James Crews is a poet who teaches Poetry at the University at Albany and lives on a organic farm with his husband in Shaftsbury, Vermont. Each Friday he posts a poem, sometimes one of his own that serves as more than just some mere Poetry Prompt. He recently posted this:
I’ve been sitting with this very short but very powerful poem by Jane Hirshfield ever since a dear friend passed it along to me earlier in the week. It speaks to the season so many of us might find ourselves inhabiting, not only that of autumn, but a moment of loss and transition during which we’re asked to accept such changes as necessary, and perhaps even sacred. In this poem, she invites us to see each shedding tree as an icon, “thinned/back to bare wood,/without diminishment.” And there is almost a haiku-like quality to those final three lines that urges us toward deeper contemplation of the richness inherent in these wooden beings. Perhaps what we see as loss and a kind of death each year as fall comes is really just wind and weather having worshipped the trees so much they are returned to their basic essence. In this way, we might reframe any difficult season when we are worn back to our essential selves as holy, worthy of worship for the way such trying times allow us to become something new.
by Jane Hirshfield
Again the wind
flakes gold-leaf from the trees
and the painting darkens—
as if a thousand penitents
kissed an icon
till it thinned
back to bare wood,
Invitation for Writing & Reflection: How might you reframe a difficult season in your own life as sacred or holy, seeing how you were worn back to the truest version of yourself even while in pain?
It prompted me to write in kind:
And just like that
into a colorfully crisp confetti
of blazenous colors
that never reached the ground
into what can’t always be planted
but never fails to be garnered in
that find us all
softly soaringly sheltered
in a cooling uplifting Breath
A heavenly satisfied Sigh
May this Fall Season bring you lots of
Oooooh and A W E
C L O U D E D
During this NATIONAL MONTH OF POETRY I have used poems that have inspired me to write poems. I began the month with a poem by Mary Oliver and could spend months using her poems that have countlessly inspired me not just to write but to pause, reflect, ponder what can’t always be seen, heard, tasted, smelled or touched but most deeply felt. . . here’s hoping it does the same for you in the NOWNESS of your TODAY:
It doesn’t have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones; just
pay attention, then patch
a few words together and don’t try
to make them elaborate, this isn’t
a contest but the doorway
into thanks, and a silence in which
another voice may speak.
— Mary Oliver
They are no longer clouds
but brightly striped ribbons
blown free from packages
never quite opened
opened and neatly tucked away
in drawers that don’t easily open
from any robber
These ribbons don’t know of a wind
that’ll wave back
in the harshest or gentlest of breezes
no matter how much
you pay them
They dwell in sunlight
and more of an ahhhhhhhh
to any sunset
if but noticed
But for a Now
gone in a sudden burp of air
They are seen
as a Comma
in a Pause
that refuses to be left behind
before a never ending sentence
When’s the last time you had an
. . .When’s the last time
you didn’t notice that an
r e c o g n i z e d. . .
WHEN’S THE LAST TIME
YOU WILL FAIL TO NOTICE
THAT IT IS ALL
E X T R A O R D I N A R Y
A W E shucks
W H E N. . .
when was the last time you were
A W E D
Maybe the better question. . .
WHEN WILL BE THE NEXT TIME. . . ?
Well. . .
H E R E ‘ S
Eight Reasons Why Awe Makes
YOUR LIFE BETTER
Research suggests that awe can make you happier, healthier, more humble, and more connected to the people around you.
Starting 15 years ago, scientists have been studying the complex and mysterious emotion called awe—one you might have felt if you’ve stood in front of the Taj Mahal, hiked among towering redwoods, or had your mind blown at a concert, play, or ballet.
Inducing goosebumps and dropped jaws, awe experiences are remarkable in their own right. Moreover, a growing body of research suggests that experiencing awe may lead to a wide range of benefits, from happiness and health to perhaps more unexpected benefits such as generosity, humility, and critical thinking.
In our busy lives, seeking awe may be low on our list of priorities. But we might be underestimating its power. “One simple prescription can have transformative effects: Look for more daily experiences of awe,” writes the Greater Good Science Center’s Dacher Keltner.
The latest research suggests that taking the time to experience awe—whether through engaging with nature, enjoying great art or music, or even bingeing on breathtaking YouTube videos—may be a pathway to improving your life and relationships.
1. Awe may improve your mood and make you more satisfied with your life
Need a mood boost or a stress slayer? Some studies suggest that experiencing awe may help.
And you don’t have to take a trip to the Grand Canyon to get the job done. Just watching awe-inducing slideshows and videos can improve your mood and well-being, according to a few studies. Another study found that people who read a short, awe-evoking story about seeing Paris from the top of the Eiffel Tower reported greater life satisfaction in that moment than people who read a story about seeing a plain landscape from up high.
Of course, it’s tough to beat real-world experiences—so in a recent study, researchers took military veterans and youth from underserved communities whitewater rafting. They found that the more awe the participants experienced, the more improvement they saw in their well-being and symptoms of stress one week later. According to a different survey the researchers conducted, undergraduate students reported greater life satisfaction and well-being on days when they spent time in nature, which was attributable to the higher level of awe they felt on those days. This suggests that awe just might be a crucial ingredient in nature’s restorative powers.
2. Awe may be good for your health
Experiencing awe over time could potentially have long-term health benefits, at least according to one study. People with a greater general tendency to experience awe—but not any of the other seven positive emotions studied—had lower levels of interleukin-6 (IL-6), a marker of inflammation (too much inflammation can lead to a host of chronic diseases).
A second part of the study found that participants who reported feeling more “awe, wonder, and amazement that day” had lower levels of IL-6; this was true even after accounting for people’s general tendency to experience awe and be open to new experiences. In other words, all of us—not just people who are prone to experiencing awe frequently—may be able to reap the health benefits of a particularly wondrous day.
However, this study can’t tell us whether awe decreases inflammation or whether people with more inflammation are less likely to experience awe—a question for future research.
3. Awe may help you think more critically
Some studies suggest that awe may be able to sharpen our brains. One study found that when people were induced to feel awe, they were less persuaded by weak arguments than people who did a neutral activity (imagining doing their laundry). In contrast, some other positive emotions—like anticipatory enthusiasm or amusement—made people more susceptible to weak arguments.
Intriguingly, a recent theoretical paper argues that awe may help facilitate scientific learning and reasoning in children. For example, when a child sees an anvil and a feather drop at the same rate in a vacuum, this experience likely violates their intuitive understanding of how gravity works, evoking feelings of awe that lead them to develop a new theory about the relationships between weight, gravity, and motion.
Similarly, a recent study found that people who have a greater disposition to experience awe had a more accurate understanding of the nature of science and were more likely to reject creationism and other scientifically questionable explanations about the world. Importantly, these people didn’t have greater “faith” in science; they just understood better how science works.
4. Awe may decrease materialism
A few studies suggest that experiencing awe may dampen feelings of materialism. The experimentwith the Eiffel Tower story also found that, when given a hypothetical choice between a material good (such as a $50 backpack) or an experiential product (such as a $50 iTunes gift card), people who read the awe-inspiring story chose the experiential product more often than people in the other group did.
In another study, participants who recalled an awe experience placed less value on money than did participants who recalled a happy or neutral experience, and viewing awe-inducing images reduced the effort people were willing to put into getting money (where effort was measured by tolerance for listening to an unpleasant sound).
Why might awe decrease materialism? According to the researchers, the answer may lie in the self-transcendence that awe can inspire. “People in awe start to appreciate their sense of selfhood as less separate and more interrelated to the larger existence,” they write. “The experience of awe elevates people from their mundane concerns, which are bounded by daily experiences such as the desire for money.”
Further evidence for this idea comes from a recent study, suggesting that awe can function as a buffer against negative emotion when you lose material possessions. After time spent marveling at the world around you, misplacing your new sunglasses might not feel so bad.
5. Awe makes you feel smaller and more humble
One of the most profound effects of awe is how it can change our perception of ourselves relative to the larger world. In particular, multiple studies have shown that awe can make us feel small, diminished, or insignificant—what researchers call the “small self” effect.
In one particularly interesting study, researchers asked visitors to Yosemite National Park and Fisherman’s Wharf (a tourist area in San Francisco) about their feelings of awe and other emotions, as well as their sense of self. Tourists at Yosemite reported experiencing significantly more awe, represented their current self with smaller circles (when given a choice of sizes), and drew self-portraits that were nearly 33 percent smaller than tourists at Fisherman’s Wharf.
Besides making people feel physically smaller, awe may also make people more humble. One recent study found that people who are more naturally prone to experiencing awe felt more humility and were rated as more humble by their friends. Experimentally inducing participants to feel awe led them to acknowledge their strengths and weaknesses in a more balanced way and to better recognize how outside forces contributed to their successes.
6. Awe can make you feel like you have more time
Awe may also expand our perception of time. One study found that people induced to feel awe felt less impatient and agreed more strongly with statements suggesting that time is plentiful and expansive than people induced to feel happiness. The researchers speculate that by immersing us in the moment, awe may allow us to savor the here and now.
“Awe-eliciting experiences might offer one effective way of alleviating the feeling of time starvation that plagues so many people in modern life,” the researchers write.
With more time on their hands, people feeling awe reported a greater willingness to offer that time to others—to volunteer their time, but not their money, to help a charity—compared to people feeling happy.
7. Awe can make you more generous and cooperative
In fact, multiple studies have found that experiencing awe may make people more kind and generous. For example, one study found that people with a greater tendency for awe were more generous in laboratory tasks like distributing raffle tickets between themselves and an unknown participant. And people who stood among awe-inspiring eucalyptus trees picked up more pens for an experimenter who had “accidentally” dropped them than people who stared up at a not-so-inspiring large building.
Together, these studies suggest that awe may prompt us to help others and to be more generous, perhaps because of the way it encourages us to focus less on ourselves and expands our perception of available time.
8. Awe can make you feel more connected to other people and humanity
Awe has an amazing capacity to bring people together. Research suggests that awe helps us feel more connected to the people in our lives and to humanity as a whole.
In one study, participants spent time near an awe-inducing Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton or in a regular hallway. When asked to describe themselves, the dinosaur viewers were more likely use universal descriptors (such as “a person” or “an inhabitant of the Earth”) rather than more specific descriptors (such as “tall,” “friendly,” or “a student”) than the other people, suggesting that awe increases our sense that we are part of a greater whole.
Another study found that people experiencing awe reported feeling more one with their community compared with people feeling neutral (an effect that may only hold for people with high self-esteem). Interestingly, another part of this study found evidence that culture may also influence awe’s effects, leading people from individualistic cultures to feel as if their social network has expanded (they feel closer to more people) and people from collectivistic cultures to feel closer to those already in their network.
As a 15-year-old science, awe research is literally in its adolescence. This means that many of the findings discussed in this article are based on very few studies (and thus should be taken with a grain of salt). What researchers don’t know about awe far eclipses what they do know. For example, we don’t know much about how awe affects children throughout development, how awe is related to religious and spiritual experiences, and how awe can be used therapeutically. And researchers are just beginning to explore the neuroscience of awe.
But with increasing interest among psychologists and the public in the topic, the future of this research looks bright—maybe even awesome. . .
well. . .
one thing might be as certain as morning and more real than night:
before you can share
a w e
you’ve got to be
a w e d
A W E D
A W E
A LYING CARING CATALYST?
Liar, liar pants on fire. . .
No one wants to get caught in a lie and appear to be dishonest or deceptive. But does telling a lie actually make you either of those things?
THE ULTIMATE TRUE OR FALSE:
Is there anything
C A R I N G C A T A L Y S T
a b o u t T H A T. . .
The truth is, there are some advantages to lying; and they aren’t always for self-gain. Sometimes people choose to lie to protect others and spare their feelings. Because let’s face it, the truth hurts.
Why do we even lie?
We all need to take a moment to be honest with ourselves and admit that we all lie. It is in our innate nature to deceive and sometimes protect.
Yes, we sometimes tell lies to cover up bad behavior, manipulate others, or rise to power and attain what we want.
But we also lie to spare the feelings of others, avoid unnecessary conflict, or to simply brighten up someone’s day.
Dishonesty is in our nature.
Researchers believe that the act of lying came into play after the development of language. It is the evolution of deceptive strategy, just as animals use camouflage to deceive their predators or prey.
In terms of efficiency, lying is the easiest way to rise to power and attain resources. If your enemy is larger and stronger than you, then physical force will not be very effective. But if you are able to outwit and manipulate your enemy; not only can you acquire their resources, but make them believe that it was their idea own idea.
How often do we lie?
This of course is relative to the individual. The frequency of lying was first documented by social psychologist Bella DePaulo.
She asked 147 individuals to record their blips of dishonesty throughout the day. On average, her subjects lied at least twice a day. The lies themselves were relatively harmless in nature; innocuous excuses for instances such as lateness. Or fibs that present a false image; saying that you ran 5 miles instead of the truthful 2.
We’ve been fibbing since we learned to talk.
In actuality, we are conditioned to lie at a young age. Didn’t your parents tell you to always thank your host for that “delicious” meal that you had to choke down? Social graces aside, it’s still a lie.
Children typically learn to lie between the ages of 2-5. Kang Lee, a psychologist from the University of Toronto studied children between the ages of 2-8 to gauge the kind of lies that children tell.
When children first begin to lie at the age of 2, it is an indication that they are starting to test out their independence. They lie simply to see what they can get away with.
By the age of 8, the children actually have the capacity of lying to spare the feelings of others. The results of the study actually found that these lies are motivated by empathy and compassion rather than deceit and manipulation.
Lying is a reflection of our goals.
Sometimes you don’t even need to open your mouth to tell a lie. A simple facial expression is enough to convey a mistruth.
Embellishments, exaggerations, these are the close counterparts to outright lies. But in this case, these lies are almost never malicious. But in fact, a projection of one’s aspirations.
In an experiment conducted by Robert Feldman, he questioned a number of students about their grades and efforts in school. Most of them were dishonest about their actual grades. But instead of becoming anxious as most people do amidst a lie, they became incredibly engaged and excited to boast about their achievements.
“We lie if honesty won’t work”- Tim Levine
Is there a difference between moral and immoral lying? If we’re being honest with ourselves, the answer is a resounding yes. Some lies are well intentioned- meant to protect those who are being lied to.
Lying has even been found to have psychological benefits for the liar. Those who are extremely honest with themselves are more prone to depression than those who are not. Overtly honest people are often construed as blunt, sometimes even pathological.
There are even interpersonal benefits to be gained from lying and knowing when it is okay to do so. In fact, if someone detects that you have lied to them to protect them, it could increase the trust that they have in you.
These well intentioned lies are known as pro-social lies.
Lying for the better good.
Pro-social lying involves four distinct constructs of human capacity: theory of mind, compassion, memory and imagination.
In this case, our choice to lie is a result of moral and emotional reasoning. We prioritize kindness over the importance of truth to spare other persons involved. As our brains develop, our moral reasoning progresses at the same rate as self-control as well as cognitive ability.
Further still, the most selfless of lies is known as a blue lie. These lies tend to be altruistic falsities that are actually told at the cost of the liar to protect someone else. In this case, we might subject ourselves to punishment for the wrongdoing of others.
Honestly, lying isn’t so bad.
What determines the magnitude of the lie is the intent behind it. Lies that are told to protect others can actually help to strengthen relationships. Other lies that are told to embellish ones image are debatably harmless.
It all boils down to one fact- we all have our reasons for the lies that we tell and the facts that we choose not to share. At the end of the day and the beginning of any others, what we don’t know won’t hurt us. Sometimes a tiny lie is necessary to ensure that all is well and all runs smoothly.
Maybe this is the better question:
WHAT’S YOUR INTENTION ?
Is it to be hurtful. . .
Is it to be helpful. . .
Will this LIE better YOU ?
Will this LIE lessen Another ?
Will it reflect the greatest glaring flaw of being a Caring Catalyst. . .
T R U T H S:
When you have a chance to be RIGHT or KIND
ALL-WAYS. . A L W A Y S
BE K I N D
THERE’S ALWAYS MORE THAN ONE SIDE OF THE TRUTH
R E S P E C T O T H E R S
B E K I N D
Just Don’t See all sides of the TRUTH
B E A C A R I N G C A T A L Y S T:
R E C O G N I Z E
it’s m u l t i c o l o r s. . .
T R U T H F U L L Y
G E N U I N E L Y
A C C U R A T E L Y
A U T H E N I C A L L Y
V E R A C I O U S L Y
Be in A W E of it A L L