Some years ago, I became fascinated with traditional proverbs and sayings, their metaphorical layers and the many different interpretations found within just a few, succinct words. I marvelled at their ability to transcend race, religion, opinions and age.
These often humble words, offer us knowledge; knowledge that is passed to us in much the same way relay runners might pass a baton. Once it’s handed over, it is up to us what we do with it and how we pass it on.
“Society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.” ~Greek Proverb
The Chinese sages also appreciated their value:
Let us not forget the importance of creating nature; fostering and nurturing Mother Earth.
Trees provide so many benefits to our everyday lives. They filter clean air, provide fresh drinking water, help curb climate change, and create homes for thousands of species of plants and animals. Planting a Billion Trees can help save the Earth from deforestation.
Helping to Plant Trees
Depending on location, it costs between $1-$3 to plant a tree including ongoing maintenance and stewardship. Including organizational overheads, I see this as a real bargain, especially for something that might last 70 years!
The Nature Conservancy’s Plant a Billion Trees campaign is a major forest restoration effort with a goal of planting a billion trees across the planet.
So you don’t have the time or don’t want to get your hands dirty? I hear you, but you can still support the various organizations around the world depending on your preferred location.
In traditional art, it was a custom to have a saying or Proverb decorating the border of a bowl, utensil or piece of furniture. Especially this is seen in the old decorative art of Norway, called Rosemaling.
The following words of wisdom were indicative of a social art history as they were penned by the artist of that time and reflected their thoughts and values. A time capsule of advice.
Norwegian Proverbs on Rosemaling Decorative Art
Here are a few to ponder:
– Alderen kjem ikkje aleine; han fører så mye med seg.
Age comes not alone; it brings so much with it.
–Det gror ikke til på veien mellon gode venner.
On the road between the homes of friends, grass does not grow.
–Ingen kan hjelp den som ikke vil hjelpe seg sjøl.
Noone can help someone who will not help him/herself
Too much cleverness is foolishness.
For mye klokskap er dårskap.
Curious to know more about Rosemaling, an art form that has experienced a Renaissance in America, particularly the Norwegian areas of the Mid-West?
We spend a lot of time in our own headspace, either at work or at home relaxing. In lockdown, some of us might be alone with our emotional thoughts, much more than we have ever experienced before.
This level of introspection, or mulling over problems, can get to a person, especially if they are a deep thinker or highly sensitive.
Concentration, Energy and Motivation
The extent to which we are occupied by our emotional-driven thoughts is often the extent to which energy is diverted away from our working memory, our concentration and motivation. We find it hard to concentrate on our work when we have something on our mind. The monkey mind, it is often called.
Caught Up in Our Emotions
We talk about being caught up in our emotions and it can feel like being trapped inside your own head. At these times, it is hard to re-focus on matters at hand. Our worry or frustration centres switch on and at times, go into, ‘overdrive.’
But those thoughts in our worry centre, are not reality-based thoughts. They are magnified, exagerrated, skewed or biased. We are so much more than those thoughts. Thoughts are not who a person is. Yet we give them power over our moods.
Just like a loud noise that bothers us, trying hard to block it out, will inevitably make the noise appear louder. This is because our focus on the noise has increased. We might even become angry and frustrated.
If we can’t remove the offending noise, we must decrease our focus in order to tolerate the annoying noise, or the many frustrations of our lives. If our attention is diverted away from focusing on the noise or the frustrations, we tend not to notice it and its persistence wanes.
Practising Mindful Strategies to Prevent Worry
Similarly, we can re-focus our attention away from the abyss of introspection, by practising ‘Mindfulness‘ techniques, which are designed to assist us in staying within the present moment. The only time we can act and live is right now, in the present moment. Everything else, the past and the future is only a construct of our minds, so focus on the here-and-now.
The Glennon Doyle and Buddha quotes may have been at odds, but one might assume their objectives were the same.
Words, once they are printed, have a life of their own.
Carol’s quote came to mind recently, when I received some strongly-worded criticism in response to a post I’d made, on a social media group. Whether my words were truth or lies, seemed less relevant than the individual opinions of the responders making the comments.
It seemed some people relished an opportunity to vent their spleen, albeit in an anonymous way.
Normally, I’d be a little rattled by heavy-handed criticism, but I’m no longer surprised by being hammered with a critical counter-argument, at least on social media.
And yet, in distancing myself from reacting to the negative commentary, I began to feel like some kind of stone-hearted internet troll.
Aristotle was unsurprisingly philosophical about criticism:
“There is only one way to avoid criticism: Do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing.”
I wondered should we ignore all negative feedback and scroll on, or respond to critical comments? If so, how?
Criticism of others’ opinions via the internet, and indeed, cyber-bullying, itself, has seemingly reached pandemic proportions. Thankfully the blogging world is mostly immune to negativity, but it did make me wonder how others dealt constructively, with heavy-handed criticism.
An American Politician, Sam Rayburn once said,
Any jackass can kick a barn down, but it takes a carpenter to build it.
What do you think the underlying message says. Does it refer to the support of friends and family that folk find so essential to personal growth and development?
Or, could it refer to the many divergent paths one might consider, or does take throughout life, before we reach our ultimate destination or end goal?
I often find there is profound wisdom in proverbs, sayings and quotes and I marvel at the way they are so succinct in communicating messages, to the reader. Mostly anonymous, they come to us from past generations and from across cultures. They speak of the experiences of lives lived and lessons learned. Quotes, like proverbs, make us think more deeply about something.
Nothing is more beautiful and powerful than a smile that has struggled through the tears
~ Demi Lovato (Actress and Singer Song-writer)
This theme of this week’s quotes is power, not raw power, but rather that power of the self, as an entity, that power we find within ourselves.
The less effort, the faster and more powerful
you will be
~ Bruce Lee
We have nothing to lose by trusting the infinite power
of the Self, except the bondage of our own ignorance
~ Mata Amritanandamayi Devi
And finally there are these words:
“You have it easily in your power to increase the sum total of this world’s happiness now.
By giving a few words of sincere appreciation to someone who is lonely or discouraged. Perhaps you will forget tomorrow the kind words you say today, but the recipient may cherish them over a lifetime.”
“Patience is a Virtue and I need more of it – NOW!”
Have you heard anyone say that recently?
Did you ever feel frustrated when someone pushed ahead of you in a queue?
How do you feel when someone takes longer than expected to do a simple task at work, or doesn’t complete it in a timely manner despite repeated requests?
What if your kids or partner refuse the food you have laboriously prepared and cooked all afternoon, only to raid the cookie jar later that evening?
Has someone walked all over your newly mopped floor in muddy boots?
Has your final attempt at resolving a bureaucratic problem been quashed by uncaring authorities?
Frustration is an intense emotion we feel:
when our needs aren’t being met at the timewe expect them to be.
when we feel trapped.
when we are not listened to.
when our efforts are not respected or appreciated.
The Instant Gratification Society
How do you react when you waiting for an answer to an urgent email?
Are you someone who responds by sending a follow-up SMS text asking for an update? If they still don’t answer immediately, do you call them directly?
We have come to expect a fast resolution to our needs and experience frustration if that or some other achievable goal is thwarted.
Do you want to know a fact you have forgotten? Google will end our frustrations quickly and efficiently. There’s no need to rack our brains anymore. What does that teach us? That we can quickly solve our own problems?
Society has groomed our vulnerabilities and we now expect a rapid response to our wants and needs.
If we invest more time and effort than we think justified in reaching a goal, the resulting emotion is often frustration and impatience.
Patience is a coping skill we need to navigate a world where gratification is instantly demanded.
How Does Developing Patience Help?
Developing more patience in frustrating situations can improve health and free us from feelings of stress and anger.
However, patience doesn’t mean you will become a people-pleaser or dishonour your personal boundaries, which I posted about last week, but rather it gives you the power of waiting, watching and knowing when and how to act, in order to build compassion between individuals.
Patience helps you to be kind and compassionate.
Patience improves your health and wellbeing
Patience lowers your stress
Patience frees you from feeling angry emotions
Patience enhances self-respect by staying centred no matter what
Patience develops an eye for details
Showing patience offers us extra moments of time in which we can choose how and when to respond to a given event. This may avoid that detrimental knee-jerk emotional reaction. Challenging situations can be dealt with more flexibly.
Practising Patience in Everyday Life
Start out small and practise patience regularly. The following ideas may help:
Practise letting someone go ahead of you in a queue.
Deliberately choose a long supermarket queue. Use that time to practise long slow breaths in your busy day.
Drive the long way home and listen to a podcast or relaxing music.
Actively listen to exactly what is being said/requested by others. Rephrase their request back to them to double-check for understanding. This helps to put your frustrations aside in order to focus on solutions to the problem you are trying to solve.
Let a provocative or controversial comment slide.
Know your weaknesses and avoid letting them become your hot buttons or triggers.
Build your self-discipline by creating new habits and leading a less complicated life. Studies show that people with self-discipline are generally happier people.
Challenge your perception about willpower. Recognize that it is normal to feel frustrated, but believe in your ability to choose to direct your energy in a different way.
Turn your attention inward until your needs are met. This is a good way of practising a form of meditation until you receive the gratification you are searching for.
“Like everything else that brings progress, the greatest struggle is always within ourselves.”
Go through your life practising patience with grace, and avoid pent up anger or frustrations.
“If you don’t design your own life plan, chances are you’ll fall into someone else’s plan. And guess what they have planned for you? Not much.”
Do you like to Help Others?
We are encouraged to help others according to the religious and social conventions of our world. Doing so, promotes joy in others, a sense of, ‘loving kindness,’ in our interactions with others and community.
where are the boundaries between helping others and neglecting our own needs in order to please others?
People-pleasers typically have low self–esteem. They overdo it on kindness and helpfulness because they feel a need to prove their worth. They’re uncomfortable with conflict and negative emotions, so they work hard to always keep their partners happy, with no concern for their own feelings.
This statement goes a little far in finger-pointing, and it could incite feelings of guilt in the person who aims to please. But I take their point on the fundamental issue.
So how do we achieve that balance between helping others and not hindering ourselves?
I think that it’s a learning process for some of us.
People pleasers hope that saying yes to everything asked of them will help them feel accepted and liked. However, no matter how nice they are, some people won’t like you for no good reason.
Do you like every person you meet?
Kindness or Pleasing Others?
Many people-pleasers confuse the act of pleasing people with kindness. When discussing their reluctance to turn down someone’s request for a favour, they say things like,
“I don’t want to be selfish,” or “I just want to be a good person.”
Consequently, they allow others to take advantage of them.
It is impossible to be all things to all people. Trying to be that person will just stress you out.
“Some people-pleasers have a history of maltreatment and somewhere along the way, they decided that their best hope for better treatment was to try to please the people who mistreated them.“
Some People-pleasers seem to spend a lot of time walking on eggshells and neglecting their own boundaries to keep a significant other happy*. For these folks, people-pleasing becomes a habit and a way of interacting with family, friends and other people.
*NB. If this tips over into an abusive relationship, professional help should be considered, at the earliest opportunity.
What You Can Do to Break a People-Pleasing Habit
Start by saying no to a small request or take a stand for something you truly believe in.
Express your real thoughts and opinions to something small or less significant.
Validate the other person’s right to a different opinion before calmly stating your own.
Check to see if this works for you.
A positive or neutral response to this, from the receiver, may help to build confidence in one’s own ability to be more aligned with the true self.
Any adjustments in this communication might mean re-phrasing your words without acquiescing your own beliefs. Validating other people’s right to their own opinion, whilst calmly stating your own, may also be helpful.
“I get why you would think that and it would be nice if I could see it your way/agree with you, but right now, I see it/think differently.”
“The Number 1 reason people fail in life is because they listen to their friends, family, and neighbours.”
I was washing the Schnauzer Dog this morning and the young pup and rest of the family kept interrupting me, pushing open the door hitting me in the shoulder, when I was working with the dog in the tub, full of shampoo.
If it wasn’t the pup pushing open the closed door latch, it was the Moth a.k.a. ‘Man of the House,’ (New homes appear to have internal doors that don’t securely latch closed, unless you slam them).
Each time the door was opened, the very wet and soapy Schnauzer, now full of shampoo would repeatedly try to leap from the tub, and and you can just imagine how slippery a fully soaped up dog was. It was a slightly exasperating situation.
Dog washing complete, I then set about cleaning the laundry and the same scene repeated, much to my dismay. Newly cleaned floors covered with either Schnauzer paw prints or Moth footprints as suddenly everyone wanted to get into the laundry for some reason. Grr.
I felt the tension rising in my body. I was irritated by the door latch not staying closed and the laundry suddenly becoming busier than Central Station. After a few grumbles under my breath, I paused, took a deep breath and tried to remember the wise saying I read earlier this week:
If there is something you don’t like, you can either change it or change the way you think about it.
Each and every day, the real battle for freedom takes place in your mind.
Do you have a way of dissolving tension that works for you?
“Few will have the greatness to bend history itself, but each of us can work to change a small portion of events. It is from numberless, diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped.
Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centres of energy and daring those ripples to build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”
― Robert F. Kennedy
Are you wanting to find more peace and contentment in your life, in this the year of instability?
Giving and assisting others is one way in which you can make people’s lives better and simultaneously feel a sense of satisfaction, achievement and contentment.
If you want to make a difference in your own world, start with the world around you.
If making a difference, all at once, seems a too tall an order or impossible for you, or the process of trying too stressful, consider that we can instantly make a difference, fairly easily.
Start by focusing on one person at a time – maybe that is the person closest to you.
When we don’t have time or cannot visit elderly relatives or neighbours because of work or Covid constraints, or even personal inclination – (a lack of interesting conversation), a small note, text message or phone call will always be welcomed by them.
Spread loving thoughts to cherished ones.
It is all too easy to assume family members are going to be there for us and thus, we might forget to make any kind of effort towards them. Ironically, those relationships are the ones we often need to nurture the most.
5 Easy Ways to Improve Humanity
Pay it forward – pay for the next person’s coffee in the queue, without expecting anything in return.
Donate to a charity something that you value – something that might bring joy to someone in unfortunate circumstances.
Give a homeless person, a home-baked treat or a fresh meal, a warm coat or bag of toiletries.
Help out at an animal shelter for a day or a week. Animals are incredible healers of the human spirit.
Smile at each person you met in a genuine time considered way – (being cognizant of cultural and social norms).
“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honourable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
You do not need to convince anyone, only yourself.
Break Down Goals into Smaller Pieces
Always useful is the tip to break down seemingly impossible tasks or goals into baby steps, and work steadily towards your goal. This is a great life skill and a way to move forward when negative feelings overwhelm us.
If you make one person smile, or laugh, even just for a moment, their smile just might make others smile too. In this subtle way, you can touch the masses with thoughtfulness.
Aim to make a bunch of small splashes, and let the ripples spread naturally.
If you want to change another person’s mind or mood, you might have to change a little of yourself, at first and then work on enhancing the environment and the people around you.
My mind drifted to thinking of resolution referring to the conflict between two people or nations and as I was looking for a suitable photo to add to this post, I found this, in my photo library.
It’s a museum poster at the Beaconsfield Mining Museum in Tasmania, spoken by theminer who was trapped with his mate and a dead colleague for 14 days, 1 kilometre underground after an underground gold mine collapsed. The incredible story of survival and careful extraction by the Recovery team led me to contemplate what resolution might mean in circumstances where all hope appears completely lost. What would resolution look like, then?
Todd Russell and Brant Webb were 900m (3,000ft) below ground, in a tiny space four and a half feet square. They couldn’t stand or sit and had to take turns lying either on their backs or their sides, as sharp rocks cut into them from below. They had a small amount of light, but it was a hot and humid 29C (84F), in their bunker.To keep their spirits up, Russell and Webb sang songs and told stories to pass the time. Their only food was a muesli bar.
On the sixth day, they were found by thermal imaging cameras and a microphone. Yet for the rescuers, this was the start of more frustration. “We were struck by the psychological trauma that affected everybody,” the miner explained. One driller told me that it was easier when he thought we were dead and he could convince himself he was just doing a job, breaking rock.” Fourteen days of painstakingly slow and careful drilling later and the men were brought to the surface.
How would you survive for fourteen days in a tiny space, not knowing if you were going to die at any minute? When there isn’t any other choice?
Todd Russell explains, “I made the effort to go back underground only a week after we got out,” he says. “You fall off a horse, you get back on it. I get quite uncomfortable at times, but I’m not spending 12 hours a day underground.
An amazing story of resolution. What was that trivial thing we were complaining about in relation to a Corona lock-down, a minute ago?
A final word from Jack Nicklaus
Resolve never to quit, never to give up, no matter what the situation.