The History of my Writing

(This journal entry was written by hand on 4/29/06 from a prompt found in the book ‘Journey Notes’)  

I began to write poetry when I was about 9 or 10. I liked the idea that I could create a piece of art that was exclusively mine, that no one else in the world would ever think of to create, because they did not have my same mind, or past experiences, or distinct, unique way of looking at the world. I felt I had discovered something important- and fun. It was fun to come up with new ideas for poems, using starter or prompt exercises to try to coax ideas and word flows from my brain, trying to find words that rhyme and images that shone brilliant and true. It was effortless.

I would hear the poem forming in my brain and I’d simply go and write it down. I didn’t want anybody’s help. I wanted to complete each poem on my own right from the beginning. The idea that it was unique to me and me alone had the most appeal for me. It was my special little gift, a talent I was blessed with by God. And I loved it.

As I got into high school I still wrote poetry only- and I kept sporadic journals. Mostly, propelled by boredom and a rich imagination, I would write out my fantasies-sometimes in story form. Or I’d write out my longings for my high school crush in poetry form. Feeling misunderstood and lonely, frustrated and hormone-driven, I poured my heart into those daily poems I wrote during English class.

Isolated from all my classmates, without any friends for a while, I’d just ignore everyone and continue living in my own little world. And I enjoyed the anonymity, the mystery of not being known and the fact that people wondered who I really was. It was nice in one sense, but totally horrible in another.

I worked on and edited those first draft poems until they were perfect, and I’d save the finished poems in a pretty journal that just had that one purpose. I was proud of it and read it over often. I was really in touch with myself, with who I was and everything I was feeling. I never held back. I wrote everything stirring in my heart.   I wrote some poetry in college but not as much as in high school. It became much less frequent though I still did write. And I had a small, bight orange diary that I would bring to school every day and write in before my classes began. I really loved that journal and  don’t even remember now if I used it all up.

I remember starting a short story in art history class one day but never finishing it, even though I had outlined the rest of the plot and knew how I wanted the story to end. I just thought it was stupid, and too fantastical to be considered a real short story. It was a metaphorical story about a heartbreak I had recently suffered and was trying to get over. That was my one attempt at writing a short story. I never tried another one (aside from some short scary stories I wrote as a child).   I forgot about another short story I had attempted in high school. It was called “Troy’s Descent” and it was about a vampire named Troy trying to seduce a human woman and turn her into a vampire so she would stay with him forever.

I played this little movie in my mind about these characters, Troy and Cynthia, and even made a sketch drawing of them. It was only about 3 pages long, and I think I meant for it to continue, to be a longer story, but I’m not sure if I knew how I wanted it to end.   I was always, and actually still am, better at writing than speaking. With speaking and being social, you have to worry about being understood and accepted, not made fun of or dismissed. In writing, (as in solitude) none of those worries and pressures are there. You are just free to be whoever you are.

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November 20, 2012. Tags: , , , . writing. Leave a comment.

“Every day is a miracle”

(The post below was written by hand in my journal on 5/16/2006, ‘Lisa’ was the meditation seminar lecturer)

“Every day is a miracle” – Lisa Wenniger

“You finally found someone perfect- yourself’

-final notes of last meditation song at seminar tonight.

The meditation seminar I went to tonight had little to do with fate and free will. But I still had some insights and  that delicious energy rise, so I’m glad I went. Lisa said something about people who have had near-death experiences that really stayed in my mind and calmed me. She said that people who have had these experiences always come back from it knowing that life is truly a gift in the form that we have it, and they come back losing all their anxiety about dying because they become comfortable with the idea and have no more fear about it.

They know it is just a process and don’t fear it happening. I have been suffering from this awful anxiety about dying and the fear that I am temporary and one day I will not exist, but that’s not even true. We are all eternal and will all live forever, we can live again on other planes of existence. And hearing her say it eased my anxiety over the whereabouts of my loved ones who have passed on because I know they continue to exist somewhere in some form. And I thought about the picture of my grandparents that I was looking at on mother’s day at my mother’s house.

I looked at my grandparents who were once breathing, alive, present, conscious. Tonight I thought about that photograph again and felt more peaceful with the idea. Knowing that they are fine and happy, and being aware of that settled onto me and made me feel better. I know they are still in existence. I know they were not fearful at their moment of death. I know my own death is not something to be feared. It is something fated. It is something I chose for myself.

Lisa asked everyone in attendance if they have had a miracle happen to them as a result of meditating daily. Some people raised their hands. I myself feel like I’ve had 2 miracles, one much bigger than the other. After asking the question, Lisa asked herself, “Have I had any miracles?” She smiled to herself as she thought. She answered herself by saying “Every day is a miracle.”

I think everyone aspires to get to the point within themselves where that is true for them, even though they may not want to work on getting there. Even if they might not be aware that such an attitude and state of mind is even possible. It seems most people have some sort of inkling, but are ultimately just not ready to give themselves over to that level of bliss.

It can be scary sometimes to feel like you are leaving your body during a deep meditation. I always fear that somehow I’ll forget how to breathe and my soul will escape my body before its time. But with daily meditation comes peace in my heart, serenity in my mind, and my emotions in check. I’m not a slave to my mental addictions. I can choose to step back, to stop before I beat myself up or put myself down over absolutely nothing. I can have a sense of the bigger picture and put a new plan into motion.

November 20, 2012. Tags: . writing. Leave a comment.

My experiences in New York City on September 11, 2001

I wrote this on 5/9/02 in response to a series of prompts I found online relating to September 11, 2001. They were meant to preserve the memory of the day for future generations.

1. Where were you and what were you doing when you first heard the news of the attack on America, Sept 11, 2001? I was on an express bus just coming out of the Battery Tunnel, when the entire bus was in a little commotion and everyone began to go to the right side to look up out of the windows. We were a few blocks from the towers and we could see thick black smoke consuming the top of one of the towers. everyone was confused, but I just thought it was a fire, nothing to be alarmed about, they would just put it out and that would be it. I was on the bus because I was on my way to a temp agency to act as a stand-by temp who comes in the morning for last minute assignments.

2. What were your first thoughts and feelings upon hearing the news? What were the first things you commented on? The bus turned on to the expressway by the water and everyone had learned from listening to headphones/radio that a second plane had hit, and we had just learned about the first- which everyone assumed had just been an accident. There was a woman on the bus with a radio and everyone watched her and waited for news to clear up their confusion. She said that a second plane had hit the second tower, and it was now confirmed that was a deliberate act. Everyone stared out the left side windows now, horrified, trying to use their cell phones and assure loved ones that they were all right. I would get peeks at the World Trade Center between the buildings as the bus moved along swiftly, each time it was a more horrific sight.

I remember first seeing what looked like paper- millions of papers flying through the air, shooting out from a burning hole in one of the towers. You could see the force of the wind, or the suction or something in the shining sunlight, it looked as if the top of the tower was spewing papers right at the expressway and river on our right. I looked at the water and it was littered with what looked like white paper, but which we later learned was pieces of shrapnel from the actual buildings.

By this time the top of both towers were in flames. I was sitting next to a young blonde girl who was trying to reach her boyfriend on his cell phone because he worked as a janitor at the World Trade Center. luckily though, his shift began around 4:00 that day, so he hadn’t been there or arrived. She kept saying ‘oh shit’ as she dialed, telling me that all their friends work in the towers as well.

I tried to call my mother but the cell phone did not work. When I looked back out at the towers, I got a full clear view and gasped, covering my mouth with my free hand as my eyes grew large trying to capture and grasp what I saw. Trying to understand and process. The entire length of both towers was covered with black smoke, like two glowing matchsticks, and I could only think.. ‘I thought they were going to stop it- put the fires out, WHY IS THIS HAPPENING??’ Patches of dark black smoke covered almost every recognizable silver piece of the towers and I could see small red flames shooting out to the sky from some of the center windows and upper windows of one tower. I turned back to face the front of the bus and thought to myself, ‘My God, there are people burning in there right now. How are they going to get out?’

My mom called my cell phone and finally it went through and she asked me where I was, I told her I was on the bus and I would try to get to her job. She works in midtown. the bus driver was confused about being told to divert through Brooklyn and leave all the passengers there (which worried me and my mom) but then he got different instructions to continue on his route but only up until the stop after mine, which was 42nd street. I told my mom he was going to stop at 34th st and that I’d be there soon. The bus driver also spoke on a cell phone, asking the person on the other end if his son was all right.

By this time, everyone was weary, panicky, and one woman started to cry. I remember hearing another console her saying, ‘don’t cry.’ Everyone was very confused and I just wanted to see my mother and tell her what I had seen. as I entered her building, they told me to go downstairs where she was and I went and saw her and hugged her hard. I was afraid and just glad to see she was OK. I told her what I had seen- both towers completely enveloped in smoke, from way down by the ground. I couldn’t believe it-it was unlike anything I’d ever seen.

My mother had a portable radio and she heard as the Spanish DJs described what was happening. We went out to the sidewalk and looked up at the tops of the towers and they were still aflame, there were crowds of people standing around and just staring up, or trying to use their cell phones. Oddly though, there were other people just strolling by casually as if nothing was out of the ordinary. There was an electronics store near us that turned the news on their TVs and a small group of people, including us, crowded in front of it, everyone just looked on in shock. One man, with cell phone in hand, told the people standing close to him that he was supposed to be at the towers that morning for a breakfast meeting, but he’d been running late. He spoke somberly as if he didn’t believe his own words. Everyone felt the same confusion.

On the TV screen we all watched in the store, they showed footage of the pentagon in Washington DC, which has also been hit by a plane and now appeared to lie in ruins. They also announced that a number of planes were still circling the air, their targets unknown. A shot of the New York skyline appeared then on the screen, but you couldn’t see any of the buildings. The entire city was hidden by thick, black, billowing smoke. It was just smoke on the island of Manhattan, smoke on top of water, and below that unbelievable scene flashed these words “NYC ON FULL TERRORIST ALERT.” The words flashed again and again, like an emergency signal, and the last place I wanted to be, was where I was standing- midtown Manhattan.

I walked around the block to try to call my sister and tell her we were all right. But there was a short line to use the pay phones because all cell phones had gone dead. as I waited behind a girl using the pay phone I heard her say, ‘The building just fell. I saw it,’ and I was shocked, there was no way it could be real, there was no way a tower had collapsed. At that moment I saw my mom leave her building again and walk around the corner where she could see the towers. I tried to call my sister, but I didn’t get through, they told me she was teaching.

When I crossed back to join my mother where we could see the towers- she turned around and looked at me with tears gathering in her voice as she said “The towers fell, there must be people dead”- she had heard it on the radio as the DJ said in Spanish “The World Trade Center towers no longer exist.” seeing her tell me, my stomach felt as if it had fallen out from under me. I looked up at where we had just seen the towers on fire, but now there was only pale smoke and blue sky.

At some point before, I went to one of the upper floors in my mother’s building to try to use a phone and felt myself having a minor panic attack in the elevator. It was just unexpected and so strange. I felt very closed in all of a sudden, and like I could barely breathe. When we finally got back down to the lobby, people were fleeing the building in waves and for a moment I thought they were all dead, that we were all dead, like souls just waiting to be released by another imminent blast, I felt it coming in my bones. We were so close to the Empire State Building.

My mother and I were stuck in Manhattan until around 7pm, sitting on benches in a small park, flinching at the sounds of planes flying overhead, trying to call and call until we could get through to our family and friends. The trains and ferries started to run again and the tunnels reopened. We found a bus to Staten Island. I was 22 years old at the time.

November 16, 2012. Tags: , . writing. Leave a comment.

Architectural Analysis of St. Patrick’s Cathedral

(This entry was submitted on 11/23/98 for an art history class I took in college)

The feature of St. Patrick’s Cathedral that makes the greatest impact is its height. The cathedral can be described as very overwhelming and grand in scale. Most of the windows and several other openings are surrounded by large pointed arches. These vertical arches and the skeletal walls originated in Gothic culture. The impressive height and the pointed arches draw the eye upwards toward the sky. There is a large rose window situated above the arch that surrounds the main entrance. Three portals provide entrance to the cathedral and there is a smaller rose window above the center portal

Next to the stairs which lead to the portals is a wide platform which supports the cathedral and separates it from the sidewalk. The entire structure is elevated by the platform and the stairs. Small, golden status of saints are sculpted within the main portal. All of the names of the saints are also written in gold lettering. Above the center entrance and within its arch is a depiction of Jesus. He is surrounded by his apostles or saints who are bowed down to worship Him. Jesus makes a sign of benediction to all who enter the cathedral. Jesus appears to be welcoming people to come inside. On both sides of the center portal there are large statues. One is a statue of Mary and the other is a saint. These two statues are the same color as the rest of the cathedral and are made of stone. At the top of the cathedral are two towers that are both topped with crosses.

People can enter by walking through either of the side portals. First, there is a small room with a side door that allows entrance into the actual cathedral. The most striking feature of the interior is the vastness of space and the feeling of utter weightlessness. The cathedral seems endless as it stretches toward the altar. The interior is majestic, tall and impressive. The weightless, airy feel and the rose window remind me of the Notre Dame Cathedral. There are compound piers on both sides of the pews. The tops of the columns are joined by pointed arches. There are three pointed arches behind the alter that symbolize the Holy Trinity. Large, stain glassed windows line the walls on both sides of the cathedral. The main color shown in the stained glass is blue.

Groin vaults support the immense ceiling. There is one main room in the cathedral and numerous alcoves on either side. The nave is very wide and the altar is clearly visible from the back of the cathedral. As soon as you enter, you are compelled to walk toward the altar. There are two exit doorways beside the altar. The doorways are surrounded by relief sculptures of saints. Some of the saints lean out and away from the wall. They appear to watch over the congregation and give signs of benediction. An ambulatory is behind the altar where candles can be lit.

Not much daylight enters through the stained glass windows. The light source is many small lamps that are suspended from the ceiling. These lamps also light the alcoves. The dimness of the interior lends a mystical quality to the space. The alcoves along the sides of the cathedral are also topped with groin vaults. Some of them contain steps leading to private chapels or statues of saints. These steps and figures welcome you to light a candle or enter the confessionals.

The overall feeling is that a person is not so much insignificant, but guided by a greater, more powerful source. Those who enter the cathedral feel covered in the majesty of God. The airy, open, and majestic space allows the music to reverberate which adds to the spirituality. One is immediately overcome by the beauty of the cathedral and the protectiveness provided within its graceful walls. The grandness of the structure can increase the faith of the congregation in a God who created all life. The cathedral is beautiful, peaceful, and welcoming.

November 16, 2012. Tags: , , . writing. Leave a comment.

“Create a world, your world. Alone. Stand alone. Create.” -Anais Nin

(The entry below was hand written in my paper journal on 6/7/05 (12:30am)

I read this quote while I was on the train today, from a  book I’m reading called “The Hidden Writer; Diaries and the Creative Life” by Alexandra Johnson. My mother almost named me ‘Anais.’ How I would’ve loved that name. I would’ve loved to say it softly and gracefully when introducing myself to strangers. I’d probably build up a lovely little life all around that name- just on account of having it.

When I read that quote on the train on my way home from work, it seemed to burn off the page, it leapt right up to my eyes and seemed to gleam alongside the rest of the letters. It’s like it had a movement of its own, a life. It’s amazing how writers are never really dead. They continue to speak to new and more people all the time-modern people- even if they’ve been dead for centuries.

When I read Anais’ words, I connected with them, and with her. She lived for no one but herself. She did whatever she pleased. Suddenly, I read “Create a world, your world. Alone. Stand alone. Create”  and I understood. Suddenly I was validated, and it didn’t matter that I bore a striking resemblance to the elderly woman sitting beside me- also reading, with a gentle smile on her face. Suddenly everything was OK, and it was like Anais had come back to place a hand over my heart and save me.

And I understood myself for a moment, my purpose and my journey. Her words made it OK for me to exist and be in this world. Because maybe there was something I could create- and needed to create- in order to be remembered. Something to leave behind to mark my lifetime as one with meaning. After having felt so useless the entire day, it was such a comfort to read this.

Anais led an enviable life. She lived a bohemian life- taking several lovers on late afternoons, getting paid for the erotica she wrote based on personal experiences. She truly lived on her own terms and helped redefine what it meant to be a woman during a very repressed time.  She wore a key around her neck for the box which held the journals she hid away and stored since childhood. She often wrote in her journal between sessions with her lovers. And some even grew jealous over her devotion to the page. She lived in a Greenwich Village loft, was a high school drop out, paying $60 per month for rent.

Why couldn’t I have had that life? Why was I born in this age of technological distraction and meddling modernity? My sensibilities and passions lie elsewhere. My needs are too simple and I feel drowned in excess. Useless excess. I need to free myself from it. I need to live like Anais lived.

In reality, it’s probably a blessing not to have a steady boyfriend right now. I sure don’t need the pressure to get engaged or married or have kids. I could never want a huge wedding. I would not be able to handle so much attention. Maybe that’s why things are the way they are for me and it’s meant this way. Maybe I am meant only to observe and record and describe- not participate. Maybe I’m not as attractive or interesting as I thought-and somehow I have to learn to live with that. Accept my fate, resign to it. Be alone and create. Be alone and write.

“The obstacle lies always within one’s self’

-Anais Nin

November 15, 2012. Tags: , , . writing. 3 comments.

To Thine Own Self be True

The entry below is an excerpt handwritten in my paper journal on 7/27/2008:

I wrote down an idea in my previous journal for a writing topic, but never got to elaborate on it further. It was about one ordinary weeknight when I was at home. I had left a music channel on my television and as I was crossing over to the bed or the bathroom I noticed that the song playing was ‘Besame Mucho’- but an instrumental version. For some reason, hearing that song took me out of my immediate present reality, and into an alternate one. I imagined I could be on the streets in Europe, listening to it play at a cafe. anywhere else but where I was. I had the feeling of being on vacation, with everything feeling slightly removed and unfamiliar. But it was something comforting at the same time. A break from the everyday normal routine. It was a reminder of the fluidity of life – of the possibilities that abound there.

In starting this journal I was reminded of how I used to start other journals in my teens and early 20s. I used to write in big flowery letters ‘Karen’s fairy journal,’ drawing pictures of flowers and butterflies around the curvy lettering. This journal didn’t seem to call for an opening like that. I don’t know. Maybe it’s because I’ve been 29 for a couple of weeks now, and part of me may feel like this journal needs to be about exploring a newer, different side to me. The person I’m growing into being.

I never used to weigh my values on conventional, societal ideals. I found (and still find) value in creativity, living simply, sucking all the juice out of life, living as if in the magic of poetic language. I find value in living life with a purpose and meaning that one defines for one’s self, no matter the opinions of the common masses. Holding onto one’s freedom, individuality, and singular expression has importance over everything else. A person cannot rest or be at peace unless he is heeding the call of his heart, his own personal song, a vision of what true happiness really means.

I think within myself there may be a bit of a fear of success. I may be one of those people who goes mad if I’m given too much money. Last week I finally succeeded in my long-term goal of wiping out my student loan debt. – it was $20,000 in total. And the idea of no longer owing anything, of no longer having to set aside huge portions of my paycheck anymore was somewhat unsettling. As crazy as that sounds it actually made me feel anxious – I suppose because I no longer had a major, definite goal to work toward. I had finally reached it and I guess a part of me was wondering what was next..

A sketch of me, right after I had been crying, is the decoration in the inside cover of this journal. I hope that doesn’t doom me to a bunch of morose journal entries. It’s strange to be afraid of happiness – I guess the fear of losing it. I try not to let that get to me and just give myself over to those magical, out of this world moments- those moments of being and feeling whole, natural, healthy and free.

I hope for myself that growing older is not difficult. I hope that I will still find things in life that will motivate me, satisfy me, make me feel fulfilled, complete, at ease and happy. I hope that it won’t be a downward spiral, as most people are led to believe. There is so much change everywhere in the world, in one’s family, in one’s own self that it can become hard to keep track of the self. Most people, when they get close to the age of 30, feel disappointed only if they feel they should have accomplished more by that age. I think I may be suffering from a bit of that. There are people my age who live in grand houses, who write scripts that become Hollywood movies, who write books, who play live shows with bands and sing in front of an adoring audience.

Sylvia Plath died at age 30, but before she died she wrote countless plays, poetry, a novel. She became a well-known writer, her journals were published. her one novel, The Bell Jar is still widely known and read, regardless of the fact that it was largely autobiographical. And these things make me wonder what I have to show for being the age that I am. Will only I be the one seeing and reading what I’ve written? Will all the journals I have locked away in a fire-proof box one day just be discarded without so much as one soul showing any interest in them, in me, or in the world and life I am currently inhabiting?

Sometimes I remind myself that its OK to keep it simple in writing. I don’t have to sit to write 10 or 20 pages all at once or not write anything. In her journals, Sylvia Plath would sometimes only write a paragraph describing what the rain sounds like falling on her roof in the quiet of her bedroom. Nothing else was needed because that was all she had to say on that day.

I want to continue to like myself as a person throughout my life. And I think a big part of that depends on being absolutely true to myself. Never wavering in my belief as a singular human being, and never bending to the will of others who want me to be someone else more to their liking.

November 14, 2012. Tags: , , . writing. Leave a comment.

The Next American Heroes

(Article first written back in 1997 for a newspaper I was interning for- ‘The Resident’ in NYC)

Much of a child’s learning comes from the examples set forth by those who influenced them. At the 92nd St. Y the fun-filled exhibits in the “Discover America” museum can set children on their way to becoming influential people by inspiring them to stand up for what they believe in.

A series of questions such as: “Who is a hero to you?” and “What is a heroic act?” are posed to help children explore what it means to be a hero. The theory is that having heroes and role models helps children form their identities while they are still growing .These interactive exhibits illustrate thatwho a child wants to be is as important as what a child wants to be. They are geared to young people ages 3 to 10, with the goal of helping them understand the issues of community, the qualities that make someone a hero and what it means to be an American.

“A hero can be anyone from a child’s family, community or school,” Said Fretta Reitzes, the director of the 92nd Street Y Center for Youth and Family. “Heroes from the past as well as from the present are equally important in a child’s life. Children have a responsibility to learn about American history because this is their home.”

One exhibit literally opens doors to the lives of well-known and not so well-known heroes from a wide variety of cultural backgrounds. These doors reveal people who have been brave enough to take a stand for something they believe is important. Profiled behind these doors are Jackie Robinson, Cesar Chavez, Martin Luther King Jr., Golda Meir, Abraham Lincoln, Helen Keller, Harriet Tubman, Chief Joseph, Clara Barton, and Rosa Parks. Children in the program find a picture of the hero or heroine and a brief summary of their lives and the way they changed society by taking a stand for what they believed in.

Storytelling is another way the students learn about heroes. First, the story of Noah’s Ark is told, and then children are allowed to explore its model for themselves and act out the story using hand puppets. A smaller arc is also available for younger children. The moral of this story is that working together as a community makes a big difference. Children can look at pictures of popular heroes such as firemen and hospital workers or piece them together in a puzzle.

Learning about what it means to be an American and American values is another subject presented in a manner entertaining to children. They can sit down with life-size puppets of Harriet Tubman and Abraham Lincoln at a table where the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution are on display. The children are asked “What do you think they are talking about?” and “What do you want to ask them?”

On the morning of May 8, the Primary School of the Creative Arts came to visit “Discover America.”

“They were very thoughtful, eager to get involved and eager to come back for another visit,” said Reitzes. The children wrote down who they thought was a hero to them and why. These papers were hung on the walls declaring such heroes as: Mom and Dad, President Clinton, policemen, grandmothers and brothers. These are heroes to the children because they “work hard” or because they “bring bad guys to jail.” Five schools have already visited “Discover America” and 45 more schools are scheduled to visit.

Children are encouraged to look into the future by entering outer space in a glow-in-the-dark room where they can wear space helmets and “leave their mark on the future” in the form of a handprint on the wall. They are asked to tell the other “astronauts” what they think is important for tomorrow’s America. The “Ticket to the Future” exhibit asks “Who is important in the community you live in?” It also makes the children decide what they want tomorrow’s America to have and what they don’t want in it. The “Star Ticket” encourages children to share what is important to them, what they are good at, what they worry about and what they can contribute to a new community.

Every child feels special by the time they are ready to leave because they learn that someday they can be a hero and make a difference in the world. A mirror awaits children as they are leaving and on it are the questions “Who are you now?” and “Who will you be?” This sets their minds working on how they can become a hero too.

This program is presented in collaboration with My Jewish Discovery Place of greater Los Angeles and is part of the Y’s Project America, which explores and celebrates the many meanings of America.

November 14, 2012. Tags: , , . Articles. Leave a comment.

Stop that Wandering Mind

How to recover the lost art of listening

(article written in 2001 for a college course)

The voices in your head never stop. They fight endlessly for your attention. Which one will win out? It doesn’t seem to matter as long as nothing interrupts their attack. How could your friend, mother, coworker, or significant other compare with all those battering voices?

Kristen Langellier, Professor of Communication at the University of Maine, says, “If we spent as much time teaching people to listen as we spend teaching them to talk, the world and our relationships would be in better shape. Speaking and listening and interrelated.”

Wouldn’t everyone in your life benefit from knowing they can count on you to really listen to them? You might be pleasantly surprised to find them returning the favor.

Why have good listening skills?

Angelee Johns, Instructor of Speech at Triton College in Illinois, points out, “Many of us don’t listen well-really hear what another person is thinking-but rather filter what is being said through our own perspective.”

Listening has become a lost art in modern society. So little communication actually takes place face to face, it is easy to lose touch with other people in our lives.

When you have a conversation, it is easy to assume you have the other person’s undivided attention and interest. Unfortunately, it is just as easy for the other person to be consumed with his/her own thoughts, only feigning interest in what you are saying.

The Art of Conversation

Our minds are seldom silent. The brain can process a large volume of information simultaneously, making it more difficult to be anything but preoccupied. Thinking can be so efficient that we often lose sight of the value of inner silence.

People have the ability to listen at a rate of 500 to 1,000 words per minute, while the average rate of speech is only 150 words per minute. The speaker is at a disadvantage because he is constantly competing with your thoughts.

During most conversations, many people are guilty of wondering about what they will have for lunch, what will be on television that night, or how much work they have left to complete. Time is previous and we often think we can’t afford to waste it on a leisurely chat.

The World Outside Your Head

Sometimes the situation consists of conversation we are very interested in, such as a reunion with an old friend, or a fight with a loved one. The question still applies: How much listening are you actually doing? You might just be mentally rehearsing what you wills ay and waiting for your turn to speak, or picking up on snippets of information that are relevant to you.

In these instances, the other person’s points often go unacknowledged as you quickly attempt to steer the conversation in your own favor. You may also find yourself distracted by the other person’s physical appearance, wondering why they chose to wear that sweater, or put on so much perfume.

Human beings are so easily distracted that it is difficult to pay attention to that which requires the most attention-the words coming out of the other person’s mouth.

If you quiet your mind and stop thinking of hot to top the other person with your own experiences and witty commentary, you might discover that you are not the only one out there with problems, emotions, and concerns worth examination.

Listening means sincere interest in hearing what someone has to say. In other words, try to escape your own mind and focus on the person speaking to you.

Human beings are social creatures. Showing others that you value them, their thoughts, ideas and feelings will not only benefit them, but you as well.

When others find that you are willing to listen to them, open-mindedly and without interruption, they are compelled to open up to you. The effect is similar to having a heavy weight lifted off their backs.

The act of listening, according to essayist Brenda Ueland, is a “magnetic and strange thing, a creative force…When we are listened to, it creates us, makes us unfold and expand. Ideas actually begin to grow within us and come to life….”

Good listeners are rare and finding them is often a refreshing experience. Here are some tips to keep in mind the next time you find yourself in conversation:

  • Pay Attention
    Try to put aside all your preoccupations and focus on the person speaking. “Good listeners should stop doing everything they’re doing and give the speaker their undivided attention,” says Kelly J. Watkins, author of “Listening: The Silent Side of Communication.”
  • Maintain Eye Contact
    There’s nothing worse than trying to have a conversation and find that the other person is looking over your shoulder, at the floor, at their watch, etc.
  • Don’t interrupt
    Wait for the person to stop speaking before asking any questions or giving your opinion. Be courteous and patient. In her article, “Listening for Success,” Georgia Beaverson suggests, “Be willing to stop talking. A good listener spends 70 percent of his or her time listening and only 30 percent talking.
  • Be empathetic
    Experience the other person’s position as much as possible. Listen for feeling and meaning between the words. Angelee Johns at Triton College explains, “Poor listening means we miss information we need to have, judge people wrongly, become unnecessarily defensive, become stubbornly opinionated and on and on.”
  • Repeat and Summarize
    Show the other person you have been listening by giving constructive feedback, paraphrasing what has been said, and asking for clarification. Show your interest in the exchange that has just taken place.

It is natural to be concerned primarily with our own lives and experiences, but we should consider taking a break from ourselves and be more receptive to the people around us.

As Johns points out, “When people speak, they are expressing their own thoughts and ideas. When people listen well, they are able to hear the thoughts and ideas of others. When people are limited to their own thoughts, they are just that—limited.”

Initiating conversation is often an attempt to relate to another person, to share an understanding or create a pleasant atmosphere. You might learn interesting details about your friends and acquaintances or think of situations from another point of view.

“When we can listen carefully to the thoughts of others, we have the opportunity to look at our own thoughts in new ways. That broadens us, helps us understand the world, other people and ourselves better,” Johns explains.

There is nothing to lose by becoming a good listener, and the rewards are great. The greatest reward just might be a life-long friend.

November 14, 2012. Tags: . Articles. 2 comments.

Why do you write your blog?

I found this prompt (title of post) on this website- http://mindbump.com/ and I think this is a very interesting question. My motivation in writing my blog would be to connect with others, to feel on some level that maybe someone out there can relate to what I’m feeling. Sometimes it fills the void of not having many friends I can speak to regularly, which is really my own fault. It’s a lot easier to sit at a keyboard and ramble on to a bunch of strangers about this and that. And it also serves as a nice forum for writing, which is something I love to do and hardly ever do enough of. Mostly because I just don’t make the time. I suffer as a result of that.

I let other things get in the way and then by the time I’m free I have no energy to write something, even though I know that writing anything down is an almost-instant mood shifter. Suddenly it reminds me that I’m a unique human being having a unique experience of living, and my thoughts are important, and that processing those thoughts through writing can only be beneficial. Writing pulls you directly into the present moment, much like meditation does. Expressing your own unique point of view is often not encouraged in this society. And that’s why artistic expression in all its forms is so important.

Through music, you can express yourself and create your own little world which is filtered and makes complete sense to you. The same can be done with painting, or sculpting, or altering books, or making movies or crafts, or writing. I think most people have this need, especially if they haven’t been immersed in any sort of creative process since grade school. Producing something creative is rewarding and calming. Much more so than spending a whole evening on television. The older I get, the less I can tolerate television.

I want to be someone more important than just an everyday passive spectator/consumer. So I guess that’s why I write my blog: in part to keep my creative juices flowing, in part to have a record of my thoughts and life experiences, and in part to form connections with people even though I may never meet them. It’s entertaining to pay closer attention to everyday life, and see what I can glean from it to write about here. It’s inspiring to go through life looking for interesting occurrences and insights, and expecting them.

November 14, 2012. Tags: , , , , . writing. Leave a comment.

“Time is the Most Valuable Thing”

That quote was taken from this article-
http://www.threenewleaves.com/what-minimalism-means-to-me/
It’s a really great read.

I always think about time, about the minutes and moments that make up our lives, and how important it is not to squander them. When I would get impatient with all the living I wanted to do, my mom used to say to me, ‘Hay mas tiempo que vida.’ which means, ‘there’s more time than there is life to live it.’  She meant that I have more than enough time to do all that I want to in life, to experience it all, and be happy. It’s not always easy to believe. I told myself I should write today. I got out of work early yesterday and made a feeble attempt at writing a poem before I fell asleep. The thing is, being creative calls for a lot of time, unstructured, uninterrupted time, at least for me.

For me to access that creative part of my mind, I need to be relaxed and not rushed, not thinking about the chores I need to do. I guess that’s why Natalie Goldberg, author of ‘Writing Down the Bones’ advises that writers go write in a cafe, away from the dirty dishes. Talk about good advice! I’ve always liked writing in libraries too, I just love and adore quiet and peace in my surroundings, whether I am being creative or not.

The other day my coworker and I were talking about what we would do if we won the lottery. She said she wouldn’t be able to sit at home and do nothing. I said I’d probably do that for a few months or a year, to recover from all the fatigue and suffocation of being a corporate slave since i was 23 years old, and then I would work. But I would do work I love, which is writing. She said I could start my own magazine, but I said I thought more along the lines of self publishing a book, maybe a chapbook (or two) of poetry, and really taking the time to make sure my poems are perfect and sound just the way I’d want them too. Maybe I’d write an e book. I’d still be engaging my mind and therefore, I wouldn’t be bored.

I’d definitely take the time to exercise, since I’d have a lot more energy from not working. and I’d live someplace quiet so i could meditate daily. what a peaceful and happy existence that would be.

November 14, 2012. Tags: , , . writing. Leave a comment.

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