Wednesday, June 07, 2006
Mindfulness and Mothballs
Mindfulness and Mothballs:
What’s In Your Mental Attic?
mothball (môth bôl}
1. A marble-sized ball, originally of camphor
but now of naphthalene, stored with clothes to
2. A condition of long storage for possible
3. To store for long periods.
What's in your mental attic?
We mothball millions of memories, most of which will never be retrieved. Whenever we do remember something,
we are reinforcing the neural pathways in the brain. Think of it as keeping a jungle path cleared so we can traverse
it any time we choose.
Flexing our memories is a powerful way to develop brain elasticity. In addition, the more we skip along those neural pathways in random order, the more connections we are creating.
I've recently discovered a great way to systematically clear those vine-covered paths by answering questions that
inspire a bit of bushwhacking.
Cindy O'Neill got together with her sister, Barbara Iderosa,
to create a spiral-bound book of fill-in-the-blank questions designed
to spark memories and lead to conversation and connection.
The book is called "Mothballs In My Attic" and it is being used by activity planners, facilities directors, staff and volunteers who work with our growing aging population. It's become a simple,
valuable tool for those who need a structured--but enjoyable--memory
But you don't have to be old to benefit from a little brain jostling. This book is a fun centerpiece for any gathering of family members or the perfect catalyst for sharing among friends.
To be honest, I hesitated to read the questions at first, knowing that
they would certainly stir up memories of my childhood. That's great if you had a happy one, but not so great if you'd rather forget about, say, the time your grandmother tried to strangle you with a dishtowel
(she was suffering from dementia at the time).
What a relief to discover that, instead of stirring up the yucky
stuff, this little book actually highlighted some long-forgotten
I remembered some wonderful things about my grandmother, like the way she smelled, the songs she loved to
sing, and even details like the embroidered handkerchiefs she
always kept stashed in her purse and the way she read a certain bedtime story.
As the years pass, we tend to create an overall memory image--"good" or "bad"--but rarely can our entire
childhood or a relationship with one person be seen in such black and white terms. "Mothballs In My Attic" helped me gain perspective on a particularly painful time in my life and allowed me to paint a a more realistic picture of the way things were.
Instead of keeping our memories packed in boxes in our mental attic,
we can benefit from opening up the dustiest ones and airing things out. We're likely to find some delightful surprises while we're poking around.
Yes, mindfulness is about paying attention to the present moment,
but there's a whole lot to discover when we look at the past in a
nonjudgmental way. We can use our memories--especially the
ones we've got packed in mothballs--to help us develop clarity and
Cindy refers to these little strolls down memory lane as
"MIMA moments" in reference to the title of her book. But
I've got my own name for them. I like to think of them as "My, My"
moments. It's as though I have my grandmother standing
beside me (no dishtowel) and saying, "My, My...isn't that
Indeed, it is. And the closer we look--while suspending judgment--the more clearly we see it.
Poke around in your mental attic,and dig into those boxes packed
with mothballs. You're bound to have some "My, My" moments
of your own.
Your Secr*t Assignment:
This week, poke around in your mental attic and see what you've got buried in dusty boxes up there.
Here is a sampling of questions from the "Mothballs In My Attic" book to help you along...
"The funniest thing that happened on a car trip was ___."
"I shared my deep dark secrets with ____."
"I loved buying ___ from the ice cream truck."
"My friend, ____, had the best tree to climb."
"My mother always shopped at the____ supermarket."
Why not order this book for yourself--and your loved ones? It's a
fun way to connect with others at your next gathering.
Just go to:
Maya Talisman Frost/www.1shoppingcart.com/app/aftrack.asp?afid=410935 Stop by Maya's website to have a wonderful experience.