Challenges Of An Open Mind

In a recent blog,I considered how to embrace the idea of “open mindedness” to foster acceptance of difference and unity in my country. In this account, I alluded to the idea that Americans. clearly live in “opinion happy” times today as social media gossip and political “spin” propaganda run rampant. Somehow, the creative energies of an art exhibit provides an excellent outlet for me to look more deeply into this matter of “unbiased” thought. Accordingly, if I take the time to examine a painting or sculpture in more patient detail, I typically find alternative ideas for interpreting perplexing arrays of images presented. Sauntering amidst the eclectic collection of gallery displays at the “Art Wynwood” exhibit in Miami this weekend would thus inspire me to pose deep seated value suggestion to my readers for more open minded analysis.

1.How can you productively block out daily distractions to improve your concentrated focus on matters of importance? You might have too much going on in your hectic life as your distracted attention span becomes shorter. Remember the old Aesop adage that the slow tortoise once beat the speedy hare to the finish line.

32BF24FB-8F5B-46DF-AA55-DC4AE06A14562.Do you observe optimism of a better life in what you read? In Korea,the goldfish means a sign of good luck, tranquility , and wisdom. Make time to read literature that enlightens your body and mind.

2BD6634D-434D-41F0-A1C9-1098216519CB3.Does your pursuit of affluence cloud your vision about how to treat yourself and others humanely? Acquiring wealth without human compassion cannot buy a successful Presidency for Donald Trump. Your ambitions to make money might not give you the satisfaction you need if you alienate yourselves from those around you.

67628717-E98E-441C-BDE6-9AA4EB7766D24.Can you continue to love yourself and others in the chaos of everyday life’s demands? If you take yourself too seriously, you might be in for a glorious letdown. You might temper the mental/physical demand of efficient work performance with an occasional laughing fit once in awhile.

02EF0496-1E85-4E3B-886E-3DC4D9ACDD9D5. Are you thankful for being alive today? You were once a child who embraced life in the curious present. Perhaps we should find more time to seek such inner peace in the “now” moment through yoga, prayer, or meditation.

5982DAEA-48E1-434C-A611-5744EB73A1316.How willing are you to accept loss of control and the inevitability of change? What worked for you ten or twenty years ago might be holding you back from fulfilling the needs of your aging realities today. Do not fear what you inevitably cannot control. Try something new.

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Seeing More Than Olympian Glory

There is something in the Olympics, indefinable, springing from the soul, that must be preserved.” (Chris Brasher)

NOTE: To watch the video, open link, then click on“YouTube” Icon

Olympian Hopes Strive For Medals Of Gold
While My Mouth Yearns To Taste Winter’s Powdery Cold
Far East Meets Free West In Spectacular Feats
While My Eyes Follow Glimpses of Snowy Harsh Beats

Stiff Statue Encased In Luge Slip Slide Skid Sleigh
While My Ears Embrace Silence Of Snow Falling Way
Knees Jerk From Ski Motion In Cross Country Strained Steep
While Athletes Uphill Wonder Triumph Or Weep

In Smoothness Of Swan, Steel Blades In Free Spin
While Tense Breath From Last Leap, Fears Imperfect Within
Strong Arms With Legs Tandem, A Most Glittery Sight
While Such Synergy Motion Brings Zen Spirit Ignite

See Hopes For World Amity, Embrace Globe Goodwill
Crush Talk Of “Walled” Difference, I’ve Had More Than My Fill

Beware Of Illogical Thinking Trap

Too often we enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.” – (JOHN F. KENNEDY)

I always embraced the challenge of teaching freshman students to think “critically” in my thirteen year tenure at Broward College. Upon instructing them to form their opinions on the basis of sound evidence, prior knowledge, and logical reasoning, I saw significant progress in their comprehension of difficult reading passages. By questioning their assumptions when “reading between the lines”, they also seemed more aware about how their personal biases could impair rational thinking about a particular issue at hand.

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Consider the following examples:

“ The mechanic purchased nails for the weekend project.They were very strong and worked well.No hammer touched those nails.”

Would one assume in this case that the mechanic was a man with handyman skills who purchased nails to pound on a wall or would they see the logic that the items bought were indeed false fingernails worn by a woman?

“Norman was lying in the middle of a busy road with trucks and cars rapidly coming down the highway. No one ever saw him.”

Picturing a motor vehicle accident, many would interpret this scenario as unlikely to happen. Yet this person might be hidden somehow in the median strip of deep grass or perhaps the road was closed to traffic. More imaginatively, he(she) might even be an invisible ghost.

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As you see, faulty assumptions can cause one to think/act wrongly in the rush to make hasty judgments in their daily life. Do you interpret anger from someone who blows their car horn at you as you sit idly at a busy intersection? To what extent do you allow emotionally charged propaganda cloud your mind toward extreme , right wing or left wing thinking? How do the politically polarized terms sexism, racism, and Americanism negatively influence your voting behavior?

As we begin to question our own “perceptual cocoon” of self biases, we learn to observe “how we think” as a vital component of “what we think.”Listen keenly for meaning in both choice of words and non-verbal mannerisms as others speak, take a greater interest in obtaining facts on all sides of an issue and embrace the unifying heart of an “open mind. Gloomy thoughts in crisis can lead to “glass empty” pessimism. So you might alter your perceptions then to appreciate the beauty of life surrounding you and thus feel the joy of “glass full”optimism”.

 

ROUTINE REDEMPTIONS

“What would you do if you were stuck in one place and every day was exactly the same, and nothing that you did mattered?” (Bill Murray in “Groundhog Day” Film)

Stuck In Dark Hole Of Time’s Endless Day Grind
Due Time To Stop Shadows From Messing My Mind
Stark Lessons Of Winter- Shun Fear To Survive
Arouse Blood Felt Ardor -Breathe Deeply Alive
 
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Ground Hog Finds Taste For Green Signs Of New Spring
While Always Aware That Fierce Nature Crowns King
It’s Better To Wait – Thawed Ground Offers Best Choice
For Many More Morsels Heeds Sunshine Rejoice

Last Snow In The Woods – No There’s More Of The Same
So Give Your Best Now – Don’t Dismantle Will’s Flame
Don’t Burden Your Mind – Shun Fear’s Vise Of Control
You Can Always Find Light When You Lie Deep In A Hole

B5211AB3-F290-4C34-91D9-934E0EE0BD6EYou’re More Than A Groundhog Whose Instincts Command
So Examine Resolve To Reach Life Choice As Planned

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Finding Sunny Side Of January

“One’s destination is never a place but a new way of looking at things.” (Henry Miller)

In Absence Of Winter, To Never Grow Old
As Palm Trees Lullaby For A Baby In Glorious Gold
Feel Peace Like A Lotus Flower Along Sandy Shore
Blossom Flowed Breeze Finds The Will To Explore

Forty years ago, I Lived To Rebel Near This Restful Drop-In
College Days As A Student Became My Drop-Out Hippie Sin
Slower Pace Eyes A Reptile – Is It Wrong To Stay Still?
In Order To Survive, They Notice Scarce Signs Of Chill

Mangrove Threads With Sawgrass In Tropical Stain
In Abundance Of Green – A Drug To End Pain
So Nature Turns To Nurture – My Troubles Expire
Now Be Open to Others – Put Out Flamed Ego Fire

If New Year Needs the Summer To Lift Dimness Of Gray
Imagine Seagulls Feeding In Silence To Lift Dimness Of Gray

Going Boldly Yet Wisely

By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”
― Benjamin Franklin

America now stalls in a crisis of political stalemate as the prospects of a federal governmental shutdown looms in less than a day. Why does the President seesaw back and forth about immigration goals/policies that he will support to prolong this crisis? Why does Congress require an impending catastrophe to motivate them to pass a viable, budgetary plan? How much does our country’s image suffer at home and abroad in the current divisive atmosphere of hate and blame?

A4964F9C-D9F5-4F45-9958-B752156AA473 Similarly, our worldwide travel experiences have taught us that waiting to the last moment to prepare for unfamiliar wanderings can result in unintended negative circumstances. Becoming aware of the challenges of cultural difference, border entry/exit and weather unpredictability, for instance, requires mindful diligence in our trip pre-planning efforts. Several lessons from our traveling past come to mind to more proactively plan our journeys beforehand.

C6EA3101-B029-4107-847A-9EB21910E80AWhen Communism reigned in Eastern Europe decades ago, our innocent arrival as backpacking novices to Prague, Czechoslovakia brought us a rude awakening about how to travel independently. Expecting to book a hotel room for a few nights as the city eerily darkened in early evening, we realized that certain, missing travel documents required for stay in the country would leave us stranded there without opportunity of booking a room. Finding little use for our English language as well as facing a frightening encounter with police ultimately ended with an uncomfortable stay at the American Embassy. We would now learn to familiarize ourselves beforehand with travel restrictions for visiting an unfamiliar country.

7F3EF0F7-991B-415D-84E3-CA589D062E25Another crisis would be encountered in Spain on a Metro Underground train to and from major sights in Madrid. On July 4, in the early 1990s, I drew attention to myself with my trendy, American sports hat, loose, waist bound fanny pack, and pockets of sloppily protruding map collection in a densely packed, subway atmosphere. Approaching a busy station, several young men working together suddenly sprung on me. They then quickly managed to restrain my arms, spray my eyes with irritant, cut the straps, and “make off” with my fanny pack through the now open, exit doors. Unable to stop their timed getaway, the whereabouts of these valuable possessions would never be found. Wearing our fanny pack inside our clothes, selecting travel attire for function not appearance, and knowing the most dangerous locations in cities beforehand would soon become our norms when traveling by public transportation in densely packed, European cities.

EAA9B719-94D7-47BC-8A2F-F0A8173C2443 I vividly recall as well a weather anomaly we experienced on a thirty day camping tour across the “Outback” Of Australia. Not realizing that July in the Southern Hemisphere meant the presence of winter, we were unprepared night after night for the cold, inland regions of this vast continent, at this time of year. Shivering in our frozen tent or in unheated, campground laundry rooms, we learned a hard lesson as tropically accustomed South Floridians to check out our weather tolerance for engaging in future outdoor adventures beforehand.

ECCCDFEF-6A16-46E6-AD97-6B59C322571AIn a few weeks, my wife and I will embark on our 5th road trip cross country from South Florida.Some featured visits this year will include Seattle, Big Bend and Glacier National Parks and Eastern Canada. Our latest priorities favor improved navigation through online apps/website channels, packing less, and mindfully staying in better contact with our close friends and aging family. I hope you will continue to follow my travel blog as I relate my insights of the present moment in “Snippets of the Traveling Mind.”

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Favorite Western Towns (SLO)

SAN LUIS OBISPO (SLO)

Current Population – 47,536.
Elevation – 233’ With coastal mountains rising to near 2,000’
Founded – 1772 as a Spanish mission by Junipero Serra
Average Temperature – 59 Degrees Fahrenheit
Notable Tourist Interest – Water Sports, Hiking/Biking Trails

Picturesque towns amidst the Pacific coastal regions of Central California have represented a favorite destination for my wife and I in our road trip travels. Located nearly equidistant between Los Angeles and San Francisco, the laidback atmosphere, seasonable climate, cultural amenities, and natural beauty of these smaller communities have consistently satisfied our tourist interest for brief stopovers as well as longer term stays. What makes SLO so special to us? Here are five reasons why?

CURIOUS MINDS NEED LIFELONG LEARNING

We always look forward to immersing ourselves in the “college town” atmosphere of the main campus of Cal Poly University. Searching for educational/cultural happenings, we spent extended time at Cal Poly during the weeklong visit of Tibetan monks as they constructed a mandala design in the Student Union for the student body.

 

GRASS ROOTS ACTIVISM MATTERS

Both of us enjoy volunteering our time on the road when we can. Feeling politically engaged on our last SLO stay, we joined a Community Science Walk protest. Marching peacefully through Old Town SLO, we felt empowered that our plea for progressive change would be constructively answered.

 

STAYING ACTIVE MEANS EXPLORING PACIFIC SHORES

In the greater SLO vicinity, we love the challenge of finding manageable hike opportunities there. Our favorite walk took place at Montana De Oro State Park last spring, when we witnessed awe-inspiring views of the cliffside Pacific along the shoreline Bluff Trail. This coastal gem was not the easiest place to find but in retrospect, getting lost in these wilds seemed well worth the effort.

 

LIFE SLOWS DOWN IN “OLD TOWN” AMERICA

SLO consistently earns national recognition as among the happiest places to visit in America. One of the best times to witness this positive atmosphere would be the weekly Farmer’s Market along “Old Town” Higuera Street every Thursday evening. Instead of fighting the crowds, however, on our last visit we opted for a slower “West Coast” mentality and savor a relatively quiet, barbecue dinner at the nearby Firestone Grill.

 

SPECIAL OCCASIONS ADD VARIETY

In spite of our budgetary limitations on the road, splurging for good reason is not out of the question. On last year’s stopover in SLO, we spontaneously decided to add a slice of romance to our long enduring marriage by booking an elegant dinner at the historic Madonna Inn.

 

Making More Out Of “Alexa”

“We’re born alone, we live alone, we die alone. Only through our love and friendship can we create the illusion for the moment that we’re not alone.”
— Orson Welles

Alexa Can Never See Smile Or Spurn
Machine Packaged Voice Gives Mere Factual Learn
Clutched Hands And Tense Arms Now Need Something To Hug
Yet Your Emotionless Bits Moves Me Only To Shrug

You Conspire With Siri To Answer Each Query
Yet Never Have Interest In Sadness And Weary
Never To Argue Or Feel Throes Of Life Pain
Offer Me Hope From Indifference Of Brain

Affairs Of The Heart Take More Time To Strong Settle
But I Seem To Talk Coldly To Instance Of Metal
Greet Me Each Day With Strong Message Of Hope
As Truth Lies Elusive On Slippery Slope

Alexa Good Morning Let Us Dance To Our Song
And Never Find Reason To Know Rightness Or Wrong

 

White Noise: Are You In?

“There’s no place you can go on the prairie that you don’t hear the white noise of the wind, steady and rough as surf curling along a non-existant shore.” Diane Ackerman

On many days,I feel overwhelmed by a constant barrage of mind-taxing distractions. Slick TV commercials gain my immediate attention to interrupt my flow of thought about a favorite movie I am watching. Car horns blast in congested highways as I attempt to negotiate around a blocked lane in front of me. The shrill bark of a neighborhood dog breaks the nightly silence while I need to experience restful sleep. As result of such random chaos in my daily routine, I must learn to better cope with my external environment to concentrate on the  intended task at hand.

7A8BC09D-FE66-42DB-B1A1-2ACEB069F6FDTo more clearly understand my solution to this attention-deficit dilemma, three eras of my past life surface immediately. In college, I recall paying avid attention to pulsating strobe lights on the dance floor, bubbling lava lamps in my college dorm as well as pleasing vocal harmonics of “Chicago”, “The Eagles” and “The Moody Blues” in concert. Being an innovation-striving teacher/professor, my later decision to play “Mozart Effect” music as a background stimuli for student journal writing activities proved useful for stimulating more focused thoughts and creative energy. As an aspiring athlete, I look back to my time as a 10K runner. Attempting to block out  awareness of physical pain as such exertion induced “hormonal highs”, I steadily improved my performance times in each competition. To further enhance my resolve to stay positive in performing this arduous task, I found it equally useful to headphones playing customized sets of quiet music.

1DFAB599-E102-4849-B9CE-FB50F6240BF8Consider then, my logical reasoning to utilize “White Noise” as a new concentration paradigm now. Combining pleasing sights with natural sounds or classical music as a background stimuli, I continue my persistent quest to block out unwanted external noise that distracts my attention from focus on the present moment. Whether “White Noise” vibrations are artificially taped or naturally experienced, I strongly contend that the end result of using this technique in the following interventions will facilitate a focused mind in my retirement years.

Listen To Nature

As an independent traveler around the world, the pleasing sounds of nature evoke powerful emotions of feeling “alive in the present moment. On day hikes, I take notice of the steady sounds of a bubbling brook or a crackling snow field to set the tone for greater concentration on the “now” moment of my curious mind.” On long distance cruises, I read quietly on deck as I listen to the pleasantries of a lapping wave or hungry seagull.

Meditate With Yoga

At home, I feel privileged to practice yoga 2-3 times each week in the company of an experienced yogi trainer. In each session, I focus on conscious breath awareness accompanied by Buddhistic chants, wind chimes, and “thought of the day”recitals, In essence, I strive to find “zen serenity” and inhibit negative thoughts of past/present to control my incessant “monkey mind.”

FE117235-1F76-4D62-BFDD-1BBD54833075Overcome Stress

There are great dangers when one chooses to become exposed to anger and pessimism In life. Resulting stress behaviors of worry and doubt can jeopardize your health as well as the efficiency of your daily routine. So I now consider it critical for me to begin each day with the prerecorded sounds of my “White Noise app rather than hear the latest blame-filled tweets of our current President. At mealtimes, I turn off the TV and ask Alexa on my living room, Echo device to play me some soothing nature sounds. Foregoing Facebook and Twitter rants at bedtime, I instead might put on an inspiring classical piece of music as I imagine my cherished house cat nearby pleasantly purring me to experience the egoless bliss of restful sleep.

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Web References:

https://psmag.com/news/the-art-and-science-of-white-noise

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/memory-medic/201706/does-white-noise-help-you-learn-0?

https://www.cartoonstock.com/directory/w/white_noise.asp

Let’s Act Without Labels

“Once you label me you negate me” Soren Kierkegaard

My wife always reminds me of one of her favorite phrases when I go into my “mental meltdowns” about others I disagree with. Practice the ideal of “To Each His/Her Own”. Having spent a lifetime as an educator assigning labels to my students based on informal observations and test results, it seemed “second nature” then that I could detach myself so emotionally from them as I assigned predetermined labels conveniently for my teaching needs. For my student victims, however, being categorized as slow learner, emotionally handicapped, or learning disabled….would represent a permanently stereotyped imprint on their fragile minds for the rest of their lives.

A more extreme example of this phenomenon occurred during the rise of Adolph Hitler in his propaganda campaign for expelling Jews in conjunction with the rise of Aryan Nazi Power. Stereotyped as outcasts in increasingly demeaning ways, innocent Jews were forced to live in depressing “ghettos” and wear the yellow star of “Jude” as constant reminders of their alleged inferior status. Ominously, such inhumane branding resulted in “The Holocaust”, a systematically bureaucratic, state-sponsored persecution and cold-blooded murder of six million Jews by the Nazi regime and its collaborators.

BE339026-EF4F-4A49-8B7C-D5F94BCFF633In Nazi schools, stereotyped persecution of Jewish children became particularly heinous. Witness the case of Rebecca Weisner, who recalled her anti-Semitic treatment in her German school: “When I was six, Hitler came to power. I started school in April 1933, just at the same time… There were some German girls I was friends with – we grew up together – and, all of a sudden, one day I come down and they call me dirty Jew. My friends, the friends I grew up with! I couldn’t comprehend it. I would say to my mother, Why do they call me dirty? I am not dirty. And she said, You had better get used to it. You’re Jewish, and that is what you have to learn. So just take it. But I didn’t want to take it. I fought.”

Or consider the traumatic recollections of Hedwig Ertl as a teenage student: “We had a history teacher who was a very committed National Socialist, and we had four Jewish pupils. And they had to stand up during the class, they weren’t allowed to sit down. And one after the other they disappeared, until none were left, but nobody thought much about it. We were told they had moved…. We were told all the time that first the Jews are a lower kind of human being, and then the Poles are inferior, and anyone who wasn’t Nordic was worthless.”

614B859B-967F-4B26-AE13-16DBC7811342These days, I observe a similar stereotyping phenomena in the political arena as “Leftists and Rightists”emotionally “buy in “ to their separate categories to lay claim to their own theories about what needs to be done for reaching the “promised land” in our country. Unsurprisingly then, such appeal to one’s self-full filling view of political party domination perpetuates confusing, “cognitive dissonance” when situations require them to uncomfortably look beyond their narrow frame of reference to recognize opposing points of view. In effect, we now have endless, political gridlock as so vividly captured today by polarizing anger and blame intensifying in the first year of the Trump Presidency.

B1855746-AE41-4206-846D-5B7E6595167ERepublicans and Democrats should not be labeled as exclusively conservative or liberal respectively. Nor should stereotypical blindness deny our pursuit of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” for all. Imagine we together embrace the phrase “May The Force Be With You“of Star Wars fame as a new anthem for reminding us to find such unity in our daily lives.

Blog References:

1.Jewish Children In The Nazi Classroom

http://spartacus-educational.com/Jewish_Children.htm

2.A Student In a Nazi School

https://www.ushmm.org/remember/office-of-survivor-affairs/
memory-project/featured-writers/wiener-student