Gratitude Resistors

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It’s been a while since I posted. Life dealt me several big surprises in 2013 in the work arena with the net result of complete exhaustion. I am now working in a residential treatment center for teens with general mental health issues. This population is new to me, and I’m finding it very challenging work.

One thing that we try to do with the teens before meals is a gratitude circle. Instead of a prayer, we go around the room and have everyone say one thing that they are grateful for. This is difficult for the teens. They resist the practice with every ounce of their energy, so I was very interested in this video from The Greater Good on Gratitude Resistors. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

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The Gratitude Graffiti Project

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Back in May I had the idea to create a gratitude wall with the kids at work. I put up the word THANKS, and they did the rest on colorful sticky notes. The entries were silly (“pickles”, “potato chips”, “diet coke”, and “the angry birds”) and inspiring (“my little sister”, “my mom”, “I love Miss Kiley”). This picture is after the first couple days.


Some of the kids really got into it. They asked to put up notes every day. Other kids couldn’t think of anything to write down and refused to participate. It was easy to see which group of kids was happier.

We had some trouble keeping the sticky notes from falling off the wall, so by the time we took it down, most of the notes were clustered on top of the word, “THANKS.” It was still a fun project.

Recently I ran across a web site for The Gratitude Graffiti Project. This is a project for a larger community. Watch their video and then sign up to do a Gratitude Graffiti Project in your town.

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Outreach to Teens

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Teen Advisory Committee-2

This week I had the privilege of taking my message on Vital Gratitude to 60 kids and staff at the Summer Teen Program at A New Leaf in Mesa, AZ. We played The Comparison Game, then played Gratitude Improv. The teens learned that we always lose when we compare our lives with others, and we always win when we focus on the blessings we have. It was inspiring to see them learn that this simple shift can radically alter their mood immediately. Mission accomplished!

I am grateful to Vancouver Public Library on Flickr for the fun picture at the top of this post.

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Do You Know Your Conversation Karma?

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Today I’m honored to share an article from Dr. Loren Ekroth, or as he’s known on the Internet, Dr. Conversation. Loren Ekroth is founder of “Better Conversation Week” and related community events.

Do You Know Your Conversation Karma?


When interacting with others, our behaviors have consequences. That seems quite obvious. With words, voice, and physical expressions we send our messages, and our messages have effects.

However, those effects may not be immediately clear, and they may appear later, or indirectly, even through a different person. I think of this as “conversational karma.”

Here’s an example. Your friend Bill tells you he didn’t like Fred, a new member of your club. He experienced Fred to be boastful and self-centered. Although you have never met Fred, you now have a pre-conceived impression and, when you finally meet him, you are thinking “boastful, self-centered.”

Assuming that Fred did in fact behave boastfully and talk about himself, the negative impression he created returns to him through you. In the colloquial expression, “What goes around, comes around.” Fred has made an impression upon you without knowing it.

The Tibetan teacher Sakyong Mipham-Rinpoche eloquently summed this up when he said: “Like gravity, karma is so basic we often don’t even notice it.”

Although the concept of karma originates from Hinduism and Buddhism, essentially as “the chain of causes and effects,” it is also a part of other traditions, such as Christianity: In the King James version, Galatians 6. verse 7, you find “for whatsoever a man sows, that shall he also reap.”

The natural and physical sciences have the law of cause and effect.

Metaphysics espouses “The Law of Attraction.”

Another colloquial expression is “For the things you choose, you pay the dues.”

Examples of negative effects:

  • If you gossip about others, others will gossip about you.
  • If you’re a braggart, “all hat and no cattle,” you’ll be found out and then your words will be distrusted.
  • If you’re a “see ME” taker, but not a giver, others will isolate you.
  • If you don’t give others credit where it’s due, and claim you did it all by yourself, others won’t want you on the team, and they’ll avoid you.
  • If you dominate and demean others, you’ll lose those as friends.

As my friend, author Sam Horn wisely wrote, “Anyone who consistently makes you feel bad is not helping you be better.”

Whatever happened to the Golden Rule that appears both in antiquity and all major religious and philosophical traditions? This “ethic of reciprocity” says in its positive form that “One should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself,” and in its negative form that “One should not treat others in ways that one would not like to be treated.” (A more recent form termed “the Platinum Rule” says “Treat others the way they want to be treated.”)

Both the Golden Rule and the Platinum Rule are precepts – recommendations for ethical conduct. But, like the 10 Commandments, they are not necessarily followed. Why is that? My thoughts:

  • People who lack self-control in difficult situations may may utter intemperate words they may later regret.
  • People who are in the grip of old grudges often act them out.
  • Self-absorbed people think in terms of ME, not WE, and behave accordingly.
  • You may learn a valuable precept, but it’s quite another to internalize it and behave consistent with that precept: e.g., “Be Kind.”

Here are some examples of positive effects of conversation karma:

  • When you place confidence in a person – even a child, that person will often behave with confidence. (This is sometimes referred to as the “Pygmalion Effect.”)
  • When you speak with encouragement and enthusiasm to others, you lift their spirits. In the workplace, they are more productive. In the home, they are more cooperative, and on the playing field, they win more games.
  • When you stick to your highest values as a person of integrity, you model the kind of behavior you desire from others, and it “rubs off.”
  • When you show interest in others by asking what they think and how they feel, they will often reciprocate and sincerely ask you about your thoughts and feelings.

Finally, creating positive effects during interactions with others is not simply a matter of conversation skills. It is based on positive values, positive attitude, and personal character developed over time.

And it’s well worth the effort.

From “Better Conversations” newsletter, 2013 by Dr. Loren Ekroth.  .© 2013 Reprinted with permission.  Loren Ekroth is founder of “Better Conversation Week” and related community events.  To subscribe to his complimentary newsletter, visit

I am grateful to Das Fotoimaginarium on Flickr for the picture at the top of this post.

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Life and Death

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I thought I was going to die.

I know. People say that all the time for dramatic effect. I’ve used it a few times myself. But this time, I mean it. I thought I was going to die.

I had breast cancer, but it wasn’t the cancer that I thought would kill me. It was the treatment.

I was originally scheduled for 8 rounds of chemo. After the first 4 rounds of adriamycin and cytoxin, I was out of breath with the slightest exertion. I refused further chemo and saw a cardiologist. I’ll skip the technical talk about MUGA scans and ventricular ejection fractions and go straight into what he told me.

“You probably saved your life by refusing the taxol.”

I was on the brink of congestive heart failure. With adriamycin, even years after treatment is over, you can suddenly experience huge losses of capacity leading to the need for a heart transplant. I went on a strict diet of exercise, healthy foods, and prayer.

That was all well and good, but I still had radiation therapy ahead of me. I’m from the generation of kids who did the duck and cover drills in elementary schools. I don’t know who they were kidding. Not me. I was well aware, even in first grade, that if the A bomb hit, that desk and its layers of old chewing gum wasn’t going to keep me from becoming a glow-in-the-dark ghostie. My parents didn’t buy into the fallout shelter craze, so I grew up convinced that one day radiation was going to kill me. That day had finally come. I thought I was going to die.

I gathered up every piece of information that I could about radiation therapy and the heart. It all proved that it was extremely dangerous for a person in my condition to undergo radiation therapy. The day I went in to meet the radiation oncologist, I had a stack of papers several inches thick. She was a short, pleasant oriental gal who looked about 13 years old until she opened her mouth to demolish every single argument I’d amassed. She told me in no uncertain terms that it was more dangerous for me to go without the radiation than to have it. Then she made an appointment for the next day for me to come in for the targeting.

I thought I was going to die.

I got up that fateful morning and walked out to the mailbox. It’s just two doors down from the house, but it took me over 20 minutes to get there. I had to stop every few feet and catch my breath before I shuffled forward. When I finally reached my goal, I leaned against the bank of mailboxes. As I tried to catch my breath, I wondered if I would die of lack of oxygen before the radiation could finish me off.

When I finally turned back toward my house, I saw something in my driveway. It was too big to be a cat and the wrong shape to be a dog. I began my slow shuffle back to the house convinced that lack of oxygen to the brain was finally getting the better of me. The closer I drew to the apparition, the more mysterious it was. It had a very thick tail, but the front legs were held up in front of it and looked too small for 4-legged running. When I was about 5 feet away, I stopped and stared. It was a miniature kangaroo. Definitely lack of oxygen to the brain! There certainly couldn’t be any mini-kangaroos running around suburban Phoenix.

Then it made eye contact with me. We stared, and in that silent exchange, it talked to me. It assured me that I was not going to die. When I finally began to believe that I was going to live, it seemed to know. It turned and hopped off.

Down the street on the stop sign, a fluttering paper caught my eye. With a new energy, I made my way to it and took it down.

It read “Lost Wallaby” with a phone number and a picture of my new friend. I hurried, well, I shuffled more quickly than usual, back to my house. As soon as I caught my breath, I called the number on the sign. A nurse answered. She told me that she owned an assisted living residence about 2 miles from my house. Her wallaby had crossed 3 major streets during morning rush hour traffic to arrive at my driveway just in time to deliver the message that I did not have to fear death because I was going to live.

The nurse had been a pediatric oncology nurse before opening her assisted living center. She talked to me about fear of treatment, and she reassured me that it’s normal to feel like the treatment is going to kill you. She reiterated the message that her wallaby had given me. I was going to live, and the radiation was going to help me.

I went to the targeting appointment, and all I could think about or talk about was my angel – my wallaby angel. That was good, because targeting is a really embarrassing process that I would have otherwise hated. On that day, I was excited to be there, excited to be getting started, excited to be part of the process of saving my own life.

I completed 7 weeks of radiation treatment. I won’t tell you it was easy. There were burns involved that were painful, for instance. I will tell you, however, that I started feeling better during radiation. My heart improved rather than worsening. I stopped shuffling and was able to start swimming laps in my backyard pool. The cardiologist told me that, despite all medical wisdom to the contrary, my heart was improving. The wallaby had been right. I wasn’t going to die.

It didn’t turn out so well for the wallaby, however. The nurse had been concerned about finding her baby before school let out because she was afraid that school kids would find it and chase it. Wallabys are unable to process a byproduct of muscle exertion, lactic acid, in the same way that we can. It builds up in their muscles if they are chased, and it kills them.

She couldn’t find her baby until she received a call at about 3:30 pm from school kids. They had seen the signs, found and chased the wallaby until it couldn’t run anymore, then cornered it and called her. When I called her after my targeting appointment to find out if she had found my angel, she told me the bad news. The wallaby was dying. She said she could never have another wallaby. It would be too painful.

I will stand accused of anthropomorphizing in this story, and so be it. I believe that angels come to us in all guises, including animal form, and I believe that wallaby was an angel sent to deliver a message to me. It seems unfair to me that a beautiful soul would sacrifice his life just so that a silly, fearful human being would get over herself and do the necessary thing. I grieve for the loss of that soul.

Yellow Footed Rock Wallaby

A few weeks after the death, the nurse called me again. She had received a call about a baby wallaby that had been brought from Australia by people in this country. All the permits had gone through and the baby had cleared customs, then the adoptive parents had decided that they didn’t want the wallaby after all. The importer asked the nurse if she would take her, and she did.

I got to go over to the assisted living center and hold the baby wallaby in my arms. As I fed it a bottle, we made eye contact. I felt I wasn’t looking into the eyes of a single baby wallaby, but that I was looking into the collective conscious of every wallaby who has ever lived. The message I received was simple. “Live your life.”

I refuse to spend another day thinking about dying. I’ve been given such a precious gift – life in all its messy glory. I am so grateful.

I am grateful to Bookabee Tours Australia on Flickr for the wallaby picture.

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It’s Reconciliation Day

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Today’s holiday was created by Ann Landers, who recognized the devastating effect that broken relationships has on our society.

Reconciliation is the work of the person who made the mistake and offended the other person.Too often apologies are insincere and/or incomplete, which leaves the relationship on shaky ground because reconciliation has not happened. Here is Noah St. John with a great explanation about the 5 steps to a sincere apology.

Successful people don’t let things fester. They value relationships, so they are the first to step up, take responsibility, and make amends.

Is there someone you need to apologize to today?

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Happy Golden Rule Week

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Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle. ~Plato

Every religion and ethical tradition in the world teaches some form of The Golden Rule. Some religions state the Golden Rule in a positive form: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Others state it in a negative form: “Don’t treat others in ways that you wouldn’t like to be treated.” The Golden Rule is all about fairness and reciprocity, which is good to a point.

We teach children the concept of fairness very early in life. We tell them to share their toys and not to take the bigger piece of cake. They learn how to play nicely with others, which helps them get along in society.

But is fairness and reciprocity really the best way for leaders to act? If we consider the development of children beyond elementary school, we see that the idea of treating people with fairness expands as they grow in their abstract thinking. They learn the concept of empathy, and they begin to understand the feelings of other people.

Leaders will find more success if they move beyond The Golden Rule to embrace The Empathy Rule: Treat others the way they would appreciate being treated.

This week, exercise your brilliance. Look around you at the people in your life, consider how they would appreciate being treated, and take action.

I am grateful to katerha on Flickr for the inspiring and fun picture at the top of this post.

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Act Happy, Be Happy!

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If we wait until we feel happy, we may never feel happy. Enjoy this quote about happiness.

“Happiness is permanent. It is always there.
What comes and goes is unhappiness.
If you identify with what comes and goes, you will be unhappy.
If you identify with what is permanent and always there,
you are happiness itself.” ~ Poonjaji

Don’t wait until you feel it. Act like happy, and you’ll be happy! Everything else is just an illusion.

Happy Act Happy Week!

I am grateful to Public Domain Photos on Flickr for the joyful picture at the top of this post.

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