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Creating the Capacity to Change

August 3, 2010
Times Observer

BY RACHEL MESMER LUDWIG, CHILDREN’S SPOA COORDINATOR

Change happens on all levels.  It feels as though recently in several key areas of my life, changes are required all at once.  With change comes opportunity.  But also change can bring fear and certainly resistance.  To draw away from the fear and put potential in perspective I look, with you, for inspiration.

I am consistently amazed at the capacity humans have to think and to feel.  I appreciate being able to reflect and ponder.  I cherish my family responsibility, both as a wife and mother as well as daughter, sister, niece and all.  I appreciate my employment, my co-workers and the learning environment we are supported within.  I value being able to be a part of real and lasting friendships.  These supports allow me to have capacity to tolerate, to accept and to work through required change.

Change happens.  Our bodies are remarkable in all that they do.  There is a never ending cycle occurring within us.  We are literally wired for change.  Our brain and our nervous system have mechanisms of controlling our reactions and responses, some of which we aren’t consciously aware of.  I am intrigued and inspired by thinking about these occurrences.

Maya Angelou, as quoted, is certainly someone who inspires many.  Her writings will last for generations because of the passion in her work.  Reading through her biography you share in a story full of challenges and possibility, of faith and love.  Dr. Angelou served on two presidential cabinets, authored books and screenplays, directed movies…truly a renaissance woman.  She exemplifies a person taking on the challenges and opportunities of life.

Another creative activist inspired me to change up this article in its final stage.  I had the experience of hearing Peter Yarrow at a conference in July.  Depending on your place in the demographics of readership of PG, you know Peter Yarrow of the folk group Peter, Paul and Mary through your childhood, your parents or maybe your grandparents.

This folk group has been well-received at Chautauqua Institution over the years.  What I did not know is that Peter Yarrow had lived in Chautauqua County and studied music here as a child.  He spoke of finding contentment, healing and peace through music. 

During the conference, Peter sang “Don’t Laugh at Me” (written by Steve Seskin and Allen Shamblin) which has become the theme song to the work he and others are doing around the country to teach empathy and to open the hearts of students, as well as teachers and parents, to thinking about how we impact one another.  He also sang “Puff the Magic Dragon” with many audience members on stage.  I am sure that is YouTube-able if you are interested!

"When people sing together, community is created. Together we rejoice, we celebrate, we mourn and we comfort each other. Through music, we reach each other’s hearts and souls.  Music allows us to find a connection” – Peter Yarrow.

Also at the July conference, Gary Blau, the Branch Chief of the Child, Adolescent and Family Branch of the Center for Mental Health Services, who knows a thing or two about change, suggested that each of us make a conscious effort to shift from “but” to “and” in conversation and in our thinking.  Try this for even a few hours and you may be surprised at its impact on your outlook and your expression.  Where “but” negates a discussion, “and” is joining, encouraging and full of possibility.

As parents we want to be strong for our children and be their “all”.  It is a hard thing to ask for support but there is certainly strength in doing so.  It is also hard to turn away from people who are emotionally draining for adults as well as for children.  It can be hard to say “no”.  It can be hard to turn the other direction as the majority to follow your heart.  It can even be isolating at times to make the right choice, to challenge the norm and to make a change.  I am reminded of another inspiring source, the book, “All I Really Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.”  Look to the words of Robert Fulghum for a reminder that the complex world is sim-

ple and that what really matters is being kind and taking responsibility. 

Anthony Robbins is a motivator and Personal Development Expert.  He has books and even a video series on the topic of creating change (see tonyrobbins.com).  In his studies of human psychology he sought the answer to why people do the things that they do.  He summarized that the answer was, on an individual level, reactions to the experiences you have in own life.  Anthony Robbins’ version is quite comprehensive, but some basic steps from “Creating Lasting Change” include simple ways to begin to think about your own capacity for change.  Be self aware.  Consider situations, people, places that make you feel “stuck”.  Use your strengths and your supports to target the “stuck” areas and move forward.  Suggestions to achieve this include; journaling; making lists of pros and cons and making a little quiet time, even just a couple of minutes in each day.

We all come about our decisions from various pathways.  Along the way we may be exposed to several options for inspiration as well as options for resistance.  I hope that you, and that I, will remain open-minded about the potential within the changes we face and that we all will continue to seek the possibilities that come with the ever present changes in our world.

Whether pondering change because you “have” to or because you “choose” to, for whatever reason; consider there is a continuum in the capacity for change.  Above are examples of changing your thinking, opening your heart; from changing one word in your daily dialogue to taking on a whole curriculum on the capacity change. 

Seek your passion, seek your inspiration and as Peter Yarrow says “good luck and good singing”!

Rachel Ludwig works for Chautauqua County Department of Mental Health as the Project Director of the Chautauqua Tapestry System of Care.  Rachel grew up in Warren and has been a member of the Chautauqua community since 2005. Rachel resides in Ashville with her husband Ben and son Logan.

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