"Faith is the bird that feels the light and sings when the dawn is still dark. 
In effect, the people who change our lives the most begin to 
sing to us while we are still in darkness. If we listen to 
their song, we will see the dawning of a new part of ourselves."

Rabindranth Tagore

Existential Intelligence is the sensitivity and capacity to engage questions about human existence – how we got here, whether we have a purpose, and whether there is meaning in Life. Existential intelligence embraces the exploration of aesthetics, philosophy, religion and values like beauty, truth, and goodness. A strong existential intelligence allows human beings to see their place in the big picture, be it in the classroom, community, world, or universe.

First proposed by Howard Gardner, existential intelligence is one of nine theorized intelligences and is considered to be amoral – that is, it and the other eight categories of human intelligence can be used either constructively or destructively.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Little Nutty Piece

A non sequitur can denote an abrupt, illogical, unexpected or absurd turn of plot or dialogue not normally associated with or appropriate to that preceding it.

My therapist sister, Ann, says she is convinced we all have a little nutty piece. Your little nutty piece can be an elephant in the room if you don’t befriend it and acknowledge it, because a little nutty piece has the power to undo your equilibrium or totally annoy your friends if you don’t admit it’s there.

I've been drawing the conclusion that quite frequently a little nutty piece in your personality is there because it helps you deal with stress. So recognizing when a little nutty piece has kicked in may actually be a warning sign of mounting stress in your life.

When I am stressed I start waking up at four in the morning. It’s not uniformly bad. Four a.m. is also when I’ve gotten some of my best ideas – like the term complex cloth, interfacing stencils, and soy wax crayons. But more often that not, waking at four a.m. is problematic. Thinking turns into a minor panic attack and I can’t go back to sleep. That’s not good when you are expected to be fresh and fulsome for a class at 8 a.m.

I’ve mastered meditational breathing as a coping mechanism for this little nutty piece. Gradually breathing deeply, and focusing on the breath, works. Nine times out of ten I go back to sleep immediately. You might try this if you share insomnia as a sign of stress with me.

Byron Katie’s ideas have also helped. One of the questions she suggests you pose when you are troubled or stressed by your thinking is this: Where would I be without that thought?

When I wake up in the night, I ask myself where I would be without the thoughts. I start deep breathing. The answer is always simple: Without the thoughts, I’d be asleep again. So I go back to sleep. Doesn’t that sound crazy? But it’s true. It’s as if my mind is a little child, easily satisfied with a simple answer to a simple question.

But then there’s that tenth time. No amount of breathing or simple questioning quells the busy thinking in my head. Last night is an example of this.

Do you remember Ode to Billy Joe? If not, click on the title and check out the song.

“It was the third of June, another sleepy, dusty Delta day
I was out choppin' cotton and my brother was balin' hay
And at dinnertime we stopped and walked back to the house to eat
And Mama hollered out the back door "y'all remember to wipe your feet"
And then she said "I got some news this mornin' from Choctaw Ridge"
"Today Billy Joe MacAllister jumped off the Tallahatchie Bridge"

Last night Ode to Billy Joe was playing endlessly in my head. Forty years more or less, since the song was a hit for Bobbie Gentry, and I still have the entire lyric in my head.

The fourth verse goes:

And Mama said to me "Child, what's happened to your appetite?"
"I've been cookin' all morning and you haven't touched a single bite"
"That nice young preacher, Brother Taylor, dropped by today"
"Said he'd be pleased to have dinner on Sunday, oh, by the way"
"He said he saw a girl that looked a lot like you up on Choctaw Ridge"
"And she and Billy Joe was throwing somethin' off the Tallahatchie Bridge"

From four a.m. on, one question kept cycling in my brain:
What did “she and Billy Joe” throw off the Tallahatchie Bridge?


  1. I remember clearly when that song was popular, I knew every word, and everyone speculated about what she threw off the bridge. The popular opinion was that it was a baby. I still am not sure of that.

  2. OMG. Last night mine was the lyrics to "Copper Line" One time I saw my daddy dance
    Watched him moving like a man in a trance
    He brought it back from the war in france
    Down onto copperline.
    Good to know I am in good company!

  3. My sister in law hates ironing.
    When she wakes up at night she thinks 'if I am still awake in five minutes I will get up and do the ironing' it works, she hasn't done the ironing yet!

  4. Billy Joel, Cooper Line, ironing - you all gave me a giggle. A song on a loop drives me nuts. My tai chi teacher says visualizing the moves puts her back to sleep. Tried that; didn't work. I'll try ironing next time. Who knows?

  5. When I was a teenager I suffered from terrible insomnia. I saw a yoga show on PBS and the teacher talked about breathing deep to relax and she also said you can tell your body to relax. I would breath and starting at my toes would tell the parts of my body to relax until they did. I never made it to my head before I fell asleep. I don't usually have trouble getting to sleep anymore but if I am stressed and can't fall I always go to the tried & true.

  6. My middle of the night wake-up time is 3:13 a.m. I wonder if those are signficant numbers for me? At least tonight when I wake up I can worry about something else, "what did they throw off the Tallahatchie Bridge?." But I definately won't be ironing, more likely working in my studio on some art cloth. Perhaps we should form a middle of the night online art cloth group.

    Louise Bateman

  7. I was wide awake with you Jane, only like Louise, it was just after 3 AM here in central time. Remembered to try the breathing, and it helped a little, but also made a note that an afternoon nap or meditation or green tea might need to replace afternoon coffee. I also found remembering to close the blinds helped me go back to sleep. I've been wanting to get back to being more productive in the studio, but I need to take time to make order, to make new tools, and finish helping my mom with my father's estate. Some of the sleepless worry time is how to get it all done or where to start. Any of those seemingly endless tasks could become a near permanent roadblock or excuse not to create on a daily basis, so I'm trying to think of my days like school, where each task gets focus for at least an hour or two a day, and eventually it all gets done. Worrying never helps anything anyway, but here are excerpts from a prayer that can help: "Lord it is night...What has been done is done, what is not done is left undone. Let it be...The night is quiet. Let the quietness of your peace enforld us...The night heralds the dawn. Let us look expectantly to a new day, new joys, new possibilities." Amen to that. Enid

  8. Ok maybe it is cheating but audiobooks totally do it for me. I put on a familiar audiobook (head phones from my iPhone) that I have heard in pieces a bunch of times before and I am almost always asleep before I know it. (set the timer to 30 minutes so the audio does not compromise your sleep) My favorite book for this is Timothy Ferris' "Seeing in the Dark" which is a book about astronomy. It is episodic and thoughtful and a wonderful book, so it bears repeating!
    Occasionally the book will keep me awake, but I figure those are the nights when I've had too much caffein. 3:00 am seems to be the time for me as well . . . hmmm