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Sunday, January 27, 2013

Just say "YES"

Hi A.B.!

Yes, it is easy to be philosophical about adversity when we are not

in the midst of it. On the same thread, someone quoted Buddhist

master Thich nat Hanh. The quote was very popular, & many

said they'd like to keep it pinned up where they could see it. Below is

the quote & my response, which received no replies. I felt it was important

to note that we don't always immediately have the capacity to be serene. We

needn't judge ourselves as spiritual flunkies for experiencing

a full range of emotions. While we don't need to cling to pain, for

a while we may need to let it be...trusting it's all grist for the mill

"Serenity is not freedom from the storm but being at peace during the storm."

Ginger's response:

"Yes, this is a lovely, poetic way to describe being present to what is- allowing, not resisting the Now, in Whatever form it presents.

And...if we find ourselves unable to accept the storm, and fear, not a sense of peace, comes up for us in the midst of it, we can have compassion for ourselves & accept that too. Then, we have still created a space for presence. We have accepted our unacceptance!"   Ginger

Dear Ginger,

You have said something very important here. Accepting our unacceptance. It is a good ploy to keep going back to the first thing you can say "yes" to in the way of self-acceptance. It is a way of being loving to ourselves.

We are usually much too hard on ourselves. By going to the first thing you can say "yes" to you will make it clear to yourself, #1, in what ways you have been being negative, and #2, that you can turn a negative situation around. This way, no matter how negative you get on yourself you can keep accepting your own negativity and in so doing, recharge yourself from negative to positive. When you are in a positive mode that is much closer to love than the negative. We always want to head for the positive, for love, for acceptance, for life.

Saying "Yes" connects us. "Saying No" separates us. Your mind can get very tricky about semantics. The mind will say something like "but you have to say "no" to bad things, don't you? Not necessarily. Instead of saying "no" to something bad, you can do the loving switch and just say "yes" to something good. Just remember Joel Goldsmith's warning. You can't get to truth through the reasoning process. Which is another way of saying you can't perceive truth as an object. You can BE the truth, but you can't KNOW the truth. Truth and love are the same. You can't KNOW love. You can BE love by loving..

That's why the positive, loving path is always the direction to head. Another thing to remember, the tiniest baby step in the RIGHT direction turns you 180 degrees around from going in the negative direction! The tiniest positive baby step is more powerful than the most giant negative step. This is how redemption and recovery is always possible. A. B.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

How I Survived My Wife"s Battle With Cancer


I came across your blog and really identified with some of your writing. My name is Cameron Von St. James and my wife was diagnosed with an extremely rare and deadly cancer called mesothelioma. Normally when diagnosed with mesothelioma, a person has a life expectancy of about 3-12 months, but after intense treatment and recovery she is still here 7 years later.

There are many steps to take as a caregiver when dealing with any type of harmful disease. Would you allow me to write an article for your blog about my personal experience as a caregiver to my wife? We struggled through so many hardships during this tough time, but found a way to make it through.

I'd love to share our story of hope with your readers who might take something away from it. This is an important message to get out there so please let me know if you would be interested in seeing it and sharing it with your readers.

Thank you for all you do in making a difference, Cameron

Dear Cameron,

If you will email me your story I will be glad to post it on my blog to inspire others

Hi A. B.

Thanks so much for this opportunity! I've attached my story to this email, thank you so much for considering it for your blog. Please feel free to take a look and let me know what you think whenever you get a chance. If you do enjoy it, I'd be thrilled if you shared it with your readers.

Thanks again, I'm looking forward to hearing your feedback!


Here is my story:

How I Survived When My Wife Was Fighting Cancer

Loved ones and caregivers struggle greatly when their family members face a battle with cancer. My wife has frequently mentioned that she can’t imagine how I felt during the days after her diagnosis with malignant pleural mesothelioma. The raw emotion and sense of being overwhelmed that I felt in those days is something I find difficult to share, even with her.

Heather’s battle with mesothelioma began a mere three months after the birth of our only child, Lily. I remember hearing the diagnosis for the first time. I gazed into my wife’s watery eyes and thought, “How are we ever going to get through this?”

Initially, I was overcome by fear and rage. For days I struggled to speak without bursting into a string of profanity. Slowly, a sense of responsibility began to overtake my fear and anger. I needed to be strong for my family. My wife and daughter needed to be able to rely on me as their rock, their source of stability.

Immediately after my wife’s diagnosis, my daily to-do list was longer than anything I could handle. At first, I would frequently become overwhelmed. Soon, however, I learned to accept the help offered by friends and family, as well as to prioritize those things I needed to get done. Times were still rough, but with the support of loved ones, we would make it.

Perhaps the most difficult time for me during Heather’s battle with cancer was the two-month period following her surgery in Boston. She flew to South Dakota where our daughter was staying with her parents while I stayed home to work. While she was there preparing to undergo chemotherapy and radiation as her next phase of mesothelioma treatments I only got to see her once.

While the time away from my wife and daughter was extremely difficult, to this day I do not think of that time as a loss. I made the best decisions I could at the time so that my wife could recover and we could be reunited as a family as soon as possible. In fact, the ability to choose and make decisions became a comfort to me, a sort of way to maintain some control during a time when life seemed out of control.

Following my wife’s battle with mesothelioma, I remain thankful for the opportunity to make choices in life. This and learning how to accept help from others are the two main lessons I have taken from this experience. Through all of our struggles, Heather is still here and still healthy over six years later. I hope that our story can be a source of hope and help  to those currently battling cancer.

Dear Cameron

I loved your story. It was simple and eloquent at the same time, as well as helpful. Your pointing out that making decisions helped you to maintain a sense of control when things seemed out of control was extremely insightful, and I think will be helpful to many. A. B. Curtiss

For more information see:

Mesothelioma treatments

Malignant plueural misothelioma

Link to Cameron’s blog    http://www.mesothelioma.com/blog/authors/cameron/

Friday, January 18, 2013

Overcoming Adversity is not Easy

Hi A.B.!

I enjoyed your last two blog posts. Thanks! Reading the myths of happiness & your reflection on suffering was interesting & helpful.

In a chat room I frequent, one of the questions asked was, "Why are there so many bad things in life?" The woman who posted the questions wondered about events like the shootings at Sandy Hook, other crimes, war, & poverty.

Your books & other writings, A. B.,  have shaped my approach to things. We can view life & its vast array of experiences as an obstacle, or an enemy, or we can open the possibility that whatever is in front of us is meant to be, even if we didn't (& never would have) asked for it! There is so much more going on in life than our thoughts about it!

This is what I wrote to the questioner. Thanks, A. B., for reading if you have time!

You're asking the big questions, & you are getting a lot of wonderful responses that are speaking to Truth, if not providing concrete "answers."

There is something to be said for Surrender...accepting that we don't have all the answers & never will. Life is largely a mystery that can't be contained by our minds- within our concepts & thoughts about it.

But while we will never have all the answers tied up with a bow, there are pointers! A common theme you see over & over on this thread is the redemptive nature of adversity.

Repeatedly, we see that without losses, hardships, suffering, the better angels of our human nature would not have been revealed, much less developed. We can't help but conclude that ultimately, Suffering, the situation we would never ask for, serves a purpose in our evolution as humans.

I like this quote from Eckhart Tolle- "Even within the seemingly most unacceptable & painful situation is concealed a deeper good, & within every disaster is contained the seed of grace."

Dear G,

Thank you for your reflections. We are each a part of each other's solution to adversity. A chance word, a thoughtful remark, a hand extended toward you in a gesture of understanding. It all helps. And without each other, nothing helps.

And, of course, it's always easy to be philosophical about adversity once we have overcome it. The hard is, while we are in the throes of suffering adversity, that we keep our wits about us, and keep thinking about some bit of philosophical reminder to bouy us up, and remember to reach out to others in some small way. A. B. Curtiss

Thursday, January 17, 2013

15 Facts from the Book, Myths of Happiness

Dear S,

Thank you so much for your comment on my July 8, 2010 post. Life is extremely difficult at times. Sometimes I think how wonderful it would be if it were all easy, and then my very next thought is that if things were always easy, we'd be bored and looking for some way to find some meaning in our lives. As it is, because life is diffult, we are always having to stretch ourselves beyond what we thought was possible, and that's we way we grow and mature to be wise and wonderful. Life may not be wonderful, but we can always strive to be wonderful ourselves, in bringing the best we have to in order to live up to what life asks of us.  And I've been meaning to post this. I found it very helpful myself. A. B. Curtiss

Sonja Lyubomirsky, PhD is a professor of psychology at the University

of California, Riverside. Her research—on the possibility of permanently

increasing happiness— has been honored with a Science of Generosity

grant, a John Templeton Foundation grant, a Templeton Positive Psychology

Prize, and a million-dollar grant from the National Institute of Mental Health.

Sonja’s 2008 book, The How of Happiness, has been translated into

nineteen languages. She lives in Santa Monica, California, with her family. *~*~*~*~*~*~*

3. Fifteen Facts from Sonja Lyubomirsky's The Myths of Happiness

In The Myths of Happiness, Sonja isolates the major turning points of adult life, looking to both achievements (marriage, children, professional satisfaction, wealth) and failures (single hood, divorce, financial ruin, illness) to reveal that our misconceptions about the impact of such events is perhaps the greatest threat to our long-term well-being.

Sonja argues that we have been given false promises—myths that assure us that lifelong happiness will be attained once we hit the culturally confirmed markers of adult success. This restricted view of happiness works to discourage us from recognizing the upside of any negative life turn and blocks us from recognizing our own growth potential.

The book is filled with research-based insights and counterintuitive wisdom. Here, in random order, are 15 facts—all supported in the book by extensive research.

Fifteen Facts from Sonja Lyubomirsky’s The Myths of Happiness

1. We should replay our happy times but analyze (rather than relive) our negative past experiences. Studies suggest that we will be happier if we can savor (not dissect) our positive experiences and strive to understand (but not replay) unhappy times.

2. Novelty in relationships is like a drug. Being exposed to variety and novelty appears to have similar effects on our brains—specifically on activity involving the neurotransmitter dopamine --as do pharmacological “highs”.

3. Couples who talk alike stay together longer. Pairs of first-time daters who matched each other’s language styles were more likely to want to date again, and college couples who matched each other’s language styles were more likely to still be together three months later. Even the relationships of famous couples like Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes were happiest when their letters showed the highest match in language styles and least happy when they showed the lowest match.

4. Two-thirds of the benefits of a raise in income is erased after just one year. This occurs in part because we suddenly have “new” needs, spend more, and begin to associate with people in a higher income bracket.

5. It’s the frequency—not intensity—of positive emotions that is good for our health. In a study that followed people ages 18 to 94 over the course of 13 years those with more frequent positive moments (but not more intense positive moments) lived longer.

6. Friendships lead us to perceive mountains as less steep. Researchers asked volunteers to meet them at the base of a hill and asked that they either come alone or with a friend. Those who were accompanied by a friend–especially a friend they were close to and knew a long time–judged the hill to be less steep than those who were alone.

7. Unexpected pleasures are the most rewarding. In one experiment, when thirsty participants were informed that they would finally be able to drink, those who didn't know what they were going to get (i.e., water vs. a more attractive beverage) showed more activity in the parts of their brains linked to positive emotions.

8. We are hard-wired to adapt to circumstances both good and bad. This means the happiness spike we experience when we are in a new relationship, get a raise, or get married won’t last for long.

9. When it comes to sex, it’s women—not men—who require more novelty. In a long-term relationship, women are more likely than men to lose interest in sex and to lose it sooner. Women are physiologically aroused by a much broader range of stimuli than are men, and are most turned on by fantasies of sex with strangers. Also, female lust is often dominated by a craving to be the object of powerful urgent desire.

10. Divorce is highly heritable. The genes that underlie who gets divorced (which appear to be linked to particular personalities) are passed down from parents to children. So when we learn that children of divorced parents don’t do as well in certain domains, the effect may be due to the genes that the children share with their parents and not to the effects of divorce per se.

11. A troubled marriage presents as big a risk factor for heart disease as a regular smoking habit. For example, in the middle of a hostile fight, the functioning of our immune system begins to decline, our physical injuries heal slower, and our coronary calcium levels (signaling heart disease risk) rise.

12. Marital satisfaction decreases after the first baby is born and soars after the last child leaves home.

13. But parents experience more meaning. Sonja and her colleagues found that parents reported more meaning and purpose in life when spending time with their children than during the rest of their days.

14. Homeowners are less happy than renters. Contrary to popular beliefs about the “American Dream,” researchers have found that homeowners are less happy than renters, derive more pain from their homes, and spend more time on housework and less time interacting with their friends and neighbors.

15. Daily hassles and uplifts impact our well-being more than do major life events. Because, unlike annoyances, calamities motivate us to cope and positively re-evaluate our situation—to elicit strong emotional support from others—we often paradoxically suffer pain and distress longer from the little things than from the big things.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

To be Human is to Suffer

Hi Curtiss

Hope you keeping well, I have anxiety for all this long and most of the time. I have a plan to visit United Sates soon to see Chinese doctors.

My question is, does this help to lessen from anxiety or it fades by itself.

Thanks Curtiss, R

Dear R,

Anxiety is fear. We have to acknowledge our fear and insist that our mind get busy with something productive despite the fear. Fear is part of the human condition. All human beings do suffer, in various degrees and at various times with failure, guilt, bad luck, bad health, fear to move ahead, fear that no one really loves us, fear that we are going bonkers, fear that no one will save us, fear that nothing will work, and yet we must still move ahead, however we can manage, with our day. It is the only option. There is no reasonable option but to move ahead the best we can, reach out to others so that we don't become too isolated in our fear, pick up our burden and put our hand and our mind to some work or task that is near at hand, any small thing that is a positive effort. In that way we begin to feel a little better and as we move ahead, and exert ourselves in positive effort we start to feel a little better.

Good nutrition and Chinese medicine will assure that our physical health is the best we can make it. No one is perfectly healthy, or totally without fear, doubt and anxiety. But nevertheless as we truly pursue, one by one, the small tasks of our ordinary everyday life with our very best effort, and don't allow ourselves to wallow in our mental miseries, we will be perfectly okay. Let us appreciate what we do have. If we have two arms, two legs, can physically take care of ourselves, that's for sure a good start. Many people are able to move ahead with their lives even without these basic necessities. Look around you, get busy with some small task, engage with others on your daily path, know that you are not really alone. Somehow, in some way, we are all one. I send my love to you, as a fellow traveler, on this new day. A. B. Curtiss