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Be Happy

Being in a State of Flow. The Key to Happiness?

A ‘best moment’ describes an optimal state of consciousness where we feel and perform at our best. If you have experienced such moments, you will be in a ‘state of flow’ otherwise known as ‘being in the zone.’ Studies show that we are more creative, productive and happy when we are in a state of flow. Is being in a state of flow the key to happiness?

The best moments in our lives are not the passive, relaxing and leisurely time spent at the beach, by the pool, at home or somewhere else; the best moments usually occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult or worthwhile.

Experiencing a state of flow is universal and can occur across all classes, genders, ages, and cultures and across many types of activities.  Authors need to cultivate a state of flow in order to be able to write. Being creative is an essential part of writing; authors find their sense of creativity in various ways. Personally, I am at my most creative when I allow myself to ‘stay loose’, to ramble, to drift, to be receptive to what’s happening around me, to keep an open mind to outside influences, other people’s writing and ways of thinking, but also things like music and dancing.

The poet Joseph Brodsky reported listening to music to enhance his poetic prowess. Albert Einstein is another famous example who thought up his greatest physics breakthroughs during his violin breaks (as many of Einstein’s biographers have pointed out, the music of Bach and Mozart has much the same clarity, simplicity, and architectural perfection that Einstein always sought in his own theories).

Being able to ‘let go’ or ‘stay loose’ is not easy. In fact, it can be pretty uncomfortable and unsettling if the ‘drifting’ lasts too long. Fuzzy circumstances and daily uncertainty exhaust us; sometimes it seems easier to take options that are clear cut, that are black or white. Creative people seem to have a higher level of tolerance for ambiguous circumstances and are more accepting of unstructured time because they are driven by curiosity and want to see where unpredictable currents will take them. The world belongs to those who are curious, those who are not afraid to try, to explore, to poke, to question, and to turn things inside out.

The art of dancing and literature seem to have nothing in common; what can an author, whose job it is to ‘play around’ with words, learn from the art that requires none? Storytelling! In dance, people tell stories or share emotions by moving their bodies; in literature, people tell stories by writing down words. Writers are dancers at heart, both need vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated into action. Writers and dancers need to find their own, individual attitude, rhythm and style; the expression of dance and writing are both unique and, if blocked, will never exist through any other medium and will be lost.

There is an undeniable connection between creativity, productivity and being happy. Being in a state of flow allows you to achieve all three. Be receptive, keep those creative channels open, put on your best soundtrack and dance like nobody is watching, because nobody is watching!

Your Quest, my friend, is to feel the music,
move that body, and then write about it!


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For more on this subject you can purchase my book This is Your Quest online at BookLocker, from Amazon or from Barnes & Noble.  The Ebook version is available on Amazon (Kindle), Barnes & Noble (Nook), Apple (iBooks) & Kobo. Check out my Amazon Author Page here or my listing on Booksradar.com.

Categories
Self-Help

Positivity vs. Negativity – Battle of the Fittest

Martial Arts

Art takes many forms; as an author, I consider myself an artist. In my free time, I am also a ‘martial artist’. The term ‘martial arts’ is closely associated with the fighting arts of East Asia; the term is however derived from Latin and means ‘arts of Mars,’ the Roman god of war. I practice Muay Thai (also known as Kick Boxing); the word ‘muay’ comes from the Sanskrit word ‘wavya’ which means ‘bind together’ and the word ‘thai’ refers to the country Thailand. Its generic name means ‘unarmed combat,’ a true test in any battle of the fittest.

Muay Thai in Namsan Park, Seoul

Martial arts have health and spiritual benefits; the spiritual benefits include teaching self-respect, respect for others, patience, humility, self-control and modesty, the health benefits derived from the conditioning that helps keep the body fit, strong and properly toned. To be effective, a good Muay Thai fighter must keep his physical and mental condition in balance, he must move with speed, but also show common sense and intelligence, he must train both his mind and his body with dedication, concentration, and discipline. Muay Thai also develops a sense of brotherhood, a fighter will help others when the opportunity arises, and will never resort to fighting unless there is no other option available.

The history of Muay Thai can be traced to the middle of the 18th century. During battles between the Burmese of the Konbaung Dynasty and Siam, the famous fighter Nai Khanomtom was captured. The Burmese knew of his expertise in hand-to-hand combat and gave him an opportunity to fight for his freedom. Nai Khanomtom managed to knock out ten consecutive Burmese contenders. Impressed by his skill, he was freed and returned to Siam where his fighting style became known as Muay Thai and later recognized as a national sport.

Getting Balanced

If you ever feel a bit off-balance or stressed-out I recommend you find a Muay Thai class and develop your fighting spirit because, perhaps without realizing it, we are all engaged in fierce battles every day. These battles occur within us between positivity and negativity. For the sake of this article, I will call positivity ‘Yang’ (positive, bright, masculine) and negativity ‘Yin’ (negative, dark, feminine). Picture those two in a ring; if your first impulse is to cheer and expect ‘Yang’ to win, I’m sorry, but you’re mistaken, in a battle of the fittest, ‘Yin‘ would triumph.

Yin and Yang in the Battle of the Fittest

Battle of the Fittest – Negativity

Our brain has a negative bias, it loves negativity! Our brain is wired with a much greater sensitivity to unpleasant rather than pleasant news. Dr John Cacioppo, the ‘Scientist of Loneliness’ from  Ohio State University, conducted a study to demonstrate this effect by contrasting the effect on the brain of pictures arousing positive feelings (such as sport cars, holiday shots, ice creams, etc.), negative feelings (such as mutilated faces or dead cats), and, for good measure pictures to arouse neutral feelings (of everyday objects, such as dinners plate and hair dryers).

The subjects had their brain activity recorded during the experiment providing data to Dr. Cacioppo to analyze. The results showed very clearly that our brain reacts more strongly to negative rather than positive stimuli. Our attitudes are more heavily influenced by downbeat rather than good news and that information is stored in our short to long term memory. This is why ‘Yin’ has a better chance of winning against ‘Yang.’

Our weighting of negative input is an evolutionary development to keep us out of harm’s way. Back in prehistory, when humans faced life or death situations every day, it was far more important for the brain to respond to negative rather than positive stimuli. If a wild animal charged towards you, you needed to fight or run away and to take that decision in a split-second. But, in non-threatening situations, like being offered food, or a gift, there is no such requirement for speed – your brain can react very slowly. To make matters worse, not only do we react more quickly to negative experiences, we are looking for them all the time. This makes it extremely easy for our minds to get into a negative feedback loop; you are hyper-aware of negativity and when it happens, you react quicker, it impacts you more and you remember it for longer. One scientist described the brain like Velcro for negative experiences but Teflon for positive ones. 

Positive Outlook

When faced with decisions or uncertainties, it is natural to have a fear of the unknown, I confess – this happens to me a lot, which creates a lot of anxiety and negative emotions.  Unfortunately, the nature of the world is uncertain; nobody knows what will happen tomorrow, and it is important to maintain a positive outlook.

According to Sadhguru, Indian yogi, mystic, and author:

you cannot overcome something which does not exist. Your fear is always about something that does not exist. Fear is happening because of excessive imagination. It is about things that haven’t happened yet, but you are creating those things in your mind. Fear means that you are producing horror movies in your mind. Produce something else, produce a comedy, a love story, an action movie.”

In the battle of the fittest, it is important to have a positive outlook and understand that we all have a natural tendency to be negative; you must train yourself to be a ‘Yang.’ Being positive, overcoming negative emotions requires dedication, discipline, and patience – just like with Muay Thai – and just like being a successful Muay Thai fighter it is necessary to train your body and spirit to work together, so that when the time comes to do battle against ‘Yin,’ the negative spirit, the odds will be in your favor.

And this, my Dear Friend is your Quest.


If you liked this post you can follow me on Instagram, Pinterest or Facebook, or you may also like:

For more on this subject you can purchase my book This is Your Quest online at BookLocker, from Amazon or from Barnes & Noble.  The Ebook version is available on Amazon (Kindle), Barnes & Noble (Nook), Apple (iBooks) & Kobo. Check out my Amazon Author Page here or my listing on Booksradar.com.

Categories
Self-Help

How to Have Superpowers and Remain Resolutely Human.

Superpowers

How to have superpowers? Galileo said: “Books are our sole means of having superhuman powers while remaining resolutely human. The power of traversing the abysses of space, time, and misunderstanding that gap between our own life, our own self, our own subjective experience and another‘s.”

Happy National Book Lovers Day

National Book Lovers Day

August 9th is National Book Lovers Day. This gives me the perfect excuse to tell you something that you may already know but have forgotten or taken for granted. For this occasion, I organized a round table discussion with some renowned authors, Neil Gaiman, James Baldwin, and Toni Morrison (RIP) in order to gather their thoughts on the importance of reading books and the role of writers in society.

The Importance of Books

Author Joanne Reed, “Neil Gaiman; you feel very strongly about the importance of reading and believe our future depends on it. Why is reading so important?”

Neil Gaiman, “Books are the way that we communicate with the dead, the way we learn lessons from those who are no longer with us, it is the way the humanity has built itself and progresses. There are tales that are older than most countries, tales that have outlasted cultures and the buildings in which they were first told. These tales have survived on the shoulders of story-tellers and people who have transmitted them forward.”

James Baldwin: “For me, books are a way to change one’s destiny.”

Author Joanne Reed, “Interesting; throughout history, access to knowledge and education was the monopoly of a very few. Literacy was inaccessible to most and prohibited to many, i.e. serfs, women and slaves, to keep them in a state of servitude and ignorance. Knowledge is power; the ruling classes kept serfs uneducated by design so they could successfully rule over them. Under the feudal system women too had little or no chance of attaining education. In a few cases, girls from upper-class backgrounds enjoyed the benefits of education as there were certain obligation for women of nobility that required them to be literate; but whatever education women had access to was purely designed to help them marry well, or to become a good wife and mother. In the USA, slaves were prohibited by law to read and write. Slave masters understood that control over slaves could not be based solely on physical coercion and it was also understood that literate slaves would eventually demand the same rights that whites enjoyed; I discuss this in Chapter 7 of my book.

James Baldwin: “You cannot underestimate the importance of writing. Writers describe things which other people are too busy to describe. I didn’t decide to become a writer I discovered I was one.”

Neil Gaiman, “Writers have an obligation to write true things. Truth is not in what happens but in what it tells us about who we are. Writers have an obligation not to bore our readers, but to make them need to turn the pages. One of the best cures for a reluctant reader is after all a tale they cannot stop themselves reading. And while we must tell our readers true things and give them arms and pass on whatever wisdom we have gleaned from our short stay on this green world, we have an obligation to not preach, not to lecture, not to force predigested morals and messages down our reader’s throats like adult birds feeding their babies pre-masticated maggots.”

Toni Morrison, “I agree but wish to add, that if there is a book you want to read that hasn’t been written yet, you must be the one who writes it.”

Toni Morrison (1931 – 2019)

Author Joanne Reed, “Exactly, I always wanted to read a book that inspires and challenges me, a book about important subjects like love, money, and health in an educational and fun to read way; a book that contains a treasure trove of wisdom gathered from people who succeeded in their own Quests, where I can learn lessons from history and can have conversation with philosophers. I never found such a book, so decided to follow the advice of Toni Morrison and wrote the book myself!”

Superpowers Conclusion

I would like to thank my guests for agreeing to participate. In closing, for National Book Lover’s Day, I hope this discussion has reminded you of the power of knowledge and to help appreciate the story teller’s contribution to this art. Books don’t write themselves, and books are how to have superpowers!

Words have tremendous energy and power, they have the ability to educate, to help, to heal, to illuminate the minds.

“Books are our sole means of having superhuman powers while remaining resolutely human.”


If you liked this post you can follow me on Instagram, Pinterest or Facebook, or you may also like:

For more on this subject you can purchase my book This is Your Quest online at BookLocker, from Amazon or from Barnes & Noble.  The Ebook version is available on Amazon (Kindle), Barnes & Noble (Nook), Apple (iBooks) & Kobo. Check out my Amazon Author Page here or my listing on Booksradar.com.