(Photo from Thealaskalife.com)


                                                     Hocus pocus, fully focus.

                                                     Cast off the spell of the phone,

                                                     And fully succumb to the joy zone.

                                                     Presto, change-o, feel the glow.

                                                     Find your mojo in the flow.

A dictionary definition for SPELLBINDING is “holding one’s attention completely, rapturously, as though by magic.” Terms athletes use for this full, emotional involvement are “flow,” “being in the zone,” “totally locked in.”

Spellbinding, one of “The Four Rays of Joyful Aging,” is a highly positive, motivating, passionate experience. Our self-consciousness disappears and we become lost in whatever smile-making thoughts and actions we are joyously immersed within. When we are in spellbinding mode, we are almost functioning on automatic as if by self-hypnosis and our concentration is piercingly laser-like.

What we call “our life purpose” and the French call “plan de vida” is related to this joy. It’s universal, the Japanese call finding an enthralling calling— “ikigai.” We have enough self-knowledge to grasp what our values are and to align our unique talents for joy.

I keep a card on my bedside table that reminds me to ask myself each morning: “What will I do today to bring joy?” Each evening, the card reminds me to ask: “What did I do to bring joy today?” I didn’t invent the idea, I learned about it from reading a biography of one of my smile-making idols, Benjamin Franklin. With an awareness of this life purpose each day, I concentrate my thinking and increase the likelihood of becoming spellbound.

You would have to concentrate a bit to remember the name of the Claremont University psychologist who popularized the concept of “flow”—Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. In his 1990 best-seller, “Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience,” it was “MC” who proposed one could feel absorption in a task at will and make the routines of work more purposeful and enjoyable.

Spellbinding can cause our sense of time to leave us, as if we’re living in slo-mo. However, being caught up in an activity, whether it is banging a hammer, banging on a piano or banging something else pleasurable can make a passionate afternoon feel like an hour.

Many times, I’ve experienced the trance-like state of spellbinding while painting in my studio, gardening for hours or reading on a park bench in the sunshine. I love food and can generally set my watch by what my stomach tells me, but when spellbound, I can lose track of time and become swoony-headed and in need of food and drink.

Research by Harvard University professor, Dr. Teresa Amiable, finds that when creative types have a spellbinding moment, they test with higher levels of creativity not just that day but the next day as well. This could suggest to business leaders who want an innovative workforce that they should encourage associates to daydream and to follow those dreams. (Note: Dr. Amiable’s current research is connected to gerontology and focuses on how people can more successfully transition to retirement.)

Brain scans in both athletes and artists in the “flow” state show a release of pleasure-inducing, performance-enhancing chemicals like dopamine, serotonin and endorphins. Our imagination and positivity are spiked and we are enthralled.

SPELLBINDING CAN BE BOOSTED, here are some ways:

–REDUCE DISTRACTIONS—Confucius said, “The man who chases two rabbits catches neither.” And, Steve Jobs said, “Focusing is about saying, ‘no.’” Spellbinding is mono-tasking.

–SET NEW GOALS REGULARLY—Stretching yourself will increase the likelihood of your being engrossed in whatever the activity is and achievement of your goals will feel rewarding. Your brain likes to grow.

–ADD SOME FRESH CHALLENGES—“Flow” happens more for crafters who are applying a new technique rather than someone who is applying yet another coat of Mod-Podge to the same decoupaged object as the last forty-leven applications.

–CHOOSE TASKS THAT ARE SMILE-MAKING FOR YOU—I don’t expect “spellbinding” to ever happen on those twice-a-year times when I must dust furniture, though it could for you if that’s your thing. However, I remember enjoying playing the trombone in the high school band and think making music again these decades since could be a smile-making activity for me to re-learn and pursue. I’ll hope to have some energized focus and gain that oft-reported “air of invincibility” that “flow” may render.


“Concentrate all your thoughts upon the work at hand. The sun’s rays do not burn until brought into focus.”—Alexander Graham Bell

“Love life, engage in it, give it all you’ve got. Love it with a passion, because life truly does give back, many times over, what you put into it.”—Maya Angelou

“The successful warrior is the average man, with laser-like focus.”—Bruce Lee

“Focus like a laser, not like a flashlight.”—Michael Jordan

“Live life to the fullest and focus on the positive.”—Matt Cameron

“You should enjoy your work, so pursue something you find interesting, and if you work hard at it, it will turn into a passion.”—Cary Bergeron

“To succeed you have to believe in something with such passion that it becomes a reality.”—Anita Roddick

“Forget the fast lane. If you really want to fly, harness your power to your passion.”—Oprah Winfrey


Crowdsourcing with the Birmingham Theatre Family on Facebook, created as if by magic (Birmingham, AL is known as the “Magic City”) the music to take you on a “Magic Carpet Ride” the next time you are getting into your own zone painting, crafting, exercising, gardening—and yes, even house-cleaning.

“Magic to Do” from the musical, “PIPPIN,” was the first suggested song and it came from Jeff Pierce, a gifted, NYC-based theatre performer and athlete/personal trainer friend of mine who experiences “Flow” in both careers. Jeff is a popular actor on national stages and his mention of “Magic to Do” prompted his captivating, frequent co-star, Kristi Tingle Higginbotham, to offer a mesmerizing rendition of “That Old Black Magic.” Then, like a billowing flow from Aladdin’s lamp these Broadway and pop pleasures are ready to cue up for your spellbinding experience:

“Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered” (“PAL JOEY”), “Magical Mystery Tour” (The Beatles), “I Put a Spell On You” (Nina Simone), “24K Magic” (Bruno Mars), “Magic Carpet Ride” (Steppenwolf or The Halo Benders), “Friend Like Me” (“ALADDIN”), “Dark Lady” (Cher), “The Wizard and I” (“THE WIZ”), “Could It Be Magic” (Barry Manilow), “Abracadabra” (Steve Miller Band), “Magic Man” (Heart), “XANADU” (the entire musical song list according to Birmingham theatre director, Dane Peterson), “You Can Do Magic” (America), “Stay With Me” (the witch casts a spell “INTO THE WOODS”), “Old Devil Moon” (“FINIAN’S RAINBOW”), “Witchcraft” (Frank Sinatra), “Magical Mr. Mistoffelees” (“CATS”), “Swamp Witch” (Jim Stafford), “No Good Deed” (“WICKED”), “You Do Something to Me” (Cole Porter), “Blood Sugar Sex Magik” (Red Hot Chili Peppers), “Magic Friend” (2 Unlimited, this and many others in this roster suggested by Lee and Delaine Green, Birmingham “show people”), “The W.A.N.D.” (Flaming Lips), “Magic Spells” (Crystal Castles), “Houdini” (Foster the People), “Magic Dance” (David Bowie), “Hocus Pocus” (Focus), “Could This Be Magic” (Van Halen), “Strange Music” (Electric Light Orchestra), “Magic Number” (De La Soul), “Journey of the Sorcerer” (The Eagles, instrumental) and lots of spellbinding Fleetwood Mac.


What do you call a dog who casts magic spells? A Labracadabrador.

Aladdin has been banned from the magic carpet race. Apparently, he’s been using performance enhancing rugs.

My girlfriend said, “I want tonight to be magical.” And then, she disappeared.


Feb. 5—Henry Golding

Feb. 6—Babe Ruth

Feb. 7—Chris Rock

Feb. 8—John Grisham

Feb. 9—Carole King

Feb. 10—Elizabeth Banks

Feb. 11—Thomas Edison

                                              ALASKA SALMON VALENTINE’S NIGHT SOUP

                                                            (Source: tasteofhome.com)

Each week, Joy & Gerontology shares a recipe saluting healthy food produced in America. The delicious and nutritious collection is called “The S.U.N.S. USA Longevity Cookbook” and highlights vitamin B-3 (niacin) which many research gerontologists believe holds the promise for a long, healthy, joyful life.


1 large potato, peeled and cut into 1-1/2” pieces

1 large carrot, cut into ½” slices

1 ½ cups water

1 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth

5 medium fresh mushrooms, halved

1 Tablespoon all-purpose flour

¼ cup reduced-fat evaporated milk

¼ cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese

½ pound salmon fillet, cut into 1-1/2” pieces

¼ teaspoon pepper

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 Tablespoon chopped fresh dill


  1. Place the first four ingredients in a saucepan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium; cook, uncovered, until vegetables are tender, 10-15 minutes.
  2. Add mushrooms. In a small bowl mix flour and milk until smooth; stir into soup. Return to a boil; cook and stir until mushrooms are tender. Reduce heat to medium; stir in cheese until melted.
  3. Reduce heat to medium-low. Add salmon; cook, uncovered until fish just begins to flake easily with a fork, 3-4 minutes. Stir in pepper and salt. Sprinkle with dill. Serves two.


116. “The Magic Land of Allakazam.”

117. “Shezam,” Gomer Pyle.

118. Johnny Carson’s “Carnac.”

119. Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring”

120. Damien Hirst “Polka Dot” paintings.

121. Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face.”

122. Paintings of dogs playing poker.

123. Magician’s assistant, Nani Darnell.

124. Keith Haring everything.

125. The Super Bowl game pre-empted by “Heidi.”

126. My pet goat that Mama named Billy Faulkner.

127. That Hammerstein was Stephen Sondheim’s babysitter.

128. Diana Krall and her husband, Elvis Costello.

129. Whitney Houston and her aunt, Dionne Warwick.

130. “That Girl,” Marlo Thomas.

131. That humanitarian/comedian, Danny Thomas.

132. “And, I am tellin’ you, I ain’t goin!”

133. The spellbinding vamps and Tennessee Ernie Ford.

134. Bedazzling everything that doesn’t move.

135. David Byrne, American joy-giver.

136. Martha Stewart, America’s schoolmarm.

137. “Old Jews Telling Jokes” Broadway comedy.

138. “Spellbound,” fragrance by Estee Lauder.



Ben South