth?  What does it mean to be true to oneself?

Is there a difference between truth and reality?

Will stories about truth help us connect to its virtues?

Studies at the University of Toronto involved teaching children to tell the truth. They found promoting the virtues of honesty develop more effective results than a focus on punishing the consequences of deception.

Psychologist Kang Lee’s study posed the question: Do classic, morally instructive tales of honesty, so often told by parents and teachers, actually work? 

After listening to the story of how a young George Washington admitted to chopping down a cherry tree saying, “I cannot tell a lie,” children were significantly less likely to lie about their own dishonesty than if they heard the story of “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” or “Pinocchio.” 

Lee said, "I thought stories such as "The Boy Who Cried Wolf" or "Pinocchio" would have far more impact, because they're so threatening and negative, and kids must be afraid of the consequences."  

He discovered that unlike fairy tales with punishments, children appreciated George Washington for telling the truth.

Lee and researchers created a study that tempted children to lie. Children sat with their backs to an unseen toy on a table while a researcher played a sound associated with the toy like a quacking rubber duck or a barking plastic dog. 

They asked each child to guess its identity. If they guessed correctly, they won a prize.

After a few rounds, the researcher put a different toy on the table and asked the child not to peek at it. Then the researcher left the room. 

A few minutes later the researcher returned and read aloud one of four classic children’s stories and asked the child whether he or she peeked. A hidden camera in the wall had recorded their activities. The researchers knew if they lied.

Lee’s group ran the experiment with 268 Canadian children that included boys and girls, three to seven years old. Each heard one story. “The Tortoise and the Hare” which does not relate to honesty. It set a baseline for comparison. Children who heard it told the truth about peeking 30 percent of the time. That number barely changed if they’d heard “Pinocchio,” and rose to about 35 percent after “The Boy Who Cried Wolf.” 

When the children heard the story about George Washington and the cherry tree, 48 percent told the truth. Lee suspected the jump might be linked to the story’s positive emphasis. Washington’s tale relates to virtue rewarded rather than misbehavior punished. The tale works in the study even though historians have disputed the story's "truth."

"Positive messaging is a better way of promoting behaviors," said Lee. "You're telling kids what is expected and what they need to do. Instead of focusing on consequences, you're focusing on the act itself."

Psychologist Tom Lyon of the University of Southern California, also studies truth-telling in children. He said, “It would be wonderful if we can encourage children’s honesty better through carrots than sticks.” He observed a study involving a negatively focused version of the George Washington tale of chopping down the cherry tree. Instead of saying he’d rather have an honest son than 1,000 cherry trees, his father takes away his ax and says how disappointed he is.

When children heard that story, the number of truth-tellers fell back to the baseline level of 30 percent. The story lost its effectiveness, which suggested that the story’s power resides in its positive message.

Lyon said the findings surprised him, as some research suggests that children think less about honesty’s positive consequences than lying’s harms. Lee noted that research has also found evidence of children responding better to positive messages. The results also fit with earlier findings that asking children to promise honesty is more effective than explaining why it’s so terrible to lie. 

Questions about truth will continue to intrigue.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

The Will to Renew

Rise above negative thinking regardless of attitudes floating around. Surge idealistic and positive beyond beliefs and strongly held ideas to evolve into renewed ways of thinking. 

The creative choice is yours.

Here are ideas to jump start your will to renew:

1. Write about what you've learned at this stage of your life. See how far you can go with this for fifteen minutes.

2.  When you catch yourself thinking about what's broken, the government, ill health and adversity, consider what you want to happen and how you can make it happen on your scale. Keep writing.

3. Live in the moment. Don't dwell on negativity. Write beyond it.

4. Write about what you truly need to be content. Delve into why you think,“I'll be happy when I have this or that,” or “when I live over there,” or “when this happens.” 

5. Write your successes. Examine mistakes and if you have failed to meet objectives. You have choices. Examine your priorities. 

Additional Points to Ponder:

6.  Choose wisely what you read, listen to and the people with whom you associate. Avoid letting negative individuals populate your world.  You cannot change them.  Move on.

7.  Learn to listen with both ears. Evaluate before disrespecting another's opinion.

8.  Examine how you take responsibility for yourself with healthy choices of diet, exercise and mind push ups. Nurture a spiritual force that supports your efforts.

9.   Take pride in the natural world and explore it daily with all your senses. 

10. Work on the power of You.