Math was never a strength of mine: I consider it a victory if I manage to balance my checkbook each month. Nonetheless, a key guiding principle for my life—as a sensitive person and as a solo entrepreneur —comes directly from the world of mathematics. It is called elegance.
When I was a kid, I loved to read National Geographic. I still remember an article that appeared in the 1960s about the new science of plate tectonics. I felt a delightful shiver of terror at the idea that we are all floating around on giant rock plates that careen into each other like planetary bumper cars, plunging into the depths of ocean trenches and thrusting upwards to form massive mountain ranges like the Himalayas.
Among these geographic revelations, the concept of volcanic hotspots particularly fascinated me. I learned that the Hawaiian Islands were formed as the Pacific Oceanic plate passed northwesterly over a single volcanic hotspot. Lava from this hot spot spewed up through the ocean floor, creating island after island over hundreds of thousands of years.
In other words, the Hawaiian Islands are actually the peaks of towering underwater mountains. If you measure Mauna Kea volcano from the ocean floor, it dwarfs Mt Everest by nearly a mile. [Read more…]
I just returned from a 16-day trip to India.
That I went at all is a minor miracle: my partner Duke had been asking me for years to go with him, but until now I had always said “no.” I had not been able to get my highly sensitive (HSP) brain around the 30 hours of travel required to get there, the 10-hour time change, the dirt, the pollution, the heat, the noise, the poverty, the massive cultural differences, and the recovery from jet lag upon my return. (Yes, I know I was focusing on all the challenging aspects of India, not the extraordinary ones…but I’m being honest.)
On top of all this, I had been convinced it was both irresponsible and untenable to leave my clients and my business for that long. [Read more…]
I’ve written dozens of articles about self-care for highly sensitive people (HSPs), including the crucial basics of ample sleep, solitude, and self-compassion. But looking back, I see I’ve never written about lists. And that is crazy, because I’m a huge fan of lists. In fact, “make great lists” is near the top of my list of best stress-prevention practices!
Using the right lists at the right time, you can make complex, wonderful things happen, and most important, you can do all that without getting overwhelmed. In fact, lists are so universally effective that I recommend them without hesitation to any sensitive person wishing to keep their stress levels low while pulling off all sorts of fun and challenging life projects.
I worked incredibly hard over many years to win a principal oboe job. Ultimately, I failed at that goal. But along the way, the effort itself became a spiritual practice.
In this 9-minute companion video to the article, Chronically dissatisfied with yourself? You may be setting the wrong goals, I describe how this slew of rejections gave me a new understanding of the nature of goals. Some goals can doom you to frustration and misery. But when goals are set with skill and awareness, they can foster satisfaction and happiness. [Read more…]
I can’t deny I’m a perfectionist. But that word fails to evoke the painful lived experience: a nagging feeling that I should have known better, done better, done more.
Whatever you call that mindset, it has a key symptom: a chronic sense of dissatisfaction with yourself.
When I’m in that “should/shouldn’t” frame of mind, I compare my every action and decision to an ideal. And my reality never measures up. I even judge my own thoughts, and scarily, this feels normal and natural: “Well of course I’m not happy with this! I should have done better!” [Read more…]
When I first laid eyes on this dress—one of forty haute couture ensembles from the 1960’s to the 2000’s, featured in the Ebony Fashion Fair exhibit—I laughed out loud at the sheer audacity of the design.
Some of the looks were lavish, like the floor-length coat made of multicolored strips of mink. Others were slyly humorous: a slinky navy blue floor-length gown with silvery beads of “water” cascading down the back from a beaded shower head. And some were simply outrageous, like this beaded explosion.
Some of the designers were already famous. Others were unknown at the time. But they all had one thing in common: they clearly weren’t afraid to express themselves in public. Or if they were, they had overcome their fear with flying colors. [Read more…]
Do play an instrument or sing? Draw, paint, or sculpt? Write prose or poetry or drama? Make quilts, fashion furniture, take beautiful photographs? Cultivate a garden?
Most sensitive people are creative or artistic. You are keenly attuned to beauty and subtlety. You feel things intensely. And your style of thinking runs both deep and wide. How can you not be creative?
But creativity goes beyond noticing, feeling, and pondering. When you create, you interact with the thing you are creating. In fact, you go through these three steps: [Read more…]
I laughed out loud when I passed this sign near our house: I don’t speed behind the wheel, but put me in front of my computer and I push my limits mercilessly! If I’d been policing my personal work-zone speeds all these years, I’d have racked up enough fines to buy a Mercedes for every traffic cop in the city.
But it’s never too late to mend one’s rotten ways. And in my case that started with self honesty: specifically, noticing just how awful I feel when I push myself to operate at 80 miles an hour all day. [Read more…]
As we finish up 2015 with a sudden snowstorm, I’d like to share a short but essential YouTube talk by Elaine Aron titled The Highly Sensitive Person.
In this eight-minute video, Elaine talks about the trait of sensitivity and makes recommendations for HSP self care. Specifically, she goes into detail about the amount of rest and downtime HSPs need to thrive.
If you are like me, you may react at first with incredulity to some of her suggestions: eight to ten hours of sleep each night? A day completely off each week, just to putter and ponder and sleep? A full week of rest every three months? Who can afford that? [Read more…]
This Thanksgiving, I’m especially grateful I am to all of you—the folks who have subscribed to and read The Listening Post since I began writing it nine weeks ago.
Gratitude carries much deeper meaning when we can express clearly the needs of ours that are met. That’s why, as I enter my ninth week of publication, I’d like to take time to tell you exactly why I’m feeling so grateful for this opportunity to write for you.
Like many HSPs, I have a deep need to experience growth and meaning through the work I do, and to know I am contributing to others in a meaningful way. As you read, what I’ve written, I invite you to consider the ways your own needs for growth, meaning, and contribution are being met…and how you’d like to meet those needs as the year unfolds. [Read more…]