I wish to introduce you to The Correspondent.   This new publication was founded in September 2019.   It offers a unique contemporary approach to journalism.   The reader is introduced to a brave and bold approach to playing their own part in the process of news consumption.   The exchange of ideas between journalist and reader is encouraged.  An attempt to counter the present devastating trend towards “false news” is articulated in the rationale for this new publication.   The deterioration in the quality of reportage has escalated during the past three years, during Trump’s presidency.    The Correspondent hopes to create a balance to this unhappy trend with its unique approach of fostering an interaction between writer and reader.

The Relationship of this Contemporary Initiative with my Passions

One of the criteria I like to emphasise in my advocacy of Conscious Ageing is the ability to explore new and novel ideas  whilst understanding you may suffer the consequences.    I heard a lovely quote from Mark Zuckerberg yesterday, “The biggest risk is not taking any risk.”    The Correspondent is, however, taking plenty of risks.  And I trust this confidence will be rewarded by the longevity of the publication

Below is a listing of the deals of this new venture:

  1. The Correspondent is not interested in the latest hype or scare, but rather the forces which shape the world. They do not cover the weather but are interested in the underlying climate.

 

  1. It is an ad-free platform. It will only collaborate with other organizations on condition it has full editorial independence.

 

  1. The Correspondent will fight harmful simplifications and keep away from breaking news that is designed to shock

 

  1. They practice Constructive Journalism which means they write stories which can influence events in a positive way. They are interested in activism, making a positive contribution to future lifestyles.

 

  1. They are happy to collaborate with their readers. The readers are not mere consumers, but can act as knowledgeable contributors as well

 

  1. They do not pretend to be ‘neutral’ or unbiased.  The Correspondent is open about where it is coming from. Facts are important.   Interpretation is equally important.

 

  1. The Correspondent aims to serve the reader rather than the shareholders. They wish to maximise trust over financial gain.

 

  1. They understand that as journalists they may not have all the answers. They are happy to interact with their readers and recognise when their ideas do not hold up in the face of new evidence.

The headquarters are in Amsterdam

However, The Correspondent has appointed editors from all over the world.  These are some of the categories:

  • Climate Challenges,
  • Sanity,
  • Everyday Colonialism,
  • The 1000 Days (the earliest days in our life),
  • Numeracy including Artificial intelligence,
  • Othering (about diversity, exclusion, social inequality and active empathy), and
  • Better Politics (What policies work?  A practical approach)

I perceive a strong bias towards the social sciences in this choice of specialities.   I continue to be fascinated by the role that sociology, psychology and anthropology play in helping us to understand the politics of today.   For this reason I am looking forward to watching the progress of this new vehicle for the dissemination of contemporary thought.

Adapting my Plans

And now I am feeling shocked.   I read a brilliant article last night by the Climate Editor of The Correspondent, Eric Holthaus.  He described a visit he enjoyed in his American home from Greta Thunberg and her father Svelte.

At this moment the two Thunbergs are travelling in America where they have been invited to speak at various international conferences.   I read an article about them late last night (10th October 2019) in The Correspondent.  I was too tired to concentrate at that late hour, so decided I would come back to it this morning.   Guess what?   It has been taken down.

And here is the reason. ‘The Thunberg family did not see the piece pre-publication. After it was made public, they raised a number of concerns around sensitivities within the piece.”  Holthaus understands their concerns.   Based on that understanding he and the team at The Correspondent decided that the right thing to do was to remove the article from the internet.

I was so excited when I first read this revealing story about Greta and her father.   It offers a very personal perspective of this young 16 year old Climate Activist.  She is at this moment a favoured contender for the award of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize.  In his story Holthaus included the informal WhatsApp postings between himself and Greta when they were negotiating her stay at his home.   As far as I recall, his two young sons are aged about 3 and 5.   A beautiful picture of the two youngsters interacting with Greta and their soft animal toys, illustrated the story.

As I continue my tale, I am aware it may not be a fully accurate reflection of what I read as I am unable to check my facts.   I will forge ahead anyway!    I am a great fan of this young Swedish woman and am not prepared to abandon the story because my source material has disappeared into the ether.

The image remains with me of an unaffected but passionate young woman who has made sacrifices in order to promote the ideas she feels so strongly about.   Greta and her father have been away from home for a couple of months already.   They were offered a trip across the Atlantic in a yacht as air-flight is totally against Greta’s principles.   The pollution produced by aeroplanes is far too extreme.

As I do not have Greta’s memory for articulating facts, I need to speak in generalisations.  What I learned in the article was that an alternative fuel for aeroplanes is going to be very difficult to find.   Batteries are too heavy, and other potential sources of energy have other practical difficulties.   Therefore the possibility of them being used for air flight in the near future is very low.

The Challenges of being a Celebrity

In his description of the stay of Greta and Svelte, Holzhausen gave me an idea of the sacrifices the couple have made by spending so much time away from home and the rest of the family.   Greta’s mother and younger sister remain behind in Sweden, and it may be a good few months before the family is once again united.   Greta and her Dad have been invited to a major conference in South America in March next year.

The one problem with attending this conference will be negotiating a return trip to Europe by sea in March 2020.   Apparently at that time of the year the currents are not favourable for sailing from West to East.    The travelling duo has still to overcome that practical issue before finalising their plans.

An idealistic new piece of journalism describes the story of an idealistic Climate Activist and her father.   And, true to the aims of The Correspondent, the delightful story has been taken down because of its sensitive content.   I hope my memory grasps the essence of the story without causing any offence.

What is Generation Theory?

American research and literature have been including references to Baby Boomers, Generation X, Generation Y and millennials for some time. Now the terms are starting to appear in the newspapers in South Africa. In the Cape Times of this morning, Wednesday 2nd October 2019, two articles suggest the public become aware of the influences underlying the habits, values and behaviours of the youngsters of today.

Mannheim’s Generation Theory regarding the influence of current events onyoung minds was brought to the consciousness of the West in the 1950’s.   He believes that significant events in the life of a young generation will be transformative as far as their values and lifestyle are concerned.

Boomer Generation

Thus the Boomer Generation, whose youth was dominated by the Second World War, has only known growing prosperity and a heightened standard of living. America witnessed tremendous economic growth in the decades following WW2. Increasing prosperity influenced the lifestyle of this generation. Children born during and shortly after WW2 were a generation who witnessed an age of growing consumption and wealth.

Millennials of Today

The present generation has been the first cohort to experience the move towards Minimalism. Vegan and vegetarian lifestyles are significant aspects of this new culture. They are eating patterns which help to preserve the resources of the earth while minimising CO2 emissions. The last couple of decades have witnessed the lowering of the standard of living from one generation to the next. This generation is the first one since WW2 in which children experience a lower standard of living than their parents.

Learning from Milennials

With this very brief introduction to Generational Theory, let us now examine “What millennials can teach us about office life!” They have shown us that you don’t need to be in the office from 9 – 5 to be effective. Workforces are becoming more versatile and flexible as technology allows one to conduct one’s business in cafes, trains and even during overseas vacations!

Many bloggers are grateful to be able to work from anywhere in the world. Travel does not challenge their regular flow of income.

Working from Home

When I hear about this concept of a continuous income, I recall reading Vance Packard many years ago. He predicted in the 1950s the introduction of Cottage Industry. Businesses being run from home, cutting out the need for travel and rental of office space. In those days, I remember thinking that sounded like a fanciful dream; however, today it is a reality.

The downside of being able to work from home wherever you may be, whatever the time, is there exists no downtime. Burnout, caused by the stress of being on call at all hours of the day, is a phenomenon of the past twenty odd years. Youngsters starting their careers are made aware of the necessity of time management. This has become an essential skill in order to include leisure and family time are not compromised and are part of the daily agenda.

The Millennials of today are aware of the dangers of being dominated by their careers and are making choices. They realise that the top salary may involve a sacrifice of their mental health and are choosing a lower salary which allows them a more flexible lifestyle

“Don’t let the old man in; Baby Boomers break the mould again.”

This is the title of the second article of this morning’s Cape Times describing changes in the business environment dictated by a generation of retiring boomers. Today retirement does not necessarily mean the end of the time when you earn some money. As Nelson Mandela said, “This is the second time I am retiring from retirement!”

Retirement Villages have become a popular way for boomers to spend their senior years. What is being advocated in this latest study is the potential for building new retirement villages. While most contemporary retirement developments have been built as sanctuaries for non-working people, changes will be needed in the next 20 years. Contemporary retirees are looking at lock-up-and-go lifestyles with facilities for maintaining an active and healthy lifestyle. This will require future facilities for seniors to conduct their life with high-speed internet facilities, exercise equipment and spaces to socialise and entertain.

Further suggestions for future developers of senior lifestyle facilities are offered. It is suggested that wheelchairs and nurses be kept discreetly in the background as residents sip their chardonnay on the patio!

My personal experience

The recent severe drought we experienced in Cape Town has ensured my generation is acutely aware of the potential of further water shortages in the future. We will never squander water in the way we have in the past. The idea of witnessing a dripping tap is an anathema. No longer do we wash our dishes more than once a day. We all cut down on the use of the washing machine. We know water is a precious commodity.

Today and the Senior Lifestyle

As senior citizens, we have the chance next week to acquaint ourselves with what we can do to save our planet from environmental pollution. Dynamic young women like Greta Thurnberg, who at the moment is favoured to win the Nobel Peace Prize, have made us aware of our responsibility to educate ourselves and others regarding the use of our natural resources. We must understand the impact our daily habits have on global warming. We may not be planning to visit America by yacht, rather than by flying, but we need to be controlling our waste and learning the art and science of recycling.

Let me suggest a good place to begin. A crucial online seminar is starting this month. I suggest you go to this link and sign up. I have confidence you will learn what needs to be done to save our planet from the irreversible damages of human ignorance and mal-practices.

As I was about to enter the eighth decade of my life, I was constantly hearing from my friends about their memory loss. Or, about their confusion when navigating familiar parts of their home town, or their difficulty in maintaining concentration on everyday tasks. However, it had not occurred to me there was a recognised field of training for people who wished to assist others in slowing down this cognitive decline.

A Chance Encounter

During my daily exploration of the internet, in February 2006, I came upon an international newsletter from the University of the Third Age. There was a seemingly innocuous phrase in this newsletter which piqued my interest. It said, “Dana lives in Prague, and she is a live-wire.” I would certainly like to meet a live-wire during my anticipated trip to Prague in a couple of months. My son was due to be married in Amsterdam, and my daughter and I planned to visit Prague after the wedding.

I double-clicked on the relevant email address and composed a quick email to Dana. The message read, “I am planning to visit Prague in July and would love to meet you and take you out for a cup of coffee,”

A Live-Wire indeed

Within the next 24 hours, I received a response from Dana. Unfortunately, she would not be in Prague in July, as she was to be in Turkey facilitating a Memory Training Course for members of the University of the Third Age who live in the United Kingdom. “But,’ she said, ‘You are welcome to stay together with your daughter in my flat when you are here.”

The Concept of Memory Training

I was excited to accept her offer of hospitality and enjoy her well-equipped residence while visiting the capital of the Czech Republic. In addition, I wished to know more about the course she offered in Memory Training. It took merely a couple of emails, and a few days to arrange that Dana would travel to Cape Town to offer a three-day course in Memory Training. So in June 2007, 200 members of the University of the Third Age in South Africa had the opportunity to attend this course.

Her course was stimulating, engaging and a great eye opener to all who attended. ‘But,’ I asked her, ‘what is going to happen now you are going back to Prague? Please give me some ideas on how I can continue the momentum you have built up.’ ‘If you want to continue my work,’ she responded, ‘then you must come to my week-long course in Prague next February. I will then be running a training course in English under the auspices of the Czech Society for Memory Training and Brain Jogging.’

International Training

So, for the second time in under a year, I was destined to visit Prague. This time it was in the middle of winter, whereas the first time it was a summer encounter. Quite a contrast, but Prague is a beautiful city at any time of the year. Now I had the opportunity to join students from Scotland, America and Tasmania who were also interested in memory training. By the week’s end, I was tested on my ability to recite the 43 American Presidents from memory. Additionally, I could recite the memorised decimals of pi to 100 digits.

‘But what is this Memory Training all about?’ you may ask. ‘And who wants to know the American Presidents off by heart?’ ‘And, I am not interested in pi,’ I can hear you saying to yourself. Your reaction would be the same as the majority of people when they first hear about these exercises. When you engage in the course, you grow to understand the significance of the use of mnemonics as a tool for assisting the memory. Mnemonics is a powerful associative tool giving the learner the capacity to memorise long lists of both numbers and facts.

Sharing my New Skills

When I returned to Cape Town I wasted no time in gathering together a small group of people to share my new insights and trainings. I researched further areas for maintaining our cognitive faculties, and as time has progressed, I have incorporated additional skills into my training program.

Realising that memory training and the building of a cognitive reserve is intimately connected with emotional control, a study of emotional resilience and motivation have become part of my teachings. Recently Mindfulness and Meditation are being rapidly embraced within Western society, so the understanding, practice and appreciation of these concepts have also become part of the range of skills we embrace in our non-directive facilitations.

Maintenance Skills

When we are at school and university, and subsequently in a work situation, we are called upon on a daily basis to exercise our mind. To stretch our intellectual faculties. To absorb new pieces of information. However, during the time of retirement, these external factors no longer form an integral part of our daily life, and the temptation to live a semi-indolent existence is ever-present. However, the trouble is that if we do not use it, we lose it. This expression applies to our mental abilities, in the same way as it applies to our physical abilities. If we are to retain our optimal level of functioning, slow down memory loss and maintain our perceptual faculties we need to adopt some daily routines into our lifestyle. To preserve our manual dexterity, sustain our balancing abilities and maintain our muscle tone, these skills have to be exercised in a consistent and stimulating manner.

Role of Blogging

And, perhaps the best way of all to retain one’s cognitive reserve is in the discipline of blogging. The weekly effort to draw insights from my experiences has become an effortful way of exercising concentration. It ensuring my creative skills do not become dormant. If you do not wish to blog, then daily journaling is a recognised pursuit for those who wish to practice their cognitive skills and ensure their faculties remain intact.

“Education should not only train people to solve problems and sharpen their intelligence but, more importantly, to be good human beings.” ~ Matthieu Ricard

#10

Chatting to a friend yesterday, I was surprised to hear from her an evaluation of her grandson’s education. “He is a brilliant student and recently qualified as an accountant,” she said. “But, when I spoke about #10, he did not know what I was talking about. And to make matters worse, “she added, “he has never even heard of Downing Street. I really do not understand what education today is all about!”  She reflected on her own background in the arts and her fund of general knowledge. I could not help thinking, “Is this really what is important in this day and age? Does a lack of a piece of factual knowledge give us the permission to condemn the contemporary system of education?”

I managed to refrain myself from vocalising my thoughts. I acted sympathetically. While not agreeing with her statement, I did manage to stop myself from disagreeing. However, more importantly, I started to ponder the primary requirements of contemporary education.

My Thoughts on Contemporary Education

Ken Robinson on TED

The first place to which my mind travelled was to the TED talk given by Ken Robinson which is one of the most popular of all time.   It has achieved  62 164 165 viewings. the main point of Robinson’s presentation was the enormous value of training in creativity, rather than the presence of a vast factual knowledge base.

Scenario Planners advocate Thinking Skills

In a recent blog, I have spoken about the work done by the scenario planners Chantelle Illusbury and Clem   They have put a great deal of work into developing a system which encourages the students to practice their logical thinking skills.

Understanding our own Biases

Another recent blog of mine talks about the work that Johnathan Haidt is doing on American campuses to enhance the students thinking of racial, class and gender issues. He focuses on giving the learner the skills to become aware of their own unconscious biases.

Evolution of Goals of Education

The next thought that came to my mind was, “Is it appropriate for us ladies, who were born more than 80 years ago, to use the educational models of our growing years as an example for the present generation?” Seventy years of history has been added to the available information since our school days. To say there has been an information explosion is an understatement. What percentage of the school curriculum should be devoted to technology? Our teachers did not have to worry about finding space in the curriculum for computer usage when I was a scholar.

Contemporary Goals in Education

At the stage, I decided it was time to do some research and bring ‘Mr Google’ into the act. My query in the search engine was, “What are the Education Goals of Today?  Here is what I found in the first article I accessed.  While this is an arbitrary choice, It is sufficiently broad in scope and progressive in orientation for me to use as a starting point.

The School Around Us suggests the following as education goals:

  • Learn how to learn, for life by being aware of multiple resources
  • Discover the whole self by reflection and introspection
  • Exploring and practising basic skills by understanding the interaction of all things
  • Practice responsible and knowledgeable citizenship

I rather like how The School Around Us reflects on the spiritual aspect of Holistic Education. “It is not a traditional school, in that the “basics” include matters of the spirit, the body, the heart, as well as the mind. Academics are certainly important, but they are only part of the “basics”.

Current Events Meeting promotes Further Ideas

At our U3A current events meeting this week in September 2019 the facilitator opened with a challenge. “Why do you think,” he enquired, “the British politicians are having such a hard time getting together making a decision.   The British Parliament has so many well educated and experienced politicians, yet they seem unable to form an agreement on this matter despite being led by three different Prime Ministers in the past three years?”

I did recognise our leader was being intentionally provocative. My thoughts were, “These experienced British Politicians may be well educated, but that does not mean they are necessarily rational in their behaviour. Each of us has our biases which may well not be founded on logical thought.”

Coda

While going to do my shopping this morning, I was stopped at a pedestrian crossing by a school teacher who was ushering her primary school class to cross the road. She failed to share my greeting, offered while I patiently waited for the last child to cross the street. As she moved on, I was anticipating a friendly wave or some acknowledgement for my wait. I was disappointed. She merely walked on with never a gesture of appreciation. I wonder what sort of education she experienced! And, I wonder if she knows where 10 Downing Street is situated!

 

The term antifragility was introduced into the English language by Nassim Taleb when writing his book of the same name which appeared in 2013.   I was somewhat chuffed to learn about this concept as it verified an observation I had made some 50 years ago.

My Observation

It was in the early days of my marriage.  Divorce was not nearly as common as it is today. Despite this fact, I did have within my social circle, sufficient acquaintances who had decided to terminate their marriage. I remember giving some thought to the fate of children whose parents divorced when they were still young.   I had noticed that the children of my friends who emerged from a family of divorce were either better adjusted psychologically than the average child, or had a greater number of psychological difficulties than the most of their peers.

An example of Antifragility

How does this relate to antifragility, you may ask?  To understand this term, we need first to understand that things such as glass objects are fragile, while articles made of steel are strong and robust.  But, what do we call something which grows in strength when offered a series of moderate setbacks?   This is what antifragility is all about.   Interestingly enough Taleb recognised this condition in the banking system when he was a successful investor and studied the ups and downs of the stock market.

Psychological and Physiological Antifragility

I am, however, more interested in how the term anti-fragility helps us to understand both psychological behaviour and the physiology of the body.  Small struggles of the mind and body tend to make us stronger.   If your muscles are not used they become weaker.  If our muscles are overused they are damaged.  But if our muscles are used a little bit more each day, or each week , they then grow stronger.  The same can be said of the immune system.  A few germs in the environment are necessary for the development of immunity.

Returning to my Early Experience

To return to my observation of many years ago, I now have an interpretation for this early hypothesis.  If the amount of stress of their parent’s divorce is handled optimally, the children can emerge with greater resilience; they become antifragile.  However, if the stress of the divorce procedure is beyond the capacity of the child to process, then that child will suffer emotional damage.

Resilience and Antifragility

Linda Graham is an American psychologist who has written a brilliant book on resilience. She describes resilience as the learned capacity to cope with adversity. Developing resilience over one’s lifespan illustrates the concept of anti-fragility. Graham in her latest weekly blog was referenced a book written by Johnathan Haidt and Greg Lukianoff called the Coddling of the American Mind In this book, the authors document how child-rearing practices in America are overprotecting growing children. Parents are not allowing them to experience the challenges which have been a traditional part of growing up.

Over-protection

Today parents are so concerned about the physical safety of their children that there is a tendency to overprotect them. As a result, today children in cities have to be under parental protection 24 hours a day.  Children are no longer allowed to be on the streets without adult supervision.  Parents can be punished for allowing their children to participate in activities that the current law considers to be dangerous.  Thus a child cannot be allowed to go to the corner shop to buy a pint of milk or a loaf of bread.  The growing child does not participate in the tasks which allow them to develop their independence. Several decades ago, a child reared in the city could go to visit friends in the local neighbourhood, play in the streets, or make their way to the park without adult supervision.   Today these growth experiences are denied because of what many people perceive as over-protective regulations.

A Commencement Speech

The benefits of encouraging an antifragile lifestyle are beautifully illustrated in the words of John Roberts, Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, in his commencement speech to his son’s middle school:

He said, “From time to time in the years to come:

  • I hope you will be treated unfairly, so that you will come to know the value of justice.
  • I hope that you will suffer betrayal because that will teach you the importance of loyalty.
  • Sorry to say, but I hope you will be lonely from time to time so that you don’t take friends for granted. ·
  • I wish you bad luck, again, from time to time so that you will be conscious of the role of chance in life and understand that your success is not completely deserved and the failure of others is not completely deserved either.  ·
  • I hope you’ll be ignored so you know the importance of listening to others, and I hope you will have just enough pain to learn compassion.
  • Whether I wish these things or not, they’re going to happen. And whether you benefit from them or not will depend upon your ability to see the message in your misfortunes.”

The Reader’s Contribution

Would you like to share your experience of the role of antifragility in your own life?  Let the other readers know how you have benefitted from the challenges you have overcome. How you have emerged with greater strength?

My friend Geraldine recently celebrated her 83rd birthday.  I phoned to congratulate her on reaching this milestone. In the past, she has invited her friends for a morning tea to celebrate this annual event, but having recently moved to a new senior residence she has abandoned this routine. We resorted to having a chat on the phone.

Catching up

We were discussing our friendship of the past 40 odd years.  We met many years ago at an Easter camp that was run by our local hiking club.  We travelled together to the Alps on a two week hiking tour in Austria.   We reminisced about the many local trails we had hiked together.  We had spent a month in Israel, where we participated in special volunteer program.   In this program, people living in the diaspora can spend three weeks on an Israeli Army Base getting to know the country and its people.   Simultaneously they work as temporary members of the Israeli Defence Force, thus playing a small part in the country’s security.

Changing Technology

Geraldine was telling me that despite the fact that she is considered one of the most technologically sophisticated in her Residential Home she was really put out when visiting her son in America.   She does her own internet banking, and regularly uses an ATM.  However she was unable to begin to master the new systems she found in the States when she visited her son last year.  She expressed her feelings of unfairness.  She wanted to put a new app on her 5 year old ipad but was unable to download the software to her out of date device.  Her laptop of 10 years is unable to cope with the latest upgrades.  “It’s not fair,” she proclaimed, “How do they expect people like me to manage if they keep changing these things?”

Into the Future

If this is how an 83 year old is feeling in 2019, then how are people of a similar age going to feel 30 years from now?  By that time, technology will be changing even faster than today.  Each year the speed of change in the field of communications is accelerated.  I feel that people who are about to retire need to retain their capacity to keep up with the ever changing demands of technology.  Senior people need to maintain a positive attitude to learning new concepts.    The should be aware that our previous skills sets will not equip us for the future environment.

And, Another Friend

I was chatting to another friend who is a retired librarian.  She has a wide knowledge of literature and has been a leader in her local book club for many years.  When I saw Maria recently, I asked her what she was finding interesting in the contemporary world of literature.   I enquired whether she was enjoying an author whom I admire. “Oh yes,” of course,” she responded when I questioned her on the work of Yuval Noah Harari, “I have read all his books, although I did find his second one Homo Deus somewhat challenging.”  I decided to follow up with, “And, do you maybe read the blogs of Maria Popova.  She is someone whose work I respect. She has the ability to synthesise knowledge on such a wide range of contemporary psychological and philosophical issues.”   “No,” she said, somewhat condescendingly, “I do not have enough time to read blogs.”   “Oh dear,” I thought, “It is clear we have some different values regarding the source of useful information.”

The Implications

I see an interesting parallel.   Some people live in a country and never learn the primary official language of their adopted home.   Then, others have a negative attitude toward technological change.

We are not all going to be using all the opportunities presented by social media, or all the potential apps which are available for download.  However, I do consider it a disadvantage to cut oneself off from the reading of all the personal, anecdotal, and contemporary perspectives to be discovered by reading blogs.

My Potential Contribution

I am working hard to develop an online course specifically targeting people nearing their retirement.  I plan to share some of the habits I have been practising for most of my life.

Physical well-being

Not just the benefits of daily and ongoing exercise, but the necessity of developing a routine that includes both walking and more robust activities.  I believe potential retirees need to continue to learn new skills.  They should continuously set themselves everyday cognitive challenges.   They need to be in a position to take advantages of the fresh possibilities which become available.

Cognitive well-being

An awareness of the many ways to keep the mind active will become critically relevant.  Watching passive entertainment on the TV screen or playing games on the phone do not qualify.

Emotional well-being

Furthermore, I believe an ability to practice the techniques of mindfulness and meditation have become a pre-requisite for maintaining emotional equilibrium. These skills assist us in processing new experiences, objectively and healthily.   Allow us to develop our emotional resilience.

My hope

I hope you will be following me as I develop my online course and share my life experiences.   I aim to retain my curiosity as an octogenarian who remains intrigued by the up-to-the-minute opportunities which become available day by day.

 

O800 444 426 is the number to dial.   It is the international phone number for South African residents which allows them to communicate free of charge with Apple Support on a telephonic land line

The Problem

I had landed myself in a situation in which Apple had deducted hundreds of rand per month from my credit card.   Many email complaints yielded no response.  Things were getting out of hand. I decided to confront the issue first thing in the morning; the time my energy levels are at their peak!

My Weekly Visit

It was a Tuesday, the day on which I entertain my seven-year-old granddaughter.   We share many regular activities, including baking cookies, playing snakes and ladders as well as ball and racket games, participating in creative crafting activities, going to the park and attending the local gym where Mishka loves to swim.   But on this particular afternoon, I needed a rest and was meeting some resistance when requesting a half hour to lie down and close my eyes.  I decided to throw my principles to the wind and downloaded the app Colorfy onto my iPad.  This would keep Mishka entertained for half an hour.   A little bribery sometimes needs to be resorted to in order for me to have some brief ‘time-out!’

An App with Conditions

The app offered a free seven-day trial, and monthly payments were required after the trial period.   I made an irrevocable effort to delete the app within the required time and was quite certain I fulfilled this task.    Notwithstanding the fact  I had activated the deletion process, I noted a number of emails in my inbox from Apple.  Checking on my bank statement the relevant deductions had been made.    By the time I had totally absorbed this information, I had three instalments taken off my account.  Something definitely needed to be done about this.

Whilst I had ticked the box on the email in which I was invited to complain, no response had been received from Apple.  I had tried various techniques of making contact with them over the internet, without success.   I visited the local Apple shop and was offered a phone number for free international land line calls.

The Solution

The first thing I did this morning was to spend 45 minutes in consultation with two different Apple consultants in order to sort the matter out.   Living in South Africa I am familiar with a less than perfect service when speaking on the phone at a ‘help desk’, so I was pleasantly surprised with the professionalism and friendliness of the Apple representatives.

Working with Vicki

After identifying myself, Vicki told me that we could work together on our iPads and she would send me a message so that I could grant permission for our devices to work together.   Unfortunately, I did not receive this message so we had to work out an alternative methodology.   Some further problems with passwords slowed us down but ultimately Vicki ascertained that I did not have a subscription for Colorfy recorded on my account.   So she would have to put me through to Accounts.

Working with Yuki

A further delay of five minutes and Yuki came on the line to assist me.   I was fascinated by Yuki’s accent but did not feel it was appropriate to ask her any personal questions when the purpose of my call was to request a reversal of the funds which had been taken from my account as well as a cancellation of my subscriptions.

Yuki did eventually sort out my problem.   She reassured me that not only would my account be debited but my subscription would be cancelled.   In addition, she would email me information about how to cancel subscriptions on my iPad to ensure that I would not have this problem in the future.   I was fascinated to find that Yuki is a Pilipino – hence my difficulty in understanding her accent!

And, the Conclusion

In conclusion, I have mixed feelings about Apple.   During this investigation, I determined that there was no subscription recorded, yet I had three deductions from my bank statement.  When Yuki asked me how much had been deducted from my account, she accepted my word for the amount.  It appeared to me that she did not verify the amount I quoted as she hastily announced she had made arrangements for the repayment.

My main aim had been achieved.   I was promised a repayment as well as the termination of my subscription.   It was just a pity that I needed to expend so much time and effort to achieve this solution to a situation which should not have occurred in the first place!

 

 

 

The increasing popularity and awareness of the Practice of Mindfulness in the Western World during the past decade, has been so phenomenal, that some sceptical observers have been calling it somewhat sardonically MacMindfulness!

My first memory of being impressed by the potential of the Practice of Mindfulness was when I read about research that was being conducted at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, some 25 years ago.   It was when the first efforts were made to derive scientific evidence for this phenomenon using long term meditators as the subjects.  Matthieu Ricard was chosen as the perfect candidate to Meditate on Compassion in an MRI machine.   Practising Compassion or Metta is a pivotal mindfulness practice derived from the Buddhist tradition.    He was the ideal subject for this early attempt at obtaining scientific evidence on Mindfulness, as he was well on his way to receiving a Nobel Prize for his research in microbiology when he decided to leave his career at a Parisian research centre and immerse himself in Buddhist Philosophy and Meditation in the East.

Early Research

With many thousands of hours of meditation under his belt, Matthieu subjected himself to the rigours of Meditating on Compassion in the MRI machine.   When reading the report of this trial, I learned that the graph paper was not big enough to record the information being received from its experimental subject. The graph actually went off the top of the page because of the intensity of the brain waves which were being recorded during the experimental sessions.   This information motivated me to find out more about the practice of Mindfulness and meditation.

An Opportunity

At that time I was involved in the study and practice of Eric Berne’s “I’m OK – You’re OK.”  This theory investigated how the early relationships set up in the family home influences our thought patterns, behaviour as well as our responses to social situations and cultural pressures during our lifetime.    It was my teacher of Berne’s theory who emailed me information about an eight week course on Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction.   Having reassured myself that the presenters of this course were well qualified I decided to take a leap of courage and immerse myself into this training.

The idea of needing to meditate for 45 minutes a day, every day for the next eight weeks was daunting, and I had to be constantly reminding myself of my impressions of the performance of Ricard in the MRI machine, to keep me motivated.   There was a significant dropout rate from the class, but I did manage to fulfil all the requirements of the course which included a 6 hour day of mindful silence.

I was satisfied with my handling of this early immersion into Mindfulness.   I had done the homework meditation practices, attended all the two hour sessions, learned about mindful eating and incorporating mindful moments in my daily routine.   However, I was not successful in motivating myself to perform the daily meditation practice on the cushion.    This was a cause of personal dissatisfaction.

Further Opportunity

However, it was about 6 months later that I received an announcement about a new two year diploma course that was being offered at Stellenbosch University Medical School on the Theory and Practice of Mindfulness.   The entrance qualification was a degree in Psychology or experience in an allied field.   I had the necessary qualifications but, “What chance has a woman in her mid-70s of being selected for this course” I pondered.

Very soon I had a phone call from Dr Simon Whitesman, the initiator of this program.   He interviewed me telephonically and I learned I had been successful in my application.   The course involved on-line study, the writing of essays, and 4 separate weeks of immersion into the experience of Mindful Meditation at local retreat centres.    Two years later I was the proud owner of a certificate stating my success in pursuing this Diploma Course.

It is a full six years ago that I completed this training, and I now have an established mindfulness practice.   The first thing I do after my early morning ablutions and getting dressed is 20 minutes ‘on the cushion.’   If I miss out for any reason, like having to be on the tennis court at 7am, then the whole day has a feeling of something missing or ‘ennui’.   I have mastered the art of meditation in many varying situations including the park, the queue at the bank or just taking a break in my writing schedule!  Additionally, I sometimes remember to take a pause for a few mindful breaths a couple of times a day just to bring me back into the present moment, and away from the tendency to think compulsively.

Positive Lifestyle Augmentation

It was indeed challenging when my somewhat sceptical daughter questioned me a couple of days ago, “Ma,” she said, “Do you feel that your daily practice of meditation has helped you?”

I took a deep breath and expressed myself as follows.   “Tanya, I feel that I can with good conscience tell you that this practice has been of value to me.   As you know, I moved into a Retirement Village two years ago.   This move took place just 6 weeks after I had major back surgery.   I needed to pack up my home, recover from the post-operative pain, and cope with all the practical details involved.   I managed to do that with some degree of equilibrium, and indeed hosted a meeting at my new home, just two days after taking occupation.  I feel that my training in Mindfulness helped me to cope with the stresses involved in making this change in my lifestyle.”

I continued, “You know about the negotiations I went through to have my two dogs living here with me.   You recall that management only wanted me to bring one dog, so I went through many painful negotiations with the committee to ensure that I was not separated from both Blanco and Freddy.”

And besides, I said to her, “You know about the various family pressures with which I have been involved so soon after moving.   I have managed to cope with these events while continuing to pursue my hobbies and my commitments to my groups who come for their monthly sessions of Conscious Ageing.”

“So in conclusion,” I announced, “yes, my daily practice of mindful meditation has assisted me in establishing an equilibrium which I do not believe I would have enjoyed without this training. I am extremely grateful to have had the opportunity to add this area of knowledge and skill set, to my repertoire of acquired skills.   I can sincerely recommend the practices I have learned around Mindfulness and the knowledge I have acquired on the journey towards developing a regular daily practice.”