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Humility: A Quiet Key to Collaboration and Our Collective Health by Ari Weinzweig

Our family was lucky enough to meet the very humble yet famous Ari Weinzweig during a visit to Michigan while dining at Zingerman’s Roadhouse (Ari was the water boy, refilling our glasses summer of 2018). Usually, my husband Brad refuses to dine at a restaurant two nights in a row, but we enjoyed our visit so much we found ourselves dining at Zingerman’s for two consecutive nights!

Since then, we have gotten to know Ari and become inspired by his community values, compassionate leadership style, and business success. And as we continue to live in uncertain times, I find it refreshing to have resilient leaders like Ari to turn to during this pandemic for inspiration – leaders who show up in deep service and commitment to others, their staff, communities, and customers. Thank you Ari!

And so with Ari’s permission, thrilled to share ….

Humility: A Quiet Key to Collaboration and Our Collective Health by Ari Weinzweig

When I was asked to speak at a University of Michigan symposium on the subject of humility I honestly knew little or nothing about it.  Beyond a general understanding of what the word meant, and that it was probably a good thing to have, I wouldn’t have had much to say about why it would matter. In the intervening months of inquiry, I’ve learned a lot. I can see now, very clearly, how humility can help us in so many ways—at work, in society, at home—to make our lives more rewarding and our work more effective. I realize, too, how a lack of humility is behind so many of the problems with which we struggle.

Humility, I’ve learned, works quietly. But please, don’t confuse humility’s calm discretion with passive ineffectiveness. Humility, I now strongly believe, has power; the power to heal, the power to help. The power to restore health. While the news seems to get louder and ever more frenetic, humility is waiting for us to let it contribute to the conversation.  If humility was a guest professor, the assignment it might give us would be to turn off the news, take a couple of deep breaths, cock our ears, look inward, and pay close attention to what comes up in the quiet. What at first, to the casual observer, could sound like nothing at all, just might turn out to be a wonderful whispering source of strength and wisdom. In the inflammatory state of current national discourse, humility is a soft but still effective voice leading us away from ego, and in the direction of much needed doses of dignity, compassion, kindness, inclusion, reflection, and respect. (To paraphrase folk singer and spoken word performer, Utah Phillips, we might want to consider adding “rant control” to our list of programs going forward.) As Wendell Berry writes: “It is only on the condition of humility and reverence before the world that our species will be able to remain in it.”

Does the subtle, gentle presence of humility have much value when the country is in crisis? On its own, we know, humility won’t cure Coronavirus. But having learned what I’ve learned over the last few years, I’ll answer with an adamant yes. Why? Because rather than shutting out what others (with whom we may not agree) have to say, humility leads us to be more open to the input and help of those who know more than we do. It makes it easier to meaningfully say, “I don’t know.” It increases the likelihood that we will own our responsibility for our errors. It improves the odds we will take the advice of experts seriously, even while still making our own decisions. Humility makes it more difficult to be curt and dismissive. More difficult to be curtly dismissed. And harder to say, “I don’t care.”

Will humility have an impact on our other recovery? The rebuilding of social trust and mutual respect? I will answer, adamantly, in the affirmative. Humility, I believe, is incompatible with racism, hierarchy, and hatred. Twentieth-century theologian Reinhold Niebuhr wrote, “To the end of history, social orders will probably destroy themselves in an effort to prove they are indestructible.” Humility, by definition, could help us steer clear of that tragic fate. If we have humility we accept that we are all imperfect, all fallible, all interdependent. This past spring, I began to think of 2020 as a “marathon through a minefield.”  Humility, I’ve come to realize, is one of the keys to successfully getting through. When you don’t need to be “the best,” “the biggest,” or “first to the finish line,” the odds of successfully getting to the other side of the minefield—without losing our minds, our lives, or our livelihoods—increase significantly.

I would suggest that when we approach the world from a place of humility, it makes it much more likely that we will:

  • own our own part in creating the problem with which we’re confronted
  • acknowledge our shortfalls and ask for help
  • understand that none of us have all the answers
  • treat everyone with whom we interact with dignity
  • be much more open to outside perspectives and creative insights

What became clear to me as I pursued my studies on the subject, is that to stay meaningfully humble is a multi-layered, complex piece of work that continues on for our whole life. As we do that work, we all impact, and are impacted by, each other. None of us can do it alone. Maybe we could consider authoring a Declaration of Interdependence that references Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Humbleness? We are all, whether we like it or not, ultimately in this together.

Adapted from the newly-released pamphlet, Humility; A Humble, Anarchistic Inquiry.” Published with permission; Zingerman’s Press, 2020.


This essay was featured in the October 11, 2020 edition of The Sunday Paper. The Sunday Paper publishes News and Views that Rise Above the Noise and Inspires Hearts and Minds. To get The Sunday Paper delivered to your inbox each Sunday morning for free, click here to subscribe.

Ari Weinzweig is CEO and co-founding partner of Zingerman’s Community of Businesses, which includes Zingerman’s Delicatessen, Bakehouse, Creamery, Catering, Mail Order, ZingTrain, Coffee Company, Roadhouse, Candy Manufactory, Events at Cornman Farms, Miss Kim and Zingerman’s Food Tours. Ari was recognized as one of the “Who’s Who of Food & Beverage in America” by the 2006 James Beard Foundation and has awarded a Bon Appetit Lifetime Achievement Award among many recognitions. Ari is the author of a number of articles and books, including Zingerman’s Guide to Better Bacon (Zingerman’s Press), Zingerman’s Guide to Giving Great ServiceZingerman’s Guide to Good Eating (Houghton Mifflin), Zingerman’s Guide to Good Leading, Part 1: A Lapsed Anarchist’s Approach to Building a Great Business, and Zingerman’s Guide to Good Leading, Part 2: A Lapsed Anarchist’s Approach to Being a Better Leader, and many others. 

 

Say Yes to Anger!

I remember when my son Ari was a toddler. After his bedtime, he would leave his room, walk downstairs, and stand in the corner of the family room with his eyes closed. My husband and I quickly realized that Ari thought, “If I close my eyes 🙈, I bet my parents won’t see me.”

Anger, and other strong emotions like fear, doubt, and worry can be like that. Sometimes we think that if we close our eyes to anger and pretend it isn’t there, it will magically disappear. But that is simply not true. Until we acknowledge anger – see it, feel it, and manage it – it remains in the background, causing us to act out in unhealthy ways.

I see the same thing in my clients, friends, family, and self. Because there is a lot of confusion around anger, it is one of the emotions we struggle with the most. As a result, we often avoid dealing with our anger, and if we do, we may act it out in aggressive ways toward ourselves and others.

Ten Steps to Managing Anger

1. Say YES to Anger. Say yes to anger because it is trying to tell you something: danger is imminent, or someone has crossed a line. Accept it and allow the strong emotion to be present. You might even try saying “I feel angry” or “anger is here.”

2. Feel Anger in the Body. Allow yourself to feel how anger presents itself in the body. Physical symptoms can include increased heartbeat, rapid breathing, racing thoughts, a change in body temperature (sweaty palms and feeling hot in the neck and face), a feeling of agitation, and headaches.

3. Hit the Pause Button and Take a Break. Before you take action, wait. Try saying the phrase “The blood has left my brain, now is not a good time to make a decision.” Any strong emotion creates a physiological response in the body (a trigger) so you need to allow time for the emotion to settle and for the thinking brain to come back online. If possible, take a coffee break, and wait before responding. Click here for more information.

4. Connect to Your Body. Ground into your body by bringing attention to a neutral body sensation like your feet touching the floor or your hands resting in your lap. Or try a body scan. Click here to learn more about the body scan (and how it can also help you sleep better).

5. Breathe. Activate your rest and digest system by matching your breath to the count of ten, or by using the straw breathing technique. Click here to learn more.

6. Move. Give the emotion a way to move through and out of the body by trying an exercise like walking, running, yoga, or dancing.

7. Get Clear. Ask yourself, “What’s eating me? How might one of my values be violated? “

8. Be Wise. Ask yourself, “Is this something I need to work out with myself by taking some space and time to reflect or is this something I need to work through with someone else because they’ve crossed a line.”

9. Say Thank You. It may sound counterintuitive but have gratitude and recognize that any strong emotion is simply the body’s way of trying to protect you. Try saying something like, “Thank you anger. Thank you for trying to protect me.”

10. Take Appropriate Action. When you are no longer triggered, you are ready to take the right action, which often includes setting a boundary. Click here for more information on setting boundaries.

Additional Tools

  • Click here to read a recent Ten Percent Happier newsletter Making Anger Your Teacher by Zen priest, poet, and spiritual director of Everyday Zen Foundation Norman Fisher.
  • For NYT’s subscribers, click here to read How to Have a Disagreement Like an Adult by Deepak Chopra.
  • Click here to listen to the meditation RAIN: Mindfulness of Emotions by Jeff Warren (a meditation community favorite!)
  • Click here to learn why emotions matter in school and to learn about RULER, an evidence-based approach to social and emotional learning developed at the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence.

In closing, keep in mind the mantra: This too shall pass. Keep reminding yourself that anger is a state of mind. If you take the time to accept it, feel it, see it, and allow the mind and body to settle – you will not only be able to take appropriate action steps but also build the skill of resilience.

And if you would like to join my free weekly community mindfulness meditation practice 🙏 via Zoom on Mondays at 7p EST, please email to learn more and sign up!

And as always, please email and let me know how you are doing and what tips you have for managing anger.

Stay healthy and well 😎

The Zone of Resilience Toolkit!

Many of us are experiencing a general feeling of unease as we transition into the fall season and continue managing our lives during such stressful times – the COVID pandemic, political divisiveness, economic uncertainty, back to school challenges, and racial injustice. Everyone seems to be a bit on edge and these tough times call for cultivating the skill of resilience.

What is resilience? Resilience is the ability to be with and manage difficult situations while remaining grounded and calm versus being in reactive mode. According to Rick Hanson, PhD, author of Resilient: How to Grow an Unshakable Core of Calm, Strength, and Happiness, resilience helps us recover from loss and trauma, as well as foster well–being and an underlying sense of happiness, love, and peace. Resiliency is the ability to bounce back from adversity. The good news is that everyone has the capacity to cultivate resiliency.

I’d like to share a tool and some tips that my clients have found useful to help them be more resilient, that is show up calm, grounded, and able to stay connected to others. The tool is called the Zone of Resilience (or Window of Tolerance). Click here to see the model. Tips are outlined below, so keep reading!

What is the Zone of Resilience (ZOR)? Why do I want to be in it? What does it look like to be outside of it? When we are inside the ZOR (click here for model, also called WOT) we are calm, cool, collected, and easily able to connect with ourselves and others. When we are outside of our ZOR, we experience two trigger states: hyper-arousal or hypo-arousal. Hyper-arousal is a fight/flight response and symptoms include anxiety, being overwhelmed, rigidness, chaos, anger, aggression, rigidness, OCD, and addiction. Hypo-arousal is a freeze response and symptoms include dissociation, memory loss, flat emotions, numbness, unavailability, and not being present.

I am outside my ZOR how do I do to come back to center and a more balanced state? When we are outside of the window, it is not cognitive, it is physiological. Which means we cannot think our way back, we often have to do something to up regulate or down regulate our nervous system in order to return to our ZOR, an emotionally regulated, calm, cool, collected, and connected state. We all have periods where we are outside of the ZOR (it is part of the human condition) but we need to be aware when we are triggered and take steps to self–regulate in order to return to our ZOR.

Tips for staying in or getting back to the Zone of Resilience (ZOR)

  • Take the One Minute Pause. Click here to learn more.
  • Breathe. Deep, slow breathing exercises. Practice taking ten, slow deep breaths, try straw breath. Click here for straw breathing with Fleet Maull.
  • Not Getting Over Alarmed, Cultivate Positive Emotions, Focus on What You Have Influence Over. Click here to learn more.
  • Acceptance for What Is. The more we resist the way things are, the more suffering we will incur. Click here to read this recent NY Times article Stop Expecting Life to Go Back to Normal Next Year.
  • Journal. Click here to learn Why 20 minutes of Journaling Makes All the Difference by Ari Weinzweig of Zingerman’s.
  • Meditate. Practices like the body scan help manage stress and can help with sleep. Click here to learn more.
  • Express Gratitude. Click here to watch and listen to one of my favorite gratitude meditations (6 minutes)
  • Take Sleep Seriously. Click here for learn more.
  • Find Your Peeps! Spend time with individuals who nurture you and make you feel good. Be careful about spending time with toxic individuals and have a process for dealing with difficult individuals. Click here for more information about how to deal with difficult and toxic individuals.
  • Other activities clients engage in to cultivate resiliency include exercising, being in nature, painting, cooking, baking, star gazing, taking breaks from technology and the news, and tending to flowers and plants.

If you would like to join my free weekly community mindfulness meditation practice via Zoom on Mondays at 7p EST, please email to learn more and sign up!

How to Have a Critical Conversation

Give me six hours to chop down a cherry tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.  
—Abraham Lincoln

Many clients use the following worksheet and framework (thinking through and writing down their thoughts) before an important meeting—which results in a more intentional conversation, better relationship management, and ultimately greater influence and impact to the business. Clients have also shared that this process helps manage some of the discomfort or anxiety associated with having a difficult or critical conversation.

What is a Critical Conversation©? (meets one or more of the below criteria) ©   

  1. Difficult: something hard to talk about is being discussed. The situation may be awkward and there may be potential for fear and anxiety around the conversation.
  2. Potential for Amygdala Hijack Situation: There are strong feelings and emotions about what’s being discussed and at least one of the parties could become triggered (flight, fight or freeze mode)
  3. Vulnerable: One or more of the parties might be worried about being exposed and not feel safe
  4. Different Point of Views and Different Stories: there are different perspectives about what has happened and what might need to happen
  5. High Stakes: The conversation that needs to happen will impact an important and uncertain outcome

Preparing for a Critical Conversation©? (answer the questions that are relevant to you)

  1. How do I want to “show up”? What are the three to five things I would like to hear my colleagues say about me after the meeting? (e.g., I listened, remained calm, was thoughtful in my responses, with a spirit of generosity, and brought a sense of humor to the meeting.)
  2. What do I want? What’s the preferred outcome of the conversation? What is my goal for this meeting? (in terms of a goal, focus on what is within your control, keeping in mind you can only control your own behavior and not the other person.)
  3. What does the other person want? What does a successful meeting look like from my colleague’s point of view?
  4. What is best for the relationship? What might I say or do in order to further enhance the relationship and lead to more trust?
  5. What is best for the business? What might I be willing to agree to—or let go of—in the short term in order to achieve greater long-term influence and impact to the business?
  6. How do I show up honest and respectful? How might my need to be liked (manage people pleasing tendencies) or be right be getting in the way of saying what needs to be said? Keep the focus on “getting it right” versus “being right”.
  7. How do I minimize drama? What do I need to refrain from saying that might trigger and make the other person feel defensive? What might the other person say that could make me feel defensive?
  8. How do I maintain leadership presence, self-manage and remain calm? What could the other person say that might make me feel defensive? How will I prepare myself for the meeting (deep breaths, take a short walk, write down my goals, etc.) and what will I do so I don’t go into reactive mode? If I do get triggered, how will I get centered again? (e.g., suggest coffee or bathroom break, take three deep breaths, feel my feet on the ground, etc.).
  9. Listen and be empathetic: How will I demonstrate that I’m listening to the other person? What’s my body language and tone communicating? What are some of the signs that my colleague is becoming triggered (tone of voice, facial expressions, etc.) and needs a break to get centered and grounded?

© Quartner and Associates, LLC 2020

 

 

The Process for Leaders Becoming Anti-Racist: Getting It Right Versus Being Right

I just listened to a fascinating podcast by Brené Brown on Shame and Accountability where she talks about Why being held accountable and feeling shame IS NOT the same thing as being shamed. Brown shares her own experience of making mistakes in the area of what it means to be an anti-racist and the steps needed to work through processing the difficult emotion of shame in order to be accountable for change. Click here to hear the complete podcast and learn more about shame, accountability, and how to effectively be an anti-racist!.

Key Themes mentioned in Brené Brown’s Shame and Accountability podcast …

What is shame?

  • Shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love, belonging, and connection.
  • We all have shame. Shame is not just reserved for those who have experienced trauma and abuse, it is universal and one of the most primitive human emotions we experience.

The Difference between Accountability and Shaming

  • Accountability is taking right action, which can include calling someone out for not doing their job.
  • Shaming involves name calling, putting down, and humiliating another person.

Shame is NOT an Effective Social Justice Tool!

  • Shame is a tool of oppression and white supremacy; it breeds violence.
  • Shame is dehumanizing. It corrodes the belief that we can be better and do better.
  • Shame is much more likely to be the cause of dangerous and destructive behaviors than the cure.
  • Shame kills empathy; empathy is the foundation of love and justice.

What Happens to Our Bodies and Minds When We Experience Shame?

  • When we experience shame, we become hijacked by the limbic system (the fight, flight, freeze response).
  • If we want to be held accountable to take proper action (let’s say in the case of overcoming being accused of being a racist and demonstrate anti-racist actions and behaviors), we first need to get the prefrontal cortex (thinking brain) back online.

What Should We Do When We Feel Shame (in relation to being accused of being a racist)?

  • Goal of shame resilience: move through shame while retaining authenticity, coming out of shame with more courage, more compassion, and feeling more deeply connected.
  • Key Step: take responsibility for regulating our own emotional experience of shame.
  • Recognize that shame is a painful emotion and be able to identify the physiological symptoms of shame that are similar to symptoms we feel when experiencing trauma (Brown mentions that when she experiences shame, time slows down, she becomes tunneled vision, experiences dry mouth, and a tingling sensation in her arms).
  • Take a deep breath. Wait it out until the thinking brain is back online. Take responsibility for regulating our own emotional experience by NOT talking, texting, or typing when we are in fight, flight, or freeze mode.

The Real and Hard Work of Being Anti-Racist

  • Recognize it takes hard work to be accountable for the pain or hurt you caused another person and don’t expect the person you hurt to make you feel better or to educate you.
  • Work on NOT getting defensive and keep in mind “Getting It Right” versus “Being Right”.
  • Once we’ve moved through shame and have emotionally regulated ourselves (and back online in the thinking brain), the next step is change and action. Ask … What am I going to do differently? How am I going to show up differently? What different choices am I going to make moving forward?

Click here to hear the complete podcast and learn more about shame, accountability, and how to effectively be an anti-racist!

 

Standing Up to Racism

I hope this finds you as well as can be expected during such challenging times – the COVID pandemic, political divisiveness, economic despair, and most especially as of late, police brutality and racial injustice.

Last week I attended a community meeting on racial justice led by Rev. Dr. Michael Christie, where he asked us each to visualize our son lying face down on the floor in our own home, with one police officer leaning on his back and two others holding down his legs, all the while cruelly asking our son to get up.

So, I did what Rev. Dr. Michael Christie asked of us: I visualized my 18–year–old, 6’5″ lanky, sweet–natured son, Ari, forced to lie face down by the police on our kitchen floor. As he leads us through the meditation, Dr. Christie asked us to pay attention to how we feel. I can feel my chest becoming tight, my breath becoming shallow, and my heart breaking wide open.

Dr. Christie reminds us that living in this kind of fear is the daily reality for people like him living in black communities. I cannot imagine what it must be to live in constant fear. What if the police come into my home? What if we get stopped while driving by the police? Can we go bird watching and not be accused of threatening others? Can we go for a jog and safely return home?

I understand that as a person of white privilege, these painful feelings are not my daily reality and can easily be forgotten or pushed away. And yet, I know it is my responsibility to stand up to racism and do something. What can I do? How can I make a difference?

Over the last several days, I have been thinking about what I can do in order to make a difference. I will hold these feelings – what it would feel like to imagine police offices entering my home, holding down my son face down while at the same time asking him to get up – in my heart and in my body, even after this particular incident falls out of the limelight, so that I can continue to stand up for what matters, to stand against hate, and to stand for respect. This is the least I can do, considering it is something that my black friends have had to do for their whole lives, and will have to continue to do until real change happens.

I am making the following commitments:

  • Stand up to racism, anti-Semitism, sexism, discrimination against our LGBTQ+ and immigrant communities, religious intolerance, and bigotry of any kind, as well as to embody a willingness to embrace and tolerate the discomfort that comes with understanding the social reality that exists for all people.
  • Use my daily meditation practice to show up with a steady, empathetic, and peaceful heart and respond to truth with clarity, compassion, and wise action.
  • Continue to lead community meditation sessions that are welcoming to everyone and focus on healing, well-being and standing up to social injustice.
    1. Nancy Foster and I will be hosting a zoom Mindful Movement, Breathwork, and Meditation Workshop from 10-11:15a on June 27th.
    2. The fee is $20 and the entire payment will go to a scholarship fund for young black adults to be trained as mindfulness teachers at EMI, an organization specializing in supporting individuals in at-risk situations and communities.
    3. CLICK HERE TO SIGN UP.
  • Continually ask myself: How can I be of service? What can I do today? Tomorrow? This year? Next?
  • Participate in racial justice meetings and open conversations with colleagues and friends
  • Attend the Black Lives matters solidarity vigil on June 13thClick here to join me.
  • Continue to try and understand what underserved communities are struggling with and serve by volunteering my coaching and mindfulness services.
  • Educate myself about racial injustice by
    1. Reading books (click here to read Radical Dharma: Talking Race, Love, and Liberation by Rev. angel Kyodo Williams).
    2. Watching documentaries (click here for watch Ten Documentaries about Race Instead of Asking a Person of Colour to Explain Things to You).
    3. Listening to podcasts (click here to hear An Uncomfortable But Meaningful Conversation About Race with Lama Rod Owen and Dan Harris)
  • Speak up on social media and call out racist comments.

Let’s continue the conversation and find ways to take action against racial injustice. Please let me know what else I can do and what you are doing to stand up to racism.

Wishing you, your families, friends, and colleagues health, strength, and moments of joy during this challenging time.

Why 20 Minutes of Journaling Makes All the Difference by Ari of Zingerman’s

Our family was lucky enough to meet the very humble yet famous Ari Weinzweig during a visit to Michigan while dining at Zingerman’s Roadhouse (Ari was the water boy, refilling our glasses summer of 2018). Usually, my husband Brad refuses to dine at a restaurant two nights in a row, but we enjoyed our visit so much we found ourselves dining at Zingerman’s for two consecutive nights!

Since then, we have gotten to know Ari and become inspired by his community values, compassionate leadership style, and business success. And as we continue to live in uncertain times, I find it refreshing to have resilient leaders like Ari to turn to during this pandemic for inspiration – leaders who show up in deep service and commitment to others, their staff, communities, and customers. Thank you Ari!

And so with Ari’s permission, thrilled to share ….

Why 20 Minutes of Journaling Makes All the Difference (April 29, 2020)

One of the most common questions I’ve been asked over the last four or five weeks comes after the conversation has already covered an update on the state of our business. The first things most people inquire about are sales, how our staff are coping, how we’re dealing with safety, the state of our cash flow. But when we’re done with that, what comes is something along the lines of: “What are you doing to take care of yourself through all this?”

It’s a good question. And I’m glad they ask. This is, no doubt about it, an exceptionally stressful time to be in business. Or for that matter, just to be human. Everyone, everywhere, is stressed. I’m no exception—trying to figure out how to do the right things in the business; working to do the best we can for the greatest number of staff; owning that we furloughed over 250 people in two days. Trying to do right by customers, serve the community, take extreme care for the safety of staff, be present, while still conscious of personal safety, and help keep our 38-year old business in business so we can still be here when the world moves to the “next phase,” whatever that might be. It sounds like a lot when I say it, but really, almost every business owner I know is in a similarly difficult position.

So . . . what am I doing to take care of myself? Although these are clearly completely unprecedented times, and none of us have any experience living through a pandemic, the answer for me is pretty much the same one I’d have given you a year ago. And the same response I’d have shared a year before that. And the year before that. (OK, granted, I’m washing my hands more than I ever have, wearing a mask out in public, and keeping my distance. That part is new.) I’m not being flip—really my routines for “self-care” aren’t any different than they’ve been for a long time now.

There are four activities that I engage in daily, all of which work to help me hold onto some semblance of internal stability in, even this, the most uncertain of times.

  • Tammie and I end every evening by cooking a good meal together (which you sometimes read about here).
  • I run every single day.
  • I try to talk to a fair few friends to connect, commiserate, listen, and learn.
  • And, my subject here: I start almost every single day by journaling.

Whether journaling will help you as much as it helps me, I don’t know. What I can say with certainty is that journaling has been hugely helpful to me! I’m not exaggerating when I say that when I started doing it 30 years ago, journaling changed my life. Nor am I exaggerating when I say that the 15 or 20 (even five minutes for me is meaningful and better than not doing it all) that I spend doing it every day, combined with the cost of the legal pads I use (yellow, detachable, fine-lined) and the pens (right now, it’s Pilot Precise, fine point) are one of THE best investments I’ve ever made in my whole life. The $10 or $15 a month it costs me for raw materials and the short bit of time I spend doing it pays for itself a thousand times over.

What do I journal about? Whatever comes to mind. Sometimes it feels important, sometimes silly. Sometimes I write in whole coherent paragraphs, sometimes it’s one disconnected word. At. A. Time. Sometimes I swear up a storm. Some mornings I make a list of people and things I appreciate. Sometimes I journal about work. Other days it’s about the news, the weather, or what I’m worried about. Sometimes it’s about Tammie, or our dogs, or what we made for dinner the night before. I write about books and music, bread and coffee; memories and what I’m doing next Monday. Sometimes I just write “Breathe” to remind myself how much one meaningful breath can matter. Then I do it. It helps.

Essentially, journaling for me is a way to begin my day by doing what Julia Cameron (she calls journaling “morning pages”) suggests in her amazing book,The Artist’s Way: “Ask yourself how you are feeling. Listen to your answer. Respond kindly.”

How much difference can 20 minutes of free-form writing like that really make? It helps me stay sane. And I’m not exaggerating. It helps quiet the (often kind of crazy) voices that are almost always active in my head. It helps me reground and get centered. It helps me remember the plethora of positives by which I’m surrounded every day even in difficult times. It helps get me at the root causes of my consternation. It reminds me to be thankful for the people, dogs, food, ideas, books, and music I get to be with. It helps me to stay super appreciative of the moment. And to remember that ultimately, while I’m very high on long-term visioning, still, all we really have is the moment. As one guest shared with me about talking to his young son, the truth is tomorrow never really comes—when what we think of as tomorrow arrives, it will actually have become “today.” Journaling has helped me—no matter how I’m feeling when I sit down to do it first thing in the morning—to live each day to the best of my ability. To appreciate what we have, even when it happens in the middle of a global pandemic.

At any time over the last 30 years that I’ve been doing this, if I miss a morning of journaling, I feel seriously off-center and stressed all day. And in the tension and uncertainty of our current situation, that makes my morning journaling all the more important. It’s a small thing, but it makes a big, big difference. As Julia Cameron writes, “It is impossible to write morning pages for any extended period of time without coming into contact with an unexpected inner power . . . Anyone who faithfully writes morning pages will be led to a connection with a source of wisdom within. And right now, I think we can use all the help we can get.”
Ari Weinzweig

  • Click here to learn more about Ari!
  • Click here to learn more about Zingerman’s!
  • Click here to read how Zingerman’s Roadhouse was just named finalist for a James Beard Foundation Award!
  • Click here to sign up for Ari’s amazing newsletter!
  • Click here to email Ari (at his request, he loves connecting!)

I’m sure you enjoyed Ari’s article as much as I did and hope you give journaling a try…..

Wishing you, your families, friends, and colleagues health, strength, and moments of joy during this challenging time.

And if you’d like to join our free community Zoom mindfulness meditation 5p EST weekdays, please email me for link and more details!

Cultivating Resilience During COVID-19

Rick Hanson, PhD, psychologist, and author of the book Resilient describes three things we can do to make a difference in the flow of our everyday lives. These three things are particularly relevant to the current COVID-19 pandemic and can support us in keeping our immune systems healthy and remaining steady in our minds, bodies, and hearts.

One: Be on Top of Not Getting Over Alarmed. As part of our human experience, we are evolutionary designed to be scared monkeys 🙈. We lean toward having a negativity bias and tend to live in more fear than is warranted. I don’t want to deny these are fearful times, it is normal to feel anxiety (everyone is anxious right now). We need to “feel what we feel” and be careful to give ourselves time for self-care and rest. Meditate, go for a walk, get plenty of sleep, eat healthy, exercise, unplug, bake, cook, and connect with positive friends via Zoom, phone, etc.

Two: Cultivate Positive Emotion. Stop and smell the roses 💐. Do not underestimate the power of expressing gratitude for everyday moments that could be easily overlooked. One exercise is to think of three new things each day you are grateful for and why. For example, bring attention to something good as it happens, reflect on something new and good that happened during the day, practice gratitude when you brush your teeth, before you go to bed or journal about a positive experience being as specific as possible to reinforce good feelings. As you reflect on gratitude, you are rewiring your brain toward being more positive.

Three: Focus on What You Do Have Influence Over. In our human experience, there are many things out of our control, like this current COVID-19 pandemic. Do your best to focus on where you do have some control and efficacy – including your own actions and behaviors like washing your hands 👌, practicing physical distancing (but social connection!), calling a neighbor in need, keeping with your routine, exercising, being respectful, doing something kind for yourself or someone else, etc.

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