Wednesday, September 24, 2008

What makes your heart sing?

I think, and of course I'm not the first, that this is a core question for religious educators. We should be asking everyone we come across in our work, "What makes your heart sing?"

When we have some insight into the answers to this question, we create space within which to imagine ways to make everything we do be meaningful. We can look for ways to create connections between people, practices and principles; we can pull on members' natural inclinations and desires to seek moments of meaning. We can collaborate on opportunities for service that aren't driven by how we've always done something, but by maximizing connections between past, present, and future/vision.

When we listen to people's answers, we can go to our RE Committee and Minister and colleagues and say,
"Look what I found out! XXYYZZ is the new AABBCC! Or: 10 people have told me that they cherish JJKKLL. What would happen if...."

(Perhaps our RE Committee and Minister and colleagues are, in fact, the first people to whom we should direct the question.)

I often think that I know how to do my job -- what the goals are, what the needs of the families are. But people will answer these two questions very differently:
What do you need? elicits a different answer than What makes your heart sing? My "job" is to flex and learn and remember that I need to be able to hold both of those questions (and all the answers) in order to truly support faith development.


It surprised me how much this video makes my heart sing.
As it started, I so didn't see it coming...what happened in my heart.

If you have a fast internet connection, this link will get you to his page and a hi-res version, which is even more glorious.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Someone you love has Mito

Every year 1000-4000 children are born with a Mitochondrial Disease. The person in my life who I know lives with Mito is Gwen, who I've written about on this blog many times before. Gwen and her family are no longer part of our congregation because our local hospitals didn't have the specialized treatment necessary to support Gwen, so they are now the beloved members of another UU congregation.

Many, if not most people with Mito are misdiagnosed, or not diagnosed until after death, so take a minute to learn about this often misunderstood disease. This is Mitochondrial Disease Awareness Week, to do yourself and your loved ones a favor, take a moment for awareness.

Mitochondrial diseases result from failures of the mitochondria, specialized compartments present in every cell of the body except red blood cells. Mitochondria are responsible for creating more than 90% of the energy needed by the body to sustain life and support growth. When they fail, less and less energy is generated within the cell. Cell injury and even cell death follow. If this process is repeated throughout the body, whole systems begin to fail, and the life of the person in whom this is happening is severely compromised. The disease primarily affects children, but adult onset is becoming more and more common.

This means that organs fail to work properly -- or fail outright. Without energy to run the cells, cells die, and can't do their jobs within the organs. So people with mito may not have GI tracts that work, or kidneys that will flush, or livers that wil cleanse. They become extremely vulnerable to the slightest bacteria or virus.

Depending on which cells are affected, symptoms may include loss of motor control, muscle weakness and pain, gastro-intestinal disorders and swallowing difficulties, poor growth, cardiac disease, liver disease, diabetes, respiratory complications, seizures, visual/hearing problems, lactic acidosis, developmental delays and susceptibility to infection.

Click the image to the left for a larger version of Symptoms of Mitochondrial Diseases.

"At this time, there are no cures for these disorders.
Goals of treatment
note: goals may never be met

* alleviate symptoms
* slow down the progression of the disease"

For more information about treatments and therapies, click the link in the above quote about Treatment.

As research continues, there seems to be more and more connection between mitochondrial diseases and autism spectrum disorders.
David Holtzman, MD, PhD, a Pediatric Neurologist at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, MA, notes, “Mitochondrial Disease may present with the clinical features of Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). Several recent studies have documented biochemical evidence of abnormal mitochondrial functions in at least 30% of children with ASD.”
FMI about thinking about connections between ASD and Mito, start here

Support these organizations:
Mito Action
United Mitochondrial Disease Foundation

People you love are living with this disease. They may or may not know it.
Support research.
Take a few minutes and play with the above websites and google and youtube.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Daydreaming as active engagement with our internal landscape

Religious Professionals absolutely cannot jump from task to task to task, rushing willy nilly from one to do list to the next. It cripples us. We have to have time intentionally carved out that's full of daydreaming, imagining, making the improbable connections that amount to leaps of creativity and connection in our professional lives. Professional development, formal or not, needs to include opportunities to "contemplate our internal landscape."

Jonah Lehrer in the Boston Globe:

scientists have begun to see the act of daydreaming ... is a fundamental feature of the human mind - so fundamental, in fact, that it's often referred to as our "default" mode of thought. Many scientists argue that daydreaming is a crucial tool for creativity, a thought process that allows the brain to make new associations and connections. Instead of focusing on our immediate surroundings - such as the message of a church sermon - the daydreaming mind is free to engage in abstract thought and imaginative ramblings. As a result, we're able to imagine things that don't actually exist,

Every time we slip effortlessly into a daydream, a distinct pattern of brain areas is activated, which is known as the default network. Studies show that this network is most engaged when people are performing tasks that require little conscious attention, such as routine driving on the highway or reading a tedious text. Although such mental trances are often seen as a sign of lethargy - we are staring haplessly into space - the cortex is actually very active during this default state, as numerous brain regions interact. Instead of responding to the outside world, the brain starts to contemplate its internal landscape. This is when new and creative connections are made between seemingly unrelated ideas.

The article is here. Jonah Lehrer is an editor at large at Seed magazine and the author of "Proust Was a Neuroscientist."