Just One Thing

A small book, Just One Thing, written by neuropsychologist, Rick Hanson, has been on my bookshelf, unread, for ten years. This month, it fell into my lap, so to speak, as I was looking for another title. As I flipped through it, I saw that it was a book of gentle practices and the key point was simple: “how you use your mind changes your brain – for better or worse.”

What I responded to was the simplicity. I like small things and the practices in this book are brief actions. I have already found good stories, practical tips, and a certain restfulness. Right now I am doing my usual, hopping around in the book, taking its temperature.

I jumped in at practice 34 – Don’t Know- by Rick Hanson, PhD Author of Buddha’s Brain

“Once upon a time, a scholar and a saint lived on the same street, and they arranged to meet. The scholar asked the saint about the meaning of life. She said a few words about love and joy, then paused to reflect, and the scholar jumped in with a long discourse on Western and Eastern philosophy. When the scholar was finished, the saint proposed some tea, prepared it with care, and began pouring it slowly into the scholar’s cup. Inch by inch the tea rose. It approached the lip of the cup, and she kept pouring. It ran over the top of the cup and onto the table, and she still kept pouring. The scholar burst out: “What are you doing?! You can’t put more into a cup that’s already full!” The saint set down the teapot and said, “Exactly.”

A mind that’s open and spacious can absorb lots of useful information. On the other hand, a mind that’s already full—of assumptions, beliefs about the intentions of others, and preconceived ideas—misses important details or contexts, jumps to conclusions, and has a hard time learning anything new…the great child psychologist Jean Piaget proposed that there are essentially two kinds of learning:

Assimilation—We incorporate new information into an existing belief system.

Accommodation—We change a belief system based on new information.

Both are important, but accommodation is more fundamental and far-reaching. Nonetheless, it’s harder to do, since abandoning or transforming long-held beliefs can feel dizzying, even frightening. That’s why it’s important to keep finding our way back to that wonderful openness a child has, seeing a cricket or toothbrush or mushroom for the very first time: child mind, beginner’s mind . . . don’t-know mind.”

This commentary is followed by a list of small practices that one can try, pick or choose etc. The first one was my favourite:

“Be especially skeptical of what you’re sure is true. These are the beliefs that often get us in the most trouble.”

I suppose this notion was on my mind tonight because I just finished hosting a monthly Creativity Cafe. One of the participants spoke about how we are all impacted by our cultural conditioning and beliefs, and, by default, respond to a variety of situations through that lens. It reminded me of this idea, “being especially skeptical of what you’re sure is true.” This resonates with me.


1:) My son sent me these photos, and my bias, being in a cold and icy part of Canada, was that these pussy willow branches had ice on them. I learned today, because I asked him, that it is simply raindrops. Having spent the last month watching icicles and ice taking shape, where I live, I saw ice. Now, when I look,  I see clearly. The banner photo is an old and favourite photo from Gottfried.

2:) Here is a link to an excellent article and podcast on NPR – Making Art is Good For Your Health. There are three sections: The article; the audio which is different and a set of five flash cards: How to Start An Art Habit.

3:) February is drawing to a close. In my family, it is a month of celebrations that will conclude this weekend with my grandaughters 17th birthday. Also, my daughter had her birthday yesterday.

4:) I hope these days have moments of joy and meaning even as we experience difficult and painful times.  Thank you for stopping by. With great appreciation and warmth, Trudy


Today – one day after Valentines

I understand that some of you won’t open this post because you are tired of the Hallmark Holidays. I get it! However, I’m not one of those people. I love celebrating. It is part of my Ikigai. The banner photo is a handmade card made by my friend Patricia a number of years ago.  It is one of my favourite cards and I never grow tired of it
Last night my daughter decorated the table for the occasion and we had a delicious Valentine’s dinner and an exceptionally engaging conversation. I wonder if it was the festive table with all the red candles. Perhaps it was basking in the glow of the candlelight and the warmth of each other’s company.
Coast to coast valentines including snowdrops, planted by a stranger, handmade chocolates by Daniels; valentine by Ali; and a red and white table set by Meghan
I don’t think of Valentine’s as a romantic day, but rather a day to have fun and to reflect on all those wonderful and flawed humans whom we love and cherish. And the sheer good luck that they love us back. I didn’t get to tell this to most of my beloved humans but I don’t need a special day to do that. I try not to save my words for only particular days. Rather, I like to scatter my word gifts all over the calendar.
Rick Hanson, neuropsychologist, tells us: “The world needs your love. Those you live with and work with need it, plus your family and friends, people near and far, and this whole battered planet.
Never underestimate the ripples spreading out from just one loving word, thought, or deed!” Love takes courage. You can be rejected; you can lose the ones you love; you may feel foolish. But why not go all in, while you have the chance and proclaim your love? We have one short life and we may as well make it our own.

On Valentines Day my friend read me this poem

It is a wonderful poem written by Ada Limon, the Poet Laureate of the US. She speaks for any of us, in pain,  attempting to put on a brave face, and needing a wonder woman myth.

Wonder Woman Written by Ada Limón If you click on her name you can go to the Onbeing Project and hear the poem read aloud.

“Standing at the swell of the muddy Mississippi

after the urgent care doctor had just said, Well,

sometimes shit happens, I fell fast and hard

for New Orleans all over again. Pain pills swirling

in the purse along with a spell for later. It’s taken

a while for me to admit, I am in a raging battle

with my body, a spinal column thirty-five degrees

bent, vertigo that comes and goes like a DC Comics

villain nobody can kill. Invisible pain is both

a blessing and a curse. You always look so happy,

said a stranger once as I shifted to my good side

grinning. But that day, alone on the riverbank,

brass blaring from the Steamboat Natchez,

out of the corner of my eye, I saw a girl, maybe half my age,

dressed, for no apparent reason, as Wonder Woman.

She strutted by in all her strength and glory, invincible,

eternal, and when I stood to clap (because who wouldn’t have),

she bowed and posed like she knew I needed a myth—

a woman, by a river, indestructible.”

From The Carrying by Ada Limón (Minneapolis: Milkweed Editions, 2018). Copyright © 2018 by Ada Limón. Reprinted with permission from Milkweed Editions. milkweed.org

This poem was originally read in the Poetry Unbound episode.

And a few days before I stumbled on this ten-minute video of an older gentleman, speaking of Joy in Life and our shared humanity.


1:) One last piece of inspiration, from The Atlantic. Please, do yourself a favour and click on the link if only to see the first owl. It is stunning.  Exquisite photos of owls in the wild.
2:) This is a most unusual winter. Today and yesterday it felt like spring. For the first time, the famous Rideau Canal didn’t open for Winterlude, and it looks like that will continue.
3:) “Grateful living is the stance we take when confronting adversity. It is the deep knowledge that what is before us may not be desired, but we can take control of ourselves despite the chaos around us.” – Joe Primo
4:) Thank you for showing up here. It is an honour to have you join me. May you have a lovely weekend and see you next Wednesday. Warmest wishes, Trudy

Doing Things You Enjoy with People You Care About

Today I was invited to drive to my friends’ lakehouse – about a 50-minute drive from Ottawa. She is leaving for three weeks and needed to pick something up. I had a list of reasons to decline, including an important one, my exercise class at Carleton University. However, I haven’t been to the lake this winter. Furthermore,  I have not spent much time with my friend in 2023 so I said YES.

Besides the beauty of the lake, and the wonderful company of my friend there is another reason to say yes when we are invited.

Taking time to care for our relationships.

We all lead busy lives and if we aren’t careful we can easily neglect our friendships. And guess what. Our friendships and relationships are the most important aspect of our good health and well-being, according to the Harvard Study, now 85 years old.

The current director, Dr Robert Waldinger, claims that back in the 80s most researchers didn’t believe that “warmer relationships make it less likely that you would develop coronary artery disease or arthritis.” Since then many other studies have come out to support the original findings.

Dr Waldinger is so convinced of this fundamental truth that he has written a new book, with Dr Marc Schulz: The Good Life, which focuses mainly on relationships and how to improve them. Naturally, there are many components to good health and even with doing everything right, if we live long enough we will grow old, and suffer from a variety of maladies. Eventually, we will all die.

On Our Death Beds

However, on our death beds, “it is our relationships that matter the most.”

In addition, as Waldinger says:  “although the studies from around the world have their limits…they all show a similar pattern: the more socially connected you are, the more likely you are to live longer and live well.”

“Loneliness is now considered to be as bad for your health as smoking,” says Waldinger.” We know that stress is a part of life. What we think happens is that relationships help our bodies manage and recover from stress.”

He points out that “something as simple as meeting friends for coffee can sustain the relationships…good relationships wither away from neglect. There doesn’t have to be a problem of any kind, but if you don’t keep them up they fall out of your life. We find that the people who maintain vibrant social networks are the people who make an effort.” A walk or a text or a phone call…”these can be tiny actions, but if you do them repeatedly it keeps those networks vibrant.”

I suggest you read the article in The Guardian where these quotes came from. As always the Guardian does an excellent job presenting the work of good people. See the notes.


We have discussed this here before  – the value of our important relationships – the one you can call in the middle of the night and the casual connections with the cashier, or coffee barista, or the people in your exercise class, etc. I always talk to my Uber and Taxi drivers and always leave feeling refreshed by our conversations.
We find meaning and joy in ritual and repetition. It is what I love about my Friday webinars at Wellspring. We all get to see familiar faces and a few new faces when we come together Fridays at noon. Consistently, we start with a poem and end with a music video. In between, we keep each other company with a discussion on a particular topic that reminds us of our humanity and what we can do to live well with illness. Some laughter and sometimes some tears. It’s all good. We matter to each other.

This Blog

I have developed a kinship with readers of this blog, over the past, almost, five years.   Every Wednesday I look forward to sitting down and putting a few thoughts on paper for you. As I do this,  I think of you, dear reader, both the ones I know and the ones I have not met in person. I wonder how you are doing, and I wish you well. There is a connection and you count on me to show up each Wednesday and therefore I do. I find it wonderful and I am grateful to each of you.


Waldinger and Schulz’s book, The Good Life begins with a quote from Mark Twain that is new to me and that I like. So, I will close with the same.

“There isn’t time, so brief is life, for bickering, apologies, heartburnings, callings to account. There is only time for loving, and but an instant, so to speak, for that.”


1:) The Guardian article where I took my quotes.  Read here. I have been a fan of Waldinger’s works for many years, and I am 116 on the waitlist at my library for The Good Life. I’m not sure if you can read this or listen to the podcast but there is an excellent in depth interview with Waldinger in Tricycle magazine.


2:) The banner photo is taken from the balcony of our friend’s condo in Mt Tremblant, where my daughter took me last week. If you click on the photo you will see the charming scene we got to witness that evening after dinner. It was a glorious 24 hours and I was thoroughly spoiled. Thank you, Meghan, for being the best daughter in the world,  and for the beautiful photo.


3:) The vertical photo I took this afternoon from my friend’s lake house. I took it through a window and was delighted with how it turned out. Two Wednesdays in a row I have had meaningful and beautiful surprises.


4:) Here is a 23 sec video I took of house sparrows giving a choral concert on the corner of First and Bank in Ottawa last Sunday morning. I lingered for quite some time simply enjoying them.



5:) I don’t like prescriptions and formulas but I love nature and people. And although I don’t think we can really prevent anything I can vouch for huge improvements in the quality of everyday life when I get out in nature every day and when I spend time with loving, funny, curious, generous, and kind people. So, I count on the people in my life, and they count on me. Sometimes, I’m not at my best, but we don’t have to be perfect. What a relief. We can’t go wrong attempting to mend our fences and splurging with our word gifts while we are still breathing.
6:) Finally I will sign off. Thank you for reading this blog. I hope you are doing what you can to be fully alive. Best wishes, Trudy

Three Good Things in Nature

Writing It Down

I am in the middle of a six-week Nature Program for seniors with Emma Rooney, which continues to exceed my expectations. I always come away with material that benefits me and ultimately others.

One simple exercise is to look every day and find three good things in nature. And write it down. I have experimented with writing it down and not writing it down and there is no contest. If I don’t write it down  I forget. This morning, I took the two pictures you see in this blog post.  I pulled over, parked my car and walked a few hundred steps to do so. Why?

This is part of my drive after I drop my grandson Rowan off at school, and, again, when I pick him up. There are three white truss bridges, known as The Minto Bridges, crossing over the Rideau River,  constructed between 1900 and 1902. Every day, as I make the crossing and the sun is shining I swear I need to stop and walk across the bridges for the sheer beauty of this area. Today, I finally got started. I walked close to the first bridge and mistakenly decided that the atmosphere wasn’t as good as I thought, so I took these photos and hopped back in my car.

However, as I drove across the third bridge, the river on both sides was breathtaking and I regretted my decision to move on.  Furthermore,  if I did make a long loop back to where I started from, that moment I saw, would be gone.

What Don’t We Do

What this reminded me about is how many times we think we should do something, and I will add, something that we want to do. And yet we don’t do it. Conditions don’t seem quite right. We’re not in the mood. We are not sure if we can do this thing we long to do. We don’t have time.

Yet, even my brief stop to approach the first bridge was special. I got to speak with a young man who waited for me to take a photo and told me that this is his daily walk to work. And how lucky he feels to be able to walk this route every day. “No matter what happens, I get to have a good day,” was the gist of our conversation and our mutual admiration for the scene in front of us. And these tiny moments with a stranger, where we briefly admired the atmosphere together, I swear, improved the quality of my everyday life.

What We Miss

Later, in the afternoon, as I continued noticing, I spotted the moon, suspended behind a scraggly tree (at first look) at the rowing club. I had already taken photos of the tree, but only at the end, when I thought I was finished, did I notice the moon, and took one more.

Three images in nature, on the last day of January. But, what made the difference, was my attention. I walk by these types of scenes every day, but if I am preoccupied I don’t notice. Taking ourselves outdoors, or looking from our window, and consciously searching for three good things can make all the difference.

A daily practice, costing nothing, which cultivates awareness and reminds us to take time to see the particularities of the beauty in our own backyards.

And what about those other things you decided to do but haven’t started yet? The best advice from Pema Chodreon is, “Start where you are.” Don’t wait for conditions to be right. This nature practice has an impact on all areas of our lives. Before you know it, you will be daydreaming about that guitar you always wanted to play.

We are still alive

I found this unusual and provocative quote, from the poet, Solmaz Sharif. He wrote:

“I think the duty of the writer…is to remind us that we will die and that we’re not dead yet.”

A suggestion: when you wake up each morning, you might find it useful to go looking in nature for those three good things. And you may be surprised what else comes into your line of sight that you just hadn’t noticed for awhile.

Enjoy your life.


1:) I wrote this blog post on Tuesday because Wednesday I am headed for the mountains, for 24 hours. Guest of my daughter. What a lovely gift, and lots of new things to notice.

2:) “The moment one gives close attention to anything, even a blade of grass it becomes a mysterious, awesome, indescribably magnificent world in itself.” Henry Miller

3:) “There is nothing in a caterpillar that tells you it’s going to be a butterfly.” R Buckminster Fuller

4:) I invite you to join me this week to notice three good things in nature each day and jot them down. May you be taken by surprise by the beauty all around you. I love that you show up here and read my musings. How fortunate am I. Warmest wishes and many thanks, Trudy