“One day in the fall of 1981, eight men in their 70s stepped out of a van in front of a converted monastery in New Hampshire. They shuffled forward, a few of them arthritically stooped, a couple with canes. Then they passed through the door and entered a time warp. Perry Como crooned on a vintage radio. Ed Sullivan welcomed guests on a black-and-white TV. Everything inside — including the books on the shelves and the magazines lying around — were designed to conjure 1959. This was to be the men’s home for five days as they participated in a radical experiment, cooked up by a young psychologist named Ellen Langer….”
Read the rest of the profile of me and my work in the New York Times.
I’ll be giving a lecture on “Mindful Health and the Power of Possibility” as part of The Wellbeing Lecture Series at the University of Minnesota on Monday, Nov 10, 2014. The schedule is as follows
2:00 – 3:30 PM, Lecture
3:30 – 4:00 PM, Q & A followed by a reception
Coffman Memorial Union
For more information and tickets, click here.
I just returned from an amazing South African safari. Being up close to the “big five” was a bit scary, which made it very exciting. The big five are the strongest not the biggest animals—lions, leopards, elephants, buffalos, and rhinoceros.
Elephants came to the lodge and aways to drink from a watering hole, about eight yards away. I tried to get even closer to take a photo and was quickly told to step back. As an American believing we’re safe in most situations, I had to be reminded that these animals were wild and potentially dangerous. By the time I saw the lions I was fully aware that they—not our ranger or tracker—were in charge.
I looked closely at all the animals but when I looked at the lioness’ eyes, it felt different from the other animals. She seemed fully present—remarkably so. When someone is present you can feel it; that’s the way it was with this animal.
Some of the big five are larger than the lion, some have horns that can be deadly, but none of them seemed as “there” as the lion. I wondered if that was in fact what made the lion king of the jungle. Mindfulness might trump speed, size, and even brute force.
If I can find photographs of these animals and show only the eyes to people kept blind about which animal they were viewing, I might be able to get some confirmation of this idea. Then I will figure out a way to show the eyes to other animals and study their reactions.
For the moment, however, these ideas help keep the safari experience alive for me.
When asked this question, most of us reply first with our gender and then with the roles we occupy. I might say I’m a woman, a psychologist, an artist, and then turn to my relationships—a spouse, a friend, and so on. The more roles we have the more buffers we have against stress if something in one role goes awry. If I get disappointed regarding the sale of a painting, I can reflect on the acceptance of one of my journal articles. This is the accepted understanding of identity.
Some of our roles loom very large for us—mother or spouse, for example—and that can be limiting. If we have to endure the death of a child or a spouse, it’s often hard to understand who we are now.
There is a very different response we could give to “Who are you?”, one that doesn’t depend on personal or professional roles at all. Who am I? I’m a person who cares about people; who enjoys a sense of humor; who values generosity and consciousness. When we define ourselves in this way, we’re less vulnerable to negative circumstances, able to grow, and less defined by labels than by our more meaningful personal characteristics.
My interview with Krista has been posted. You can also listen to the podcast at any time at:
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