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The Bliss Blog

The Bliss Blog

The Greatest

I was born to a father who was a Golden Gloves boxer in the Navy and when my younger sister and I would fight, he would have us don boxing gloves, mouth pieces and head gear and have us go at it in the living room. We would swat at each other and laugh instead. I joke that it was a good thing that even then,  I was a pacifist, since I could have developed a mean right hook. As a mentor of sorts, who ran a Sunday morning breakfast club, he would also teach boxing to the kids at our synagogue. That being said, I’m not a big boxing fan, but I do admire the athleticism, endurance and discipline it takes to step into the ring and then step out of it  in one piece.  One of the most notable fighters of the modern era is Muhammad Ali, born Cassius Clay on January 17, 1942 in Louisville, Kentucky. His entry into the sport began when, as a 12 year old, his bike was stolen. He was told by a local police officer that if he wanted to face whoever took it, he’d better learn how to fight. I don’t know if he ever got his wheels back, but that one pivotal event set him on a trajectory that gave him world wide notoriety, not only as a boxer, but as a social and political activist and philanthropist. He was a conscientious objector during the Viet Nam war which cost him his title and kept him out the ring for three years. His conversion to Islam, bringing about the name change, made waves.

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His current battle is with Parkinsons Disease, but he keeps on keepin’ on.

One thing that always impressed me about Ali was his steadfast belief in himself and his abilities. His line “I am the greatest!” initially sounded like arrogance to me when I heard him utter it while in my teens. Now, as an adult who coaches, counsels and encourages people to see their own greatness, it is a rallying cry. See, if Ali had said or even thought “Hey, maybe someday, I could sorta, kinda be a halfway decent boxer….”, what do you think the chances are that he could have stood up to Frazier, Liston, Foreman and Holmes? The thing is, not only did he have the bravado and the words, he had the skills to back them up. He acted ‘as if’ it were true and it became his chosen reality.

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Since retiring from boxing, he remains an active philanthropist, opening the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center in his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky and has also been an advocate for the Special Olympics and the Make a Wish Foundation. In 1998, he was chosen to be a United Nations Messenger of Peace because of his work in developing countries. In 2005, Ali received the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

He says:  “I am an ordinary man who worked hard to develop the talent I was given,” he said. “I believed in myself and I believe in the goodness of others,” said Ali. “Many fans wanted to build a museum to acknowledge my achievements. I wanted more than a building to house my memorabilia. I wanted a place that would inspire people to be the best that they could be at whatever they chose to do, and to encourage them to be respectful of one another.”

What greatness are you willing to proclaim to a waiting world?

http://youtu.be/nuJUulfBb8s Born For Greatness by Jana Stanfield

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World Empathy Day

Imagine a holiday occurring every week, rathter than just once a year and with its arrival, it brings with it an opportunity for harmonious living. Guess what folks, TODAY is that day.  Dubbed World Empathy Day, by  corporate speaker and workshop facilitator Rick Goodfriend (great name for someone who teaches compassionate communication). it shows up on the calendar each Wednesday and reflects the teachings of Marshall Rosenberg, creator of  Nonviolent Communiation (NVC) In his book entitled: Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life, he defines empathy as “a respectful understanding of what others are experiencing.”  Goodfriend is also a teacher of NVC.

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How to do that, you ponder, since it seems at times that we are hardwired to only view the world and the people in it through our own narrow lens of how it all impacts on us?  I call it ‘center of the Universe-itis’ that often has me in its snarly grip. Everything from petty annoyances of my son leaving dishes in the sink when it would be SOOO much easier for him to simply put them in the dishwasher, to outright outrage over what I see in the media about the state of the planet. It’s all a reflection of my thoughts anyway, h0w I choose to interact with those events. I look at  people whose political beliefs differ from my own and wonder how they could hold those views. I witness people doing hateful and destructive things (sometimes in the name of religion) and can’t imagine if they have a conscience. I’m sure that there are some who look at me and the ways in which I choose to live my own life and can’t fathom my choices either. As my father would have said, “Different strokes for different folks.”

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I have recently become fascinated with the construct of  mirror neurons; the system in the brain that recognizes common threads between us. It may explain why when someone falls and gets injured, we flinch and it may show us how people get so emotionally charged over a sporting event even when they are not on the field. It may also hold clues to the concept of empathy and why there is a seeming disconnect for people with sociopathic tendencies. It also explains a phenom that I have seen on Facebook. When people put forth a request for prayers, responses come whirling in from all corners of the world, even if those responding have never layed eyes on those who are asking. We really are all so connected.

It also helps to know, that at our core, regardless of upbringing, beliefs and doctrine, we all share needs for love, understanding, a sense of belonging, a purpose, peace of mind, security, freedom and ability to express ourselves. Perhaps our verbal and non-verbal expression of those needs isn’t always the most graceful and that is where a healthy dose of empathy comes in handy. Imagine a world in which we really could ‘walk a mile in someone elses’ moccasins’.

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http://youtu.be/OCiLxRCBf40 Get Together by Jesse Colin Young and The Youngbloods

www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/body/mirror-neurons.html NOVA Mirror Neurons

www.emapthyday.com  World Empathy Day website

www.walkyourtalk.org Rick Goodfriend

www.nonviolentcommunication.com NVC website

 

 

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The Magic of Believing

 

 

A smile is a curve that sets everything straight. -Phyllis Diller

 

The end of an era, the passing of another comedic icon from my childhood. Phyllis Diller, she of the self deprecating humor and the raucous cackling laugh, died today at the age of 95. My first memory of her was of a wrinkled, rambunctious and brazen woman who stood on stages all over the world offering a glimpse in to her life (even as it was an exaggerated version). Stories about her children and husband whom she called Fang, were fodder for her act. Her way out to there hair and ugly duckling image was a put on. In reality, she was quite attractive.  She did however,  embellish her appearance with multiple plastic surgeries over the years.

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One thing that most people didn’t know about her, was that she was a fervent advocate of The Law of Attraction, since she discovered a book called The Magic of Believing by Claude Bristol. From its pages, she learned the amazing power that comes from accepting that what we think, believe and know shapes our reality. She recognized that no one could have power over her and her choices, except the woman in the mirror.

As I am writing this blog entry, I am listening to a you tube version of the book, narrated by an actor, since Mr. Bristol died in 1951. He spoke about the idea that everything that was created, was once an idea in someone’s mind and that using these concepts can yield results “that you would never have dreamed possible.” I had not heard of the book, but clearly, I need to read it, since it reverberates with everything of which I am certain; that our thoughts are the building blocks for our present day concrete, tangible reality and can be molded to bring about miraculous results. I see it daily in my life, as things, experiences and people, appear at the speed of thought sometimes. Everything from parking spaces literally opening up in front of me a fraction of a second after requesting one, to people calling to invite me to participate with them in some form of work or play, shortly following even the most fleeting thought…”hmmm…. wouldn’t it be fun to…(fill in the blank)?”, to folks showing up in my life in rapid succession even if I haven’t seen or spoken with them in awhile.

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What magic occurs when YOU believe?

Leave ’em laughing, Phyllis!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ma0FbWLSOcU&feature=related  An interview with Phyllis Diller

http://youtu.be/9fS8HYc7O3o The Magic of Believing by Claude Bristol

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Floating Down the Delaware

 

One of my favorite summertime activities is grabbing a big rubber inner tube and taking it to the Delaware River near my home in Upper Bucks County, PA. When most folks in the region think of the Delaware, what comes to mind is the portion that flows through Philadelphia which is no one’s idea of a place for an afternoon of relaxing IN the water unless on a boat or perhaps by the water at Penns Landing. The water flows clean and clear many miles upriver and rocks worn smooth by centuries of activity can be easily viewed through its surface. Yesterday, my friend Ondreah and I drove up the winding roads to the home of her sister Liz  and brother in-law Dave in Milford, NJ where a few blocks away, the river awaited us and two irridescently colored plump inner tubes were hanging out on their picnic table, eager to go for a swim.  Slathered in sunscreen, toting the tubes and water bottles, we trundled down a rocky. muddy path and into the cool river. Liz took pictures of the intrepid travelers, about to go on a few hour adventure. The sight of the two of us, tubes tied together with rope lest one of us drift too far, clambering on board, after a few hysterically laughing attempts, was I Love Lucy-meets-America’s Funniest Home Videos material. I joked with Ondreah that we were quite the Lucy and Ethel duo (not sure which of us was which), but she had even tied her blond hair up in a bandana, reminiscent of the 50’s style in which Lucy had worn hers. Off we went!

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The water was comfortably high, so that our butts didn’t bump the bottom too often; only twice in the 2-plus hour journey did we need to stand and unsnag ourselves, but even with all of the rain we have gotten in the past few weeks, the river wasn’t running too fast. We marveled at the show of nature, with many winged ones accompanying us; a few ducks paddling about, three turkey buzzards circling above us, (she joked that they were eyeing us for lunch), an eagle buzzing by and a plethora of herons; a few uttering raucus cries as they launched themselves from partially submerged tree branches. The leaves waved greeting as we leisurely drifted by, vivid hues of green that in a month or so, would be crimson and golden, heralding autumnal change. A portent of those days to come were a few that had already jumped ship and were floating on the surface of the water after spiraling downward. Shadow and light played on the tree trunks, as we mused about the idea of mirroring. Was the water mirroring the cerulean blue, cloud scattered sky or was the sky mirroring the aromatic cedar water? This conversation was juxtaposed with our pondering about the various relationships with the people in our lives. On this day, I was having a bit of a struggle with someone in my life in which we represent aspects of the other from which we would much prefer to dis-associate ourselves and yet we are reflecting surfaces. Can’t escape it any more than the water and sky can escape each other. I have been practicing learning how to embrace the shadow side of myself, refraining from only seeing the “la-la land sweetness and light” as he has been confronted with his own brilliantly shining light aspects, from which he sometimes hides.

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As we neared the ending of our watery sojourn, muddy and eager to wash up, I found myself sighing with appreciation of the gift I had offered myself; time with a dear friend, immersed in nature, really doing nothing, allowing the river to carry me to my next destination.

http://youtu.be/anjT71N4PGM Take Me To The River by Talking Heads

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