Full Circles

Reflections on Living

Author: Daryl Chow, MA, Ph.D. (page 2 of 4)

The Speed of Life

We attempt to lead the speed of life as if we can travel in the speed of light.

Only recently, this dawned on me, that my attempt to deal with the stresses of life was—in a true civilised 21st-century approach to living —to speed things up.

Go faster, read faster, write faster, do chores faster, put the kids to bed faster….so that I can buy more time for the next.

Inadvertently, I became impatient to others. People who were walking slower, people who were late, people who were blocking my way. The truth is, I was becoming agitated with my wife and kids. Simply because, on hindsight, they weren’t traveling in the same speed as I was. Especially for my 5-year-old, who has a very different concept of time, takes a fairrrrrr amount of time… to get ready to go out.

Something’s not quite right with this type of speed.

The speed of life is not the speed of light.

Therein lies the paradox: Time speeds up when we are rushing. 

We see much more when we are walking by our familiar street than when we are driving by in the comforts of our car.

I’m still grappling with this. Daily, I remind myself again not only to slow down, but to do less, and embrace this persistent paradox with time.  

Make Time

Sit on a chair, and look around you.

The table in front of you took many hours to be built; it’s four legs shaped symmetrically. The finishing of the wooden top, coated to protect from wear and tear.

The music that is playing in the background. A singer with a four-piece band, playing through the speakers. The layers of production to give you this sonic experience.

The building that you are in, sheltering you from the afternoon heat. The house that is now your home.

Four thin pieces plus a slap of wood on the top took more than 40 hours to be made. The 3.5mins song took more than 3 months to be written and another 3-4 months to produce (maybe a year’s worth of mulling with the muses—and writing other bad songs—to even begin writing that song). The house that you live in took more than a year to be built, another six months to make it your home, and a lifetime for its soul to come alive.

Everything takes time to be made, but so little to consume it. Even that chair that you are sitting on right now.

You are made in the passage of time.

Make time to appreciate the making of things and people around you.

Make time.

Against Resilience: Numbness is Not Strength

We often mistake the ability to persist and soldier on as a sign of resilience, an evidence of strength.  

The issue is that we overvalue hardiness, and fail to appreciate our fragility. Resilience connotes the notion of overcoming obstacles and setbacks, and the ability to soldier on. There isn’t anything wrong with that. In fact, we need to be able to go through hardships and difficulties and come out the other side with valuable life lessons—sometimes with scares to prove.

However, sometimes we need to embrace the fact that we don’t have to “bounce back.” Instead, we have to first listen to the inner workings of our body, sometimes we simply need to take the time to recharge, to re-organise ourselves, or even call it quits on certain jobs or relationships. No need for “bouncing” or moving on. Just sitting still. 

Resilience is obsessed with forward movement, as if life is a straight line. As you probably experienced it first hand, life is anything but a linear process. When we continue to persist in our belief that life is a straight line, we push ourselves ahead.

In order to “move on”, we numb ourselves. We mistake numbness as a strength.

Indeed,  numbness happens when the waves of emotions overwhelm. But if we numb-out because we want to be a trooper, we fail to recognise the our mind is there to take care of the body… not “mind over body.” As Tim Minchin said in his commencement speech, we need to learn to feel it, not fill it.

If we learn to feel it, not fill it, then there is strength in vulnerability. 

Older vs. Elder: Who We Can Become

Everyone becomes older. Not everyone becomes an elder.[1]

We get older by the passage of time. We do not necessarily become an elder. We get to become an elder by joining the realm of conversation, which entails deep listening and wonder.

If you are someone in the first half of life, we must invite people who are older than us into a space of being treated like an elder. This is not about naive reverence, but this type of mentoring relationship requires an earnest perspective that eventually, we will also become older one day.

If you are someone in the second half of life, make room to enter into conversation, not preach, and to listen to someone into speech. Question in order to listen, not listen in order to question.

To be the best teacher, we need to become great students.

The ultimate touchstone of our lives is not self-improvement. Ultimately, any form of self-improvement is for the benefit of others. Otherwise, self-improvement becomes a self-indulgent enterprise, purely for its own sake. The ultimate act is to grow the ability to be a witness (I prefer the word with-ness) to another.

To become an elder, we must be warmly invitational. To help the older person be treated as an elder, we must suspend what we think we know, and appreciate the lived experience of the other through sharing of stories.

Holding our ideas lightly—as if to pray not with clasped hands, but with open arms—invites others into a space that helps others see themselves in a truer light, either as an elder, or a to-be elder.

 

Notes:

[1] I first learned about this distinction from author and mythologist, Michael Meade.

Information is Not Transformation

If information is all we need, everyone would have become billionaires, with perfect six-pack abs, so says thinker, writer, and entrepreneur Derek Sivers.

Information ≠ transformation.

We spend a lot of our time consuming information, in hopes that we can be transformed. What if we spend our time making attempts at transformation, and then, seek to fill the information gap, when we need it instead? 

Gathering information is makes you feel smarter, but no less closer to what you want. Attempts at transformation is almost always risky. Because we might fall flat on our face. But I think it’s worth it.

Watch this video.

On Suicide: “Do Not Make a Permanent Decision…”

Do not make a permanent decision

Image by Pablo Heimplatz

Do not make a permanent decision in a temporary storm.

 

This is one of the most compelling argument I’ve seen on the topic of suicide. This is from the poet, philosopher Jennifer Michael Hecht.

Hecht makes us rethink from a nonreligious perspective our cultural position on suicide as moral freedom:
“One of the arguments I hope to bring to light is that suicidal influence is strong enough that a suicide might also be considered a homicide. Whether you call it contagion, suicidal clusters, or sociocultural modeling, our social sciences demonstrate that suicide causes more suicide (emphasis mine), both among those who knew the person and among the strangers who somehow identified with the victim. If suicide has a pernicious influence on others, then staying alive has the opposite influence: it helps keep people alive. By staying alive, we are contributing something precious to the world.” ~ from her book, Stay, A History of Suicide and the Philosophies Against It.

Ripples

The evidence is clear that suicide impacts not just loved ones, but people around us. This is not to put people on a guilt trip. Instead, the empirical findings point towards reality, that we live in a web of relationships. Even a celebrities suicide has a ripple effect on others (e.g., Robbin Williams, Kurt Cobain, Chris Cornell).

Hecht goes on to make an important point: “Your staying alive means so much more than you really know or that anyone is aware of at this moment.”
Though suicidal ideation is different from attempting suicidal (The evidence is clear that suicidal thoughts are more common than we realise, and thoughts about suicide isn’t predictive of suicide attempts). If you are feeling vulnerable to suicide, or know of others who struggle with this, I highly recommend you check out the following, in order of priority:

1. 10 things I wish people understood about suicide

2. An interview with Jennifer Michael Hecht, on the renowned podcast and radio show, On Being with Krista Tippett

3. A short essay On Suicide 

Stay

Here are two points that stand out:

1. Staying alive is a life-saving social contribution.
2. We need to consider the rights of our future selves.

 

Here’s my plea to you: 
1. You matter more than you will know at this point.
2. Let’s figure out a way to end your problems, not your life.
3. Living is your right. You have a right to Life.

A recent Canadian study based on 2,884 people uncovered a really hopeful piece of information. Suicidal people are 7 TIMES more likely to recover completely from their mental health concerns when they have SOMEONE TO CONFIDE TO. [1]

Do not make a permanent decision in a temporary storm. Stay.

Blessings,

Daryl

~

Footnotes:
1. Baiden, P., & Fuller-Thomson, E. (2016). Factors Associated with Achieving Complete Mental Health among Individuals with Lifetime Suicidal Ideation. Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior, 46(4), 427-446. doi:10.1111/sltb.12230

2. I am a psychologist, but I’m not your psychologist. This short article should not be used as a substitute for the advice of a mental health professional. Please seek professional help if you are at-risk, or contact your local helplines to connect with someone. The first step is to step out, because isolation hurts.
 For people in Australia, here are three helplines:
Lifeline
13 11 14 – www.lifeline.org.au – A crisis support and suicide prevention service for all Australians.
Suicide Call Back Service
1300 659 467 – www.suicidecallbackservice.org.au – A free service for people who are suicidal, caring for someone who is suicidal, bereaved by suicide or are health professionals supporting people affected by suicide.
Kids Help Line
1800 55 1800 – www.kidshelpline.com.au

Teach Me…

Teach Me-3

image by Aaron Burden

I woke up this morning with these words ringing in my ear, “teach me.”

Maybe it was because our almost 3 month old daughter was screaming for her feed at 4 in the morning.

But it struck me that as parent, we ruminate about how we are going to raise our children, and what we’re going to teach them.

What if we turn things around?

What if we see our kids as our teachers, not our students?

What if we see events as doors for learning, and not just a stimulus as we mindlessly react?

When something goes wrong, our default reaction is, “what’s wrong with me?”

Instead, we can turn things around and ask ourselves, “what can I learn from this?”

A Redemptorist priest I know used to share an antidote about Viktor Frankl, a psychiatrist who survived the brutality of the concentration camp in Auschwitz. Dr. Frankl noted, “It’s not so much about what you ask out of life, but what life asks out of you.

At this moment, what does life asks out of you?

I know that I’ve got to learn strip things down. Why? I need to be a better husband, father, and a son.

Teach me, teach me….

One Powerful Question to Ask Each Other

what's on your mind jonatan-pie-353191 copy

 

Maybe we need to find a way of having less things and have deeper connections with people.

Rather than trying to give people advice, we can start by asking each other questions.

Facebook got you figured out long time ago. In the opening of each potential news update in your profile, it asks, “what’s on your mind?”

Steal this question back from the superficials. We bias ourselves to share in a certain desirable light when we post on social media platforms. Instead, learn to ask the very same question “what’s on your mind?”  with people you love and care about, and people that you work with.

Go further, ask even the people you do not get along.

And it may help to follow-up this question with “And what else?”[1]

Be really curious with the people that you are asking. Question in order to listen, don’t listen in order to question further. Everyone wants their story to be heard.

 

Bless Your Minds,

Daryl Chow, MA, Ph.D. (Psych)

 

Notes:

[1] I first learned this from an interview with coach Michael Bungay Stainer. 

Photo by 
Jonatan Pie

In Praise of The Nurturers of The World

MOther and Child Painting

To the Nurturers in our lives, I thank you. You are a gift to this world. You are gift to others. Without you, we’d fail to thrive and grow. 

From the words of Fred Rogers, 

 

“Think of those people who loved you into your being.” 

 

These people belong to the universal Nurturers of the world. Nurturers have a special role in the grant scheme of things. They bring a piece of heaven on earth.

 

To you, dear Nurturers, you are part of someone’s life. Like a gardener, you have sown the seeds for the flowers to grow, tend to soil, and water the plants; the work never ends.

 

Nurturers give. Like my mother, like my grand auntie, like my wife—mother to my two children, like many carers I know from my work with individuals and families. 

 

I heard a story from one my clients. He is a father of a five year old, fighting for his dear life to have shared custody of his child. He wants to be part of his child’s life. He divorced from his wife, but not his child.  He wants to be present. He wants to be a Nurturer for his daughter. It’s an upward battle.

 

Nurturers sometimes give all of themselves away. They forget that when they neglect themselves, they have nothing left to give. Dear Nurturers, please don’t forget about you. Because you are a precious gift. Treat yourself as you would to a beloved. What would you do to nurture that person?

 

A true Nurturer knows how to give AND receive. There is a gift in giving, and there is also a gift in letting others become a giver. By learning to receive, we allow others to feel the blessing you’ve experienced in giving.

 

Because of you—and those before you—a cascade is happening. Passing on love, from one person to the next, one generation to another. The passage of transmission is indeed unpredictable, but it’s also inevitable. It’s inevitable that you, dear Nurturers, have an influence on the one you love.

 

Once again, “think of those people who loved you into your being.” 

 

Take a moment to picture them in your mind as vividly as possible. Visualise them standing right in front of you. Now allow yourself to say a heartfelt, “Thank you.” to them. A mother, a father, an uncle, a teacher, a friend.

 

Better yet, say thank you to each of them.

 

Thank you, dear Nurturers. You have loved me into my being.

 

p/s: I try to remind myself to trade my expectation for appreciation of those around me. It holds an antidote to suffering.

Blessings,

Daryl

What is the Opposite of Play? (It’s not work)

The opposite of play, is not work. It is depression.1

When was the last time you allowed yourself to play?

Play is an antidote to feeling depressed. Play is fuel; without it, we run on an empty tank.

Play is a spark. Many of us need that to reignite our daily living.

Even dogs play.

Dog Playing

Work on play, and play at your work.

Related posts:

Here’s One Mental Model to Change Your Life: Press Play

The Movement of Recovery: Love, Work, & Play

Note: I highly recommend Stuart Brown, MD book, aptly titled Play. See also his TED talk. 

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