Mon, 10 July 2017
~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #163
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"Growing your inner strengths through taking in the good is like deepening the keel of a sailboat so that it's less jostled by the worldly winds, it recovers more quickly from big storms, and you can now safely head out into deeper waters in pursuit of your dreams." —Rick Hanson, author of Hardwiring HappinessThe founding premise of the book Hardwiring Happiness is change your brain, change your life for the better. Having discussed this fact before on the blog/podcast, it may not appear to be profound on the surface, but what always keeps me reading is how do we change our brain to change our lives for the better, how does it actually work neurologically? And the how is exactly what made the most sense to me above any other book I have read upon reading Hardwiring Happiness. Simply put, we need to deeply savor the good that occurs in our lives, the small as well as the overtly large and as we do, we begin to build new synapses into our brain, enabling it to expect the good rather than spontaneously always looking for the bad. The skill that we all need to develop, practice multiple times a day and then use habitually is to take in the good. What is meant by this is a four step process which Hanson outlines in his book, but essentially it is to be present in your life, to be engaged, to be paying attention, and thus, to recognize, and then savor those moments, no matter how small or large, that are good.
"By taking just a few extra seconds to stay with a positive experience you'll help turn a passing mental state into lasting neural structure . . . the practice brings you into the present moment and teaches you to have more control over your attention."Did you wake up and feel rested? Savor this moment for 10 more seconds and let it truly be absorbed by your mind. Did you receive a loving gesture from your partner? Slow down and savor it, engraining into your memory to be appreciated even after the moment has passed. Did you feel safe in your home last night? Tip your hat to the world you have created and take a deep breath to again welcome even more appreciation of the fact into your being. An analogy (and he uses an abundance of them throughout the book which I found quite helpful) Hanson uses to describe the three step process of rewiring the brain is comparing it to making a fire: "Step 1 lights it, step 2 adds fuel to keep it going, and step 3 fills you with its warmth." He also further explains that often step 2 & 3 overlap which makes sense because you can adding wood to the fire to keep it going as you are remaining warm. To repeat the steps (notice the acronym - HEAL):
"Taking in the good is not about chasing after pleasure or chasing away pain. It's about bringing the chase to an end."~SIMILAR POSTS FROM THE ARCHIVES YOU MIGHT ENJOY:
~The perfect simple and delicious appetizer for summer: Melons & Prosciutto (cantaloupe & cured ham)History: An Italian antipasti favorite, dating back to the second century, it was Galeno, a doctor during this time who believed that the combination of these two ingredients was the perfect way to incorporate the four things a being needed to feed what he believed each human was made of - warm, cold, dry and juicy corresponding to the four elements fire, air, earth and water. The melon was cold and juicy and the cured ham was dry and warm (salty and cured). Learn more here.
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Mon, 3 July 2017
~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #162
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"Focusing on happiness as our ultimate goal is self-defeating; being in a constant state of happiness is, simply put, impossible."—Paul HudsonPlace the word happiness on the cover of a self-help book and it will sell more times than it won't (Amazon has over 40,000 book titles with the word). The concept of happiness has a mass following as once we've experienced the feeling of our happy neurochemicals surging through our mind and being, we want more. And who wouldn't? However, as Paul Hudson reminds, "Happiness is not a natural state; it's an elevated state." Since happiness is not a natural state that we are born at (however, we can attain it, just as we can attain sadness, but we are not born sad), the question to determine is at what state are we born? A couple of years ago I shared Dr. E.P. Seligman's equation of what happiness consists of. Set range based on your biological parents Circumstances of your life (money, relationships, health, religion) Voluntary factors under your control (how you deal with the past, think about the future, etc) The Equation: H (happiness) = S + C + V Based on the realization that we individually have a set range as the foundation (accounting for 1/3 of our happiness potential), it is the other circumstances and voluntary actions that can heighten or depress the level of happiness we may attain. You may be looking at this equation and thinking, "Well, I absolutely can be happy all the time if two of the primary components are in my control." Are they though? Entirely, your circumstances and the voluntary factors are not in your control; however, how you respond to them, how you manage them, how you navigate the events, people and setbacks is in your control. Therefore it is how you navigate, it is the place from which you approach your circumstances, change them as you can and how you change them, that will either heighten the chances of moments of happiness or decrease. When we look closely at the term happiness, the root "hap", it is of Old English origin that came to be used in the 12th century. Its definition was "one's luck or lot" and "
“Many persons have a wrong idea of what constitutes true happiness. It is not attained through self-gratification but through fidelity to a worthy purpose.”
“There’s a certain tendency in our culture to want to graft some kind of happiness onto an existing structure,” Hanson said. “If you just fill in the blank — get this car, find the right shade of lipstick, go on vacation in Mexico, lose those five pounds — suddenly you’ll be happier and have the fulfillment you want in life ... Let’s be clear: The main happiness industry in America is the advertising industry.” —cognitive psychologist Rick Hanson, author of Hardwiring Happiness,Do not fall into the trap psychologist Rick Hanson points out above. Do not let the outside world, the marketing world tell you what it takes to attain happiness. Rather take a look at the list below and discover how to make the shift in our daily lives from seeking happiness to cultivating a life of contentment: 1.Shift your perspective on challenging situations 2. Understand that fear of the unknown is a good sign 3. Not being happy doesn't mean you are sad The expectation of constant happiness gets in the way of learning how to feel and exist with these other emotions that are not all the opposite of happy. We can be curious, interested, ambivalent, neutral, focused, challenged, and I am just barely scratching the surface. Take a look here at a lengthy list of different emotions. What our job needs to be is properly identifying what we are feeling, and while sometimes we may be able to explain why, we don't actually have to know the root all of the time. Simply knowing what we are feeling and letting ourselves feel that particular emotions is a very healthy skill which leads me to . . . 4. Build a life of wholeness
"We’re kind of teaching our kids that happiness is the default position — it’s rubbish. Wholeness is what we ought to be striving for and part of that is sadness, disappointment, frustration, failure; all of those things which make us who we are. Happiness and victory and fulfillment are nice little things that also happen to us, but they don’t teach us much ... I’d like just for a year to have a moratorium on the word “happiness” and to replace it with the word “wholeness.” Ask yourself “Is this contributing to my wholeness?” and if you’re having a bad day, it is." —Australian social researcher Hugh MackayA life of wholeness, as pointed out above will involve from time to time sadness. To feel sadness is to have known love, joy, tranquility and yes, happiness. It is how you navigate through these daily occurrences. And when you know how to navigate, much like driving a car or navigating the subway or airline travel, you empower yourself to arrive successfully at your destination. 5. Choose to handle negative situations in a productive way Which builds your resilience and persistence, thus building your opportunity to experience happiness when opportunities come along that require you to be resilient and persistent in attaining them. 6. Practice patience: Let go of the need for fast fixes 7. Practice mindfulness Being mindful asks us to be present which requires us to have the ability to be the captain of our mind. 8. Improve self-awareness
Our natural state needs to be content rather than happy. Once we realize and practice building and living a life of contentment, we broaden the opportunity for happiness to be experienced. I have written extensively about contentment here on the blog (have a look at the posts below)
"Happiness is essentially an end result of some action we’ve taken," marriage counselors Ben and Janelle NovellSo much of our discontent is a misunderstanding of what constitutes happiness. Once we put it into its rightful place, which is a glorious experience to behold, we can appreciate it all the more as well as not be so disheartened when it doesn't last indefinitely. The good news is, it will return so long as we cultivate a life of contentment. And that is something we can do each and everyday.
~Gruyère Tomato Tart, click here for the recipe~View more episodes from The Simple Sophisticate here. ~Listen to the most downloaded episode in a single day (#161 - Ask Shannon) here.
Mon, 19 June 2017
~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #160
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"'How does one become a butterfly?' she asked pensively. You must want to fly so much that you are willing to give up being a caterpillar." —Trina Paulus
In a blink of an eye, in an unexpected, ordinary moment, the unimaginable can materialize before your eyes. And in such a moment, due to its magnificence, a feeling of surreality washes over you and you stand confounded, yet buoyant as it feels you've reached the surface finally after much hard work, planning, and hoping what seemed against hope. Butterflies have always been a source of spontaneous glee for me. As I shared more than six years ago, spotting a butterfly is a reminder: “This was what the struggle was all about. Now you have the knowledge. Now you know how to fly on your own and reveal your gifts to the world without disguising yourself to fit in.” Much like the people that come into our lives and the opportunities that cross our paths, we cannot know when the butterfly will metamorphosize from the stage of being a caterpillar. Two weekends ago, we decided to go paddle boarding, and along the way, the butterflies began to dance around me. Like a child giddy at the sight of a new puppy, I all but tap danced on my board. As we continued to paddle, I noticed they were puddling, and it seemed endless butterflies were all clustered at this one wet, muddy puddle area on the side of the river. Never before had I been surrounded by so many fluttering wings, paying me no mind and going about their nutrient gathering behavior. Then again this past weekend, as Norman and I were on a walk amongst the pines, more than a handful of butterflies joined us as we took our weekly constitutional. And I couldn't help but remember how six years ago, the butterfly was on the other side of the picture window and Norman was intent on watching it, trying to make sense of what it was. Now, the butterflies walk with us and Norman doesn't bat more than an eye or a quick nod. And so I began to ponder further lessons butterflies can teach us. Always trying to remember the lesson of the butterfly, as mentioned above, these most recent encounters made me take note that no matter how badly we might want to become something or evolve into something, sometimes it is our intense focus that blinds us and prevents what we desire from materializing. While we must put out into the world, and know within ourselves what it is we seek, what it is we wish to become, once these truths become clear, we need to step back and just go about the everyday tasks, take the necessary risks and take on the uncomfortable challenges so that we can gradually grow and evolve into the person we wish to be. At that point, we don't know when we will attract the similar energy of others or jobs or beautiful life moments that take on the guise of the "blink of an eye" moment mentioned at the top of the post. We cannot know. Just as I couldn't know about the many butterflies I was going to paddle into when I placed my board onto the water that morning. But here's the lesson, we have to keep putting our board in the water. We have to keep paddling in order for those moments to have an opportunity to be discovered. You may be wondering, Okay, Shannon, speak to me directly. What are you talking about? How can I apply this to my life right now? Two things: First decide what you want and how to attain it, followed by focusing on what you've decided and letting go of what isn't part of the equation. Now what you've just ascertained will be unique to each of us, but something that is universal which will help you along your journey is to strengthen these 11 skills, focus more on your "to be" list rather than your "to do" list, cultivate everyday habits that build a life of true contentment, and become comfortable in your own unique skin. In tending to each of these, you let go of your strangle-hold on the outcome and hold fast to what you can elevate (yourself and the person you bring to the table each and everyday). And in so doing, the life that is meant to be yours will cross your path and you and it will begin to intertwine as you recognize how well the two entities work together. This is the butterfly moment. The natural coming together, and the ability to recognize it and appreciate it and be reminded that the life you've built did take work and will continue to take work, but the work enables the quality of your life experiences as you travel together with the partner you have found, with the friendships you have built, with the career you have invested in, to be heightened to a level you may not have truly trusted was possible. Edith Wharton says it beautifully regarding when the moment you've hoped for will happen (the butterfly moment so to speak), "They seemed to suddenly come upon happiness as if they had surprised a butterfly in a winter wood." You truly cannot know when it will all come together, but at least you know you'll be ready to walk with it when it crosses your path. And it all begins with what the first quote at the top of the post brings to our attention, decide to let go of being a caterpillar, in order for your wings to break through and reveal themselves to not only the world, but to you. You may just be amazed at what is hidden in the depths of your being if only you would allow it to come forth. ~SIMILAR POSTS FROM THE ARCHIVES YOU MIGHT ENJOY:
~Paris Can Wait, starring Diane Lane, directed by Eleanor Coppola
~View theaters and times here
~If you are in Bend, it plays at the Tin Pan Theater through this Thursday June 22nd. Over the weekend, the small boutique theater in Bend brought to its small screen the film written, directed and produced by Eleanor Coppola. Yes, that Eleanor Coppola, wife of Francis Ford Coppola (The Godfather series, The Outsiders, etc.) for 54 years. Debuting at the Tribeca Film Festival this past May, Paris Can Wait is Eleanor's first narrative feature film, but you wouldn't have known. Now, not all the critics are loving it: The Boston Globe felt it was strained and relied too heavily on clichés, even those who thought they would love it came away unsure due to the ambitious ending, but it is precisely the different approach to making the film that makes it lovely. Coppola has shared that the film's plot was inspired by her own life (be sure to read the San Francisco Chronicle's interview with her here), but not every piece and parcel of the story (there was no male companion). Along with the struggle Diane Lane's character (Anne) wrestles with is what Coppola herself did as well, the "'inner conflict, the push and pull' she’s felt her whole adult life about pursuing her own creative ambitions while raising three children and supporting her husband’s career". As well, both women (the character and Coppola) have suffered the loss of a child which is briefly, but touchingly included in the film. Some readers have shared with me, they didn't enjoy the insinuation of infidelity, but I think that may be taking it further than Coppola intended as nothing occurred, merely adoration and a woman (Anne) who was keenly aware and steadfast. What Anne's journey does do for her is awaken her to her strengths, to her passions, to the realization yes of her imperfect, but still very adoring husband. And by not giving viewers the concrete ending, leaving us wondering, Coppola does something I must applaud her for: She doesn't tell us how to think. As someone who has been immersed in Hollywood due to her husband, then daughter and son's successful involvement with silver screen productions, she doesn't fall prey to the formula. Maybe she does have a sequel in mind, but I hope not only because this film, as she has stated, took six years to raise funds as it wasn't full of "aliens, nobody dies, there are no guns and no car crashes. There was nothing that an investor wants to invest in. No sex, no violence". Rather it was a piece of her life she wanted to share and explore, and in so doing, she allows the viewers to ponder what we don't often see in movies: a leading female role who is complete all by herself so long as she embraces her passions, lets herself feel what she feels, appreciates her allure which may be initially noticed due to her beauty but is profoundly powerful and substantive due to her intellect and character. And whether or not she remains with her husband (who isn't perfect) or explores her attraction to Jacques, played by Arnaud Viard (who also isn't perfect or ideal either) shouldn't be needed for a happy ending. What the happy ending is is liberation for Anne who hears the reminder from Jacques to share her talents with her husband (and perhaps the world if she so chooses), and to savor the pleasures of everyday moments and food without rushing to Paris. https://youtu.be/LGyZnzjm7Og
Mon, 21 November 2016
"As long as one keeps searching, the answers come." —Joan Baez
~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #131
Life in many ways feels as though it is a treasure hunt. However, I have good news. If my experience is any evidence, Joan Baez's quote above certainly rings true. Case in point, stumbling across British philosopher Bertrand Russell's book The Conquest of Happiness. I happened to have been perusing in my local bookstore, stopping in to pick up another book that I had ordered when I came across the simple bright yellow cover of The Conquest of Happiness. Mind you, the copyright is 1930 and as the new introduction, written in 2012, by philosophy professor at Tufts University Daniel C. Dennett reminds, Russell's views while quite progress at the time clearly leave laid bare his ignorance about women and minorities. However, these should be set aside as we look through the lens as though he is speaking about all people, because what he reveals gave me reason to take a deep breath of appreciation. As Russell reminds straight-away with his title, happiness is something we must cultivate. It is not something that we are born with. Now, this is not to say that we are born unhappy, no, absolutely not. However, we are born, each of us, into a culture and world we did not choose. We must come to understand our place in it, understand the capabilities that are innately ours and how to offer them to the world all the while protecting ourselves and vulnerable heart. Russell offers wise words about what we can and cannot do. What is true and what we should let go of as once assumed as true along the path to attaining happiness and identifying what we think is causing our unhappiness. I have gone through and found 38 points he shares that through welcoming as either habits, practices, approaches or shifts in our thoughts and beliefs, can usher in a true happiness we may have never thought attainable. First: Determine what you most desire Then . . . 1. Diminish your preoccupation with yourself (stop meditating on your perceived sins and shortcomings) 2. Focus primarily on external objects: the state of the world, attainment of knowledge in a variety of avenues, and individuals for whom you feel affection. 3. Practice moderation 4. Aspire to be interested in a variety of things; the more opportunities for happiness you have, the less you are at the mercy of fate since if you lose one thing you can fall back on another. 5. Even when an unexpected negative event takes place, understand that it too can give pleasure. How? Appreciate the knowledge you have gained to better understand the world and reduce unnecessary fear. 6. Bolster your energy so when you have free time you can pursue what interests you without restraint. 7. Vow to have a zest for life, an incessant curiosity. 8. Understand this truth, affection is given to those who least demand it. 9. Those who face life with a feeling of security are much happier than the contrary. 10. You are more likely to realize what you fear by believing it. 11. Self-confidence comes from being accustomed to receiving as much of the right sort of affection as one has the need for (healthy, non-dependent, etc.) 12. A person who is hardy and adventurous can endure a great deal without damage. 13. The best type of affection is reciprocally life-giving: each receives affection with joy and gives it without effort, and each finds the whole world more interesting in consequence of the existence of this reciprocal happiness. 14. Affection, in the sense of a genuine reciprocal interest of two persons in each other, not solely as means to each other's good but rather as a combination having a common goal, is one of the most important elements of real happiness. 15. A capacity for genuine affection is one of the marks of someone who has escaped from the prison of one's self-absorption. 16. Of all forms of caution, caution in love is perhaps the most fatal to true happiness. 17. One must cultivate external interests that bring rest and do not call for any action, rather allow you to simply enjoy. 18. Never ignore opportunities to gain knowledge. 19. Contemplate what makes greatness of one's soul. When one is capable of greatness of soul, it will open wide the windows of the mind, letting the winds blow freely upon it from every operation of the universe. 20. During times of grief, loss or pain, turn towards something that is not the source of anxiety. (This is where having many, varied interests comes in quite handy). 21. One cultivates happiness and therefore must find ways of coping with the multitudinous cause of unhappiness. By choosing to unearth the answers, happiness expands. 22. Happiness is an achievement, not a gift. 23. Do your best (effort) and then leave it up to fate (resign). 24. Having an unconquerable hope means it must be large and impersonal (hopes for humanity and being okay with the progress made, no matter how small even if the goal wasn't reached yet). 25. Let go of worry, fret and irritation as they serve no purpose. 26. In times of quandary, it is better to do nothing than to do harm. 27. A certain kind of resignation is involved in the willingness to face the truth about ourselves. 28. Nothing is more fatiguing than to believe things that are only a myth or false. 29. Happiness requires food, shelter, health, love, successful work, and the respect of one's own herd. 30. Fear is the principal reason why humans are so unwilling to admit facts and so anxious to wrap themselves round in a warm garment of myth. 31. Accepting facts and truth is a way to tackle fear and reach true happiness. 32. The happy person is who lives objectively, who has free affections and wide interests, who secures her happiness through these interests and affections and through the fact that they in turn make the person an object of interest and affection to many others. 33. The person who demands affection is not the person upon whom it is bestowed. 34. Don't think about the causes of unhappiness; get outside of it, it must be by genuine interests, not by simulated interests. 35. Once you let go of self-absorption, let the spontaneous working of your nature and of external circumstances lead you. 36. Only what genuinely interests you can be of any use to you. 37. Undoubtedly, we should desire the happiness of those whom we love, but not as an alternative to our own. 38. A happy person feels a citizen of the universe, enjoying freely the spectacle it offers and the joys it affords, untroubled by the thought of death because they feel themselves not really separate from those who will come after them. It is in such profound instinctive union with the stream of life that the greatest joy is to be found. While there is much to digest and contemplate, what left me with hope was the reality that so much of what causes us pain is self-inflicted. While yes, there are many things that are out of our control, understanding the difference is key, but so too is recognizing when we have played a role that has adversely obstructed us from potential happiness. Simply put, we need to get out of our own way, and this list will help us all to do just that. ~SIMILAR POSTS FROM THE ARCHIVES YOU MIGHT ENJOY:
~soundtrack for the film ~starring Alice Taglioni and Patrick Bruel (English subtitles) https://youtu.be/XwofBhEMevw
Mon, 18 January 2016
Today the differences between Strengths and Skills will be shared, along with the significant difference that will have a profoundly positive effect on your everyday life and the future direction you wish to go.
In this week's Petit Plaisir, a simple and delicious skillet chicken recipe that includes the trinity of Italian cooking: basil, mozzarella and tomatoes. 30 minutes to yum!
Mon, 3 August 2015
Inspired by Dr. Paul Dolan's book Happiness by Design, this episode will focus 30 specific ways to cultivate a happier life. Most importantly, as revealed by Dr. Dolan's book, the equation of what makes a happy life is discussed and from that point the remaining 29 tips are shared.
In this week's Petit Plaisir, the book The French Beauty Solution is reviewed and recommended.