Ever since I began writing my book “Small: The Little We Need for Happiness,” I’ve been practicing thinking and seeing small. Once somebody who frequently felt overwhelmed and anxious, easily discouraged and even depressed, by thinking small, I have discovered a whole new world of joy, peace and connection.
In my book, I invite you, the reader, along on my journey, as I learn to shift my perspective away from disappointments that loom large in my psyche, a multitude of commitments, an endless “to-do” list, and scenes of blight and decay that drag me down, to learning to set my sights on one commitment I look forward to, a moment of beauty within the blight and decay, a pinprick of light within disappointment.
Once you learn how to think and see small, and have practiced for a while, whenever you’re feeling overwhelmed or depressed, you can remind yourself to make the shift, and your mood will improve. But it takes practice. In honor of my book’s publication, and to help you practice seeing small, I’m going to post twice-weekly suggestions for how to think or see small in different situations. Follow any of these that apply to you, and I wager you will soon join me as a proponent of small.
Weddings can overwhelm me. Being someone who finds crowds—even groups—of people intimidating, the before-and-after-the-wedding-ceremony milling about, greeting those you know and introducing yourself to those you don’t, can be a showstopper for me. And that’s before I’m blasted by all the beauty, wrapped in pomp […]
I’m reading a wonderful book: “In Pursuit of Silence, by George Prochnik. In the book, Prochnik, who is extremely sensitive to noise, seeks both silence itself and its effects on humans. This might be an excellent companion for small, I thought when I saw the […]
Last Sunday, as Stephen and I drove home from the Anderson Valley after our Thanksgiving celebration, the sky was a clean blue, the sun, a brilliant yellow. This, after two days of heavy rain, and before that, two weeks of smoke from the Camp Fire. […]
Life in these parts has been dismal for the last week or so. The air is heavy with smoke from the Camp Fire, four hours northwest of here; and the emotional atmosphere is charged with our collective despair for those intimately affected by the disaster. […]
Below is a lovely Guest Post, from Cookie Murphy-Petee, who lives in Eagle, Colorado. The Guest Post Slot welcomes submissions from readers. Watching an episode of “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” with Itzak Perlman playing the ballad “Someone to Watch Over Me,” I looked […]
Walking to vote this morning, I was ruminating about the tensions of this mid-term election cycle, feeling gloomy about the anger and hate blanketing this country. As I neared my polling location, I looked up and saw three homeless men standing on the corner. Oh yuck,I […]
My grandson Lucien, and his mother, Amelia, had dinner with Stephen and me last night. Adorable three-year-old Lucien filled the evening with delectable moments, as together the four of us laughed and played, acted silly and serious, danced and raced around the house. I […]
Near the beginning of my walk at the Berkeley Marina today a stand of fennel caught my eye, lovely with its combination of textures and hues: the sturdy, celery-colored stalks, the bright green of the feathery leaves, and the sunny yellow of the blooms. All […]
I think I’ve just proved the value of practicing small–in an inadvertent experiment, with one subject only. Over the past few months, I’ve reverted to my former instinctual negative thinking. I gave a talk in Sacramento last Thursday, and when I realized the next morning, […]
When I opened my eyes, my head was still spinning and my stomach felt sour. I had tossed and turned all night from roiling dreams. What kind of promise could a day born in this state offer? But I didn’t suffer for long. I knew […]
Lately I’ve discovered a new power of seeing small: it can make good things even better. Although I still practice seeing small whenever I catch myself worrying or feeling anxious, I need to invoke small much less than several years ago. This realization, plus several talks I’ve […]
I’ve discovered a new benefit of small. By the time I finished writing my book, I thought I had explored all the good I could accrue from thinking and seeing small. And ever since my book was published, I’ve continued practicing whenever I find myself […]
If you have been reading my posts but have never practiced seeing small, you are missing out on a simple and straightforward way of reducing your stress and bringing serenity and joy into your life. It’s one thing to think that what I’m saying about […]
Today, I was faced with a dilemma: the woman who schedules appointments for my acupuncturist had phoned to ask me to bring a copy of my book to the office for her. “I’ve read some of it and want my own copy,” she told me. […]
My friend Tom Friedland phoned this morning to tell me about a David Brooks editorial in the NY Times. “It’s about Mr. Rogers and his views on big and small. Thought you’d be interested.” As soon as I got home, I opened the paper, and […]
Today, small allowed me to have a peak teaching experience. Not that I don’t usually enjoy teaching and appreciate my students. I do. But I haven’t taught in some time and was worried about how an all-day workshop I had scheduled would work out. Did […]
I often wake up in the morning depressed from bad dreams. In one recurring nightmare, I leave my purse in a restaurant, on a park bench, or a bus, and when I realize what I’ve done, a sense of dread courses through my body like […]
Several months ago, I scheduled a reading at the Boonville Hotel. It’s a delightful weekend retreat, and I speculated that guests at the hotel might enjoy my kind of entertainment. Three weeks before the date, I notified the newspapers in the Anderson Valley and Fort […]
Last Wednesday, I took BART into San Francisco to attend a poetry reading at Green Arcade Books on Market Street. A long-ago student and friend, Hazel White, with whom I had lost contact for years, was reading from her new book, “Vigilance is No Orchard,” […]
My youngest granddaughter, Poppy, has always been intensely stage shy. She was “too scared” to dance in her ballet class’s performance when she was four, then declined piano lessons because she didn’t want “the piano teacher looking at me.” And at her class’s Christmas performance […]
Nothing makes me happier than when people tell me their own stories of small. Yesterday, after a book party, a woman approached. “Would you mind if I told you a small story?” she asked. Would I mind? I’d be thrilled! “My name is Mary,” she […]
I’m in good company when I see and think small. Among my fellow small enthusiasts: Stendhal: “A very small degree of hope is sufficient to cause the birth of love.” Aeschylus: “From a small seed, a mighty trunk may grow.” Lao Tzu: “The journey of […]
I’m just back from a week-long writers’ conference on Ambergris Caye, in Belize, where I taught for a week. The morning after I read from my new book, “Small: The Little We Need for Happiness,” two of the writers in my workshop presented me with […]
I picked up a book called “Rewiring the Brain” by Rick Hanson at my acupuncturist’s the other day. My own book “Small” is really about happiness, I thought. “This book might be relevant.” I’m glad I didn’t read this before I wrote “Small. I might […]
When I picked her up from school on Tuesday, my six-and-a-half-year-old granddaughter told me she didn’t feel good. After we arrived home, I touched her forehead. It was warm. “I think you have a fever,” I told her. I offered her a snack and a […]
This morning, the movers hauled away the last of my mother’s furniture remaining in her condo: Several antique end tables, a roll-top desk that had been my grandfather’s when he was a boy, and a highboy my father had always used to store his clothing. […]
It’s easy to grow irritated when bad weather persists. Days of being snowbound or pummeling rain can turn our moods sour. It’s been pouring here for the past few days, torrents of rain causing freeway accidents and delays, and making going anywhere, even just a […]
At a book event last Sunday, one of my neighbors called me over to her table. “I’m going to pay for two books, but I’m not going to take them. Instead, I’d like you to give them to two people who might not be able […]
A grade-school friend I hadn’t been in touch with for decades, learned about my book, ordered it and began reading it. As she read, she emailed me her responses and reactions. Along the way, she told me something about the life she has lived. In […]
We invited several friends for dinner last weekend. My usual mode when we’re having company is panic. There’s so much to do, I think. And what if it the food doesn’t turn out well? I move on from there, to worrying about my dirty living […]
Driving home from celebrating our Pasadena grandson’s first birthday, my husband told me he was feeling anxious. “Why?” I asked. “For so many reasons,” he replied, then rattled off a list of concerns, which included events and situations months in the future. “You’re worried about […]
Researches have proved that messes make people anxious. I couldn't agree more. Put me in a messy room, with dirty dishes littering table tops, discarded apple cores sitting next to chairs, outwear piled on those chairs, and papers scattered here and there, I begin to feel panicky. Now, I've learned how to a void the unease: I find one moment of beauty in the room: an interesting design in the rug, a beautiful ceramic pot, a painting, even a dustball just under the couch, and I focus on that. Within moments, I begin to feel calmer. Try it.
I’m ashamed to say that after my fabulous book launch last Thursday, I started thinking about all the people who didn’t show up. I did this for several days, and began compiling quite a list, before I caught myself. This is old behavior, I told myself. You know how to stop it. And I did. The next time my mind returned to the list, I shifted my focus from all those who hadn’t been there--for whatever reason—to the first face I could remember, sitting in the audience, smiling, sending me silent good wishes. It worked. I’m no longer thinking about who wasn’t there. And now when people ask how the launch went, I’m able to reply, “It was wonderful!”
I had a lot to do today and was feeling overwhelmed. I wanted to spend time with my granddaughters, who live 20 minutes from me, do my workout and my meditation, write a blog post, deposit the bags of clothing that had been sitting in the front hall for a week, at Goodwill—all before going out to dinner with a friend. The more I rushed, the more overwhelmed I felt. I’ll never get all of this done became my mantra. I finally realized what I needed to do: Think Small. I need to stop whatever I was doing, go outside for a short walk, and find a tiny, beautiful thing. I did that, and about half a block from my house, I picked up the most beautiful dried berry, mottled in various shades or red, with a graceful arcing stem. The minute I notice the berry, I felt my body relax and my chest expand. The world is such a beautiful place, I whispered to myself. Then I went back to my house and completed by chores, the image of the dried red berry with the arcing stem in my mind.