A Thought Can Be Changed

“The only thing we are ever dealing with is a thought, and a thought can be changed.” ~ Louise Hay

“Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” ~ George Bernard Shaw

Introduction
paperclip in a shape of a light bulb and a rubber eraser in a shape of a brain
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People have a tendency to believe that their thoughts are facts, even though getting distance from the thought can reveal a different conclusion. Have you ever been hiking in the woods and noticed something up ahead that you thought was a snake? Did it ever turn out not to be a snake, but instead you found a crooked stick? These things happen all of the time. I think that my glasses are on my desk, but find them on the piano. I’m at the grocery and I think that I have chicken in the freezer, so I don’t buy any. Then, I get home and find out that there isn’t chicken in the freezer. In each of these examples, I believed my thoughts to be factual.

When this type of thinking happens about things outside of ourselves most of us are able to update our thought patterns with the new information. That doesn’t seem to be particularly true if the thinking is about ourselves. We hold onto those thoughts very rigidly, and are often aware that we are doing it. That awareness isn’t enough to cause us to chose a new, more accurate thought.

Change Your Thoughts – Change Your Life

In his book, Change Your Thoughts – Change Your Life, Dr. Wayne Dyer describes this from the vantage point of the Tao Te Ching. He notes that the Tao Te Ching describes a way of living that is “balanced, moral, spiritual; and that works for all facets of life on Earth,” but it requires us to change our thoughts and our habitual way of thinking. Dr. Dyer’s book incudes all 81 verses of the Tao Te Ching as well as 81 essays about their meaning.

Get Out of Your Thoughts & Into Your Mind

Steven C. Hayes, in his book Get Out of Your Mind & Into Your Life, also describes how our inability to distance ourselves from our habitual ways of thinking creates emotional pain and suffering. As verbal creatures, humans are always surrounding or “swimming” in our thoughts. We don’t regularly take the time to think about them in a rational manner. This book walks you through some of the brain science, offers memorable examples (for instance The Virtues of Saliva on page 56), and offers some exercises or methods for changing the way you think as well as the arbitrary connections we often make between our thoughts, emotions, and experiences.

portrait photo of woman in red top wearing black framed eyeglasses standing in front of white background thinking
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I see the solution as falling into the same category as a social mantra I grew up with “question everything!” You might see it as “don’t jump to conclusions.” In either case, we need to take a step back, consider the facts, acknowledge our emotions. But, we do not need to let them rule our thoughts. This is not always easy. Currently, we are being bombarded with messages that our emotions are of primary importance. Don’t buy the messaging! Question everything…even our thoughts.

Happy Things May 2024

smiley drawing on sand
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Its that time again. Here is my Happy Things list for May 2024. I’ve started keeping a running list, much like the one in the book that inspired me, 14,000 Things to Be Happy About, by Barbara Ann Kipfer. I’m not as faithful with it as I aspire to be, but am getting better. I’ve decided to include it with my Morning Pages (inspired by Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way). I’ve already established the habit of writing Morning Pages every day so doing the two together could improve my consistency.

You may have read this before, but living in a state of gratitude helps your brain to help you. When you are intentionally focusing on gratitude your brain automatically screens out everything that isn’t gratitude unless it is really urgent. Poof – all of those minor annoyances can fade into the background. Whew – what a relief. I can’t help but think that this world would be a much more pleasant place if everybody was focusing more on what makes them happy or what they are grateful for.

May Happy Things

Florida

Spiral notebooks
Dry erase markers
Flannel
Teabags
Dusty Strings harp strings
Organic green grapes
Bodhi
Seamus
Requests to play my harp at church
An open lane at the pool
Having crutches when you need them
Window AC units
Donated piano music
Aluminum foil
Daisies
Cherry tomatoes
A new skirt
Refills for my mechanical pencils
Sturdy erasers

brown wooden harp on garden
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Perhaps some of the things that make you happy are the same as mine. Its almost certain that some will be different. I’d love it if you would share your list with the people around you and possibly even share it with me. Does anybody else have a harp on their happy things list?

Happy Things April 2024

Lemon Pecan Pancakes

Once again I feel blessed with a wonderful month of happy things. Composing, singing, playing the harp, playing the piano, are definitely highlights of every month. These things were also the heartbeat of my life in April. In addition I was able to get out of town for a long weekend to see family and experience the joys of another city. During that trip I ate some great food that was both unexpected and indulgent. I had some lemon pecan pancakes that almost brought me to tears. Given all of my food allergies I rarely get to have something like that, both safe and delicious. When topped with maple syrup it really made my day.

Other things that may be happy in April:

brown wooden harp on garden
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A patient harp teacher
Breakfast with a talented composer
A zoom conference with a famous composer
Beginner harp music
Singing a duet with my favorite Scotsman
Airbuds
Find your airbuds app
A kind veterinarian
Phone calls from my son
Potato chips – a guilty pleasure
Composer and mentor Andrew Maxfield
Voice Teacher Timothy Wilds
Pictures of grandchildren
Tulips
Blooming lilacs
Woodpeckers
Mechanical pencils
Maple syrup
Naps

I hope you have started keeping track of all the happiness in your life. I’d love to hear about your list.

Happy Things March 2024

I forgot to post my list. I’ve still been keeping track, but have been so busy with lots of wonderful things that I forgot to upload this. March included a trip to Disney World with family, starting to learn to play the harp, some early gardening and garden planning, and finishing several compositions. Whew! As April has already started I’m looking forward to a little less snow and a lot more sunny skies. I’m not particularly looking forward to the summer heat that will soon follow.

March Happy Things

tulips
free checked luggage on Southwest Airline
adjustable music stands
pocket-sized dictionaries
learning Gaelic
homemade beef jerky
red pencils
naps
Granddaughters
Grandsons
Lever harps
excellent chefs
woodpeckers
Peppermint tea

What were your happy things in March?

Happy Things February 2024

still life with marshmallows and knitwear
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I must say that February has been a bit better than January for finding happy things. And, as a result it was a lot easier to focus on the things that make me happy. Like so many other things, this requires practice. In case you missed the January post, this idea comes from 14,000 Things to Be Happy About by Barbara Ann Kipfer. In the process of writing this post I turned to the book for encouragement to observe more, recognize more, and savor more. While it is true that I probably could list at least many more things that I was unhappy about than I have on this happy things list, I do see the benefit. Even reading back through my list I notice a smile spreading on my face.

crop woman showing pop up gift card with decorative heart
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Even better, February had 29 days this year. There’s something just special about leap year. I once knew someone who was a leap year baby and used to joke about how unfair it was to have less birthdays than everyone else. I’m certainly trying to make the most of this extra February day with lots of things that make me happy.

February 2024 Happy Things List

A helpful florist

Voice lessons

Composition lessons

Tea bags

Suet feeder

Flat Stanley

Facials

90 minute massages

Audiobooks

Italian Sausage

Gluten Free pasta

Gel pens

Spa day

Irish harp music

Maple syrup

Sleeping dogs

Sons

Dry erase markers

French fries

Bacon

Coming home

Irish harps

Compassionate veterinarians

Leap year

Charles Anthony Silvestri‘s poetry

monochrome photo of woman playing harp
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Have you started your Happy Things list yet? I’d love to hear how it is working out for you.

May The Love of The Father

May the Love of the Father is yet another moving prayer from John Birch. It calls upon the power of the Holy Trinity to lift our spirits bringing peacefulness to our lives. John Birch has an ability to convey the mystery God’s love in language that speaks to the modern day heart.

May the love of the Father, the tenderness of the Son, and the presence of the Spirit gladden your heart, and bring peace to your soul; this day and all days. Amen.

I chose to set these words as a benediction response or blessing. The composition debuted in worship for the first time at Rio Rancho Presbyterian Church in Rio Rancho NM. It is written for four-part (SATB) choir with piano accompaniment. The voice parts are in a comfortable range for most volunteer choirs. The flowing accompaniment supports the choir, rising and falling to provide a sense of movement and encouragement.

I have always loved the sung responses used during worship. I have enjoyed writing a variety of introits, prayer responses, and benediction responses. Sometimes they take me a while, but this one seemed to speak to me almost immediately after I read Mr. Birch’s prayer. I added an Amen to this composition simply because I just like the feeling I get when I sing them.

A midi audio of the composition is available for you below.

If you would like a copy of this composition you can find it HERE. A selection of other compositions can be found at Music Notes Market Place.

Happy Things January 2024

I’ve written before about the book 14,000 things to be happy about by Barbara Ann Kipfer. I think that focusing on happy thing of the things we are happy about is a fabulous strategy for improving health and happiness. So, I decided to do a monthly blog post about my happy things. Finding things to be happy about in January was a little tough. But, that’s probably when I need it the most.

brown framed eyeglasses on a calendar
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January is the month of my deceased daughter’s birthday and this year it was the month when my mother died. If that’s not bad enough, it was also my mother’s birthday. This involved frantic travel to get to her before she passed, the painfully sad event, and the family drama that frequently rears its ugly head around such events.

If I wasn’t intentional about it I could have easily missed all of the things I’m grateful for and feel happy about.

Here’s my January 2024 list:

sea shells on body of water
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  1. A caring Hospice chaplain
  2. Abundant sea shells on the beach
  3. Watching ocean waves under an amazing cloudy sky
  4. Finding a restaurant that could manage food allergies that overlooked the water.
  5. Phone calls from friends and family
  6. Successfully completing a composition I’d been working on for a long time
  7. A hotel that offered compassion and a last minute reservation change without a fee
  8. Slip on shoes
  9. Flights that left and landed on time
  10. Unsweetened iced tea
  11. Puppy kisses
  12. Beautiful hymns of faith
  13. Allergy medication
  14. A large woodpecker on the tree outside my office window

Humility

humility
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One of the lessons I am learning as an adult student of both composition and voice is humility. This humility is necessary in order to set aside any excess pride or superiority that can interfere with my learning. That isn’t always comfortable. Some definitions of humility include.

  1. A modest or low view of one’s own importance
  2. Freedom from pride or arrogance
  3. The feeling or attitude that you have no special importance that makes you better than others
  4. Not believing you are superior to others
old books side by side on library shelf

While I believe all of these definitions are accurate, they don’t fully capture my experience as an adult learner. Then I found a description that was more illuminating. It said that people who are humble can still think highly of themselves, but are also aware of their mistakes, gaps in knowledge, and imperfections. This awareness of mistakes, gaps in knowledge, and imperfections has been very important in my current student status.

Jeff Boss at Forbes.com (3/1/25) wrote that humble people are confident and competent in themselves so much that they can help others. They don’t feel the need to boast but let their actions speak for their ideals. They don’t feel the need to show others how much they know. Humble people actively listen to others, and they are eager to understand others because they are curious. They are perpetual learners and realize that they don’t have all of the answers. Also, they glean knowledge from the experiences of others and crave more opportunities to learn. They accept feedback, assume responsibility, and they ask for help.

When I am able to engage in this manner I find that I am able to focus my attention on learning rather than trying to prove how much I already know, a practice that interferes with learning. It is also sometimes very difficult for me to ask for help. Unfortunately this has been my default mode for most of my life and now I’m trying to fill in the gaps in knowledge that resulted.

humility
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So what can we do to show up ready for learning in this way? I think the first step is to take a good look at your reasons for being in the situation. Are you there to get praise or acknowledgement for your brilliance or are you there to expand your knowledge? What behavior or attitude will help you most to achieve your goal. Don’t get me wrong – I LOVE praise and validation. But I learn the most when I don’t let that be what motivates my behavior.

The second step may be to identify where your areas of weakness might be as well as how willing you are to be vulnerable enough to show those areas of weakness to the person(s) that are trying to teach you something. For me that is sometimes not at all vulnerable and other times I can choose to be extremely open. This does not always feel comfortable, but with a trusted mentor or teacher, it can be so extremely effective.

Give it a try.

Veni, Veni Emmanuel

Veni, Veni Emmanuel (O Come, O come Emmanuel) is an anthem for Advent, utilizing SATB choir, piano, and handbells, anticipating the coming of Christ. It includes both Latin and English lyrics of praise, worship, and anticipation.

I have always loved handbells. I spent a lot of my life at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Dayton, Ohio where the music program is massive. Both of my sons played in various handbell choirs, and I even had the opportunity to ring a bell or two for ornamentation during a choir anthem. My current choir also has a very enthusiastic and talented bell choir. They were quite supportive and helpful as I wrote this piece.

If you have read other posts, you already know that I love choral music. It seemed to be a natural transition to combining them in one composition. Then, when you add in that I love Christmas music it was a no-brainer. I also love singing in Latin, making the whole experience a lot of fun. Why Latin you might ask. Its the vowels. Nice round vowel sounds.

Alternating the melody between the handbells and singers created a joyous celebration where no one feels left out. For the singers, the range is generally moderate. The tenor and base are in unison, with rare divisi while the soprano and alto are generally divided, with occasional unison. Veni, Veni Emmanuel uses 22 handbells, and can be doubled for larger groups. Performance time is approximately 3:15.

The composition was first performed on December 17, 2023 at Rio Rancho Presbyterian Church with the Chancel Choir and the JuBELLation Ringers and was well-received. I’m starting to think about what other handbell/choir piece I might compose. Its too late for this year, but perhaps a jubilant Easter anthem for 2025?

Responsibility

Responsibility for me

The New Oxford American Dictionary defines responsibility in several ways. The two most relevant to this post include:

1. the state or fact of having a duty to deal with something or of having control over someone

2. a moral obligation to behave correctly toward or in respect of: individuals have a responsibility to control personal behavior.

In Get Out of Your Mind and Into Your Life by Steven C. Hayes, Ph.D., the term is broken down into “response” and “ability.” The concept is that it involves an ability to respond and has nothing to do with blame. One may not always be able to respond to a situation, but they can still respond to the pain it might have caused.

Tina B. Tessina, Ph.D. also uses the idea of response-ability, describing the capacity to choose and remembering to be in charge and make careful and thoughtful choices. This is the ability to respond to life without placing blame upon one’s self.

I Can and I Will affirmation

Why is this distinction important? Many people confuse taking responsibility with assigning blame. Blame is disempowering or victimizing. Taking responsibility, in part or in whole, for what is actually mine is empowering. Am I responsible for an approaching hurricane? Of course not. Am I responsible for making decisions about how I’m going to deal with it? Absolutely.

Another reason why this distinction is important is that people feel responsible for the feelings, actions, and situations of others. I’m not suggesting that there isn’t some aspect that may be mine to manage or respond to, but I only have limited response-ability. Other people maintain the right to be wrong, make mistakes, interpret comments, and respond with their own feelings. I’m not response-able for those. Can I learn to be careful with my speech? Yes, to some extent. But, the choice still belongs to the other person about how to interpret what I’ve said and it often involves patterns from the past that I cannot predict or control.

question mark symbolizing why

I find it important to check if my sense of “responsibility” is really located in the present moment rather than a worry about the future or a carry-over from the past. Then, if it is in the present moment, I actually ask myself if the current concern is really within the area of my own “hula hoop.” Is it that close to me? Can I do anything with it? Is it really someone else’s response-ability rather than mine? Then, I can choose my response. If any of those questions suggest that this issue isn’t really mine, I can interrupt the tendency to blame and shame.

Boundary setting is an important part of this process. If my boundary is punctuated by gates that I control it will be helpful when considering my response-ability. If my boundary is open, without gates that I control, it is very tempting to take ownership of someone else’s responsibility even if there is no response-ability on my part.

The basic question for me is always, “Does this belong to me and is there a way that I can reasonably respond.”