Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Don't Sweat the Small Stuff

Following is only the contents list from Richard Carlson's 'Don't sweat the small stuff', but I believe the chapter titles are enough reminders in themselves!

Don’t sweat the small stuff
Make peace with imperfection
Let go of the idea that gentle, relaxed people can’t be superachievers
Be aware of the snowball effect of your thinking
Develop your compassion
Remind yourself that when you die, your “in basket” won’t be empty
Don’t interrupt others or finish their sentences
Do something nice for someone else—and don’t tell anyone about it
Let others have the glory
Learn to live in the present moment
Imagine that everyone is enlightened except you
Let others be “right” most of the time
Become more patient
Create “patience practice periods”
Be the first one to act loving or reach out
Ask yourself the question, “will this matter a year from now?”
Surrender to the fact that life isn’t fair
Allow yourself to be bored
Lower your tolerance to stress
Once a week, write a heartfelt letter
Imagine yourself at your own funeral
Repeat to yourself, “life isn’t an emergency”
Experiment with your back burner
Spend a moment every day thinking of someone to thank
Smile at strangers, look into their eyes, and say hello
Set aside quiet time, every day
Imagine the people in your life as tiny infants and as one-hundred-year-old adults
Seek first to understand
Become a better listener
Choose your battles wisely
Become aware of your moods and don’t allow yourself to be fooled by the low ones
Life is a test it is only a test
Praise and blame are all the same
Practice random acts of kindness
Look beyond behavior
See the innocence
Choose being kind over being right
Tell three people (today) how much you love them
Practice humility
When in doubt about whose turn it is to take out the trash go ahead and take it out
Avoid weatherproofing
Spend a moment, every day, thinking of someone to love
Become an anthropologist
Understand separate realities
Develop your own helping rituals
Every day, tell at least one person something you like, admire, or appreciate about them
Argue for your limitations, and they’re yours
Remember that everything has God’s fingerprints on it
Resist the urge to criticize
Write down your five most stubborn positions and see if you can soften them
Just for fun, agree with criticism directed toward you (then watch it go away)
Search for the grain of truth in other opinions
See the glass as already broken (and everything else too)
Understand the statement, “wherever you go, there you are”
Breathe before you speak
Be grateful when you’re feeling good and graceful when you’re feeling bad
Become a less aggressive driver
Adopt a child through the mail
Turn your melodrama into a mellow-drama
Read articles and books with entirely different points of view from your own and try to learn something
Do one thing at a time
Count to ten
Practice being in the “eye of the storm”
Be flexible with changes in your plans
Think of what you have instead of what you want
Practice ignoring your negative thoughts
Be willing to learn from friends and family
Be happy where you are
Remember that you become what you practice most
Quiet the mind
Take up yoga
Make service an integral part of your life
Do a favour and don’t ask for, or expect, one in return
Think of your problems as potential teachers
Get comfortable not knowing
Acknowledge the totality of your being
Cut yourself some slack
Stop blaming others
Become an early riser
When trying to be helpful, focus on little things
Remember, one hundred years from now, all new people
Lighten up
Nurture a plant
Transform your relationship to your problems
The next time you find yourself in an argument, rather than defend your position, see if you can see the other point of view first
Redefine a “meaningful accomplishment”
Listen to your feelings (they are trying to tell you something)
If someone throws you the ball, you don’t have to catch it
One more passing show
Fill your life with love
Realize the power of your own thoughts
Give up on the idea that “more is better”
Keep asking yourself, “what’s really important?"
Trust your intuitive heart
Be open to “what is”
Mind your own business
Look for the extraordinary in the ordinary
Schedule time for your inner work
Live this day as if it were your last – it might be!
Treasure yourself

The ones in bold are thoughts that I've mulled and chewed over and haven't yet digested, and possibly the topics of future blogposts.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Here's why Harry Potter's so special

(Illustration by cartoonist Einar Lunden)

There are few children books that manage to twist all of life's important lessons into a capturing tale, and still make you feel like you're just reading for entertainment. This is exactly what J.K. Rowling's done in her series. In Harry Potter, there is something to extract and learn from for every person of any age or intelligence. However ironic it sounds, the magical, fictional and very-far-from-real world depicted throughout is so very relevant to the world we live in today. I know there are many Harry Potter-haters out there, and I'm here to give you five really good reasons why you should be mesmerized by The Harry Potter Phenomena that our times have witnessed:

1. The Battle between Good and Evil
From the moment the first human was created till the moment the earth will no longer exist, there will always be a battle between those two powers. The sad truth is that at many points in life, it seems that evil has the upper hand and evil is all that will prevail. The other sad truth is that most people are likely to join the evil side. Not because they are evil, but because of the deceiving nature of evil and the many temptations that come with it. The happy truth is: eventually, good prevails. As long as there is a God who is Just, good must prevail. This is beautifully shown in the story: it revolves around the battle between Voldemort and his evil supporters (some who could easily have been on the good side) and the few who try to overcome them. In the end, Harry Potter and his supporters succeed in defeating the evil forces. The positive note on which the series ends teaches readers to never give up in the fight to spread good, no matter how alone you may feel you are.

2. Oppression
Throughout history, those who are different from the majority have suffered discrimination on the hands of those who claim to set the standards of what "the norm" must be. But if we open our eyes we will notice the beauty in such variation, and how much more we can achieve together. Intentions should be the only criterion for judgement. This is one of the most recurring themes in the series; the discrimination faced by elves (who are made slaves by humans and given limited freedom), half-bloods or muggle-borns (wizards/witches whose parents have no magical skills), squibs (who have fewer magical skills than others) or giants.... These are all synonymous to the people of our world who have suffered for being different: whether it is for having special needs or for having another skin colour or whatever. What I love about these books is that, throughout, Harry Potter and his friends constantly manage to defeat the dark side with the help of the oppressed. Their turning to them makes them stronger than their enemies. Harry chooses friends based on their qualities and not their social status, and this provides a very good role model to readers, especially children. Of Harry's closest friends are Ron (who comes from a poor family), Hermione (who has Muggle parents), Hagrid (who is a half-giant), Dobby (a house-elf he set free)..

3. Family
Harry Potter constantly highlights the importance of family: a part of our lives without which we are incomplete. Although Harry's parents die when he was a baby, Harry is always thinking about his parents and what they would've told him to do in that situation. The reason Harry survives Voldemort's curse and manages to live on is because of Harry's mother's love for him. Rowling chose a beautiful way to illustrate the power of a mother's love to her readers: it can even conquer death. Harry lives with his mother's sister Aunt Petunia and her family. His being badly treated by them again illustrates the importance of family by illustrating the impacts ill relationships can have on lives. It also brings a real problem to light, which is child abuse and the fact that there are many children not receiving the correct childhood experience they have a right to. All of us love the huge, bubbly Weasly family: a great example of a typical and ideal family. The Weasly family have their share of problems, financial or otherwise, but the family tie remains amidst the sibling quarrels and whatnot.

4. Friendship
Harry Potter is realistic: in life, the average person makes many friends. There are a couple of special ones who stick with you throughout, and who are the ones worth keeping. Without them, you will not be capable of anything. Harry may be a brilliant and brave wizard, but without the support of Ron and the intelligence of Hermione, he wouldn't have been able to achieve a quarter of what he accomplished in each part of the series. Harry finds comfort in knowing he can confide into his two friends whenever faced with dangerous situations (which is basically always considering he is a huge target). His friends in turn, are ready to sacrifice alot for him. But their friendship doesn't come without its share of problems: at two points throughout the series, Ron lets his bitter and jealous feelings take the better of him, causing him to abandon his friend. This is only human, and Rowling does a good job of teaching her readers that no relationship can be strong without its ups and downs. I could go on about the friendship between Harry's dad and his friends Lupin and Sirius, and the betrayal by Peter (aka Wormtail) which shows how the choices of friends we make could go all wrong sometimes, but I think you get the point.

5. Media
The Harry Potter books very accurately show how people in positions of power (the Minsitry of Magic in this case) can abuse their positions by misrepresenting the truth to the public, and how they use media to accomplish this. We see this everywhere in the world today: governments lieing to the public, the majority of which are confused and choose to believe in what the newspapers and officials tell them without questioning their authority or accuracy. For a very long time, the Ministry of Magic chooses to hide from the public the return of Voldemort. At another point, the Ministry chooses to send over its people to take charge of the education system in Hogwarts. There are many other instances that remind the reader of the importance of thinking for oneself and realising the power of the influence of media used on us.

There are many other important lessons I'd like to mention, but I don't want this to get too long. If you're reading this and you're a Harry Potter fan (or have just been converted!) let me know why you think Harry Potter is so special!

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