Three Things that Caught My Attention

This past ten days I have been intrigued by Sleep, Memory and the book, Becoming an Artist, and am compelled to pass these on to you, dear readers, one at a time.

Sleep

Sleep is a double-edged sword: the evidence is clear on how critical sleep is. The evidence also claims that almost half the population cannot get enough sleep.

“AMAZING BREAKTHROUGH!

Scientists have discovered a revolutionary new treatment that makes you live longer. It enhances your memory and makes you more creative. It makes you look more attractive. It keeps you slim and lowers food cravings. It protects you from cancer and dementia. It wards off colds and the flu. It lowers your risk of heart attacks and stroke, not to mention diabetes. You’ll even feel happier, less depressed, and less anxious. Are
you interested?


While it may sound hyperbolic, nothing about this fictitious advertisement would be inaccurate. If it were for a new drug, many people would be disbelieving. Those who were convinced would pay large sums of money for even the smallest dose. Should clinical trials back up the claims, share prices of the pharmaceutical company that invented the drug would skyrocket…this ad is describing the proven benefits of a full night of sleep.”

An excerpt from Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams by Matthew Walker

“The downside of talking about the benefits of sleep, risks leaving those with sleep problems feeling worse. Furthermore, sleep problems seem to affect at least 40 % of the population. That is a lot of sleepless nights.”

I tread lightly

when it comes to sleep, because it seems to me the people I know who suffer have tried everything, to no avail. However, I stumbled across an intriguing article that took a fresh take on sleep and whoever needs a helping hand may want to read it and try some of the suggestions. I am not recommending it because clearly I have no direct experience but some of you may want to investigate for yourselves.  How to Sleep: Try Japan’s Kaizen Method to Cure Insomnia and Sleep Anxiety   Here is the link.

Note that it is 9 minutes to read and the actual Kaizen steps are at the end. When we have a health problem we keep our eyes peeled for new information and approaches. Nothing to lose by being informed and trying things out.

Memory

My book club just finished the book Remember : The Science of Memory and The Art of Forgetting by neuroscientist and author Lisa Genova. She is a storyteller scientist, which makes her books easy to read, evidence based, and in this book there is lots to be hopeful for around memory. You won’t be left, scared to death. It is “engaging and edifying” as Steven Pinker from Harvard exclaims. As an ageing society, this book has much practical and inspirational information to offer and I highly recommend it. A chapter on sleep here too.

On Becoming An Artist –

by Dr. Ellen J Langer, author and professor of Psychology at Harvard University, and the recipient of numerous awards and honours.  I would never have picked up this book, if it were not for the conversation I had with my friend F.M. In contrast, I signed up for a drawing course this fall called: Drawing for the absolute and terrified beginner! Even that is quite intense at 2 and 1/2 hours a week for 9 weeks.

Nope, no plan to be an artist. However, my friend’s recommendation did not lead me astray. It is an excellent book on the creative arts, mindfulness as opposed to mindlessness, and offering up  profound insights on choice, possibilities and creativity. Here is an interesting blurb on her publishers site.

That’s it for this week. I will leave you with this:

Dr Graham Pole, suggests: “We make a clear distinction between art that patients and clients passively enjoy and art that participants create themselves. Participation is more effective in the healing process of illness both physical and psychological because the more involved patients are in the creative expression, the more able they are to take charge of their situation.”

Notes

Note:1)  Something a little different. I notice in my drawing class that while we draw, our teacher plays very specific classical music in the background.  Here is a piece by Debussy that CBC suggests was influenced by artists. “The spiraling melodies and gracefully interlocking lines of Debussy’s “Arabesque No. 1” (from Deux Arabesques, 1890-91) bring to mind the swirling designs of Art Nouveau as well as the Middle-Eastern art that fascinated French artists and collectors in the late 19th century. Link

Note 2:) Every week I am grateful to be here and so very honoured and appreciative that you show up and click the link to read more. Heartfelt thanks and may you find moments of joy and meaning every single day.

Note 3:) I would like to persuade you to explore expressive arts, music, wood working, fabric. Anything you do with your hands.There is lots of anecdotal evidence along with scientific research that it really is good medicine.

Now Is the Time

Now is the Time


“Do you live as though you have all the time in the world? Having all the time in the world is an illusion. You never know what might happen—an accident, an illness, or a disaster. If you only had moments to live, would you change your priorities? What would you do? Where would you go? How would you interact with your family, friends, loved ones—even strangers? But truly: Why are you not doing these things now?”      –Arnie Kozak, from Wild Chickens and Petty Tyrants (Wisdom)

 

Of course I get the sentiment and the truth expressed in this  quote and I have always thought about this when it comes to my interactions with others.On the other hand, there are several reasons why I’m not inviting everyone I love to come tomorrow and we will find a beautiful place in the mountains, maybe by a river to spend a week-end together, eat delicious food and drink red wine and I will pay on my visa and my insurance will pay the visa. (oops my insurance expired at 75) Better not do this.

The truth is, life is short. Although my mother did live to be 100, it still seemed short.  So in the meantime there is more than me to think about and bills need to be paid and cost conserving measures need to be in place and obligations taken care of. This isn’t bad, it is life.

I understand the spirit of this quote, and yet it seems to be part of our human nature that we see ourselves as “built to last.” That is why we are shocked when someone under the age of 90 dies.

But maybe the author is just talking about going swimming, taking a walk, meditating, eating a delicious meal, writing that thank-you, expressing love, retiring because it is time, living on less, writing our story, taking up dancing, buying your own fresh flowers.

Priorities

This past few weeks I am thinking about priorities and how everything can change in a flash.  And how priorities change with  additional information: he has  inoperable cancer; she was hit by a car; she lost the baby; he took his life when the business failed…she just got the best job; the twins graduated; she won a scholarship; she just got the acceptance letter; the cough isn’t asthma. Or maybe simple things like I’ve got pink eye (now a symptom of covid) and I need to see my husband in the hospital or my son needs to be picked up early from school, can you do it? A million little choices each and everyday with none of them ever looked at, as the last thing we will do.

Now that’s something to think about. Maybe it is less about “what would I be doing if” and more about how would I do this thing now if I knew it was the last thing I would ever do.

Notes

Note 1:) Beautiful warm weather and gorgeous foliage graced our thanksgiving weekend. Much to be thankful for.

Note 2:) A little lesson in gratitude from MIT. Watch here.

Note 3:) Thank you one and all for the gift of your time. So many good things to read and I am delighted that you keep showing up here. Lucky me. Warmest wishes to you all, Trudy

A Million Ways to Say Thanks

Thanksgiving

As we come close to the Canadian Thanksgiving weekend, along with spectacular autumn weather I am overwhelming grateful. The scale is so heavily weighted in my favour.  Yes, there are a myriad of problems not to be denied.  Not really sure where the notion came from that life was easy sailing. Yet, no matter how difficult life can be, when I sit down and count my blessings, so to speak, they are staggeringly in my favour.

If you ever want to do a reality check, based on your own standards, turn your attention to what is going right and all the ways you have been helped in your lifetime. Or  this year or the past 24 hours. Take a blank sheet of paper and a pencil and make a laundry list of specific ways you have been helped, for a fixed period of time: day, week, this year…It may take a bit to get started because we take lots for granted.

Troubles demand our attention because they  require us to do something. Things that are going well or ways that we are helped can easily slip through the cracks or fade into the woodwork. Not that we are unappreciative but we can easily miss the ordinary.

That Wide-angle Lens

I am thinking of my bed now. If you have been in a hospital you notice your bed because you realize how comfortable it is and you miss it. If the power goes out or the hot water heater breaks down we notice how great a shower feels because we are now deprived. I think about my computer and how it helps me to do my work, write this blog, meet up with friends on line, pay my bills…order a book or put one on hold at the library. Many known and unknown people are responsible for me having a computer on my desk. And if the internet stops working for a day…Yikes! Who gave us our first job or taught us to read? Or who saved our life with surgery, medicine or some other life giving opportunity?

One walk around the block this morning was filled with beautiful colour. And the people who smiled and said hello also brightened my day. I’m not speaking of rose coloured glasses, rather that wide angle lens. A way to capture the whole scene and not just what needs fixing, solving or learning to live with.  Bringing some balance to the mistaken view that if you do everything right nothing will go wrong.

Life is More Like the 84th Problem

There’s a story about a farmer who came to see a sage, and to tell him about his numerous life difficulties. He told the sage about his troubles with his farming – either drought or monsoons made his work always difficult. He told the sage about his wife, for even though he loved her, there were certain things about her which could use some fixing. Likewise with his children – yes, he loved them, but they certainly weren’t turning out quite the way he wanted.

So, he told the sage all of this, and when he was done, he asked the sage how he could help him with his troubles.

And the sage said, “I’m sorry, but I can’t help you.”

What do you mean? You’re supposed to be a great teacher!” railed the farmer.

To which the sage replied, “It’s like this: all human beings have 83 problems; it’s a fact of life.”

Sure, a few more problems may go away now and then, but soon enough a few more will come. So, we’ll always have 83 problems.”

To which the farmer indignantly responded, “Then what’s the good of all your teaching?

To which the sage replied, “My teaching can’t help with the 83 problems, but perhaps it can help with the 84th problem.”

What is the 84th problem?” asked the farmer.

“The 84th problem is that we don’t want to have any problems.

I find it remarkable that we have a national holiday to celebrate what we are thankful for.

Each year at Thanksgiving dinner we have a practice where each of us speaks about what we are grateful for. In the last ten years or so we added a small metal tree (some years it was paper) and a stack of handmade paper leaves where we each write out what we are thankful for and attach our leaf to the tree.  Before dinner we each read what we wrote. It is a special ritual that our family and friends look forward to.

 If we want to decrease suffering, gratitude is pretty much a fool proof method of doing so.

My friend Patricia recently sent me this quote from one of her artist friends, and I think it is perfect for just this occasion:

I want to spend the rest of my life rejoicing in the beauty of this world and finding a million ways to say thank you.” by  Anne Schrievogel

Notes

Note 1:) A special thank you to Dr. Jinroh Itami, thanks to whom I have something to offer and to live by. Always to Wellspring Calgary, The ToDo Institute, and all the wonderful people I am so honoured and grateful to spend time with through this work.

Note: 2) I am teaching an annual  month long program starting next week for the ToDo Institute in Vermont. It is not demanding; hopefully useful and encouraging; a guided self directed method with a weekly themed live webinar for  four weeks. You can find more information here.   Don’t hesitate to write to me if you have any questions. No obligation –  just for your information.

Note: 3) Finally, I wish all of my Canadian readers a very special Thanksgiving weekend. It is my most favourite holiday and gives us a chance to formally count our blessings. You, dear readers, keep me company as we navigate this tender, wondrous and oftentimes difficult life.  Your encouraging words are heartfelt and appreciated. Please accept mine, as we cheer each other along.  A deep bow. Warmly, Trudy 

PS A little extra from the well-loved Brother David Steindl-Rast A Grateful Day