The Silent Observer

One of the hardest things to learn to do sometimes, but also the best thing that we can do for ourselves, is to learn to be the silent observer.

What do I mean by that?

First let’s clarify: observing is not about judging. Judging means we put ourselves above the person or situation as if we’re better than. Observing is simply stepping back and watching what is going on. Observing is being aware of what is going on both for the other person/thing and within ourselves.  

We are often so wrapped up in trying to judge what we are seeing, trying to process it and make it fit into our box, that we miss what is really happening. Being a silent observer allows us to view situations and see the bigger picture. Much like flying in an airplane and being able to see a wide area versus being in a car and only being able to see your immediate surroundings.

For a lot of people, one of the most stressful times of the year is coming up: the holidays. This is true for many different reasons, but one of them is because we tend to take things that people say and do as a personal attack. Even if they are attacking us, it is important to know that it is almost always about them and their own insecurities, rather than about you.

This is much easier said than done for most people, myself included. It has taken me a very long time to learn this lesson, and I still slip up sometimes.

If you go to your family’s house for a holiday meal and a relative is on your case about something, put your observers hat on. If they are on your case about something then you can almost guarantee that it’s something that they are either insecure about, something they don’t like about themselves, or it’s something that they have no clue about and they are just spouting off. Sometimes it can be a misguided attempt at showing they care.

When this happens, step back and pretend that you’re watching a movie. Look at the cast of characters. Remember that each person there has a role to play, including you.

It sounds cliché, but you choose how you let things affect you. Someone can say anything they want to you, but you choose what you let in. You choose to see that cashier as hateful rather than hurting, and you respond accordingly. You choose to see that weird aunt as critical and unbearable rather than someone who regrets most of her decisions throughout her life. It starts with reminding ourselves on a daily (maybe even hourly) basis, that everyone is dealing with their own set of issues and how they treat us is about them, not about us.

Looking at people through the lens of an observer doesn’t change how people act. It will change how those actions affect us and our overall state of being.

We also have to remind ourselves that just because someone says something, doesn’t mean that we have to have a reaction to it. Often the reaction is what they are wanting. If we don’t give them that reaction, if we do the opposite and don’t react, they generally lose their steam. No matter what is thrown at us we simply refuse to swing at it.

In addition to helping us deal with outward things coming in, being observant helps us to see if we are imposing our own insecurities onto a situation. Maybe you think everyone is judging you for not having a better job because you feel bad about yourself for not having what you deem a “better job”. Maybe you think everyone is making fun of you because you are feeling insecure about how you look. To take it one step deeper, maybe you think people are judging how you look, what you wear, where you work, etc. because you judge other people for those things.

A few years back I kept finding myself feeling like everyone around was judging me for my life choices. I felt like what I did was never good enough for anyone. What I finally realized was that I wasn’t happy with my life choices and I was projecting those feelings onto everyone around me. Once I realized this, I started to see most of the comments people made as an effort to help rather than judge.

So not only am I asking you to observe your situations and what is going on around you, I’m asking you to observe what is going on within yourself.

If you place yourself in the role of the observer then you will find yourself being happier more often. You will also find that your mind is freed up to think about the things you would like to do and become, rather than being bogged down by negativity. You can allow yourself to see the good in the people and the things around you, rather than only seeing the bad. You will begin to see the possibilities that exist, rather than all of the obstacles.

The key to all of this is doing it on a daily basis. Start being observant with the small things. That way, when you get into a more heated situation (at a family meal, at the store, or at work) you have practiced being the silent observer and it makes it easier. It’s like training for a marathon. You can’t just jump off of your couch and go run a full marathon, you have to train for it. Train yourself daily to be an observer and when the marathon comes, you’ll be able to handle it.  

A few things you can do to help you to deal with the negative energies that may be swirling around you this time of year:

This is from zennedout.com. Click here to read the article.

  1. Try the Kashyapa Mudra: Mudras are a way of holding your hands that allows you to encourage or prohibit certain energy movement around you or within your body. I used to use this one a lot when I worked retail. Before going out to deal with an angry customer I would hold my hands in this position. It would remind me to be an observer rather than reacting based on my assumptions.
  2. Do Qigong to release the negative emotions that you are feeling towards others or yourself. Click here to see Chris Shelton’s White Pearl Meditation Video on YouTube. In it he takes you through a few Qi (Chi) cleansing exercises to help you release those emotions.
  3. Give yourself time to just get away and be alone. Even if it’s 5 minutes in the day, take the time to have some alone time. Leave your cell phone in the other room, or put it on silent, and just take some deep cleansing breaths. Doing this will work wonders for your mental and physical state.
  4. Sleep! Most of us go through life running on empty. Try to arrange things so that you can actually get some rest this holiday season. When you’re rested you are less likely to be grumpy, stressed, and have a short fuse with people.

Your Favorite Socks, The Little Things, and a Giveaway

If I asked you right now what your favorite pair of socks are, what would you tell me? Would you look at me like I am a complete looney? (Are you looking at your screen like that now? =)) Or would you immediately know the answer?

Why am I asking about your favorite pair of socks?

These are currently my favorites at johnscrazysocks.com

First, I love wearing fun, colorful socks. It’s a way for me to show my personality when I have to wear a certain thing to work, or out and about. My favorite socks look like a pair of Converse shoes. I love to wear them when I fly. When I take my shoes off to go through security, it looks like I still have shoes on. It’s the little things, but it makes me and others smile at a time that can often be stressful.

I heard a lady say one time that she loved to wear fun socks because they are a good conversation starter. She works with people in their homes, so it’s often a little awkward at first. People see her fun socks, it makes them smile, and it breaks the ice. Anything that we can do to make someone else smile is worth our time.

Secondly, I’m asking because I want to make you more aware of the little things in life. Socks are not something that the majority of people think about on a daily basis. They are one of those things that we put on and then we go on about our business.

According to an article written by Give Back Homes, “socks are the #1 most requested clothing item at homeless shelters”. (Read the full article here.) So, something that we barely notice in our day to day life, many people are beyond grateful to have. Pay closer attention this week to the “little things” in your life. Things that we often take for granted.

When you are choosing what to wear each day, choose your socks with purpose. Each time you put a pair of socks on, say a little thank you that you have them. Use this activity as a moving reminder to be grateful each and every day.

In doing this we can begin to cultivate more gratitude in our lives overall. (This is something that we will talk more about in the next few weeks.)

Get a little more creative with it and wear fun socks this week. If you have the ability, go buy a pair of fun socks. If not, just go look through them. Part of the fun of fun socks is picking out the ones you like; seeing all of the different kinds, patterns, and sayings.

Go to John’s Crazy Socks and look through all of their different socks.

I love this site because they have a wide variety of great socks that you don’t find anywhere else. The story behind this company is also amazing. A big part of the reason that they do what they do is so that they can give back to those around them. They “want to show what those with differing abilities can do” and “what happens when you give people a chance” (From their website). Read their story here.

In the spirit of the season, get together with friends or family and have a “Sock Swap”. Everyone who comes buys a pair of cute socks. Either draw names before or do a fun gift exchange game. Get together, eat good food, and have fun.

Or, if you’re buying gifts for people this season then get each person a pair of fun socks. Pick out a different pair for each person, a pair that fits their personality.

To celebrate our week of fun socks, we are doing our first ever giveaway, and it’s two-fold.

1. Put a picture of yourself wearing fun socks or a picture of fun socks that you would like to have, and/or comment on our giveaway posts on Facebook or Instagram. For every picture and original comment we will give a pair of socks to our local homeless shelter. We will do this through the end of November 2019. 
2. At the end of November we’ll draw one name from our email list. That person will win a $25 Gift Card from John’s Crazy Socks. 

If you’re not getting our weekly “Happy Mail” yet, sign up here.

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(All of the pictured socks are from johnscrazysocks.com. The picture rights belong to them as well.)

The Novel Turtle Presents: Q&A with Mark Borella, a.k.a. The Seeds of Happiness Guy

I found this adorable little smiling face on a trip to Myrtle Beach, SC. When I read the accompanying card, I was hooked. They are such a simple thing, but the heart behind the project is amazing. This week we talk to Mark Borella, who is known as “The Seeds of Happiness Guy”. If you haven’t heard of these little Seeds, take the time to look at their website, read all about the company, and see their adorable products. If you watch any of Mark’s Instagram or YouTube videos, you see instantly where the smiles get their origin. His smile, his happiness, his excitement, is infectious. He loves to make people smile. He loves to make people happy. He loves what he does and it shines through.

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 “My artwork is not serious, but I take my art very seriously.” Mark Borella, The Seeds of Happiness Guy

1) For those who have never heard of the Seeds of Happiness, tell us how you got started making them.

My wife and I have been together since we were 15 or 16. I taught her how to drive. We’ve known the lady that put us together since we were kids. That lady’s son was diagnosed with neuro blastoma when he was young. As he was going through treatments, I wanted to make a piece of art to represent him, to do something for the family. But I got blocked. I was so close to the family and the situation. Previously, as I was doing other sculptures and projects, I had the little leftover lumps of clay. So I started making a handful of smiles, and I put them in a bowl in the studio. Our friend’s son went through his treatments, but didn’t do well. I got the call one day that he wasn’t going to last much longer. The family told me that I needed to come and say my goodbyes. As I walked out of the studio, to go to their house, I looked over and saw those smiles laying in the bowl. I grabbed them, blew off the dust, and went to the family’s house. When I got there, I told the mother of the little boy, our friend, “There is nothing I can say or do, but here is a handful of smiles. Maybe you can hold onto them until you get your smile back.” A few months later, she called me. She told me that she had kept a smile in her hand every day since I had given them to her. She said that those smiles in her hand were the only thing that she had to hold onto during that time. She said, “You need to do this for other people not just me”. I continued to keep the leftover clumps in my studio. I made them and gave them out to people when they needed a smile. I would give them to people and say, “Here’s a seed of happiness I hope it grows”. As time went on, I started getting more and more calls from people who were wanting the Seeds. So we put together a little website and started selling them.  

2) What is your hope with the Seeds of Happiness?

What we are selling is the story behind the smiles; not just my story, but everyone’s story. These are making a huge difference in people’s lives. If I hear that someone gave someone a Seed, and I ask where it is now, they always know. If I ask them who gave it to them, they always know. We get stories all the time about how these smiles change people’s lives in all kinds of ways. People who have lost loved ones, people going through cancer treatments, people who are contemplating suicide. Someone gave them a smile and it made all the difference in the world. That one little gesture shows that they are cared for, that they matter. The people giving the smiles away are the heroes of the story; and that’s the way it should be. Someone told me one time that I had reinvented the greeting card.

3) What was your biggest obstacle when starting the business?

The business end of it all. One of things I figured out early on, even as a kid, is, if you’re not arrogant and you don’t think you can do everything, if you find someone who is better than you at something and you acknowledge that then you will go farther. I found someone that doesn’t suck at business. I also found someone who is better at detail painting. Learn to recognize your weaknesses, find someone who is better than you at it, and you’ll go much further. 

4) Did you have people that thought you were crazy when you decided to make this a business? How did you deal with them?

I was already making a living on art in college; selling sculptures. I’ve never worked for anyone. The people that understood what I was doing knew it was a mission and they supported it.  There were those that didn’t of course. That’s one thing about going to art school. You learn to deal with criticism. You learn your basics, how to do the actual art, and you also learn social skills. The biggest thing you learn is that you suck as an artist, someone is always better than you. This is not meant to be discouraging, it just is. No matter how good you are at something, there is always someone better than you at it.

5) I see on your “Meet the Team” page that you include a lot of people that most companies wouldn’t include. (I especially love that Munch, your doggie mascot and model is included) I think it is amazing that you are willing to share the spotlight and recognize everyone’s contribution to your products. Do you think this philosophy and practice has helped to fuel your success?  

This is a team effort. Without the team, it wouldn’t be a success. Each year I give everyone that works for me an original piece of art that I create. One year I gave each person a puzzle piece. I told them to put them all together. Everyone laid their piece down, fit them together, and they made a Seed of Happiness. Next, I told one of them to take a piece away. I said, “Take one piece away and the whole picture is not the same.”

With Canterbury Enterprises, we employ 2-20 people a day. When they come to help us, it gets them out of their house, gives them and their caregivers a break, and gives them a sense of independence.  

6) How important do you think it is for people to find what they love to do?

If what you do is something you have a passion for then you’ll do a better job. Believe in the magic of what you’re doing and you’ll do well.

7) How did you come to work with the teacher that “helped shape your love of sculpting” (a quote from the website)?

Growing up I was the dumb kid. I struggled in school. When I got to high school there was an art teacher, it was his first year teaching. This was before ADD and ADHD and all that was recognized as a thing. He said, “You’re not dumb, they just don’t teach the way your brain works”. He offered to help me with my homework. Later, he was going back to college for his master’s degree. He got my mom’s ok and I went to college with him, took classes with him. Along the way he saw the potential in my art and began entering it into contests. Because of him I was able to go to art school. Over the years, he followed what I was doing in art, he kept in touch. When he retired from teaching, I asked him what he was going to do with his time. He didn’t know so I asked him to come work with me at the studio. He’s been here ever since.

8) Because The Novel Turtle is all about creativity, we ask everyone: What is your definition of creativity?

Having your eyes open to other things, other than what is mainstream or normal, in every situation. Even seeing things like rivers: the way they flow, the color.

9) Each of your smiles is handmade in The Smile Factory, in Kirkwood, MO. Do you do factory tours of any kind?

Our studio is always open to the public, Monday-Friday 9-5. Sometimes people walk in and they are enthralled. Sometimes they walk in and are like, “this is it”. It’s a working art studio. The name, The Smile Factory, pays homage to Andy Warhol’s art factory.  

10) Some interesting facts about the Seeds of Happiness: They go through 3200 pounds of clay each month. One seed takes about 3 weeks to make. They make 40,000ish each month. The card that comes with each seed is part of the art work.

“When people ask me what I do for a living I tell them, I change the world one smile at a time.” Mark Borella

To learn more about The Seeds of Happiness, to see what Mark and the team are up to, and/or to purchase any of their products, go to SeedsofHappiness.com.

Be sure to follow Mark and the Seeds of Happiness on Instagram and YouTube to get your daily dose of smiles.

Thank you Mark for joining us this week, and for what you and your team are doing to make the world a better place each and every day!