Friday, November 11th, 2011

In The Beginning…

In every phenomenon the beginning remains always the most notable moment.Thomas Carlyle•

One thing I’ve learned, through both painful and positive experience, is that the successful flourishing of any project, product, event… or person, is seeded right at the beginning. Imagine setting off in a boat with the intention of sailing to a distant island, but having miscalculated your route by even just a tiny degree: everything will seem fine and dandy for awhile, maybe even for days. But as those tiny degrees of misdirection exponentially add up over many miles, you will at some point realize you are ending up far from where you wanted to be.

A mantra from chaos theory goes, “Sensitive dependence on initial conditions.”

This applies whenever something new is brought into being: cookies, crops, houses, stories, songs, sweaters, people. Read the rest of this entry »

Wednesday, March 15th, 2017

WIRED WEDNESDAYS: Digital Imitation of Life

Digital-Dependence-Parenting-for-Peace

HOW FACEBOOK IS LIKE A BOX OF DONUTS

When is an apple not really an apple? And what does this silly question have to do with exploring our collective digital dependence?

An apple is not really an apple when the 3-dimensional, more or less round-ish, faintly applish-scented, red or green piece of fruit is replaced by something standing in for it—an abstract symbol of some kind. The most common form of abstraction or symbol occurs in written and spoken language: the word “apple” is a symbolic representation of the real thing.

Wired-Wednesdays-Digital-Dependence-Parenting-for-Peace

Even an image is an abstraction of the real thing, though more subtly so (which is part of the issue at hand!)

Without getting into all the left- and right-hemisphere brain stuff, we know that in order for the word “apple” to have a true depth of meaning for someone—a richness in their symbolic thinking—they need to have had real, 3-dimensional experience with actual apples: holding them, biting them, sniffing them, perhaps even picking them in an autumn orchard—a richness in their concrete experience with which their abstract thought connects.

An aside: This is why I don’t promote academics for young children, when their brain circuitry isn’t yet optimally wired up to process abstractions and symbols. When introduced too early, symbols such as words and numbers are “learned” in a rote, mechanical way. Such learning has little depth of meaning for a child, and leads to a more superficial interaction with words, ideas, and concepts.

As child psychologist David Elkind points out, “The language of things must precede the language of words, or else the words don’t mean anything.” Not the best way to begin a child’s lifelong learning, and certainly not conducive to the flexibly innovative, layered thinking capacities needed to forge peace, innovation, and prosperous sustainability!

The Danger of Imitators

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last couple decades, you’re aware of the health dangers of trans fats—you know, from “partially hydrogenated” oils found in almost all conventional processed foods. But maybe you’re not aware of exactly why they are so bad for you?

Leaving the molecular details aside, the process that creates trans fats makes them something your body thinks is food… something that mimics food closely enough that you take it into your digestive process… but something that your body actually does not recognize or know what to do with.

But because your body is always in there trying to come through for you, it tries to deal with it anyway. For an excellent description of exactly how your body responds to trans fats, and why it can lead to health problems, check out the middle section of Dr. Bill Sears’ explanation. (I love that he uses the same cars-in-parking-spaces analogy for cell membrane receptors as I wrote about—a year earlier—in the “Cellular Genius” section of Ch. 1 in Parenting for Peace. Great minds and all that…)

Digital Dependence and the Facebook Donut Box

Turns out there is a long list of things that endanger our health by closely resembling substances, processes or energies that are native to our bodies but which in fact are not, and therefore wreak havoc with our wellbeing and our health.

And it is around this exact point that I had a big “ah-hah”—a new, key vantage point from which to view digital dependence and consider ways toward healthy mastery of our devices.

Just as BPAs (the bad stuff in plastic), PCBs and even ingredients in common personal care products can disrupt health by mimicking our natural hormones, Michael Mendizza posits that “screens are dead but mimic living systems.”

“Compared to a living face the same face on a screen is sensory deprivation, containing a distorted fraction of the information and meaning of the living system it mimics. The more we interact with the dead counterfeit the less attuned, sensitive and empathic we are when relating with a real face.”

Over the past decade a mountain of evidence has been gathered to show that social media use can be associated with depression; the most recent study was just released, showing that in the U.S., “attachment to devices and the constant use of technology is associated with higher stress levels” for those who reported “constantly or often” checking their email, texts, and social media.

Could it be that we are hungry for connection, but trying to gorge on what Mendizza calls a “dead counterfeit” of connection? Could it be that social media (I’m not naming names, which may or may not contain, ironically, the word “book”) are the little chocolate donuts of our collective social landscape? Where memes, emojis and “post engagement” are trans fats that seem to satisfy, yet instead cause suffering?

Are we seeking the nourishment of human connection but embracing its virtual abstraction instead?

Viewer Discretion Advised

A student of and collaborator with the late Joseph Chilton Pearce, Mendizza (in his ever-impassioned, heady way) rightly focuses on the neuro-developmental implications of allowing young children a steady diet of technology, of encouraging a child’s brain to wire itself around so much counterfeit abstraction. And because I think his clear prescription points to a fruitful discussion (on future Wednesdays) of how we might  wisely shepherd the next generations away from digital dependence and toward device mastery, I am giving him today’s last word:

The less screen time before the great neural pruning around age eleven the better. Fill their life with safe, challenging natural living experience, open, develop and expand their capacity to imagine by immersing them in story and rich descriptive language, and model empathy for all living things; with this as the dominant influence during the early years let them have all the technology they want as teens and watch them soar.

Whether you’re curious, captivated or concerned about our digital dependence and device devotion, join me on Wednesdays so we can explore it together. (Sign up here if you want to be sure not to miss anything!) ….. …..

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Wednesday, March 8th, 2017

WIRED WEDNESDAYS: Dataclysm in the Time of Alone Togetherness

AUTHORS ON OUR DIGITAL DEPENDENCE

 

I had so many ah-hah moments reading through Narain Jashanmal’s annotated list of “The Best Books on the Impact of Technology on Society” – not even any of the books (yet), but merely his descriptions of them – that I thought I’d pass it directly on to you.

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The fact that there are 19 books spotlighted here also humbles me that this territory is so unfathomably vast for a single mere mortal – you or me – to be able to easily navigate and understand.

But I’m wondering if this whole digital dependence issue is sort of like life itself: the thing isn’t to “solve” it or even feel particularly on top of it in its entirety. Maybe the thing is engagement itself: the willingness to be open, curious and present to whatever puzzlements and ah-hah’s about our new wired world that are revealing themselves to us at any given time. And then responding in a thoughtful way.

One of my ah-hahs? The concept that we are all now part of the Attention Economy, explored in one of the 19 books on Jashanmal’s list; hardly a surprise, as we all experience daily the “invasion of the tactics marketers use to harvest our attention, generate demand and, hopefully, help us discover products and services that we actually need.”

Here’s a flavor of this article:

As technology moves from the realm of the visible to the invisible; embedded, pervasive computing that adds intelligence to even the most mundane objects and experiences — there will be an inevitable, ongoing conversation about the consequences, unintended or otherwise.

The books on this list run the gamut, from unabashed enthusiasm for our coming robot overlords, to heartfelt expressions of anxiety about whether what we’re giving up is worth what we’re getting in return.

I like how he has organized this list, beginning with the most recent books and working backward. It really is worth the read.

Whether you’re curious, captivated or concerned about our digital dependence and device devotion, join me on Wednesdays so we can explore it together. (Sign up here if you want to be sure not to miss anything!) ….. …..

Stay In the Wired Wednesdays Loop: Receive a Link Each Week

Your information is always kept 100% confidential.

You’ll also receive cool resources for bringing more calm, confidence & peace to your parenting.

Wednesday, March 1st, 2017

WIRED WEDNESDAYS: Pained in Plain Sight

DIGITAL DEPENDENCE EFFECTS ON THE BODY

The question of how we are affected by our handheld technologies is really daunting – so daunting that it is tempting to just do the ostrich thing: put our heads in the sand and not think about the possible downsides of our digital dependence. (Or rather, put our heads down and amuse ourselves with the Candy Crush or Facebook in our hands.)

So I figure I’ll grab for the lowest-hanging fruit first: tangible, visible effects of our digital dependence upon our physical bodies.

A Pain in the Neck?

A few years ago, a private practice neurosurgeon sparked an online news flurry when he published an article about so-called “text neck” – spinal problems caused by the downward-looking posture of time spent on a smartphone. It was his illustration in particular that generated the most buzz, as writers compared 60 lbs. to 4 bowling balls, a half-dozen full grocery bags, or an 8-year-old child… piled atop your forward-tilting head.

If you’ve spent long periods of time looking down at or texting on your device, you probably don’t need convincing that it can result in some pain or stiffness in your neck, shoulders, and upper back. Doesn’t take a brain surgeon to point that out. Along with neck pain, digital devotees can over time develop FHP (forward head posture), a spinal abnormality that can also invite headaches, TMJ, soft tissue and vertebrae problems, and scapula/shoulder issues.

Much Ado About Not Much?

You know, as I consider this 21st-century problem of text neck, what keeps coming to mind are the many 20th-, 19th-, and 1st-century activities for which humans had to look down. Especially reading a book; have parents ever worried that their bookworm kids would develop “book neck”??

The well-respected news magazine The Atlantic (just days after they’d “bitten” on the neurosurgeon’s flashy story) addressed this exact question, about how “our necks are made to bend forward, and it’s not something that’s new to humans. Texting invokes the same posture as holding a book.”

I appreciate the rigor (and humor) with which The Atlantic dug a bit deeper into this question of the spinal costs of our digital dependence. They even consulted with a respected neurosurgeon “for his counterperspective on last week’s text-neck mania.” <   >

The upshot from this brain surgeon is that while good posture is generally good for health, texting isn’t an “imminent threat” to us, whereas, says Dr. Ian Dorward, “People are walking around now while texting, falling into water fountains and lakes and walking into traffic—that’s a real danger.” (And a blog post for another week.)

A Real Study

The Journal of Physical Therapy Science published a study in which they compared changes in posture and respiratory function between two groups of college students – one group who spent less than four hours per day on their smartphones, and one group who spent more than four hours per day on their smartphones.

The more exaggerated changes they found in the higher-use group isn’t surprising; it makes sense that any static activity** involving a head-down, rounded-shoulder position is going to result, over time and repetition, in negative postural changes.

[** Wow, now there’s an oxymoron, am I right — “static activity”?? More on that in a moment.]

I’ll admit that I hadn’t even considered that breathing might be affected by all this, but that actually also makes sense if you compare – right now, do this as you read – how deeply you can breathe in an upright-spine, eyes-forward posture, versus in the classic rounded-over texting posture. That kind of blew me away!

Digital Dependence: Of Greater Risk to Children

Our 21st-century world with all its technological prowess tends to careen ahead with whatever we are capable of inventing, while our understanding of (or curiosity about) the implications tends to lag quite a bit behind. (A great example of this is the tangles of ethical riddles that began revealing themselves years after the early advent of reproductive technologies that enabled IVF, 3rd-party conceptions with donor eggs or sperm, freezing of embryos, etc. I digress.)

So it may be years – even decades – before we have compiled a body of scientific data on the effects of our digital dependence, and particularly its effects on children. Therefore, I think parents would be wise to keep in mind an important biological principle: Children’s dynamic growth and development makes them more susceptible to all environmental effects.

Whereas your fully-developed neck (cervical spine) may get stiff or sore after really prolonged smartphone use, your young child’s spine and nervous system are far more malleable and thus vulnerable, given their in-progress status: they are still forming!

Which brings me to another biological principle that every wise parent might keep in mind when making choices for their child: Beginning in the womb and continuing throughout childhood, a child’s brain and nervous system develop in adaptive response to their environment. Nature arranged it that way to give young creatures the best possible chance of surviving well!

So if a child is living in a world that features a lot of digital devices, it makes sense from a strictly biological-evolutionary standpoint that his or her body should adapt itself to be most suited to thrive in the midst of that reality: for example, rounded shoulders and more dexterous thumbs (to the detriment of other hand musculature, say some experts). In fact, one nickname for children born from the mid-1990s onward is “the thumb generation”!

So What Do We Do??

Parents who are concerned about this subject – and I do think it is wise to be cautious while avoiding panic – can find a helpful clue in the oxymoron I mentioned above in red: digital activities are usually static when it comes to moving the body.

And, bodies are meant to move. They function best when they do so consistently and frequently.

And, it’s healthy to aim for balance, moderation and mastery when it comes to environmental influences on our kids (which include food, clothing, household atmosphere, school, music, TV, movies), and like it or not, in today’s world digital devices are one of the most prevalent environmental influences going.

As parents, we can model mastery of our devices rather than enslavement to them. (This will be an ongoing theme that I intend to develop and elaborate upon as this series unfolds.) So in the case of their painful effects on us, let’s show our kids that we respect our bodies enough to make it a top priority to keep them feeling good. Make it clear – through actions, not so much through words or lectures – that your body’s wellbeing (and theirs) is an even higher priority than your digital dependence.

Let your child see you moderating your use of technology — “Mama’s stepping away from the tablet…” — and mixing it up with healthy movement, including stretching exercises designed to counteract “text neck.” You’ll find some helpful stretches here.

Make some family fun of it – put on a “Ditch the Device” playlist and see who can look funniest doing neck stretches, shoulder shrugs and finger flexes!

Whether you’re curious, captivated or concerned about our digital dependence and device devotion, join me on Wednesdays so we can explore it together. (Sign up here if you want to be sure not to miss anything!) ….. …..

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You’ll also receive cool resources for bringing more calm, confidence & peace to your parenting.

Wednesday, February 15th, 2017

WIRED WEDNESDAYS: Exploring Our Digital Dependence

 

Digital-dependence LET’S BEGIN

If you harbor vague concerns about your (and your children’s) growing digital dependence, I’m right there with you.

If you fear that the issue of device devotion is so complicated you can’t get a firm grasp on it, I’m with you.

If it all seems just too… inevitable and insurmountable, yep, I’m there as well.

But like a squirrel on a mission, I’ve been stashing away lot of good stuff on digital dependence and now I think it’s time to just dive in — into the foggy, messy fray, without any real plan, outline or idea of how this blog series will look. So here goes.

The only plan-ish part is that I’m committing to post something every Wednesday on some aspect of this topic. I’ll look at different angles on the role(s) that our devices play in our lives, how they help, and how they may be hurting.

And probably much more important, how we can develop mastery over our technology so it can do what it was designed to do: to make our lives easier and richer!

The Rub

Here’s the conundrum, particularly for the Parenting for Peace objective of fostering vibrant social intelligence in ourselves and our coming generations: While technology has careened forward and changed our world dramatically, even in just the past twenty years, human beings haven’t much changed — in how we’re built or how we function — in thousands of years!

We’re essentially running hypermodern software programs on hardware that wasn’t built for it.

My intention with this weekly series is to take my head out of the proverbial sand around the digital dependence issue, and thoughtfully consider, sliver by sliver, what Social Intelligence author Daniel Goleman calls “inexorable technocreep.”

A Vast Territory to Be Covered

I have a file folder of clippings going all the way back to 2011, when I had just turned the Parenting for Peace manuscript in to my publisher and it was too late to add it. My folder bulges with flashes of insights into how our digital dependence is redefining our attention spans and our love lives, how it impacts our driving ability and our school performance, and ways in which it is changing the architecture of our brains – like  this chilling explanation of how fMRIs show we quite literally love our smartphones.

Change isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and make no mistake: I’m not one of those stuffy oldsters pining away for a nostalgic, over-romanticized past. But I am a fan of self-determination and empowerment. I believe in holding the reins on whatever brain changes you decide (YOU decide!) to consciously make.

Solutions for Our Digital Dependence

The most important thing I want to accomplish with this Wired Wednesdays exploration is to help you do just that: take up the reins of mastery on this powerful technology so it will work for you, not on you.

I have discovered some wonderful tools and resources for putting yourself into the driver’s seat on this issue of digital dependence – for you and your children. So instead of feeling like you’re in a runaway vehicle, careening way off the path of where you envisioned being, you can use that power to take you exactly where you want to be.

Whether you’re curious, captivated or concerned about our digital dependence and device devotion, join me on Wednesdays so we can explore it together. (Sign up here if you want to be sure not to miss anything!) ….. …..

Stay In the Wired Wednesdays Loop: Receive a Link Each Week

Your information is always kept 100% confidential.

You’ll also receive cool resources for bringing more calm, confidence & peace to your parenting.

Monday, January 2nd, 2017

Harness the Power of Beginnings at New Year’s

I’ll level with you: I’ve never been big on New Year’s resolutions. I somehow feel like it’s a set-up for failure at whatever it is I’m attempting to succeed at.

Then I came to learn about the power of beginnings, and it has informed how I approach New Year’s. For one thing, these simple tips will help you avoid NYRE (New Year’s Resolution Extinction) Syndrome!

Interested? Read on at mothering.com.

Saturday, December 10th, 2016

Parenting Is Enough

At a time when we in America are facing (what CNN’s Van Jones calls) “messy truths” about our U.S. democracy it is easy to become discouraged or fearful, no matter your political leanings.

One helpful suggestion when feeling stymied by big emotions is simply: Breathe… Dial in your focus from the overwhelming big picture to what is right in front of you, and… Take the next indicated action.

That may be something as “small” as being very present as you bathe your baby. Or kneeling down and looking your child in the eye as he breathlessly tells you about today’s show-and-tell. Or setting aside your device (even if you’re using it to read this newsletter!!) to dance in the snow (or sand or grass or soil) with your little one. Does this leave you feeling uneasily removed from the pressing issues and actions happening all around?

In my book I share the parable of three villagers strolling along the bank of their community’s river. Suddenly to their dismay they see a child, then another, then many children, being swept past them in the water’s swift current. One villager without hesitation dives in to try and save at least one or two; another dashes up the street to a shop in order to call for rescue help. (There is no cell service in this parable.) The third villager simply runs away, which shocks her companions. They are stunned by her insensitivity and apparent apathy to this tragedy. But she is neither insensitive nor apathetic: she runs her heart out up-river to see how she might prevent the children from falling into the river in the first place.

As a parent (or grandparent or aunt or teacher), you are engaged in an unspeakably important social action–raising a citizen equipped with the kind of robust social intelligence so critical for our evolving world. Parenting for peace in the ways described in my book and programs may lead you to sometimes feel uninvolved in “right now” approaches to social renewal, political or policy reform, environmental activism, and efforts toward spreading peace.

But I have dedicated myself to making the case for what an imperative, long-view healing approach it really is: like FDR said, “We can’t build the future for our youth, but we can build the youth for our future.”

I have a proposition for you: If you’re deeply concerned about today’s world and where it’s going…if you feel like something more is needed to heal our social and environmental issues… if you feel like you want to participate in a “solution revolution” but don’t quite know how… then as Gandhi so famously urged, be the change you want to see in the world, and raise children whose very beings are woven from that change.

Your child(ren) will flourish, and the collective consciousness will be leavened by your calm conviction and devoted action.

And as the holidays are upon us, here is one way to embody, express and model the change you want to see in the world… and in your child: create more ease by simplifying your celebration. The holiday ideas I suggest for new mothers here at mothering.com can enrich any stage of your mothering life — enjoy!

Thursday, September 8th, 2016

4 Ways to De-Stress Back to School

school

Whether your kids have been back in school for weeks (the days of rebelling about school starting before Labor Day seem a distant, quaint memory), or went back this week… let’s be honest — the summer-to-school transition can be stressful!

One of the most helpful definitions of stress is simply “wanting something to be different than it is.” So, let’s embrace what is, and explore ways to ease and elevate the transition of back-to-school time! {Read how at mothering.com}

 

 

Monday, August 1st, 2016

Seven Principles of Parenting for Peace

When I attended a screening of the ground-breaking documentary What the Bleep Do We Know?, there was a Q&A with the filmmakers afterward. I loved the fact that one of the producers, Betsy Chasse, had a babe in arms then. That babe is now 12, has a younger brother, and Betsy is turning her energies toward something so many of us share — a deep desire to find, and make, something meaningful through our motherhood.

In honor of Betsy’s new “Meaningful Mom” initiative, I contribute a rarely-offered nutshell of Parenting for Peace. Think of it as a sort of CliffsNotes to my not-so-slim book!! Read more here:

Parenting-for-Peace-Meaningful-Moms

 

 

Thursday, June 23rd, 2016

Staying Connected After Birth

Postpartum-Mama-Baby-Sleep

My life explorations as an adopted person and my studies of the foundations of human wellbeing have consistently turned up this fact: a key element of health is the experience of and capacity for connection.

Birth presents a unique, unrepeatable opportunity to foster connection. It is also important to understand the human costs when a mother and newborn cannot stay connected after birth — whether it is due to adoption, NICU confinement, health issues in the mother, or other circumstances requiring they be separated.

This is not about guilt or blame, but the empowerment that comes with understanding what happens with neonatal separation… and more importantly, what you can do to protect it and how you can help your baby heal when connection must be disrupted. {Read the rest of this post at mothering.com}

 

Image:
footloosiety,
Flickr | Creative Commons

Monday, January 25th, 2016

If It Seems Like I’m Gone…

…I want to reassure you that I’m not. It may seem like you’re hearing (reading??) crickets from me these days, so I’d like to offer a bit of explanation.

The past several months have put every molecule of me to the test — preparing and then putting on two webinars launching the new “5 Parenting for Peace Tools” program in October; traveling and teaching a huge 3-day intensive course in Brazil in November; losing use of my computer mid-December for a month; and ending the year in bed with the horrenza-flu, which soon after New Years morphed into — egads, it’s so cliché! — pneumonia.

All that, together with a milestone birthday approaching next month, has led me to choose to take some time to step back from everything** that has become my professional routine for the past four years since Parenting for Peace was published. For this big birthday, I’m giving myself the gift of time.

Time to reassess, to contemplate, to vision and reenvision: What really matters, and how can I be of most use? What is it I’m truly here on this planet to do? And how can I do it in such a way that (at least most of the time) makes my soul rise with joy & meaning?

Quantum Cool in Everyday Life

I’m a big fan of a principle I call “emergent novelty,” something very cool I discovered when studying how consciousness studies and quantum theory relate. I’ve witnessed how amazing original ideas, impulses and clarity can arise IF a person (or group of people) is daring enough to sit fully, deeply and trustfully in the foggy NOT-knowing space as long as is needed.

In this never-miss-a-blog-or-a-status-update-or-a-tweet-or-comment climate, that can feel a bit scary. But I’m venturing in, with the heart of an adventuress. I’m finding a space in the fog where I can sit and let the shape of my so-called “Act 3” begin to reveal itself to me.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not dropping off the edge of the earth and not even completely off the edge of social media. You’ll see a tweet or update from me on occasion.

StopThinking&Talking

I’m also going to use the time to work on a couple substantive pieces of writing that I’ve been putting off for (literally!) years — including an in-depth series on lesser-explored aspects of waterbirth.

[**And of course I will still be serving my Coaching & Care Circle members with live calls every other week and feedback on the private FB group. That always makes my soul rise!]

Lots of Dr. Marcy Juice Available

If you find yourself having a Dr. Marcy jones, no worries. I’ve written so many blog posts on so many topics, you won’t have to go without. When you’re at my website, use the homepage tag cloud or type a term into the search window (on any page but the homepage), and you’ll find tons.

Or, if you’re on my mailing list and have saved past P4P newsletters, you might rifle back through some older issues and find stuff that didn’t spark for you then, but does now.

Participate in My Emergent Novelty!

Would you like to contribute to my sitting-in-the-fog process? I invite you to be in touch and let me know if what you have been discovering from me through Parenting for Peace is of value to you… and if so, specifically which aspects you find most helpful… and what you might want to see more of.

I’d also be very open to hearing if you have not felt served by the P4P offerings (I promise to not take it personally… it’s one of the perks of my upcoming milestone birthday… you just don’t sweat that stuff so much!)… and what you would like to see instead!

Please know that I carry you in my heart as I take this pause, with the abiding question, How can I best serve you??

As I walk through my season of recovery, review and realignment, I also invite you, if it resonates and feels right, to join me in stepping back a bit from the din — whatever that means for you. Invite some quieter, wider-open space for emergent novelty to bloom in you!

Catch you on the flip side…