Time to Notice the Little Things

I still get wildly enthusiastic about little things…
I play with leaves. I skip down the street and run against the wind.
Leo Buscaglia~

My friend Judie has been watching a pair of nesting phoebes for several years. They build their nest in the most improbable space and tend their chicks with well coordinated teamwork. While driving along the expressway, Carol spotted a tiny fawn grazing along the median, seemingly oblivious of where its mother was. Carol added it to her gratitude list for the day. Driving on a back road, I noticed a row of cornflowers and Queen Anne’s lace framing a cornfield in a subtle blue and white border.

None of these are earthshaking spectacles. Without an eye for the little things, they would all be easy to miss. It seems much easier for us to notice all the terrible things which bombard us each day and the worries which follow us around. If we allow it to happen, all the awful things in life can overwhelm us. Sometimes things which brighten our day take a special effort to notice.

Henry Thoreau wrote his memoir, WaldenU, in the nineteenth century. He described his practice of writing down the things for which he was grateful each day before getting out of bed. Oprah also suggested Thoreau’s practice, described as a gratitude list, a way of keeping in touch with the good things in our daily lives. In order to list things for which we are grateful, we must pay attention to them and savor them as they happen. Some days it seems easy to generate a long list, and some days our troubles seem to block out the good things, making them harder to remember.

The little things are usually subtle and, without practice, easy to overlook. Nevertheless, they are all around and waiting for us to notice them. The above examples are all from nature, but there are many other delights as well. A kind word, a loving gesture, or a small favor can all brighten our day if we let them.

The things we notice and choose to think about influence what kind of person we are and how we present ourselves to the rest of the world. If we constantly tune into tragedy, crime and conflict, we will undoubtedly become morose and negative about the world and eventually about ourselves. If we make an effort to notice the day’s little gifts, we will have a brighter outlook on life despite our troubles.

Having a positive outlook can be contagious. A young woman I know, Megan, is so consistently cheerful, even when things are not going right for her, it is impossible to spend any time with her and not come away feeling more cheerful yourself.

We all have the choice of what to notice and think about. We can choose to descend into the doldrums or look for the joy in life. It might take some practice but we do have a choice and can brighten our lives and the lives of those around us as well.

Life Lab Lessons

  • Slow down the pace of your life for a little while.
  • Look around you.
  • Find something marvelous you did not see before.
  • Keep this new discovery in your mind.
  • Return to it when you become frustrated.

From Commonsense Wisdom for Everyday Life




Consider this choice: Given two individuals with equivalent talent and skills, who do you look up to and prefer to work with, promote, or invite onto a project? Chances are it’s the more compassionate one.

If that sounds intuitively right, it’s now getting some backing by science—with a few conditions. Wharton professor Adam Grant argues that kindness and compassion give us a far greater advantage than self-absorption. Nice guys do finish first, he explains, as long as they learn how not to let others take advantage of them.

In his best-selling book, Give and Take, Grant explains that, yes, as many suspect, compassionate leaders sometimes do lose out. People who care about others’ well-being and look out for their colleagues and employees—the group Grant calls “givers”—are overrepresented at the bottom of the success ladder, having been mown down by selfish “takers.” But here’s the surprising finding: Grant also reveals that “givers” are overrepresented at the very top of the success ladder, too. How can that be?

It turns out that givers are more liked and appreciated and therefore become more influential. The difference between successful and unsuccessful givers often comes down to strategy: When givers learn strategies that prevent others from taking advantage of them, their “nice” qualities end up helping them succeed above and beyond anyone else. Why? In part because everyone loves working with them and appreciates them for their kind and giving qualities.

Excerpt from Emma Seppala’s article in Fast Company– read more

We’re Biologically Driven To Be Compassionate: 6 Surprising Health Reasons Why We Should Follow That Instinct

Studies have shown that our DNA drives us to carry out acts of compassion for the greater good of our species. There’s evidence indicating that infants show a preference for people they perceive as helpful, and other research suggest compassion is a motivator of kindness among toddlers as young as 2 years old. It turns out that those of us who offer — and receive — more compassion reap some hefty health benefits. We partnered with Dignity Health to look at a few of the ways compassion may boost your well-being.

Excerpt from Dignity Health’s article in Huffington Post– read more

A lonely story: the perils of writing in solitude


The life of the professional novelist is an agreeable one: you make your own hours, you do your best work in your pyjamas and Ugg boots, and no boss glares at you when you have crisps and Guinness for lunch. The only occasion when things can get a little tricky is when the dreaded writer’s block comes a-calling. I’ve always liked the Charles Bukowski solution: “Writing about writer’s block is better than not writing at all.”

Excerpt from Adrian McKinty’s article in The Guardian– read more.


What does it mean to be human in the age of technology?


When I think about the future of human-machine interactions, two entwined anxieties come to mind.

First, there is the tension between individual and collective existence. Technology connects us to each other as never before, and in doing so makes explicit the degree to which we are defined and anticipated by others: the ways in which our ideas and identities do not simply belong to us, but are part of a larger human ebb and flow.

This has always been true – but rarely has it been more evident or more constantly experienced. For the first time in human history, the majority of the world’s population is not only literate – itself an achievement less than a century old – but also able to actively participate in written and recorded culture, courtesy of the connected devices pervading almost every country on earth.

Excerpt from Tom Chatfield’s article in The Guardian– read more.

A Letter from Our Children


The ultimate test of human conscience may be
the willingness to sacrifice something today for future generations.

~Gaylord Nelson~

I met an eight year old girl on the beach early one morning. As I approached her, the girl asked me what I was looking for. I told her sharks’ teeth and showed her my small handful. She showed me her handful and she offered them to me.

My encounter reminded me how innocent, curious, and generous children can be. As adults, we often become obsessed by our search to improve our collection of things and become preoccupied with fear that someone will take them from us. In the process we move faster each day and forget the joy of standing on a beach or anywhere else in nature for that matter.

Some of us are just beginning our productive years. Some of us are steaming ahead in mid-career. Others are winding down and hopefully have some time and energy left to enjoy our world. In another fifty years, our children and grandchildren will replace us at all the various stages of their own lives.

If they could write us a letter from the future, what would they have to say about the legacy we have left them? Would they thank us for finding a way to understand and accept each other rather than continuing to compete with each other? Would they thank us for finding ways to love rather than hate each other? Would they express their disappointment that we were not able to find a way to live together in harmony?

That future has not yet arrived and there is still time before such a letter is written. We have choices to make every minute of our lives. No matter where we are in our life journey, we can choose to make the world a little better place with our unique contributions. We can also choose to take whatever we want from the world without giving back in return.  We can link with others in their journey through life, ignore them or hate them. We can choose the path of love and acceptance or the path of fear and intolerance.

All of our collective decisions about how to act in each circumstance which appears before us contribute to the legacy we will leave to our children, grandchildren and their descendants. Each of us can contribute to leaving a better place for those who follow us or a worse one. The prophet Jeremiah spoke of God as thinking thoughts of peace and not affliction toward us. He invites us to follow God’s example. Are you willing to do your part through the actions of your daily life?

Life Lab Lessons

  • What legacy do you want to leave your children?
  • What do you have to contribute?
  • Start by finding peace within yourself.
  • Find ways to be at peace with others.
  • Choose love over fear.

Narayan Pura Defying divisive religious intolerance with humanity



Breaking: Sheikh Al-Nimr, a Shia political activist, leader and Islamic scholar in Sunni majority Saudi Arabia was executed by royal decree for peacefully advocating for the rights of Shias in the conservative kingdom.

Protests have broken out in Iran, Iraq, Qatif and other Shia bastions; it seems the toxic Sunni-Shia divide has churned out yet another polarising incident that threatens to deepen the rifts within the Islamic world

– See more at: http://www.thenews.com.pk/print/89370-Narayan-Pura-Defying-divisive-religious-intolerance-with-humanity#sthash.M9eYXy2v.dpuf

 Making Your Resolutions Work


New Year’s resolutions often fail
because toxic emotions and experiences from our past
can sabotage us or keep us stuck with the same old thoughts, patterns and regrets.

~Debbie Ford~

Do you remember any of your New Year’s resolutions from last year? If so, how well did you do with them? Most of us who make resolutions are serious about keeping them, but somehow our resolve comes undone soon after the year gets underway.

Making a resolution is a step toward some real changes. We usually start with an idea or perhaps a suggestion. We may move to a resolution. The final step is action. The road between intent and accomplishment seems long and dark, often littered with resolutions which don’t quite make it for one reason or another.

Our bodies would be in better shape if we ate more sensibly or exercised more. We would feel more accomplished if we learned skills we promised ourselves we would practice. Feeling more prosperous would follow being more careful with our money.

What happened to all these fine resolutions you made? Perhaps you acted impulsively, not considering whether you had the ability to follow through with them. Were they all that important to you in the first place?

Rather than latching onto the first resolution which comes to mind, you could stop to think before resolving. What have you learned about yourself over the last year? Did you discover or develop s any new skills? Did you become more aware of your strengths or weaknesses in following through with changes? Did you learn there were things you couldn’t do? With these thoughts in mind, it should be easier to decide on a resolution which moves you along the road toward your life goals and uses strengths and skills you know you have.

Once you have decided on a resolution, the next step is to keep it in mind as the year progresses. One possibility would be to write a few key words on our calendars on the first of each month, reminding you to stop and think about how you did with your resolution over the past month. It is also a chance to think about how you can refine your resolution over the next month. If a month is too long, try doing it once a week.

You might discover as you go along that you bit off more than you could chew and your resolution is somewhat too ambitious. Maybe you can work on part of the resolution this year and save the rest for next year. Maybe you will discover you don’t quite have the skills to carry off your resolution. A mini-goal could be to learn the necessary skills from someone more proficient than you are and then return to your resolution.

Keeping track of your resolutions, progress and accomplishments will help you stay more focused on your long term goals, using your skills and strengths. You will become more aware of what you have to offer and learn to better appreciate yourself. Maybe next December you will be able to look back over the past year and see you have become a little more of the person you would like to be.

Life Lab Lessons

  • Can you think of one resolution you made in past years?
  • How well did you do with it?
  • What would you most like to have different about yourself in the next few months?
  • Try that for a resolution.
  • Then track your progress putting it into practice.

For more about Joe Langen’s writing, see his website at www.slidingotter.com.

Letter: A call for ‘compassion and humanity’


I live in, and love, the United States of America. A land of freedom built on a short history of great successes and unfortunate mistakes. I am prideful of our growth, but not blind to our failings. And while we live in a turbulent times, I will not let fear steal my compassion or humanity.

We are a very young nation, continuously growing and evolving. And with rapid growth comes inevitable mistakes. The gravest of which we have perpetuated on our own citizens; forced relocation of Native Americans, a civil war, Japanese internment camps, and most heinous; the enslavement of other human beings.

And through the lens of hindsight we look at our history of intolerance based on religion, nationality, economics or personal lifestyle and shake our heads thinking; “How could they have be so blind?”


Excerpt from  a letter to the editor in Salem News- read more

The chain reaction of compassion

There probably has been no other time in human history where we are so rich in resource but can get so easily depleted in spirit. We live in a competitive world where a sense of self-worth can be contingent upon outer criteria: standardized tests, schools, grades, appearance. We live in a world where disconnect is rampant although we have available tools to connect instantaneously.

Excerpt from Donna Ognibene’s article in the Wicked Local Belmont– read  more