Sticks, Stones, Elvis & Apples

When I was 23 or so, I worked at a Summer Drama day camp.

One of the lessons I taught the kids in my class that particular Summer was around the power of thoughts and the impact of words not only on others, but on our own self-concept and well-being. At the time, I believe there was a story from Elvis Stojko circulating about how he felt his own negative or positive self-talk had a significant effect on his performance as an athlete. I told the kids this story, then we would put the theory into action by pairing them up for an experiment to see whether Elvis (or whichever amazing athlete it was!) was onto something. 😉

Kid #1 would stand strong, planting their feet firmly into the floor, their only task being to not let themselves be moved from that spot, no matter what. When they felt they were holding steady, Kid #2 would try to push them out of position.

During the first pass of the ‘experiment,’ they were to hold a negative thought they typically had about themselves in their minds and repeat it to themselves as they attempted to stay standing. They always fought SO hard to stay grounded as Kid #2 pushed…

No matter how hard they tried, none of them managed to stand in place for long.

In the second pass, they would hold a positive thought (or the image of someone they loved who they felt believed in them) in their minds. If they imagined a loved one, I encouraged them to visualize this person cheering them on, saying positive things about them. Kid #1 would stand their ground again, holding that positive inner space, and without fail, it took herculean efforts from the second child to push them off their resolute footing.

The “Elvis Day” always left the kids deep in thought, and uncharacteristically speechless.

Whether they were in the early stages of setting their own limited, negative beliefs about themselves (or having them set for them), or entrenched in the tumultuous brain chatter of their teenage years, this particular lesson was always an “aha” moment. It suddenly became very clear to the campers that the quality, tone and intention of what we say to ourselves and to others matters more than we can even begin to understand — that negative thoughts/words are the “sticks & stones” of the emotional/mental body, and that the wounds sustained from them can be very deep, with scars and imprints that last just as long (some, even longer) than their physical counterparts.

I loved seeing a startling reminder of this concept today in the form of Danielle LaPorte‘s 25-day Good Apple/Bad Apple experiment. What happens to an apple after you praise it for 25 days? Even more shocking is what happens when you talk smack to it.
Have a look-see (and be amazed) on Danielle‘s blog here.
It might be just the proof we need to do a little Spring cleaning on our thoughts, words and intentions…

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What seems impossible…isn’t.

Isn’t it funny how when we’re in the midst of difficulty, we never know how we’ll reach the other side? We doubt that we’ll ever feel less pain/sadness/frustration/grief/anger/disappointment/… than we do in that moment, or in the days that follow that time as we process what we’ve been through, or what we’re grappling with. In the temporary narrowness of our vision, we fail to see how on earth we will ever get by, how anything could be any different than it is right now, how we could ever stop hurting, or at the very least, hurt less.

If we look really closely, really attentively at our lives, it is possible to see the inevitably of change — how the world changes, how we change, how life is changing us; how the strength of the emotions that weigh on us the most can, and will, somehow diminish. How they do, in fact, get to be less of a burden on our hearts…when we’re ready.

It doesn’t mean we forget, but it does mean that we can attempt to move forward.

There have been times where I’ve flat-out declared that I am completely uncertain as to how I’ll make it through the pain of something — a heartbreak, a loss, a significant change. It feels truthful because it is the truth of the moment, the daunting sight of a seemingly insurmountable obstacle. The ‘blow’ typically feels like the tip of the iceberg, the lowest ebb, or maybe it just takes some perspective to see it that way — the tiniest shaft of light in the darkness to guide us back into a brighter place.

They say time has its own way of healing. It’s true. But we need to, at the very least, give ourselves that, and to recognize that we may not be the same on the other side, but we will be a much richer soul for having navigated that tempest.

When we feel like we’re making baby steps in the world, let’s keep in mind those mammoth trials that cracked us open, but we somehow still managed to emerge from stronger, greater lessons we’ve learned for having been taught, and higher mountains we’ve climbed that have shown us a perspective on the world that we wouldn’t seen have otherwise.

We may have scars, bruises and bumps as a result, but they serve as a reminder to celebrate our victories, no matter how small. Even the littlest triumphs are a benchmark for hope that deeper peace and healing will find us in due time, and our rejoicing will be profoundly steeped in gratitude.

There is nothing like the jungle gym/obstacle course/playground of the human heart to show us that what seems absolutely impossible…isn’t.

What Seems Impossible ALLIG 2015