Small

Small

Cover of the book "Small: The Little We Need for Happiness" by Jane Anne StawEver 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.

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Small Posts

How Small Suddenly Became Large

I’ve just understood that at rare moments in a lifetime, something can be simultaneously small and large. And I have Stephen to thank for this discovery. We were on our way to SFO Monday, chatting with our lyft driver, when an awful realization burst in ...

A Small Change Can Yield Large Results

Last weekend, when we were in Pasadena visiting my stepson, Nathan, his wife, Corinne, and our grandson Miles, at dinner on Friday night, Nathan suggested putting our fork down after every bite. He’s becoming certified as a nutrition counselor, and this was one of the ...

How Quickly Small Grows

Walking to a lunch with friends today, I thought back to my experience at Limontaur, last week, traveling from the beach back to the parking lot. I remembered how, starting out, I was already impatient to arrive, how I caught myself and began paying attention ...

Another Small Encounter With Large Implications

Another Small Encounter With Large Implications

Near the end of the block I walk several times a week to the Monterey Market, a young man turned out of a front walk just ahead of me, holding a stack of doorknob announcements in his left hand. As I passed him, I could ...

A New Variety of Small

A New Variety of Small

This will be a wonderful experience of small, I thought last Saturday, when I learned about the initial exercise in the communications workshop I had joined: each of us eight participants was to spend a few minutes alone with a pinto named Reno in his ...

Small and Vastness

Small and Vastness

The sand dunes north of Fort Bragg in Mendocino County, one of Stephen’s and my favorite places, is a goldmine of small. Which is ironic, since one of the area’s attractions is its spaciousness, its vast expanses of sand, and the huge white drifts that ...

Another Lesson in Small

Another Lesson in Small

Once again, my granddaughter has taught me a lesson in small. I spent last weekend in the Anderson Valley with Jonah and his family. On Sunday, Poppy invited me on a “feather-hunting walk.” Her plan was to ride her bike while I walked, along a ...

Picking Blueberries And Seeing Small

Picking Blueberries And Seeing Small

Today, I brought my attention to picking blueberries. Eight years ago, I planted a row of berry bushes in my backyard, and all the rain this year has produced a bumper crop. Each time I walk from our house to my office, a former potting ...

A New Benefit Of Small

A New Benefit Of Small

Although I find it difficult to start conversations with people at parties, I’m known for striking up conversations with people in lines–at the supermarket, the green grocer, the drugstore, or discount center. The reasons for this difference are obvious to me. I have much less ...

Small and the Brain

Small and the Brain

To write about my latest experience with small, I have to make a confession: I spend too much time playing a game called “Wordscapes” on my phone. The game involves unscrambling six or seven letters to fill in a small crossword of about ten words, ...

Thinking Small Enhances Luck

Thinking Small Enhances Luck

Yesterday, I was feeling down. Nothing in particular, just a collection of annoyances. I had gotten up very early to attend a meeting in San Francisco, and the meeting started late. The delay wasn’t anybody’s fault; there had been serious accidents on the Bay Bridge. ...

Break Large Jobs Into Small Tasks

Break Large Jobs Into Small Tasks

A week before I left Berkeley for a month in France, I began to feel overwhelmed—and daunted—by what needed to be done before my departure. I woke up one morning telling myself to begin making a list of everything I must do in the next ...

Saved by Small

Saved by Small

Small has saved me once again! One morning I opened Facebook to a slew of postings from AWP (Associated Writing Programs), which is in session in Portland that week: friends and colleagues with their arms around writing celebrities, session presenters, cocktail parties, lobby scenes of ...

PLEASE HELP WITH SMALL REVOLUTION

I’m hoping you’ll help me get the small revolution going. Before I publish my next post, will you please: tell one friend about my blog, at janeannestaw.com. Thanks so much. And remember to think small! ...

Relaunching the Small Revolution

Relaunching the Small Revolution

I want to re-start a small revolution. I’ve been out of the country for a month, and now that I’m back home, I’m full of energy for a fresh start. Let’s relaunch this campaign with renewed vigor and determination. Let the small revolution begin! Those ...

Invitation to Join Me in Seeing Small

Invitation to Join Me in Seeing Small

I want to start a small revolution. Those of you who have been reading my posts most likely know what I mean. For those of you new to my blog, understand that because I have experienced the great benefits of small, I want to help ...

Children Have the Gift of Small

Children Have the Gift of Small

Sitting on the sidelines at my granddaughters’ schoolyard one afternoon, I saw how well children know how to celebrate small. After several days of rain, the sun had appeared and the atmosphere felt balmy. When I picked Amelie and Poppy up after school, they wanted ...

Small and Adventure

Small and Adventure

Walking home from the local green grocer the other day, my food bag full of fresh vegetables, I noticed a plum tree, its branches covered with tiny red buds just about to burst into bloom. Within a few days, the tree would be a riot ...

A Moment of Awakening

A Moment of Awakening

Like many of my friends, I became a news junkie after the last election. As soon as I got up in the morning, I turned to Alexa (a contraption I had sworn I’d never use) and asked her to play MSNBC. The minute I got ...

Rewiring Your Brain by Thinking Small

Rewiring Your Brain by Thinking Small

To avoid the crowds on New Year’s Eve day, I went out early-to pick up a few more items for the celebration Stephen and I were hosting that evening. Parties are something we don’t often hold, and this would be a first New Year’s celebration ...

Forget a Long List of Resolutions: Think Small Instead

Forget a Long List of Resolutions: Think Small Instead

The new year will be arriving in several days, so naturally, I’ve been thinking about resolutions—even though I’ve never been someone who takes the custom too seriously. It’s not that I don’t understand the tradition and its impulse. It’s tempting to tell yourself that after ...

Think Small Instead of Writing To-Do Lists

Think Small Instead of Writing To-Do Lists

I’ve been against “To-Do” lists for a long time.  In all the years I’ve known people who make them—and for all the years I once made them—I’ve never known this strategy to really help the  creator.  Instead, these lists create pressure and guilt in anyone who so much ...

Small and Overwhelm

Small and Overwhelm

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 ...

Small Acts Can Produce Large Effects

Small Acts Can Produce Large Effects

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 ...

Small as Respite

Small as Respite

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. ...

A Small  Comfort

A Small Comfort

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. ...

One Lamp

One Lamp

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 ...

One Small Moment

One Small Moment

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 ...

One Small Person

One Small Person

  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 ...

A Perfect Example of Small

A Perfect Example of Small

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 ...

The Effectiveness of Small

The Effectiveness of Small

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, ...

Small Saves Me Again

Small Saves Me Again

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 ...

Small Gets Even Better

Small Gets Even Better

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 ...

New Benefits of Small

New Benefits of Small

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 ...

Experience Small

Experience Small

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 ...

Small Helps Resolve a Dilemma

Small Helps Resolve a Dilemma

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. ...

Big and Small

Big and Small

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 ...

Small Makes My Day

Small Makes My Day

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 ...

Small As an Antidote to Bad  Dreams

Small As an Antidote to Bad Dreams

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 ...

Embracing Small

Embracing Small

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 ...

A Small Moment Turns Large

A Small Moment Turns Large

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,” ...

A Small Moment

A Small Moment

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 ...

How Seeing and Thinking Small Can Help Us These Days

If you want to find out how thinking and seeing small can help you survive these trying political times, listen to my KQED Perspectives piece.   ...

A “Small” Story

A “Small” Story

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 ...

Great Minds Embrace Small

Great Minds Embrace Small

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 ...

Multiples of Small

Multiples of Small

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 ...

Scientific Proof for the Value of Thinking Small

Scientific Proof for the Value of Thinking Small

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 ...

A Brief Interlude That Recaptures the Past

A Brief Interlude That Recaptures the Past

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 ...

Beautiful, Tiny Things

Beautiful, Tiny Things

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. ...

Tired of the Rain: Think Small

Tired of the Rain: Think Small

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 ...

An Act of Small

An Act of Small

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 ...

The Power of A Single Orange

The Power of A Single Orange

One range saves a life! ...

It Would Be Enough

It Would Be Enough

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 ...

Thinking Small Leaves Room to Have Fun

Thinking Small Leaves Room to Have Fun

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 ...

Thinking Small to Quell Anxiety

Thinking Small to Quell Anxiety

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 ...

Small Helps in Dealing with Messes

Small Helps in Dealing with Messes

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. ...

When to think Smaller

When to think Smaller

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!” ...

Thinking Small

Thinking Small

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. ...