The Importance of Human Connection

Brene Brown’s 20-minute TedTalk in June of 2010 is an excellent presentation on the importance of human connection and the power of vulnerability, based on research and her inspiring tales of stories gathered from experience, analysis and insight.


Above All Others

Every nation flies their flag high up at the top of the pole. Underneath the national flag may fly the flags of states, counties and cities. Every nation sees itself as at the top. And yet, above every nation is the Earth, our world. The Earth (and the air, and the water, and the power sources that fuel our lives), is above all nations. The Earth is not dependent upon us. We are dependent upon the Earth. All nations are dependent upon the Earth. The Earth is above all others.

This perspective can be visually displayed, in every city, every federal and state building, every municipality, any flag pole. It’s simple. Just fly a flag of the Earth above all others….

aboveall others


Think about it. Pass this post along to others who may be in a position to further this idea, to enact this vision. It’s simple. It’s inexpensive. It’s true. Our Earth is above all nations.


The War On Worry

waron worry

We like to go to war on things we think are wrong or bad; the war on drugs, the war on poverty, the war against crime. We need to have a war on worry because worry is wrong and bad;. It is one of the most common debilitating thought processes in which we engage, often daily. Let’s win the war on worry!

What is worry?

The word itself originates from the Old English ‘wyrgan’ which meant ‘to strangle.’ By the time Middle English was dominant, the word had morphed to ‘worien’ and meant ‘to grasp by the throat with the teeth and lacerate’ or ‘to kill or injure by biting and shaking’ which is how wolves would attack sheep. By the time of early Modern English, around the 16th century, the term had again morphed to ‘worry’ and meant ‘to harass, as by rough treatment or attack’ or ‘assault verbally’ and another hundred years later the meaning had shifted a bit and became ‘to bother, distress, or persecute’ and today the word worry is generally meant to mean ‘to cause to feel anxious or distressed’ or ‘to feel troubled or uneasy.’ It is quite a journey from ‘to strangle’ to ‘feel anxious or distressed.’ And yet, most people would agree that feeling anxious or distressed is not unlike being strangled. The question is, of course, who is doing the strangling?

More often than not, we worry when we ourselves are strangling ourselves. We do this with our own internal dialogue, often called ‘self-talk.’ Self-talk is that subtle, on-going subconscious flow of words and imagery which is the basis of our moods, and behaviors. You can imagine the worry you would experience if you were telling yourself that tomorrow you might get fired from your job, or you might fail a test, or you might have to confront a person about a conflict. There are any number of ‘might’ scenarios we could worry about most of which don’t come to pass. And yet, when worrying, we are in distress, and that distress is not just psychological but biochemical as well. When we imagine worrisome scenarios, bodily chemistry, especially neurotransmitters in the brain, change. Pharmaceutical medications attempt to counter this chemical change back to normal, but not without side effects. The easiest and safest way to counter worry chemicals in the bloodstream is to imagine positive experience, positive outcomes, pleasant scenarios. Because the future is unknown for certain, and because we are endowed with creative imagination, it is well within our capacity to generate happy chemicals as well as worry chemicals.

In our western culture, the word worry has come to be associated, or maybe even equivalent to, ‘responsibility.’ That is, if we didn’t worry about something, we would not be a responsible person, because responsible people are concerned about others, situations, problems, conflicts….Worry becomes associated with concern, which is associated with responsibility. Who worries about things they are not concerned about? If you were unconcerned about your money, your car, your job, your relationships, there would be no worry. But, we are concerned; very concerned. We are responsible, and so we worry.

But, what if to be responsible really means to be response-able. That is, able to respond, not to react in limited ways from decades of socialization; to have, like a player of chess, several options available to us as a response. Then, we are response-able. And, being response-able, we are more capable of dealing with any number of unexpected, even unpleasant, challenges that may come our way. We are more adaptable, more flexible, more resourceful; we are less strangled; and then, we don’t worry; we win the war on worry.

Mental health counseling is one way to develop better ways of being response-able, and learning to worry less, enjoy more….


Understanding Learning Styles

understanding learning styles

You can’t teach somebody something in English if all they speak is Spanish. Well, you can if you are showing them, rather than telling them. Likewise, if you want to teach effectively, you need to understand the student’s preferred learning style. Understanding learning styles is an important factor in just about any type of education. Some people do really well with wordy explanations, while others don’t and would prefer visual type education. Whether you are a parent, a coach, a teacher or a manger, you likely find yourself in a position of having to educate people in your environment. It behooves you to have some understanding of different learning styles.

There are typically four general learning styles:

Analytic. This type learner prefers to rely on what the experts already know about any given subject or topic. They may read, watch videos or online tutorials by those who are knowledgeable and experts in that respective field. These kind of learners won’t want to engage in the actual process of doing anything new until they are well versed in what the experts or authorities have already said about the topic at hand.

Factual. This type learner wants facts. Not opinions or anecdotal experience, but cold, hard facts. Unlike the person who prefers to defer to experts, this person relies more heavily on objective research. If the research indicates validity, then they are much more inclined to move ahead and learn the material.

Interactive. This type of learner wants information from those who have already engaged in some kind of direct experience. This is the person who values anecdotal experience from others. They will talk to others, listen to others, ask questions of and consult with others. Based on this kind of interaction, the person will determine the value and worthiness of learning the information and move ahead with it, or not, depending on what others say.

Dynamic. This is the kind of person that learns best by doing. They don’t care about the logic of analysis; they don’t care about cold, hard objective facts and they don’t really care about anecdotal experience from others. If they have any interest whatsoever, they will jump right in trying to figure it out by doing it. This approach often entails trial and error, but that is part of the appeal for these types of learners.

In addition to these four styles of learning, each person also has a dominant or preferred mode of learning.

Visual. This person learns best when they can see information. This is not to say that hearing information won’t work, but hearing alone would be much less effective than seeing and hearing. As a species, we are very visually oriented and some research indicates that about 80% of the information we receive from our environment is visual. We also live in a very visually dominant society. This is the type of learner who responds favorably to videos, movies or live demonstrations.

Auditory. This is a person who might be distracted by visual presentations and would much prefer to hear or read verbal instructions. This person would tend to choose something like audio books, tapes or having somebody read instructions to them.

Kinaesthetic This is a person who needs to feel it. As the saying goes, ‘those who feel it, know it’ and these are those kind of people. A kinaesthetic learner is one who would find the hands-on approach most appealing as it would allow them to touch, move and manipulate things.

Interactive. This is the person who needs to not only engage their visual, auditory and kinaesthetic modes, but needs to interact with others as well. This is the most inclusive form of learning, and teaching. It engages the whole person. It not only includes the mind and body, but encompasses the social environment. Some of our best learning experiences occur in this type of interactive setting. Ironically, these learnings are generally not in any kind of official educational setting, but rather simply a part of living.

Trying to determine which style and which mode is dominant and preferred in any given person can be a challenge, and time consuming. A much better approach is to go for the most inclusive form of teaching/learning and employ that as the general paradigm. In the case of both styles and modes, this would be labeled as dynamic-interactive. As such, if you want to be the most effective coach, parent, teacher or role model; if you want to make sure the information, ideas, concepts, skills and behaviors are being not only transmitted but internalized as effectively as possible, then you need to engage their looking and seeing, hearing and listening, handling and feeling and, most of all, when at all possible, doing with others. As the Chinese proverb states: “I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.”

The Advaita Approach to Mental Health

 advaita approach to mental health

Mental health, or illness, is based primarily on a philosophy, a collection of beliefs, about who I am, what I am, where I am. Everybody has answers to these questions, even if the answer is ‘I don’t know.’ And, even if we don’t know, for sure, we can give some semblance of an answer to those questions. We often give answers to questions without knowing, for sure. How we think about not knowing, how it reflects on us, is part of our philosophy of life in this world. What does it mean for you to not know?

For those who do know, that philosophy of life, or world view, whether conscious or not, informs just about everything on a macro scale such as society, family, work, money, moods, actions, conditions. All of that informs our micro life, our personal life with our specific family and our particular work, our own individual ups and downs, circumstances, situations. We interpret all of this through the lens of our beliefs about our life in this world. What if a lot of these beliefs, our philosophy of life in this world, is petty, narrow, short-sighted? What if it is not aligned with reality? What if it is based on ignorance?

Advaita is a philosophy of life in this world based on long established knowledge. In most traditional mental health therapies today, there is a ‘psycho-educational’ component. A lot of this psych-education is about how to think rationally instead of emotionally, realistically instead of erroneously. Advaita not only questions and challenges current thinking, it introduces specific philosophical concepts very conducive to mental health. Applying these concepts as a filter through which to interpret experience can change one’s moods and behaviors, relationships and sense of self.

Advaita is an old language word that means ‘non-dual.’ Non-dual is non-duality. That translates into no battle, no attack, no conflict. So many mental health disorders and dysfunctions are based on internal battles, and attacks, and conflicts. The Advaita approach closely examines duality and weaves a way of understanding it as integrated and unified. The ‘self’ of which we are often so concerned with its many stresses and pressures, goals and duties, responsibilities and obligations, dreams and hopes, strivings and achievements, is entirely based on a dualistic philosophy of life in this world. That philosophy is to transportation as Advaita is to teleportation. Advaita is very advanced. It also extends far into the human past.

At the very least, Advaita offers a way of thinking about things which may be to most rather novel, big, comprehensive and wholistic, which does no harm, and may do good. At the most, it can be very helpful along the journey towards that supreme level of human consciousness we all seek. This supreme consciousness which incorporates, integrates and unifies duality, is beyond happiness and pain. It is more than the pair of opposites which make up our dualistic universe. It is a consciousness which like the sun shines equally on the land and on the sea. It is a consciousness which like the ocean receives all rivers from every continent. It is a consciousness of real love and bliss, the supreme state of mind for any human being.

Mental health is a lot more than coping well. A philosophy of life in this world which requires coping, may be a philosophy worth relinquishing. A world view in which war is for peace and violence is for safety may be worth relinquishing. A belief in oneself as independent may be getting in the way of that supreme state of mind. Our current philosophy of life in this world, our complicated, partial, conflicted and dualistic view of the way things are, can be relinquished, and replaced with a wholistic view of all life, which is Advaita.