What Matters Now?

Good evening dear readers:

I am republishing this piece for a few reasons:

1) It is the last day of August, and for me, September is the start of my real New Year. September is ingrained in me as a time of new scribblers, pencils, erasers, pens, and most of all a fresh start and new learnings.

2) I benefit from Rachel Naomi Remen’s clear thinking and what she says is just as relevant today as it was 14 years ago when Newsweek published it. And the last time I used this on my blog was – guess- September 2020. As it turns out Sept 22 holds different possibilities than Sept 2020 did.

3) The answer to this question can change as we live longer and our circumstances change. It is a question to be asked several times throughout our lives. In fact everyday. Even if what matters most remains constant it is interesting to note if we are still acting as if that is still true. It is easy for important things to fade into the woodwork and be taken for granted. I prefer to think of a few things that matter most as I reflect on this and try to spend more time on those things. And I am talking short and long term.  What matters most today, right now? And what am I doing? Restfulness matters.

What Matters Most?

That simple question can play a powerful role in healing our lives. And there can be a few answers.

“Dean Ornish M.D. – Newsweek Web Exclusive Feb 27, 2008

Friedrich Nietzsche once wrote: “He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.”


Rachel Remen, M.D., has spent much of her 40-year medical career helping patients and doctors find their why. A colleague of mine at the University of California, San Francisco, and founder of the Institute for the Study of Health and Illness, she has been a pioneer of integrative medicine, exploring the powerful ways in which our emotional, mental and spiritual states may directly affect our health.


Dr. Remen is also the author of the best sellers “Kitchen Table Wisdom: Stories That Heal” and “My Grandfather’s Blessings: Stories of Strength, Refuge, and Belonging” (both from Riverhead Books). I spoke to her recently about how understanding and pursuing what matters most to us can help to heal both body and soul.


Dean Ornish: There is a lot of suffering in the world right now, and it’s experienced on so many different levels—a lot of edginess, anxiety and fear. You often describe how suffering can be a catalyst for transforming our lives. In what ways?


Rachel Remen: Very negative experiences, including anxiety and fear, have the potential to cause us to question the way we’ve been living. They’re a wake-up call. They make people think more deeply about things and ask themselves questions like: What’s important? What really matters? How do I want to spend my time, my money, my energy? How do I live more deliberately according to the things that are important to me? Just a very simple two-word question—”What matters?”—can change your life and the lives of people around you.



Because most of us live by habit. We often spend our time and energy on things that, if we were to ask ourselves, “Is this really important to me?” the answer would be, “Not very.” But we don’t usually ask ourselves this question. We’re not living our lives closest to what has meaning and passion and value for us.


Why not?

We get distracted. There are lots of pressures in life. We’re multitasking a lot of the time. Many of us have become disheartened or depressed. We tend to want to numb ourselves out rather than go deep inside and find the well of renewal that is in every person. We spend a lot of time in front of the television set, maybe we tie one on over the weekend. And we’re often looking for comfort rather than What Matters Most and those are two different things.


What’s the difference?

Comfort is a temporary Band-Aid. But whatever you are trying to numb yourself from usually comes back. Renewal is healing. If you go deep within and look to live your life with greater integrity, closer to your genuine and authentic values, according to what is really true for you, then you permanently diminish the pain. You don’t just numb it temporarily. Food is one of the ways we numb ourselves. Or we drink too much, or we go from relationship to relationship, constantly seeking something new.


A patient once told me, “When I get depressed, I eat a lot of fat—it coats my nerves and numbs the pain. It fills the void.” Another said, “I’ve got 20 friends in this package of cigarettes. They’re always there for me; nobody else is.”

In the effort to heal our pain, we often numb it so we don’t look at our lives. The real healing comes from asking ourselves what really matters and having the courage to let go of what doesn’t matter and take hold of what does.


When people are diagnosed with a life-threatening illness, they often realize this, as well.

Yes. There is a moment of clarity where you know what’s important to you. And it often isn’t the way you’ve been living your life but something different than that. I’ve worked for years with people who have cancer, listening to their stories—the view from the edge of life is a lot clearer than most of us have.


In all those years, nobody ever said to me, “If I die of this disease, I’m going to miss my Mercedes.” What really matters is who you’ve touched on your way through life, who has touched you and cared deeply, and what you’re leaving behind you in the hearts and lives of those around you. We’re so busy that we may not be present in our own lives. We don’t see. We don’t connect. And it’s all here in front of us. Many are starving in the midst of plenty.


What matters most is love. And the things that matter are very simple—they’re very old—and they’re very, very important. These things that can’t be measured are the foundation of our lives. There is meaning in everything we do. Most of us live far more meaningful lives than we know.


How so?

Recognizing that we are all connected and, because of that, we have the power to make a real difference in the life of a total stranger without even knowing their name. We often feel powerless in today’s society–that you have to be wealthy, or educated or somehow more than you are in order to make any kind of significant difference in the world. And the reality is that we’ve already made a far greater difference than we know, we have changed the lives of many more people than we realize because there is a web of connection between us.


You’ve written that our stories connect us.

They do more than connect us. They help us find meaning. Stories are about why we’re here. They are the container for meaning, and they remind us of the power of being human. Sometimes a person needs a story more than food to stay alive.


You created a course called “The Healer’s Art,” now available in more than 60 medical schools, that focuses on the human dimensions of practicing medicine. Why?

Facts are important, but they just give us information. Stories help us retrieve our lives. There are tales that help us to live well—to recognize that nobody is alone, and that we all have far greater power than we recognize. You don’t need to be on television in order to change people’s lives. The meaning of medicine is not just science; it’s service, to befriend life. One of my students said, “You know, I discovered that I can heal with my presence and listening what I could never cure with my science.


“We have a culture that values celebrity over compassion; that values notoriety over caring. What can we learn from all of this? The entire advertising industry is based on the idea that if only you buy more, get more, do more—then you’ll be happy.

Well, it’s never enough because it will never fill the emptiness that only a sense of meaning can satisfy. At the end of life, when people look back to see what mattered for them and brought meaning, it’s not about what they bought and what they owned. It’s about what they did to help other people to live and how they related to other people and grew in wisdom. It’s all about the love they gave and received, not anything else. One heart at a time.”


 1:) I have used excerpts from this article since it was published in 2008. In 2020 I had the notion that I wanted to reprint the interview, so I wrote to Newsweek and they promptly and kindly gave me permission, gratis, which I appreciated. Within its simplicity,  I find it an important question, even more so as I live longer. May you find it thought-provoking too.

3:) I am honoured that you read my blog. There are so many wonderful things to read and limited time. I do not take it casually that you choose to show up here every week or so. A deep bow to all of you. Please take care. Warmest greetings, Trudy


Ibasho – Where one fits in


I am interested in places. Those places where we feel at home; feel like ourselves and feel the weight of the world drop away. This week I learned a new Japanese word -ibasho, which mostly translates to a place to be; a place where one belongs and where one fits in. I learned this highly nuanced word from Nick Kemp, who just launched his excellent new book called Ikigai-Kan.

Ikigai-Kan means “the feeling that life is worth living.” But before I go down that rabbit hole I need to reign myself back into ibasho.

Ibasho is more than a place.

As I read Chapter Five, I discovered it can be an object, a context, a community, a person, a particular walk, or even a favourite coffee shop. A situation where you feel safe, at peace, secure, accepted and where you belong. A sense of well-being.

I have a favourite flower garden, at the nearby experimental farm in the city. Last Sunday on a rainy afternoon and feeling a little out of sorts, I chose to visit “my” garden. And like always, I immediately feel quiet, peaceful, and content. I also experienced unadulterated joy when a gorgeous monarch butterfly came close by, twice, while I moodled. This garden is an annual ritual on my birthday where I wander around for a bit and then take an hour to just sit in wonder.

Other special places are the west coast, the ocean and Japan – here I feel immediately at home. I am awestruck and speechless with such a sense of reverence and never wanting to leave. Independent bookstores are also places of solace as are paths through the forest and alongside a stream. Just to name a few.

Ibasho can also be a social niche, like Wellspring Calgary.

My Wellspring community is clearly my ibasho.  Even though we see each other exclusively online since Covid, we have a close bond. I look forward to every Friday afternoon to spend a joyful hour with members and one or two colleagues. I leave refreshed, rejuvenated and at home.

And all of us have our kindred spirits with whom we love to spend time.

Ibasho is not limited to a geographical place but is more of a state of mind…”(all the italicized references in this post are borrowed from Nick Kemp’s new book. The link is in the note)

My Blog

Another part of my ibasho is this blog and all of you. I do everything wrong on my blog: I don’t write drafts on day 1, edit and rewrite on day 2, and rewrite again on Wednesday. I see my blog as a visit with you. A conversation – mostly one-way. :-))When I write my blog I bypass MS word and go directly to my WordPress site. As soon as I open it up on a Wednesday, I begin to write. I don’t have a plan ahead of time for the next few posts. Rather, I sit down and see what comes to mind that I would like to share with you today. (Note: Please don’t follow my example if you write a blog.) But I feel connected to you as I write, as though you were here in my study and we were chatting.

I was happy today when I learned this new word: ibasho. Furthurmore, it ties in with Forest Bathers “sit spot.” A special place where you go to just sit and observe. Joseph Campbell combines the idea of ibasho and yutori, a word I wrote about last spring.  Yutori means “a kind of living with spaciousness. For example, it’s leaving early enough to get somewhere so that you know you’re going to arrive early, so when you get there, you have time to look around.”Naomi Shihab Nye

Get in touch ceramic bowl

Joseph Campbell, In the Power of Myth, writes this:

“This is an absolute necessity for anybody today. You must have a room, or a (spot) or a certain hour or so a day, where you don’t know what was in the newspapers this morning, you don’t know who your friends are, you don’t know what you owe anybody, you don’t know what anybody owes you. This is a place where you can simply experience and bring forth what you are and what you might be. This is the place of creative incubation. At first you might find that nothing happens there. But if you have a sacred place and use it, something eventually will happen.”


When I read this I read place and spaciousness. Ibasho and yutori. Anyone who works with language and cultural differences knows you can’t translate these concepts accurately. They come laden with hundreds of years of history and are richly nuanced. But still, we can get the picture. And maybe it can pique our curiosity and set us off on our own journey of truly paying attention to the things that can make our life feel worth living.


1:) I am halfway through Nick Kemp’s new book and for anyone interested in ikigai, and Japanese culture I can highly recommend it. The launch price is .99 for the kindle book. Ikigai-Kan Canada and USA

2:) Thank you for stopping by. May you have a lovely rest of the month. It goes quickly, so enjoy! Warmest wishes, Trudy



Noticing the Signs

Today my granddaughter and I saw a most unusual sight in the backyard. A red dragonfly landed on what looked like a dead stick, part of a tree I can’t name. The banner picture is not mine. Credit is in the notes. Neither of us had time nor awareness to capture the image. What made it unusual is that we have not seen a red dragonfly, or any dragonfly, in our backyard before. Furthermore, when my Mother died two years ago, so many of us were visited by dragonflies. Let’s face it, this isn’t science. I call it the mystery. So, when we looked out we both said aloud, great grandma, and we were delighted with the little skip of joy that arose in our hearts.

This gentle experience is only meaningful for us. If you saw the dragonfly, it may be just a dragonfly. But when we see one, we think of my Mother. I thought about the different ways we make meaning and how something as simple as this little event can make a day bright. And I remembered: I associate my former husband, who died, with eagles who seemed to gather that day. And at a friend’s sudden death, who loved owls, how one showed up at the entrance to her gathering and stayed for the entire service.

I find it curious and wonderful and mysterious how we can make meaning out of events that have no roots in what we call science but that are somehow healing.

When I went through cancer a red rowboat was my talisman, so to speak. I can’t explain why; my artist friends painted red boats and captured beautiful images of red boats and I simply found solace in my red boats, large and small. In fact, I have one, close at hand that is dear to my heart. The photo doesn’t do it justice but you get a sense of it.

And I had folded cranes, 1000 of them, folded by a friend and her friends.

These things that we give meaning to don’t have magical powers but they can be deeply meaningful to us. And because of that, just like the dragonfly today, they can lift our spirits, even remind us that we are bold and brave and can do courageous things when we need to.

I have a special box of candles, a gift from my son and daughter-in-law. Every Friday I light one for a faraway friend who is ill. They are traditional Japanese botanicals, made from plants  since 1892, and it is one way for me to pause and focus for a few moments on my friend.

These small things have no conflict with science. Rather they exist in the realm of healing, not cure.

I suspect that you too have some small items, or rituals, nature and otherwise that you view with tenderness. They matter.

When I think of the dragonfly, it has been about 18 months since I saw my last one and I may never see one again. But today, I received the perfect gift. The unexpected visit from a red dragonfly, in the company of my granddaughter Sophie.


1:) With thanks for the banner photo by Robert Shiflet on Unsplash

2:) Small things mean a lot, and in the end, there are no small things.

3:) Two lines from a Rainer Maria Rilke poem that give us pause for thought. “Love and death are the great gifts that are given to us; mostly, they are passed on unopened.”

4:) “If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement, and mystery of the world we live in.” Rachel Carson

5:) Thank you for taking the time to read these musings. I enjoyed telling you about it. See you next week. Warmest wishes, Trudy


Meaningful Memories Japan

The Human Predicament – Pema Chodron

Two excerpts and a poem. I hope you enjoy them.

The Human Predicament

“As human beings we share a tendency to scramble for certainty whenever we realize that everything around us is in flux. In difficult times the stress of trying to find solid ground—something predictable to stand on—seems to intensify. But in truth, the very nature of our existence is forever in flux. Everything keeps changing, whether we’re aware of it or not.

What a predicament! We seem doomed to suffer simply because we have a deep-seated fear of how things really are. Our attempts to find lasting pleasure, lasting security, are at odds with the fact that we’re part of a dynamic system in which everything and everyone is in process.

So this is where we find ourselves: right in the middle of a dilemma. And it leaves us with some provocative questions: How can we live wholeheartedly in the face of impermanence, knowing that one day we’re going to die? What is it like to realize we can never completely and finally get it all together? Is it possible to increase our tolerance for instability and change? How can we make friends with unpredictability and uncertainty— and embrace them as vehicles to transform our lives?”  Pema Chodron

Pema has a gift and a skill of putting into a few paragraphs what I might take a few pages to talk about.

There are many situations in life you do not control, but you often contribute to them. (James Clear, author Atomic Habits)

“I cannot control the rain, but I can control my clothing.

I cannot control your feelings, but I can control my kindness.

I cannot control my opponent, but I can control my response.

You cannot control most outcomes in life, but you can usually influence them. Releasing your attachment to the results does not mean releasing your responsibility to the situation.”


A Favourite Poem by Julie Fahrenbacher

The Most Important Thing

I am making a home inside myself. A shelter
of kindness where everything
is forgiven, everything allowed—a quiet patch
of sunlight to stretch out without hurry,
where all that has been banished
and buried is welcomed, spoken, listened to—released.

A fiercely friendly place I can claim as my very own.

I am throwing arms open
to the whole of myself—especially the fearful,
fault-finding, falling apart, unfinished parts, knowing
every seed and weed, every drop
of rain, has made the soil richer.

I will light a candle, pour a hot cup of tea, gather
around the warmth of my own blazing fire. I will howl
if I want to, knowing this flame can burn through
any perceived problem, any prescribed perfectionism,
any lying limitation, every heavy thing.

I am making a home inside myself
where grace blooms in grand and glorious
abundance, a shelter of kindness that grows
all the truest things.

I whisper hallelujah to the friendly
sky. Watch now as I burst into blossom.


1:) The banner photo is from the first day of my five-day walk in Japan, with friends,  along the Nakasendo Way.

2:) Make time for the great outdoors. She is a terrific healer and teacher.

3:) Just for fun IPhone sounds by Maytree

3:) Stay cool, in the sweltering temperatures. See you next week and many thank-you’s for coming by here. Warmly, Trudy

Summer Holidays

One Year Later

Here I am, a year later, back in the Maritimes with my cousins. Here you find: laughter, love, kindness, organized chaos, lobster rolls, grape nut ice cream, conversation, swimming, noise, delicious food, sweltering heat, shade, generosity, differences, companionship, gratefulness, diversity, beauty, music, discussions, warmth, my cousin Sonya’s best seafood chowder (packed with lobster) and belonging. And a few soap boxes to climb up on occasionally when the urge becomes irresistible. ( and we climb back down too and give others a chance) All roads lead to this small corner of the world and whoever shows up is welcome.

All these perfectly imperfect people that we just happen to be with due to the mystery of life. In-laws too. It is so good to have a chance once again to tell them how much I love them.

Ordinary Moments

In the end it is these ordinary moments that stand out. The summer we… and if we aren’t too concerned about picking and choosing then each summer day is the best one yet.

Yes, there can be lost luggage, long lineups, mosquito bites, near misses and so much more that didn’t go according to plan, but if we live to tell the tale they soon become good stories. Slightly embellished, perhaps, but as John Steinbeck reminds us, “never let the facts ruin a good story,”

August 3rd is already here, the second month of “summer.” You won’t find me down at the dock, basking in the sun, but more likely in the shade of a big tree surveying the scene and happily taking it all in.

Outstretched Arms

Don’t forget to have fun. Ok. Turn a blind eye, now and then, to the foibles of our families and ourselves. Let’s recognize the great good luck that we are still alive.

I am convinced that we are all doing the best we can with what we know, at this time, and within the circumstances that we find ourselves.

May you live with outstretched arms.

Thanks for stopping by and warmest wishes always, Trudy.