Fall in the Gatineau sometimes this Sometimes That

Sometimes This, Sometimes That

Have you ever noticed how, out of the blue, you can experience a moment of joy, for no reason whatsoever? When it happens to me I can provide no explanation. Like this morning. Walking out to my car and glancing north, the sky was golden – not splashy and vibrant but subtle and transparent and for those few seconds I felt what can only be described as a joyful, optimistic confidence, welling up inside. Was it the light? The day of the week? How I slept? Who knows?

Last night, by contrast, I was working side-by-side with discouragement – working hard on developing a 5 minute Podcast series and after many dozens of “takes” I was tired and bored with my own voice and message. Nothing satisfied me. I wanted to be better than I was. Finally I chose to say, “good enough,” and went to bed.

What interests me is that my morning experience was naturally welcome, yet last night, I was fully engaged both in the learning process and my purpose for persevering, even while working along side discouragement and self-doubt.  I wanted to keep going and I wanted to do a good job. My inborn critic, on the other hand, was in full power mode and wanted to derail me, for good. I was very aware of my “mind chatter” and I ramped up my determination to do the work. Note – I didn’t put any effort into getting rid of the chatter. I have learned that this is a lost cause and an unnecessary distraction.

As I sit here now, late Tuesday morning, writing this blog post, I can no longer judge the “joyful” experience to be better than the “discouraging” experience from the night before. Both were unasked for and both made my life better for entirely different reasons.

And here is the critical point. When we allow our feeling state to be in charge of what happens next, we limit our options. Had I given up last night I would not have had the satisfaction of completing the task I had set for myself. We have all experienced the confidence that comes from doing what we set out to do. Even the beauty of the light does not outshine it.

The entire question of purpose comes into play. And purpose is one of the critical tools to fall back on when we are going through challenging times. In those kinds of times we have so much going on that is out of our control. Things we have to do, dictated by our urgent and important circumstances.

It can make a difference when we remember other reasons to get up in the morning, which have nothing to do with treatment and tests, and all the other things weighing on us. Short term purposes that we have direct control over, not the assistant at the Doctors office.

These kind of purposes, each of us get to decide for ourselves.

Hints:

they are doable, right now, with things as they are

they tend to lift our spirits

you can do them by yourself, if you choose

they may move a precious project along, even a little bit

Oh yes, a one hour nap in the hammock can be a useful and important purpose at certain times. So can a walk or a hike. There is no expert out there who knows what is best for you to do. You get to decide.

Truth is, life is short. What do you really have to lose by putting it out there – who you are and what you want to do or be. You may try something new and fail. Guess what?  Failure is always part of the package when we try new things and being willing to risk failure is a passport to living fully.

Note 1: My 52 week program is almost ready for registration. I will be so happy to let you know when it is open. Thank you all so very much for reading these posts. See you next week, Trudy

 

 

Sail boat Trim tab

You Are a Trim Tab

Almost ten years ago, I got to spend time with an old acquaintance-Rabbi Rami Shapiro. He came to Calgary under the auspices of the Temple B’nai Tikvah and the Anglican Parish of Christ Church. Rami is a bright light on my screen, and I hadn’t seen him for 20 years.  I was delighted.

I signed up to attend his one-day workshop on the Sacred Art of Loving Kindness: an interfaith exploration of compassion. And what a rollicking day it was. Not only were we inspired, enlightened, educated and entertained, our immune systems got boosted with all the laughing. Quite frankly, Rami is provocative, irreverent and for me, a delight. A joyful mix of intelligence, wisdom, open mindedness, truthfulness, and absolute compassion for the human condition.

I learned something that day, which has stuck with me after all these years, and, recently, it is back in my thoughts. It is the idea of being a “trim-tab.” Rami had studied with Buckminster Fuller and had learned about trim tabs from him. In fact, when Fuller died his epitaph read, Bucky: TRIM TAB.

I had not heard of it, but this is what I discovered:

A trim tab is the tiny, trailing part of a ship’s rudder. Slight pressure on the trim tab moves the rudder, which in turn directs the ship. We are all trim tabs, tiny pivots affecting the overall direction of humanity. As Fuller advised, it is time to take a long view. Zoom out, look at where we’ve been and where we might be going. See it? Now choose your path and act accordingly.”

Fuller declared, “you don’t have to turn the weight of civilization, but you can be a trim tab and be part of the turning.”

In this era of discouraging world news and a sense of futility, what we do and say counts, within our circles of influence. Our ordinary days of living are filled with opportunities to influence the lives of another. It doesn’t matter if it is at the grocery store, the ballot box or in the chemo chair. The second we are interacting with another we are “trim tabs.” For better or for worse.

We may not be able to change the world or get our names on the front page of The New York Times for our good works, but we can be Trim Tabs right now and right where we are, under all circumstances.

We get to influence the quality of our own lives and our community everyday, with small actions. As Fuller stated, “What you do with yourself, just the little things you do yourself, these are the things that count.”

Note 1: Enjoy this last full week of October. See you next week.

Note 2: Thanks for taking the time to read my scribbling’s and thank-you for your encouraging words.

Everyone Loses Something

“At one time or another, everyone loses something. We lose loved ones. We lose our health. We lose our glasses. We lose our memories. We lose our money. We lose our keys. We lose our socks. We lose life itself. We have to come to terms with this reality. Sooner or later, all is lost; we just don’t always know when it will happen.

Loss is a fact of life. Impermanence is everywhere we look. We are all going to suffer our losses. How we deal with these losses is what makes all the difference. For it is not what happens to us that determines our character, our experience, our karma, and our destiny, but how we relate to what happens.” Lama Surya Das

This quote arrived in my inbox this morning, and it held my attention, because it seemed so true to my own experience. A crazy morning for me because I couldn’t seem to find the most obvious things I needed: keys; gloves; glasses; sunglasses; jacket. And this was all before breakfast.

Truth is, what I had misplaced was minor and simply inconvenient compared to the loss of the really tough stuff. But the other truth is when we get better at not losing our cool over these little things we are building habits that will serve us well when we are hit with the major losses in life.

The reason I was stressed was being in a rush.  And it was also due to not putting those items where they belonged the night before. Once you start rushing and are concerned about being late we get stressed. When we get stressed it is harder to remember. This isn’t just my opinion, rather, it is a well-researched topic in the field of neuroscience and psychology. Dr. Heather Palmer, PhD in Neuropsychology has worked with seniors and with people going through chemotherapy about what she refers to as brain fog.

Brain fog is a type of loss that we all fear, although I notice my grandkids, have no qualms at all about losing gloves, forgetting backpacks etc.

Simple takeaways for everyday to help our cognitive functions:

  • Be a list maker. List makers rule, as it turns out.

  • Have a home for everything.

  • Don’t put it down put it away.

  • Have less on your list than you are capable of doing.

  • Provide time and space for transitions, between activities. No more cramming.

  • Let go of the small irritants.

  • Exercise! Exercise! Exercise! This does not require a gym membership or to cycle 100 km a day up and down hills. It means move your body. Do not get comfortable on the couch. Get outdoors often. You know what you can do. The missing link is to do it.

  • Spend time with people you like. Being in the company of others who lift you up, rather than drain you, cannot be overstated.

  • Try new things. Put yourself in situations where you don’t know everyone. This is like exercise for the brain. You may be asked an unexpected question. Your brain likes this. Take an art class or go to a concert or lecture. Stay social and resist the urge to withdraw to your hermitage.

  • Find opportunities to laugh and people to laugh with.

  • Eat well and enjoy a treat now and then.

  • Ask for help when needed.

  • Please don’t be mean or cross with yourself. Mistakes happen. We get to fix some of them. The rest we live with and move on.

Look for something beautiful every day and take the time to really see and appreciate it. No one is exempt from loss. It is part of the human condition. How we respond to unfortunate events is the key. It doesn’t mean it is easy and that is why we have each other. As a wise teacher frames it:

“We are born and we die and in between we have the chance to keep each other company and that is the thing that counts the most.” John Tarrant

Note1: I am now re-engaged with Nasrudin, and here is his famous story about losing his keys. I hope it makes you smile and even wonder what he is really talking about.

The great Sufi master Mullah Nasruddin was on his hands and knees searching for something under a streetlamp. A man saw him and asked, “What are you looking for?” “My house key,” Nasruddin replied. “I lost it.” The man joined him in looking for the key, and after a period of fruitless searching, the man asked, “Are you sure you lost it around here?” Nasruddin replied, “Oh, I didn’t lose it around here. I lost it over there, by my house.” “Then why,” the man asked, “are you looking for it over here?” “Because,” Nasruddin said, “The light is so much better over here.”

Note 2: Thank you for reading these posts. I wish you many joyful moments as you go through your days. See you next week, Trudy

 

 

 

Blind Spots

Blind Spots

One afternoon, according to an old Sufi tale, Nasruddin and his friend were sitting in a cafe, drinking tea, and talking about life and love.

“How come you never got married, Nasruddin?” asked his friend at one point.

“Well,” Nasruddin said, “to tell you the truth, I spent my youth looking for the perfect woman. In Cairo, I met a beautiful and intelligent woman, with eyes like dark olives, but she was unkind. Then in Baghdad, I met a woman who was a wonderful and generous soul, but we had no interests in common. One woman after another would seem just right, but there would always be something missing. Then one day, I met her. She was beautiful, intelligent, generous and kind. We had everything in common. In fact, she was perfect.”

“Well,” said Nasruddin’s friend, “What happened? Why didn’t you marry her?”

Nasruddin sipped his tea reflectively. “Well,” he replied, “It’s a sad thing. Seems she was looking for the perfect man.” 

Source | Rick Fields,  Chop Wood, Carry Water, page 35  And in Frederic & Mary Ann Brussat, Spiritual Literacy, pages 430-431

 

This little fable always makes me smile. I suppose because I so readily see the irony in our tendency to detect the imperfections in others while overlooking our own. I find the subject of “Blind Spots,” absurdly funny and tragic at the same time. Let’s face it, it is so easy to see what our mate doesn’t see, or, for that matter, other family members, friends and co-workers. If only they would tweak this or stop doing that they would be so much better off.

What we mean, of course, is that it would suit us. We would prefer them to be at least a little different than they are. And when they point out our short comings we leap to our defense because we had a reason, several in fact, for why and how we behave. And at the very least we are trying to improve, unlike this person standing in front of us.

I guess I am intrigued because I have several blind spots of my own. (well, at least, one or two :-))) Even at that, I don’t see them the way my daughter, son or mate might see them. No sense checking with my Mother because her blind spot is that she thinks I am perfect. Imagine.

What I have learned is this. No matter the situation, we do better when we don’t waste our energy trying to get someone else to be different than they are. As long as I am alert to that and even to the notion that I have blind spots of my own, I can cultivate some compassion both for myself and the other. I can cut “the other” some slack. I can pause my reaction default and see if we need a difficult conversation two days from now. The delay allows me to choose my response and to focus on the things I can do something about. Speak my mind. Express my concern. Sometimes, there is nothing to be done. Sometimes, there is a great deal.

As we deal with illness, acute or chronic, we often read or hear that we are frequently surprised disappointed, by the response of certain friends. As well as surprised  blown away,  by the generosity and support from people we least expected to hear from.

We don’t know the full story of why people are the way they are. While being clear that bad (not just thoughtless) behaviour by anyone is not to be condoned or endured, what is true for me is as follows:

With extreme exceptions, I believe that people are doing the best they can, with what they know, in the circumstances in which they find themselves. Do I believe that at every moment I am doing my best? No. What I mean is that over time, I manage, to fall down and get back up again, over and over. And I think the people I know do the same. There is no such thing as perfection. As Shunryu Suzuki, used to say to his Zen students: “Each of you is perfect the way you are … and you can use a little improvement.”

Note 1: You may want to look for some humour in that characteristic you find annoying in the other. It would be funny to see if it also resides in you, once in awhile. I find it enlightening to be open to surprise.

Note 2: Thank you for opening this post and taking the time to read it.  See you next week, Trudy

 

blind spots

Enjoy Your Life

It is easy when we are faced with unpleasant and devastating news to sink into seriousness, if not despair. Why not? We are often confronting  situations that require serious undertakings. And yet…one of the traits of  a mentally healthy person is the freedom to enjoy life. Take fall, for instance. I live in eastern Canada and everyday there are more red, orange and yellow leaves on the maples. Even though it is currently rainy, dark and damp there are moments, when the sun comes out, or you are running an errand and you catch a breathtaking glimpse of vibrant colours. When the rain stops your nose wiggles and there it is – a whiff of fall. The lucky ones may get to hear the crunch of dry autumn leaves underfoot or in the spokes of a bicycle.

Life can be tough. But we are tougher and we can help build our resilience when we develop the capacity to enjoy each other and the world around us. But to do that we need to say yes to beauty, laughter, learning and fun. We may not feel like it but we can make a date to take a walk around a lake, or through a forest trail, or visit an art gallery. Perhaps we call the friend who makes us laugh or take in a game or a concert. How about that pottery class that keeps catching your eye. These moments of noticing something outside of ourselves, help keep us sane. They nurture our spirits and boost our ability to bounce back.

I think ordinary moments offer tons of potential for enjoying life but we need to take advantage of them. Staying curious is one sure way to find enjoyment. Extending a helping hand is another. And one we may not give much thought to is not letting our feelings boss us around. If we wait to be in the right mood to do something we will miss many opportunities for joy. Not “feeling like it” is the exact prompt I need to get outside, look around, or pick up the phone and call a friend.

The truth is, life gives us challenges on a regular basis. We use our wit, skill and all the help we can get to take action on the things we can do something about. But don’t stop there. Use all those skills to find precious moments of surprise and delight waiting outside your door.

Note 1: “We think that the point is to pass the test or to overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together, and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.” Pema Chödrön, When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times

Note 2: It is Canadian Thanksgiving this weekend and I extend my heartfelt wishes to you all. May you be lucky enough to reflect on and share your blessings with those you love and those who need your love. See you next week, Trudy