415-456-6697

I Could Use a Moment of Something Working…

I Could Use a Moment of Something Working…

I Could Use a Moment of Something Working…

While navigating a week of snags and snafus about teaching online and recording podcasts, compounded by a family medical emergency, my friend and colleague Deb Dana said in our weekly Zoom call, “I could use a moment of something working.”  Synchronistically, the confirmation of the re-routing of my flights the next day to teach at Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health that weekend came into my inbox a few minutes after she spoke those words.

I was scheduled to arrive at Kripalu in western Massachusetts a full day ahead of the snow/sleet/ice storms that eventually shut down all of New England that weekend. I made it business as usual as far as Dulles International Airport in Washington, D.C. but then my connecting flight to Albany was cancelled because of weather just 30 minutes before boarding was to begin.

Every flight for the rest of the day in the northeast was cancelled. Such a scramble, re-routing to a late morning flight the next day that at least would get me to Kripalu in time to teach the workshop, “Bouncing Back from Disappointment, Difficulty, and Even Disaster.” A moment of rallying. “Oh wow, I teach this stuff. I get to walk my talk.”

The next morning my flight was good to go as I left my hotel, still good to go as I arrived at the airport, checked the departure board, checked again as I walked the concourse. My flight was cancelled two minutes before I arrived at the gate. The customer service agent said with some dismay, “There are no flights today north of Washington, D.C. Not even Boston.”  

Sigh. No hope of getting anywhere near Kripalu that weekend. The agent quickly re-routed me to the next flight to return to the Bay Area; I ran to the gate as I’m texting/leaving phone messages to the staff at Kripalu and the shuttle service. Then, the flight home was so uneventful compared to the adrenaline rush of the previous 36 hours.

(In reviewing the CNN coverage of that day the next morning when I was safely home, I learned that 3,800 flights had been cancelled that day, 200+ car crashes reported. And I heard from friends and Kripalu staff how everyone was now iced in. A vortex of drama-difficulty-decision making, and for me personally at least, now quietly over.)

And time to reflect on the moments of what was working, over and over again: most profoundly, the generous kindness of strangers. 

From the customer service agent who, when I asked if I could stay overnight in the airport, asked how old I was (74) and said, “Oh honey, you flew all the way from San Francisco.” And then put her finger to her lips and said “Don’t tell anyone!” and quietly printed out a hotel voucher and meal voucher for the night. (I overhead a lot of fellow passengers being declined such a request; I knew she was going above and beyond, at some risk to do so.)

The folks at the shuttle service who stayed in constant touch as flight after flight was cancelled to learn the new plan. Even though I never got to meet them, they certainly helped me stay afloat. 

The flight attendant who spent 5 minutes on her hands and knees, using her phone as a flashlight, to find my reading glasses that I had somehow misplaced. (She found them, and I never could have found my glasses without my glasses. I did email the airline with gratitude for her service above and beyond.)

What also was working was the direct experience of common humanity, thousands of people affected as I was, many even more so. Expanding my awareness out from a very tight focus to the bigger picture, how many people all over the country were impacted by that storm; how many people the world over are impacted by storms every day of the week. Gratitude for the thread of kindness that runs through it all, that binds us all together.

EXERCISE: SHARING KINDNESS

I would have taught this exercise the first evening of the Kripalu workshop. It’s one that I teach in almost every workshop, in person or online. Because tapping into a recognition of the power of kindness to shift our mood and our perspective really is a game-changer.

Sharing Kindness

I’m going to suggest an exercise here that can become a powerful resource for shifting our perceptions and responses to life events. In the context of these two quotes:

From American psychiatrist Theodore Rubin: 

Kindness is more important than wisdom.  And the recognition of that is the beginning of wisdom.

And from Martin Seligman, considered the founder of the positive psychology movement:

Doing a kindness produces the single most reliable momentary increase in well-being of any exercise we have tested. 

Reflect on a moment of kindness you have received, earlier today, last week, back in the third grade.  Jot down several examples.  Choose one; find two other people to work with in a small group.  Introduce yourselves, decide who’s going first, and then each take a turn (two minutes) sharing some moment of kindness you have received from another human being, something that was helpful or useful. Then you go around the circle again, (one minute each) reflecting on what it was like to share your story and hear other people’s stories.  Then you’ll drop into a moment of silent reflection, noticing any shifts in your mood, your view of yourself, your view of your partners, from having done this exercise. About ten minutes total.

I’ll share one thing before we open up the discussion to your own insights or questions.

Neural Synchrony 

Barbara Fredrickson, pioneering researcher in positive psychology, discovered how practicing positive emotions helps shift the functioning of the brain.  She found that when two people are in physical proximity, making eye contact, sharing positive emotions, (kindness, enthusiasm, joy) and a sense of mutual care and concern, the frequency of the brain waves moving through the two people’s brains begins to sync up. the neurochemistry of the two people’s brains begin to sync up, creating a sense of resonance between the two brains that I would call safety and trust and which she calls love in her book Love 2.0. It may be the oxytocin released that creates the sense of safety we may have experienced in the Sharing Kindness exercise, and that safety is what primes the neuroplasticity of the brain for learning and rewiring

You can do the Sharing Kindness exercise with variations — moments of courage, moments of gratitude, moments of patience — with great benefit to your resilience and to your shifting your mindset.  

Wisdom & inspiration direct to your inbox