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April 27, 2009
TODAY'S TUNE [ON/OFF]
Changes in Attitudes"
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THIS WEEK'S ISSUE
From the Inside Out...
Words from the Wise...
Adventures of an Incurable
- Michael J. Fox
Yes You Can!...
"No" to Aging?
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From the Inside Out
THE BAGGY YELLOW SHIRT
baggy yellow shirt had long sleeves, four extra-large pockets trimmed in black
thread, and snaps up the front. It was faded from years of wear, but still in
I found it in 1963 when I was home from college on Christmas break, rummaging
through bags of clothes Mom intended to give away.
not taking that old thing, are you?" Mom said when she saw me packing the
yellow shirt. "I wore that when I was pregnant with your brother in 1954!"
just the thing to wear over my clothes during art class, Mom. Thanks!" I
slipped it into my suitcase before she could object.
yellow shirt became a part of my college wardrobe. I loved it. After graduation,
I wore the shirt the day I moved into my new apartment and on Saturday mornings
when I cleaned.
next year, I married. When I became pregnant, I wore the yellow shirt during big-belly
days. I missed Mom and the rest of my family, since we were in Colorado and they
were in Illinois. But that shirt helped. I smiled, remembering that Mother had
worn it when she was pregnant, 15 years earlier.
Christmas, mindful of the warm feelings the shirt had given me, I patched one
elbow, wrapped it in holiday paper and sent it to Mom. When Mom wrote to thank
me for her "real" gifts, she said the yellow shirt was lovely. She never
mentioned it again.
next year, my husband, daughter, and I stopped at Mom and Dad's to pick up some
furniture. Days later, when we uncrated the kitchen table, I noticed something
yellow taped to its bottom. The shirt!
so the pattern was set. On our next visit home, I secretly placed the shirt under
Mom and Dad's mattress. I don't know how long it took for her to find it, but
almost two years passed before I discovered it under the base of our living-room
floor lamp. The yellow shirt was just what I needed now while refinishing furniture.
The walnut stains added character.
1975, my husband and I divorced. With my three children, I prepared to move back
to Illinois. As I packed, a deep depression overtook me. I wondered if I could
make it on my own. I wondered if I would find a job.
in our new home, I knew I had to get the shirt back to Mother. The next time I
visited her, I tucked it in her bottom dresser drawer.
I found a good job at a radio station. A year later, I discovered the yellow shirt
hidden in a rag bag in my cleaning closet. Something new had been added. Embroidered
in bright green across the breast pocket were the works "I BELONG TO PAT."
to be outdone, I got out my own embroidery materials and added an apostrophe and
seven more letters. Now the shirt proudly proclaimed, "I BELONG TO PAT'S
I didn't stop there. I zigzagged all the frayed seams, then had a friend mail
the shirt in a fancy box to Mom from Arlington, VA. We enclosed an official-looking
letter from "The Institute for the Destitute," announcing that she was
the recipient of an award for good deeds. I would have given anything to see Mom's
face when she opened the box.
of course, she never mentioned it. Two years later, in 1978, I remarried. The
day of our wedding, Harold and I put our car in a friend's garage to avoid practical
jokers. After the wedding, while my husband drove us to our honeymoon suite, I
reached for a pillow in the car to rest my head. It felt lumpy. I unzipped the
case and found, wrapped in wedding paper, the yellow shirt.
shirt was Mother's final gift. She had known for three months that she had terminal
Lou Gehrig's disease. Mother died the following year at age 57.
was tempted to send the yellow shirt with her to her grave, but I'm glad I didn't
because it is a vivid reminder of the love-filled game she and I played for 16
years. Besides, my older daughter is in college now, majoring in art. And every
art student needs a baggy yellow shirt with big pockets.
Patricia Lorenz, 'Chicken Soup for the Soul'
~ Contributed by Diane in St.
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from the Wise
ADVENTURES OF AN INCURABLE OPTIMIST MICHAEL J. FOX...
Yes You Can!
JUST SAY "NO" TO AGING?
provocative new book from a Harvard psychologist suggests that changing how we
think about our age and health can have dramatic physical benefits. Imagine that
you could rewind the clock 20 years. It's 1989. Madonna is topping the pop charts,
and TV sets are tuned to "Cheers" and "Murphy Brown."
Widespread Internet use is just a pipe dream, and Sugar Ray Leonard and Joe Montana
are on recent covers of Sports Illustrated.
most important, you're 20 years younger. How do you feel? Well, if you're at all
like the subjects in a thought-provoking experiment by Harvard psychologist Ellen
Langer, you actually feel as if your body clock has been turned back two decades.
studied a group of elderly men some years ago, retrofitting an isolated old New
England hotel so that every visible sign said it was 20 years earlier. The men
in their late 70s and early 80s were told not to reminisce about
the past, but to actually act as if they had traveled back in time.
idea was to see if changing the men's mindset about their own age might lead to
actual changes in health and fitness.
findings were stunning: After just one week, the men in the experimental group
(compared with controls of the same age) had more joint flexibility, increased
dexterity and less arthritis in their hands. Their mental acuity had risen measurably,
and they had improved gait and posture. Outsiders who were shown the men's photographs
judged them to be significantly younger than the controls. In other words, the
aging process had in some measure been reversed.
know this sounds a bit woo-wooey, but stay with me. Langer and her Harvard colleagues
have been running similarly inventive experiments for decades, and the accumulated
weight of the evidence is convincing. Her theory, argued in her new book, "Counterclockwise,"
(see below) is that we are all victims of our own stereotypes about aging and
mindlessly accept negative cultural cues about disease and old age, and these
cues shape our self-concepts and our behavior.
we can shake loose from the negative clichés that dominate our thinking
about health, we can "mindfully" open ourselves to possibilities for
more productive lives even into old age.
another of Langer's mindfulness studies, this one using an ordinary optometrist's
eye chart. That's the chart with the huge E on top, and descending lines of smaller
and smaller letters that eventually become unreadable. Langer and her colleagues
wondered: what if we reversed it?
The regular chart creates the expectation that at some point you will be unable
to read. Would turning the chart upside down reverse that expectation, so that
people would expect the letters to become readable?
exactly what they found. The subjects still couldn't read the tiniest letters,
but when they were expecting the letters to get more legible, they were able to
read smaller letters than they could have normally.
expectation their mindset improved their actual vision. That means
that some people may be able to change prescriptions if they change the way they
think about seeing. But other health consequences might be more important than
another study, this one using clothing as a trigger for aging stereotypes. Most
people try to dress appropriately for their age, so clothing in effect becomes
a cue for ingrained attitudes about age. But what if this cue disappeared? Langer
decided to study people who routinely wear uniforms as part of their work life,
and compare them with people who dress in street clothes. She found that people
who wear uniforms missed fewer days owing to illness or injury, had fewer doctors'
visits and hospitalizations, and had fewer chronic diseases even though
they all had the same socioeconomic status.
because they were not constantly reminded of their own aging by their fashion
health differences were even more exaggerated when Langer looked at affluent people:
presumably the means to buy even more clothes provides a steady stream of new
aging cues, which wealthy people internalize as unhealthy attitudes and expectations.
is not advocating that we all don uniforms. Her point is that we are surrounded
every day by subtle signals that aging is an undesirable period of decline. These
signals make it difficult to age gracefully.
signals also lock all of us regardless of age into pigeonholes for
disease. We are too quick to accept diagnostic categories like cancer and depression,
and let them define us.
so preempts the possibility of a healthful future. That's not to say that we won't
encounter illness, bad moods or a stiff back or that dressing like a teenager
will eliminate those things.
But with a little mindfulness, we can try to embrace uncertainty and understand
that the way we feel today may or may not connect to the way we will feel tomorrow.
Who knows, if we're open to the idea that things can improve, we just might wake
up feeling 20 years younger.
Wray Herbert., Newsweek.com
Herbert writes the blog "We're Only Human"
by Jean at www.JeanSutherland.com
readable and riveting, Counterclockwise offers a transformative and bold new paradigm:
the psychology of possibility. A hopeful and groundbreaking book by an author
who has changed how people all over the world think and feel, Counterclockwise
is sure to join Mindfulness as a standard source on new-century science and healing.
Health and the Power of Possibility
we could turn back the clock psychologically, could we also turn it back physically?
For more than thirty years, award-winning social psychologist Ellen Langer has
studied this provocative question, and now, in Counterclockwise, she presents
the answer: Opening our minds to whats possible, instead of presuming impossibility,
can lead to better healthat any age. Drawing
on landmark work in the field and her own body of colorful and highly original
experimentsincluding the first detailed discussion of her counterclockwise
study, in which elderly men lived for a week as though it was 1959 and showed
dramatic improvements in their hearing, memory, dexterity, appetite, and general
well-being Langer shows that the magic of rejuvenation and ongoing good
health lies in being aware of the ways we mindlessly react to social and cultural
cues. Examining the hidden decisions and vocabulary that shape the medical world
(chronic versus acute, cure versus remission),
the powerful physical effects of placebos, and the intricate but often defeatist
ways we define our physical health, Langer challenges the idea that the limits
we assume and impose on ourselves are real. With only subtle shifts in our thinking,
in our language, and in our expectations, she tells us, we can begin to change
the ingrained behaviors that sap health, optimism, and vitality from our lives.
Improved vision, younger appearance, weight loss, and increased longevity are
just four of the results that Langer has demonstrated.
Ellen J. Langer
AYERS ROCK IS ONE OF THE OLDEST SANDSTONE FORMATIONS ON EARTH
also known as Ayers Rock, is a large sandstone rock formation in central Australia,
in the Northern Territory. It is located in Uluru-Kata Tjura National Park, 440
km southwest of Alice Springs. Uluru is sacred to the Pitjantjatjara and
Yankunytjatjara, the Aboriginal people of the area. It has many springs,
waterholes, rock caves and ancient paintings. Uluru is listed as a World Heritage
Site for its natural and man-made attributes. In October 1872 the explorer Ernest
Giles was the first non-indigenous person to sight the rock formation. He saw
it from a considerable distance, and was prevented by Lake Amadeus from approaching
closer. He described it as the remarkable pebble. On 19 July 1873,
the surveyor William Gosse visited the rock and named it Ayers Rock in
honor of the then Chief Secretary of South Australia, Sir Henry Ayers. The Aboriginal
name was first recorded by the Wills expedition in 1903. Since then, both names
have been used, although Ayers Rock was the most common name used by outsiders
until recently. In 1993, a dual naming policy was adopted that allowed official
names that consist of both the traditional Aboriginal name and the English name.
Uluru/Ayers Rock became the first officially dual named feature in
the Northern Territory.
ABORIGINE AT ULURU/AYERS ROCK
beginning of human settlement in the Uluru region has not been determined, but
archaeological findings to the east and west indicate a date more than 10,000
years ago. On 26 October 1985, the Australian government returned ownership of
Uluru to the local Pitjantjatjara Aborigines. Around Mount Uluru there
are many examples of ancestral sites. The Anangu explanations of these
sites and of the formation of Mount Uluru itself derive from the Tjukurpa.
Most of these explanations are in the realm of secret information and are not
disclosed to Piranypa, the non-Aborigines. In order to understand the religion
of the Aborigines, one must have a basic understanding of the organization of
the tribes. All men and women belong to small groups, called clans. Each clan
posses a distinct body of spiritual properties, or sacred sites and has a totem.
Totemism is a view of nature and life, of the universe and man, which colors and
influences the Aborigines' social groupings and mythologies, inspires their rituals
and links them to the past. It unites them with nature's activities and species
in a bond of mutual life-giving, and imparts confidence amidst the vicissitudes
Cave on the eastern face of Uluru: The wagtailwoman
was in this cave when she heard the sounds of ceremony,
sounds that made her
laugh. This laugh was later carved out of Uluru
in the shape of a mouth; Ikari
is the Anangu word for mouth.
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