Tuning In

Sometimes I forget how much I love music. Sounds crazy, doesn’t it?

My husband has been working from home most Fridays. While I sit in the quiet living room so I can see our backyard growing in green leaves and tall grasses, he settles in  at the dining room table. But he also clicks on Pandora early in the morning, and I hear soft songs drifting into my space. It’s nice.

I breathe differently on Fridays. Like my yoga class, when I am being much more mindful about my movements and breath, the music calms and centers me. Why I don’t think to listen when he’s not here is beyond me.

Just like my Alexander session yesterday that makes me focus on how I sit and hold my head, music makes me feel at peace with the world.

One more habit to start.

 

image credit:By eloctre

Stopping

Part of my quest to be more “in the moment” is to take time to watch, listen, or read something unrelated to schools, education, leadership, or community. Sometimes that means heading out the door with the dog. More often than not, I stumble upon something in my Reader or in a link on someone’s blog.

And yet, what I often find, is that moment connects me to what I do each day anyway. And I realize those connections are are not separate from but essential to helping us shift schools into places of community and shared learning.

In my email today, I received the weekly update from Karma Tube, self-described as “a collection of short, “do something” videos coupled with simple actions that every viewer can take. Our mission is to spread the good.”

Recently I watched this one, and the message reminded me of how moments in our lives will determine the full picture, the life itself. Kind of puts things in perspective for the classroom, doesn’t it? Simple, yet easily forgotten in this busy, crazy world of ours.

Cynics among us will say, “duh.” But I need this gentle reminder today.

Can You Change Your Attitude?

I am totally depressed by rain. Gray days make me gloomy and lethargic.

So when we headed out the door to go see James (and Ben) Taylor in Richmond last night, I wasn’t excited. Now I love JT, so this was kind of unusual. I found myself grumbling about how cold it was, how I would get wet walking from the car, how much traffic there was on 95–actually, I grumbled about everything.

About 45 minutes into the drive, I remembered a post I had read recently about our attitudes. How often a simple reframing of a situation can make us see the world in a different way. Usually, if I’m in a bad mood, nothing helps but time. However, I decided to give it a shot. Three or four minutes later, and I was on my way back up, getting excited about the concert, trying not to worry about the weather, and feeling a little sheepish that I’d let it all get to me.

How did I reframe this?

I reminded myself that the weather would break soon. It wouldn’t be gray and cold for months!! ( I tend to exaggerate.)

I focused on how lucky I was to be able to go see one of my favorite singers in person.

I reminded myself that I have this great job that allows me flexibility to do things like this–AND sleep in a little in the morning if I want to.

In other words, I stopped being negative. And I had a terrific time.

In our school culture, we often face negative people.

“I don’t have enough time.”

“There’s too much on my plate.”

So often, these attitudes could be changed by a reframing. That doesn’t always work, as our genes, our DNA, have much to do with whether we are able to move beyond the “glass half empty” mentality.

But imagine if we could help our students understand that their ability to recognize and “control” thoughts will change their attitudes.

(Aaron T. Beck, M.D., is the President Emeritus of the non-profit Beck Institute for Cognitive Therapy and Research, and University Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania.)

“…helping patients identify and evaluate these thoughts and found that by doing so, patients were able to think more realistically, which led them to feel better emotionally and behave more functionally.”

 

That’s powerful information.

 

image credit: by Karin Beil

 


Another Perspective on Focus

Ah ha! I knew it. There’s value in my distractibility.

Or at least there’s value for some. Check out Jonah Lehrer’s piece in The Wall Street Journal:

In recent years, however, scientists have begun to outline the surprising benefits of not paying attention. Sometimes, too much focus can backfire; all that caffeine gets in the way. For instance, researchers have found a surprising link between daydreaming and creativity—people who daydream more are also better at generating new ideas. Other studies have found that employees are more productive when they’re allowed to engage in “Internet leisure browsing……”

I’m not going to feel quite so guilty for daydreaming and surfing!

image credit

Is it true? Am I programming forgetfulness?

Brainphoto © 2008 dierk schaefer | more info (via: Wylio)
I am listening to Opening to Our Lives with Jon Kabat-Zinn, a podcast about mindfulness tweeted by @micwalker this morning. But I am also writing this post.

Kabat-Zinn asks: Can you hold this moment in awareness?

No, I can’t.

And I wonder if all this multi-tasking is having a profound effect on my memory. This weekend I attended Educon, a fabulous unconference at the Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia. Like-minded folks gathered to talk about teaching and learning–and using social media tools to enable this shift we’d like to see.

But that’s not what I want to focus on here. Instead, I want to share two moments of the weekend when I totally forgot a conversation I had had. And it scares me.

One was with my friend @ehelfant, whom I was catching up with at the end of a session.

“Hey,” I asked. “Do you want to walk back to the hotel with us after the next session?”

“Sure,” she responded.

I looked forward to having a few uninterrupted moments to chat with her. And yet, as the next session ended, I wandered downstairs, connecting with two other friends who were waiting, and headed back to the hotel.

“Where are you?” she texted later.

Oh. My. Gosh. I had totally forgotten.

The second incident involved my husband, who called Saturday night to tell I had forgotten the keys to the house. He told me he would leave the house open for me. Yet, as I rode the train on Sunday, I panicked because I realized I had forgotten my keys. I called a local friend who happens to have a key to my house and stopped on my way home.

Later my husband asked: “Didn’t you remember our conversation? I told you I would leave the house open.”

I was stunned. And, frankly, I felt a rush of fear race through my body as this has been happening frequently to me. Alzheimers? Careless thinking? Laziness? Or is it more? Could it be my habits of mind lately–the reading while I’m listening, the talking while I’m texting, the writing while I’m searching–are the cause?

New York Times reporter Tara Parker-Pope wrote about this last year in “An Ugly Toll of Technology: Impatience and Forgetfulness.” She interviewed Dr. Elias Aboujaoude, director of the Impulse Control Disorders Clinic at Stanford, who said: “We’re paying a price in terms of our cognitive life because of this virtual lifestyle.”

Dr. Aboujaoude also asks whether the vast storage available in e-mail and on the Internet is preventing many of us from letting go, causing us to retain many old and unnecessary memories at the expense of making new ones. Everything is saved these days, he notes, from the meaningless e-mail sent after a work lunch to the angry online exchange with a spouse.

“If you can’t forget because all this stuff is staring at you, what does that do to your ability to lay down new memories and remember things that you should be remembering?” Dr. Aboujaoude said.

On the podcast now,  Kabat-Zinn is talking about how choice, too, contributes to these cognitive issues.

(See I’m doing it again.) “It’s intoxicating,” he says. You feel powerful because you can make multiple decisions at any given moment–but you lose clarity and focus.

Hmmmm. I am going to take his advice and stop here. I want to attend to what he is saying about finding my center.

I really don’t want to lose my mind.