Category: Philosophy

Being alone!

A repeat of an essay from the 12th October, 2019.

We were truly alone when we went to Utah. (September, 2019.)

But then again, one of the privileges of being on 13 acres, 13 very rural acres, here in Southern Oregon is that being alone is not that far away!

I don’t want to underplay the importance of this posting, republished from The Conversation website (with permission), because we live in so busy times.

Written by three professors, it’s a very wise and profound article.

ooOOoo

Spending time alone in nature is good for your mental and emotional health

June 4th, 2018

By , Professor of Outdoor Education, Montreat College
, Associate Professor and Program Director of Parks and Recreation Management, Western Carolina University

, Associate Professor of Outdoor Education, Montreat College
Today Americans live in a world that thrives on being busy, productive and overscheduled. Further, they have developed the technological means to be constantly connected to others and to vast options for information and entertainment through social media. For many, smartphones demand their attention day and night with constant notifications.

As a result, naturally occurring periods of solitude and silence that were once commonplace have been squeezed out of their lives. Music, reality TV shows, YouTube, video games, tweeting and texting are displacing quiet and solitary spaces. Silence and solitude are increasingly viewed as “dead” or “unproductive” time, and being alone makes many Americans uncomfortable and anxious.

But while some equate solitude with loneliness, there is a big difference between being lonely and being alone. The latter is essential for mental health and effective leadership.

We study and teach outdoor education and related fields at several colleges and organizations in North Carolina, through and with other scholars at 2nd Nature TREC, LLC, a training, research, education and consulting firm. We became interested in the broader implications of alone time after studying intentionally designed solitude experiences during wilderness programs, such as those run by Outward Bound. Our findings reveal that time alone in nature is beneficial for many participants in a variety of ways, and is something they wish they had more of in their daily life.

On an average day in 2015, individuals aged 15 and over spent more than half of their leisure time watching TV. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Americans Time Use Survey

Reflection and challenge

We have conducted research for almost two decades on Outward Bound and undergraduate wilderness programs at Montreat College in North Carolina and Wheaton College in Illinois. For each program, we studied participants’ experiences using multiple methods, including written surveys, focus group interviews, one-on-one interviews and field notes. In some cases, we asked subjects years later to look back and reflect on how the programs had affected them. Among other questions, our research looked at participant perceptions of the value of solo time outdoors.

Our studies showed that people who took part in these programs benefited both from the outdoor settings and from the experience of being alone. These findings build on previous research that has clearly demonstrated the value of spending time in nature.

Scholars in fields including wilderness therapy and environmental psychology have shown that time outdoors benefits our lives in many ways. It has a therapeutic effect, relieves stress and restores attention. Alone time in nature can have a calming effect on the mind because it occurs in beautiful, natural and inspirational settings.

Spending time in city parks like Audubon Park in New Orleans provides some of the same benefits as time in wilderness areas, including reduced stress levels and increased energy levels. InSapphoWeTrust, CC BY-SA

Nature also provides challenges that spur individuals to creative problem-solving and increased self-confidence. For example, some find that being alone in the outdoors, particularly at night, is a challenging situation. Mental, physical and emotional challenges in moderation encourage personal growth that is manifested in an increased comfort with one’s self in the absence of others.

Being alone also can have great value. It can allow issues to surface that people spend energy holding at bay, and offer an opportunity to clarify thoughts, hopes, dreams and desires. It provides time and space for people to step back, evaluate their lives and learn from their experiences. Spending time this way prepares them to re-engage with their community relationships and full work schedules.

Putting it together: The outdoor solo

Participants in programmed wilderness expeditions often experience a component known as “Solo,” a time of intentional solitude lasting approximately 24-72 hours. Extensive research has been conducted on solitude in the outdoors because many wilderness education programs have embraced the educational value of solitude and silence.

Solo often emerges as one of the most significant parts of wilderness programs, for a variety of reasons. Alone time creates a contrasting experience to normal living that enriches people mentally, physically and emotionally. As they examine themselves in relation to nature, others, and in some cases, God, people become more attuned to the important matters in their lives and in the world of which they are part.

Solo, an integral part of Outward Bound wilderness trips, can last from a few hours to 72 hours. The experience is designed to give participants an opportunity to reflect on their own thoughts and critically analyze their actions and decisions.

Solitary reflection enhances recognition and appreciation of key personal relationships, encourages reorganization of life priorities, and increases appreciation for alone time, silence, and reflection. People learn lessons they want to transfer to their daily living, because they have had the opportunity to clarify, evaluate and redirect themselves by setting goals for the future.

For some participants, time alone outdoors provides opportunity to consider the spiritual and/or religious dimension of life. Reflective time, especially in nature, often enhances spiritual awareness and makes people feel closer to God. Further, it encourages their increased faith and trust in God. This often occurs through providing ample opportunities for prayer, meditation, fasting, Scripture-reading, journaling and reflection time.

Retreating to lead

As Thomas Carlyle has written, “In (solitary) silence, great things fashion themselves together.” Whether these escapes are called alone time, solitude or Solo, it seems clear that humans experience many benefits when they retreat from the “rat race” to a place apart and gather their thoughts in quietness.

In order to live and lead effectively, it is important to be intentional about taking the time for solitary reflection. Otherwise, gaps in schedules will always fill up, and even people with the best intentions may never fully realize the life-giving value of being alone.

ooOOoo

I would modify that advice from Thomas Carlyle and that is to include a dog.

For in my experience when one is in the mood for a bit of solitary reflection your dog seems to sense it as well.

Start your day with music – a guest post!

More on mindfulness!

I opened my email box a couple of days ago and there was an email from Sarah.

It said:

Hi there!
I would be honored to be a guest writer for your blog and of course would reciprocate.  I hope you don’t mind that I shared your link in my last post.  I am not totally sure if blogging etiquette.  😀
Sarah Kinneavy
MyAmazing2ndChapter.com

Of course I said yes!

Sarah’s background is sociology and she has a degree in the subject. Just as important she owns a dog walking business. I will let her finish her background:

I believe in living life to the fullest.

My daughter is a Cancer survivor- and as a result of that journey- It put my life into perspective. I learned to never take anything for granted- you never know what’s around the next corner. I am continuing to work on becoming the best version of me, while making the most of each and everyday.

Frankly, I do not really know what it is like to have a daughter, or a son come to it, go down with cancer. The nearest I have come to the disease was when I had just turned 12 and my father died of lung cancer.

So here’s her guest post.

ooOOoo

Start your day with music- not the News! Surviving the Coronavirus with mindfulness Day 2

By Sarah Kinneavy, March 28th, 2020

As I continue to try to stay calm with mass panic happening across the globe 🌎 with this pandemic. As I mentioned in yesterday’s post:

https://myamazing2ndchapter.com/2020/03/27/surviving-the-coronavirus-with-mindfulness/

I am using mindfulness to train my brain in how it reacts to stress. The more we do these exercises the better we get at them.

Start your day with music rather than the news!

Yesterday one of my friends posted on Facebook to start the day off with music – rather than the news! What a great idea!!! So, yesterday, as I got ready for a job interview and I waited until it was late enough in Hawaii to do my daily well check on my daughter there (she is in isolation in a dorm room – I am not sure if she has the dreaded virus or not). I used music as the focal point of this mindfulness exercise. This 15 minutes of focusing on the music- listening to the rhythm helped keep me present. I wasn’t worrying about getting the job or how my daughter was doing. I was just in that moment of getting ready with the accompaniment of music. It was honestly 15 minutes of pure happiness. What a great way to start my day! One thing I have to add – I try to not let myself think about what the words of the songs mean to me, or when I first heard the song. I just listen and enjoy. Okay- I may have danced around my apartment a bit too!

I can tell you – I did not feel anxious going to my interview like I normally would. I didn’t panic about my daughter’s health – I was able to wait until after my interview to check in on her. Mindfulness does not keep me from ever worrying about my kiddo or the world around me. No – I still worry – but It isn’t swallowing me up whole. And this is key!

Heading to my job interview.

I can’t wait to talk to you again tomorrow . How are you coping with all the stress and anxiety?

ooOOoo

That’s a lovely guest post!
And the message is clear and powerful: “No – I still worry – but It isn’t swallowing me up whole. And this is key!

There’s no escaping it!

Getting old is inevitable.

Becoming wiser as one ages less so!

I am minded to start today’s post with that reflection because quite simply it was the way to introduce my republication of Wibble’s post.

The article is about Dexter and is just lovely. It is called Older or wiser.

Enjoy!

ooOOoo

Older or wiser

By Dexter, February 19th, 2020

I’m sitting here and the rain is drizzling down the window. It’s February, its windy, we’ve had two winter storms in quick succession and they are digging up the road outside my house. Do they not know I am trying to sleep. Even more surprising but equally as joyous, Lenny isn’t trying to bite me. Now if you have read some of my recent blogs, you will know I have been somewhat contemplative. If you are hoping for shenanigans in this article, then I fear you will again be somewhat disappointed. Earlier today I was wondering to myself about becoming older and, apparently, wiser.

Being older is a bit obvious really. I have more grey hair, I eat my dinner more slowly and I don’t need to walk as far as I used to. I’ve even missed scenting rabbits and squirrels according to assorted parents I have been attached to when these alleged missed sightings have taken place. I can still play bitey face with Lenny, and give him what for, but I tend to duck out of said prolonged snout jousting after a short time. Being beagles we are docile chaps and even when we are in full cry with sofa covers flying around, furniture being rearranged and rugs being ruffled, we manage to stop for a breather on fairly regular occasions. Sometimes it takes a parent stepping in between us to remind the warring parties that its time for a break but, on the whole, we tend to cease and desist quite readily. I am then happy to retire to one of my six or so beds to snooze. However Lenny seems to have a little extra bounce in his paws although I think that is because he is around eighteen months old and I am, allegedly, going to be ten next birthday. No one truly knows how old I am due to me being a rescue but the wise money is on nearly ten now. I am happy for him to run around a little longer, chew what remains of one of my toys and then fall asleep on the sofa. Usually this is interspersed with trying to bite me but again, being docile, I try and fend him off without sending clear signals that I just want to rest.

Older?

As for being wiser, I don’t really know what that entails. If it means that I have seen things, been places and done stuff, then yes I am wiser. If it means that having done said activities, I have learned from the experiences, then not necessarily. For example I have been on the tube and train to London quite a few times, however I still want to investigate what those wonderful smells are down on the track. Thank goodness for a lead and attached human apparently. Another example, is that I have lived here for seven Christmases and, despite the jolly red faced man delivering me many wonderful things but nothing closely resembling a pizza tasting gift, it is wrapping paper I am still fascinated by. I can’t eat it, I know I can’t, but does it stop me from trying? Of course not. Many winters have I seen here, many dirty puddles have I walked through in a Moses style and many times have I been told “Dex, no, ugh good grief you look like the Creature from the Black Lagoon”. Does it stop me stomping through puddles in the most triumphal fashion? No, of course not. I have stopped chasing pigeons in the garden and that’s not because I am banned from the garden. Far from it, for I merely allow my protege to chase them for me. Young whipper-snapper legs are faster than these old bones of mine. I have stopped chewing my toys to a misshapen soggy jumble of fabric, with an accompanying scene of death and destruction wrought across the rugs. Again I leave the dental lobotomisation of toys to Lenny, as he seems to have picked up the baton fairly quickly and extremely proficiently.

Wiser?

If growing older and wiser means seeing things, going places, enjoying the view, smelling more flowers and generally knowing that I should take my time to appreciate and immerse myself in all the things I rushed to see previously, then I am older and wiser. I still have adventures, I still walk and pull on the lead, stick my head down rabbit holes and try to climb the banks along the lanes and byways I explore. I still look in awe at the beauty of the countryside I visit, gaze at the buildings and people in the city. But I let it sink in now, I actually look at what is in front of me and then usually fall asleep soon after, twitching and dreaming. I am trying to pass on my perceived wisdom to Lenny. He is often too busy bouncing around, trying to sniff everything, meet every fur and being a very lovable pest in as quick a time as possible. I see much in Lenny that I had in my youth and this gives me a warm feeling. I hope I can help him to understand that, at some point, he will sit and watch the world go by, with a peace and calmness that I seem to be achieving more often.

Who knows, maybe that is the secret to being older and wiser.

ooOOoo

Just read that last paragraph again. Especially the first sentence: “If growing older and wiser means seeing things, going places, enjoying the view, smelling more flowers and generally knowing that I should take my time to appreciate and immerse myself in all the things I rushed to see previously, then I am older and wiser.

In my opinion dogs do this so much better than we humans. Yet another lesson to be learned from dogs!

Because both for dogs and their human friends, it’s only a matter of time!

How to live with uncertainty.

Another essay that is nothing to do with dogs!

I have long been a subscriber to The Conversation. They seem to be politically neutral as well as giving permission for their essays to be republished elsewhere.

This particular essay chimed with me because for some time, one or two years sort of time-span, the number of people agreeing with the statement, “It’s a strange world“, has measurably grown. At first I thought it was a question of politics, both sides of The Atlantic, but I have recently come to the opinion that it is deeper than that.

This encapsulates the idea perfectly.

ooOOoo

How CEOs, experts and philosophers see the world’s biggest risks differently

By   Professor of Ethics and Business Law, University of St. Thomas

January 27, 2020

We live in a world threatened by numerous existential risks that no country or organization can resolve alone, such as climate change, extreme weather and the coronavirus.

But in order to adequately address them, we need agreement on which are priorities – and which aren’t.

As it happens, the policymakers and business leaders who largely determine which risks become global priorities spent a week in January mingling in the mountainous resort of Davos for an annual meeting of the world’s elite.

I participated in a global risk assessment survey that informed those at the Davos summit on what they should be paying the most attention to. The results, drawn from experts in a broad range of disciplines including business, happen to be very different from what company CEOs specifically see as the biggest threats they face.

As a philosopher, I found the differences curious. They highlight two contrasting ways of seeing the world – with significant consequences for our ability to address societal risks.

Wildfires in Australia have destroyed more than 3,000 homes and razed more than 10.6 million hectares since September. AP Photo/Noah Berger

Two perspectives on the biggest risks

The World Economic Forum’s Global Risk Report consolidates the perceptions of about 800 experts in business, government and civil society to rank “the world’s most pressing challenges” for the coming year by likelihood and impact.

In 2020, extreme weather, a failure to act on climate change and natural disasters topped the list of risks in terms of likelihood of occurrence. In terms of impact, the top three were climate action failure, weapons of mass destruction and a loss of biodiversity.

The specific perspective of corporate leaders, however, is captured in another survey that highlights what they perceive as the biggest risks to their own businesses’ growth prospects. Conducted by consultancy PwC since 1998, it also holds sway in Davos. I’ve been involved in that report as well when I used to work for the organization.

In sharp contrast to the World Economic Forum’s risk report, the CEO survey found that the top three risks to business this year are overregulation, trade conflicts and uncertain economic growth.

President Trump’s trade war and other economic concerns tend to be the focus of corporate CEOs. AP Photo/Evan Vucci

Economic or ethical

What explains such a big difference in how these groups see the greatest threats?

I wanted to look at this question more deeply, beyond one year’s assessment, so I did a simple analysis of 14 years of data generated by the two reports. My findings are only inferences from publicly available data, and it should be noted that the two surveys have different methodologies and ask different questions that may shape respondents’ answers.

A key difference I observed is that business leaders tend to think in economic terms first and ethical terms second. That is, businesses, as you’d expect, tend to focus on their short-term economic situation, while civil society and other experts in the Global Risk Report focus on longer-term social and environmental consequences.

For example, year after year, CEOs have named a comparatively stable set of narrow concerns. Overregulation is among the main three threats in all but one of the years – and is frequently at the top of the list. Availability of talent, government fiscal concerns and the economy were also frequently mentioned over the past 14 years.

In contrast, the Global Risk Report tends to reflect a greater evolution in the types of risks the world faces, with concerns about the environment and existential threats growing increasingly prominent over the past five years, while economic and geopolitical risks have faded after dominating in the late 2000s.

A philosophical perspective

Risk surveys are useful tools for understanding what matters to CEOs and civil society. Philosophy is useful for considering why their priorities differ, and whose are likelier to be right.

Fundamentally, risks are about interests. Businesses want a minimum of regulations so they can make more money today. Experts representing constituencies beyond just business place a greater emphasis on the common good, now and in the future.

When interests are in tension, philosophy can help us sort between them. And while I’m sympathetic to CEOs’ desire to run their businesses without regulatory interference, I’m concerned that these short-term economic considerations often impede long-term ethical goals, such as looking after the well-being of the environment.

An uncertain world

Experts agree on at least one thing: The world faces dire risks.

This year’s Global Risk Report, titled, “An Unsettled World,” depicts on its cover a vulnerable earth in the shadow of a gigantic whirlpool.

The cover photograph of the Global CEO Survey, which reported the lowest CEO confidence in economic growth since the Great Recession, shows an incoming tide beneath looming dark clouds, with the words: “Navigating the Rising Tide of Uncertainty.”

Between the covers, however, the reports demonstrate a wide gap between two influential groups that need to be on the same page if we hope to resolve the world’s biggest threats.

Last century, in the same year that World War II drew to a close, Bertrand Russell proclaimed that

Bertrand Russell. Naci Yavuz/Shurterstock.com

the purpose of philosophy was to teach us “how to live without certainty, and yet without being paralyzed by hesitation.”

In the 21st century, philosophy can remind us of our unfortunate tendency to let economic priorities paralyze action on more pressing concerns.

[ You’re smart and curious about the world. So are The Conversation’s authors and editors. You can read us daily by subscribing to our newsletter. ]

ooOOoo

Bertrand Russell was a great philosopher. Well he was that and much more. Wikipedia remind us that he “was a British philosopher, logician, mathematician, historian, writer, essayist, social critic, political activist, and Nobel laureate.”

He died at the age of 97 on the 2nd February, 1970; fifty years ago as of yesterday.

I’ll close with another quote from the great man:

“The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts. …”

Dogs observations of us humans

A widely-reported study shows the depth to which dogs understand us.

I have seen this reported both in The Smithsonian and Mother Nature News.

I have included both!

I’ll comment at the end of the articles.

ooOOoo

Stray Dogs May Understand Human Signals, Too

By Brigit Katz

Researchers in India studied whether 160 stray dogs would react to commands like gesturing toward a bowl. This image, taken in 2012, shows street dogs surrounding an Indian tea vendor in Allahabad. (AP Photo / Rajesh Kumar Singh)

Dogs are famously good at interpreting human signals, whether communicated verbally or through gestures. But much of what we know about our furry friends’ comprehension of social cues focuses on pet dogs, which share close relationships with their owners and are trained to follow commands. Now, a study published in Frontiers in Psychology, suggests that stray dogs can also understand human gestures, indicating that this ability might be innate.
The new research took place on the streets of several regions in India, which is home to some 30 million stray dogs. Coexistence between canines and humans there is not always peaceful; people have been known to attack street dogs, and vice versa. Around 36 percent of the world’s annual rabies deaths occur in India, most of them children who came into contact with infected dogs.

To better manage the country’s street dogs, it’s essential to gain further knowledge of their behavior, Anindita Bhadra, study co-author and animal behaviorist at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research Kolkata, tells Liz Langley of National Geographic. So she and her colleagues set out to discover whether strays, which have never undergone specific training, are able to understand humans in a similar way to their pet counterparts.

The researchers took to the streets equipped with two bowls; one contained chicken and the other was empty but had been rubbed with raw chicken, transferring the food’s scent. The bowls were covered with pieces of cardboard and handed to an experimenter who did not know which one contained the snack. This researcher would approach a stray dog, place the bowls on the ground and point at one of them, sometimes momentarily, sometimes repeatedly.

In total, the researchers studied 160 adult strays. Around half of them refused to get close to either bowl, perhaps because they had negative interactions with humans in the past, the researchers speculate. But of the dogs that did approach the bowls, approximately 80 percent went to the one to which the experimenter had pointed. Whether the researcher had pointed to the bowl briefly or repeatedly did not seem to matter. This response, according to the study authors, suggests that untrained stray dogs are “capable of following complex pointing cues from humans.”

Dogs share an intertwined evolutionary history with humans, with domesticated pooches emerging at least 10,000 to 15,000 years ago, though some experts have argued for an even earlier date. This close contact has prompted dogs to develop a number of skills that allow them to communicate with people, including interpreting human emotion. Still, Bhadra says, the researchers found it “quite amazing” that stray dogs without a history of close human interaction were able to “follow a gesture as abstract as momentary pointing.”

“This means that they closely observe the human, whom they are meeting for the first time, and they use their understanding of humans to make a decision,” Bhadra adds. “This shows their intelligence and adaptability.”

Because some dogs seemed anxious and were wary of approaching the researchers, it’s not clear how a dog’s personality—and past experiences—might affect its ability to interpret human signals. But this ability does not appear to be entirely dependent on training, the study authors say, which in turn should inform efforts to manage stray dogs.

“They are quite capable of understanding our body language and we need to give them their space,” Bhadra says. “A little empathy and respect for another species can reduce a lot of conflict.”

ooOOoo

Mother Nature News had a second picture in their broadly-similar article. Indeed, I’m going to republish this article as well. For although they are of the same story they offer a slightly different account.

ooOOoo

Even stray dogs understand human cues

A new study shows these feral canines are paying close attention.

By Starre Vartan   January 21, 2020

Even untrained dogs can follow simple communications. (Photo: Abir Bhattacharya/Shutterstock)

Dogs were likely the first animals that human beings domesticated — scientific guesses vary as to whether that was 10,000 years ago in Europe or 30,000 years ago in Asia (or, as one theory goes, humans tamed grey wolves two separate times). Regardless, they have been our companions for much of human history, and all of modern history. We have evolved together.

And that longstanding connection shows up in feral dogs.

Behavioral biologist Dr. Anindita Bhadra of the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research in Kolkata, India, revealed this by studying stray dogs in several Indian cities. In the experiment, Bhadra and her colleagues would find a solo stray dog and put two covered bowls on the ground nearby. They they’d simply point to one of the bowls; some did this just once, others did it a few times.

The researchers, who published their work in Frontiers in Psychology, recorded the dogs’ reactions. Half the dogs seemed nervous, and didn’t look at or come close to either bowl. But the other half — noted as less anxious dogs by the researchers — approached the bowls. Of those friendlier dogs, about 80% went to the bowl the researcher pointed at. As long as the dogs weren’t too scared of the people, they were easily able to interpret what the pointing meant.

“We thought it was quite amazing that the dogs could follow a gesture as abstract as momentary pointing,” Bhadra said in a news release. “This means that they closely observe the human, whom they are meeting for the first time, and they use their understanding of humans to make a decision. This shows their intelligence and adaptability.”

Wolf puppies surprised researchers with their responses. (Photo: Bildagentur Zoonar GmbH/Shutterstock)

In another study, three out of 13 untrained 8-week-old wolf puppies spontaneously retrieved a ball for a person who threw it, as MNN’s Mary Jo DiLonardo explains. It was a small study, and a low percentage of retrieving puppies, but it was an unexpected result as these weren’t domesticated dogs. “It was so unexpected, and I immediately knew that this meant that if variation in human-directed play behavior exists in wolves, this behavior could have been a potential target for early selective pressures exerted during dog domestication,” Christina Hansen Wheat, a biologist at Stockholm University, said.

Her observations show that playing with people may be a very old trait for wolves, that could reflect how our human ancestors first got to know them. This playful behavior may have sparked humans’ interest in domestication. If a dog could fetch a stick or other thrown object, they could be quite useful to hunting humans.

Of course, their adorable, big puppy-dog eyes and floppy ears (both traits that have become accentuated over time as dogs evolved) are among the reason we are still drawn to dogs today. (It also helps that they’re great listeners.)

But long before that happened, dogs served an important purpose — assisting people in locating and retrieving prey, and serving as eyes and ears for an intruder. Simple tasks like showing they can follow directions or fetch an object may have moved prehistoric dogs from outside the fire circle to within it, which is why understanding these behaviors are so important.

ooOOoo

If we go back into the mists of time then prehistoric wolves (or dogs) learnt to bond with early humans because it served both their interests to so do. Humans became much more adept at hunting and wolves obviously became the benefactors of food!

Now dogs are so well bonded to human gestures that even non-domesticated dogs understand the signals that we humans put out. I say ‘non-domesticated’ but in a real sense all dogs are domesticated. It would be more accurate to say that these are dogs who do not have a home with humans.

The oldest human-animal relationship by far!

Picture Parade Three Hundred and Seventeen

A republication of a Picture Parade from November, 2016

ooOOoo

Originally seen on Mother Nature Network where it was published by Mary Jo Dilonardo back on November 8th.

Take a moment of Zen with these dogs

Chilled-out canines experience a moment of utter calmness

fred-jpg-838x0_q80
Fred the Basset hound appears to have more Zen moments than most dogs. (Photo: ‘Zen Dogs’ by Alex Cearns/HarperOne)

Australian animal photographer Alex Cearns remembers the first Zen dog image she ever captured, a Shar-Pei named Suzi.

“During her photo session, I caught a shot of her with her eyes closed, and a big smile on her face. I called the image ‘Zen Dog,’ and when her owners saw it, they immediately fell in love with the vibe of the image and with Suzi’s relaxed and happy pose,” Cearns says.

“With such positive feedback, I became keen to capture the emotion and moment of being a Zen dog for other dogs who visited my studio.”

Cearns tries to take at least one Zen-like image for every dog photo session she conducts at her Houndstooth Studio, even if the process takes time. She has compiled 80 of these images of meditative canines in her new book “Zen Dogs.”

Bailey is an Australian shepherd. (Photo: 'Zen Dogs' by Alex Cearns/HarperOne)
Bailey is an Australian shepherd. (Photo: ‘Zen Dogs’ by Alex Cearns/HarperOne)

To get her canine subjects to relax, Cearns makes sure they are authentically calm and happy. Her studio is small, quiet and without many distractions.

“During my photo sessions, I realized that some types of dogs are more likely to close their eyes than others,” Cearns says. “Dogs who were fairly laid back, or who liked to lie about were easier to photograph in a Zen state, whereas dogs overly fixated on toys or treats wouldn’t close their eyes for a second, should the toy or treat disappear. They kept their eyes firmly on the prize.”

Lexie the Weimaraner looks stately. (Photo: 'Zen Dogs' by Alex Cearns/HarperOne)
Lexie the Weimaraner looks stately. (Photo: ‘Zen Dogs’ by Alex Cearns/HarperOne)

Although it might look like the dogs are zoned out or even sleeping, that’s not the case; Cearns has skillfully caught a restful moment with her camera.

“The images capture a split second blink of my dog subjects, freezing the moment in time,” she says. “Sitting only a foot away, I’m able to watch each dog subject carefully to pick up on their blinking pattern, and take a series of images just before I predict their blink.”

Barney is a Cavalier King Charles spaniel. (Photo: 'Zen Dogs' by Alex Cearns /HarperOne)
Barney is a Cavalier King Charles spaniel. (Photo: ‘Zen Dogs’ by Alex Cearns /HarperOne)

The book “Zen Dogs” includes photos of a wide range of breeds, interspersed with Zen-inspired quotes by Gandhi, Buddha, St. Francis of Assisi and others with thoughtful, meditative words to share. There’s this one, for example, from “Unknown”:

If you’re always racing to the next moment, what happens to the one you’re in?

Muska is a relaxed Hungarian vizsla. (Photo: 'Zen Dogs' by Alex Cearns/HarperOne)
Muska is a relaxed Hungarian vizsla. (Photo: ‘Zen Dogs’ by Alex Cearns/HarperOne)

“As soon as a dog visits my studio, I aim to genuinely make friends with them and ensure they are comfortable and feel secure,” says Cearns. “I try to find out what they love most — a certain type of treat, or a particular toy — and then use that knowledge to win them over.”

Kono is a miniature poodle in a moment of Zen. (Photo: 'Zen Dogs' by Alex Cearns /HarperOne)
Kono is a miniature poodle in a moment of Zen. (Photo: ‘Zen Dogs’ by Alex Cearns /HarperOne)

ooOOoo

It’s a wonderful reminder of what is important in our lives.

Big hugs to you all.

Being ever so grateful for one’s lot.

There’s a science background to being healthy and happy.

Especially as one gets older.

It’s Jean’s birthday today and we are grateful for our lot. I’m 75 now and Jean is a few years younger. But more importantly we are so grateful to have met and, subsequently, fallen in love.

As well as Jean’s love in return we have our gorgeous dogs as well (not to count in addition the two horses, the two parakeets and the cat) and they reinforce the feelings of happiness that surround us.

All of which is an introduction to an article on The Conversation that caught my eye yesterday.

I’m afraid it doesn’t mention dogs but then again we dog owners know for sure how they benefit us humans.

ooOOoo

Are you as grateful as you deserve to be?

November 26, 2019
By
Chancellor’s Professor of Medicine, Liberal Arts, and Philanthropy, Indiana University

Gratitude is not only a great feeling but a healthy one. Aaron Amat/Shutterstock.com

As a physician, I have helped to care for many patients and families whose lives have been turned upside down by serious illnesses and injuries. In the throes of such catastrophes, it can be difficult to find cause for anything but lament. Yet Thanksgiving presents us with an opportunity to develop one of the healthiest, most life-affirming and convivial of all habits – that of counting and rejoicing in our blessings.

Gratitude’s benefits

Research shows that grateful people tend to be healthy and happy. They exhibit lower levels of stress and depression, cope better with adversity and sleep better. They tend to be happier and more satisfied with life. Even their partners tend to be more content with their relationships.

Perhaps when we are more focused on the good things we enjoy in life, we have more to live for and tend to take better care of ourselves and each other.

When researchers asked people to reflect on the past week and write about things that either irritated them or about which they felt grateful, those tasked with recalling good things were more optimistic, felt better about their lives and actually visited their physicians less.

It is no surprise that receiving thanks makes people happier, but so does expressing gratitude. An experiment that asked participants to write and deliver thank-you notes found large increases in reported levels of happiness, a benefit that lasted for an entire month.

Philosophical roots

Giving thanks is important for our psyches and our souls. Love You Stock/Shutterstock.com

One of the greatest minds in Western history, the Greek philosopher Aristotle, argued that we become what we habitually do. By changing our habits, we can become more thankful human beings.

If we spend our days ruminating on all that has gone poorly and how dark the prospects for the future appear, we can think ourselves into misery and resentment.

But we can also mold ourselves into the kind of people who seek out, recognize and celebrate all that we have to be grateful for.

This is not to say that anyone should become a Pollyanna, ceaselessly reciting the mantra from Voltaire’s “Candide,” “All is for the best in this, the best of all possible worlds.” There are injustices to be righted and wounds to be healed, and ignoring them would represent a lapse of moral responsibility.

But reasons to make the world a better place should never blind us to the many good things it already affords. How can we be compassionate and generous if we are fixated on deficiency? This explains why the great Roman statesman Cicero called gratitude not only the greatest of virtues but the “parent” of them all.

Religious roots

Gratitude is deeply embedded in many religious traditions. In Judaism, the first words of the morning prayer could be translated, “I thank you.” Another saying addresses the question, “Who is rich?” with this answer: “Those who rejoice in what they have.”

From a Christian perspective, too, gratitude and thanksgiving are vital. Before Jesus shares his last meal with his disciples, he gives thanks. So vital a part of Christian life is gratitude that author and critic G.K. Chesterton calls it “the highest form of thought.”

Gratitude also plays an essential role in Islam. The 55th chapter of the Quran enumerates all the things human beings have to be grateful for – the Sun, Moon, clouds, rain, air, grass, animals, plants, rivers and oceans – and then asks, “How can a sensible person be anything but thankful to God?”

Other traditions also stress the importance of thankfulness. Hindu festivals celebrate blessings and offer thanks for them. In Buddhism, gratitude develops patience and serves as an antidote to greed, the corrosive sense that we never have enough.

Roots even in suffering

In his 1994 book, “A Whole New Life,” the Duke University English professor Reynolds Price describes how his battle with a spinal cord tumor that left him partially paralyzed also taught him a great deal about what it means to really live.

After surgery, Price describes “a kind of stunned beatitude.” With time, though diminished in many ways by his tumor and its treatment, he learns to pay closer attention to the world around him and those who populate it.

Reflecting on the change in his writing, Price notes that his books differ in many ways from those he penned as a younger man. Even his handwriting, he says, “looks very little like that of the man he was at the time of his diagnosis.”

“Cranky as it is, it’s taller, more legible, and with more air and stride. And it comes down the arm of a grateful man.”

A brush with death can open our eyes. Some of us emerge with a deepened appreciation for the preciousness of each day, a clearer sense of our real priorities and a renewed commitment to celebrating life. In short, we can become more grateful, and more alive, than ever.

Practicing gratitude

Good conversation, good friends and connections – not material possessions – bring great joy. Jacob Lund/Shutterstock.com

When it comes to practicing gratitude, one trap to avoid is locating happiness in things that make us feel better off – or simply better – than others. In my view, such thinking can foster envy and jealousy.

There are marvelous respects in which we are equally blessed – the same Sun shines down upon each of us, we all begin each day with the same 24 hours, and each of us enjoys the free use of one of the most complex and powerful resources in the universe, the human brain.

Much in our culture seems aimed to cultivate an attitude of deficiency – for example, most ads aim to make us think that to find happiness we must buy something. Yet most of the best things in life – the beauty of nature, conversation and love – are free.

There are many ways to cultivate a disposition of thankfulness. One is to make a habit of giving thanks regularly – at the beginning of the day, at meals and the like, and at day’s end.

Likewise, holidays, weeks, seasons and years can be punctuated with thanks – grateful prayer or meditation, writing thank-you notes, keeping a gratitude journal and consciously seeking out the blessings in situations as they arise.

Gratitude can become a way of life, and by developing the simple habit of counting our blessings, we can enhance the degree to which we are truly blessed.

[ Thanks for reading! We can send you The Conversation’s stories every day in an informative email. Sign up today. ]

ooOOoo

That reference to Reynolds Price and his challenges make one think. I have been fortunate that nothing really dreadful has happened to me; apart from my father’s death when I had just turned 12. I’m getting a little hazy in terms of certain memories but that’s an old age thing rather than an illness. But to go through what he did; I just don’t know the person that I am, in terms of how I wold react to that.

But to the general tone of the article, I would hope that I can get better and better.

For it’s splendid to cultivate that disposition.

One is to make a habit of giving thanks regularly – at the beginning of the day, at meals and the like, and at day’s end.

Perfect!

Part Two of that post about Pharaoh!

A wonderful dog!

I have re-read this post and have choked up. For Pharaoh was the supreme dog for me to have as a companion during this stage in my life. I suspect you will read that clearly in the post that follows.

ooOOoo

The concluding part-two of meeting Pharaoh 

Pharaoh, as of yesterday afternoon!
Pharaoh, as of yesterday afternoon!

In yesterday’s first part of my recollection of having Pharaoh in my life for over ten years, I focussed on the early days.  Today, I want to take a more philosophical view of the relationship, right up to the present day.

The biggest, single reward of having Pharaoh as my friend goes back a few years.  Back to my Devon days and the time when Jon Lavin and I used to spend hours talking together.  Pharaoh always contentedly asleep in the same room as the two of us. It was Jon who introduced me to Dr. David Hawkins and his Map of Consciousness. It was Jon one day who looking down at the sleeping Pharaoh pointed out that Dr. Hawkins offered evidence that dogs are integrous creatures with a ‘score’ on that Map of between 205 and 210. (Background story is here.)

So this blog, Learning from Dogs, and my attempt to write a book of the same name flow from that awareness of what dogs mean to human consciousness and what Pharaoh means to me.  No, more than that!  From that mix of Jon, Dr. David Hawkins, experiencing the power of unconditional love from an animal living with me day-in, day-out, came a journey into my self.  Came the self-awareness that allowed me to like who I was, be openly loved by this dog of mine, and be able to love in return.  As is said: “You cannot love another until you love yourself.

Moving on.

Trying to pick out a single example of the bond that he and I have is practically impossible.  I have to rely on photographs to remind me of the thousands of times that a simple look or touch between Pharaoh and me ‘speaks’ to me in ways that words fail. Here’s an extract from my celebration of Pharaoh’s tenth birthday  last June 3rd; written the following day. It comes pretty close to illustrating the friendship bond.

oooo

For many years I was a private pilot and in later days had the pleasure, the huge pleasure, of flying a Piper Super Cub, a group-owned aircraft based at Watchford Farm in South Devon.  The aircraft, a Piper PA-18-135 Super Cub, was originally supplied to the Dutch Air Force in 1954 and was permitted by the British CAA to carry her original military markings including her Dutch military registration, R-151, although there was a British registration, G-BIYR, ‘underneath’ the Dutch R-151.  (I wrote more fully about the history of the aircraft on Learning from Dogs back in August 2009.)

Piper Cub R151
Piper Cub R151

Anyway, every time I went to the airfield with Pharaoh he always tried to climb into the cockpit.  So one day, I decided to see if he would sit in the rear seat and be strapped in.  Absolutely no problem with that!

Come on Dad, let's get this thing off the ground!
Come on Dad, let’s get this thing off the ground!

My idea had been to fly a gentle circuit in the aircraft.  First I did some taxying around the large grass airfield that is Watchford to see how Pharaoh reacted.  He was perfectly behaved.

Then I thought long and hard about taking Pharaoh for a flight.  In the Cub there is no autopilot so if Pharaoh struggled or worse it would have been almost impossible to fly the aircraft and cope with Pharaoh.  So, in the end, I abandoned taking him for a flight.  The chances are that it would have been fine.  But if something had gone wrong, the outcome just didn’t bear thinking about.

So we ended up motoring for 30 minutes all around the airfield which, as the next picture shows, met with doggie approval.  The date was July 2006.

That was fun!
That was fun!

oooo

Moving on again.  This time to another flying experience.  To the day when Pharaoh and I flew out of London bound for Los Angeles and a new life with Jeannie and all her dogs (16 at that time) down in San Carlos, Sonora County, Mexico.  The date: September 15th, 2008.  Just ten months after I had met Jean in Mexico and realised that this was the woman that I was destined to love! (Now you will understand why I described earlier the Jon Lavin, Dr. Hawkins, Pharaoh mix as the biggest, single reward of having Pharaoh as my friend!)

There followed wonderful happy days for me and Pharaoh.  Gorgeous to see how Pharaoh became so much more a dog, if that makes sense, from having his own mini-pack around him.  Those happy days taking us all forwards to Payson, AZ, where Jean and I were married, and then on to Merlin, Oregon arriving here in October, 2012.

Fr. Dan Tantimonaco with the newly weds!
Fr. Dan Tantimonaco with the newly weds!

oooo

Pharaoh 'married' to his dearest friends. December, 2013.
Pharaoh ‘married’ to his dearest friends. December, 2013.

oooo

Perfect closeness. Pharaoh and Cleo with Hazel in the middle. Taken yesterday.
Smelling the flowers! Pharaoh and Cleo with Hazel in the middle. Taken yesterday.

I could go on!  Hopefully, you get a sense, a very strong sense, of the magical journey that both Pharaoh and I have experienced since I first clasped him in my arms back in September, 2003.

Both Pharaoh and I are in the Autumn of our lives, he is 11 in June; I am 70 in November, and we both creak a little. But so what! Pharaoh has been my greatest inspiration of the power of unconditional love; of the need to smell the flowers in this short life of ours.

One very great animal! (March 25th, 2014)
One very great animal! (March 25th, 2014)

Thank you, my dear, dear friend!

ooOOoo

Yes, thank you, and thanks to all the dogs that love us and to whom we offer love in return.

Today, as in the 20th November, 2019, just happens to be our anniversary, nine years ago we were married. We met just before Christmas, 2007.

It’s not just me!

I thought this was worth sharing!

The problem with coming up to the age of 75, and aware that I am close to the average life expectancy in the US, is that one increasingly worries about stuff. Such as it seems like the world is becoming more unsettled. But then it is put down to age!

But this article does imply that it is a more unsettled world and we should take notice. Republished with permission.

ooOOoo

5 tips for surviving in an increasingly uncertain world

What does the future hold – and how will you handle what comes next?
Svetlana Lukienko/Shutterstock.com

Jelena Kecmanovic, Georgetown University

A recent study showed that North Americans are becoming less tolerant of uncertainty.

The U.S. presidential impeachment inquiry has added another layer of uncertainty to an already unstable situation that includes political polarization and the effects of climate change.

As a clinical psychologist in the Washington, D.C. area, I hear people report being stressed, anxious, worried, depressed and angry. Indeed, an American Psychological Association 2017 survey found that 63% of Americans were stressed by “the future of our nation,” and 57% by the “current political climate.”

Humans dislike uncertainty in most situations, but some deal with it better than others. Numerous studies link high intolerance of uncertainty to anxiety and anxiety disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression, PTSD and eating disorders.

While no one person can reduce the uncertainty of the current political situation, you can learn to decrease intolerance of uncertainty by implementing these scientifically sound strategies.

1. Commit to gradually facing uncertainty

Even though humans encounter uncertain situations every day, we often avoid feeling the discomfort of facing the uncertainty.

When unsure how to best proceed with a work assignment, you might either immediately seek help, over-research or procrastinate. As you prepare for the day, uncertainty about the weather or traffic is quickly short-circuited by checking a phone. Similarly, inquiries about family or friends’ whereabouts or emotions can be instantly gratified by texting or checking social media.

All this avoidance of uncertainty leads to relief in the short run, but lessens your ability to tolerate anything short of complete certainty in the long run.

Tolerance for uncertainty is like a muscle that weakens if not used. So, work that muscle next time you face uncertainty.

Start gradually: Resist the urge to reflexively check your GPS the next time you are lost and aren’t pressured for time. Or go to a concert without Googling the band beforehand. Next, try to sit with the feelings of uncertainty for a while before you pepper your teenager with texts when he is running late. Over time, the discomfort will diminish.

2. Connect to a bigger purpose

Rita Levi-Montalcini.
Presidency of Italian Republic/Wikimedia, CC BY

Rita Levi-Montalcini was a promising young Jewish scientist when fascists came to power in Italy and she had to go into hiding. As World War II was raging, she set up a secret lab in her parents’ bedroom, studying cell growth. She would later say that the meaning that she derived from her work helped her to deal with the evil outside and with the ultimate uncertainty of whether she would be discovered.

What gives your life meaning? Finding or rediscovering your life purpose can help you deal with uncertainty and the stress and anxiety related to it.

Focusing on what can transcend finite human existence – whether it is religion, spirituality or dedication to a cause – can decrease uncertainty-driven worry and depression.

3. Don’t underestimate your coping ability

You might hate uncertainty because you fear how you would fare if things went badly. And you might distrust your ability to cope with the negative events that life throws your way.

Most people overestimate how bad they will feel when something bad happens. They also tend to underestimate their coping abilities.

It turns out that humans are generally resilient, even in the face of very stressful or traumatic events. If a feared outcome materializes, chances are you will deal with it better than you could now imagine. Remember that the next time uncertainty rears its head.

4. Bolster resilience by increasing self-care

You have probably heard it many times by now: Sleep well, exercise and prioritize social connections if you want to have a long and happy life.

What you might not know is that the quantity and quality of sleep is also related to your ability to deal with uncertainty. Exercise, especially of the cardio variety, can increase your capacity to cope with uncertain situations and lower your stress, anxiety and depression. A new review study suggests that regular exercise may even be able to prevent the onset of anxiety and anxiety disorders.

Possibly the best tool for coping with uncertainty is making sure that you have an active and meaningful social life. Loneliness fundamentally undermines a person’s sense of safety
and makes it very hard to deal with the unpredictable nature of life.

Having even a few close family members or friends imparts a feeling that “we are in this all together,” which can protect you from psychological and physical problems.

5. Appreciate that absolute certainty is impossible

Nothing is certain in life. The sooner you start thinking about that fact, the easier it will be to face it.

Moreover, repeated attempts at predicting and controlling everything in life can backfire, leading to psychological problems like OCD.

In spite of civilization’s great progress, the fantasy of humankind’s absolute control over its environment and fate is still just that – a fantasy. So, I say to embrace the reality of uncertainty and enjoy the ride.

[ You’re smart and curious about the world. So are The Conversation’s authors and editors. You can read us daily by subscribing to our newsletter. ]The Conversation

Jelena Kecmanovic, Adjunct Professor of Psychology, Georgetown University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

ooOOoo

Photo Credit: Twitter/bendemistims

Now whatever uncertainty exists in your life a dog or two will make things a great deal better.

That’s a fact!