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Six Questions: Toward a Mindful Life

By   Shlomo Maital

I found this wise advice at a website called mindfulentrepreneur:

How to re-examine the story of your life – and rewrite it(?)

  • What is it that you’re truly good at?
  • What do you know or do at least a bit better than the others around?
  • What type of issues do people approach you with?
  • In what areas are you usually able to provide meaningful help?
  • What are you known for?
  • What activities give you pleasure even if you’re not rewarded for them in any way?  

 

 

The website goes on: “Try to identify that one special ability you have and cherish it. Use it whenever you can, despite not being seen. And don’t forget to remind yourself that the boomerang of positive energy you’re sending out to the universe will one day, sooner or later, come back to you, with multiplied force.

And it ends:

   “You’re the sole author of the story of your life. Make it an inspiring one to read.

In teaching creativity, I’ve challenged a great many young people to search deep inside themselves and find their true passions — and then pursue them.  For some it has worked.  And it gives me a lot of satisfaction.  I plan to keep doing it.  

    If by a huge cosmic error I reach the gates of heaven and am challenged there, I plan to say,  I tried to help people write their own life stories, rather than let other people write them on their behalf.   It just might work. 

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Kids’ Scores Rise When They Care About Other Kids & Teachers

By Shlomo Maital  

  school caring

     It’s summer vacation time for school kids.  A good time to reflect on what they will return to, in September.

     In an Israeli weekly, psychiatrist Ron Berger, who specializes in helping children all over the world who suffer from post-trauma stress disorder, recounts an experiment tried at a small school in northern Israel.  The school did poorly in national performance tests.  Then Berger and colleagues introduced a program, “A call to giving”,  which focused on two key elements: 

  • Mindfulness —       “intentional, accepting and non-judgmental focus of one’s attention on the emotions, thoughts and sensations occurring in the present moment”. Simply being aware of one’s own feelings and thoughts in the present.
  • Compassion — sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others.

 

The idea?  Create strong bonds among the schoolchildren, first by making each of them aware of their own feelings and identity, then developing a caring attitude toward others, include the teacher. 

   So – what in the world has this to do with test scores?

  Well, apparently a lot.   The school now scores among the highest, in Israeli schools, in national tests.

   Why?   The simple answer could be —   kids study best when they like the place in which they go to school, like other kids,   like the teachers, and find that the teachers like them.  Apparently, children do not thrive in an environment where there is intense pressure to achieve high grades,  and where each individual essentially is out for themselves, sink or swim,  instead of being part of a tight-knit social community that helps one another.

    Is this naïve?  Innocent?  Simple-minded?  Perhaps.  But at least at once school, it works.   It’s worth a try.

 

Is Aging (and Everything) a Matter of Mindfulness?

By Shlomo Maital

 Layout 1

Ellen Langer is a Harvard University psychologist who 25 years ago published a landmark book on “Mindfulness” – defined as “”the intentional, accepting and non-judgmental focus of one’s attention on the emotions, thoughts and sensations occurring in the present …”. In other words: Being here, in the ‘now’, not in the past, and not in the future.

   Lately, attention has returned to her work, with results showing that it can halt ‘aging’ and perhaps even…. cure cancer?

   An Oct. 22 New York Times article reports:

   “ In one [study], she found that nursing-home residents who had exhibited early stages of memory loss were able to do better on memory tests when they were given incentives to remember — showing that in many cases, indifference was being mistaken for brain deterioration. In another, now considered a classic of social psychology, Langer gave houseplants to two groups of nursing-home residents. She told one group that they were responsible for keeping the plant alive and that they could also make choices about their schedules during the day. She told the other group that the staff would care for the plants, and they were not given any choice in their schedules. Eighteen months later, twice as many subjects in the plant-caring, decision-making group were still alive than in the control group.”

     Langer feels that “what [sick] people needed to heal themselves was a psychological “prime” — something that triggered the body to take curative measures all by itself.” In 1981, She tried to show this with a group of older men told to reminisce about what they were like 22 years ago.

     “The men in the experimental group were told not merely to reminisce about this earlier era, but to inhabit it — to “make a psychological attempt to be the person they were 22 years ago,” she told the NYT. “We have good reason to believe that if you are successful at this,” Langer told the men, “you will feel as you did in 1959.” From the time they walked through the doors, they were treated as if they were younger. The men were told that they would have to take their belongings upstairs themselves, even if they had to do it one shirt at a time.” The study was called the Counter Clockwise study.

     What were the results????

     “Each day, as they discussed sports (Johnny Unitas and Wilt Chamberlain) or “current” events (the first U.S. satellite launch) or dissected the movie they just watched (“Anatomy of a Murder,” with Jimmy Stewart), they spoke about these late-’50s artifacts and events in the present tense — one of Langer’s chief priming strategies. Nothing — no mirrors, no modern-day clothing, no photos except portraits of their much younger selves — spoiled the illusion that they had shaken off 22 years.”

     “At the end of their stay, the men were tested again. On several measures, they outperformed a control group that came earlier to the monastery but didn’t imagine themselves back into the skin of their younger selves, though they were encouraged to reminisce. They were suppler, showed greater manual dexterity and sat taller — just as Langer had guessed. Perhaps most improbable, their sight improved. Independent judges said they looked younger. The experimental subjects, Langer told [the NYT reporter], had “put their mind in an earlier time,” and their bodies went along for the ride.”

       I’ll soon turn 72. I believe Prof. Langer. I believe that what you believe about your age, your aging, and your body, is close to what is. We seniors do not have to accept what society decrees – that we are retired, irrelevant, marginal, ill, feeble, forgetful and of little use to anyone. It’s time for a Grey Revolution…and Ellen Langer is providing the ammunition.

 

 

Blog entries written by Prof. Shlomo Maital

Shlomo Maital
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