Archive Page 2

A moment of creativity and meaning

This delightful message by Arthur Hull, father of the modern day drum circle, shows how we can bring creativity and meaning to even the most mundane of moments – as he transforms a family’s experience in an airport line and helps those around him to rediscover the rhythmical spirit that naturally flows through us as children.

Hello my friends,

…So many of my spontaneous rhythm experiences have been with bored kids doing what they naturally do to pass the time while their patients are getting them from one place to the next…

…I am waiting in the usual airport rope line to go through security to get to the flight gates. It is the kind of airport rope line line that weaves back and forth in order to put the most people in the smallest amount of space. Your always facing two lines of people until you get to the front of the line. One line of people facing are in line behind you, and other line is facing you in the line that is in front of you. A lot of people queued up in a small space.

There is a family of four in line in front of me.

Each of the two boys in this family are seated next to each other in upscale 3 wheeled baby buggies. The father in front dragging the hand held luggage and the mother is behind the boys pushing both baby buggies. I’m behind the Mother.

The oldest boy, 3 or 4 years old, has a plastic fork in one hand and a plastic spoon in the other.  He is beating the butt of their plastic handles down on the buggy tray in front of him, making nice rhythmical sound. (It is a nice sound to me anyway.)

It went like this:

Da • DaDum Dum Dum Dum Dum  •   Da • DaDum Dum Dum Dum Dum  •  ……

His little brother is sitting next to him, with one hand formed into a finger gun pointed at his brother, while making rhythmical gun sounds as he shot his brother.

“Bam” goes the imaginary gun.

What is amazing to me, ( and probably not conscious to the brothers), is they are in perfect sound/rhythm entrainment;

It sounds like this;

Da • DaDum Dum Dum Dum Dum  •   Da • DaDum Dum Dum Dum Dum  •  ……
Bam                      Bam                        Bam                      Bam                       ……

It seemed that no one else but the mother is being irritated by their rhythmical interaction. So before she could stop them, I vocally joined in with a rhythmical syncopated “Peek”.  I did to softly at first, so as to not surprise the boys or disturb their rhythm.

I am closer to the mom than the boys so she picked up that I had joined the boys rhythm ensemble.

I believe that her mothering radar was on, and I am sure that she only hears that her boys might be disturbing the other people in the lines around them. She does not hear the “Sound entrainment” that they are creating, until, that is, I Join in.

Now our rhythm ensemble sounds like this:

Da • DaDum Dum Dum Dum Dum  •   Da • DaDum Dum Dum Dum Dum   •  …… Older Boy
Bam                      Bam                        Bam                      Bam                    •  …… Younger Brother
Peek                       Peek                      Peek                       Peek         •  …… Arthur Elf

Hearing my contribution to the boys rhythm I see that she understands what is happening and literally steps back to make room to let it happen.

I am not sure if the boys ever really heard my sound contribution, but it was a lot of fun. Our interned rhythm lasted over one and a half minutes before the younger brother got tired of shooting his older brother. But until he stopped, he never got out of sync with his brother, even on his last “Bam”.

After the younger stopped Bamming, I stopped Peeking.  At the end of the next rhythm cycle, the mother stopped the older brother’s DaDumming by taking away his plastic cutlery.

A small group of people in the lines surrounding us, gives us a quiet round of applause.

And then we all go back to being travelers in an airport security line.

Life is a dance….

Movement Facilitates Creative Thinking

Sample drawings from Saggar et al study on creative thinking and cerebellum activity

A new Pictionary-based Stanford study by Saggar et al has shown that creative thinking is facilitated by activity in the cerebellum (the movement coordination part of the brain) and hampered by activity in the prefrontal cortex (the executive function part of the brain associated with planning, organization and management).

Subjects were given 30 seconds to depict each of several action words by drawing pictures of them while inside a functional magnetic resonance imaging machine to monitor brain activity.  They were also asked to draw zigzag lines to observe differences in fine motor activity without a creative component.

When words were difficult to draw, there was more activity in the left prefrontal cortex, which is associated with attention and evaluation.  Independently-rated creativity scores were higher with low activity in the prefrontal cortex and high activity in the cerebellum.

Saggar stated, “The more you think about it, the more you mess it up.”

Stanford professor Michel Serres hikes the Dish on a regular basis.

Stanford professor Michel Serres hikes the Dish on a regular basis.

This study may shed neurobiological light on an interesting finding from another Stanford study by Oppezzo and Schwartz published in April 2014 that walking compared to sitting more than doubles creative inspiration, whether out in nature or indoors facing a wall on a treadmill.  They compared the walking conditions to sitting indoors facing a wall or sitting outdoors while being pushed in a wheelchair.  They also compared various combinations and sequences of walking and sitting.

While walking or sitting, 176 subjects were given four minutes to solve “divergent thinking” problems—taking an object and coming up with innovative yet appropriate alternative uses for it.  Creative brainstorming was 60% greater when walking.

In another test, they were asked to come up with meaningful analogies to phrases such as “a robbed safe”.  100% of subjects in the walking condition were able to come up with appropriate analogies, whereas only 50% of the subjects in the sitting condition were able to do so.

The researchers wonder whether other forms of mild physical activity that does not necessitate focused concentration for execution (such as loosely-structured creative movement), would lead to the same benefits.  They also suggested that movement may facilitate creative thought processes through improved mood states and that movement breaks throughout the day may be a good idea.


Stanford news media summaries of the two studies for the lay public can be found through the links below:
Saggar et al study on creative thinking and cerebellum activity.
Oppezzo and Schwatrz study on creative thinking and walking.

Re-Write Your Life

Mindset Book 3

A New York Times blog by Tara Parker-Pope offers examples of studies that show how changing your narrative can change the trajectory of your life.   Scroll down to see the blog.

The examples that she cites suggest that changing one’s story contributes to a growth mindset that is associated with learning and achievement.

According to Carol Dweck, of the Stanford University Department of Psychology, those with growth mindsets seek challenges for an opportunity to learn and those with fixed mindsets of intelligence avoid challenges that lead to self-judgment.

Research from Dweck’s lab has shown that exposure to even simple messages (e.g., “You must have tried really hard”) can have a profound effect on academic performance, and that parental messages heard by children from ages 1-3 determine their mindsets by ages 7-8.

When we re-write our stories, not only do we change our mindsets, but also we visualize new outcomes, which register in the brain as if real, hardwire us for new behavior, and can even change our memory of past events.

Click here to view a TED Talk by Carol Dweck.

Click here if you are interested in a teleseminar on re-writing your life, which will enable participation from far and near from the comfort of home.

Blog post by Tara Parker-Pope

The scientific research on the benefits of so-called expressive writing is surprisingly vast. Studies have shown that writing about oneself and personal experiences can improve mood disorders, help reduce symptoms among cancer patients, improve a person’s health after a heart attack, reduce doctor visits and even boost memory.

Now researchers are studying whether the power of writing — and then rewriting — your personal story can lead to behavioral changes and improve happiness.

The concept is based on the idea that we all have a personal narrative that shapes our view of the world and ourselves. But sometimes our inner voice doesn’t get it completely right. Some researchers believe that by writing and then editing our own stories, we can change our perceptions of ourselves and identify obstacles that stand in the way of better health.  Read More… Continue reading ‘Re-Write Your Life’

Stories Can Drive Social Change – We Want Yours

animal conference FINAL_centered_imagePURPLE

On February 7, 2015, a cardiologist, integrative veterinarian, author and storyteller shared their personal, transformational stories of healing choices and end-of-life care.  They spoke about the elephant in the room.  The experience was profound for everyone.

Why did we organize this program?  My experience of the effectiveness of holistic treatment options in animal care made me wonder whypeople can’t have these options.  As integrative veterinary medicine involves less regulation, I wondered if exposure to these practices could motivate PET OWNERS to drive the HUMAN integrative medicine movement through their stories and advocacy.

The other reason that I organized this program is because the therapeutic uses of the arts are a branch of integrative medicine, and I saw an opportunity to demonstrate the relevance of the arts in health policy and practices.  Time and again we see in our community writing programs the power of stories to elicit emotions and facilitate meaningful dialogue.

We encourage you to add your voice to the movement for choices in healing and more humane approaches to end-of-life care.  Your story can make a difference.  If you have one to share, please send it to  We are also collecting them on behalf of Dr. Richard Palmquist, who will post them on the website of the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Foundation in order to fuel the proliferation of research.  As he noted in his presentation, when patients hear that “there is no evidence” for a particular treatment, it does not necessarily mean that things do not work; it means that there is no research to support the intervention.

Some resources for your preparing your story:

Barbara Clark will be teaching a workshop on Finding Meaning in Love and Loss as a follow up to this program, where you will learn how to craft an effective story that is imbued with meaning.  You will leave with a complete story imbued with meaning for yourself and your audience.Click here for details.

Barbara Abercrombie’s blog that includes writing tips and exercises:

Special Message from Richard Palmquist, DVM:

If you have a story involving the benefits of integrative veterinary care, please consider writing it and sending it to me at this email address, These stories are incredibly helpful for those trapped in a disease cycle and having nowhere to turn. Upon discovering one successful outcome, a dedicated animal guardian may then find the path to assist their friend in recovering or improving its state of health.

The AHVMF, the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Foundation, at is dedicated to expanding humane research and education in integrative and holistic veterinary medicine. Through our work we are supporting important steps to improve health care options for both people and animals. To see how we use these stories go to our website and look at the “Inspiring Stories” and “Animal Teachers” links.


The following are links to books from our Feb. 7 event: Love and Loss: The Power of Stories in Healing Choices and End-of-Life Care

Dr. Barbara Natterson-Horowitz’s website:

Link to her book: Zoobiquity: The Astonishing Connection Between Human and Animal Health

Barbara Abercrombie’s blog that includes writing tips and exercises:
Link to her book: Cherished: 21 Writers on Animals They Have Loved and Lost   All royalties will be donated to Best Friends Animal Society.  Includes stories by Anne Lamott, Jane Smiley, Jacqueline Winspear, Carolyn See, Mark Doty, and more.

(Barbara Abercrombie’s husband Robert Adams died on February 10th.)

Dr. Richard Palmquist’s Centinela Animal Hospital website:

Link to his book: Releasing Your Pet’s Hidden Health Potential

Ping Ho, Founding Director, UCLArts and Healing

How Body Language and Thought Affect Our Social Power


In less than 100 milliseconds, people decide whether or not they should pay attention to you.

Deborah Gruenfeld, social psychologist and Professor of Leadership and Organizational Behavior at the Stanford University Graduate School of Business, explains in her video on “Acting with Power” that the vast majority of social meaning comes from nonverbal behavior (body language and how things are said) that is typically outside of our realm of awareness.  Actual words only account for 7% of social cues.  

When verbal and nonverbal messages are misaligned, guess what people will remember?  What your body told us.

Group members that have higher social status use their bodies in more expansive ways.

In her video, Gruenfeld offers an experiment to demonstrate how our bodies also affect the way we feel about ourselves.

These exercises underscore the importance of aligning body and mind to support success.  Mind affects body and body affects mind.

Try out the experiential exercises that Deborah Gruenfeld offers in her video presentation.

Can imagination and acting help reverse the symptoms of aging?

If “age is nothing but a mind-set”, might imagination and acting help reverse symptoms of aging?

The work of maverick Harvard psychologist Ellen Langer, whose life’s work has demonstrated the power of expectations and assumptions in determining behavior and health was the subject of a Oct. 22, 2014 New York Times article entitled, “What if Age is Nothing but a Mind-Set?”

Langer has experimented with putting older adults in a physical time warp – creating a literal set from a time when they were younger and more vibrant, and asking them to act that age for five days to a week.  The result?  Improvements in such areas as suppleness, dexterity, posture, balance, mobility, and eyesight.

Similarly, in a study published in Psychological Science, Langer found that individuals asked to suit up and act like Air Force pilots in a flight simulator performed 40% better on a subsequent eyesight test than the control group that was asked to pretend to fly in a “broken” simulator.

Langer is now working with stage 4 cancer patients in a milieu designed to take them back to a healthier time past, using the arts and other activities to create a different mind-set.

Langer is famous for her study of the effect of plants in a nursing home.  Residents who were told that they were responsible for the care and well-being of the plants and were given jurisdiction over their schedules were twice as likely to survive than those who were told that the staff would take care of the plants and that they had no choice about their daily schedules.

In a study of diabetics, Langer found blood glucose levels to rise and fall according to perceived time rather than actual time.

Acting “as if “ may change what we actually believe about ourselves.  And that change in mind-set affects our biology.

Click here to read the whole fascinating article, which also addresses the positive effects of the placebo – even when people know they are taking one – and the dangers of the nocebo, such as being diagnosed with an illness.   Langer is gathering evidence that we can also will ourselves to illness, as we can to vitality.

Activities to deepen the meaning of holidays and special occasions

UCLArts and Healing offered two activities to deepen the meaning of the holidays, that can be used any time of year.

Gifts from the Heart – Art Activity 2014.pdf

Learn to make meaning through a time capsule in this activity offered by art therapist and marriage and family therapist, Erica Curtis.

Gifts from the Heart – Writing Activity 2014.pdf

Write about light as a metaphor to express how you feel or how you feel about someone special in this writing activity by poetry therapist and marriage and family therapist, Perie Longo.