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Archive for March, 2012

I just saw a powerful and very important documentary film, Race To Nowhere.  Actually it was my second time seeing it and I got even more out of it this time around.  Although it’s geared for parents and educators, I feel very strongly that it’s for all to see.  Yes, it speaks about the educational system with all the pressure to excel through high test scores, AP classes and as much over-scheduling as feasible; but the messages that speak to the societal values and priorities we are putting out there is all too encompassing and important for anyone to miss.  The ramifications are huge and affects us all. 

The bigger picture here is how we are living our lives.  What makes for success?  Are we just chasing our tails?  Do the means justify the ends?  How do we attain balance in our lives?   Are we living according to our values, strengths, passions?  Do we have the inner strength to swim against the tide, or are we being pulled under by the strong currents of societal pressure?  

We first have to begin to know ourselves in order to find our place.  How do we get to find ourselves when the outside is screaming at us through every conceivable inlet possible? 

We must create those moments, those times, when we can tune inward and visit with ourselves, check in and ground ourselves.  And then we can begin to hear our voices, our interests call out to us, our inner compass start to point us towards our own personal direction. 

Kids don’t have these abilities yet.  They’re first being developed, or are they?  We as parents, teachers and as society’s adult role models need to live in ways that foster and encourage these abilities to recognize our strengths and  find our interests.   We all need to provide ourselves and one another with ways of coping, ways of managing our lives, ways of evaluating where we’re headed and if we’re on an authentic path that resonates with who we are and what we want.

And so I put forth 10 tips for getting on the path towards accessing our true selves:

  1. Daily time for breathing slowly and deeply, and for quiet time to just Be – be it meditating or simply doing nothing.   We need to hear ourselves. 
  2. Focus on making today a good day.  Today is what we have now.  When we string together a lot of ‘goods’, we start to feel goodness around us. 
  3. Say positive things to ourselves, however small we may think they are.  Again, positive feeds on positive and brings on more. 
  4. Revel in our accomplishments; perhaps even more important are our efforts.  For that’s what gives us the incentive to continue and try again.  E for Effort, E for Excellence.
  5. Ask for help and support.  We All need it.  Nobody knows it all; nobody can manage well all the time.   
  6.  Visualize positive outcomes.  It sets us in motion for those action steps.
  7. Small steps towards our goals.  It’s much less overwhelming when we break things down into doable tasks.  
  8. We always have choices.  Even if it’s simply the choice of how to respond.  That’s a biggie.  (If you ever feel like there’s no choice and you’re forever stuck, seek out help.)
  9. Build in some down time, free time to do nothing or do something we truly enjoy.  This is the time for imagination to play out.  Our mind can go wherever it wants.  Let it go; let it dream.
  10. Do something physical everyday – be it exercise or biking to the store, walking to an errand, dancing to music in your home where no one is watching.  It loosens us up and gets things moving, like our mind in an upbeat way.    

In our high-stressful and high-pressured times, we must find and live with Balance in our lives or we will be walking stressballs with out-of-sync lives.  To me that’s one {of many} of the big messages in Race To Nowhere; for Balance is an antidote to high stress.

Here’s my acronym for BALANCE:

B    Balance

A    Attitude

L     Laughter

A     Adjustments

N    Nurturing

C     Compassion

    Energy

Anyone care to fill in their words for BALANCE?  If anyone has seen this film, please share what message(s) spoke to you.

Thank you for stopping by and reading. 

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In conducting parenting workshops on communication skills with our children, I emphasize the soulful and emotional aspects in raising our kids.  Depositing into their little souls the ‘I can do’ attitude, encouraging the expression of their dreams (despite our thinking they might be unrealistic) and cultivating the seedling to sprout into its own unique species of a flower, is all so vital in raising children with a strong sense of self who are competent, confident and have a high EQ (emotional intelligence). 

As we know, EQ can point to a happier and more satisfying life than IQ.  But I’m not here to talk about EQ vs IQ.  

In doing these workshops, it’s dawned on me that if we as children didn’t get all this good emotional input, how can we develop it and give it to ourselves as adults?   And yes, I’m taking the leap to say, we Can still attain it.  We are not a prisoner of our past.

If our dreams were crushed or squelched, we can bring them forth and work to carry them out. 

We can feed ourselves positive messages.

We can start to believe in ourselves.

We can take pride in our efforts and accomplishments.

We can praise ourselves.

We can take small steps towards a goal and encourage ourselves each step of the way. 

We can revel in our successes, however small they may be.  They are the stepping stones to continue on towards further success. 

We can respect our own struggles and give ourselves time and patience as we stumble along during a difficult time or situation.

We can allow ourselves our feelings – the ‘nasty’ feeling ones too.

We can develop an ‘I can’ attitude.

We can become risk-takers and engage in new endeavors. 

We can learn new things as we continue to expand ourselves. 

We can fill ourselves with gratitude and appreciation for all we are and have.

We can develop more compassion as we open our eyes to all that’s around us and work more in the service of others. 

We can be our very own coach and friend. 

We can take care of ourselves; nurture ourselves and feed ourselves positive statements of all that we want to do, become, and reach for. 

There is so much out there to be utilized and engaged in; there is so much of ourselves that is under-utilized and under-maximized.  Let’s bring the two together for an exciting journey.   

 

Thanks for readingSharing is appreciated as is Comments.

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What Inspires You?

In my last post, I shared a video and a man’s words that really moved , inspired,  uplifted and touched me in a very profound way.   I actually find myself using these descriptive words a lot lately.   I seem to get inspired quite easily.  That’s a good feeling. 

I’m not sure if I seek these out or they just come to me.  Probably a little of both.  I certainly put myself in places and situations that produce these affects.  Like the time I recently went to the documentary and dance of Musical Chairs, where people in wheelchairs were ballroom dancing;  or when I go for my Sunday morning beach walks.  Just watching those seagulls by the shoreline, taking off and flying low, their wings spread out right before my eyes;  and then landing right at my feet in the sand, is pretty incredible.  

This feeling of wow, or the ‘farklempted’ feelings of emotional intensity gets those juices flowing, is exhilarating and can put us in a mode of action.  It can turn on that channel of productivity and engagement in what we love doing.  It provides hope and a renewed positive feeling in the human condition.  And this inspiration thing – it’s a wonderful teacher. 

Inspiration moved me as recently as Saturday night, when I came home from seeing a somewhat difficult movie.  Lots of heavy duty issues.  But for me and what I find fascinating, it was a wonderfully transformative and redemptive film.  I was so taken by it that I looked up the person about whom the movie was based and contacted him, asking for a blog interview.  And he responded with a Yes!  (Stay tuned – it will be out in an upcoming month.)

So yes, movies do it for me, books with transformative themes, stimulating conversations, speeches and tons more. 

What does it for you?  Where do you get your inspiration?

We all need inspiration to be creative, to produce and work effectively, to grow and learn and become better people; to live well. 

And when those rare moments appear where we need something to move us,  but  can’t seem to access any (although now-a-days just going online can bring forth tons of material; there’s always the TED Talks) we can always return to our inside memory box  and bring up some past inspirational times and  go back there, visualize and feel those feelings once again.  We can always get re-charged.    

Having said that, there’s nothing like the real thing – the current elicitation of those soaring heights of inspirational endorphins to bring us back to the awesomeness of Life.

Here are some general ideas for putting some high-flying feelings into your life:

Service –  helping others in a way that’s meaningful to you.  It’s just as easy to do good as to do nothing and certainly feels good for all involved.  Reaching out and initiating is a gift to the spirit, as well as to the other.  The ‘pay it forward’ concept is simple and profound , and creates positive feelings all around. 

Nature  – get out in it.  Walk, bike ride, picnic, bird-watch.  Activates all your senses and can be soul-soothing, relaxing and invigorating.

Music –   for the soul.  Brings up all kinds of feeling states.  Gets those sing-aloud happy ones  going  as well as the tears of joy and sadness.

Books, Movies, People  –  incredible stories of people making a difference, of  overcoming and transcending struggles and difficulties.

Expression through the Arts – Actively engaging in any form, be it dancing, singing, acting, drawing; or being an observer at a museum exhibit, performance, can certainly bring those endorphins to a fluttery state.  Live engagement with entertainment can be such an uplifting high. 

Now go bring it on. 

Please add to my list of ideas.  I’d love to compile a growing list of things that move us to the core.

Thank you for stopping by and reading.

BTW – My Twitter button is tweeting the wrong handle.  It probably won’t be rectified until I put up my new ‘stand alone’ site. I would greatly appreciate if you would remove the @Wordpress handle and substitute mine: @RebuildLife.  Thank you.

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I have recently been thoroughly awestruck by two stories I stumbled upon online.  I’m excited to share them with you.  Talk about rising above adversity- watch and read. 

The first is a u-tube of a 108 year old woman who has lived out her life with her glass way more than half full, despite tremendous challenges.

Credit goes to Tony Robbins for posting this u-tube of his interview with Alice Herz Sommer.   Please watch this 12 minute video.  This truth is beyond any fiction.

 

 

A book about her life is coming out next week:  A Century of Wisdom: Lessons from the Life of Alice Herz-Sommer, the World’s Oldest Living Holocaust Survivor, by Caroline Stoessinger

The second are the powerful words of a man who found his best self within the confines of ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease). 

Neil Selinger wrote:

As my muscles weakened, my writing became stronger.

As I slowly lost my speech, I gained my voice.

As I diminished, I grew.

As I lost so much, I finally started to find myself.”    

The human spirit is truly miraculous.   Jane Fonda uses the metaphor of a staircase to illustrate “the third act” of life.  We are all on an “upward ascension”.   The human spirit continues to evolve.   The steps may be challenging for many but our inner growth, resolve and spirit can carry us to heights deemed unimaginable.  

Once again, my favorite psychiatrist  comes to mind, Victor Frankl, with his brilliant theories of life:  

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”  

And:

“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”

 

Thank you for stopping by and reading.  I hope you’ve been inspired by these stories.  I welcome you to share  (in the Comments) how these two examples of incredible human spirit have touched you.  Please spread this message. 

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In my recent interview with Sherri Mandel, she said “you have to use it to grow bigger…” (your difficulty/challenge/loss)  You can’t go back to who you were. “

This really spoke to me. 

I, as many of you know from reading my blog posts, have witnessed the miraculous survival and full recovery of my daughter, Nava.  At the time, after her year-long hospitalization, I felt strongly that I could not simply go back to life as it was before this happening; to just pick up the pieces where I left off and continue on.  It didn’t seem right to me.  It felt like it would be stripping the year of its significance, of its awesomeness in all ways.    

This experience needed to be dignified, to be significantly acknowledged.  It needed to be given its due respect by doing something meaningful and positive with it. 

I was also obviously filled to the brim with gratitude.  I wanted to scream it out.

Miracles do happen.   And big ones too.  A testament to Possibilities where none seemed like the most probable at the time.

People do incredible things with their misfortunes and losses as many of my interviewees have demonstrated.  They’ve created meaning and gone on to help others through their loss, be it through foundations, programs, books, movies,talks.

I felt a need, an urgency, to do something with my miracle.  I wanted to take a traumatic experience that ended with the most positive, miraculous results and create something terrific out of it.

And so I was on my search for that elusive Something.   Those early years following Nava’s recovery, I lived with much angst.  I felt unrest inside and a lot of tugging going on in there.   I was also frustrated.  Yes, it was great to be back to ‘normal’ life again, but I had just been through something so abnormal and out- of- the- ordinary that it felt surreal to return to life as it had been Before.   

I had to somehow recognize that experience in some way.  I needed to express it by doing something different with my life. 

When we  go through a crisis, the focus is on  staying  afloat and getting through each day.  But when we’ve come through that dark tunnel and out into sunlight, we can begin to examine the path we’ve been on and look where we’re going now.  I was looking……       

In my search and my new found urgency for living in the Now, I took on some meaningful projects and started actively pursuing my interests. 

I joined a Patch Adams clowning trip; became a puppy raiser for a foundation that trains dogs who work with the disabled; started taking hiking trips, writing classes, mindfulness courses; took on some fund-raising projects and other endeavors that rang meaningful to me. 

So no, I haven’t started an organization or written that memoir I attempted back then with the help of a collaborative writer and agent… Yet. 

The quality of my life has taken on much greater meaning; the How I live is qualitatively different.  Living with a keener sense of appreciation and gratefulness kicks in those endorphins of excitement, interest, curiosity and passion. 

I love being a part of helping people live well, because living lousy is all too easy.  Living well through and possibly because of one’s hardships and tribulations is the real challenge.  My path is one of helping people go through their pain and come out whole, not broken; as I once read, ‘better, not bitter.’

Some interests awaiting to be actualized:  start a library where there’s a need;  overseas service trip; speaking engagements telling Nava’s story. 

I want to use my miracle to continue ‘growing  bigger’ and (I might add) better.   We are all a work in progress.  Let us each use what we’re given as our impetus to live well.

 

Thank you for stopping by.  Comments are welcome and sharing is appreciated.  And don’t forget to subscribe to receive these blog posts in your email. 

 

Looking for a speaker- I’m here (and there) to speak on a variety of topics from parenting to coaching to presenting in various support group settings.  I’ve been presenting at TBI groups; the next few weeks I’ll be presenting at Senior groups.  I am frequently doing my exciting parenting series of How To Talk So Kids Will Listen… And my close-to-heart group is parents of special needs children.

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“Each day I have to work to go on; each day I decide to live.  I am not the same person as I was.  That is the way it should be.  Losing Koby means that part of me was killed.  But rather than mourn the person I was, I work to bless the person I have become.”

I am humbled to present my March interviewee, Sherri  Mandell.  Mrs. Mandell is the mother of Koby Mandell, the oldest of four children, and founder of the Koby Mandell Foundation.  She and her husband created this foundation in response to their son, Koby’s murder in May of 2001.

Koby was 13 when he and his friend, Yosef Ishran were hiking near their home in the town of Tekoa in the West Bank and were eventually found in a cave stoned to death. 

Their foundation helps bereaved parents and children who have tragically lost loved ones “rebuild their lives and create meaning out of suffering.”  

Ms. Mandell is a writer and author of the book, The Blessing of a Broken Heart.

  1. What personal qualities have helped you carry on and move in a positive direction?

That’s a hard question.  I really don’t feel it was anything that was personal to me.  I feel like it was other people- the community that helped me and my family.  I received so much support and love that helped me continue on and move. 

I had people helping me and they all had a special position –somebody who did our laundry, somebody who could sit and listen, somebody who organized the food for us.

To give you an example, after Koby’s murder, that first night after we got home from the cemetery (in Israel people are buried right away)  my friend Shira made a basket for me on my bed and she put “from Your Guardian Angel.”  It was people who surrounded me and my immediate family who kept me going. 

I’ve become a different person.  I’m much more driven and purposeful.  I have a different perspective on life. 

  1. Did you go through a period of self-pity?  If so, what helped you out?

Self-pity is not the right term.  When you’re destroyed you don’t have the strength for self-pity.  I was just suffering and sad and destroyed.  I didn’t pity myself; I just had to mourn my son. 

You wonder Why you; but you know there’s no answer to that question.  Also living in Israel it’s different.  In Hebrew you don’t really have the word pity.  It’s a different word.  And it’s a different culture. 

  1. Was there a specific moment, thought or epiphany that helped guide you to a better place or did it evolve?

It was a series of things that pushed me forward. 

It was Koby’s birthday, his 14th, five weeks after he was murdered.  My friend Shira who’s a grief counselor told me I had to do something to mark his birthday.  So my kids and I went into Jerusalem.  We didn’t know what to do.  We thought we’d go out to Burger King because being kosher and moving to Israel was a big fun event for us to be able to eat at a kosher Burger King.  But we couldn’t go because it was just too sad for us.  We went to a vegetarian restaurant.  I got the idea to give money to beggars for Koby’s birthday.  The minute I got that idea a beggar came up to us in the restaurant.  We gave him a lot of money.  Then my kids and I went out on the outdoor street mall and we went chasing after beggars to give to them.  It was a really hard day. 

But we were able to transform it into something that was fun and giving.  And that’s what we do.  We wanted to do something Koby would like, so it’s always fun.

  1. What are your day-to-day coping skills that keep you afloat?

There’s always davening (praying), learning  {Torah-Bible} and taking care of my family.  There’s Shabbos (the Sabbath), yoga and walking.  And writing; I’m a writer. 

Torah relates us to God and G0d is infinite.  So when I was learning and relating to something infinite, I could relate more to my son because he was in that place.  Torah connects you to other worlds.  The language of Torah is very pure.  And that’s what I felt I needed after Koby’s murder.  I needed something that had that untouched feeling.

  1. In general, how have you managed to rebuild your life?

I received so much help and support.  I wanted to give back what I had received. 

My husband and I started a camp for bereaved children.  We have 400 kids at the camp.  We always try to do something fun and giving; to help teach people to rise from this and not be broken. 

We also run programs for mothers.  We have had over 25 healing retreats for different groups of mothers.  I went to almost all of them.   We have support groups.  I’ve been part of a group that’s part of the Koby Mandell Foundation for the past 7 years.   And we keep evolving.  Wednesday is Koby Mandell Foundation day in Jerusalem.  We have belly dancing, yoga, psycho-drama for the women.  We have programs in resilience and renewal.   These are for bereaved mothers who have lost children to either terror or illness or any form of loss.  We also have a healing retreat over the summer, a bereavement retreat for Americans.  We do a 5 day healing retreat for bereaved parents. 

 

  1. What advice would you offer someone going through tremendous difficulty, in the hope of coming out of the darkness intact?

You have to use it to grow to be bigger. You have to basically change your life afterwards.  You can’t go back to who you were.  You have to find a way to give from the pain. 

I read something by Rabbi Soloveitchik:    “Every darkness has its own secret; and sometimes God only speaks to us in the darkness.”  There’s a message there.  It’s like the difference between growing in the light and growing in the darkness; there’s two ways to grow but growing in the darkness is much more common. 

And language – that’s another thing.  Ordinary language becomes unbearable because it can’t contain your experience.  Like even the expression, making lemonade from lemons, phrases like that can’t describe it.  You lose your connection to a lot of people because you can’t relate to what they say and the way they speak. 

I think very few people talk about the language problem.  They express it like they can’t bear their friends and people saying the wrong things.  But I don’t think it’s just that people say the wrong things; I think it’s a matter of not having language to contain the experience.  If you don’t have the feeling that people are there to support you, you’ll kind of begrudge what they say. 

Also, grief and trauma are in the body.  So you have to deal with the body, too.

 
“…It is when our hearts are broken that God sculpts our souls, prodding open the narrow entrances to the caves of our being.  Whenever God takes from you, he has to give you something back.  God has given me the blessing of a broken heart.”

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