Category Archives: Lifestyle

Up close and personal with the other side of the story

Yesterday I took part in a meeting with a group of people who have to make a difficult decision. It is the kind of decision that touches people in a deep place, so we know that no matter what the result will create some uneasiness.

The facilitator for the group asked us to consider this: If we say “YES,” what are the benefits of that decision? If we say “YES,” what are the costs of that decision?

I have an opinion on the matter, so I knew that listing the benefits would be a breeze. Easy-peasy. No problem. But I thought I would struggle with pointing out the costs. I was wrong. I was surprised by how readily I was able to come up with both costs and benefits.

We were also asked to look at the situation from the “NO” side. If we say “NO,” what are the benefits of that decision? If we say “NO,” what are the costs of that decision?

the-two-oneAgain, both costs and benefits came easily to mind. I didn’t have to dig around in the recesses of my mind to find them. I didn’t have to struggle with them or make something up. Both sides of the issue were ready for plucking off the surface of my brain once I chose to look for them.

I was surprised by how up close and personal my relationship with the other side of the issue was. 

I realized that I had already, subconsciously or unconsciously, weighed the costs and benefits. I had arrived at an opinion having considered the costs but seeing the benefits as more important, on balance.

It made me wonder, how many people hold strong opinions on a matter without any awareness of how up close and personal they are, or have been, with the other side of the issue?

 

 

So THAT’S what happens: Being at peace with life

A few little things went wrong in my life this weekend. Nothing major. Just petty little annoyances.

It was gorgeous and sunny in Ottawa, but I felt yucky and didn’t want to move from the couch. Our friend’s dog that we were looking after for the weekend caught a nail on our heating grate, hurt his paw and bled all over our kitchen floor. (You can imagine how awful we felt about that.) And the curling team that I was pulling for at the Tim Horton’s Brier didn’t win. (Brad Gushue, you were so close.) 

Little things added up until I collapsed on the couch and said, “You know what? I’ve had better days.”

Sometimes it’s difficult to be at peace with minor inconveniences. It’s an even greater challenge to accept major upsets that come along. Sometimes it’s even a challenge to allow ourselves to savour fun events or people that crop up on our life paths.

We spend so much time evaluating whether something is “good” or “bad” we never arrive at accepting what is. And appearances can be deceiving. Events that appear catastrophic at first glance often lead to unforeseen good fortune. Other events that strike us as lucky turn out to be anything but.

All of us would love to have 100 per cent control over what happens in our lives, but we don’t. Even as we lay track toward our goals, unexpected events blindside us and derail our plans.

When that happens I try to remember to rise above all the things going on around me and survey them as if I were an impartial observer. I try view whatever comes—no matter what it is—as a big, welcome surprise. “So THAT’s what happens!”

This attitude makes it easier to be at peace with life. Stuck in the slow line at the grocery store? So THAT’S what happens! A winning goal for your hockey team in overtime? So THAT’S what happens! You’re fired? So THAT’S what happens!”

It’s easier to be at peace with life if all the petty disagreements, unforeseen twists of fate, illnesses, riches, journeys, friends, deaths or births become big, welcome surprises.

So THAT’s what happens! Surprise! I wonder what happens next?

 

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Wakey, wakey: Constant total amazement

Are you awake? Are you sure?

In the movie Joe Versus the Volcano, a man (played by Tom Hanks) who believes he is dying of an incurable disease agrees to travel to a South Pacific island and throw himself into a volcano to satisfy the beliefs of superstitious natives. As he travels there, he . . . wakes up.

“Almost the whole world is asleep. Everybody you know. Everybody you see. Everybody you talk to . . . only a few people are awake and they live in a state of constant total amazement.” —from Joe Versus the Volcano by John Patrick Shanley

In my experience, total amazement is easy.

Last week I skied with my family at Mont-Sainte-Anne, QC. Several times we stopped at the top of the mountain. We gazed at the sunlit treed Canadian landscape and the spectacular St. Lawrence River and said, “Wow!” Total amazement.

sainte-anne-view

The view from Mont-Sainte-Anne, QC, Canada

Constant total amazement is more challenging.

Usually, we need jarring events to awaken us to appreciation for the little things. Power outages jolt us into amazement at the wonders of electric lights—the ones we usually flick on without a thought. A broken limb—or even something as simple as a cut on a finger—painfully reminds us how we really should live every moment in constant total amazement at the freedoms healthy bodies allow us. How about the device you’re reading this on? Isn’t the technology of it totally amazing?

Alas, it seems we need to fall asleep to the amazement, so we can function. After all, somebody has to do the dishes. If we lived in constant total amazement, we might get no farther than our bedroom doors every morning, or the park bench on a sunny afternoon. Constant total amazement seems to stop us in our tracks.

Perhaps John Patrick Shanley was right when he wrote those words for Joe Versus the Volcano. Maybe almost the whole world is asleep, just so we can get the dishes done and the lawn mowed. But maybe, if we think about that, it will prompt us to wake up at least some of the time, maybe a little more often than we usually do. Maybe we can practise total amazement periodically, if not constantly.

It’s a start.

Maple Taffy in the snow at Mont-Sainte-Anne, QC. Totally amazing.

Maple Taffy in the snow at Mont-Sainte-Anne, QC. Totally amazing.

 

 

Dear Me: Letters to ourselves

“Truth be told much of what is going to happen will surprise the pants off you. It will be way better than your wildest imaginings.” —Hugh Jackman

1451649673The book, Dear Me: A Letter to My Sixteen-Year-Old Self, edited by Joseph Galliano, is a collection of letters written by well-known personalities to younger versions of themselves.

J.K. Rowling, Hugh Jackman, Stephen King and Alan Rickman, to name a few. What would these people who achieved success creating work we admire write to themselves?

“It is that very foreigness, that outsiderness, that feeling of being “other” that is your power, and your mutability is the gift.” —Aasif Mandvi

I discovered all 75 letters boiled down to the same themes:

  1. Life will be a big surprise. Don’t think that what’s going on now will be all there is.
  2. The painful stuff prepares you for the good stuff.
  3. The scary stuff leads you to the good stuff, so don’t run away from something awesome because you’re afraid.
  4. Love yourself and be your authentic self. Being “other” is your power.
  5. Listen to your intuition.
  6. Love what you do.
  7. Relax. Look for balance in your life. Don’t worry so much. Chill sometimes.
  8. That person you were heartbroken about? Not worth it.
  9. Do not—ever—tolerate abuse.
  10. Partner well with friends, business partners, spouses.
  11. Have compassion for your mother, father, siblings. Cherish them. They aren’t as awful as you think, and they’re doing their best.
  12. Never stop learning and asking questions.
  13. Give generously and freely, and share your passions.
  14. Don’t worry about: zits, hair, scars, weight, clothing, sexual identity, noses or thighs or any other particular body part. Don’t let those things affect your self-esteem. You are beautiful and perfect.
  15. But do take care of your health and, for heaven’s sake, ease up on the alcohol and drugs. Cherish your physical abilities and your body.
  16. What you do at sixteen will be considered cute or sexy. If you do the same things as an adult, it won’t be considered cute or sexy anymore. In other words, embrace the passing of the years.
  17. You’ll make mistakes. Should you warn yourself to avoid them? Probably not.
  18. Believe in angels. (Okay, that was just Steve-O, but I liked it.)

“Dear Me,

If, in future years, anyone asks you to give advice to your sixteen year old self . . .
don’t.
Make your own unique messes, and then work out your own way out of them.

See you,
Alan Rickman”

I pondered how many of these themes I still could write to my adult self and how many of them require us to make the same mistakes or missteps over and over before we learn.

In the face of that, all we can do is try out best to follow the advice. Relax, do the scary stuff, learn from the hard stuff, love and listen to myself, be compassionate and welcome whatever surprising events pop up.

Maybe angels will help.

_______________

What would you write to your sixteen-year-old self? You can write and submit your own letter to http://www.dearme.org/.

 

 

Hurry up and wait, at the same time

0870709593The book, Hurry Up and Waitis a collaboration between Maira Kalman, Daniel Handler (Lemony Snicket) and the New York Museum of Modern Art. Described as an “anti-productivity manifesto,” the book combines paintings by Kalman, insightful words by Handler and photographs from the museum.

Handler writes:

“You’re supposed to stop and smell the roses, but truth be told it doesn’t take that long to smell them. You hardly have to stop. You can smell the roses, and still have time to run all those errands before the sun goes down and it’s dinner time.”

I say, stop and read this book. Truth be told, it doesn’t take long. You hardly have to stop. You can read it and still have time to run all your errands before the sun goes down.

My favourite passage is this one:

“I’m just standing still, and then suddenly I think I am waiting for something. Once I’ve decided I’m waiting it’s like I’m not standing still anymore.”

The idea of idling transformed into action by mere choice appeals to me. 

You know those times when you feel stuck? You know when you don’t know what’s coming next or what you’re supposed to do with your life?

No worries. You’re not standing still. You’re actively waiting.

So, what are you waiting for? Hurry up and wait, already.

 

Training ourselves to be kind

If you want to spend your day in despair over the state of humanity, the fastest route to that sentiment is through the comments section on YouTube or any other internet site.

Comments sections put the meanness, pettiness, ignorance, judgment and narrow thinking of some members of our society on full display. I simply cannot read them, or I have to spend time after giving myself a chin-up pep talk.

unfoldingSociety needs a kindness injection. And there might be a way.

Scientists from the University of Wisconsin-Madison suggest we might be able to enhance our tendency toward kindness. All it takes is some meditation, some training and some practice.

Participants in a study worked at building their compassion “muscle.” Those who did responded to others in need with caring and a desire to help. They became more altruistic.

Goodness knows we need more people like that.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison is not the first to propose physical, spiritual, mental and emotional benefits of meditation; it has been shown to lower blood pressure, increase serotonin levels, reduce pain, and increase creativity and mental sharpness. Their study adds another motivational level to begin the practice.

Okay everyone? Let’s change some brains.


Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2543812/Can-train-KIND-Just-seven-hours-meditation-rewire-brain-claims-study.html#ixzz3xcdrISBE