This month, I’ve been challenged to find ways of creating mental freedom. I have thought often of Viktor Frankl and his book, Man’s Search for Meaning over the last few weeks. He writes about living in horrible, unspeakable conditions of captivity during the Holocaust and how he found this sense of internal freedom from his captors. According to the wisdom of Frankl, “[e]verything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” Viktor Frankl also offers that “[b]etween stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” This especially hits home for me as my work in emotional intelligence leverages neuroscience to promote rewiring the brain, pausing to make new choices, empowering myself and others to create space to choose new actions and reactions.
The word that has been coming to mind on these days on which I feel stuck, these moments when I feel stripped of my freedoms and I mourn the loss of some of the activities and freedoms I often took for granted, is claustrophobic. From what I hear from others and see in the news, I know I’m not the only one feeling this way. Rather than breaking the rules I know are best for everyone, I challenge myself to think of Viktor Frankl. I challenge myself to be creative, to think about how I might find mental freedom in this time of loss of control, and rules, regulations and mandates. Rather than feel guilty for my own perceived losses of freedom in comparison to the loss of freedom Frankl suffered, I feel inspired and grateful. If he was able to find peace and freedom in such dire circumstances, certainly I can rise and find ways to throw off these feelings of claustrophobia and redefine freedom, too!
What freedoms have you lost recently? How have you mourned these losses? How are you creating space for yourself to reflect and find mental freedom? What are new ways you might experience freedom? What are new freedoms that have come in our current situation? How might you challenge yourself to find new opportunities for mental freedom?
 Frankl, V. (1959, 1962, 1984, 1992). Man’s Search for Meaning. New York: Buccaneer Books, Inc.
 Viktor E. Frankl Quotes. (n.d.). BrainyQuote.com. Retrieved August 19, 2020, from BrainyQuote.com Web site: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/viktor_e_frankl_160380
Quote(s) I am sitting with, pondering and finding inspiration:
“Sometimes you have to let go of the picture of what you thought life would be like and learn to find joy in the story you are actually living.”
~ Rachel Marie Martin
Podcast I’m Listening to:
Dan Harris is a fidgety, skeptical ABC News anchor who had a panic attack live on “Good Morning America,” which led him to try something he always thought was ridiculous: meditation. He went on to write the bestselling book, “10% Happier.” In this podcast, Dan explores happiness (whatever that means) from all angles. Guests include legendary meditation teachers — from the Dalai Lama to Western masters — as well as scientists, and even the odd celebrity. But the show also ventures beyond meditation, bringing on leading researchers in areas such as social anxiety, bias, creativity, productivity, and relationships. The animating insight of this show is that the mind is trainable. This is what science is showing us. Mental traits such as happiness, calm, generosity, compassion, and connection are not hardwired, unalterable factory settings; they are, in fact, skills that can be trained. On this show, you’ll learn how.
It’s easy to add insult to injury in this pandemic by beating ourselves up. Why are we not exercising more? Eating less? Or boosting our productivity? Kristin Neff, an associate professor at the University of Texas at Austin, says we need to give ourselves a break. To be clear, that does not mean relinquishing our high standards. Neff is one of – if not the – world’s leading experts on self-compassion. That’s a squishy-sounding term, but there is a lot of hard-nosed evidence behind it. Per Neff, not beating yourself up does not equate to being lazy. It’s about knowing the difference between healthy perfectionism and maladaptive perfectionism. It’s about going easy without going soft. The smart, sparing use of the inner cattle prod. This was exactly the conversation I needed to have right now.
Where to find Kristin Neff online: https://self-compassion.
Passage I am Re-Reading and Reflecting Upon:
Lab Girl by Hope JahrenAcclaimed scientist Hope Jahren has built three laboratories in which she’s studied trees, flowers, seeds, and soil. Her first book is a revelatory treatise on plant life—but it is also so much more.
Lab Girl is a book about work, love, and the mountains that can be moved when those two things come together. It is told through Jahren’s remarkable stories: about her childhood in rural Minnesota with an uncompromising mother and a father who encouraged hours of play in his classroom’s labs; about how she found a sanctuary in science, and learned to perform lab work done “with both the heart and the hands”; and about the inevitable disappointments, but also the triumphs and exhilarating discoveries, of scientific work.
Yet at the core of this book is the story of a relationship Jahren forged with a brilliant, wounded man named Bill, who becomes her lab partner and best friend. Their sometimes rogue adventures in science take them from the Midwest across the United States and back again, over the Atlantic to the ever-light skies of the North Pole and to tropical Hawaii, where she and her lab currently make their home.
Jahren’s probing look at plants, her astonishing tenacity of spirit, and her acute insights on nature enliven every page of this extraordinary book. Lab Girl opens your eyes to the beautiful, sophisticated mechanisms within every leaf, blade of grass, and flower petal. Here is an eloquent demonstration of what can happen when you find the stamina, passion, and sense of sacrifice needed to make a life out of what you truly love, as you discover along the way the person you were meant to be.
Several years ago, I read this book and loved how the author brought together what we can learn from nature and the lessons from nature we can reflect upon and apply to life. I loved how she intertwined the writing, moving between a chapter of telling her story to a chapter about nature and what nature can teach us in relation to her life story, and life in general. I kept thinking about a moment in the book that I could remember vaguely where she writes about seeds and how some seeds take a great deal of time to germinate. In this current time of waiting we all find ourselves in, I felt compelled to pull out the book, find this passage and reflect, and in turn, I was inspired to share:
A seed knows how to wait. Most seeds wait for at least a year before starting to grow; a cherry seed can wait for a hundred years with no problem. What exactly each seed is waiting for is known only to that seed. Some unique trigger-combination of temperature-moisture-light and many other things is required to convince a seed to jump off the deep end and take its chance – to take its one and only chance to grow.
A seed is alive while it waits. Every acorn on the ground is just as alive as the three-hundred-year-old oak tree that towers over it. Neither the seed nor the oak is growing; they are both just waiting. Their waiting differs, however, in that the seed is waiting to flourish while the tree is only waiting to die. When you go into the forest you probably tend to look up at the plants that have grown so much taller than you ever could. You probably don’t look down, where just beneath your single footprint sit hundreds of seeds, each one alive and waiting.
Each beginning is the end of a waiting. We are each given exactly one chance to be. Each of us is both impossible and inevitable. Every replete tree was first a seed that waited.
Please check out my latest blog posts on Lessons from the Run, Part 1: Mile 18 – Endurance, and Lessons from the Run, Part 2: Resilience, and stay tuned for the next addition Lessons of the Run, Part 3: Rest, as well as my upcoming blog post on My Vision: The Power of EQ to Create Change! If you missed my July edition of Three Thoughts for Thursday, you can find it here, on my blog as well. As always, thank you for your continued support and readership! Stay strong, stay brave, stay true to you!