Thursday, November 29, 2007

What matters most at the end of the day?

Hungry ghost collage by Lani.

I got some emails from Adela lately which were thought provoking and had great links to explore. I suspect that Adela is worried that the shallows of my soul may be greater than the depths. So in order to create a better balance, she sends me great things! Also she doesn't know why I like positive psychology. So I told her I'd try to put it in a blog.

One thing she sent was this interesting observation from Michael Neill's blog.
"...the true value of self-esteem is not in how good we feel about ourselves, but in what that good feeling allows us to do in the world."

Adela played with the thought a bit added this:
"Carried forward, the true value of feeling good is not that it's move comfortable, physiologically, but in what the pleasanter physiological state enables us to contribute to those whose lives we currently touch...and widen the circle."

And of course she may not know this but that is EXACTLY what I like about studying positive psychology. You get to read about and play with all of these endorphin releasing ideas, I turn them into art based exercises and release even more endorphins, and I can feel good, more comfortable, more connected to my inner artist, and just all around happier which of course enables me to contribute more to the lives or those who know me (hopefully).

Image:Okanagan Family Portrait.JPg From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

In “Keepers of the Earth” the concluding chapter from Roszak, Gomes, and Kanner’s Ecopsychology; Restoring the earth, healing the mind,Okanagan author and educator, Jeannette Armstrong, describes the Okanagan language as being a language of connections which uses syllables to animate descriptions of activity. These syllables are combined to develop meanings that are close to what might constitute a noun or a verb in English, but livelier, more subtle and dependent on context, a language of connections. (A language of connections... I love that!)

It's not just the language that is about connections, everything is viewed in terms of connections. The emotional aspect of the self, or “heart” is thought of as the part with which we link to other beings around us. It is through the heart that we are able to bond and form attachments. Jeannette says that we stay connected to each other, our land, and all things by our hearts, that emotion or feeling is the capacity whereby community and land become part of us. This connection is a priority for Okanagan wholeness and well-being. She says the Okanagan criterion for leadership is that the individual with the widest circle of connection, with the greatest heart, able to bond easily with each other, the land, and all things. She sees the creative spirit and the arts as a celebration and affirmation of this connectedness.

When I read Jeannette’s words, it feels like receiving an amazing gift. While paying close attention to language differences, Okanagan descriptive syllables and English nouns and verbs, suddenly I find myself seeing my own culture, that one that is so fond of deconstruction, disconnection, and dissociation, from an Okanagan perspective. This view of mainstream North American culture is from a place outside but close enough to make sense, to resonate as true. In stepping right outside of our world view and looking through the eyes of the other, we can create a greater spaciousness for ourselves. In this spaciousness we can find knew meaning and possibilities, we can experiment, and we find hope.

There is so much in our mainstream North American culture which separates us from each other, which cuts us off from the land and teaches us that we are completely and utterly alone, and this isolation creates despair and loneliness. Our culture teaches us that the only way to assuage this loneliness and despair is to consume something to forget ourselves; another pill, drug, or opportunity for further debt. Adela sent me the article "Is Our Worship of Consumerism and Technology Making Us Depressed?" By Bruce E. Levine, Chelsea Green Publishing

In this article Levine imagines what Buddha, Spinoza and Jesus might have to say about our sorrows. He also reminds us of Eric Fromm's final work, To Have or to Be? (1976), in which Fromm contrasts the depressing impact of a modern consumer culture built on the having mode (greed, acquisition, possession, aggressiveness, control, deception, and alienation from one's authentic self, others, and the natural world) versus the joyful being mode (the act of loving, sharing, and discovering, and being authentic and connected to one's self, others, and the natural world).

Thank you Adela, that's exactly what we need, more Okanagan connections and more of Fromm's "joyful being" mode. To have or to be? Oh, please, please, please may I be??? I can't wait to revisit Fromm and for my first dip into his ideas, I can follow the link Adela kindly provided.

One last thing Adela sent was links to the hysterically funny Rev. Billy and the Church of Stop Shopping. Do you know Rev. Billy, a character developed by performance artist Bill Talen?

You can read all about him and his activities on his website and also read about him on the Art Heals website.

So what is it that really matters most at the end of the day? Dr. Ira Byock (authority in pallieative care), has made a study of just this. As a man is being wheeled into transplant surgery or a woman is facing chemotherapy for the third time, what is on his or her mind? Byock says that it is always something to do with the people they love that occupies their minds. Always.

He says the specter of death reveals our relationships to be our most precious possessions. Having met people in his office, emergency rooms, or hospice programs, he has noticed that there is often a deep regret over things they wish they had said before a family member or friend died. They can’t change what happened, but "without fail their regrets have fueled a healthy resolve to say what needs to be said before it’s too late – to clear away hurt feelings, to connect in profound ways with the people who mean the most to them."

How can we do that? Byock says that there are four simple phrases which may help, "Please forgive me," "I forgive you," "Thank you," and "I love you." These simple phrases "offer a powerful way to mend even our most troubled relationships and to nurture our cherished connections to the people we love. There is a transformative potential in saying the four things." You can read more of Byock's work here and here.

So in a further attempt to move from the shallows of my soul to greater depths, to move from the despair of the modern consumer to the "joyful being" mode of the creator and collaborator and community builder I have joined jaihn in creating a blog of the hungry ghosts where all this and more can be poured over. Curious? Come have a look!


adela - the whooping crone - said...

Hola, Lani~

you write: "I suspect that Adela is worried that the shallows of my soul may be greater than the depths."

Adela says:


i would never ever presume to evaluate the state of anyone's soul, nor would i "worry" about it.

... and even if i did, it would be appallingly arrogant to say so.

I don't even tell politicians what i think of "them".

Lani Gerity said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lani Gerity said...

Oh Adela, I'll try using those at the "end of the day" phrases right here now!
I am sorry, I meant no harm.
Thank you for all you do and all you write!!!
And of course I love Adela!!!

adela - the whooping crone said...

thanks, lani.
here come some loving hugggggz bacatcha from a the w-c