Walt is right

Malacca 2

Walt (someone I’ve known so long, I don’t even remember when we met – we have pictures from grammar school) recently send me a link to an article about research that shows intelligence is enhanced by travel.

This is so true, I could not only write a blog on this topic, I could write a 10-volume encyclopedia.

I have traveled ridiculously much.  One year I was gone for 10 months straight.  When I traveled I always had house sitters or friends staying at my house to take care of the cats and everything else.

One night when I was back from my travels for a short bit and was taking the trash down my hill to the street, I ran into my neighbor from across the street who was taking her trash out at the same time.  She saw me and she asked, “Oh! You’re new!  Are you staying in Ingrid‘s house?”  I burst out laughing and said, “I am Ingrid!”  She stared at me bug-eyed and said, “I never thought I’d actually meet you!”  I moved into my house 5 years earlier and she’d never seen me.  That’s when I realized how much I had been traveling.

I wanted to do all that travel.  I wanted to see the world, see everything, experience everything first-hand.  I found the best way to get to know a country and a culture was to work shoulder-to-shoulder with the people.  I received an education that I would have never glimpsed as a tourist.

We’ve delivered our programs in 30 countries now.  I haven’t traveled to all of them, but to many.

And Walt is right.  So right.  All that travel made me much more intelligent about people, about life.

I’m going to give you an example. It was a perfect full moon in Malacca, Malaysia.  I was eating dinner with my students outdoors, right on the water, the gentlest of warm breezes soothing the world.

My students were very beautiful, gentle people. Exquisite manners, kind.  Warm. They smiled a lot, big, genuine, sincere, smiles. Their kind of kindness is unusual in the corporate world.  It makes you melt.

They were the hourly workers of a very large multinational corporation headquartered in Silicon Valley, a headquarters they had never seen but only imagined.

While we were having dinner I found out they lived in little villages nearby and none of them had been more than 15 miles away from where we were sitting at that moment.  Although they were in their 30’s or close to it, none of them had traveled any further than that.

I couldn’t even think with that. By the time I was 30 I had traveled the USA extensively, even to South America and Europe.  I couldn’t imagine what life would’ve been like if I had lived it all within 15 miles.

So I asked them, what is it like? They said it was all about their families. They had BIG, beautiful families and there was always something happening, especially around their meals which were always celebrations. They all got together every day and talked and shared their lives. They celebrated every little thing that happened to each of them. Even the littlest things.  They venerated their elders and were grateful to see them every day.

I asked them if they had any urge to travel and they said No, they were perfectly happy where they were, they enjoyed their lives immeasurably, their lives were full of interest and love.

I realized I was talking to people who had more love in one day than most people have in a year. They were surrounded by people who cared about them, were interested in them, helped them, people they cared about people they were interested in, people they helped. They had completely full, rich, completely satisfying lives.

The incredible joy in their faces as they talked about their families floored me.

I would’ve thought that living life in a 15-mile radius would’ve been confining, but for them it was liberating.  It liberated all the joy, love and meaning anyone could possibly want.

They looked so much happier than all the people I’ve ever seen in an airport traveling to anywhere. They look so much happier than people look anywhere. It was sincere and deep, genuine, solid 24-karat gold happiness.

What I learned that evening! I truly was astonished.  I spent a lot of time thinking about it.  And then I realized. You can create circle of friends and family that makes you that happy, that is that rich with communication, laughter, caring, helping, love.

When I was in Lithuania, my home country, one of my father’s closest friends called me “rootless” because I was always traveling, always moving, always going somewhere. The word rootless doesn’t sound so bad in English, but in Lithuanian it sounds DREADFUL.

That lovely, moonlit evening in Malaysia, for the first time, I understood what he meant.  He also probably never traveled more than 50 miles from his home and had very deep roots into his family and the humanity around him.

It’s just that these people made the most of what they had and took it to a height that many of us never achieve. They had goals and dreams, but they were truly rich and happy living them where they were, with what they had.

I realized you can do this wherever you are, whether or not you travel.

If I hadn’t seen it firsthand, I don’t think I would’ve known it was possible.  I realized the depths of joy available right now if we just reach out and create it right now. That dinner conversation in Malacca, 8,500 miles from my home, changed my life forever.

I travel some now, not as much.  I love having roots now.  I know my neighbors and love them.  I have traditions and rituals with friends that we do over and over again in our neighborhood.  We experience new joy each time.  I love our rituals.  I’m very content with my 15-mile radius. It is a rich one.

Walt is right.  The intelligence we gain from traveling can’t come from anywhere else.

May both your travels and your 15-mile radius open your eyes to new intelligence that fills your life with new things to believe in, new love.

Love,

Ingrid

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Magic

running full moon during sunrise

The other morning, on my run, I found myself running above the clouds.  Magic.

First it was night, wide sky dark and starry.  Then dawn’s first light rays penetrate the night. Then gradual pink starts to take over the sky.  Then the magical moment right before pink turns golden.  That’s when the birds started to sing.  That’s when I snapped this photo above.

This magic magnified by the full moon in the sky, showing no sign of leaving, even as the sun rose up in the sky. You can see this magnificent moon in the photo, but the photo doesn’t do justice to the spectacular silver radiance it had this morning.  Somehow it was much larger, closer and way more powerful in real life.

The silver moon was saying, “This sunrise is so glorious, I must stay for all of it. I’m not missing any of this.”

What you see poking through the clouds are the tops of 75-foot pine trees, just to give you an idea of how high up I was.  Even more magic for a girl who lived in the flatlands of Philadelphia and New Jersey for much of her life.  Running above the clouds was not something I ever imagined I would do.

By 11 AM, that fog would’ve completely burned off.  If I was standing in that same spot, instead of at my desk, I would’ve had a clear view of pure blue sky, shimmering water of the San Francisco Bay, the sparkling city of San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge.

If I was still standing in that same spot at 7 PM, I would’ve seen the sky go from a butter-scotch golden to a rich rose color as a glorious sunset filled the sky.

That is one magical spot.

Wishing you a sky filled with magic to fill your soul.

Love,

Ingrid

Torture

Inspire Noah Webster 1828 Dictionary

This week while perusing dictionaries I made a discovery that explains much of school to me.

It’s the word examination.  Examinations universally cause dread.  Yet, they’re the motivation for most study.  If students never had to study for the exam, would they ever study?  Even when getting A’s, I hated exams, I never met anyone who likes them.

If you think back, how did you feel about them?

Well, I found the problem.  It has to do with the derivation of the word.

The word examination came from the old Latin word exigere which meant to force out.  It became the Old French word examiner in medieval times where it meant to torture.  The idea it conveyed was to force out the truth by torture.  Clearly the word was born when they were holding people prisoner and torturing them to find out the “truth”.

The problem is, school still operates with this definition.

In school it’s easy to feel like a prisoner, feel like you’re being tortured, and you’re too confused to know the truth.  The similarities between then and now are appalling.

I deliver a program called Learning How to Learn to adults, even senior execs, that’s very respectful and kind.  We give humane examinations called checkouts, but we give them very gently, we give them very frequently and students have a chance to study the material again and take the checkout as many times as they need so they all graduate with 100%.  After they get the hang of it, our clients approach these checkouts eagerly, with smiles and a great sense of pride when they pass with 100%.

However, I remember when I was delivering the program in Moscow, where they have an exceptionally harsh educational system. There were a number of students that, when I approached them for checkouts, trembled violently in fear.  Their eyes filled with tears when they didn’t pass a checkout, even though it was no big deal because they could just find what they didn’t understand and learn it on the spot.  The way we do checkouts is all very cheerful.  Not to them. They had been whipped so thoroughly and so long, there was no joy in learning, no joy in demonstrating what they had learned.  It took them days of working with me and my team to learn how to relax and enjoy a really good examination, one that genuinely wanted to help them achieve 100%.

In my travels I discovered that India may be even worse.  April and May begin what is known as the “suicide season” for students. After doing poorly on excruciatingly difficult exams, many of them commit suicide by hanging themselves from ceiling fans.  It’s actually lead to the manufacturing industry of anti-suicide ceiling fans.  I remember when I was in India the extreme anxiety of my students and how they studied unnecessarily late into the night trying to memorize everything, even with my gentle encouragement that all they needed was good understanding (and a good night’s sleep), not memorization.

As painful as it is to see an almost universal reaction to being examined, it was gratifying to teach Learning How to Learn and to bring back the joy of learning, to see students develop a completely relaxed attitude about examinations and to witness their tremendous pride on mastery.

What was started as an “examination” thousands of years ago with prisoners on the rack being physically tortured, continues emotionally into today.  The look on a child’s face when he or she says, “I need to study for an exam” still bears the marks of a prisoner being led to the torture chamber.

I believe it’s vital for students to demonstrate they’ve fully learned and can apply what they’re learning.  It’s essential for them and it’s indispensable for our culture.

But it’s time we did it without torture.

May all your examinations be kind, gentle, pleasant and gratifying demonstrations of your competence.

Love,

Ingrid

 

Steel-toed shoes

Steel toed shoes

My neighbor Richard is a retired dentist.  I meet him regularly while I’m running and he’s walking his beautiful Alaskan Husky.

He’s one of the happiest people I have ever met.  He told me today that he loves to go backpacking and long hikes.  But he needed to put metal plates on the toes of his shoes because he’s always banging his toes.  The reason is because he’s always looking up at the beautiful scenery around him and never looking where he’s going.

Richard is 74 tomorrow.  I have never seen him not smiling.  We always stop and chat and every conversation leaves me feeling uplifted and a little giddy.

I think this is such a great way to live life.  And such a great person to be around.

May your toes be protected as you become captivated by the beauty around you and your life.

Love,

Ingrid

As it turns out …

Olives

Colette, the French writer, wrote:  “Sure you’ll do foolish things.  But do them with enthusiasm.”  I’m a big fan of this principle.

One of the people I work with, Janet, couldn’t stop laughing when she saw the photo above in last week’s blog.

It turns out her family owns a 100-acre olive ranch in central California.  And guess what?  Whatever that is in the photo, it’s not an olive!

I was shocked to find out!

It totally has the texture of an olive and in my mind it tastes the way a sweet olive would taste, not as sweet as a berry, but as sweet as an olive would be before you added salt.

Turns out I have a vivid imagination (no surprise).  I’m laughing about the exuberance with which I embraced this utterly unknown black whatever-it-is, and the exhilaration with which I experienced it.  I still love how it tastes.

If you have any idea what it is that I’ve been eating, please let me know as Janet had no idea.

I’ve taken some of their seeds and planted them, so I’m going to have a tree of whatever it is growing in my garden soon.

Wishing you many mystery surprises too!

Love,

Ingrid

 

 

 

Simplicity in its purity

Olives

NOTE:  If you read this blog, you need to read the next one posted on Sept. 16, 2018.  Here’s the link for it:  https://wordpress.com/post/ingridgudenas.com/954

I made the most stunning discovery on my morning run.  An olive tree loaded with ripe black olives.  I have never before tasted an olive right off the tree, before anything was done to it to alter its flavor.

I am over the moon with wonder, how fresh, how sweet, how OLIVE it tastes. Unhampered and unhindered by any other flavor, just the pure sweet goodness of the natural olive, the RICHNESS of its flavor when it’s not besieged by salt.  Don’t ask me how many I ate.

BerriesI also encounter wild berry bushes along my run.  Many of the berries are still an unripe red, as you can see, but now every so often the bushes produce a big fat ripe sweet juicy black one.

I halt my run to seek them out and to momentarily gorge.

The explosion of pleasure the rich, sweet berry juice sets off as I bite into it is indescribable.  The freshness, the sweetness, how WILD it tastes.  A sweet explosion.  Straight from the garden of Eden.

I find myself deriving pleasure from the simplest of things.  A cup of tea with a good friend, meeting eyes with a baby, seeing my neighbor walk his dog, birds singing, my cats climbing on me while I do Pilates, riding my bike around Lake Merritt and through the fragrance of the Oakland Morcom rose garden on my way to work.Rose

The word simple means not combined with anything else, the essence of this word means uniquely itself.  The word came from the Latin simplicitatem when it meant not mixed with anything.

Simplicity to me is when I experience something uniquely as itself.  In its purity.  A friend, a berry, a purring cat, the wind in my face as I ride, the smell of jasmine.

Simplicity is purity.

May your life be filled with many simple pleasures that surprise you with exhilarating explosions of pure joy.

NOTE:  You’ll laugh when you read this one posted the following week.   https://wordpress.com/post/ingridgudenas.com/954

Love,

Ingrid

 

Surprise visitor

White pumpkin

My dear friend and co-worker, Crystal, surprised me one day.  I have a wine barrel planter on my patio that hadn’t had anything planted for a while.  I came home and discovered Crystal had come over on her way to the office and planted all kinds of wonderful things she knew I would like, like kale and purple collard.

When I told her how delighted I was, she told me she also included compost that would yield surprises because she had no idea what would grow from it.   Her chickens help create the compost with seeds they’ve eaten and Crystal never knows what will spring up.

After much anticipation, to my delight I now have a white pumpkin.  I’ve never seen one before and it seems rather magical to me.

Crystal and I have a friendship that is full of magic and magical surprises. This utterly surprising beautiful white pumpkin symbolizes that for me.

It rather seems like something straight out of a fairy tale.  Once upon a time, there was a magical white pumpkin …

May you experience the pleasure of a magical surprise in your life.

Love,

Ingrid