19 July  2016      

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 The Playful Spirit
Muriel James and John James

Fun:  The Secret of Staying in Shape
Barry Bittman

Every Positive Contact
tom walsh

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Reality is what I "come up against," what takes me by surprise, the other-than-myself which pulls me up and obliges me to reckon with it and adjust myself to it because it will not consent simply to adjust itself to me.

John Baillie

It's not enough to be right.  That's too little.  It's also important to be strong.  The history of the world shows that more often people who were right lost than won.

Andrzej Milczanowski

There is wisdom in knowing how to play, to touch lightly, uninvolved and uncommitted, on what is pleasurable.

Aelred Graham


The Playful Spirit
Muriel James and John James

Physicists play with mathematical formulas while architects play with order, form, and space.  Real estate brokers play with personalities, properties, and proposals; researchers with computers, software, and databases; and musicians with notes, rhythm, and harmony.  More personally, when any of us write a letter or a business report, we play with words, themes, and ideas.  In cooking we play with recipes, tastes, and textures; while paying the bills we may play with numbers, priorities, and percentages.  In fact, a great deal of what we do is creatively playing with something, no matter how serious we imagine it to be at the time.

Play is a basic component of work and relationships.  It is one of the most poignant ways of expressing a passion for life.  Furthermore, it is a natural behavior.  Watch a kitten pounce on a ball of yarn or two puppies or children wrestle and the natural instinct to play is obvious.

Research psychologist Harry Harlow did some famous studies with monkeys in which he concluded that play enables monkeys to develop the necessary social and emotional skills required for successful functioning.  He also found that monkeys that are prevented from playing with other monkeys become seriously ill.

And Gregory Bateson, a biologist and anthropologist, tells of a strategy he used to discover whether or not animals would initiate play with humans.

He sat quietly in a pool and watched as a dolphin started playing with him by putting her beak under his arm.  Next she swam around to sit on his lap to initiate their playing and swimming together.  Evidently animals have an urge to enjoy and show it by playing in ways that are similar to ours.

Humans also play naturally.  Babies play in bathtubs with rubber duckies; children swing in the parks.  Teenagers at dances and adults at barbeques frequently end up smiling, joking, and having fun with each other.  Even at work, the tendency to play often surfaces with jokes around the water cooler or coffeepot due to the playful spirit within each of us.

When people experience their playful spirit within, they take an almost childlike delight in life.  They are open to the unexpected in the present moment and are optimistic about the future.  When in touch with the playful spirit, they have a sense of humor, can laugh at themselves and even laugh in tough situations.  When people let their playful spirits out, they are trusting enough to be spontaneous without acting artificial or defensive.  They feel confident and comfortable and enjoy playful interchanges with others.

This playfulness is an expression of the natural Child within that enjoys laughter without planning and practice.  The inner Child, doing what it wants to do, naturally enjoys fooling around, acting silly, joking, and laughing.  It has a lightness that can bring a breath of fresh air to an otherwise tense or serious moment.  This lightness reflects the spirit of play.

Each of us has a naturally playful spirit within, regardless of how we experience or express it.  Some people are playful no matter what they are doing.  They joke and laugh while driving across town or cleaning up after dinner.  They make light of temporary setbacks and are able to share a smile even when working fast and furiously.  Of course, some others overdo playfulness.  They joke at inappropriate times or use ridicule and sarcasm under the guise of a friendly joke.  They may use humor to distract from a difficult conversation, laugh when they feel uncomfortable or in pain, or make fun of something that is a very serious matter to someone else.

On the other hand, many people are uncomfortable letting their playful spirit out.  Taking life too seriously, they consider playfulness to be frivolous and a waste of time.  They feel compelled to keep busy instead of enjoying the momentary interactions and distractions.  Pushing to make every moment productive, they may block their creativity, drain their energy, and decrease their sense of enthusiasm for life.  For them, life is serious work and not all that pleasant.

Playfulness is also difficult for those who compulsively try to be perfect.  Always needing to have things organized, whether it is a tidy desk or a spotless house, they prefer order and predictability in relationships and life in general to flexibility and joy.

Still others disdain playfulness because they find it a bit scary.  Possibly they were ridiculed as children or rejected as adults, so they shy away from encounters they imagine could be embarrassing.  They often try to be overly pleasing and helpful, or overly controlling and in charge, as a way to protect against the fears in the inner Child.  Yet according to Erik Erikson, one of the world's experts on psychological development, play is "the most natural, self-healing measure" life can offer.

In spite of these hesitations, the natural playfulness within each person can be seen in any situation where people express their basic urges.  In expressing the urge to live, some people are lighthearted and friendly with hospital staff while taking a treadmill exam or having a few stitches put in a cut finger.  Similarly, people who are playful while expressing their urge to create may scribble, doodle, or draw cartoons during a playful moment, or let their imaginations run free to daydream while searching for a creative solution to a problem.  Similarly, when the playful spirit arises in people who are seeking to express their urge for understanding, they may make funny connections between ideas, or make puns that bring laughter to others in class.  The spirit of play and enjoyment usually shows the most when we laugh.

Psychotherapist Muriel James, author of  the classic Born To Win, and son John contend that there are seven basic spiritual urges that shape human existence and define goals: the urge to live, understand, create, enjoy, connect, transcend, and the urge for freedom. The authors explain the ways in which each human urge manifests itself, thus defining the spiritual paths people choose to explore. To help readers initiate their own spiritual search, quotes for contemplation and simple exercises in self-exploration are given at the end of each chapter.


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Fun:  The Secret of Staying in Shape
Barry Bittman, MD

In recent years, there's been a robust effort in our society to encourage exercise. From the massive health club expansion to the explosive growth of workout equipment marketed to the consumer, most of us are finally convinced that getting in shape has its merits.

In fact, it's rather difficult to avoid the exercise craze. From television commercials to infomercials, and from gadgets that promise to flatten our abs in just minutes, to shakes that build muscles and burn fat, there's not a day that passes when we're not hit with a "get in shape" message.

Yet, despite these marketing efforts, Americans are more out of shape than ever. Worse yet, people who really need to exercise in order to maintain their health are not doing it.

If you're not getting the picture, just check out your local health club. Most club members are really in great shape, (many were before even joining) while your next door neighbor, who really needs a workout, is proud to declare himself a "couch potato."

If you need further convincing, just check out the used exercise equipment market. On most days of the week, you can purchase the latest home equipment for a fraction of its original cost—in absolutely perfect condition! For after just a few weeks of earnest use, these mechanical wonders magically transform themselves into the most convenient family room clothes hanger.

We're basically entrenched in aggressive marketing hype and conditioning. The promise of the quick fix, with the least amount of effort is attractive. Yet, in reality, how does the least amount of effort equate with getting in, and staying in shape?

Frankly, it doesn't. It's simple physics that in order to stay in shape, you must expend a certain amount of energy. When you do, there's an added bonus—you'll burn some calories and shrink that waistline as well.

So why not begin with an activity that you'd rather be doing in the first place? Take the lead from young children who just can't do it enough. In fact, they don't even consider it exercise. For them, it's "play," and they do it together.

Why not take their lead and get started on the right foot? Try a brisk walk at the dam with someone you love, or try a new sport with a friend. Time is bound to pass quickly, and you might even begin looking forward to a wonderful experience that doesn't even resemble exercise.

If you're not into braving the elements, consider joining a health club, or taking a Yoga or Tai Chi class with your friends. Sooner or later, you'll discover the value of encouraging and supporting each other, when one of you is down or is losing interest.

The bottom line is simple. Forget the gadgets, the gimmicks, and the quick fixes. Find something that you enjoy doing, rediscover the rejuvenating essence of the child within, and most of all, have fun!

Remember, if you don't enjoy your chosen activity enough to stick with it, simply move on to something else. What's perfect today may not suit you tomorrow. The keys to success are a willingness to change, and discovering what truly works for you.

* * * * *

Barry Bittman, MD is a neurologist, author, international speaker, award-winning producer/director and inventor. As CEO and Medical Director of the Mind-Body Wellness Center, a comprehensive, interdisciplinary outpatient medical facility in Meadville, PA., Dr. Bittman has pioneered a new paradigm for treating the “whole person.”



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Always think on the bright side--no matter what life brings
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that no worry or hardship can ever take away.

Isaac Purcell



Every Positive Contact

I woke up this morning with these three words on my mind.  It's very rare that something like that happens to me, but it did today.  And with those three words were many other ideas about the concept, mostly centered on the idea that every positive contact that someone has with someone else helps that person to grow in positive ways, and that our characters and principles are developed by the number and type of contacts that we have with other people, and that the more positive contacts we experience, the more positive we grow as human individuals and as members of the human community.

We all follow this principle in our lives, whether we recognize it or not.  If we want an animal to accept us, we generally don't try to make it like us immediately; instead, we walk up to it slowly, trying to pet it at first, and we don't worry if it shies away or walks away.  Then, the next time we see it, we try to add another positive contact to our relationship with it, until eventually there are enough positive contacts built up that the kitten or puppy or lizard trusts us, and will allow us to be close to it.

And while people certainly aren't animals (though some may argue with the statement), we often follow similar principles in our relationships with others.  As a teacher, for example, I never try to get my students to like or trust me during the first class--I just try to be genuine and sincere and do my job well.  If they're going to trust me, that's a dynamic that has to be built over time.

There are other people in my life with whom I don't have as much contact, or with whom contact tends to be negative if they're negative people or if I get angry or upset with them.  In these cases, it really is up to me to start adding positive contacts with them, slowly but surely, if I want to repair a relationship or establish a positive one.  There have been times when I've had arguments with people, and it's taken quite a bit of time to re-establish the positive side of the relationship.  When I try to accomplish this, I simply try to build the numbers of positive contacts--simple "hellos" or kind acts or compliments or asking favors--until the scale tips back over to the positive side.

If we could keep a tally of the positive contacts that we initiate over the course of our lives, it could be something that could show us just what kind of impact we can make in this world.  Each encounter to which we contribute in positive ways is a contribution to the peace and love and hope of the world, even if in a very small way.  But as we add ten, twenty, one hundred, one thousand such contacts over the course of months or years, we'll know for sure that we have made contributions to the lives of others that have helped them to feel confidence, hope, peace, or balance, or that have helped them to learn important things about themselves or the world.

What positive contacts can you make today?  When you have contact with any other person in your life, whether they're people you like or don't like, what kind of positive things can you contribute to the world, be it a small compliment, a sincere thank you, or a piece of encouragement?  The world is in need of positive energy and hope and love, and the best way for us to contribute to those elements of the world is to consciously add something positive to each encounter, to each contact.  The more we do so, the more natural it will become, and the more widespread the ripple effect will be--our contributions will grow further than we can imagine, and all we have to do is start somewhere.


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That some good can be
derived from every event
is a better proposition
than that everything
happens for the best,
which it assuredly
does not.

James K. Feibleman

Taking Charge by Taking Responsibility (excerpt)
Dan Millman

While coaching gymnastics at Stanford University, I walked into a workout one day and found Jack, the team captain, lying on the mat, stretching -- grasping one of his legs and pulling it toward his chest.  As I walked by, I saw him grimace and heard him groan, "Oh, God, I hate this -- it hurts so much!"  I didn't know whether he was talking to me, to himself, or complaining to God, but I felt as if I'd wandered into a Mel Brooks movie.  I wanted to ask Jack, "Who's doing it to you?  If it hurts that bad, why don't you let up a little?"  This holds true for your life as well:  If it hurts so much, why don't you let up a little?

The moment we recognize the degree to which our difficulties are self-imposed, we begin to heal them.  We end self-sabotage only by taking responsibility for the choices and actions that created it.  Only when we stop blaming our boss or government or parents or spouse or partner or children or circumstances or fate or God can we change our lives and say with conviction, "I chose where I am now, and I can choose something better."

Of course, not every misadventure, injury, or problem is created by your subconscious owing to low self-worth.  For all we know, certain difficulties or challenges are gifts from God or arranged by our souls in order to test and temper our spirit.  As the old proverb says, "Take it as a blessing or take it as a test; whatever happens, happens for the best."  And as it happens, adversities may sometimes contain their own blessings.
I've learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way he/she handles these three things:  a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights.

I've learned that regardless of your relationship with your parents, you'll miss them when they're gone from your life.

I've learned that making a "living" is not the same thing as making a "life."

I've learned that life sometimes gives you a second chance.

I've learned that you shouldn't go through life with a catcher's mitt on both hands.   You need to be able to throw something back.

I've learned that if you pursue happiness, it will elude you.  But if you focus on your family, your friends, the needs of others, your work and doing the very best you can, happiness will find you.

I've learned that whenever I decide something with an open heart, I usually make the right decision.

I've learned that even when I have pains, I don't have to be one.

I've learned that every day you should reach out and touch someone.  People love that human touch -- holding hands, a warm hug, or just a friendly pat on the back.

I've learned that I still have a lot to learn.

Time is a flowing river.  Happy those who allow themselves to be carried,
unresisting, with the current.  They float through easy days.
They live, unquestioning, in the moment.

Christopher Morley


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