How Delight Can Heal Us – (I borrowed this title from Tricycle’s Daily Dharma)

I took this photo in Japan, in the fall of 2014, in the Hakone area. It never fails to delight when I see their happy faces. It feels like yesterday.

Creating Joyful Moments in the Midst of Suffering

I think alot about creating joyful moments in the midst of suffering. I suspect it stems from having grown up with my particular clan in the Maritimes,  where we learned to accompany each other through the tears. It wasn’t about denial of difficulties nor forcing a false front, rather it was about broadening the view to see what else was true. There was an understanding that things would change; feelings would fade; noone escapes sorrow and that somehow things would get better around the corner. Love and laughter helped.

What I have found is that things change on a dime. During times of illness and difficulty we are hopeful one minute, despairing the next and hopeful again. This cycle repeats itself and it is natural, considering the challenging circumstances we find ourselves in.

And yet…there is always more, when we have our circle of friends and family. For instance, last week a small  group of friends came together, for two nights. More than one was grieving loss, so both the tears and the laughter spilled over through the music, poetry, games, spa and heart wrenching discussions. And still, everyone left feeling more alive, loved and grateful.

Moai

It brought to mind the Japanese concept of “moai,” a concept attributed to the greatest longevity in the world, particularly for women. Maoi is essentially a lifelong social network of friends who support you into old age. Although we don’t have a “word” like that, we all experience the essential nature of our important friendships.

Our western research is unequivocal regarding the improved health metrics of those who have a close and committed group of friends whom they can rely on. And although ideally we would all live in the same area, that is not the case in North America. We are often widely seperated from our old friends and family.

And still, we can help and count on those friends from afar. Not in the way we could if we lived down the street but this is where technology really helps. For all of our complaints and fears about devices, we have never had it so easy to stay in touch with loved ones.

My cousin reads books to her granddaughter several evenings a week. I have had one Birthday dinner with my Mom using our iPads, when I couldn’t span the 4500 KM distance between us that year. It’s not better than being there, but it is certainly the best alternative.

Meeting Half-Way

Last Friday my friends in Vermont drove to Montreal, while I took the train, and we met for coffee at a pre-arranged location. We had a fun-filled day of conversation, good food, and a surprising event – a spectacular and immersive VanGogh exhibition in the heart of Montreal. They drove home in the evening while I had the luxury of sitting back and enjoying a two hour train ride. In other words, we can instigate opportunities to strengthen friendship even when we don’t live near to each other.

We are all getting older and I consider it a privilege, so I want to live my older age, as long as I can. I found this video, which was part of a larger piece and I was touched, inspired, and delighted, by this six minute segment. I knew about this group of women but I didn’t know this aspect of their story.

Their effort and their joy make it worth sharing and not just because they are all in their 80’s and 90’s but as a reminder to all of us to reach out and find the spark and the love that makes life worth living. A reason to get up in the morning. (sub-titles)

Six min Video – In the land of the immortals- Click here

Finally, circling back to the title of this post, from Tricycle’s Daily dharma:

“Joy creates a spaciousness in the mind that allows us to hold the suffering we experience inside us and around us without becoming overwhelmed, without collapsing into helplessness or despair. It brings inspiration and vitality, dispelling confusion and fear while connecting us with life. Profound understanding of suffering does not preclude awakening to joy. Indeed, it can inspire us all the more to celebrate joyfully the goodness in life. The Dalai Lama and Bishop Desmond Tutu are good examples of people who have seen tremendous suffering and are still able to inspire others with an infectious joy.” ~ James Baraz

Notes

Note 1:) It is no credit to me this winter that I have kept my vow for not complaining about winter. It is January 22nd and the weather has been amazing compared to the previous winters and compared to elsewhere in Canada. I feel the weather gods have conspired to help me keep my vow. I am grateful!

Note 2:) My tiny habits experiment (from last week) was only moderately successful. Let’s say 1/3; so, I have tweaked my exercise to see if I can do better this week.

Note 3:) In my family we are planning our Chinese New Year celebration for Saturday night, the 25th. This is always a fun-filled time with friends and family. It is the year of the rat and there are two of them in the family – my daughter and son-in-law. And I believe that two of my Japanese friends, Yoshie and her husband are also rats. Must be a good sign because they are all wonderful people.

Note 4:) Thank you so very much for reading this blog. I consider it a great honour and I deeply appreciate you all, dear readers. Warm regards, Trudy

 

Any day is a Great One to Begin a New Habit

Thanks to G Mitteregger,  for the beautiful photo taken in Yellowknife, NWT, in 2003 with Dr. Itami and his MLT group.

Many years ago, I used to go to the gym/pool, three times a week at 6:00 AM, with my Mother and a friend. We greeted the usual early birds, and had our pick of equipment, as well as a pool almost to ourselves. Showers and change rooms were plentiful. We thought it was great.

And then a New Year arrived and that first day back at the gym was crowded, with line-ups for everything.

“What happened,” I asked the attendant?

“A New Year,” she responded. “Don’t worry, she added, “they will mostly be gone by the 14th.”

She was right. Two weeks later we were back to our small group with no more lineups.

What happened?

According to an article by Dr. Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, in Fast Company, he writes:

“So, why are significant changes to our habits so hard to attain?” Psychology provides some useful answers:

“First, according to Dr. Thomas, there is a big difference between wanting change and wanting to change. Even when people profess a clear desire to change, what that usually means is that they are interested in change as an outcome rather than change as a process. In other words, most people don’t really want to change, they want to have changed.”

That just about sums it up. I want to be fit, but I am less engaged in doing what that takes than the thought of getting fit. (for the record that is changing) :-))

So, what can we do when we really want to make a change?

For this week why not choose one thing you want to do where you have not been consistent. Make it reasonable. Make it tiny. The Kaizen approach really works. One small step every day. Equally important, according to Stanford professor BJFogg, is to anchor it to something you already do daily without thinking. Such as:

  1. Brushing your teeth
  2. First cup of coffee
  3. Turning on your computer
  4. Dropping your child off at school

You get the picture.

None of us need to use our willpower to brush our teeth. It is an automatic habit. Why not use that to attach something else that you want to make a habit. We all know how to floss our teeth, but do we do it every day? If not, (and you want to) try something like this. I intend to start by flossing my two implants. I don’t like doing it, and I am inconsistent. I hope that by doing just that simple step of flossing implants, every time I brush, I can instill the habit of flossing daily, and, with time, I can add more teeth until I’ve got it. I want flossing to become like the simple act of brushing my teeth. I figure it is worth a try.

When I read the book, The Power of Moments, I liked Dan and Chip Heath’s take on New Year’s Resolutions:

Why wait for a new year if you want to make a change. Jump in at anytime and get started. If you’re struggling to make a transition, create a defining moment that draws a dividing line between Old You and New You. This is why people don’t often change their lives until the worst possible moment. It’s only once they’re on the brink of destruction, that they finally say, ‘I must either give up or rise up.'”

And this brings me to illness.

It is common when we get diagnosed with a serious illness that we make significant changes in our lives. Some changes are forced on us and others we initiate. For many, illness is that “defining moment” that the Heath Brothers talk about. A catalyst for new beginnings, where priorities and actions take on new meaning and change happens.

So,  don’t give up on yourself if building a new habit doesn’t come easy. Take it slow and one step at a time. Anchor it to something you already do.

No need to wait for a new year. We can start anytime.

Notes

Note 1:) I published this little piece on the private FB account I moderate, for people living with illnesses.  I apologize to the five readers here who read all of my scribblings, as this is a repeat for you.

Note 2:) I am learning something about tiny habits. I had created three for this week and one worked as I hoped but not the other two, so I tweaked them. This is the thing, when working with a new habit, if you aren’t doing it, try something different. Experiment. Just don’t give up.

Note 3:) Thank you for your kind comments and emails. Last week’s poem spoke to many and I treasure your responses.  I am grateful to you, dear reader, for showing up. I hope wherever you are, in this wide world that you have a week with unexpected good surprises. Warmly, Trudy

A Blessing for the Brokenhearted

A Blessing for the Brokenhearted

by Jan Richardson

There is no remedy for love but to love more.

-Henry David Thoreau

 

Let us agree
for now
that we will not say
the breaking
makes us stronger
or that it is better
to have this pain
than to have done
without this love.

Let us promise
we will not
tell ourselves
time will heal
the wound
when every day
our waking
opens it anew.

Perhaps for now
it can be enough
to simply marvel
at the mystery
of how a heart
so broken
can go on beating,
as if it were made
for precisely this—
as if it knows
the only cure for love
is more of it
as if it sees
the heart’s sole remedy
for breaking
is to love still

as if it trusts
that its own stubborn
and persistent pulse
is the rhythm
of a blessing
we cannot
begin to fathom

but will save us

nonetheless.

There are people I know who read this blog who are brokenhearted, as I write. As well as some of you whom I don’t know. Some are lovingly, and, yes, wearily, side by side caring for the precious human beings who mean the world to them. Yesterday, a dear friend’s husband died.  It is with thoughts of her and her family that I especially write today. And always, it is with thoughts of all of you who caretake the everyday moments of your lives, with all of your particular joys and sorrows.

This poem of Jan Richardson has provided solace for me several times. I simply offer it to you here today.

Take heart. You are not alone.

With love, trudy

 

Greetings for the New Year and the New Decade 2020

Aurora Borealis 2002 – photo by Gottfried Mitteregger on New Year’s Eve in Yellowknife

First of all I want to offer my very best wishes to you and yours for this New Year and this New Decade. It can be an interesting opportunity to reflect back to 2010 and see what was going on and to see the changes. Some changes delight us and others bring tremendous loss and sorrow. And yet, the wheel keeps turning toward new learning’s, generosity and kindness. Don’t you think? Ultimately, through it all, to have the love of family and friends is the thing that counts the most. This configuration itself is malleable with the passing of time, yet it is always there, at the core of our lives.

A poem for new beginnings:

Eleven years ago my friend sent me the following stanza by poet Marge Piercy from her poem, The Spring Offensive of the Snail. She also added this note:

“This is a great poem to start off the New Year. There is also a ceremony among some First Nations people, which involves throwing water over their backs seven times. In doing so, they wash away any habits or thoughts no longer beneficial for growth.  People forgive those who have harmed them and ask forgiveness of those they have harmed.  Now they are ready to start the year anew.”

“…But remember to bury
all old quarrels
behind the garage for compost.
Forgive who insulted you.
Forgive yourself for being wrong.
You will do it again
for nothing living
resembles a straight line,
certainly not this journey
to and fro, zigzagging
you there and me here
making our own road onward
as the snail does…”   excerpt from Marge Piercy’s poem

I hope that this new year will be filled with many meaningful moments of joy, purpose, courage, solace, generosity, health, awareness, adventures, laughter and lots of time with the ones you love. Let’s not forget to stay open to the element of surprise. We never know what might happen around the corner.

There is always a door:

Furthurmore, it has been my experience that there is always a door. Help arrives during times of distress and great difficulty. Sometimes we don’t even need to ask for help. It arrives unbidden. And sometimes we need to seek it out. Knock on doors. Write letters. Make calls.

And, even with all of our pro-activeness, it doesn’t imply we solve the problem. Yet, we often find comfort, strength and new information. It is important to seek out what you need. Sometimes the locked door opens, even a crack, and allows some light to get in. Sometimes it doesn’t and, yet, our efforts and the efforts of others keep us from being alone and can provide words of comfort.

2020 awaits us with 365 brand new pages for our book of life. Let’s all live them fully, in the best way we know how. “Zigzagging (along) you there, me here…as the snail does.”

Above all, never forget that healing can happen, even when cure doesn’t.

With love and gratitude and a thousand good wishes for you all. Trudy

Notes

Note 1:) As this old year came to an end I reflected on what I can let go of in my life and what needs to take a priority. It came clear to me that I need less time with the news and more time with the muse. In  my case, the time to contemplate and the time to thoughtfully take action.

Note 2:) I  am choosing to make “the basics” my priority for 2020. Truth is, if I don’t put a disciplined effort into taking care of body and soul, I reduce my chances to continue to live a vital and joyful life for as long as I am still breathing. So, it is an experiment. What happens if I consistently provide  enough time for sleep; moving my body everyday to stay flexible and strong; eating well most of the time; taking time to be both out in nature meandering around in wonder and time to contemplate my interior landscape in gratitude, and to consciously stay in touch with family and friends. All things that can easily slip through the cracks, when they depend on enough time left over. 

Note 3:) As I enter a new decade I know for certain that what I am already doing is what I want to continue doing. Yet, there are gaps where loved ones can slip through the cracks and where small,and  important things don’t get done.  I want to narrow those gaps and be there for those who count on me.  I figure that my best chance to do so is to take care of the basics.

Note 4:) Last, but not least, I thank you for the great honour that I receive each time you click on “read more.” I humbly thank you for continuing along with me each week. Some musings are better than others and you are generous, dear readers, for so often joining me here, no matter what. I deeply appreciate you. You make my life better. Warmest regards, Trudy