importance of water for the brain Japan walk

Something Surprising

Meaningful Memories Japan

Meaningful Memories






Help and be helped blog

How to Help and be Helped

Initial Shock

Yesterday, my friend Patricia, sent me a link to a short article in Tricycle by the well-known writer’s writer, Natalie Goldberg. The article is called Old Age is not Guaranteed and is an excerpt from her new book called Let the Thundering World Come Home.

I liked it because it is a reminder of the shock that overtakes us when we receive threatening news about our mortality. And this happens even before we know all the facts. From the first hint that we are not in control of our bodies, our entire system reacts, no matter how we may have previously viewed our intellectual equanimity about our eventual demise. (preferably at a ripe old age.)

Natalie nails the disconnect that happens when we face the possibility that we may be running out of time.

My own immediate experience with a fearful diagnosis was also to be blind-sided. Nothing made sense. The world seemed surreal and my heart pounded so hard that I was convinced anyone standing within earshot could hear it.  When word got out, a young brilliant woman who was going through treatment, stopped me in my tracks when she said, “at least you have the skills to deal with this.”

At the time I thought, “what skills?” Her sincere statement wasn’t unkind or thoughtless.  She was in a program I taught about living well with cancer and she had made an assumption. At the time, it brought me up short.  I realized, however, that our “ knowledge or practices” do not protect us from the initial onslaught of emotions flooding our bodies, when first presented with life threatening news.

Our skills can and do kick in, but at the height of the storm we are simply trying not to capsize. It is all a blur and forward motion is not even on the radar. What helped me most in those early moments came from those who had also been afraid and did not attempt to minimize my fear or exacerbate it.

I think now of the gift basket that was dropped off the very next morning following my news. Two colleagues braved a blizzard in Calgary to bring me solace – a wicker basket containing a favourite blueberry muffin and a steaming cup of coffee; a book of poetry; a beautiful wool throw; flowers; cards; a journal and more. One warm hug from each and they were gone, back out into the storm.  Nothing required from me. I will never forget how this one thoughtful action helped calm the inner storm in which I found myself.

My agency was activated soon afterwards.

The article by Natalie Goldberg is timely for me because she points to something important to remember.  The upheaval most of us experience when we first get word of a life threatening diagnosis. The upheaval is not only natural and out of our control, but we will be required to ride it through, even while wishing it were not so. When the eruption subsides we can use the skills we have and  cultivate knew ones, to do what we need to do. There are none of us free from sickness, old age and death. Yet, we learn that we can lead meaningful, purposeful and loving lives, not all the time, but, much of the time even while co-existing with illness. And through it all, while not easy, we come to discover that it is doable and definitely worth the effort.

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

Note 1: My heart goes out to everyone who gets blown over with devastating news. Ask for help, when you need it. We are all here to help and be helped. Trudy

Note 2: You may want to click on the link, at the beginning of this post, to read the excerpt from Natalie’s book. See you next week.



peonies immersed in beauty

Immersed in Beauty

Set aside sometime everyday to spend with something that you love.

apples generous impulse

Never Resist a Generous Impulse

Laughter is good medicine blog

Laughter Is Good Medicine

There isn’t much to laugh at when it comes to cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and so many other painful, life threatening, and on-going difficult illnesses that life throws in our way.  Dr. Itami, who founded Meaningful Life Therapy in Japan, uses laughter as part of his healing prescription for cancer patients.

Humour therapy is built into his unique approach to treating his patients, along side conventional medicine. Patients are encouraged to go looking for funny stories. In fact he invites them to find something funny about their own personal and difficult situations. You know, things like the crazy assumptions people make or the unhelpful suggestions that are sometimes offered. Or the particular ironies of our situation.

The point is to find a funny story to share with others when they meet in a group setting each week.

Why, you may ask? What on earth is the purpose of this odd assignment?

Well, for one thing, laughter is good medicine. There isn’t necessarily undisputed clinical proof to say that laughter boosts the immune system.  There are, however, thousands of anecdotal testaments that laughter boosts our spirits and improves the quality of our everyday life.

As we start paying attention to moments and events that will yield a funny story, we give ourselves a temporary mental break.  We shine the spotlight of our attention away from the moments of anxiety and worry that often accompany illness. I recall the fear I experienced while waiting and waiting for the confirmation of a test and/or the possibility of a serious illness diagnosis.

When we surround ourselves with friendly, goodhearted funny people and don’t resist the humour, we lighten up, even when times are tough.  Children and young people are catalysts of joy and laughter. Lucky me – I have had the gift of spending inordinate amounts of time with all of my grandchildren, at various ages, and I find laughter flows naturally when I am with them.

I have a friend that as soon as I hear her voice we both burst out laughing. A stranger may think we are losing it and in a way we are. Losing ourselves in the ironies and cosmic jokes of life itself and our own funny selves in particular. When I hang up the phone I can feel my heart and immune system saying YES. You just gave me exactly the boost I needed.

All of us have daily trials large and small so why not actively seek out gentle joy and humour so that we laugh more often both for the fun of it and the health of it.

Practice wise medicine and try to have a good laugh at least three times a day.  Edward Hays

Note: I love being around people who love to laugh. I am not that funny myself but when I am with them, laughter bubbles up out of nowhere, to my delight. Warm wishes, until next Wednesday. Trudy




Showing Up 5k thanks to Nacy MacKenzie for the photo

Showing Up Wholeheartedly

Woody Allan, along with others, has been quoted as saying that 80% of success is just showing up. There is a kernel of truth there but I suggest that showing up wholeheartedly may be the defining factor.

Last weekend my 98 year old Mother along with 39 family members participated in the Ottawa Race Weekend. Several ran or walked the ½ marathon but it was the 5K on Saturday that was the hi-light. This event was where my Mother, along with our motley crew, walked the 5k in 1 hr and 34 minutes. This is no mean feat at 98 years old, and having flown 4500 KM to do so.

I was thinking about what my Mother brought to the occasion besides her walking poles. First of all was her commitment and effort that she put into preparing for the walk. More importantly was her heart and grit as she placed one foot in front of the other. She gave it her all, with a smile on her face, determination and a desire to complete the course, along with the rest of us.

When we crossed the finish line together she received her medal along with the cheers of the crowd. Yet, what delighted her was to have earned that medal and done her part to contribute to our team. She went to bed that night happy and satisfied.

I have pondered on what it means to show up wholeheartedly. Dr. Itami, my mentor, encouraged his patients to take on all tasks with that spirit. He would remind them that not much changes if you are just warming the seat. With a willingness to fully participate, stretch ourselves appropriately (in this case, the 5K not the 10k) and generously contribute to whatever it is you are doing, a subtle change of spirit takes place. We rejuvenate and become more creative and alive as it influences everything we do. Best of all we have more fun.

Living Well with Illness and ageing, for that matter, isn’t about running races, rather it is about finding fulfillment in the present by living to the best of our ability. It is about carving out meaning, each in our own way, through active engagement in purposeful activities. Like I said last week, it is singing while there is voice left. Three cheers to my wonderful Mom and to all of you dear readers.

Note: Some people go around flashing photos of their kids and grandkids. I go around, to the amazement and dismay of my mother, flashing photos and telling stories about her. Until next Wednesday, warm regards, Trudy








Blog - Sing while there is voice left

Sing While There is Voice Left

Sing While There is Voice Left

I read a book, as a young 20 year old living in Montreal, called Sing While There is Voice Left. It was written by a theologian and I remember nothing specific about it, other than the title.  The title, however, has stuck with me my entire life.

I hear sing as a synonym for those things I consider important to do. Like writing this blog, as an example, or facilitating workshops; taking photos; spending time with my Grandchildren; saying thanks; walking, talking and cycling with my family and friends; having a nap in a hammock (when was the last time??) and always remembering when I say good bye to anyone that these may be my last words.

Sing while there’s voice left reminded me to take that cycling trip with my kids and ride in a hot air balloon with my Mother; move to Ottawa to help care for my youngest grandchildren, and now, seven years later, create this website and write this blog, while I have the chance.

As a maxim it is embedded in my operating system, and of particular help when difficulties assail me and my world gets turned upside down. In those times, with effort, I  turn my attention to also include small joys where light filters in. I notice small ways, where I can contribute. And I take small steps towards changing what can be changed and doing what I can do.

We all have things, unique to each of us, that we want to do and consider important to do. In fact, I think we all have things that only we (as in each of us) can do. This very moment is the time to begin. Conditions will never be perfect so we may as well take advantage of imperfect conditions to get started, while we can. What do we have to lose.

I wonder what “Sing While There is Voice Left might mean to you? You are always welcome to write to me here

Thank you for taking the time to read this blog and I wish you many joyful and purposeful moments. I will be back next Wednesday. Update: my blog post didn’t get sent out last week due to operator error. I hope I have fixed it and you will receive this today and with a little luck, another post on time, tomorrow.  Warm regards, Trudy