Archive for January, 2012

20 jan

Recognizing the Small Things in Life

ErastusMy Name is Erastus Wambugu, male, 31, from Kenya. I was born in and still live in one of the major informal settlement areas known as Majengo Slums with lots of overcrowding and poverty.

My community faces many challenges, such as, housing—most houses are in bad condition as they lack toilets. Health facilities are fair, the youth hardly go to school, and unemployment is high. Many of my peers end up using drugs or go into prostitution.

Little girls who drop out of school either engage in prostitution as a way of earning a livelihood or get married at an early age. Young boys can be found drinking illegal brew (chang’aa) or taking drugs as they try to escape from the reality of life.

I come from a small loving family of three brothers and one sister. I, who was the first born and according to African customs, have the extra responsibility of ensuring that family members live together when the parents are not around.

The first born is assumed to be mature compared to his siblings and is expected to make effective decisions concerning their lives and always to give them direction.

My mum was a housewife and used to put a lot of emphasis on education. She made sure that we all went to school when some of my friends’ parents didn’t care about it. We used to play in the gutters and pools of dirty water. Today all those grounds have been grabbed for construction of more houses.

Living within the community has not been an easy experience. Countless number of days have I survived on eating a meal a day. On several occasions I recall sleeping on an empty stomach after drinking a bottle of water and covering myself with a blanket hoping that the following day would be better. In such situations, I used to feel my stomach make strange noises and time moved slowly. Sleep would be far from me leaving me rolling from one corner of the bed to another.

Crime is a way of life as I remember painfully how Sam, who used to be my neighbor, was shot dead after mugging a lady in an attempt to steal her handbag. He did not obey police orders to stop to be apprehended and was shot while escaping.

I count myself blessed for going to college and earning a certificate in Photo-Journalism despite being unable to continue due to lack of college fees. I had to sacrifice the opportunity so as to enable my younger siblings attend high school, too.

After being introduced by a friend to a nearby Community Centre known as St. John Community Centre, I started volunteering for community work which used to include a weekly youth forum. The purpose of the forum was to bring youths living in this Community together to discuss issues affecting them and find solutions for our many problems. Some of the topics included early pregnancy, abortions, crime, unemployment, early marriages, among others.

The majority of the guys who used to attend this forum were primary school drop outs who lacked truth about these subjects. I felt a great passion to share what I knew with them by doing research on the subject and bringing it to the discussion the following week. Through my commitment, this organization sponsored me to attend workshops on peer education, youth mentorship and, most recently, training as a Paralegal on Human Rights.

It was not until three years ago when a Community Radio station known as Ghetto FM was started in this Community and I was among the first unpaid volunteers. I am a presenter and head of the Governance program. I host two programs named Maisha ya Ghetto (Life in the Ghetto) and Soul Train. Maisha Ya Ghetto runs Monday through Wednesday from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. It is an interactive programme highlighting different socio-economic issues affecting the community and giving listeners the forum to debate and seek solutions to the problem facing them. The programme invites call-ins and short text messages. The aim is to have listeners make informed choices and empower them to improve the value of their lives besides contributing to the social and economic progress in their own communities.

My research on the programs airs via the internet besides going only to stakeholders and opinion leaders in the community to get facts about the topic to be discussed. I then deliver the package effectively in the language they can understand and appreciate. I organize and welcome experts to be part of the discussion as panelists so that they can provide professional views and opinions on the topics we discuss. I encourage feedback from my listeners about the program through calling, sending short messages, or emailing to tell us the effect of the program.

The second show is called Soul Train which runs from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. every Sunday. It’s a life-changing program which invites guests to share their inspirational stories, because many of my listeners are at home relaxing o the show and enjoying the soul music.

I spend time earning a living from washing cars in neighboring car wash and sometimes fetching water for the residents when I am not in the studio making ends meet. I compile my program research at night using a kerosene lamp.

It was during my research work that I came across Kasha Glazerbrook. We have started with a book club here in the slums with few books, from our own savings. Guys in the slum borrow the book to read and return free of charge. Our plan is to access more books and donate to schools in the Community. Also writing materials for needy children in the community. The name of the club is Riz and Kasha book club.

I feel also honored for donating some books to give some members in the communities who really deserve them and the number have been overwhelming to get a chance to read. These books are giving hope where there was none and encouraging following one inner voice. Ariane de Bonvoisin is training me how to learn how to write stories.

My dream is to get back to college and pursue Journalism so that I can be able to work effectively in my work as a radio presenter. I will also be competitive in this industry by highlighting issues affecting people. I will be in position to earn a living through my career and support my younger brother who I am living with and much willing to go college.

I have come to learn to recognize small things in life which many people never spend some time to recognize and bring much joy and laughter inner being. A person will always be judged according to how he reacts to a problem but not the situation he is at the moment. The more challenging situation life throws at you should be a golden opportunity to learn something new and accept the responsibility. Follow your heart to achieve your dream as it will never lie to and stop listening to people as they will always judge you. I take as my inspiration a saying from Winston Churchill, who once said “Never give up! Never give up! Never give up!”

If you felt moved, inspired, touched, helped, annoyed, or anything after reading this, please let us know. Our wonderful bloggers really do appreciate your comments and feedback. It’s super easy and takes a minute. Click on comments below. You may contact Erastus Wambagu directly at wambuguerastus@yahoo.com

Posted by Erastus Wambugu on January 20th, 2012 in Uncategorized | No comments

19 jan

See Beings Not Bodies

RickHansonWhat happens when you look at someone?
The Practice:
See beings, not bodies.
Why?

When we encounter someone, usually the mind automatically slots the person into a category: man, woman, your friend Tom, the kid next door, etc. Watch this happen in your own mind as you meet or talk with a co-worker, salesclerk, or family member.

In effect, the mind summarizes and simplifies tons of details into a single thing – a human thing to be sure, but one with an umbrella label that makes it easy to know how to act. For example: “Oh, that’s my boss (or mother-in-law, or boyfriend, or traffic cop, or waiter) . . . and now I know what to do. Good.”

This labeling process is fast, efficient, and gets to the essentials. As our ancestors evolved, rapid sorting of friend or foe was very useful. For example, if you’re a mouse, as soon as you smell something in the “cat” category, that’s all you need to know: freeze or run like crazy!

On the other hand, categorizing has lots of problems. It fixes attention on surface features of the person’s body, such as age, gender, attractiveness, or role. It leads to objectifying others (e.g., “pretty woman,” “authority figure”) rather than respecting their humanity. It tricks us into thinking that a person comprised of changing complexities is a static unified entity. It’s easier to feel threatened by someone you’ve labeled as this or that. And categorizing is the start of the slippery slope toward “us” and “them,” prejudice, and discrimination.

Flip it around, too: what’s it like for you when you can tell that another person has slotted you into some category? Read more »

Posted by Dr. Rick Hanson on January 19th, 2012 in General, Relationships, Things We Love | No comments Read related posts in , , , , , , , ,

16 jan

Step Into the Clouds

RickHansonJuggling bricks?
The Practice:
Step into the cloud.
Why?

I had a lightbulb moment recently: I was feeling stressed about all the stuff I had to do (you probably know the feeling). After this went on for a while, I stepped back and kind of watched my mind, and could see that I was thinking of these various tasks as things, like big rocks that were rolling down a hill toward me and which needed to be handled, lifted, moved, fended off, or broken into pebbles. As soon as I dealt with one thing-y boulder, another one was rolling toward me. Shades of Sisyphus.

Seen as brick-like entities, no wonder these tasks felt heavy, oppressive, burdensome. Yuch!

But then I realized that in fact the tasks I needed to do were more like clouds than things. Clouds are made up of lots of vaporous little bits, those bits come together for a time due to many swirling causes, and then they swirl away again. Meanwhile, the edge or boundary of a cloud blurs into other clouds or the sky itself. There is a kind of insubstantiality to clouds, and a softness, a yielding.

For example, take writing an email message: It has lots of little parts to it (the points you need to take into account, and the words and sentences), it is nested in a larger context – your relationship to the receiver, the needs that prompted the email – that (in a sense) calls it forth, and it emerges and passes away. This email, this task, links to other tasks, sort of blurs into them. Fundamentally, the email is a kind of process, an event, rather than a thing. It’s like you could put your hand through it.

When I considered my tasks in this way, I immediately felt better: relieved, relaxed. Tasks felt fluid, like streams or eddies I was stepping into and influencing or contributing to as best I could before they swirled on and became something else. Not so weighty or full of inertia; not so resistant, so controlling of me; not bearing down on me, but instead, something I was flowing into. Then I didn’t feel weary dealing with them. They became fun, lighter; there was more freedom in moving through them.

And it’s not just tasks that are clouds. Read more »

Posted by Dr. Rick Hanson on January 16th, 2012 in General, Relationships, Things We Love | No comments Read related posts in , , , , , , ,

06 jan

Pet The Lizard

RickHansonDown deep, do you feel at ease?
The Practice:
Pet the lizard.
Why?

I’ve always liked lizards.

Growing up in the outskirts of Los Angeles, I played in the foothills near our home. Sometimes I’d catch a lizard and stroke its belly, so it would relax in my hands, seeming to feel at ease.

In my early 20’s, I found a lizard one chilly morning in the mountains. It was torpid and still in the cold and let me pick it up. Concerned that it might be freezing to death, I placed it on the shoulder of my turtleneck, where it clung and occasionally moved about for the rest of the day. There was a kind of wordless communication between us, in which the lizard seemed to feel I wouldn’t hurt it, and I felt it wouldn’t scratch or bite me. After a few hours, I hardly knew it was there, and sometime in the afternoon it left without me realizing it.

Now, years later, as I’ve learned more about how the brain evolved, my odd affinity for lizards has started making sense to me. To simplify a complex journey beginning about 600 million years ago, your brain has developed in three basic stages: Read more »

Posted by Dr. Rick Hanson on January 6th, 2012 in General, Health, Relationships, Things We Love | No comments Read related posts in , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

04 jan

Purpose. Passion. Practice. Persistence. Step Up to the Plate & Take Your Best Shot

WEJMDMany people are afraid to go after their dreams, to take action, to implement…. out of fear that they will fail, look stupid, feel shamed, and have to acknowledge that they weren’t good enough… Bottom line: You won’t know if you don’t go. Yes you may strike out and that would be painful, but you’ve got no chance of hitting a home run unless you step up to the plate. The other consideration: It is the doing, the process, that makes one a success and that opens the doors to all sorts of possibilities we never could have imagined. Seek not to deprive yourself of personal fulfillment by letting fear, insecurity and self-doubt get in the way of your self-expression. Go forth with joy and gratitude, and take your best shot.

On an entirely different note: I am on Day 4 of the ACIM Workbook For Students: “These thoughts do not mean anything. They are like the things I see in this room.” … The point being: The thoughts we think, perceived as either “good” or “bad”, are actually masking or blocking our True Thoughts. They are a meaningless smokescreen designed by our ego, born of fear, to maintain the belief in separation. Insofar as the things we see are a projection of our thoughts, since we’re not really thinking, we’re not really seeing. Only when our Mind is grounded in Unity, Oneness, and Unconditional Love, Forgiveness, and Acceptance will we actually see the Real World with all of its miraculous beauty and eternal peacefulness.

For those of you who view the above paragraph as too far out there… understood. A Course In Miracles is not for everyone. It’s not an easy read. It’s not an easy program to master, which is why I wrote my book, Forgive To Win!, which shares the core concepts of the Course but explains them in ways that are easier for most people to understand and apply. I encourage you to take a look at the book on Amazon where you can peek inside. Additionally, if you subscribe to my free newsletter you can download a free chapter from the book on Self-Loathing & Self-Sabotage.

Which brings me back to the initial paragraph I wrote about going after your dreams and taking action: When we learn how to love ourselves and forgive ourselves – the crux of A Course In Miracles and Forgive To Win!, we eliminate the unconscious self-sabotaging programming getting in the way of our happiness, our relationships, our physical well-being, our success, our prosperity and our inner peace.

When we meld tools of self-mastery with humanistic choices as to how we perceive and treat others, there are no limits, there is nothing we can’t accomplish. It is not simply faith that moves mountains. It is forgiveness, acceptance and love. Hold these thoughts in your mind as much as you can, as best you can, wherever you are and under all circumstances, regardless of how others are behaving, without conditions or exceptions — and watch your world get better.

No joke. No lie. It works if you work it: Change your Mind. Change your Life. Change your World.

Peace, joy and blessings to you all!

Forgive To Win!

If you felt moved, inspired, touched, helped, annoyed, or anything after reading this, please let us know. Our wonderful bloggers really do appreciate your comments and feedback. It’s super easy and takes a minute. Click on comments below.

Posted by Walter E Jacobson, MD on January 4th, 2012 in Career, First30Days Book, General, New Directions, Relationships, Spirituality | No comments Read related posts in , , ,

04 jan

Three Ways to Killer Focus

RenitaKalhornHave you seen the movie Limitless?

Bradley Cooper plays struggling author Eddie Morra, who is suffering from serious writer’s block. His life dramatically changes when he runs into his former brother-in-law, who introduces him to NZT, a revolutionary new drug that allows him to instantly focus and tap into his full potential.

Voila! He cleans up years of clutter in his apartment, starts working out, finishes his book in four days, learns to speak Italian and Chinese, outsmarts the stock market and even executes Bruce Lee moves in defending himself against a subway attack.

Ah, the rewards of being focused: a sense of purpose and accomplishment, and — because he looks like Bradley Cooper — lots of attention from women. But just as athletes who use steroids run into serious health risks in trying to accelerate their muscle growth, Eddie soon discovered there were brutal side effects (like death, for example) to taking the “focus” pill.

THERE ARE NO SHORTCUTS

Popping a pill for instant focus without any side effects is, in fact, too good to be true. Just as you do with a physical muscle, you have to exercise and train your focus if you want it to get stronger.

Some people need external pressure – a looming deadline, last-minute procrastination, all the bases loaded — to force themselves to focus. Without it, however, they feel out of control, meandering around without direction or purpose.

Others simply crumble when the pressure is on. You can’t suddenly lift 300 pounds if you haven’t been consistently building up strength and stamina. Likewise, if you’re used to cutting corners and not paying full attention, it will be almost impossible to galvanize when there’s actually something at stake and you need to perform your best.

With a well-primed focus muscle, however, you can start to deliver the consistent performance that leads to consistently superior results.

SO HOW DO YOU DO THAT

When I was growing up, my mom used to walk by the living room where I was practicing the piano and yell through the door: “Concentrate!” In the years since, I’ve discovered some slightly more effective strategies to step up my focus game. Here are three:

Get in the habit of deliberate practice. The problem with most modern jobs is that they aren’t designed to make us better at anything. Typically, we have an external objective to meet and our focus is on getting it done — that’s it. If we want to improve a particular skill along the way, we have to make a deliberate choice to do so.
As Geoff Colvin points out in his book, Talent Is Overrated, “The essence of deliberate practice is continually stretching an individual just beyond his or her current abilities.” This means you have to clearly identify specific criteria and elements of your “performance” that you want to improve – your ability to persuade, for example, or express your ideas — and then work intently on them.

Yes, this requires extreme focus and concentration. That’s what makes it “deliberate” — as distinct from the mindless playing of scales (who, me?) or conversation that most people engage in. But deliberate practice is why I now make more progress in two hours at the piano than I did in the four or five hours everyday when I was a child.

Implement adversity training. Instead of moaning about all the distractions you have to deal with, think of them as extreme training for your focus muscle. Sports psychologist Don Greene suggests: “Try preparing your taxes with your kids running around the room, or with the television going or someone talking on the phone. Layer on distractions—sights, sounds, and sensations—one by one, until you can sustain your focus despite all of them going on at once. You will very rarely be working or performing under ideal conditions. Instead of trying to remove stress, you might as well train for it.

Transport yourself. Not inspired or excited by your immediate environment? Why not imagine a different one. Children do it all the time, transforming the living room into a haunted castle, one minute, or a jungle filled with spies, in the next.

Why tether yourself, in spirit, to a tedious conference call when you can transport yourself to a boardroom, where you’re brokering a record-breaking deal? Or transform your treadmill workoutinto a training session for a boxing bout with Floyd Mayweather.

This is not about escaping reality via idle fantasy or daydreaming. Rather it’s about igniting your imaginative powers to imbue your ordinary routine with vivid detail and sensation, heightening your experience of reality.

If you felt moved, inspired, touched, helped, annoyed, or anything after reading this, please let us know. Our wonderful bloggers really do appreciate your comments and feedback. It’s super easy and takes a minute. Click on comments below.

Posted by Renita Kalhorn on January 4th, 2012 in Uncategorized | No comments

01 jan

Empty the Cup

RickHansonAre you full to the brim?
The Practice:
Empty the cup.
Why?

Once upon a time, a scholar came to visit a saint. After the scholar had been orating and propounding for a while, the saint proposed some tea. She slowly filled the scholar’s cup: gradually the tea rose to the very brim and began spilling over onto the table, yet she kept pouring and pouring. The scholar burst out: “Stop! You can’t add anything to something that’s already full!” The saint set down the teapot and replied, “Exactly.”

Whether it’s the blankness of a canvas to an artist, the silence between the notes in music, bare dirt for a new garden, the not-knowing openness of a scientist exploring new hypotheses, an unused shelf in a closet or cupboard, or some open time in your schedule, you need space to act effectively, dance with your partners, and have room around your emotional reactions.

Yet most of us, me included, tend to stuff as much as possible into whatever room is available – room in closets, schedules, budgets, relationships, and even the mind itself. Read more »

Posted by Dr. Rick Hanson on January 1st, 2012 in General, Health, Relationships, Things We Love | No comments Read related posts in , , , , , , , , , , , ,