About a semester in, I decided creative writing wasn’t all that practical and chose to major in history instead. It made perfect sense, seeing as we all have that rich historian uncle who split his time between three-martini lunches and golf games with clients to retire at 50 atop a fortune amassed from his numerous dissertations on the American Civil War.
Upon graduating, I put my history degree to good use by going to work in the call center of a mutual fund company. My job consisted of getting yelled at for what was going on in the stock market and thinking about lunch.
It seemed like a sensible enough job, as everyone there wore ties.
While the pattern I was running might seem fairly obvious at this point, I had to run into a few more dead ends before I figured out I was spending more time doing what I thought I should be doing rather than trying to go after the things I was truly passionate about. I was lucky enough to be born with a horrible sense for what was practical, so there were no mettlesome distractions such as prestige of financial reward to keep me following a course I would never be happy in.
I decided that letting my aptitudes and interests guide how I chose to invest my time couldn’t be any worse than the strategy above and, in following my gut, can happily say I write this from a place where the bugbear of misguided practicality is in my rear-view mirror, bitterly shaking one clenched bug-paw at me as he fades into the distance.
I now have four children of my own, the oldest of which has limited use of his left arm due to a stroke he suffered as an infant. As a parent, you want to visualize a safe, linear arc that leads from childhood to being a happy and productive member of society, but anyone who’s raised a child with a disability will tell you there are no straight lines.
With all the uncertainty around his future, my wife and I both made the decision early on that we weren’t going to be the ones to try and plot his life around his disability. After spending many years trying to avoid failure, I was more fearful of him shrinking away from life for fear of his limitations than I was of him falling short of his goals.
At around 8-years-old he decided he wanted to play baseball — the only sport aside from boxing that requires the use of both hands. I’m not a natural athlete. I was cut from little league in the second grade. I threw a football to my son once and his friends laughed at me.
Needless to say, the practical “ditch creative writing for history” me was scared and tried to steer him towards soccer — seeing as he’d only need to use his feet.
He showed little interest in anything but baseball, so we let him throw everything he had at it.
Every year, he’s surprised me. With the help of some great coaches, he figured out how to bat. He can catch and throw with the same arm better than I can with two.
At 13-years-old, he’s still playing with aspirations of being on the Red Sox someday. Regardless of what the future has in store, he’s learned to stand alone in front of a crowd with his limitations front and center and succeed — something pursuing a sport that seems more in line with his disability could never have done.
The biggest mistake I made in my youth and the mistake I almost made with my son was that I looked at every pursuit as the leg of a journey that had some definite end goal rather than an opportunity to discover who they are and where they thrive.
Steve Jobs spent a good deal of time drifting in his youth — dropping out of college after six months to sleep on the floors of friends’ dorm rooms and auditing creative classes by day. He credited much of his early work at Apple to this experience.
When addressing the 2005 graduating class at Stanford, he said the following of this period, “You can’t connect the dots looking forward you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something: your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. Because believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart, even when it leads you off the well-worn path.”
Every parent wants their children to make the right decisions and sometimes, in an effort to protect them, we rob them of the experiences necessary to develop the proper instincts to do so. We over manage our children into pursuits that make sense to us, the end product of which can be adults with little knowledge of themselves and little love for the way they spend the majority of their lives.
We don’t know the world our children will enter into as adults any more than our parents did with us, and cultivating the ability to hear their inner voice and the courage to follow it is far more valuable than a pre-written playbook written in conventional wisdom.
What I’ve found to be the scariest, simplest, and most successful strategy is to give my children the freedom to discover themselves in failure and success while the stakes are still low and trust these dots in their timelines will connect for them in the end.
On Saturday, volunteers with the nonprofit art organization 29 Pieces began displaying the works as part of its Dallas LOVE Project, intended to show that Dallas – branded the “City of Hate” after the Nov. 22, 1963, assassination – is a place where love thrives. Several incidents before the assassination – including the distribution of fliers in the form of a “Wanted” poster with mug shot-style photos of the president _resulted in anger turning toward the city itself. “When the president came here 50 years ago, that was all over the city and how cool would it be, how different would it be, that 50 years later what we’re plastering the city with are these deep and intentional things about love,” said 29 Pieces founder Karen Blessen, who served as executive director of the project.
“I think it taps into something deep down for all of us, which is our capacity to love,” said Blessen, whose group provided project participants with a lesson in Kennedy’s legacy and a glimpse at life in 1963.
Over the next several weeks, the 18-inch-by-18-inch art pieces – created by a range of people including schoolchildren, people in the business world and residents of senior centers – will go on display along the Kennedy motorcade route and at other sites throughout the city.
On Saturday morning, Becky Crawford helped affix the colorful works of art along a hall inside the lobby at Parkland Memorial Hospital, where the president was taken after being shot. Phrases on the works included “Created in God’s image, we, too, are … LOVE” and “Love Conquers All.”
Crawford, director of experiential education and service learning at Parish Episcopal School in Dallas, organized the participation of students at her school.
“They were very surprised that some people used to think Dallas was the `City of Hate,'” she said. “Overall, they got a good historical understanding of what the city experienced 50 years ago.”
Though Lee Harvey Oswald’s motivation for shooting Kennedy remains unknown, the climate in the city came under scrutiny after the assassination.
Just weeks before the assassination, Kennedy’s United Nations ambassador, Adlai Stevenson, was harassed by a group of ultra-conservatives as he spoke at a downtown auditorium. And as he left, a woman bopped him on the head with a protest sign. Three years earlier, during the 1960 presidential campaign, protesters accosted Kennedy running mate Lyndon B. Johnson and his wife, Lady Bird, as they crossed a downtown Dallas street from one hotel to another.
Jesseka Lipscomb, a 17-year-old senior at Dallas’ Irma Lerma Rangel Young Women’s Leadership School, drew hearts and cut-out letters to spell out “All You Need Is Love” for her poster.
“It’s nice to see different perspectives and how different ages draw. It looks really beautiful,” the teen said as she worked to hang posters at the hospital.
Kim Blann, director of fine arts for the Keller school district northwest of Dallas, said students listened to the Beatles and other musical acts that were popular at the time while they worked on the project at school.
“Even with the young ones we talked about what love was and what hate was and what hate can cause people to do,” she said in a phone interview earlier in the week.
Other sites being decorated with the art on Saturday included the Dallas Public Library’s downtown location.
Much of the art will be displayed so that it’s facing the street, Blessen said.
She initially thought they’d struggle to get 10,000 works of art, but it’s grown to include so much more. She said the enthusiasm for the project has been encouraging.
“It’s been this amazing, delightful surprise,” she said.
Dallas LOVE Project, http://dallasloveproject.is/
Interviewer: Maranda Pleasant
Maranda Pleasant: What are the things that make you come most alive?
Marianne Williamson: I can’t say that there are “things” that make me come alive. There are thoughts that make me come alive. Those are thoughts that take me beyond myself; that remind me that there’s a bigger game going on on this planet than simply my own existence; that love works miracles, and how much we need them now.
MP: What are things or thoughts that make you feel vulnerable?
MW: Intimacy. I think that’s true for everyone. Both the gift and the burden of real closeness with another human being.
MP: How do you handle emotional pain when it comes in?
MW: I surrender it to God, knowing that the pain itself is a product or a reflection of how I am interpreting whatever it is that is causing me pain. Some pain is simply the normal grief of human existence. That is pain that I try to make room for. I honor my grief. I try to be kinder to myself. I give myself time to move through and to process whatever is making me sad.
There are other kinds of emotional pain that emerge from our own mistaken thinking. As we surrender that pain, we are inviting into our thought system a guide who will lead us to different thoughts. It’s like the song “Amazing Grace”: I was blind and now I see. Often on a journey of spiritual transformation, that is ultimately what heals the pain: the veil is removed from in front of our own eyes and we see where we had been thinking thoughts that would inevitably lead to pain. Until we change those thoughts, the pain will remain.
MP: Is there a practice that you have for maintaining your center, for maintaining balance in the middle of chaos?
MW: I’m a student of A Course in Miracles, so I do the workbook every day. I also do Transcendental Meditation. If I am disciplined about either of those on any given day, I have a far greater probability of remaining peaceful, at least until dinner.
MP: [laughing] It seems like every person I’m talking to is doing TM now.
MW: I’ve had a TM mantra since 1973.
MP: I need to start. Let’s talk about what in you wanted to be born or said in your book, “The Law of Divine Compensation.” It talks about money and work and love. What is special about this book?
MW: That was born of circumstances that are anything but special; it was born of circumstances that are quite distressing. And that’s that this last recession really pummeled people. A level of anxiety and tension and outright fear that so many people have felt, not only during the recession but during this slow economic recovery since. This made me very much want to up the conversation about how miracle-minded thinking applies to that area of life. In A Course in Miracles, it says you think you have many different problems, but you really only have one, and that is your separation from God, which means your separation from loving thought. We are dominated on this planet by a fear-based rather than a love-based thought system. Enlightenment involves relinquishing the thought system based on fear and instead accepting a thought system based on love.
In the area of work and money, we have one of the most intense gaps between fear-based and love-based thought. It’s not that a miracle mindset applies to work and money any more than it applies to anything else; rather, it applies there no less than anywhere else. The world we live in pictures a pie with only so many pieces, and if other people have more you have less, and you have to compete with other people in order to try to get ahead. You have to sell yourself at every available opportunity. The shift, the enlightened shift, has to do with a movement from competition to collaboration, from sales to service, from ambition to inspiration, and to a belief in scarcity to a belief in abundance as an eternal spiritual quality.
The Law of Divine Compensation posits that this is a self-organizing and self-correcting universe: the embryo becomes a baby, the bud becomes a blossom, the acorn becomes an oak tree. Clearly, there is some invisible force that is moving every aspect of reality to its next best expression. And the universe is not only self-organizing, it is also self-correcting. The embryo becomes a baby; the baby is born; its lungs continue to breathe — not only were they created but then they continue to breathe. The heart is not only created but it continues to breathe. If there is injury and disease that becomes present within the body, the body is also equipped with an immune system to correct that.
The metaphysical notion here is that that self-organizing and self-correcting imprint is on all aspects of reality. So not only was your body formed by this invisible hand, not only does your body continue to work by this invisible hand, but every aspect of your life — emotionally, physiologically, and spiritually — is also programmed to thrive, is also programmed for self-organization and self-correction. Now, if we only identify with the mortal world, then we identify with a level of scarcity and lack and brokenness, and that will be our experience. But if we shift our experience of self-identification — and this is what enlightenment is — from the body-self to the spiritual-self, then we place ourselves under an entirely different set of possibilities and probabilities. And we can invoke spiritual compensation when we find ourselves in situations of material lack. In other words, what happens for most of us is that we are tempted and we are taught, we are trained as it were, to meet limited circumstances with limited thought. If we lose a job, we are easily tempted into thoughts like, “Ain’t it awful? There aren’t any jobs out there. This is terrible. It’ll be awhile before the economy comes back. Even if they’re hiring someone, they’re not hiring someone my age with my resume.” And that’s really what causes the crash and burn. The fact is, there are Fortune 500 companies that have been founded during recessions.
The issue of spiritual power is to meet the limited mortal circumstance with unlimited thought. As in, “Yes, this is a temporary deviation from love’s flow, but it is only happening on the mortal plane; love itself compensates for any diminishment. Much like a GPS, love re-calibrates itself if you’ve made a wrong turn.” As long as you identify with the universe — which is perfect and can correct material conditions to bring them back into alignment with that Divine perfection — as long as that is where your mind is aligned, it’s as though there were two parallel universes. You decide with every thought you think which one you’re going to inhabit. Two parallel universes of experience, as it were. I think with the economy having moved into the dark tunnels of our current situation, this is information which is helpful for a lot of people.
MP: I want to ask you with your time with Oprah and “Super Soul Sunday.” Is there anything particularly special to you about that exchange?
MW: It was special because that particular interview was about my book, Return to Love, which came out twenty years ago. Oprah having the book on her program when it first came out catapulted it to success in a way that would absolutely not have occurred otherwise. She opened up fields of possibility and experience for me, professionally, that I will be eternally grateful for. She reran a couple of interviews from twenty years ago, and we both had a good laugh about the hairdos and shoulder pads. It was very fun and very funny.
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And there is good reason to do so: The ancient practice of yoga promotes a bounty of mind and body benefits, including things like strength and flexibility or stress relief and even a sunnier disposition.
“People underestimate the power of those few minutes before we get out of bed and rush into our day,” says Vyda Bielkus, co-founder of Boston’s Health Yoga Life. “In those moments, we can set up some clear intentions and choices.”
According to a 2013 survey from IDC, most of us aren’t giving ourselves this moment to be mindful: 89 percent of 19-24-year-old smartphone owners reach for their cell within 15 minutes of waking up. Swapping that phone-checking habit for a a few artful stretches could be your ticket for a better day or a more restful slumber (63 percent of a similar demographic take their devices to sleep with them). “Quieting the mind brings us back to center,” the yoga instructor says. “Yoga is a great way to unwind from stress or greet the day.”
Before you get moving atop the covers, there are few things to keep in mind. Know that you won’t be able to go as far in a posture on the bed. A floor’s hard surface offers more support and resistance for stretch. And, take note of the sensations in your body: If anything hurts or feels too intense, plop yourself into child’s pose (see below) to recover. Now, check out these nine, mattress-approved poses below.
Reclining Goddess Pose
Lie with the soles of your feet touching. You can keep your arms by your side or stretch your hands above your head — whatever feels best. Bielkus says this is a good pose to do before you go to sleep — it’ll settle the mind and help you unwind.
This is an especially soothing meditative posture, one that Bieklus calls a “time out for adults.” “Doing this inversion will ease tension in your legs,” says the yoga instructor, who recommends the pose or anyone who’s active on their feet all day or may have over done it at the gym. Turn your hips toward the wall and kick your legs up and lean rest them vertically against it. “People who have a hard time meditating may find this as an easier way to clear their minds,” Bieklus adds. Tight hips? Put a pillow under your seat to ease any discomfort.
Sit up on your bed and fold forward, reaching for your heels, toes or shins. “Wherever your hands land is fine,” Bielkus says. If you feel tight in the backs of your legs, be sure to bend your knees. This move is great for winding down: It is relaxing and cooling. Be sure to focus on your exhale — it’ll deepen the stretch.
Easy Supine Twist
Try this move before you get out of bed in the morning: It’ll awaken your spine and prepare you for the day ahead. While on your back, hug your knees to your chest. Hold your legs behind the knees with your right forearm and bring your knees to the bed on your right side. Now, gently look left. Repeat on your other side.
While lying flat on your back, bring your hands underneath your hips. Lift your chest and heart above your shoulders and stretch your head back. Bielkus says this pose is energizing, so do it as the sun comes up.
Happy Baby Pose
This pose is mentally calming while physically stimulating, which makes it perfect for a day when you have a lot on your plate. Lie flat on your back with your feet in the air and grip the outside of your feet with your hands. Open your knees a little wider than your torso, then bring them up toward your torso. Gently rock in a way that feels comfortable, while pushing your feet into your hands as you pull your hands down to create a resistance. “Find a still point in your body and focus on driving the rail bone down,” Bielkus says. “This will elongate the lower back and allow the hips to stretch. It gets the blood flowing.”
This simple, calming pose is easy to do in bed. Kneel on the mattress and allow your big toes to touch. Separate your knees as wide as your hips (or as far as is comfortable) and lie down between your thighs. Stay here as long as you like — this pose is restorative
This pose may look like sleeping, but it’s really a practice, as Bielkus describes, of consciously resting. “This is an awesome state for the mind to be in. It’s about awakening within the self.” Lie on your back with your arms by your side, with the palms facing upward. “This is when you come out of your human doing and come into your human being,” the instructor says. “It’s about fully being present.” This pose is quite versatile: Do it as a wind-down before bed to empty your thoughts so they don’t keep you up or night, or use the time in the morning to set an intention for the day ahead.
Pigeon pose is an intense leg stretch that’ll open your hips and leave you feeling revitalized. With your hands shoulder-distance apart, come onto all fours. Bring your right knee forward between your hands so your outer right leg is resting on the bed. Make sure your left leg is in line with its own hip socket and that your left foot is laying flat. With an exhale, fold forward over your right knee. Stay here for as long as you need, then repeat on the other side.
On a break from her Diamonds World Tour, Rihanna stopped in Thailand to visit the island of Phuket, where she befriended some local wildlife.
She posted a link on Twitter to an Instagram photo that showed her in sunglasses snuggling up to a furry primate called the slow loris, and tweeted Friday: “Look who was talkin dirty to me!”
The slow loris, a squirrel-like animal with big eyes, is native to Southeast Asia and is listed as a protected species.
“Phuket authorities were alerted to the picture (of Rihanna), and last night police arrested the two individuals who brought out the loris as a photo opportunity for tourists,” a Phuket district chief, Weera Kerdsirimongkon, said by telephone Sunday.
Police confiscated two lorises from the pair – a 20-year-old man and a 16-year-old boy – who could face charges of possession of protected animals. The charge carries a penalty of up to four years in prison and a 40,000 baht ($1,300) fine.
Weera said authorities have tried for years to crack down on the problem of vendors exploiting wildlife, particularly in popular tourist areas where people pay to pose for pictures with elephants, orangutans and other animals.
“It’s like a cat-and-mouse game. But this time it’s bigger because a celebrity like Rihanna posted the picture, and there were more than 200,000 `likes’ from around the world,” he said.
Rihanna also posted pictures of herself playing with a herd of elephants in the street Friday night, after which she tweeted: “They all hail Empress when She walk by.”
On the same night, she tweeted a few unprintable comments about what she apparently witnessed at an adult show in one of Phuket’s red-light districts.
Saturday’s tweets were devoted to the beach and photographs of the singer in a black bikini on a boat surrounded by turquoise water with limestone cliffs in the distance.
Before leaving Thailand on Sunday, she tweeted from the airport: “Gave the immigration guy my passport and he handed me this in return without a word. Lol.” It was a picture of the singer that said “I love Rihanna.”
Her next stop was Singapore before heading to Australia and New Zealand.
The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Montreal School of Public Health, suggests that for people between the ages of 18 and 24, the three biggest risk factors for starting smoking are being impulsive, using alcohol regularly, and getting poor grades in school.
The research, published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, is based on data from 1,293 teens from the greater Montreal area who were part of the Nicotine Dependence in Teens study that started in 1999. The teens were followed up in 22 “cycles,” from when they were at an average age of 12.7 to when they were at an average age of 24.
By cycle 22, 75 percent of the teens had tried smoking. Forty-four percent of the teens started smoking before entering high school, 43 percent started during high school, and 14 percent started sometime in the six years post-high school.
Not all those who tried cigarettes continued to smoke, but researchers found that impulsivity, poor grades and regular alcohol use were the three risk factors associated with those who began smoking after high school — or when they were between ages 18 and 24.
Study researcher Jennifer O’Loughlin, a professor at the university, speculated in a statement that one potential reason impulsivity may play a role in smoking in young adulthood is because “parents of impulsive children exercise tighter control when they are living with them at home to protect their children from adopting behaviors that can lead to smoking, and this protection may diminish over time.”
Alcohol consumption could also be linked with starting smoking because alcohol “reduces inhibitions and self-control,” she added in the statement.
O’Loughlin noted that the findings suggest smoking prevention programs shouldn’t just target teens, but young adults also. “The predictors of initiation in young adults may provide direction for relevant preventive interventions,” she and co-authors wrote in the study.
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