Tag Archives: Culture

Success ≠ Happiness

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How do you balance the challenge of what it means to be successful? Does success mean working harder? Does success mean striving to be better? Does success mean “doing” more? According to the way we are socialized, the answer is typically, “Yes,” to all three questions. Yet, this view-point is so far from the truth, because it fails to celebrate and acknowledge the joys that occur in the present moment. Which is why I decided to put my work away today and visit this neglected but dearly loved, blog of mine.

Shawn Achor’s TEDtalk nails it. Our society tends to believe that the external world can predict how happy people are. We see someone with a nice job, a new car, a lovely house, a handsome lover, an ivy league education, etc., and we assume life must be good for them. Just like we assume, if we become more successful and have more nice, pretty things that we, too, may be happier.

This mentality is misleading, and it is time to break the spell as individuals and as a community and to start recognizing what really makes us happy. Shawn Achor’s TEDtalk mentions that 90% of our long-term happiness is predicted not by the external world (things we have/things we do) but by the way our brain processes the world (our internal self/our outlook). He goes on to illustrate how our personal and collective perspectives can impact the world within us and around us.

He explains that by raising positive thinking and optimism in the present moment, instead of focusing on future-oriented/desired success, we will become happier living in the moment. This resulting happiness and shift in perspective activates all learning centers in our brain and raises our intelligence, creativity, and overall energy.

While his talk is framed around how we can improve our success at work, it really is about how we can improve and reclaim the direction of our life, health, and happiness. Which direction will you take?

Shawn’s Recommended Exercise: Train your brain to become more positive by making optimism a habit. Try out all or any of these 5 activities for 21 days, and you will be on your way to teaching your brain to scan for the positive rather than the negative.

1. Write out 3 gratitudes a day.

2. Journal about a positive experience you had each day.

3. Make time for exercise – it helps remind you that behavior does matter.

4. Meditate to help you overcome your culturally acquired ADHD.

5. Perform random acts of kindness, practice compassion. It makes you and the world happier.

If you need to be reminded how important it is to raise your optimism levels in the present moment and let go of the illusion that success = happiness, then this is the video for you. I highly recommend.

                                                                                                                                                         

Reclaiming Ritual: Confessions of a Skeptic

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While I heard about ritual in my master’s program and even participated in a few healing rituals myself, I never really felt like I connected to the simulated ceremonies. I always thought they were a little goofy, and I never felt the liberating power people talked about, in my heart. I would come home with a cool new rock, and my husband would ask me about it, and I would stare blankly at him and recognize that I didn’t even remember why I had a rock in the first place. Well if you know anything about rituals, the one thing you might know is the importance of symbolism. So, me forgetting what the rock was for at the time, was very symbolic of my disconnect to ceremony.

The rock now sits on the window sill, and I still don’t know what it is supposed to represent, but I do know that when I see it, it must be fulfilling some part of its purpose, because it is a visual reminder that brings me back to ritual and makes me reflect on my relationship to ritual. When I look at it today, I am thankful for it, because I recognize how it has helped me reclaim ritual in my life.

What was once a minor curiosity of mine has ballooned into a great interest. Now, I cannot seem to avoid the concept of ritual. It keeps surfacing in the oddest places. I notice it while observing patterns in my dog’s behavior (don’t ask me which ones), while engaging in various readings, and while meeting new people and old friends. Because I started to notice it, I now recognize that despite my original unenthusiasm for it, I am actually starving for more ritual in my life.

But how do you recreate something that you aren’t even sure you understand? Also, a big part of ritual happens in a community-based setting, so how can you have ritual if you do not have a community eager to share this experience with you?  These are the questions I sit with and investigate.

What I have discovered in a few, short months of inquiry has been life-changing, and I imagine it will continue to be enlightening. As I understand ritual more, and incorporate it into my life in a way that feels genuine to me, I find that I am healing, I am connecting to my community, and I am enabling myself to follow my dreams.

As a result of my personal research, below is some food for thought about the power of ritual and how it relates to our personal and collective stories of healing, community, and personal development, three favorite topics of mine.

Definitions of ritual 

From the Korean perspective, a ritual or a kut, is a “controlled artistic activity springing from a human urge to transform time, space, and a community’s life together into a realm of contact with the gods and ancestral spirits.” As ritual relates to healing, the ritual is more dependent on whether the ritual expresses the sympathy of the healer AND “the prayerful concern of the ill person’s family and the concern of the praying community.” This reflection on ritual, healing, and community makes me think about the isolation people experience today. When we are trying to heal, it doesn’t matter if you receive state-of-the-art health care and have the best healer in the world. In my opinion, if you do not have a family or supportive community that is concerned about you, your healing journey will be longer and more difficult. This notion also reminds me of how people have become so disillusioned with religion, that they have given up all aspects of spirituality in their lives. What suffering has the human spirit endured because we have forgotten that we actually are spiritual beings and need to address ourselves that way?

My women’s spirituality group which is rooted in European traditions, also shares similar thoughts on ritual. “Ritual serves to focus our attention and intention so that we have the opportunity to honor, heal, and work with personal and collective energy. It is how we manage energy and/or matter in a sacred way. Ritual provides a container that allows energy to transmute consciously. It is an invitation to the mystery and to the soul to listen, guide, and help move life force energy…We recognize that ritual is an intentional weaving of spirit into form.”

Malidoma Somé writes in The Healing Wisdom of Africa, about ritual, healing, and community. He explains that ritual helps us “connect with unseen realities” and that “the realities made visible in our symbols, is crucial to the well-being of our psyches.” He says, “a person who walks through a ritual…ends up feeling charged and invigorated” and “is a blessed recipient of healing waves of energy that no one can see but everyone can benefit from.”

Somé continues to explain that ritual “is central to village life, for it provides the focus and energy that holds the community together, and it provides the kind of healing that the community most needs to survive.”

Why we are skeptical of ritual in the “West” and the consequences of our skepticism

Somé speaks to the misunderstandings surrounding the idea of ritual. He says, “The West is also struggling with a confusing notion of ritual, for the word usually refers to some sort of dark, pagan, and archaic practice that has no place in modern society. The only accepted rituals are ceremonial practices with clearly predictable content and outcome, such as what can be seen in the Sunday church service of one of the organized religions. When we talk of ritual here we are talking about something much deeper. We are talking about the weaving of individual persons and gifts into a community that interacts with the forces of the natural world. We are talking about a gathering of people with a clear healing vision and a trusting intent toward the forces of the invisible world.”

With his words, Somé suggests that the loss of ritual and the loss of community in the West are linked. He explains that this absence is also connected to the decline of health and well-being in “modern society.” He explains how important it is for us to reconnect with each other, and to acknowledge and interact with our surrounding environment and the subtle energies in a way that is healthy. Ritual is a way to do all of those things.  

What happens when we practice ritual?

We increase our awareness, and we transform. We come to know ourselves. European, African, and Korean traditions more or less agree that “ritual is aimed at increasing our awareness, for awareness of the existence of the reality beyond the palpable world that we live in is one of the keys to transforming individuals. Ritual can shake a person free from the rigidity of that part of the ego that wants to limit growth and experience.”

For those of you who have trouble envisioning the reality beyond the palpable world think about it in terms of yourself. “Eventually such awareness becomes an honoring of the shadowy and hidden parts of ourselves, those parts of ourselves that are invisible. There is such a thing as a spirit person and a physical person, and more often than not the physical being is so detached from the spirit that one feels split inside. Awareness should ultimately lead to an attempt to bring these two parts of the person together to become one.”

How do you practice ritual?

The answer to that question, is up to you. How will you answer it?

Still hungry? Reflect on the questions that appeal to you.

1) What is your relationship to ritual? Are you a skeptic? Why or why not.

2) What rituals do you have in your life? How do they contribute to or suppress your health and well-being?

3) Where do you have community or a sense of belonging in your life? How does community impact your health, and how can you build community?

Overachiever? Or just plain lost? (Or both?)

Call or meet with an elder in your family or a person you know who is connected to themselves and to those around them. Interview them about how they create ritual and ceremony in their life.

February Happenings

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Mandala Reflections provides space for thought, dialogue, learning and community that involves ourselves but also includes the collective experience. While a blog can offer a lot to some people, a lot of us need to experience something in “real life” to reap the full benefits. With that said, each month, Mandala Reflections provides a list of various low-cost happenings occurring in the Twin Cities Metro community that contribute to Mandala Reflections’ ongoing discussion about life, health and wellness and how it relates to our stories. Please send me an email prior to the 1st of each month if you have a wellness event you would like to share.

Listing of events does not indicate endorsement by Mandala Reflections.

Day Time Events:

Tuesday, February 7, 11am, Location:  Hamline-Midway Library, St. Paul, Yoga class, taught by Collen Dooley, CMT-RYI, Beginners are welcome! Cost: FREE and open to public. No registration required. Bring your own mat.

Evening Events:

Thursday, February 2, 7pm, Location: Your home, call 866-906-0040, code: 7946397. Balance Beam: Whole Nutrition for a Happy Life, a brief telephone seminar by St. Paulite, Katie Jasper.  Reconnect with a deeper sense of balance and health in your life. Call will cover 3 key elements potentially missing from your diet, how nutrition impacts mood and cognition, and how to balance all of this information and make it work in your life. Cost: FREE, but register fast because seats for the call are filling up! To register email katiejasperhealth@gmail.com and put “attend” in the subject line.

Friday, February 3, 5pm, Location: West 7th Library, St. Paul, Lady Griot Blues Storytelling, In honor of Black History Month, Lady Griot will connect people to the “blues with resonance, poetry and dramatic flair. West African griots, praise-singers who immortalize family lineages and retell ancient poetry, are vital sources of themes and rhythms that bring a crowd into chanting and dancing communion.” Cost: FREE, a children-friendly event.

Monday, February 6, 7-8:30pm, Location: River Market, 221 Main St N # 1  Stillwater, MN 55082, Movie Night Monday: Forks Over Knives, This film examines “the profound claim that most, if not all, of the degenerative diseases that afflict us can be controlled, or even reversed, by rejecting animal-based and processed foods.” Cost: FREE. Registration required. Call (651) 439-0366.

Tuesday, February 7, 7pm, Location: Nina’s Coffee Cafe, 165 Western Ave. N., St. Paul, Community Health Talk Series: Thyroid Conditions, Brought to you by O’Keefe Matz Functional Health Clinic. Cost: FREE. For more information call 651-292-8072, otherwise just grab a seat and a cup of joe.

Tuesday, February 7, 7-8:30pm, Location: St. Anthony Park Library, St. Paul, Auditorium, Women’s Human Rights Series: “Sin by Silence,” “From behind prison walls, a group of extraordinary women is shattering misconceptions of domestic violence. ‘Sin by Silence’ profiles Convicted Women Against Abuse (CWAA), the US prison system’s first inmate-initiated group. CWAA has changed laws for battered women, raised awareness for those on the outside, and educated a system that does not fully comprehend the complexities of domestic abuse. A discussion follows the film. Presented by The Friends and The Advocates for Human Rights. (Please note: some graphic images of abuse appear briefly in photographs during the film.)” Cost: FREE.

Wednesday, February 8, 6:30-7:30pm, Location: Lakeview Hospital, Stillwater, MN, Don’t Let the Winter Blues Get You Down, “Do you get the blues during the winter months but feel better in the spring and summer? You may have seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Dr. Jeff Virant, Stillwater Medical Group, will address SAD, its causes and what you can do about it – whether it’s you or someone you know.” Cost: FREE, Advance registration required, (651) 430-4697.

Thursday February 9, 5:30-6:30pm, Location: Healing Waters Health Center, 2705 Ensloe St., Hudson, WI, Qigong practice, Come try out a qigong practice, no experience necessary. Cost: FREE. Please pre-register by emailing Denise at denise@healingwatersqigong.com or calling the center at 715-381-8123. For more events from this center check out their calendar.

Thursday, February 9, 7-9pm, Location: Waldorf School, 70 East County Road B, St. Paul, Movie Screening and Discussion: Play Again and What a Girl Wants, The first documentary “follows six teenagers who, like the ‘average American child,’ spend five to fifteen hours a day behind screens and are unplugged and taken on their first wilderness adventure – no electricity, no cell phone coverage, no virtual reality.” The second documentary “presents, in teen girls’ voices, another glimpse of how the media diminishes the value of young women.” Cost: FREE. Register and RSVP here.

Weekend Events:

Saturday, February 4, 10:30am-12:30, Location: Heritage Meeting Room, Dakota County Library at Lakeville (Heritage), “Writing as Healing” Writing Workshop, “Join Roxanne Sadovsky, freelance writer, teacher and psychotherapist, as she discusses how writing can heal. Explore the differences between personal writing and writing for an audience, and discuss what makes each healing story unique and universal. Develop your writing skills and learn about current healing memoirs to add to your reading list.” Cost: FREE.

Sunday, February 5, 5:30pm, Location: Blue Nile Ethiopian Restaurant, Minneapolis, Big Veggie Night!, “If you’ve never had vegetarian African before, you’re in for a treat.” Cost: Must pay for meal.

Sunday, February 12, 7pm, Locaton: White Bear Unitarian Universalist Church, 328 Maple St, Mahtomedi, Green Fire: Aldo  Leopold and a Land Ethic for Our Time, “The Green Sanctuary Committee of the White Bear UU Church, in collaboration with Pheasants Forever, presents this public showing of Green Fire as the initial event in a project to strengthen the connection between spiritual practice and Earth consciousness.” Cost: FREE, registration required: 651-426 -2369 or email danaleep@q.com.

Sunday, February 19, 4pm, Location: Ordway Center for Performing Arts, Minneapolis, Witness: In the Spirit of Being, concert featuring the work of artist, Hannibal Lokumbe, “Music is community.” “Be part of a transformative journey as he lifts up our spirits and shows us the miracle of life, bearing WITNESS to our connection to the past, the future and each other.” For more information and to reserve tickets visit Vocalessence. Cost: $10-40 depending on seats

Saturday, February 18, 11am-1pm,  Location: River Market, 221 Main St N # 1  Stillwater, MN 55082, Digestive Health, What is your gut feeling? presented by Dr. Daryl Cooper, D.C. of Hudson Spine and Wellness Institute, “Constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, gastritis, diverticulitis, Celiac disease, and Crohn’s disease are examples of digestive issues related to diet. This workshop will explore the latest scientific information regarding the newest testing for gluten sensitivity and villous atrophy (leaky gut syndrome). We will also discuss the relationship between the gut immunology and brain function as well as other organs affected by digestive health, leaky gut syndrome, and gluten sensitivity.” Cost: FREE. Registration required. Call (651) 439-0366.

Saturday, February 25, 9am-3pm, Location: Minneapolis Convention Center, 1301 Second Avenue South, Minneapolis, Minnesota Food and Nutrition Expo, put on by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, There will be cooking demonstrations, vendors selling the latest “healthy foods” and experts on site to answer your questions. Cost: $7 per family OR FREE for each person who brings a non-perishable food donation for Second Harvest Heartland.  For more event details, visit the MN Dietetic Associations’ website.