Finding New Eyes
“Taking in the good, whenever and wherever we find it, gives us new eyes for seeing and living.” – Author: Krista Tippett. The On Being Project
When we get caught in a rut and become discouraged and demoralized with ourselves, it is no simple matter to talk, think, or climb our way out of it. When we hold all the aces it can be “relatively” easy to brush ourselves off and start again. But if we are suffering from devastating news and one loss after another, it is a different matter. Many of us know what to do, or what we could be doing, (there is no shortage of information) but there are days when we can’t rise to the occasion. We don’t even want to. And if we aren’t aware, we can then start chastising ourselves for everything under the sun.
The Art of Living Every Minute of Your Life
As I was thinking about these things in my own life, and the many lives of people I know, I recalled a recording I listened to from one of my teachers. The recording is called The Art of Living Every Minute of Your Life by Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen. Lucky me, I got to hear it in 2008, the year I was diagnosed with cancer. Coincidentally, a friend mentioned it to me this week who thought I would like it so I went looking to check it out once again.
There was one section I remembered that stood out for me – three questions. Dr. Remen called it a heart journal and she had designed it for medical students and doctors as a psychologically sophisticated way to way to rediscover meaning in their work, a reminder of what they were capable of doing and a sense of gratitude for being here to do it. In truth, it was transformative. Her books with the humble titles of Kitchen Table Wisdom and My Grandfather’s Blessings along with her curriculum, The Healer’s Art, are now taught in more than half of all medical schools in the US along with several European schools. Thousands of people have been impacted by her devotion, expertise, vision, and generosity.
Like myself, many have found the three questions a gentle way to end each day and provide ourselves with a new lens to view our lives, even when things are not going according to plan. They go like this:
- What surprised me today?
- What touched my heart today?
- What inspired me today?
What you do is take ten minutes at the end of the day and reflect backward with the first question until you come to “what surprised me?” Write it down and start over with the second question “What touched my heart?” Write it down. Finally the third question, “What inspired me?” Once you find it, write it down. Close your book and go to sleep.
I found it interesting to begin the reflection for each question at the bedtime hour working back towards morning. Although it has been years since I last did this exercise I will go ahead right now and try it. (it is close enough to my bedtime)
What surprised me today? -Reflecting through the hours I go back to the early morning hour and notice I was surprised that I got Wordle in 2 lines. This has only happened three times before. I realize how much I enjoy doing this delightful and uncomplicated word game each morning and then posting it to our Family Wordle Group. It’s fun.
What touched my heart today? – Scanning backward, once again, I stop at 10:30 AM when I had the privilege to listen to President Zelenskyy addressing the University students across Canada. This was hosted by the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy at the University of Toronto. What touched me deeply was the President’s response to a student’s question about who and what inspires him to keep going. He responded gently and movingly with stories of ordinary Ukrainian citizens, the unsung heroes, giving examples of their courage and strength. My heart was touched.
Who inspired me today? A beautiful woman who has lived for several years was on a zoom webinar with me and other lovely people during the noon hour. To see Elli with her radiant smile that lit up the room, a beautiful bouquet of hand-picked peonies at her elbow, and to hear her expression of gratitude for life with nary a complaint was a gift. I felt inspired just to be with her in our zoom room.
It was interesting to hear Rachel Remen discuss how hard this exercise can be for overworked and exhausted physicians. She indicated that it can take several days if not weeks before some can respond to the questions.
Having just done this publically with you I can say that I feel good going to sleep tonight. How lucky am I to have had these three experiences, and now they are lodged in my hippocampus, temporarily. Maybe the recall and the writing will move them into longer-term storage. We will see. But it doesn’t matter, because I had the joy of remembering these three occasions once again.
It is always an invitation to you, to give it a try. I am starting with two weeks and will re-evaluate. We are storytellers and each day is a new page in our story. Another chance to find meaning and gratitude and love.
1:) In case you want to listen to Rachel’s slow and gentle speaking voice here is a link. And a link to Commonweal for more current information.
2:) For those who have hard things they need to do. You can do it! A music video by Carrie Newcomer You Can Do This Hard Thing
3:) It is officially summertime, so bring out your bathing suits and focus on sand castles, hammocks, hiking, and ice cream. In other words, make time for fun.
4:) Thank you once again. I appreciate every one of my readers. That means YOU. Warmest wishes and see you next week. Trudy
What a delightful way to end the day Trudy. I am going to get my journal and think about the three questions. Ending the evening on such a positive note will inspire a restful sleep I believe. And yes, Elli is an inspiration to every soul she touches.
You always contribute enthusiasm Pat. Thank you. And yes Elli inspires. I appreciate you taking time to read my blog. Warm wishes. Trudy
Love Rachel’s questions – they remind me of the ‘petits bonheurs’ practice you introduced me to years ago – every night I write down a small joy from the day, even if I have to search hard for it 🙂 Always important to take time to take in the good. thanks dear Trudy xoxo
Ah Janice. Les petites bonheurs. I love that practice too. Thank you for your cheerleading. Always waving from the sidelines. I surely appreciate you. Warmly,trudy
Thanks Trudy. I really needed this today. Cancer keeps reappearing in my life and it’s like being hit by a truck over and over again. Your blogs are helpful and meaningful to me. Terri.
Oh dear Terri:I am so sorry to hear this news. It is a gift to me if anything I write is meaningful to you. Thank you. I will get in touch with you. All my best wishes, Trudy
I too reflect on 3 questions every night
Naikan reflection is based on three questions:
What have I received from ____?
What have I given to ____?
What troubles and difficulties have I caused ____?
Cannot comprehend President Zelenskyy addressing the University students across Canada while his country is at war. Everytime I hear this, I shake my head.
Thanks for your note Kathryn. I always appreciate hearing from you. And yes Naikan is an important reflection for many. I love the fact that there are so many ways we can live our lives and find out what works best for each of us. I think when we come to trust ourselves, notice what resonates, and do more of that, meaning and gratitude follow. Warmly, Trudy
As always, so appreciate your words Trudy (and Rachel’s). Also timely once again … following on a conversation my team just had. If you don’t mind, I plan to share with them. Thanks for your much-anticipated weekly words of wisdom. With hugs, Patti
Thanks for your note Patti. You are welcome to share anything you want at anytime. Afterall, it is all borrowed. Rachel Remen is also the one who said, “you can get a lot accomplished in life if you don’t care who gets the credit.” This is one of my most favourite life wisdoms. WRmly, Trudy
Kathryn again .
I think I am going to start using your 3 questions as they are more gentle and compassionate and I need that right now.
PS Sending love to your reader Terri Thomas
The entire world needs kindness including ourselves. Thank you Kathryn for your thoughtful word gift to Terri.
One thing I do every night is says well,jean,do you like yourself tonigh”?yesterday driving around countryside near Knowlton……a huge field of purple lupines.breathtak8ng. The wild flowers are so beautiful here right now.Definetly soul food.
Hello Jean: you paint a beautiful picture. I loved my bike trip through that area at the end of September almost six years ago. that is a simple and interesting question that you ask yourself although I can only imagine one answer “yes.” So happy that you get to have this change of scene. Good medicine. Warmly, Trudy