In social studies, we have been reading The Golden Spruce by John Vaillant. This week, we were tasked with the challenge of creating a “blackout” poem using one or two pages from the book. I chose to use pages 8 and 9 because the imagery the author used to describe the forests of the west coast was very striking, and I liked the idea explored on those pages of the forest being a very powerful force. I really liked the language of many of the sentences on the pages I chose, so there were sections that I did not blackout as much because I liked the sentence as a whole. Though this was quite a bit out of my comfort zone, I am glad that I did attempt to write a blackout poem. I know that it is not the best, but I think that I definitely gained a new appreciation for poetry, the book itself, and also some new problem-solving skills. This was a very involved task and I like that this activity encouraged us to synthesize something from a page of the book into poetry. I think that this activity was a lot of fun, and I would like to do more creative activities like this in the future to push my boundaries and see in what new ways I can apply the knowledge I have gained from The Golden Spruce.
Here is the poem that I came up with:
If you cannot read it from the picture, here it is in written format:
The trail of person, the thread of a story,
is easily lost in such a place.
It is not a particularly comfortable place to be,
you can become disoriented.
No future, no past,
Boundaries between life and death,
blur and blend.
everyone wants a piece of the sky,
the feeling that you will be over grown,
by the slow ancient riot around you,
can be suffocating.
The need to see the sun can become overpowering,
you could easily,
if it weren’t for all those,
It rained enough to float an ark,
to support life on a grand scale.
The other part of this activity was to choose a photograph or drawing to go with the poem. Since the first line is about “the trail of a person” I thought back to my time in the mountains, at home, and in Nepal. And the last line about “supporting life on a grand scale” also made me think of this picture as the valleys and mountains were so large and the scale was so grand it made me realize that life can be so large. I thought that a picture of a trail in Nepal would be appropriate and would be a good accompaniment to the poem. This is a picture of the stretch of trail just after Namche Bazaar.
Though I have still not found a mentor, Ms. Mulder has put me in contact with Laurie Brookbank who has run half marathons before and has met up with me to give me some advice. I think that I really benefited from the advice of someone who has actually run half marathons before. Though I have read a book about training, it is not the same as getting advice from someone in person. I really appreciated her advice and expertise, it was very helpful. I will elaborate later.
Being back at school, it has been difficult to find time to train. I have only trained three times in the past two weeks (and I should be training at least three days a week), which is not good especially so close to the half marathon which is on June 11th. I am very upset that I have not had time to run, however, I understand that this is a crazy time of year. I still think that with the training I have done so far that I could run a half marathon, but I know that because I lost a lot of training time these past two weeks that my time will not be as good as it could be. I think that I have to commit to training in the mornings, if this means saying that I cannot meet in the mornings because I have to run, then I think that is what it may come to. I am very disappointed with myself for not training as much as I should, however, I think that with everything going on right now, it is unrealistic to expect so much from myself. I have still continued to train a little bit these past two weeks however.
I have also met with Ms. Brookbank last week to talk about in-depth, and I will elaborate on our conversation below under the “A Beautiful Mind” heading.
Difficulties / Goals
It has continued to be difficult to train without a mentor, without someone to keep me accountable for training. I hope that I can find a mentor when I train with Kinetic. This time of year gets very busy and stressful; and, part of the reason that I picked this in-depth project was because I knew that jogging could help me to de-stress. I think that by finding time to jog, it will help me be more relaxed about school work while still making some progress. I really hope to crack-down and train hard in these next few weeks. I think that training is one of my favourite things to do, but I don’t prioritize this as a need, so a lot of times I don’t get to it. However, I think that I will begin to prioritize more effectively to make sure that I get to train and do other things I love as well.
A Beautiful Mind
For this week, we have read about concepts and alternatives. I found that reading this part of De Bono’s book before the meeting I had was very helpful to asking Ms. Brookbank clarifications about her answers, and asking for further elaboration to answers. Using the idea of pulling out concepts to clarify answers to my questions also helped me to take notes during our conversation.
Some examples of concepts we spoke about during our meeting include: listening to our body and its needs, preparing for anything that could happen on the day of the half-marathon, goal-setting in a variety of contexts, positive visualization, nutrition, importance of professional help, importance of community support in running, and importance of various types of cross-training.
Ms. Brookbank also talked to me about some lesser known knowledge about running and some creative alternatives for my situation. Through this conversation, Ms. Brookbank offered many alternatives to the same question, which was very helpful. What she said came from life-experience and I really appreciated her honesty about running. However, some of things I have read in books, had placed emphasis on different aspects of training. John Stanton, who wrote the two books I read about training, had slightly different views on nutrition and had different alternatives for cross-training. I look at John Stanton as an honorary mentor of mine after reading his books. To illustrate what alternatives Ms. Brookbank offered me and what alternatives other resources have given me, I have made a list below with some of the questions I asked Ms. Brookbank. Her answers are written below the question, and I have included other alternatives from other resources as well, then I will write about it below and explore the two alternatives in a contrasting way.
What is the best way to eat before a short jog (under 10km)? A long jog (over 10km)?
For runs under about an hour and a half, it is best to eat 45 or 50 minutes before the run and to eat something light that will give energy and will make sure that I will not get hungry while running. Some examples include: a banana, toast with peanut butter, applesauce, and other food that is easily digested. For longer runs or a race, Ms. Brookbank recommended: oatmeal, cheese, nuts, crackers, sandwich with a salad, pancakes, or even just a good meal the night before. Ms. Brookbank stressed the importance of eating what you know works best for you and what you know is sure to give you enough energy but will not make you sick. She suggested avoiding seafood, as from her experience, it has not always been the best option.
A fair amount of resources I looked at including John Stanton’s book Running Start to Finish put more emphasis on eating things that will give energy, like carbs, rather than eating food that is light and sure to not make you sick.
2. The week of the half marathon, what are some important things I should keep in mind or do?
Get 8-10 hours of sleep at night leading up to the half marathon to give your body time to regenerate and re-cooperate. Drink a lot of water, especially in the two days before the half marathon. Don’t try any new foods. Rest for two full days before the race, or only do a very light jog (like a 15-minute or 20-minute jog). Prepare mentally for the race by using positive visualization and by setting three types of goals for yourself: a best case scenario goal, a worst case scenario goal, and a realistic goal. Pack your race bag the week before (include things like a change of clothes- for different weather, a change of shoes, a change of socks, a light jacket, gloves, a snack, a body glide, etc.).
In Running Start to Finish, the training program suggests that you run 3km the day before the half marathon, which differs a little bit from Ms. Brookbank’s advice.
3. What type of cross-training options do you recommend and what are the benefits of each?
Ms. Brookbank stressed doing other types of cardio, core-strengthening exercises (like planks, push-ups, sit-ups, chin-ups), quad as well as glut-strengthening exercises (like squats, for example), low-impact activities to build up resistance (like swimming, and cycling), and activities to improve agility (like yoga and Pilates). Ms. Brookbank suggested any activity that builds up strength in muscles used for running, cardio, resistance, and agility. She stressed the importance of doing activities you love in a way that also benefits you as a runner.
The other resources I have read place similar emphasis on agility, cardio, and resistance as Ms. Brookbank did. However, I imagine that another mentor could suggest not doing cross-training and focusing solely on running instead.
These are just three examples of questions that I asked Ms. Brookbank, the alternatives she gave, and other alternatives that could also be possibilities for me. Ms. Brookbank placed a lot of emphasis on finding what strategies work best for me and experimenting with them until I find the right balance of cross-training, jogging, nutrition, rest, and other such things. However, other resources I read gave very specific and narrow advice. Ms. Brookbank gave me a variety of alternatives, and I really appreciated her efforts to educate me about this topic. We were both very willing to look for alternatives and I believe that we were creative in doing so. This blog post along with the note-taking I did helped to evaluate the alternatives that I now have as options. I will definitely focus a lot on the nutrition alternatives and experiment with that in coming weeks as it has been something that I have struggled with in the past. Knowing information from other resources and other perspectives, helped me to better appreciate the knowledge and perceptions of Ms. Brookbank. I am so grateful that Ms. Brookbank talked to me about my in-depth and her knowledge has been in-valuable to me. I am very excited to put these alternatives into action.
Though I have been very busy lately, I am making it a goal for myself to make time to train, to keep myself accountable, to try new alternatives for nutrition, cross training, as well as stretching, and to use this running in-depth project to my advantage when dealing with stress. Though I am disappointed that I have not spent as much time doing my in-depth as I would like; I am still proud of the work I have done so far and am now trying to use that disappointing feeling to motivate me to train. I am very happy with how the meeting with Ms. Brookbank went and I will definitely use the information she provided me with in my training process. I am looking forward to the next few weeks of training and starting to train with Kinetic.
I hope that everyone’s in-depth projects are going well, good luck to everyone as they reach the half-way point in their in-depth projects!
For the past few weeks in social studies, we have thought and talked about our documents of learning. As we began to talk about ideas and Canadian history itself, I realized that I felt weighed down. Our history was something that didn’t make me feel good, I felt like I was responsible for our past wrong-doings, and helpless knowing that there was nothing I could do to change the past. The negative parts of history seemed monumentally larger than the positive parts of history and it reminded me of all the negative events that are going on today. Personally, this is very hard to deal with, and I explore this a little bit in my previous blog post. It is hard for me to look at history with objectivity because of the strong emotions I have around history and the strong emotions that others have around history. It is hard not to be upset knowing that so many minorities were overlooked in confederation. It is hard not to be upset knowing about the lasting effects of residential schools. It is hard not to be upset knowing that the negative parts of history still have a big impact today on so many people across Canada. Its hard to not get upset with so many negative things, seemingly out weighing the good.
It was, in fact, this type of thought process that brought me to an idea for my document of learning. The question that I will be focusing on is:
How can we view Canadian history without getting overwhelmed by the negative parts of history and without ignoring the negative parts of history?
This question is very important to me. I find that it applies to many parts of my life and answering it could help me change my mindset around certain topics. By answering this question, it may also give me some reassurance that there is still a lot of good in the world. Though this is a rather large question, I hope to have a better, more realistic, understanding of Canadian history after answering it. Through this blog post, I hope to make sense of the different perspectives that shaped Canadian history and perhaps develop my own perspective. Throughout this blog post, I hope to connect my question to the following “big idea”: World views lead to different perspectives and ideas about developments in Canadian society.
To help answer my question, I have been looking at my mother’s library of books and researching online with quite a few interesting findings.
How history can be influenced to seem more negative than it may actually be…
I think that first part of my question that I have to tackle is why we tend to focus on the negative so much. In an interview with the New York Times, Dr. Roy F. Baumeister, a professor of social psychology at Florida State University, said:
“Research over and over again shows [the tendency to focus more on the negative than the positive] is a basic and wide-ranging principle of psychology,” he said. “It’s in human nature, and there are even signs of it in animals.”
So now, here you have it, it is completely natural to focus on the negative things. As humans, our brains are wired to focus on the negative so that we can improve and stay out of danger; in fact, the brain even handles positive information and negative information in separate hemispheres of the brain. The following ratio has become accepted in the field of psychology: for every one bad thing that happens five good things are needed to happen to counter balance the first negative event. This ratio along with the fact that we, as humans, tend to focus on the negative, could be a major reason why history is portrayed way it is in the first place.
Sir Winston Churchill said, “History is written by the victors.” And it is true, history is written by those who win, this already greatly changes the way that we look at history today. However, “winning” implies that there was a conflict. In history, we often focus on conflicts, in fact one of the curricular competencies is: Global and regional conflicts have been a powerful force in shaping our contemporary world and identities. Knowing about events that are out of the norm (like conflicts) rather than everyday events is a lot more beneficial as we can learn about how we can avoid those same conflicts in the future and make for more positive outcomes. In social studies this term, we found out that Canadian confederation was rather peaceful compared to the unison of other countries, and I found myself and others in the class looking for the negative parts of confederation. Canadian confederation went pretty smoothly, but because of our urge to find the problem, to learn about how we can solve the problems of today, we searched for the things that should have been approved upon in confederation. When we did our ending role-play in class, a lot of the content poked fun at some of the negative parts of confederation, I think partially because, it is simply more interesting. There is good in looking at conflicts and events that are out of the norm because we can learn so much from them, but focusing on conflicts may also become overwhelming for many people, including me.
How can we stop from getting overwhelmed by the negative parts of history, without ignoring the negative parts of history?
Now that we have explored why we as human focus on the negative, and how history is fundamentally recorded to focus on a lot of negative events, we can talk about how to overcome this. There is no solid answer to this question, everyone deals with things in different ways; however, what I will discuss in the following paragraphs is what I thought was most relevant to me.
One obvious way to overcome feeling overwhelmed by the negative parts of our history is to simply focus on the positive (sounds a little crazy, right?).
“One of the ways of being kind to ourselves is not to let the pain in the world overwhelm us. This is not to say that we need to be indifferent to it; we may feel deep sorrow about it, and the sorrow can help us to cultivate compassion for others as well as for ourselves and motivate us to help and contribute in ways that we can. But getting too far into our own personal distress doesn’t help anyone else, and it doesn’t help us either. There are good people everywhere who are working to make the world a better place and to build trust among all peoples,” – Lynne Henderson, Ph.D
Who has written multiple articles and a book on the topic of compassion focused therapy. This is a simple solution. Focusing on the positive does not mean ignoring the negative, it means that we can look at history keeping both positive and negative events in mind, and in balance (think of five good events for every one bad event). Also, having compassion does not mean that we have to suffer with the people who have been wronged in history, it means that we are “motivated to relieve suffering” using our empathy, according to an article published by Berkeley University. I found this interesting video (mostly on a tangent) but I think that the content about empathy is very relevant to current issues today. Empathy is very important to solving Canadian issues that have come from past wrong doings, like the ongoing struggle for the Canadian government to reconcile with Aboriginals. I have added this video if you are interested to watch it, it may look familiar from a video we watched in planning…
Speaking of compassion and empathy, another way that we can overcome the overwhelming feeling our negative history can bring on, can be to practice meditation. Matthieu Ricard, (who I would have done for my eminent project because he is so cool, but he is bald, which means I would have had to wear some kind of bald cap, and I did not think it would be a good look for me) is known to many as the “happiest man alive”. He was involved in a 12-year long neuroscience study on meditation and compassion.
“Happiness does not come automatically. It is not a gift that good fortune bestows upon us and a reversal of fortune takes back. It depends on us alone. One does not become happy overnight, but with patient labor, day after day. Happiness is constructed, and that requires effort and time. In order to become happy, we have to learn how to change ourselves… Meditation is not just blissing out under a mango tree. It completely changes your brain and therefore changes what you are… The ultimate reason for meditating is to transform ourselves in order to be better able to transform the world…” – Matthieu Ricard
Meditation studies have been shown to enhance the function of the brain and meditation is an important part of the healing process in many mental health illnesses. Meditation is one way we can heal some of traumas of our history together.
I think the last important piece of learning to focus on the positive parts of history without ignoring the hardships, is learning about how to take action.
“When we ally ourselves with the excluded in society, not only are we enabled to see people as people and to join them in their struggle for justice, to work for community and places of belonging, but we also develop the critical tools for seeing what is wrong with our own society… As the human heart opens up and becomes compassionate, we discover our fundamental unity, our common humanity.” -Jean Vanier,
A Canadian Catholic philosopher, theologian and humanitarian who has touched the lives of many around the world with his humanitarian work.I do not think that anyone else could have said it any better. It is important to take action on our positive thoughts, on the wrong-doings of history that can be righted, on our meditations, on our empathy and on our compassion. Taking action on the thoughts and ideas cultivated by thinking optimistically, meditation, being compassionate, and showing empathy is important to do as a community, for others, and for ourselves.
The Best Way I Can Answer the Question… For Now
Learning to think optimistically, cultivating and sharing that positivity, then using that positivity to motivate action is the way that we can view Canadian history without getting overwhelmed by the negative parts of history without ignoring the negative parts of history. In fact, I believe that taking action not just helps us to not ignore the negative parts of history, it may help to repair some of the damage caused by the negative parts of our history. Not just world views, but our personal views, and the action that we take lead to different perspectives and ideas about developments in Canadian society. We are wired to think negatively, and this can affect us greatly; but learning to accept reality as a whole, for better or worse, is a very good way to fight of negative feelings. However, thinking positively does not mean minimizing or ignoring the negative, it is not an either-or perspective, but keeping both perspectives in balance. Though what we learn may seem to be focused on the negative, we can create balance by focusing on the positive.
After this blog post, I hope to continue to look answer this question in my own life more thoroughly and I hope to develop a stronger perspective about Canadian history; I hope that I can cultivate this in the last few months of socials. However, I have learned a lot through this blog post and I am very happy that we had the opportunity to do a document of learning like this. I am looking forward to reading this back at the end of the year to see how my thoughts have changes and to see what I have learned.
The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Anchor
Daring Greatly by Brené Brown
Becoming Human by Jean Vanier
Altruism: The Power of Compassion to Change Yourself and the World by Matthieu Ricard