It’s been a bountiful year of running for me and I am deeply grateful to be able to share it all with you.
May you enjoy another day running on this beautiful earth.
It’s been a bountiful year of running for me and I am deeply grateful to be able to share it all with you.
May you enjoy another day running on this beautiful earth.
We all have THOSE moments.
And when you are training for the Boston Marathon like I am (please CLICK HERE to support my fundraising for Boston Children’s Hospital), THOSE moments happen constantly.
But all of us, throughout our days, face THOSE moments: the infinitesimal nanoseconds of adversity and apathy when we find ourselves choosing from one of the Big G’s.
1) Give in
2) Give up
3) Give effort
That’s alot of G’s to keep track of, but I’m adding one more even bigger G that makes the decision easier: Gratitude.
When I move into a Gratitude mindset, I immediately sense my shift from feelings of obligation (I should…) to joy (I get to…). I move from making excuses why I can’t (Meh, but….) to reasons why I can (Yes, because …). In gratitude, I see the decision and its corresponding call to action with a refreshing and appropriate perspective– not too myopic, not too vague.
Keep in mind, even for a runner, the “right” decision isn’t always to Give effort. Sometimes, it’s important to Give in to what you are feeling and pause. Sometimes, it’s critical for your well-being to Give up a certain goal, or a certain relationship, or a fixed mindset.
We don’t only get stronger by pushing harder. We also grow by knowing when to rest and recover. Gratitude helps. When we consciously appreciate what we have and understand how we’ve gotten here, feelings of clarity and resolve can guide us throughout it all.
Maybe Gratitude comes naturally to you. Maybe you wake up with a smile on your face and joy in your heart, grateful for another day to live a beautiful and loving life.
Me? Not very often. I usually wake up with quick metal recap of things that went wrong, things unresolved and eating at me, and things I have to do in order to feel better. More focused on what I don’t have than on what I do have. More focused on what to do than how to be.
So I had to earn a Certificate in Positive Psychology from Wholebeing Institute at Kripalu to fully grasp the human potential of Gratitude, the Biggest G of all.
Let me be clear: Gratitude matters.
Let me be more clear: Gratitude is (almost) everything.
It’s incontrovertibly the most powerful remedy for human happiness. Time and time again, in countless experiments and social observations, the heartfelt expression of gratitude is shown to be the most immediate and lasting method of happily sustaining a meaningful, pleasurable, and thriving life.
And yes, like the Italian delicacy of wild foraged cardoon, it’s free when you know where to look for it. (Hint: find a mirror.)
For Gratitude isn’t something to do exactly. Gratitude is how to be.
This article from Psychology Today is the best piece I’ve ever seen to summarize key research studies and 28 Benefits of Gratitude. You can also download a free report on 3 Gratitude Practices from a link in the story.
In my next post, I’ll share how I move into gratitude during my long runs with my Gratitude is Every Stride Mantra.
Please CLICK HERE to check the progress of my fundraising or to contribute to my fundraising goal of $10,000 for Boston Children’s Hospital.
Only FIVE MORE MONDAYS before Marathon Monday! Every dollar matters for this great cause! Please help me meet my goal!
This month I’m marking the 101st birthday of Louie, my dad, by publishing legendary recipes that feature two of springtime’s premier delicacies. These Cooking With Love recipes (along with all the others that have been revealed so far) can be found here.
Take a look and let me know what you like best, foraged wild cardoon or homegrown fava beans, the first crop planted in the spring garden?
This is a classic match-up: wild v. domesticated, found v. cultivated, weed v. legume, stringy v. furry (see below). About the only thing they have in common is the Romano cheese that accompanies them both so well on your plate.
I love them both but have to give a slight nod to the cardoon. The burdock plant, often found on the border of fields, is best picked when it is young (but not too young) when the stalk is about the width of your ring finger. In our family, it has a mystique all its own, because of the very miracle of finding it– for FREE!– in the secret locations that were scoped out in advance and discussed only in hushed tones among family.
Cardoon brought us together like nothing else could because it involved all three wings of the family– the hunter/gatherer (my dad), the sous chefs (the kids), and the cook (my mom until she got fed up with the feeding frenzy that ensued, and would let my dad cook ’em with love).
As you’ll see from the recipe, the real time-consuming work isn’t so much finding them and cutting them down, it is in the peeling of the stringy, fibrous plant. And the cooking takes a little longer than you might imagine because if you rush the flour and egg dipping, you end up with “globs of gardooni” — and that’s as bad as it sounds.
So keep in mind, cardoon are a laborious team effort to prepare. In our house, they were treated with the ultimate respect. Meaning they were eaten with our fingers while standing up, still warm from the pan, as they were being cooked, as soon as they hit the serving tray lined with paper towel.
The fava beans have a much different arc to their story. They are planted in the garden in early spring. Here in Pennsylvania (Zone 7), around March 1. Growing up in western New York (Zone 6) a week or two later, definitely by St. Joseph’s Day (March 19). I planted mine last week.
They hold a special place in my heart because, when my daughter Eve was 2 1/2, in the last year we could select a Halloween costume without her input, we dressed her in a fava bean costume for trick or treating. The outfit’s primary feature was a furry vest, like the luxuriously soft inside of the pod. It was a big hit for the handful of people who actually got it. Not to mention, a sensibly warm ensemble for a cold northeast evening of going door-to-door foraging for candy. Eve has largely forgiven us for the transgression (I hope). Since it was before iPhoto, I don’t have the images at my fingertips to insert into the article quite yet.
I hope you enjoy all of Louie’s favorite recipes. My goal is to put up some more seasonal favorites during the year, so please be sure to COMMENT, LIKE, SUBSCRIBE, and SHARE the page to get them all.
And who knows, maybe I’ll find the photos of that fava bean costume!
“Love doesn’t just sit there, like a stone; it has to be made, like bread; remade all the time, made new.”
—Ursula K. Le Guin
Those were the words on the last slide of the last presentation of the Embodied Positive Psychology Summit I attended a few years ago at Kripalu in Lenox, MA. I didn’t know who Le Guin was and, to be honest, by that point in the week, I figured I’d learned enough that I didn’t need to write down what seemed like nothing more than a trite quote.
I filed those notes away and carried on. After surviving another St. Valentine’s Day (historically, a holiday of particularly horrific romantic blunders on my part), it seems like a good time to forage my emotional refrigerator for leftovers and revisit that quote– and thoughts from other speakers at that conference that I found in my notes– to see if there are some new ways to get bread from that stone.
We all know relationships can be confounding and that love can’t be taken for granted. Personally, I learned that stuff through my own, er, research. Which is to say, I found out the hard way through relationships that had ended in disarray– either from neglect (too little effort) or despite intense and well-intentioned attempts at repair (too much).
The notion that a relationship that is hard work has always seemed to me to be a losing proposition. I want to put in the effort and attention– but if it’s really “work,” it sounds mandatory. and, frankly, awful.
I prefer play.
So how can we acknowledging that love takes some effort, but what kind of effort? And how can we approach the work of relationships so it feels more like play and less like work?
I have had relationships that have worked well—effortlessly, actually. Relationships that didn’t seem like work at all—until they had a great fall. And then, all the work and all the king’s horses couldn’t put them back together again.
So what kind of effort was Le Guin talking about? What is this remaking and reconstituting the “bread of our love”? This artisan loaf of passion that can give us the sustenance of enduring love?
I looked over other notes from that session and given it some more thought. Which secret ingredients could be in this elusive delicacy?
Here’s my first attempt at putting them together into a recipe that I would like to cook up in my own relationships. Please feel free to try this at home and let me know how it tastes for you.
1 growth heartset
Into this, mix generous amounts of intentional acts that:
Express our strengths
Spot strengths in others
Sprinkle with micro-moments of positivity resonance.
Bake for as long as you can, stirring often.
The growth heartset is the ever-expanding bowl into which we knead all our other ingredients for love.
With a nod to the pioneering work of Carol Dweck’s growth mindset, Megan McDonough of Wholebeing Institute coined this phrase to help us to move toward the attitude that we can increase our capacity to love. As we act in awareness of this capacity to expand, we can see love as a force that can keep pace with our lives. There are complexities of life that can otherwise deaden the love that we notice ourselves feeling—and, if we don’t work to expand our love, we can shrink toward those limits.
The two main ingredients that we mix into this growth heartset are intentional actions that complement each other perfectly: Expressing our strengths while spotting strengths in others.
Neil Mayerson, chairman/founder of the VIA Institute on Character, illuminates the fallacy of what he calls “scorecard love”—when we offer only as much love as we feel is being returned to us. That kind of relationship can’t break free and expand. It’s made small and petty through calculation and reciprocity. This limits how and when we can express our love—and our selves. Neal pointed out that research into the role of character strengths is clear: When we express our strengths, we witness an increase in health, positive relationships, and flourishing.
So where Megan assures us of our ability to grow, Neil gives us a way to do that: by expressing our strengths.
The complement to this comes from the work of Todd Kashdan, director of the Well-Being Laboratory at George Mason University, who unveiled his first presentation on a multi-year research project into the role that characters strengths play in love relationships. His findings show that a central driver of relationship satisfaction is expressive appreciation for our partner’s strengths. How often and well you express this heartfelt appreciation actually shapes our partner toward their strengths—and fosters togetherness. Likewise, the more you choose to perceive and focus on the costs of your partner’s strengths (which I think is a nice way of saying “reminding them about all the crap that bugs you”), the more the relationship erodes and lessens the sense of belonging.
So while Neal is calling us to express our strengths, Todd is showing us the importance of recognizing the strengths of our partners, even in situations that may be otherwise frustrating to us.
To know and be known. This should sound familiar to CiPPsters and anyone who’s studied with Tal Ben-Shahar, as it is one of the fundamental tenets of his approach to his teaching and his life.
The yeast for this recipe comes from Barbara Fredrickson, principal investigator for the Positive Emotions and Psychophysiology Lab at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her presentation on micro-moments of positivity resonance (which contained the slide with Le Guin’s quote) summarized work that shows how love truly is the supreme positive emotion—the one that has the most influence in broadening and building waves of positivity that shape us, in tiny bursts of positive emotions.
With a foundation of safety and connection, these micro-moments appear among couples in the form of shared (although not necessarily mirrored) positive emotions, bio-behavioral synchronicity (that ripples back and forth between partners), and mutual care and concern. That broadened foundation allows us to build embodied rapport (“We clicked!”), social bonds, and commitment.
So that may be the recipe that I, and perhaps you, have been looking for—express our strengths, see and appreciate the strengths in our partners, tune in to the micro-moments of positivity that resonate between us.
When we can be aware of these ingredients for love, we are ready to fold this dough into the bread of love that can expand to sustain us throughout our lives. Which leaves just the baking—whether it be the burning fires of romantic love or the gentle warmth of the other kinds of love that give our lives meaning.
So turn up the heat. And bon appétit!
To mark the 100th anniversary of my father’s birth on March 3, 1921, Taking Mulligans is establishing a special section dedicated to some of his favorite recipes, called Louie’s Cooking With Love.
Louie, as he was known to all, was an avid gardener and forager who took great delight in bringing his harvest into the kitchen. My mom Rita, who spent several years of her youth helping to run operations at the Eagle Hotel in town, was a marvel at cooking to feed. She kept us all happy with her homemade dishes, even though she claimed she actually liked doing laundry more than cooking. My dad, on the other hand, enjoyed the creativity and traditions of cooking. Mom cooked the meals, he cooked the delicacies like cardoon, puff balls, fried dough, and stuffed calamari. As Rita would often say, “I cooked to feed, but Louie. He cooked with love.”
That became the name of a spiral-bound notebook of handwritten notes and recipes put together to pass along his recipes. With these foods come the love of family that my parents both shared with gusto. Now these homemade recipes can be yours too right here in Louie’s Cooking With Love. (Thank you to Mark and Maria for all your care and work on that treasured keepsake, and to my siblings Mike, Anthony, and Liz for photos.)
To commemorate his 100th birthday, try one of these favorites. And come back for more. I’ll be adding more recipes as time goes on, so subscribe to the blog or follow Taking Mulligans Facebook page to see the full collection.
Buon Compleanno, Luigi!
I have no idea who started Global Running Day or whey they did it. Doesn’t really matter at this point, because I’ve found a better use for it.
I know it’s better, because I’m using the day to express my gratitude to people who, in ways large and small, have contributed to my running life.
I believe that’s the best possible way to spend the day. That’s because I know from studying the science of happiness that the heartfelt expression of gratitude is the single most impactful practice we can perform to grow our own happiness.
Sure, go ahead and run. I’m going to do that as well. But it’s not enough. We can do that any day of the year. Today, join me in Global Running Day to reach out individually to people who have made running a better part of your life.
For me, it’s a wide ranging list, from those I run with regularly: the two knuckleheads I run with regularly during the week at lunchtime and the ultramarathoner who I idolize and who I can occasionally catch up with on some of her shorter runs.
To the folks I run with every once in a while: the Saturday morning group, the Sunday morning group, the trail runner / golfing buddy with the infectious laugh, the rogue group of trail runners who summit a local mountain with evening runs that end at the bar, the author and friend who swears he absolutely loved my running memoir, the guys I run a marathon relay with once a year, and my grad school buddy who assures me we are going to run Boston someday.
To those I can only run with vicariously: the yoga teacher/health coach/writer who whose tiny little instagram posts of her Washington DC runs always make me wish I was running next to her and the physician neighbor who joins me in vowing we will get out together one of these days.
These are just a few of the folks who are primary in my running life today, which means they are but the tip of the iceberg of people in my past who have helped make running a lifelong pursuit.
Who can you think of, past or present day, that has helped you? I encourage you to make Global Running Day the excuse to reach out and thank them for making running a part of your life. Let them know.
The greatest gift of our emotions is the awakening they provide us. When we can stay with our emotions, even our most difficult ones, they become stepping stones to being fully alive in our humanity.
In the third and final step of renowned Buddhist nun Pema Chödrön’s “Three Steps to Courage: Working Compassionately with Difficult Emotions,” I share with you my understanding of the teaching she provided to hundreds of students gathered earlier this year in Vermont at Pema Osel Do Ngak Choling, the East Coast study and practice center for the Mangala Shri Bhuti sangha.
In this post, we’ll look at:
Step Three: AWAKEN through being in direct experience of those emotions, which hold the wisdom of our shared humanity.
This is often taught as “letting go.” During some of the most troubling times in my life, using the idea of letting go of my emotions provided great relief.
I would imagine the feelings coming in through the front door of a house, and then breezing through the house. I would focus on opening the back door of the house and having the troubling emotions just whip themselves right out, leaving me calmly in peace.
I think Ani (Sister) Pema, as she’s known to her students, might say “Not so fast!” to that strategy.
She prefers to think of this stage not of letting go, but “letting be,” which immediately struck me as a more powerful way to approach this task.
To me, it’s not “letting go,” because by no means are we casting away our emotions. We are instead being kind to them, learning from them, turning them over in our bodies and minds in order to find the aspects of them that can inspire us to be the people we want to be. As we let our emotions be, they become our teachers, not our prison guards.
In other words, when we let them be, they let us go.
Think about it this way. What if I told you to let go of, or “get over,” all the positive emotions you feel in life? What if I tried to convince you that, to be happy, you must stop feeling love, compassion, understanding, ecstasy, and joy? I hope you’d think I was crazy! Those emotions are the good stuff—the parts of our life that we cherish the most. We feel them when we are at our best.
Pema Chödrön teaches us that the other emotions, the difficult ones, are also the good stuff when we understand them for what they are—seeds of wisdom nestled in the challenges of the human condition.
There is no more benefit from transcending our “negative” emotions than there would be from transcending our “positive” emotions. In these emotions, we find our humanity—and each other’s.
In terms of positive psychology, I would say the difference is in how we feel and cultivate the multitude of emotions we let be. While we benefit from feeling our loneliness, jealousy, anger, and other seemingly toxic emotions, we don’t necessarily benefit from cultivating those emotions or reaching deeply into them such that they crowd out the heartfelt positive emotions.
Instead, we acknowledge the difficult emotions and compassionately reflect on the circumstances and patterns that keep reintroducing these emotions into our life. In that way, we can transform those emotions into wisdom, while moving away from the storylines that keep bringing these emotions into our lives.
Ani Pema shared another way to think about this awakening to our difficult emotions.
When we try to stop feeling our emotions, it’s like we flash-freeze them. We bind them up and try to keep them from affecting the rest of our lives.
“But where will we find our water?” she asks. “Where will we find refreshment? Where we will find life itself? In the ice cube.”
When we thirst for wisdom, we don’t throw out the ice cube. We sit with it, we warm it, we melt the habitualness that hardens our perspectives and perpetuates our suffering. It may feel cold, but it is useful to stay with our “ice cube–ness” in order to understand the flow of water—our wisdom—within us.
Here’s an ice cube visualization that may help you in meditations that center around melting the ice within you.
Strong emotions can awaken the tenderness of our hearts and unite us with all others who are suffering. When we grow our feelings of love for our own unique set of emotions and “Me-ness,” we move along the path toward feeling love and compassion for others, even those we are in conflict with—toward a “We-ness.”
This also gives us access to the humanity of others. Or, as Ani Pema put it, “I use the frustration of feeling that emotion to know the experience of everyone who has felt this emotion.”
This viral video from Denmark, titled “All That We Share,” vividly and memorably makes this point. We have much more in common with others than we realize.
Keep in mind that our emotions are among the most ecstatic and significant beauties of being human. They drive our life energy, they fuel our creativity, they form our love and empathy. One can say that all the wisdom that we seek is found in our emotions. There lies our happiness.
To the degree that we can truly feel not only positive but also difficult emotions, and be patient with them, that’s the degree to which we can understand others. In this way, we stand in our own shoes and know that this is all a part of us, and we can now walk in the shoes of others who share our human condition. This gives us permission to explore our interdependence with others.
In other words, you are not isolated by your emotions. In fact, our emotions are EXACTLY what connect us to each other.
What emotions are most difficult for you? According to Pema Chödrön, it is in those emotions that we find the seeds of wisdom we most need in our lives.
Earlier this year, I attended a retreat with her entitled “Three Steps to Courage: Working Compassionately with Difficult Emotions.” I’m taking a few posts to explain what I learned in hopes that you can apply some of these lessons in your life and with your positive psychology clients.
In this post, we’ll look at
Step Two: TRANSFORM the emotions without judging them.
What do we do as we sit with the difficult emotions? The work is to recognize their inherent wisdom and explore their contours.
For example, consider the emotions that surround spending time by yourself.
Do you experience that as loneliness or as aloneness? Loneliness brings up feelings of sadness, maybe regret, isolation. Whereas aloneness can be a valuable, peaceful state, giving you the space to be yourself while still feeling connected to life and the living. The difference between the two might merely be the storyline that you’ve bought into about spending time alone—and whether you dive into that storyline or refrain from reacting to it.
When we refrain, we hit the pause button, interrupting the storylines that urge us to escape from the difficult emotion. In step two, we move on to transforming—kind of like hitting the slow-mo button. We connect with the emotion and examine it with tenderness.
Feel it. Accept it. This frees us from reactivity and makes our emotions more accessible to us. We’re not going to dwell inside the depth of the feeling, but we do need to acknowledge it to relieve our fear of it.
Going back to our example, when feelings of loneliness arise, we first catch the “hook” of the emotion by acknowledging the feeling. Then we interrupt the storyline of that emotion and refrain from acting to escape from—or go too deeply into—that emotion.
Instead, we stay with the emotion and increase the spaciousness around it, so we come to a cooler, more detached acceptance of it—rather than picking a fight with it. We safely acknowledge feeling lonely, then wrap that feeling in a blanket made of other aspects of our life where we feel connected, even when alone.
It can be frustrating to have difficult emotions come up time and time again, derailing us from more pleasant thoughts or activities. Yet that time spent simply being with the difficult feelings is necessary in order to gain access to the wisdom of that emotion.
Here are three ways to start extracting that wisdom in ways that blow away our preconceived notions of how we identify with our emotions.
1. Shift a nebulous feeling to a more physical, tangible, sensory one.
This can be done with a little game that Pema described, which could be called “Qualities.” Take the feeling and start to describe it using questions like:
If this feeling were a color, what color would it be?
If this feeling were a temperature, what temperature would it be?
If this feeling were music, what kind of music would it be?
Continue with other qualities, like sound, touch, a piece of art, a genre of movie, a pair of shoes, a famous person, food, etc. Don’t worry about being so precise about the description—just name what comes to mind when you start to hold it in these ways.
2. Shrink the difficult emotion by seeing it as something tiny that’s being consumed by an ever-expanding perspective.
This way, you’re not fighting to eliminate the emotion—you’re just understanding it as a small piece of a larger sense of your self and your place in the world. You can think of that difficult emotion as
A tiny drop of water being consumed by the oceans of the world
A single bead of sand losing itself in the beaches and deserts of our planet, among all the planets
A tiny speck of light disappearing among the stars of the galaxy, among all galaxies.
In this way, you blow away the notion that this emotion defines your identity—it is merely one of emotions you can safely experience in a rich and diverse life.
This is now my favorite meditation when difficult emotions arise. For me, it’s helpful to visualize how miniscule that emotion is within me, much like this video simulates the mind-blowing scale of our physical world and our place within it.
3. Work with the emotion through a guided Tonglen meditation—the lovingkindness meditations for which Pema Chödrön is well known.
Through these meditations, we expand our perspectives from ourselves to all beings, and with this expansion, we wish for happiness and love to come not only to us, but also to all.
Here’s a short excerpt from one of her guided Tonglen meditations.
Trying to repress a “bad” feeling doesn’t work, because that feeling gets so much attention that it ends up governing the rest of our emotions. It’s like trying to keep the emotion in a cage, where it rattles around and reminds us of its desire to break free and threaten us. Every day, we have to vigilantly check it to make sure the lock is in place and the cage is secure.
That emotion, as harmful as it may be to us, has a place in our lives—but it’s not healthy to have it stalking our minds day and night. It’s more useful to let that emotion roam wild on a wide and expansive terrain, where it can live on its own but not threaten and constantly bother us where we live.
When it is set free, there’s no need to kill that emotion or flee from it, for it is no longer an imminent threat to us. It’s a small animal roaming far and wide across the entire continent.
Next week, in my final post about the retreat, I’ll share with you my understanding of how refraining and reframing culminates in unlocking the wisdom of our emotions. That’s Step Three: AWAKEN through being in direct experience of those emotions, which hold the wisdom of our shared humanity.
Last night, I was on the phone talking to potential voters. My final call of the night happened to be to an 83-year old woman named Ann, who was gripped with fear and outrage at the prospect of immigrants marching toward our nation’s border. Listening to her rant, I felt it all: sick to my stomach that this would drive her vote this November, anger at the media and government for manipulating her vulnerability, compassion for an elderly woman in a panic. So we each went to bed in fear. Ann, with those TV images blinking in her mind, and me, in fear of her fear and what that means for the election and decisions facing our nation.
How can we go this way? What can we do with the difficult emotions that controversies like these bring into our lives? What are these fears doing to us as we lie awake at night, or immobilized in the morning?
Then I remembered what a nun taught me. Three Steps to Courage
Not just any nun, but Pema Chödrön, the meditation teacher and best-selling author of books like The Places That Scare You and When Things Fall Apart. I spent some time with her at a retreat earlier this year, and she very methodically and gracefully taught us her secret of moving forward in demanding times and through personal adversity. Her advice, “Three Steps to Courage: Working Compassionately with Difficult Emotions” will be helpful for all of us, no matter what we are going through that is challenging us.
My understanding of her teachings are being published in a series of posts on my blog at Wholebeing Institute, a leader in the field of positive psychology education and outreach.
The first of these posts is up now and can be found at Three Steps to Courage.