Relaxation.

Sunday Inspiration.     Post by David Joel Miller.

Relaxation.

Relaxing picture

Relaxation.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

“It’s a good idea always to do something relaxing prior to making an important decision in your life.”

― Paulo Coelho, The Pilgrimage

“Now this relaxation of the mind from work consists of playful words or deeds. Therefore it becomes a wise and virtuous man to have recourse to such things at times.”

― Thomas Aquinas

“Turn off your mind, relax, and float downstream.”

― John Lennon

Wanted to share some inspirational quotes with you.  Today seemed like a good time to do this. If any of these quotes strike a chord with you, please share them.

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Why leaders tell us stories.

By David Joel Miller.

The best leaders tell the best stories.

Telling Her Story

Telling Her Story
Photo courtesy of Flickr (Julien Harneis)

Throughout history many of the greatest leaders have also been great storytellers. They knew that they needed to inspire their followers with images that were easy to understand and that made the personal connection with what they were teaching.

Now by telling stores I do not mean the kind some of our politicians have been telling us recently. Those “stories” are just self-serving distortions of the truth. Their stories are designed too obscure the truth, not illuminate it.

Great leaders have used story’s to teach universal truths and to inspire their followers to action.

Martin Luther King Jr. gave us the story of a dream. Not simply that he dreamed things would be better someday, but he gave us a detailed description of this dream, children walking hand in hand, people being judged by who there were not by how they looked.

All the great religious books are full of stories. The Bible stories are often referred to as parables.  The story of the widow and her mite, the Good Samaritan, they bring moral teachings to life.

Jesus told a great many stories, they are the subject of Sunday school lessons and the weekly sermon to this day some two-thousand-plus years later.

Buddha taught using stories. So did a great many other religious leaders. The wisdom of the Native Americans were preserved and retold in their myths, legends and stories.

The stories told on the big screen and the smaller ones have a huge power to influence the way we think. We see things happen, we can empathize with the characters in the movie and we learn vicarious lessons as a result. Those dramatic fictions hold tremendous power to influence how people think and what they think about.

The stores told in books have shaped the imagination and the opinions of the generations that read those books. Many of us remember our childhood through the connections to our favorite stories.

It is getting harder for our political leaders to inspire us with their stories. Too many of their stories are about whose fault things are, they are about blame and negativity. Telling us the sky is falling may scare us into running; it does not inspire a people to build for the future.

It is becoming increasingly difficult for our leaders to inspire us by the use of stories. Speeches full of bullet points won’t cut it. Should a politician try to inspire us with a story about a person, they had better have the facts right.

If that story about the Good Samaritan were told today there would be a network news investigation. They would find that person or force Jesus to admit he made the story up. The person in that parable would be interviewed and so would their family and neighbors.

Eventually a whole lot of other information about that person’s private life would be in prime time news. The misdeeds this person had committed would become common knowledge and the impact of telling their story of suffering would be lost in the haze of blaming them for their suffering because they were less than perfect.

The role of the story-teller who can inspire us to be more and better has passed from the realm of the religious and political leader to the providence of the dramatic presentation. Our greatest inspiration comes from stories that take place in a distance galaxy and a time far off from the present.

Losing our story tellers to the press of commercial profit-making has enlarged the number and the drama of the stories. What is often missing is the ability of our leaders to inspire us to become better people. We have given up the story of what could happen in your lives for the fantasy of what only happens somewhere else to someone else.

In the process we have become a more entertained people and a less inspired one.

Look for the stories that inspire you to a better, happier life no matter where you find them. And if you find those stories feel free to share them with us.

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Get the latest updates on my books, due out later this year by signing up for my newsletter. Newsletter subscribers will also be notified about live training opportunities and free or discounted books. Sign up here – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended books.

Can you focus your mind?

By David Joel Miller.

You can shift the focus of your eyes but what about your thoughts?

Mind Focus

Mind Focus
Photo courtesy of Flickr (gwilmore)

In old school photography every student had to learn selective focus. The goal was to keep one thing in clear focus while letting the other things in the scene blur out and become ambiguous.

If you had a person close to you, then you wanted their face clear and the things behind them, the background, to blur out. If you took a picture through a fence the goal was to get the things far away clear and the fence to blur until it disappeared.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could shift the focus on our minds just like that camera?

Well some people can do just that.

Often when we interact with others our minds go all over the place. We think about the room temperature and lighting, what we will do after this meeting, what we did yesterday.

We can be overwhelmed and the result is that we lose the ability to pay clear attention to the thing we are doing or the person who we are speaking with.

When we try to relax our minds can become troubled with that swarm of thoughts buzzing around in our head. Things to do, people to call, emails to answer. Did you pay that bill? Should you check Facebook or Twitter first?

Seeing everything at once can result in seeing nothing as your life flows by lost in the jumble of thoughts.

One skill they teach in “mindfulness” trainings is how to shift that focus of your thinking, how to pay attention to the things you want to attend to and let the rest go. This is a valuable skill to have. The ability to attend to one thing and let the other things blur out is not something we are all born with but a skill that can be developed.

I realize that this selective attention or mindfulness can be more difficult for people with certain disorders like ADHD, but with the constant flow of information overload all of us are at risk of losing our mental focus if we do not learn to attend to one thing out of a swarm of thoughts in our heads.

Do you sometimes feel like a traffic cop trying to direct thousands of unruly thoughts traveling within your head?

This age we live in has more information available than ever before. There are constantly things to do and distractions everywhere. The thoughts, feelings and sensations run back and forth in our minds.

Do you run after each and every thought like a school worker trying to corral a group of unruly children?

Sometimes it is nice to just observe the thoughts as they run through our minds, let them go and shift our focus from all that is going on outside us to what is going on inside yourself.

Learning to shift your minds focus, attuned to one important idea at a time can reduce your stress and improve your creativity and productivity.

Give that shift of mind focus a try and see if it does not bring a whole lot of things into sharper focus.

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Get the latest updates on my books, due out later this year by signing up for my newsletter. Newsletter subscribers will also be notified about live training opportunities and free or discounted books. Sign up here – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books

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Learning to hear – Do you need to relearn?

By David Joel Miller.

Who taught you to hear?

Hearing

Hearing (Photo credit: Keturah Stickann)

Most of us think of hearing as something you are born with, no need to learn how to hear.  Hearing can become more useful when it is trained just as any other sense. Hearing can also be lost through abuse.

In a previous post I talked about the need to turn the sound off sometimes and make sure we are noticing the nonverbal things in the environment. Now we need to talk about the use and misuse of sound. Most of the time we are so flooded by loud and constant barrages of sound that over time we tune the small and the soft sounds out. The result of this desensitization to sound is that we begin to only appreciate sound when someone is screaming.

As any married woman will attest, poor hearing is more likely to occur as a result of a lack of attention to what your partner is saying than from any organic hearing loss. Married men over time develop a special disability known as selective deafness.

Learn to pay more attention to sounds and you too can become an expert at hearing things other people miss. This may also keep you out of some relationship problems.

Life’s pleasures are often about what you have experienced before. If you grow up listening to one kind of music you will likely have a preference for that kind of music.

Music appreciation classes ought to be more than simply listening to a favorite song. We need to learn how to listen, what to listen for, as well as practice that listening. Someone who wants to become a musician needs to learn to listen to music in the same way a writer needs to read, to learn what is good and what is not.

Most of us hear sounds all the time but rarely have we had any training that have taught us how to make more out of that hearing. Two simple exercises can improve your ability to notice sounds and then to make use of what you hear.

1. The ticking watch teaches good hearing.

Find one of those old fashion wind-up watches or alarm clocks. Wind it up and place it on a table. Listen for the pitch and tempo of the clock ticking.

Walk a few steps away. How does the clock sound now?

Continue to move away until you can no longer hear the ticking sound. Now move back a step or two until it becomes clear again. Practice this exercise a little each day. You will, over time, notice that you become sensitized to the ticking sound and will pick it out from other sounds even if you are quite a ways away.

Of course if you notice any problem in doing this exercise, if you can’t hear when you think you should or if you are not able to pick the ticking out from surrounding noise, consider seeing a doctor to have your hearing checked.

Most people will discover that by practicing they become more attuned to the sound of the clock and notice not just this clock but others throughout their day. (See my previous post on the expert effect for more on this topic.)

Good mechanics will often be able to tell from the sounds an engine makes what the problem is. They have become sensitized over time because they have needed to find a noise and then determine why this engine made a sound that other engines do not normally make.

Practice being sensitive to sounds and you will see that these small sounds are all around you every day. Become mindful of the sounds you live with.

Hearing exercise two.

Find a place where you can hear others coming before you can see them. At work you may be able to hear footsteps before the person comes into view.

Pay particular attention to the footsteps coming toward you. Are they quick and vigorous or slow and plodding? Does this walker make a particular sound by putting more weight on the toes or the heal?

When this person comes into sight glance at them and their shoes. Over time you will find that you can recognize who is coming down the hall by the rhythm of their footsteps. With more practice you may find that you can identify the type of shoe the person is wearing even when you do not know that person.

Why is recognizing footsteps important or useful? By itself it may not be important unless you sell shoes for a living. But at times recognizing someone from their step may be useful. Becoming more aware of sounds can help to improve your memory and your thinking efficiency.

Repeated efforts to fine tune your hearing by the clock exercise or by attuning to the sound people make when walking will improve your ability to focus on sounds. Couple this with our earlier exercise on sitting and being aware of the information from all your senses and you will find that you are becoming more alive, more mentally efficient and that your memory for people and events has improved.

Want to sign up for my mailing list?

Get the latest updates on my books, due out later this year by signing up for my newsletter. Newsletter subscribers will also be notified about live training opportunities and free or discounted books. Sign up here – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books

Who owns this problem? Why they won’t stop.

Why do some people refuse to change and how do I make them?

Many of the questions to this blog are about getting others to change. This person or that is driving you crazy and you want them to change but they are just refusing.

The reason you may be getting nowhere on resolving the situation just may be that you are trying to solve the wrong problem.

One method for resolving problem behavior that is taught in parenting classes is to look for the ownership of the problem. Here is a simple “child” problem and afterwards we will apply this to more adult issues.

Mother goes into the child’s room and it is a mess. Mom yells “you are such a lazy slob, clean this room up.” This is a bad approach for two reasons. Calling the child a slob may establish a core identity that they are a slob. If that is what you are, why try to change? Being called names repeatedly encourages people to give up.

Who owns this problem? Why mom does of course. The child’s room is messy, mom does not like it and it is upsetting mom. More precisely, mom is “choosing to upset herself” over this issue. She could just give up as many mothers do and accept that kid’s rooms are often messy.

Now what if grandma is coming and it is important to mom that the room be cleaned up? You all know how grandma is.

The solution – make the problem the child’s. Mom now says “if you do not get this room cleaned up by the time grandma arrives you will not be going to the store with her,” or some other suitable negative consequence.

Now who owns the problem? Why the child does of course. They need to get this job done in time to get grandma to take them shopping and buy them stuff. Now the child is motivated.

An aside here, make very sure that the phrase “room is a mess and needs to be cleaned up” is operationalized. The child needs to know exactly what you want done. They would be glad to throw all those dirty clothes in the closet and call the room clean. A specific list of things to be done before grandma arrives would be helpful here.

Now the more adult version of this issue.

Lots of commenters to this blog ask about getting others to change. I see this in the search engine terms also. Everyone wants someone else to change. How do you do that?

There are techniques to help others change or encourage that change and I have described those methods in a post on “Getting others to change.” There is also a series of posts about “How people change.”

Before you launch into that changing effort you need to ask yourself one question.

Who owns this problem?

If the person is isolating in their room, depressed and thinking of suicide by all means intervene. Professional help is called for here.

But what if your partner does not like to go out and you do?

In that case you own this problem.

Most of the times we want others to change it is because their behavior bothers us. We own those problems. We can talk with the person, make changes in our behavior that encourage the change we want, but the other person still may decide they do not want to change.

If a behavior is not interfering with a person’s ability to work, have relationships with family or friends and is not making them unhappy, why then we professionals don’t see this as a problem for them.

So if the other person is choosing to not change and it is driving you nuts, you need to work on you.

Options here? Acceptance – radical acceptance is a good place to start. Consider changing yourself so you do not “upset yourself” so much. A good place to begin this practice might be with some “Mindfulness,” get centered in the present.

Enjoy the person and the situation for what they are instead of insisting that they change to suit you.

It is next to impossible to change problems that are not yours and most of the time when we try to change others we are trying to get them to solve our problem.

Suggestion – Take another look at the problems in your life and see who really owns them. If you own the problem then begin by changing you.

Want to sign up for my mailing list?

Get the latest updates on my books, due out later this year by signing up for my newsletter. Newsletter subscribers will also be notified about live training opportunities and free or discounted books. Sign up here – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books