Two of My Peaceful Heroes: MLK, Jr. & Thich Naht Hanh Together

Two of My Peaceful Heroes: MLK, Jr. & Thich Naht Hanh Together

In 1967 Nobel Laureate Martin Luther King, Jr. nominated the Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk and peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh (b.1926) for the Nobel Peace Prize. This photo shows laureate and nominee together and the text of Martin Luther King's nomination letter follows. These two men, along with Gandhi who greatly influenced MLK, Jr., have had  a tremendous impact on my thinking, my work and my life. As a therapist and social activist, I have been speaking out against abuse, domestic violence and bullying and speaking for increasing peace through creating GREAT relationships my entire career i

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A Circle Is a Nice Thing to Have

A Circle Is a Nice Thing to Have

I doodle and sketch to entertain myself and my children. It actually helps me pay attention. Doodling can do that for ADHD folks like me. Many things are "just because." Like how a circle is just a nice thing to have. Let me explain...

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MLK, Jr. Day "I Have a Dream" Activity

MLK, Jr. Day "I Have a Dream" Activity

Most people have seen clips from Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have a Dream Speech" but most haven't actually seen/heard/read the full 17-minute speech, which is masterful and profound. This is a simple activity based on this speech we've done as a family that you can do with your family, students or youth group.

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Thoughts on Nonviolence and MLK, Jr.'s Legacy

Thoughts on Nonviolence and MLK, Jr.'s Legacy

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is a more than a holiday to me, it is a Holy Day where I honor not only this great man, my hero, but even more importantly the principles he took a stand for. He is one of the key people who have influenced my thinking,  have shaped the nature of my soul and the "content of my character." This is a holy day to me because the principles of nonviolence are sacred to me in my personal life and my professional work in ending abuse and violence and increasing peaceful, loving relationships at home, work, community and school...

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Frugality in the Age of Excess

20111226-125531.jpg Last night in bed Kara looks at my pathetically hammered headphones (thanks kids!) that I had temporarily fixed with Gorilla Tape (think duct tape on steroids) and commented that she should've gotten me some new ones for Christmas. I told her, with a boyish twinkle in my eye she's familiar with, "Oh, no! Thanks, but I'm glad you didn't because I have plans for these." She knows me well enough to know that if anyone can fix something and make something last that I can.

There's an old pioneer saying I've always admired that goes as follows:

Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without."

The modern-day version being:

Reuse. Repurpose. Recycle."

Thus, this morning in 10 minutes with a few rivets and a saved bracket from a prior project I not only have very sturdy and highly functional headphones (saved from the landfill, and money saved in my pocket) I also have a simple and enjoyable, "Cool! Look what I did!" sense of pride.

Then there's Kara. No one can find a deal like Kara. She is one of the most well-dressed (read: smokin' hot!) people I know. She stays fashionable and current. Always lovely. She wears nice clothes of fine quality. She can walk out of pricey Banana Republic with a an excited gleam in her own eye for some ridiculously awesome deal she found: She wears $300 outfits for which she's paid $30. How does she do this? She has a careful eye for great fashion, high quality and awesome deals combined with the patience and contentment to wait for just the right moment to pounce. "Instant gratification" is not in her vocabulary. "Wisdom," "ingenuity" and "cleverness" are though.

Speaking of which, she is one of the most contented people I know. She's said many times, "I can have it all, just not all at once." This is good, because for most of our marriage it was tiiiight financially.

To further illustrate her resourcefulness, one of our grad school friends, who were also as dirt poor as we were, had near-to-nothing left in their cupboard. She asked Kara to come over to help her figure out dinner because, "Kara can make something out of nothing!" It's true. No matter how poor we've been we've always eaten extremely well.

As a team, we've taken pride in our ability to figure things out. In our house, you frequently hear the above quotes above along with the following:

Make the best with what you've got."

The fine art of 'making do'."

and

Necessity is the mother of invention."

For us, individually and as a couple, frugality, contentment and creativity have done a lot to strengthen not only our characters but also our marriage.

In the age of excess we live in there is still (fortunately) plenty of room for, and plenty need of, frugality.

Q: What correlates do you see in this frugal/resourceful principle in regards to your relationships with partner and children? Give your answer below...

“La La La and Smiling”

The other day I was preparing for the “Pulling the Stress Plug” workshopas a free “Thank you!” Training Demo for one of our long-term clients. Of the various stress mastery techniques and mindsets that we teach in this workshop, one of them involves a neuroscience bio-feedback technique called Quick Coherence as developed by HeartMath. You can read more about the three steps here, but in a nutshell, Quick Coherence is an unusually simple, highly effective, and rapid method for reducing stress, anxiety and improving performance. HeartMath describes it briefly as follows:

“Create a coherent state in about a minute with the simple, but powerful steps of the Quick Coherence® Technique. Using the power of your heart to balance thoughts and emotions, you can achieve energy, mental clarity and feel better fast anywhere. Use Quick Coherence especially when you begin feeling a draining emotion such as frustration, irritation, anxiety or anger. Find a feeling of ease and inner harmony that’s reflected in more balanced heart rhythms, facilitating brain function and more access to higher intelligence.”

emWave-smIn preparation for the workshop, I brought the various HeartMath emWave equipment home to test it over the weekend, thinking my family would find it interesting. Using both sophisticated technology and simple instructions my two youngest (Matthew, age 8, and Molly, age 10) quickly and easily kept achieving optimal coherence levels, as indicated by a green light on the emWave Personal Stress Reliever (PSR). Well, Matthew took to it right away and kept asking if he could use it over the weekend.

Matthew-09Monday, as I was heading out the door to work, Matthew exuberantly exclaimed as he held the green-lit emWave PSR aloft, “Hey Dad! All I’m doing is saying ‘La la la’ in my head and smiling!”. I laughed, hugged him and left. I thought that was all, however, for the rest of the day his words kept coming back to me: “All I’m doing is saying ‘La la la’ in my head and smiling.” There you had it: My 8-year-old son had mastered the Quick Coherence technique in only a few tries. Nothing fancy. Nothing complex. No muss. No fuss.

Some people, usually adults, worry that mastering stress is too complicatedand/or that it will involve too much time that they don’t have for mediation or yoga. Take it from a child, folks: Effective stress management isn’t in long-involved methods; It’s in the simple. “La la la” is a child’s version of a mantra—just something to fill the mind (i.e., the practice of mindfulness) with something else other than distraction and worry. The simple act of just physically smiling shifts our neurochemical state by releasing stress-relieving and pleasure-inducing endorphins and DHEA in the brain. Repeated simply over and over produces a coherent, stress-relieving state, quickly.

For years I have said in my stress management workshops that children are little Zen masters and that we would be wise to learn from them. My son proved it to me again. As Darth Vader said to Obi-Wan Kenobi, I can say of my son: “Now the student has become the master.”

An 8-year-old nailed it. Not only that, his example helped me nail it the rest of the day. In fact, it’s helping me right now. I feel fully coherent and peaceful as I’m typing this for my deadline. No stress. No muss. No fuss. I’m just, “La la la” and smiling. I feel just fine.

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Jonathan Sherman