What Are You Packing?

Most people hate moving, whether it is to a new house, a new state or new country. I think it is not the sheer exhaustion of the actual move, I reckon it is going through your stuff and determining what goes in boxes, what gets packed. I’ve gone through the process of moving about 35 times in my life, most of which happened before I was 25. I’ve got to sift through my things and consider carefully what I want to bring along with me. The other day in the shower (best thinking happens there, right?!), I was pondering all these places that I have lived, not just the physical places but the places in my mind and its habits. The different versions of me. Not only do I pack these physical items, but the mental ones. too. I get to purge the worst in me and only bring that which I want to to take forward into my next experience. I think this is the best part of moving to a far distant place because you do not have a personal history to defend. No one knows a dang thing about you and who’ve you been and you can set the reset button if you wish.

I think about the people in my life who have lived in the same place for ages. Sometimes, their stability is seen with a sense of pride, but, to me, I wonder if it is not a prison. A while ago I came to understand why I had this opinion about the “stable” people I know when I heard  this Indian mystic named Sadharguru say,

I am not against wealth. I am not against comfort. I am against stagnation, because if you stagnate, you are only half alive.

It made me realize that I harbor a belief that being deeply rooted to a place makes you deeply rooted in the comfort of your identity. Hating to disappoint others, might one be scared to do or say something that is contrary to the opinion of others? They might never get to experience the lightness and freshness of change! Of course, I do think thamovingt one can reinvent oneself in the midst of these strong attachments, but I think it must be ruthlessly difficult to challenge people’s perception of them. When people have a definition of who they think you are, it’s often difficult to get them to change their mind. But the definition that is the most challenging to change is the one we give ourselves: the one that is full of “can’ts” and “don’ts”. That’s the stuff that needs to be released, the beliefs that we cling to, and no one but oneself can do that.

So as I stare at all of my stuff, literally, and decide what is going to be shipped, I think it is important to reflect on this passage of my life–the China chapter–and consider what memories and insights I want to bring with me:  the ready smiles of my neighbors, the curiousity of locals when they see foreigners, the kindness and generosity of friends found here, the cacaphony of millions of people celebrating, the smell of the orange blossoms and the utter freedom of not giving a rat’s ass of what you look like to others (including the bold public display of excrementing) here. I want to stow that away as well.

No matter if you are intrepridly anchored to a place or a global nomad like myself, I think this exercise of unpacking and repacking our identity is an important exercise. Evaluating the “junk” and “clutter” in our beliefs and liberating them to the garbage heap is so profoundly necessary for our minds to feel the possibility of our own potential. What is truly valuable and extraordinary about oneself that is worth keeping, and subtracting from there might be a useful strategy. I’m thinking of my own list right now of redeeming qualities and wondering what I need in this next journey that awaits me.

What about you? What would you pack?

 

 

The Dogma of Your Sport

As an educator, I’m always looking out to the future, thinking about what will be the world for my students as they emerge into adulthood. With that in mind, I am always foraging for ideas, not just in my field, but outside the domain of education. I feel strongly that if you want to have an insight in your field, it helps to look outside your field to gain important perspectives and concepts.

I heard a Jiu Jitsu World Champion, Josh Waitzkin, talk about how important it was for him to train with dirty players–competitors who intentionally and shamelessly break the rules of the sport in an effort to win, in order to mentally get over the expectations of how the game is supposed to be played–that perfect world in which everyone follows the rules and the game is clear cut and obvious.He stopped being offended by these dangerous and dishonorable moves and instead embraced it with curiosity and intrigue. It was because of this openness that he was able to rise to being the champion that he is because there was nothing that another player could do to him to throw him off. When he referred to these belief systems about playing the game as “the dogma” of his sport, it really resonated with me.  Truth is, we all have some dogma in our careers and relationships because we’ve calcified ideas about how things ought to be in an unrealistic neat and perfect world.

To be aware of a voice inside your head that says : “It doesn’t make any sense.”,  it’s always a sign of something really powerful…in saying that “it doesn’t make sense” this means that there are logical reasons why things ought to be a certain way. But the world always makes sense, but what doesn’t make sense is your model of your world...You have to revise your hypothesis. ….What would you need to see to change your view? This is the best question ever.

Adam Robinson, founder of the Princeton Review

I love this idea that was shared on the Tim Ferriss Show by Adam Robinson, which challenges us to look at our belief systems and question it at a deeper level–what opinions or perceptions do we hold that may need to be confronted and analyzed? We keep looking at external factors to change but the truth is that it is us who must change to fit the new circumstances. If we can endeavor to be malleable and plnobility.jpgiable, then we will have the resilience and endurance to go through life with more grace and avail ourselves to higher levels of success.

As I am always longing to be the best version of myself, I recently enrolled in an MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) called the Innovator’s Mindset (#IMMOOC), based on the book of the same title by George Couros.  This course and book are geared toward educators, but I think it could be applied to a variety of skill sets, as he challenges his readers to “innovate inside the box”. So true–and it totally connects, at least in my mind, to this whole idea of shifting our definitions and developing new strategies to move us forward as educators- Challenge the Dogma of our Sport! We have to let go of our expectations and embrace the constraints in our schools so we can be pioneers and creators to produce our next generation of innovators and leaders.

So I keep wondering what “dogma” do I adhere to? What “doesn’t make sense” to me? Those questions linger in my mind and I will continue to contemplate and reflect upon for probably my whole life. When I reframe these beliefs into questions, it makes it easier for me to grapple with them. For example:

Professional

  • Does there need to be a power struggle between students and teachers, as we give students more agency in their learning?
  • How can we give students more autonomy and still maintain “control” in the classroom and cover the content?

What would I need to see/experience to change my view about control of the learning environment?

Personal

  • How can I love those people that justify their hatred and bigotry with their religion?
  • In what ways am I just like the people that I consider antagonists to my personal values?

What would I need to see/experience to change my view about our human potential to develop a more peaceful and accepting world?

Perhaps this post has also given you some pause and you also turn inward to think about what personal or professional beliefs you persist in that aren’t serving your higher purpose. Please comment below or connect with me @judyimamudeen to share how you might answer Adam’s question: What would you need to see to change your view?

 

Thank You, Pablo Picasso

Others have seen what is and asked why. I have seen what could be and asked why not.
– Pablo Picasso

Recently a colleague of mine was explaining that Picasso didn’t mean to invent abstract art, he just insisted that there were other perspectives that could be illumined by drawing and painting from different angles. Instead of drawing a face head-on, he thought about how it might look from the sdora-maar-potraitide, for example. Although this is a simple idea, it created a revolution in how we can represent life–at least from an artist’s point of view. However, I also feel, that this wisdom can be applied to multiple situations other disciplines.

Have you ever heard of the story behind the cure for stomach ulcers? An Australian doctor who challenged prevailing views, Barry Marshall simplymax-plank looked at the current medical paradigm that ulcers were psychosomatic and dared to ask, How do you know (this theory is true)? He proved in his research that it was actually caused by a type of bacterium H. Pylori and providing antibiotics was a simple remedy for patients. Yet no one believed him! For years people tried to discredit his cure; until one day, Dr. Marshall actually drank a broth chalked full of H. Pylori bacterium and caused himself to break out in stomach ulcers, which he treated successfully with antibiotics.  This move was so shocking and convincing that now it is taken as a routine treatment for ulcers. However, it has taken YEARS to shift the attitudes of doctors and can you believe that still there are medical practitioners who still think that ulcers “are in your head”?- They cannot look at this medical ailment from another perspective. (I love that quote from Max Planck that expresses how hard it is to change people’s minds about a long-held scientific belief, which seems relevant still today, whether it’s a cure for cancer, climate change or treating a post-traumatic disorder. The only way a new idea can come into mainstream awareness is that the old stalwarts have to die off. )

Discomfort, fear, doubt, uncertainty–these are all symptoms of a shift in one’s thinking. You know you’re out of the status quo when you experience these feelings. At least that’s how I see it. And when I look at a Picasso, it now makes me think, how often do I look at situations or ideas from a limited point of view, particularly that of the mainstream beliefs of my culture? And I wonder if I avoid taking different perspectives because I was culturally ingrained to be rigid with black -n-white thinking, or am I just trying to prevent discomfort? And, can I teach myself to be more pliable in my thinking? Also, can I hold multiple perspectives at one time, and both of them to be equally valid and true?

As I ponder these deeper questions, I feel appreciation in my heart for a man who provided a visual representation of the need to look at life from multiple angles and challenge pre-existing ideas with How DO I know this is the only way to look at a situation or problem?

Thank you, Pablo Picasso, not only for the enigmatic beauty you tried to represent but for your stirring of the human mind and soul.

 

 

Getting off My “but”

Do you know that 25% of people abandon their New Year’s Resolution after 1 week? I’m not sure why this is, but I reckon that it has to do more with the confidence in its achievement, rather than the unattainability of the goal. However, I also believe that upfront planning for its success, will yield greater “stick-to-it”ness and keep a person on track.

With that in mind, as I sat down to write out my goals for this year, I remembered that no matter what I put down, I have to CHOOSE it.  It had to be so compellingjohn-burroughs and juicy that I have the endurance to meet its challenge, especially if the distance from where I am is far from where I want to be. Did you know that Khloe Kardashian worked out five to six days a week for two and a half years before she reached her fitness goals? Although I am not a Kardshian fan, I have to deeply admire her level of commitment. I get bummed out after a month of sloppy adherence to a regimen so the fact that someone can last a whole 2 years, well, I honor and am inspired by them.

However, my past does not have to equal my future, to paraphrase Tony Robbins. I just have to get off my “but” with a no excuse approach to meeting my goals. Just because I have attempted to do something in the past and have failed, doesn’t mean that I ALWAYS have to fail; it just means that the strategies I used weren’t effective at making the change that I wanted and I have to reevaluate them. I think I also have to be more honest about the time it may take to achieve that goal.

Have you ever read the Art of War by Sun Tzu? In it, he talks about the 9 situations in which one engages in combat and the propensity for retreat. He suggests that one must “burn all the boats” so that there is nothing left except for winning. And I wonder how I can apply this to my goals. I’ve thought the best way to do this is to make a list of all of my “buts” and how I will overcome them when and if I encounter them. For example, let’s say that one of my goals is to get into great shape through strength training, and one of my excuses to not workout is when I get sick or have a cold (which is a very likely “but”). So then I come up with at least 3 ways in which I can counter that:

  1. I want to get into my best shape ever through strength training but I have a cold. So I will bounce on the rebounder to get my lymphatic system going for a minute and then do 1 rep of a circuit (maybe 2 mins long).
  2. I want to get into my best shape ever through strength training but I have a headache. So I will give myself 2 pain relievers, wait 10 mins,  and then do 1 rep of a circuit (maybe 2 mins long).
  3. I want to get into my best shape ever through strength training but I have the stomach flu and feel too weak and ill to work out. So I will give myself 1 day off, but never 2 days off in a row in order to keep my momentum, and I will do a light workout the next day, even if it is for 1 minute.

Working off my BUT

Now that I have some ideas on how I can counter those obstacles, then I am more likely to follow through with my alternative plan. Planning really makes all the difference. And I do believe in the adage that “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail”, which is why I think so many of us fall short on our goals. I’ve never used this strategy before so I am looking forward to trying it out this year, and I believe that I will find more success when I approach challenges in this way. I also think that this strategy will help me to become more patient with my progress, because when we make effort and develop momentum, we are more likely to stay on track.

So good-bye “but”, and hello “so”!

 

2017: Awesome and Wonderful?!

I miss the admonishments of my British friends for my overuse of the word ‘awesome’, claiming that applying it incessantly to everyday circumstances diminished its meaning. But what if 2017 is the year of the AWESOME (and Marvelous, darling)?

So, if that indeed is my intention, then how I am going to cultivate a genuine Awe for my life? How can my life be more Wonder-Full? Before I go forward in any argument towards marveling at the mundane, what are the indicators of it? I mean, how should I define it so I can catch it? As I reflect on this, these are some characteristics that I think can signal that something is awesome:

  • It leaves us surprised and curious.
  • It puts us in the NOW.
  • It touches the heart and penetrates our soul.
  • It puts us in any anticipatory state, in which you feel the joy in advance of the experience.
  • It overwhelms us with beauty and attunes us to the divine.
  • The experience is uncontainable and must be shared.
  • You feel privileged to have had the experience.

Also, I think the easy yet difficult part is to CHOOSE it–choose to put my antennae up and tune into it.  I know that miracles happen every day so why wouldn’t today be the day? Of course it’s possible! I have to be disciplined enough to take personal responsibility for my joy, and not be satisfied with my day until I find something that was utterly remarkable about the day. Seek and ye shall find. 

Of course there are big things that I wish to accomplish. I love this idea and inspiration from Ray Edwards:

“In the next twelve months, what must I become or do so that I grow in every area of life—and how can I enjoy the process?” ‘What do I most want to be thankful for one year from now?’ I write the answer down, and it becomes a focus for the new year.”

So, as I look at that quote, it summons within me a desire to do things differently in the year to come. “Enjoy the process!?-since when do we humans enjoy change, you say??- this is why so many people quit their resolutions!”

Perhaps, but...

a-mans-bewilderment-is-the-measure-of-his-wisdom-quote-1I think cultivating a habit of relishing in the mundane in pursuit of beauty and the divine is a resolution that is worthy of devotion. I wonder if my dedication will wane but I am curious about the result if I were to make consistent steps towards this goal. What if extraordinary things would ensue just by virtue of my openness to the possibility that something amazing could happen today?

And at the end of the day, I’d rather say that I bore witness to something utterly astonishing, that my eyes and ears were open to the extraordinary around me, and I could experience it as awesome, standing agape at the marvels of my life. To be in that state of expectancy I imagine would bring about a peace and fascination with life that I have yet to know yet in my life. So, in this year–2017–I am now hitherto for christening it as the year of the AWESOME. It is my wish for you too, dear friend, to experience more moments of profound gratitude and joy in the year to come:

May you be happy.

May you be at ease.

May you be free from danger.

May you be loved.

 

The End of Suffering?

Lately I’ve been suffering. Not from physical pain but from emotional pain. A couple of weeks ago we went to Barcelona to get a feel for our soon to be new home. During that time, I went on a few interviews for teaching positions, but I didn’t walk away bounding with joyful anticipation since I may be too progressive of an educator for their traditional institutions. (In one of my interviews, I asked if they do inquiry-based levictor-franklarning, and the lady looked at me as if I had asked her if they “give the children poison”. Awkward, to say the least.) So now I’ve written my thank-you emails and haven’t heard a word since. Surprised?…Well, I shouldn’t be, but the sting of apparent rejection still hurts. And the question is beginning to penetrate my thoughts: If I am not going to be a teacher, then Who Am I? This potential identity crisis is the basis of my suffering, as I recognize how my self-worth is wrapped up in my job description.

I’ve heard it said that that your worst day can actually become your best day if you can see it that way. Well, I’m open to seeing the gift in this experience, but let’s be honest here, that is easier said than done.

As a practice, when my mind starts to go dark and I begin ruminating and singing that song, “Nobody likes, everybody hates me, I think I’ll go eat worms”, I  dig in and do the work to shift my mindset:

  1. Observe and attend more consciously to my breathing
  2. Engage in more physical exercise that challenges me
  3. Practice more “mindful moments” when I can feel gratitude and enjoy the  subtleties and essence of my human experience–like a hug from my daughter or the smell of coffee or the beauty of the moon.
  4. Read and listen to more encouraging and inspirational things.

offer-life

This post is mostly about #4.

So about a month ago I got introduced to a show call Inside Quest (the host kinda reminds me of one of my nephews) on YouTube and so I decided to check out their directory of episodes. Well,  I came across this interview with Tony Robbins and it resonated deeply, making me realize what my suffering is about but also how it can be cured. Here are some thoughts shared by Tony Robbins that shook me out of my self-pity stupor:

The way you suffer is to focus on yourself. Suffering comes from when we are obsessing about ourselves: what we are getting or not getting; what we should have done, what others should have done for us. Its’ the Me, Me, Me, Me, Me Game.

Suffering can be worry, can be anger, can be frustration–anything that takes you out of a ‘beautiful state’…..but you can end suffering by stop focusing on yourself and start focusing on something you want to serve that is greater than yourself.

-Tony Robbins-

When I stop to consider these words, I feel a tremendous amount of gratitude, thinking about how liberating this experience can be for me. Perhaps this might be the time to develop some new skills and an opportunity to explore some new career paths. What is my new “WHY”? Who can I help and how can I serve the world in a bigger way?

Because I have so many interests, I don’t know the answer to this question yet, but what I do love is the potential to now choose my mission in life and the freedom to explore it without feeling shackled to the expectation of being “the bread-winner”.  Right now, in this moment of awareness, I can decide to trade my expectations for appreciation. In this instant, I am willing to stretch my mind in a new direction.

(God HELP me–I need it!)

And I decided to write about this in a public forum because I am hoping that people like you (known or unknown to me) will hold me accountable to thinking bigger and acting greater than ever before.

In advance, I want to thank you for that!

Until next time….Keep breathing.

 

 

 

Mystification

The adjacent possible is the map of all the ways in which the present can reinvent itself. It implies a different way of looking at things. It is not held back and will not be bound by what is but is always remixing how we can transform the material world into…these delightful future possibilities and literally pull the present moment to meet it.  -Jason Silva-

I haven’t been writing much these days because I have too many thoughts in my head and I’ve been trying to put a pin on one of them. It’s like watching a leaf float on a stream’s current, except that the leaf is bobbing along on rapids rather than a lazy river. Perhaps we all have times when our minds are engrossed in a state of chaotic peace.

It seems like every moment is full of some serendipity or idea that is pulling on my heart. That makes sense since I’ve been debating whether or not to stay in Wuxi, knowing that my husband is starting his career and creating our new life in Barcelona. rwemersonI knew that
this was to be my last year in China, a place that I never expected to love as much as I do, but here I am, conflicted, to stay and work here or go with him in January. So I said a little prayer earlier this week and now every time I open a book, hear a song or listen to a podcast, a similar message pops up: Take a leap of faith! That quote over there from Emerson–that was the message on my tea bag. I didn’t even know that that brand of tea even had little adages or quotes until I began steeping my tea a moment ago! How am I to ignore this all?

So here I am, trapped with my ideas about my career, thinking about “responsibility” and “duty”, which are begging to be redefined. Believing in new things and new realities takes diligence and fidelity to this “adjacent possible”.  Inviting novelty, stretching oneself, even when the outcome is uncertain, seems like lunacy when complacency can be so satisfying and cozy (read: steady paycheck).

I listened to a riveting discussion by Dr. Norman Doidge about neuroplasticity and I found it interesting that he recommended that we use ALL of ourselves (mind), listening to yourself carefully and then obeying your dreams in order to get things accomplished so you can cultivate your best self. I am taking all of this in, thinking about the gift of mindfulness. If I didn’t have this personal practice, I wouldn’t even recognize the awe and wonder that surrounds me and supports me in embracing the unknown. This gives me immeasurable courage to let go and be willing to take a chance, even if my options seem a bit precarious.

All I know is that there is infinite potential within me–as within everyone–and I have the capacity to express it. I have to trust that what is in seed, will take root and grow. There is so much that I do not know, however, to know that my “shoots” will go towards the light, gives me calm and determination. And I am confident that this confusion is temporary.

I just have to Keep Breathing!