Mindfulness Mondays 3/23: On Change and its Many Facets

Today, I tried out a new Mindfulness App recommended on Mindful.org. I was skeptical at first but after reading the article and noticed one of them I’ve used before, I decided it was valuable to share. I enjoyed the criticisms it gave on the second app Calm, which I’ve used before but haven’t in a while (mainly because of the length of the 7 meditations and its tone). The first one sounded much more promising than the third, so I checked it out. Stop, Breathe & Think is offered on iPhones, Androids, and the computer- and the best part is you can update your account through all three and it will show up in real-time! I loved how it only takes a minute (or less) to check-in with your current emotional and physical state (5 options are given). Then after checking in, a few meditations are offered with varying time sequences, all relevant to the emotional and physical state you entered. There is a substantial list of meditations offered that you can choose from in your account, as well as check your progress in an easy and readable display format.

Front page of the app Stop, Breathe & Think.

Front page of the app Stop, Breathe & Think.

After my check-in, where I identified most of my emotions were related to feeling anxious and worried, I decided to try the recommended 6 minute meditation: Relax, Ground and Clear. I sat on the couch in my department building and was able to successfully complete the meditation without interruption until the last 30 seconds. This sequence provided some time to sit with my current emotional state, recognize how grounded I am to the Earth through my seat, and then envision myself on the top of a mountain and feel my grounded footing at its peak. Since I then had more time than I originally thought, I gave another sequence a try from the list of offered meditations: Change. I didn’t know what this one would entail but I thought the idea was appropriate. Change was a bit random since it was very philosophical on the subjects mentioned (the Earth changing over time, cells in the body changing). However, when it then prompted me to come back to my body and feel myself in the seat, I saw that it had successfully gotten me to think about these changes.

Though the topics were very philosophical, the app did just what it says: Stop, Breathe & Think. Despite the topics within the matter of change, they still were examples of kinds of change, even if I thought they were random or too theoretical. Both sequences got me to stop in my day, breathe through the sequence, and think about what the sequence prompted! Furthermore, after the sequence I was able to reflect upon my emotional and physical state in response to the meditation. Some mindfulness apps do a lot of promising and then you’re left dissatisfied at the end of using the technology. Stop, Breathe & Think gave everything it promises in its name!

On the topic of change, it’s the first day back in school after a week of Spring Break, so I’m a little out of my routine. Not to mention the season has changed officially to Spring! This unfortunately has brought weather changes, allergies, unpleasant bodily responses, and many more deadlines approaching! Over break I took a two-day vacation with my boyfriend and another couple to Niagara Falls, Ontario. It was gorgeous and just plain humbling. I allowed myself throughout the trip to surrender to my routines and also to loosen from them. I was able to be social with friends and take time to savor with my boyfriend with hardly any distractions (we couldn’t use our phones and barely looked at our emails). This was pure bliss. The life of living simply, without the many bounded strings we have to maintain to others or the responsibilities (big and small) that we chip away at daily, was extremely refreshing. Coming back to my regular life as a graduate student, having to read the many emails I had ignored, make necessary phone calls, tend to animals and bills, and just simply THINK about the many things I think about in a day has been overwhelming.

Photo from the observatory deck (it was dark but I like the edging on this)

Photo from the observatory deck (it was dark but I like the edging on this)

Going on spontaneous or even planned trips has always left me in a state of shock once they’re through. It’s like you’re a bit sad that reality can’t make accommodations to make living life a bit more simple- less chaotic, less inter-webbed, less noisy, less busy. I’ve never handled change well, and so I thought today’s guided meditation could be helpful. Despite the many thoughts that arose in my brain throughout that sequence, one repeating thought has stuck with me. I can’t run from change, and neither can anyone else. Change is the ebb and flow in our daily lives, it’s always going to be there. So the fact that I was able to work the first part of break, have a vacation, and now am back at school is part of it. In a month it will be the busiest time of the semester during finals, and then a few days afterward it will be all over. Noise to Quiet. Madness to Serenity. It’s part of change, which is a constant feature of life. And after today’s change of mindfulness app usage, I’m motivated to meditate in the future on the topic of change, and just see how my responses to it can change over time.

Food Hubs: Criticisms and Considerations for Current and Future Sites

Recently on CityLab, an article was published on the recent plan of a Food Port in Louisville, Kentucky to be developed by 2016. This port is not the first in the States, and in fact there are many other hubs that are popping up around the country in efforts to provide local and regional food markets to typically more economically disadvantaged sections of cities. Some of these hubs are providing other services such as incubator kitchens and canning facilities, while some are looking into other mixed-use development options with drug stores and condominiums. This project is being developed and funded by Seed Capital Kentucky, a nonprofit committed to locally-sourced food products and the partnerships that sustain this local economy. The Food Port is part of the many projects currently underway led by Vision Louisville and other important stakeholders throughout the Metro area, as a revitalization strategy for the western part of the city. Vicky Gan writes:

Seed Capital originally conceived of the development as a food “hub” in 2013, but renamed it the “FoodPort” this year, after the concept evolved to incorporate a kitchen incubator, food truck plaza, demonstration farm, classrooms, and even an anaerobic digester to convert the facility’s organic waste back into usable energy.

The article is pretty convincing and answered most of my questions I had that ultimately doubted the fate of the project. I’m still left with some criticisms, though not to this specific project but of these food hub/port efforts in general. First of all, many of these projects are doing some good when they are taking unused land parcels and redeveloping them, often in the more blighted spots of cities. However, I’m wondering how these projects will affect the immediate constituency that reside in the surrounding area. Many of these projects claim to offer local employment opportunities as well as a more equitable source of healthy food options and the increasing benefits of “community”.

How will these hubs affect the other marts and convenience stores within the area that are serving as the local economy, as well as the price of land and tax revenue from this redevelopment? While these projects claim to bring education, employment and economy into a more regional and local vision, where are the local constituents’ voices and opinions throughout the planning process? What are the engagement strategies being used to source where these hubs should be placed, and see the greater reception of the local community and their ideas for how this can positively affect them? After doing some research, I haven’t found much mentioned and so I’m left with wondering, will these projects actually help the local under-served populations as they assert themselves to, or will they continue to cater to the “food yuppy”, usually more of the affluent background?

I ask the last question because on many of the project websites, the term “foody” is often used, and even Caroline Heine (Director of Seed Capital Kentucky) brings up the point that local food should not just be for “upper middle-class yuppies”. Who are these companies, their sites, and their projects’ marketing schemes seems to be in conflict with who these companies are developing for, or rather should be, developing with. When terms like “foody” are used in the marketing scheme, are these plans really as equitable as they claim? Why do these developments need to be advertised with the “foody” in mind, who often times is also the “upper middle-class yuppy”? If these plans are really meant to foster local economic growth and revitalization of struggling neighborhoods in cities, then how these plans are marketed and discussed needs to change in order to ensure that the people who will be most affected (and that the plans claim to benefit the most) are appropriately addressed and considered top priority throughout all phases of a plan. Jeff Farbman, of National Good Food Network, discusses the applications of these hubs in underserved neighborhoods and cities.

“If you have a city or philanthropic organization interested in reviving a city, locating [so-called] ‘light industrial’ is a great thing to do,” Farbman says. “You are talking about a bunch of jobs, the potential for multiple shifts, but you’re also talking about larger trucks. It’s unlikely to be located in the dense-population or high-wealth areas. I can see economically there is quite a bit of rationale for that.”

Looking at site locations of many of these initiatives, they are often located near interstates (which conveniently are developed through or around struggling neighborhoods). This is great because it offers access to inter- and intra- state commuters, as well as to truck-drivers that can transport goods from the surrounding farms outside of the city limits. Although, I am wondering how future transportation will be impacted in these neighborhoods, with these hubs offering various attractions and necessities to such a large and variable public? Will these hubs replace the farmer’s markets that have popped up throughout cities, and how will this impact the farmers that do not get a spot at the new food hub? How will these hubs mediate engagement with the various population and their income sources- will they accept supplementary income and how do they plan to engage and develop capacity amongst the lower-income constituents to take part in the local economy?

Though I have lots of questions, I think that overall these food ports and food hubs offer more good than harm. I couldn’t help but think about a city that is so dear to me, that I think could benefit greatly from this idea: Memphis. I lived in rural Arkansas for almost two years, and Memphis was like my second home throughout my time in Arkansas. I grew to know it well and as a planner and justice advocate, I always have it in the forefront of my thoughts when it comes to plans or policies and measuring their real intentions versus real impacts. After hypothesizing some places where a food hub could potentially go, I decided to look at the interactive travel-guide map of Memphis to see what would be nearby. Finding a site with similar criteria like the others was challenging simply because I don’t live there anymore. However, using the interactive map and referring to Google Maps, as well as my own memory, I have decided that somewhere along South Parkway West near Interstate 55 would be most appropriate. The map helped me discern from places near Bartlett, Midtown, Cooper Young, or East Memphis. However, when considering South Memphis, South Parkway and the Southgate Plaza Mall were screaming at me. Much of South Parkway consists of liquor stores, mini-marts, loan and credit companies, pawn shops, and has been given a reputation for crime and poverty. You can see the difference here at the screen shots from the interactive map from East Memphis to South Memphis.

East Memphis offers arts, music, museums, and many restaurants.

South Memphis offers clubs, casinos, and landmarks or trails.

South Parkway cuts between I-55 and I-240, and clearly there are no attractions visible except the airport down at the bottom right corner and Martin Luther Riverside Park to the left of I-55.

Obviously all of my previous criticisms and questions would apply here. There are so many buildings along South Parkway (West or East) that are either vacant or decaying, and has ample large parking lots and unused concrete land. Because of the vicinity to the two interstates, but mainly proximity to I-55 and the Martin Luther Riverside Park, along with the economic and social conditions current, I think South Parkway would be an excellent model site if Memphis would want to develop a food hub. Memphis is already a city known for its musical and food cultures, and is right on the Mississippi River surrounded by farms to the East and across the river. Bringing a local food economy as well as employment, and furthermore, pride amongst the many farmers and impoverished city and city outskirts folk, would be a significant improvement to not only the people but also the reputation for South Memphis.

Mindfulness Mondays 3/16: To Love is to be Vulnerable (at least a little bit)

I’m going to share with you a bit of my day and the raw emotions that were part of it. It’s not entirely full of roses, but it’s human, so it’s real.

Today was harder than usual.

It wasn’t the kind of hard that is prominent and right in your face. It wasn’t loud, and it wasn’t somber. It was a class of it’s own. I didn’t realize how hard it actually was until my boyfriend came home.

All day I had been doing whatever I could to check in with my emotions and try to remediate them…yoga, healthy snacks, an afternoon walk, and even trying to get my work on my to-do list done. (Yes I know that may not sound so joyous to some) I’m going to tell you the truth here. Today was the first day in a while where it felt like I really needed to lean on someone, particularly him.

Today was the official start of my “spring break” and to a graduate student I suppose that doesn’t mean what it would to a stereotypical undergraduate. How did I spend today? Sucked into the couch heavily searching the internet for summer jobs and internships. I only awoke from the trance after three hours of searching to realize I hadn’t drank water or stood up! This was a trigger for me because I not only allowed myself to partake in mindless activity, but I didn’t have anything fruitful to show for all of my work- as in I really didn’t come out with many leads. I was disappointed and by that point hadn’t realized my burnout.

By the time my boyfriend got home and I began laying out what had happened today, I was spiraling. My emotions came to a head, and I began to weep in the comfort of his arms. It was if it was “Okay” to be exposed. He listened and let me have my moment, and proceeded to comfort me afterward. Then he sprung on me the option of spontaneity! He suggested we go out to eat and have it feel like a regular vacation, rather than a work overload day. We went out to eat and I ate things I normally would not, mostly of the fried kind.

I bet you’re like “How is this mindful at all?” You see, I waited to write today because I knew I wasn’t quite myself. All day I was trying so hard to be “My Best Self” and be as productive as possible. Again though, I was running from my true desires and feelings. I really just wanted to give myself a break but since I knew I would be traveling with friends to Niagara Falls later this week (YAY!) I tried to work and get ahead of the game. I’m not advocating here for breaking your rules or motifs, or “letting go” of your goals. I’m not giving reason to be a slacker and give up on any future initiative to work hard. I’m simply living in the moment with how I’m feeling, and allowing myself to be, with mistakes or “mistakes” and all.

Living mindfully does not mean living perfectly. That’s a constant struggle I have within myself. I tell myself that since I have the conscience to recognize my thoughts and choose how I want to react, that I have to always make the best choice. But that’s not true! Being mindful is simply just being able to allow yourself to recognize and then acknowledge your thoughts at all, and furthermore being active in choosing how to respond to those thoughts. Tonight I engaged in indulgence. Earlier today I engaged in yoga. It’s all in moderation and knowing yourself well enough on how to moderate (or be vulnerable enough to explore in moderation) is key.

Today during yoga, I cried. I didn’t know why I cried and it scared me. I knew at that moment there were some deeper things I needed to check in with, and that furthermore scared me since I’d been able to get through my work and responsibilities without as much emotional effort for the last few weeks. But I tried to run from what I was afraid of. I knew all day I just needed a hug and someone to let me feel safe in my emotions, someone that would let me cry or be whatever I wanted to be at that moment. All day I had been trying to maintain the strong version of myself just to simply show myself  I could do it… but then I unraveled. This is why I like mindfulness- because I have this space to reflect on my progress over time and my learning moments! And so my takeaway here is that I allowed myself to be vulnerable to someone I love deeply, and who I know loves me back just the same. I felt safe enough to unravel to my partner who also is my best friend. I allowed myself to not “be perfect”, but “be human”- I allowed myself to be vulnerable and accept the compassion and healing of someone else.

I think now about how fortunate I am to have him in my life. I think about those that suffer with mental health issues that don’t feel like they have anyone to share their feelings with or being truly vulnerable. I am extremely lucky to have many people in my life whom I feel safe to be open with and share my vulnerabilities, and I only hope that people feel the same towards me.  I’m going to challenge myself to check-in more with my emotions this week, and also allow myself to really say what I’m feeling in the moment (this means pushing myself to not shy away from asking people what I need from them). I want to challenge you to do the same, and also take time out to remind yourself who you’re thankful for. Let’s all be mindful and acknowledge who is there for us when we really need them to be (even when we think we don’t need anyone).

Happy Monday y’all!

Mindfulness Check-In 3/9: Sunny(er) Days

Today was a whirlwind of events! From the moment I woke up, I knew it was going to be a day where I would have to go from place to place, without much time to even think about what would come next- and that’s exactly what happened. I’m not sure if I willingly accepted this fate when I woke up later than usual this morning, but I know that there were times today when I felt I might have some control on how my day would go and turned them away. During these moments I didn’t feel the urge to plan or think through how to regain control, but just moved on with my day and the events happening in it. It’s almost like I resisted any ability that involved reaction and reflection because it would take “too much time” or “too much effort”. At this point after the day it’s been, I’m not even sure how I feel about this lack of wanting to control the day and its outcomes, and even from that realization I’m not sure how to move forward…

This is where I am at this moment in time. It’s an uncomfortable state. As you may remember from last week, my mind and body both felt very loud and expressive, antsy and driven. Today (and now that I’m thinking about it) and throughout the past weekend I could see myself almost in a state of quiet apathy. My entire day was taken up by events (my Mondays are normally not like today), and I only had this time now to sit with my thoughts and write my post; and the state that I’m in is not the most conducive to writing epiphanic thoughts. I know myself well enough that I’m not deliberately trying not to care, and that there is no motif or drive behind my current state. It’s almost like there is this cloud of calm over me, but it’s not a reassuring calm. Instead it brings me to a place of tired thoughts, tired body, and then the lack of initiative to think further because it’s just tiring. Maybe my mind and body are now showing the effects afterward of a week of feeling so antsy and driven with loud energy? It’s like I exhausted my thoughts and energy reserves after last week’s feelings and state.

As I sit now and start to re-read my post and notice my current state, I can remind myself that though I may not know how to process my feelings and move forward, these feelings and “state” are only temporary. It’s my “current state”. That is enough for me to know that when tomorrow comes, I can wake up at my usual time and actually eat my healthy breakfast at home. I can take moments through the day to notice the warmer weather, the sun that shines later into the evening, and even get home at a decent hour tomorrow to have dinner with my significant other and work on the things I need to accomplish. While there is a little voice that is lightly calling at me from the back of my brain saying “make your to-do list tonight so you know what to do for tomorrow!”, I know that if I choose to wait until tomorrow I’ll be more rested with a clearer mind, and it won’t set me back for my day’s accomplishments.

Yesterday I rejoiced because of changing the clocks forward! I now have one more hour of daylight to see into the evening. Spring and summer are coming. Warmer weather was here (40 degrees!). Today I was still excited but I acknowledged that it was changing the clocks forward that impeded my ability to fall asleep, wake up at my usual time (I’m used to waking up to light, not darkness), and aided in my mindset of tiredness throughout the day. Tomorrow is a new day that will have even more sun than today or the day before. Each day will get sunnier. And that gives me hope that tomorrow I will be more like myself. Though my “current state” is not what I’m used to feeling or how I typically respond, it’s only current and does not have to carry into my tomorrow. I hope that through the blur of this post you can find the glimmer for your tomorrow to shine!

Mindfulness Check-In 3/2: Loud Thoughts and Meditation Bells

Sometimes your thoughts actually just sound like LOUD NOISES!

yell

Sometimes this is how you want to get those thoughts out! But you can’t…

Last Wednesday, and then in-and-out since, I’ve been experiencing moments (or a majority of the day) where all of my thoughts seem extremely LOUD, URGENT, EXPRESSIVE, FAST-MOVING, EMOTIONAL, and if I don’t catch myself in time, those thoughts then either turn into actions or words in reality. It sometimes feels like there are 3 different heavy metal bands playing 3 different songs at once, all songs including double bass drumming and loud screaming! Naturally, this can alter some moments and how people see you in that moment in time. So how do you manage to not let your thoughts come out in a manner that is uninviting and sometimes quite scary? You stop for a 1/2 second and just notice, without reaction, the thought(s), and then, notice how it makes you feel and how you may want to respond.

This morning, after I reflected on this internal energy that I’ve experienced over the last week, which is still somewhat present today, I was able to meditate for the first time with my therapist. His specialty is in meditation and mindfulness practice and though I’ve been seeing him since the beginning of September, this is the first time we’ve practiced together, in a session. He actually has one of those little metal meditation bells that look like this:

Photo credit: Zengroupon.com

Well I’m going to spare you the 10-minute recap and just get to what I really wanted to share. Those loud thoughts do mean something, but just because the thoughts are loud, doesn’t mean so do our actions (or reactions). I expressed how often when I practice and I’m noticing, I typically tell myself in my brain, “Thinking about writing a blog post” or “Wondering about my Professor’s email”. You see, that’s just too much text already- too much of the story I’m trying to capture and develop. My therapist led me through the meditation and told me that when a thought or worry comes up, to just repeat in my head “Thinking, thinking, thinking” or “Worry, worry worry”. He explained that by practicing that in the moment, it helps to simplify all of what’s attached to the thought in my brain, that story that I’m ultimately creating and further developing when I think to myself “Thinking about this and that, etc.” By just boiling down the details of the thought or feeling to their most simple state, the act of thinking or worry or anxiety or boredom (you get the idea), we help to simplify the brain and come to terms with those thoughts easier, and thus can choose further how we would like to respond to those more basic thoughts or emotions.

So all in all, you may want to yell out your thought or you may see yourself getting really wrapped up in the creation and re-telling of the story that means so much to you. When you do, stop and notice. Repeat to yourself (or practice getting there) the word that is truly the essence of that thought or feeling- just one word!!! Simplify all those loud thoughts and really see them for what they are, thoughts. Fro there you can then choose the path for best approach.

Happy Monday y’all!

Defensive Architecture: A Crossroads of Space, Social Power and Law

“A space without social (and legal) meaning is simply a location…much of social space represents a materialization of power, and much of law consists in highly significant and specialized descriptions and prescriptions of the same power.” (Blomley, xix)

It’s becoming more and more apparent in cities of today that spaces, both natural and built, are being re-imagined to serve purposes other than encouraging the social gathering of people. What is even more striking is that city officials and hired architects and planners are then taking these revised ideas of social places and actually creating them. As I read the stories popping up over the internet of places where ‘defensive architecture’ is utilized as a way to discourage loitering and homeless inhabitants, I can’t help but think about the inherent injustice within this ideology and construction. Not to mention that these places which once were used by humans for a multitude of purposes, along with the many unintended uses that arose, will now significantly be lessened. The most popular example right now is the latest installation of metal spikes on the grounds in front of a flat in London, where homeless dwellers would typically take up residence for resting and sleeping.

Photo Credit: Metal studs outside private flats on Southwark Bridge Road, London. Photograph: Guy Corbishley/Demotix/Corbis

This is happening all over the world- everyday there are spaces in our cities that are being redesigned with the intention to make some sort of statement. That’s the key point here- What statement? Because we’re being exposed to so much on a daily basis, we experience a sense of numbing to the issues that seem more routine, almost normalized (this is the environmental psychology). We all know that what may sound and look great on paper does not always work to our best intentions in reality. Building up a downtown center with high-rises, parking lots, and no public spaces sounded great for business but not-so-much for the people that make those businesses run. So where is the consideration for the fellow human when it’s time to develop an idea to reduce the presence of homeless people or loiterers? Homeless people, loitering teens and adults, these are still people. Why is the idea to remove them, extinguish them, make them appear less as if they aren’t even there? The quote at the beginning of the post has stuck with me since I read it over a month ago, and I thought fit with this issue of environmental psychology and defensive architecture. Spaces are not just empty, and how they are designed is not done blindly but with intention and have deeper meanings and implications than what may seem apparent. Every space and place, rich and lush or struggling and dicrepit, has inherent social, political and legal meaning. How that space is managed and utilized, how it’s perceived, establishes and reinforces its value- both in monetary but also in socio-political. The law and the policies that are often validated by law, are all wrapped up by the enveloping blanket of power, which can then choose to share warmth with those of certain social powers while leaving the less socially valuable out in the cold.

Alex Andreou shares:

“Defensive architecture is revealing on a number of levels, because it is not the product of accident or thoughtlessness, but a thought process. It is a sort of unkindness that is considered, designed, approved, funded and made real with the explicit motive to exclude and harass. It reveals how corporate hygiene has overridden human considerations, especially in retail districts. It is a symptom of the clash of private and public, of necessity and property.”

As a mindful planner, my first thought is that instead of repeating our past when it comes to the redesigning of cities and public spaces within them, we must instead approach the situation from a place of compassion and try to see the many problems that are intertwined so tight. When we think of a city and choose to see it as dirty and nearly dead, we’re only seeing it through a myopic lens, and we’re choosing to refuse the good qualities and value that are also present. Sometimes you have to think a bit harder or look from a different angle. Rather than seeing a bus stop as just a place where bums sleep, we need to see the bigger picture and consider the other uses and roles that this bus stop serves. For instance, it’s a bus stop, so it’s useful to those people that take the bus. Since often times people arrive earlier to wait for the bus, there is usually a lag period of time where other people will walk by or stop to rest and/or wait at the stop, and can often be a time where conversations and news are exchanged. Also, if the bus stop has a roof, it serves as a weather shelter for not just bus-users but also those who are homeless. Some bus stops are revitalized to display art, offer Wi-Fi, or just share information. There are many purposes that a bus stop serves and if we only choose to look at one problem with the stop, which is a place but also has significant effects on the many humans that use this stop, than we are being selectively ignorant to the social and political implications. If instead we approach the “homelessness issue” from a place of compassion- instead of attempting to oust the problem as our first reaction, we can instead think of the many possible approaches and attempt to offer solutions that are not only realistic but also more just. Planners, architects, designers, officials, anyone in a position of social power, needs to consider the repercussions and actual human lives that are affected by these less-than-mindful designs. It’s not about the place, it’s about the people. I believe that when we begin to lose the real meaning of why we build and create the places we do, then we lose our connections and our ability to empathize with other humans lessens.

Mindfulness Check-In 2/23: Some Remedies for a case of the Work Mondays

Courtesy of mindful.org

I don’t want to talk at you, but just provide some tips for how to not just start The Monday, but also to progress through The Monday. I know for me on this Monday, though I woke up in an exceptionally pleasant mood, I was hurting from my workload yesterday. I spent almost the entire day (besides taking breaks to cook or prepare food) reading on the computer and then drawing a map for a class project by hand- I’m very proud of it. Though I kept taking breaks and reminding myself to stretch and sit mindfully, my neck and shoulders are still sore from hunching and being stuck in certain positions when I was drawing. So today, knowing it’s the official start of the work week for many I thought I would pass along this neat infographic I found on mindful.org– definitely read the post!

Often times when we enter the workplace, we’re all coming from our own whirlwind of adventures/stresses/tasks from the weekend. It’s like a crock pot that you fill with everything in your fridge, but only it’s people’s lives and emotions that putting in a place to all work “together”. It can be a bit messy or create some tensions that may start to toll on you or others throughout the day. This infographic is a nice way to think about trying a different approach when you find yourself or another coworker at work struggling. We’re all under our own pressures, so why not do your part in practicing self-care and mindfulness at work? You may even reach out to another coworker and help them shed some positivity on their day and workload too! The ending of the article references a quote that tells of how the mind manages emotions based on what the person chooses to focus on, and how they focus on it:

Think of the mind’s eye as a flashlight. This flashlight can always search for something positive or negative. The secret is being able to control that flashlight—to look for the opportunity and the positive. When you do that, you’re playing to win. You’re able to focus on the right things and maintain that positive self.

And keep in mind that a leader not only has to focus her mind’s eye, but help others focus their minds’ eyes as well.

What are you going to use your flashlight for? What are some things you do throughout the day or work week to stay focused, mindful, or positive?

Lastly, here’s a great 6 minute video from Adriene to do yoga at your desk- a short but energizing break!

Innovative Thoughts from Aaron Renn

“We don’t have a seed problem, we have a soil problem.” – Aaron Renn

Phew! I have been super busy with lots of researching and not enough reporting. I am currently working on a few projects to eventually post more resources, but today’s post will just be to share some insight to other planners and community developers/engagers out there. This past week I watched a video that featured Aaron Renn, speaking in Louisville, Kentucky at Governing Magazine’s Summit on Performance and Innovation. Here’s his video: The Evolving City.

Aaron Renn is an opinion-leading urban affairs analyst, entrepreneur, speaker and writer. After a 15-year career in management and IT consulting at Accenture, he created the urban planning website, The Urbanophile, and is also the founder and CEO of Telestrian, a data analysis platform that provides powerful data mining and visualization capabilities. Renn’s writings have also appeared in publications such as Forbes,The New York Times and City Journal. – Courtesy of governing.com

Basically, he’s awesome! I follow his posts on Urbanophile, and he has a great e-book recently published (I want to read it), “The Urban State of Mind”. His posts are always relevant and analytical, all with an honest, realist approach. If I could meet him I would- he’s my inspiration as a future planner and city policy analyst. I recommend checking out his site, along with Governing Magazine if you’re especially interested in policies and politics related to localities and states.

His talk is based on innovation and evolution of what innovation means in a city and for its people. Innovation is necessary for planners as well, and just how cities are changing, so do the planners and the systems that planners have to work within. How we as planners and city officials think of our cities determines a lot of how we’ll work in them, and sometimes we need to adjust our thoughts to be more inclusive or really hone in on just what makes a city (like a brand) and make whatever that is “work” for it. I took some notes from his video, and I hope you will watch (or at least listen to the video).

  • There’s a distinct difference between internal consultants versus external consultants. This usually is related to power and the tyrannical structure within a company/firm.
  • Consultants stand behind a veil of ignorance when it comes to their own status in their organization, which can affect how they present an idea depending on who they’re presenting it to.
  • “We don’t have a seed problem, we have a soil problem”. (Think about it. Often the ideas (seeds) people have are great, but whether they take off or not is usually dependent on the environment they’re brought to (soil).)
  • We need to create a culture of innovation all the way down to the beginning of the organization- even the higher ups need to be accountable, knowing that an idea came from that company, regardless of where it began.
  • Cultural Resonance: Honor the essence of the place, distill it down, then inject it into everything we do in that community.