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Showing posts from 2011

Mindfulness: If Shifting Attention Can Create Inner Peace, Anything Is Possible

"The only peace we find at the top of mountains" goes an an old Zen saying, "is the peace we brought up there with us." And yet we tend to search outside ourselves - and outside our daily existence - for inner quiet we hope will clear emotional fog and calm turbulent thoughts that seem unavoidable.   The trick is to develop a mind-and-skill set that helps us reframe life’s dilemmas, disappointments, and difficulties as creative choices – by working on them the same, focused way we learn technique in piano or dance or painting. By learning the techniques in a gradual and relaxed way when the pressure is off so they are ready to roll when the pressure is on. The fact that we can rethink our old, automatic mental habits, create new roles and change our minds through new learning for the entire length of our lives - the scientific term is “neuro-plasticity – really is good news, especially in these times of accelerated change and increasing complexity. Some effort and c…

SCIENCE FRIDAY ON NPR Dec. 16, 2012 to Feature Music Therapy

The Friday December 16, 2011 broadcast  of Science Friday with Ira Flatow is a rare opportunity to hear experts in the field discuss the brilliant applications of music therapy happening in medical treatment right now. More and more hospitals and clinics now offer music therapy as a supplementary treatment for everything from anxiety to Alzheimer’s, but its efficacy varies for different conditions.
Panelists are:
Neurologist Oliver Sacks, M.D. of Columbia University Medical Center, New York, author of The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat, Awakenings, a noted researcher and author of numerous academic works;
Concetta Tomaino of the Institute for Music and Neurologic Function at Beth Abraham Family of Health Services in the Bronx, NY, groundbreaking and internationally recognized programs use music therapy to assist the "awakening and healing" of individuals with a wide range of neurological conditions including strokes, trauma, dementia, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's di…

Less Pressure, More Joy: A Professional Organizer Recommends "Less Stress" Holidays

Supermarket check-out lines abound with idea-intensive magazines which either inspire us to a decorating-and-designing frenzy or leave us drowning in guilt and inadequacy over all the fabulous crafts, cookies and creations we have no time for or fear we could never achieve. The relentless pressure to have the best holidays that money can buy and perfectly deck our heavily-mortgaged halls can wear us down at the time we most want our spirits up. In her “Less Stress Holiday” workshops and in consultations with private clients, Professional Organizer and Life Coach Donna Jaroslawski recommends what she calls “the anti-idea perspective: Simplify. Streamline. Do less so you can enjoy more.”
       Beyond the clear financial benefits of rethinking this “more-is-more” mindset we can realize an almost immediately positive impact on relationships. “We can eat and spend less but do more,” says Jaroslawski, “For example, go for a walk to see holiday lights rather than having…

SHIFTS HAPPEN: Using Action Methods With Researchers, Academics and Policy-Makers

A workshop my wife and I presented at the annual conference of the Association for Medical Education and Research in Substance Abuse titled “Shifts Happen: Creative Strategies forStress-Resilience and Burn-Out Prevention”- in early November convinced me of two things:
1)Researchers, academics and policy-makers tend to have very little exposure to experiential/action methods - and trainers in these methods need to reach out to them far more than we do;
2)When reaching out to researchers, academics, and policy-makers, be sure to include Power Point.
The format of this workshop included carefully-designed improvisation and warm-up exercises, alternating with 5-7 minutes of Power Point that explained why these experiences were chosen and the research that supports their value, as well as writing in a journal provided with the workshop materials. While participants were encouraged to share verbally, they were free to confine the expression of their thoughts and feelings to writing in …

Five Gifts That Put The "Happy" In Holidays

Tis the season of giving, the time to make memories with the people we love. But the degree of pressure to produce perfect dinners and parties and presents is a prescription can leave us more overwhelmed than overjoyed. We can get so caught up in the momentum that we lose the moment. With economic tensions adding to everyone’s worries, now is the best of times to let go of the search for “hot” toys or crazy cool technology to amaze and surprise our loved ones, and look instead for ways to create experiences that make enduring, positive memories with them. Here are five building blocks of experiences that form a child’s ideas about what it means to be happy.
It’s not what we give, it’s howIn the end, what we – and our kids - recall about family holiday time is how it felt to be there. “Busy busy busy.” “Overworked.” “Stretched in a million different directions.” “Resentful.” “Exhausted.” These are the words participants at a professional workplace “Healthier Holidays” semi…

Just Keep Trying; Long Island Playwright Jack Canfora Shares The Secret of His Success

by Jude Treder-Wolff, LCSW, RMT, CGP About 2 years ago I attended a staged reading of a play called Jericho at the Rattlestick Theater in Manhattan. The playwright, Jack Canfora, is a teacher of 11th and 12th grade English at Plainview Old Bethpage John F. Kennedy High School on Long Island and an actor who, in 1993, performed the opening monologue of the first (and only) full-length play I ever wrote. Unfortunately for Jack, the monologue was his character’s only appearance in the play, so he had to hang around backstage for the entire show to participate in the company bow at curtain. Fortunately for me and the entire cast, he did this graciously and with a lot of humor. That is commitment.       Amazingly entertaining and strikingly serious at the same time, Jericho deals with the effects of 9/11 on two New Yorkers directly affected by the attacks and coping in very different ways. It won the 2011 Edgarton Foundation New Play Award, recently completed a full production at The New J…

The Arts and Health: Connecting The Dots, Evidence-Based

Storytelling is emerging as a powerful tool for health promotion in vulnerable populations. Until now, these interventions were largely untested in rigorous studies. A study published in The Annals of Internal Medicine (Jan 2011) found that a storytelling intervention produced "substantial and significant improvements in blood pressure for patients with baseline uncontrolled hypertension." more

This academic article "Tell Me A Story: A Conceptual Exploration of Storytelling In Health Care Education" from Nursing Education Today explores the principles of storytelling and the role of storytelling in healthcare delivery, This nursing educator identifies some of the skills learned and benefits derived from storytelling, and speculates upon the use of storytelling strategies in nurse education. "Such stories have, until recently been harvested from the experiences of students and of educators," she writes, "however, there is a growing realiz…

THE BENEFITS OF ARTS AND CREATIVITY TRAINING:

 October is Arts & Humanities Month - take a creative risk!

A growing number of studies demonstrate that creativity training, or development in a creative domain, integrates the brain, body and emotions in a symphony of heightened functioning. A study published by Columbia University’s Center for Arts in Education Research reports that teachers in schools providing high-arts “spoke of the effects of arts learning along five specific dimensions of ability. These were the ability to:

Express ideas and feelings openly and thoughtfully; Form relationships among different items of experience and layer them in thinking through an idea or problem; Conceive or imagine different vantage points of an idea or problem and to work towards a resolution; Construct and organize thoughts and ideas into meaningful units or wholes; and Focus perception on an item or items of experience, and sustain this focus over a period of time.     Dr. Elliott Eisner, author of TheArts and The Creati…

The Gods Must Be (Going) Crazy: When Worldviews Collide

In the 1980 independent film The Gods Must Be Crazy, a Coke bottle falls from a small plane passing overhead and into the path of a Bushman in the Kalahari Desert. He and his villagers view the plane as a god, so they see the bottle as a fascinating and curious gift the gods saw fit to bestow. They invent all sorts of interesting uses for it, which unfortunately includes bonking on heads, something hard objects tend to inspire in human beings. When they start to fight over it, the bottle comes to be regarded as an “evil thing.” They figure the gods had to be crazy to send this into their lives, and elect Xi, the Bushman who brought it into the village, to find the place where the gods reside and return it. On his expedition he encounters white people, technology, and violence for the first time, including a culture clash that lands him in jail for months. He does succeed in the end, tossing the bottle off a mountaintop that could easily be viewed as a home for the gods, and then res…

Role-Reversal: Seeing Situations With A New "I"

Bill (not his real name) – a 19-year-old man in an experiential group at a retreat for children of alcoholics - stepped up, reluctantly and therefore courageously, when I requested volunteers for an exercise that involved role-reversal. A technique that is central to the psychodramatic method, role-reversal shifts our frame of reference about a situation, memory or person. A person stuck in a conflict with an unbending boss, for example, will assume the role of this boss, and with the support of the director and the other group members explore the tension from the perspective of "the other." If we have generated sufficient psychological safety in the group, the process of role-reversal will reveal underlying beliefs and memories that connect to the present situation. It is ultimately a way to rewrite the story in a fresh, more empowered way.
 In a walk-and-talk interview "Bill" freely shared two things: 1) he attended this retreat only because of a bargain with his …

Detachment: A Small Change That Makes Large Differences

"Reality is that which, when we stop believing in it, doesn't go away."
Phillip K. Dick
     My husband talks to the television. He goes point-for-point with the pundits. He roots for the good guys with gusto and rails at injustice with rowdy, heart-felt outrage. It sounds a little psychotic, to be honest, but it is just an expression of his full, unself-conscious engagement with whatever has his attention at any given moment. It would be crazy if he believed his noisy protests had some influence on the story playing out on the screen, which he does not. And it would also be crazy if I believed I could – or should – oppress, restrict or in any other way attempt to control his television-watching behavior, which I did, for awhile, out of an irrational and unfounded fear about what the neighbors might think. Two things changed that: I got over myself and we got central air conditioning (windows stay closed, problem solved, if this can actually be considered a problem).
     …

Crazytown

WAITING FOR GO

Change is the natural process of life, and in nature it always starts small. A seed. An acorn. Kittens. In nature, the process continually transforms a tiny thing into whatever it is designed to be as long as there is energy available. Seeds into pumpkins. Acorns into oaks. Kittens into furry ambassadors of love. Energy is key, as it is in the intangible - but still completely natural - process that is psychological/emotional growth. As human beings we have the unique capacity to deny change at the same time it is happening and put off actionable change that nature or just good common sense indicates is necessary. We can stop dead as if at a red light, freezing in fear or denial, throwing up psychological roadblocks to the natural flow of creative energy that drives transformation. Stagnant energy turns into anxiety, which amplifies the scary voices in our head and can distort our perception so much that even small things seem unmanageable. So we wait.

     We tend to think the cr…

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT: Relationship 2nd Acts and Self-ReInvention

by Jude Treder-Wolff
     Relationships are the architecture of our personal and professional lives, something especially important to keep in mind during times of rapid, roller-coaster-ride-type economic upheaval. Like right now and into the uncertain future. The gloomy Jobs Reports over the past year indicating economic stormy weather, the (literal) uptick in stormy weather happening all over the planet, the fact that technology is evolving at something like “10 million times the natural speed of evolution” according to economist Brian Arthur, pose unrelenting pressures and some overwhelming problems. But even – or maybe especially – during times of heightened tension and unpredictability - anything can happen with the right tools and mind set. And if the infrastructure of our lives is built of supportive, sheltering networks and robust relationships that are more supply than demand we may be able to improvise our way into a new self, new roles and an expanded creative id…