Learning from Dogs

Dogs are integrous animals. We have much to learn from them.

Archive for the ‘Art’ Category

Interconnected conscious life: A postscript.

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A sense of unity.

A short film by Alan Watts and Terence McKenna.  A film that makes a perfect postscript to yesterday’s post: The tracks we leave.

Published on Mar 3, 2013
Alan Watts and Terence McKenna talk about our need for a sense of unity as our global problems are getting worse and we have become enemies of our planet and each other.

Music: Carbon Based Lifeforms – Comsat (Hydroponic Garden – 2003 [Ultimae Records])

There is a website in memory of the late Alan Watts here.

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Written by Paul Handover

August 5, 2014 at 00:00

The dog machine.

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Yes, I know it’s an advertisement for Beneful!

A number of things conspired yesterday to make the spare hours disappear.  Including time to write a post for this place.

However, during the day Chris Snuggs sent me the following video.

Don’t know about you, but I found the ‘machine’ made me smile!

Hope it does the same for you.

Written by Paul Handover

July 24, 2014 at 00:00

Picture parade fifty-three

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More of Lew Levenson’s gorgeous pictures.

As I said in last week’s picture parade, “A friend from Payson, Arizona, Lew Levenson, recently sent across a set of 38 astounding photographs, all on the theme of perfectly timed shots.” Despite the fact that they had previously appeared in this place, your responses were do delightful that I have no problem in staying with these pictures over the next few Sundays.

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Each picture gives one such a warm and cuddly feeling!

You all take care out there.

Written by Paul Handover

July 20, 2014 at 00:00

Embracing happiness

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We receive what we put out!

There are so many aspects of the dog world that we have to learn.  Top of the list of what we must learn from dogs is unconditional love.

You all know how if you approach a strange dog with love in your heart, how that dog senses your love immediately and responds in the same loving fashion.

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So approach every conscious being in your life with love in your heart. It will truly change the world!

So with that in mind, it seemed very appropriate to follow up yesterday’s post that included the essay by Chris Johnstone on celebration with this short film from Rick Hanson.  Especially just now.

Published on Nov 7, 2013
Hardwiring Happiness : The Hidden Power of Everyday Experiences on the Modern Brain. How to overcome the Brain’s Negativity Bias.

Rick Hanson is a neuropsychologist and the author of Hardwiring Happiness: The New Brain Science of Contentment, Calm, and Confidence, best selling author of Buddha’s Brain, founder of the Wellspring Institute for Neuroscience and Contemplative Wisdom and an Affiliate of the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley, he’s been an invited speaker at Oxford, Stanford, and Harvard, and taught in meditation centers worldwide.

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(Thank you, John.)

How to stop drowning in a sea of gloom!

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A fascinating essay courtesy of Transition Network in the UK

I have very little doubt that I share with the majority of ‘common folk’ out there a feeling of these being dark and desperate times. I’m not even going to list the things that, on an almost daily basis, come along under the category of ‘doom and gloom’.

Yet it is also pretty widely known that change is embraced much more easily through reward.  In other words, we commit to change, in a thousand different ways, from the expectation of reward: reward in many varied and numerous ways, many of them non-financial, of course.

The challenge for us all is that the negative has great pulling power. If we read news websites, watch television, read newspapers, and more, we are exposed essentially to wall-to-wall bad news.

So how on earth do we keep our spirits up?  How on earth do we maintain hope in there being a positive way forward? Whatever ‘way forward’ translates to in terms of the individual?

Over in the UK there is the website of the Transition Network.  From that home page one can link across to a number of blogs.  Anyway, recently on Rob Hopkins’ blog there was a very interesting essay by Chris Johnstone about the power of celebration. Read it and reward yourself for so doing! ;-)

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Without celebration, we wither away

An interview of Chris Johnstone by Rob Hopkins

Chris Johnstone

Chris Johnstone

Chris Johnstone works in the area of the psychology of resilience, sustainable happiness and is co-author, with Joanna Macy, of Active Hope: how to face the mess we’re in without going crazy. [1.] Chris appeared at both the Unleashing of Transition Town’s Totnes and Lewes, and has interacted with different Transition groups ever since. He’s also an accomplished musician (you can hear him playing briefly at the end of the podcast of our interview). I started by asking him why celebration matters:

“I’m just thinking about how important food is. Without food, we wither away. Food is nourishment. We also have needs for psychological nourishment or psycho-spiritual nourishment, emotional nourishment. I see celebration as one of those things that nourishes us psychologically, emotionally, spiritually. I was thinking about this also in terms of how important celebration is in keeping us going.

One of the thought blocks that people bump into sometimes is the voice that says “well what’s the point of doing this?” What celebration does is it gives us an answer to that. I think of it as helping shifting us from a going nowhere story where we feel we’re making no progress and have no direction to what I think of as a going somewhere story, where we feel that we’re on the way somewhere because we’re celebrating and marking important steps along the way.

What are the risks of not pausing to celebrate, do you think?

If you don’t pause to first of all notice that you’ve made any progress, it’s very easy to feel that you’re not making any progress. If you’re not making any progress, one of the risks for burnout is that loss of meaning where you lose the sense that there’s a point to what you do. Basically you run dry.

I see one of the parallels here as sustainable agriculture. One of the keys of sustainable agriculture is to nourish the soil. If you look after the soil, you get good crops. In terms of personal productivity, I think it would be to have sustainable activism. The parallel to topsoil is, I guess, our enthusiasm. We need to look after our enthusiasm for something. If we don’t, our enthusiasm gets thin like thin topsoil and you can get to a point where there’s no enthusiasm left and you just have that sense of, well what’s the point. You lose the oomph, you lose the energy, and you lose the plot.

What does good celebration look like? What for you would be the ingredients of a good celebration?

You can do it alone. It’s good to have ways where we notice the steps that we’re taking by ourselves and find some way of marking those and reinforcing those, but I’d say that celebration generally is much better in company. It’s also socially bonding and there’s very interesting research here about what really makes a difference in relationships.

There’s a psychologist called Shelley Gable who worked at the University of California, Los Angeles, and she was trying to work out what are the vital things that really make a difference and she recorded lots and lots of relationships. One area of communication that seemed to make a key difference in relationships was the response to good news.

If one person had good news and shared it with the other and the other person responded to the good news by being ‘joy in the joy of another’, by celebrating the good news, that deepened trust, that deepened the sense of satisfaction in the relationship. But if somebody shared good news and it passed by without notice or even worse, the person tried to persuade them that really it was bad news, that led to a drop in the level of satisfaction in the relationship that was so strong that Shelley Gable found that she could work who was at higher risk of breaking up over the next 12 months just by looking at their response to good news, whether somebody celebrated the good news when it was shared, or whether somebody passed it by or poured cold water on it.

There was a thing that I wrote for this month’s framing editorial that was my attempt at what some of the ingredients of good group celebrations might look like. What does celebration on a more day to day basis in a group like a Transition group – how can we design it into our meetings, our everyday rather than having something we just do once a year?

I’d say there’s something here about celebration needing to be meaningful. It’s asking yourself “what exactly is it that we are celebrating?” What we’re doing with celebration is celebrating the things we appreciate, the things that we value. By having a shared celebration, what you’re doing is reinforcing the system of values, the shared system of values within that group. In terms of what keeps us going, it’s really important to celebrate success. So what comes up there is we need to look at how do we notice success, how do we notice progress and how do we define that?

It’s particularly important when working for social change, for social and ecological justice, that we can often have a lot of disappointment and frustration along the way. If we only celebrate the really big things, the really big victories, we can have long gaps between the celebrations which makes us feel that we’re losing, that we’re not making progress. And so therefore I think what’s really important is to look at the mini victories along the way, and to both celebrate the positive outcomes that happen, but also to celebrate the effort put in, and one way of doing that is just to find some way of appreciating what has been done, so for example research on our mood shows that one of the things that improves mood is both the experience and also the expression of gratitude.

One of the ways that you can build celebration into everyday meetings and things is just finding some way to appreciate each other, appreciate the steps that we’ve been taking. If you’ve noticed that someone’s worked really hard on something, to have some gap in a meeting, some agenda item in the meeting where you just notice the things that have been done and the effort put in, and find some way of valuing them, marking them, noting them.

It might be first of all there’s a slot for anyone who’s got any good news to share and then to celebrate that, but also has anyone got any appreciations of gratitude to express. To actually build that into part of a group culture that we take time to notice and celebrate the steps we notice each other taking, and also if somebody has noticed a step that we’ve taken, for it to be completely more than fine, I’d say brilliant, for us to step forward and say – one thing I’m pleased about, you may not have seen this but one thing I’ve done is… where we take time to notice and to celebrate the steps we’ve taken ourselves.

It’s great when other people can notice it, but we don’t want to end up feeling resentful because no one cheered for this hard piece of work I did. We actually get better at stepping out there and saying – yes, I’m really pleased that I did this, I’m really pleased that I did that, because when we mark the steps that we’re taking, we reinforce that in a way that helps us keep taking those steps.

The environmental movement, in as much as I’ve been around it for the last 25 years or so, feels to be fairly spectacularly bad at stopping and celebrating. The culture is like a marathon, “got to keep going, got to keep going”, so there’s lots of burnout. Why do you think the environmental movement has been so poor at that?

Partly it’s the scale of the tasks that we face. We can’t have a party to celebrate climate change being sorted out, because that’s probably not going to happen in our lifetime. There’s already problems in the post, as it were, from the carbon that’s already been released into the atmosphere. The task is so huge that we could be working, well, there’s 168 hours in the week and we could be working all of those for a whole year and still feel that there’s more and more to do. There’s two things here.

There’s the to-date thinking which is where we look at what we’ve done so far, but there’s also to-go thinking where we look at what we’ve still got to go, the distance we’ve still got to cover. When we look at the distance we’ve still got to cover, it’s further than we can get in our lifetime, so that’s the trouble as I see it. We can just be working, working, working, and feel that there’s always more to go.

But also if we only focus on the work that’s still to be done, the danger is we just get exhausted. We become like what we’re doing to the fields of wheat around the world – we harvest them unsustainably and end up depleting the soil. I’d say that activist enthusiasm is a vital renewable resource, and we need to get much more skilful about how we treasure it. How we look after it in a way that can help it grow.

My last question is, can you think of one celebratory event that you were particularly moved by or inspired by which could be a story that might be useful for Transition groups to hear?

I’ve shared a number with you that I really delight in. One that comes to mind is when the two of us spoke together at the launch of Transition Town Totnes. It was the official unleashing of Transition Town Totnes and that was years ago now. But I think that was in 2006, so eight years ago now. What we do is celebrate launches of things in a way that we’re marking them and saying – hey, this is the beginning of something. We don’t know what will happen, but we’re marking our very clear intention.

There’s a form of energy, I call it ACACI which means A Clear and Committed Intention. It’s like a form of psychological energy. When you have strong, clear and committed intention, it drives you on. One of the ways of building that up is to have a launching celebration. I really enjoyed that event with you. We spoke together at the unleashing of Transition Town Lewes as well and we’ve both been back there since then. You wrote recently in your July 1st blog about being at their 7 year celebration and I was there at their 5 year celebration.

If you have a party to begin something, then you can also revisit that point some years on. So they become markers in time. We can say yes, we were here when this began, we celebrated the launch of this. And now here we are meeting again, this number of years later and we also celebrate the effort put in and the steps taken and the distance covered in that between time.

What you do there is build in the journey approach to change. This sense that we’re on a cultural migration. That’s why I love the term Transition. Transition is about moving from one place to another and we mark the steps along the way. So we celebrate when we begin this journey with the unleashing, the launch, but we keep coming back to that at periodic intervals and say – hey, we’re still on this journey. It’s still important to us.

While there might be some steps forward and some steps back and frustrations and disappointments along the way, there will always be things that we can look at and say yeah, that’s what we did and I feel really good about that.

When you mark the things that you feel good about, you get something which I call afterglow. This is the warm feeling of satisfaction after you’ve done something or noticed something that you feel good about. That’s what keeps us going, it’s fuel for the journey. So back to that original idea that celebration is a form of psychological nourishment and it’s absolutely vital to keep ourselves going.

You’re a very gifted musician and you managed to weave music and getting everybody moving and joining in as well. What’s the role of music in that, do you think?

It’s so interesting, because they’ve found bits of bone that have been turned into flutes that are 20,000 years old. I see music as a form of social glue. It draws people together. There’s something very remarkable that can happen when people move rhythmically together. It’s where we shift out of just seeing ourselves as separate individuals to where we sing and dance together it reinforces our connectivity, our sense of being part of something larger.

That’s great – actually ‘great’ is an understatement. I talked about psychological nourishment, also how do we reinforce and grow social capital? Social capital is the wealth that comes out of relationships. Shared music and dance is one of the ways that happens.

Here is the podcast of our interview with Chris.

Published on July 15, 2014, by Rob Hopkins

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I wanted to know more about Chris and very quickly came to this place, from where I read:

Chris Johnstone

Chris Johnstone

Chris Johnstone is a medical doctor, author, and coach who worked for nearly twenty years as an addictions specialist in the UK National Health Service. A former Senior Teaching Fellow at Bristol University Medical School, he trains health professionals in behavioral medicine and gives courses exploring the psychological dimensions of planetary crisis. Chris is known for his work pioneering the role of resilience training in promoting positive mental health, developing self-help resources and setting up the Bristol Happiness Lectures. He is author of Find Your Power: A Toolkit for Resilience and Positive Change (2nd Ed, 2010) and co-presenter of The Happiness Training Plan CD (2010).

Chris has been a trainer in the Work That Reconnects for more than two decades, working with Joanna on many occasions and running facilitator trainings in the United Kingdom. In 2004 he set up the free email newsletter [2.]  The Great Turning Times, which is now read by thousands of people throughout the world. He has been active in the Transition movement since its very beginnings and contributed to a chapter on the psychology of change in The Transition Handbook by Rob Hopkins.

After many years living in Bristol, Chris recently moved to the North of Scotland, where he lives with his wife, Kirsty, their dogs and chickens, pursuing his love of growing fruit in their evolving forest garden. He continues his coaching and training work, as well as his writing and music. His website is at www.chrisjohnstone.info
He runs workshops and a facilitator training in the Work That Reconnects in the UK. Details at: www.facilitationforlifeonearth.org.
He also offers online courses in Active Hope, Resilience, Sustainable Happiness and Change-Making Skills at www.resiliencehappinesschange.com.

[1.] The following video is from the Active Hope theme.

[2.] If you wish to subscribe to the newsletter, then the link may be found on this page. (I have just done so.)

 

Written by Paul Handover

July 18, 2014 at 00:00

Picture parade fifty-two

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Can’t believe how quickly a year flows by!

Yes, fifty-two Sundays ago, I had the idea of posting a set of photographs.  That first set was published on the 30th June, 2013 and just for fun I’m going to repost them.

Plus, I can’t resist adding a photograph that Chris Snuggs sent me.

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Sit back and be amazed!

A friend from Payson, Arizona, Lew Levenson, recently sent across a set of 38 astounding photographs, all on the theme of perfectly timed shots.

They are so fabulous that I have decided that for today and the following four Sundays I will post a selection.

So today, the first set of 8 photographs. Trust me you will love them, so a big thank you to Lew.  Do say which are your best ones!

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To close here is that picture courtesy of Chris Snuggs.

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By the way, if you would like see again the rest of Lew’s photographs just leave a comment to that effect.

You all have a great week.

Written by Paul Handover

July 13, 2014 at 00:00

Climate Change and Humanity: Postscript.

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A personal viewpoint after reading Tom’s essay Is Climate Change a Crime Against Humanity?

Last Thursday, July 3rd, I republished a post, what Tom calls a Tomgram, from TomDispatch comparing the USA’s attitude to the very small risk of a country exploding a weapon of mass destruction, WMD, over American soil to the 95% risk of the USA being harmed from the effects of climate change.  Here’s an extract from the central part of Tom’s essay:

So here’s a question I’d like any of you living in or visiting Wyoming to ask the former vice president, should you run into him in a state that’s notoriously thin on population: How would he feel about acting preventively, if instead of a 1% chance that some country with weapons of mass destruction might use them against us, there was at least a 95% — and likely as not a 100% — chance of them being set off on our soil? Let’s be conservative, since the question is being posed to a well-known neoconservative. Ask him whether he would be in favor of pursuing the 95% doctrine the way he was the 1% version.

After all, thanks to a grim report in 2013 from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, we know that there is now a 95% -100% likelihood that “human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming [of the planet] since the mid-20th century.” We know as well that the warming of the planet — thanks to the fossil fuel system we live by and the greenhouse gases it deposits in the atmosphere — is already doing real damage to our world and specifically to the United States, as a recent scientific report released by the White House made clear. We also know, with grimly reasonable certainty, what kinds of damage those 95% -100% odds are likely to translate into in the decades, and even centuries, to come if nothing changes radically: a temperature rise by century’s end that could exceed 10 degrees Fahrenheit, cascading species extinctions, staggeringly severe droughts across larger parts of the planet (as in the present long-term drought in the American West and Southwest), far more severe rainfall across other areas, more intense storms causing far greater damage, devastating heat waves on a scale no one in human history has ever experienced, masses of refugees, rising global food prices, and among other catastrophes on the human agenda, rising sea levels that will drown coastal areas of the planet.

Tom’s essays had many great links to background research papers and other supporting material.  The penultimate link was embedded (my italics) in this sentence: “In the case of a major exchange of such weapons, we would be talking about “the sixth extinction” of planetary history.”  That linked to the Amazon page describing the book, released earlier this year, of the same name written by Elizabeth Kolbert, as follows:

A major book about the future of the world, blending intellectual and natural history and field reporting into a powerful account of the mass extinction unfolding before our eyes

Over the last half a billion years, there have been five mass extinctions, when the diversity of life on earth suddenly and dramatically contracted. Scientists around the world are currently monitoring the sixth extinction, predicted to be the most devastating extinction event since the asteroid impact that wiped out the dinosaurs. This time around, the cataclysm is us. In The Sixth Extinction, two-time winner of the National Magazine Award and New Yorker writer Elizabeth Kolbert draws on the work of scores of researchers in half a dozen disciplines, accompanying many of them into the field: geologists who study deep ocean cores, botanists who follow the tree line as it climbs up the Andes, marine biologists who dive off the Great Barrier Reef. She introduces us to a dozen species, some already gone, others facing extinction, including the Panamian golden frog, staghorn coral, the great auk, and the Sumatran rhino. Through these stories, Kolbert provides a moving account of the disappearances occurring all around us and traces the evolution of extinction as concept, from its first articulation by Georges Cuvier in revolutionary Paris up through the present day. The sixth extinction is likely to be mankind’s most lasting legacy; as Kolbert observes, it compels us to rethink the fundamental question of what it means to be human.

Here’s an interview of Elizabeth Kolbert taken from the Democracy Now programme. It’s a tad under 20 minutes so easy to put aside a little of your time to watch it.

PLEASE DO!

Published on Feb 11, 2014
February 2014 on Democracy Now!

In the history of the planet, there have been five known mass extinction events. The last came 65 million years ago, when an asteroid about half the size of Manhattan collided with the Earth, wiping out the dinosaurs and bringing the Cretaceous period to an end. Scientists say we are now experiencing the sixth extinction, with up to 50 percent of all living species in danger of disappearing by the end of the century. But unlike previous extinctions, the direct cause this time is us — human-driven climate change. In “The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History,” journalist Elizabeth Kolbert visits four continents to document the massive “die-offs” that came millions of years ago and those now unfolding before our eyes. Kolbert explores how human activity — fossil fuel consumption, ocean acidification, pollution, deforestation, forced migration — threatens life forms of all kinds. “It is estimated that one-third of all reef-building corals, a third of all fresh-water mollusks, a third of sharks and rays, a quarter of all mammals, a fifth of all reptiles, and a sixth of all birds are headed toward oblivion,” Kolbert writes. “The losses are occurring all over: in the South Pacific and in the North Atlantic, in the Arctic and the Sahel, in lakes and on islands, on mountaintops and in valleys.”

Elizabeth Kolbert, is well known for her reporting on global warming as a staff writer at The New Yorker magazine, which led her to investigate climate species extinction. Her new book is The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History. In 2006, she wrote Field Notes from a Catastrophe: Man, Nature, and Climate Change.

Make no mistake, that short video interview doesn’t pull any punches.  Just as Kolbert’s book.  It is very tempting to want to hide, to close one’s ears and eyes and pretend it’s all a bad dream and, soon, we will awaken to a bright, new dawn.

(Now for something really lovely! It’s 1:40pm on Sunday, 6th)

I took a quick break to think about my next sentence.  I was looking for some words that would encourage us all to do something!  Because as John Hurlburt recently wrote: “Failure to act condemns us to death as a species of fools.

In that short break I saw that someone else had signed up to follow Learning from Dogs.  That person describes herself as Elsie Bowen-Dodoo.  Her blog is called BowenDiaries. On her About page, Elsie writes:

Elsie Bowen-Dodoo. Living life with a purpose. Persevering to inspire all races.

I write to inspire people hoping that they reading my articles and stuff will be touched to do something positive in their lives.

We really can all make this world a better place to live in.

Talent should not be wasted.

This is the picture on Elsie’s home page.

Positive inspiration!

Positive inspiration!

So here’s my take on where we, as in all mankind, are at.

  • We have to turn our backs on growth, greed and materialism.
  • Each of us must place caring for our planet our highest priority in life.
  • Each of us must be alive to making a positive difference.
  • Being true to what we know is right will set us free.
  • This will also create ripples of positive energy that will set others free.
  • That is the only sustainable way to go.

Let me close by returning to dogs.  After all this blog is called Learning from Dogs! By recognising, of course, that these are challenging times. As we are incessantly reminded by the drumbeat of the doom-and-gloom news industry every hour, frequently every half-hour, throughout the day. A symphony of negative energy.

Yet right next to us is a world of positive energy. The world of dogs. A canine world full of love and trust, playfulness and relaxation. A way of living that is both clear and straightforward; albeit far from being simple. As anyone will know who has seen the way dogs interact with each other and with us humans.

In other words, dogs offer endless examples of positive behaviours. The wonderful power of compassion for self, and others, and of loving joy. The way to live that we humans crave for. A life full of hope and positive energy that keeps the power of negativity at bay.

That is the only way forward!

Oliver, Cleo and Hazel playing together.

Oliver, Cleo and Hazel joyfully playing together.

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