How To Regain Your Balance When Life Knocks You Down *NEW POST* — Dr. Eric Perry, PhD

Written by Dr. Perry, PhD Image Credit: Pixabay “If we don’t change, we don’t grow. If we don’t grow, we aren’t really living.” ~Gail Sheehy We have all heard the expression that life can change in the blink of an eye. One moment you are skipping down the yellow brick road towards your happily ever […]

via How To Regain Your Balance When Life Knocks You Down *NEW POST* — Dr. Eric Perry, PhD

Posted in Psychology

The fallout from impaired driving

I thought that this blog post titled “The fallout from impaired driving” that was posted by a friend was well worth sharing:

chopkins2x3

In honor of our younger brother, Chris, who was killed when an impaired driver crashed into the van Chris was driving. Today is Chris’s birthday. It has been nearly three years since he was stolen from us. He died on the 19th of November, 2016 and we have all been dealing with that tragic event to the best of our abilities since then.

Unlike death caused by natural causes, when a loved one is snatched in this way there is so much more anger and grief. Initially we were all in shock and as we gathered for his funeral the one question that could not be answered continued to reverberate, whether spoken aloud or not: Why? Why Chris? He was such a good person, quick to offer help to everyone, not only his family. The funeral itself revealed how wide spread his kindnesses ranged. People he had worked with…

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Blogger Recognition Award

Okay, I so did not see this coming. It kind of blew me away actually. It gets better. Is that even possible?

It means the world to me that the person who nominated me for the award is someone I admire greatly: as a person of integrity who speaks her truth in such a way that I feel humbled and honoured to be included in her sharing, as an individual with a huge heart, so much so that I feel as though my own heart is opening wide even as I write these words, and as a writer whose words always touch me with their beauty. Oh, and did I mention that she is a poet too? Not infrequently I feel as though a tiny piece of heaven has just opened up as I bear witness to her poetic self unfolding on the page. Wow!

So, Carol Hopkins, thank you for your kindness in nominating me for this award. I am honoured to share the following link to your blog: https://chopkins2x3.wordpress.com/

AWARD RULES:

  • Thank the nominator, and publish a post on your blog about receiving the Blogger Recognition Award. Make sure to provide a link to the nominator’s blog in your post.
  • Give a brief story of how your blog started.
  • Give two pieces of advice to new bloggers.
  • Nominate 10-15 other bloggers for this award, and inform them of their nomination.

To blog or not to blog??

I knew, long before I actually did it, that I wanted to write a blog. Outside of that I didn’t have a clue. Not having a clue was actually kind of driving me crazy. Why couldn’t I just figure this out? What was my problem?

I am a meditator. One day when I was meditating, out of seemingly nowhere, the title and subject of this blog came into being. Poof! Just like that. I’m following my breathing and poof? So there it was. Is. The reason for this blog is simple really. I care. I care about others, all others, about our planet with all of its creatures, from the tiniest bug to the largest whale, about plant life everywhere in all its wonderful diversity, and that I have clean air to breathe. I, like all of us, want to be happy and peaceful, and to live a full life.

As you no doubt have figured out from the fact I am a meditator, I also care about the spiritual side of life. When I meditate or connect with nature on the long walks I often take, I find I sometimes have more clarity around the truth of how things really are. Of how we and this planet in all of its diversity are interconnected. 

Everything I do and say and think affects our world. How so? How can what I think possibly affect others and what’s around me, let alone the world? A simple example: Actually, this blog is a perfect example. I often find myself thinking about the goings on in my life, in the lives of others, and in our broader world. I think, I feel, I’m inspired to act. To write. To share through stories what little clarity I have touched as I make my way through the ups and downs on the roller coaster ride we call life.

My first story, “Imprints We Make”, came from me thinking about a young boy and his granddad, and from me thinking about encouraging that little boy to grow in compassion. I acted based on that thinking. I gave him five dollars. He then would have thought about what I’d said and done to help him and his teacher to raise money for a good cause. So he thought about it and acted. He sold his favourite toys. Okay, I’m still in awe of that one. So I thought and he thought. I acted and he acted. And somewhere in our world, there are some people whose lives are a little bit better because I thought and he thought. So yes. What I think does have an effect. We inter-are. We all make imprints on our world, and it on us.

I am grateful that, as a human being, I have the capacity and the ability to make choices as to what kind of imprint I make as I walk through my life. Our actions, thoughts, and  words have an effect on ourselves and on others. To speak, think, and act by stepping gently and wisely coming from a place of compassion, a place that we all hold within us, both for ourselves and for others, goes in the direction of spreading harmony and peace in our world.

I humbly suggest two points of advice for new bloggers:

  1. Be true to yourself. Come from a place that is truly you, whatever that is for you. After all, this blog is your blog. Nobody else’s. Only you really know yourself. Others may think they know, but they are not inside your head or your heart. You are wonderfully unique.
  2. Write frequently, daily if you can. Try keeping a journal. Either handwritten or on a computer. I have done both. For me they each have a different feel to them. When journaling don’t concern yourself with what to write. Just write. No filters. That means don’t edit what shows up on the page. Don’t worry about spelling, grammar, or mistakes. Not important. Whatever comes into your head goes down on the page. What I have discovered is that when I don’t filter what I journal and just write, even if what is going on the page seems silly, or pointless, or boring, or any number of things, is that all of a sudden some hidden part of me, call it the muse if you like, surfaces. When that occurs I almost can’t write fast enough to get down on the page what is surfacing. It is like when I finally get my thinking head out of the way the muse is freed. The thinking head wants to filter what goes down on the page. Just ignore it. Some of my best writing has come from writing this way. Not infrequently the ideas coming from the muse are the very ones that show up in a post on my blog. They are the seed. I have also noticed that some of the turns of phrase that show up from the muse in my journal have me in awe. It’s like: Where did that come from? It’s perfect! Of course they inevitably end up being incorporated into a blog post.

I am nominating the following bloggers whose posts I enjoy reading; so many ideas; so many ways of expressing them:

Vessels of Vision  https://vessels-of-vision.com/

Cavewoman A Creative Journey by Bernie Delaney  https://bernie.ie/blog/

NFOCUS4YO  https://nfocus4youblog.com

Akarsh Jain  https://akarshjain.wordpress.com/

In So Many Words by Dorothy Chiotti  https://dorothychiotti.com/

Meditatio Ephimera by Cate Terwilliger  https://zenofhen.wordpress.com

Sascha.Hjort A Spiritual Journey  https://www.saschahjort.com/

Scale it Simple by Steph  https://scaleitsimple.com/

The Renegade Press by Chris Nicholas   https://therenegadepress.com/

Jake Jacobik  https://jjacobik.wordpress.com/2019/06/15/chances-were/

SHLLYN  https://shllyn.com/2019/06/20/oh-to-grow-parallel-to-a-forest-of-trees/

 

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Community

One morning I was at the Library bookstore donating a couple of books. I noticed that the three people helping out at the store were all volunteers. I asked them about volunteering there. They were of course very helpful giving me information, a volunteer application form, and telling me when exactly the person who interviews potential volunteers comes in. During the conversation, I mentioned that I have been volunteering at London Hospice for two years and have very much enjoyed it. I said that I wanted to volunteer in more places. I said that I love books and have worked in bookstores and for the library in the past. As I left I wished them a good day.

Later, after lunch, I decided to meditate for a bit. During my sit the aforementioned conversation at the bookstore popped up, as did my words about Hospice. I started to think about community. Hospice community. Something that has always  been in my awareness from the very first time I walked into the hospice to speak with my friend and fellow meditation leader was the incredible warmth and positive atmosphere. I felt humbled and honored when she asked me to be one of the leaders of a drop-in meditation group.

As I sat there on the cushion, my heart opened wide as the drop-in meditation group came to mind. And then I knew. I had to write a post here about community and what it means to me. With this realization I felt peace. Well-being. I found myself visualizing the people in the group and the quiet, welcoming space where we meditate, the ever-present warm atmosphere, and the sense of safety there. By safety I mean the fact that everyone feels free to share what is real to them, their innermost feelings, their life experiences, and the effect that being part of this group has on them.

So what do we do in this group? It’s simple really. We usually begin with a guided meditation, then take a break to grab a coffee and/or snack from the kitchen area and return to the meditation room for some social time together, usually followed by a bit more meditating or a reading. If we feel so inclined, we share what has arisen for us during the meditation.

Some of these people have been attending for years. This group, as I mentioned, is drop-in: volunteers, staff, those who are dying, their caretakers, and people who are grieving. There is trust here. Complete trust and great caring for each other and for ourselves. To each and every one of us: We matter. And the atmosphere? Positive. Life affirming.

There is only one other time that I have experienced all of this with a group; it was with my Buddhist teacher Yeshe Wangpo’s students many years ago. That is the group that I wrote about in my post: The Retreat. We cared. We trusted. We shared. We went on picnics together, enjoyed pot-luck’s, supported each other through the rough times, and experienced retreats as a group.

During this meditation it was more of a feeling thing. I continued  meditating for a little bit and then chose to end the sit. I walked over to my computer, sat down, and began to write:

What is community to me? This drop-in group at Hospice exemplifies what it is all about: caring, trust, honesty, open-heartedness, safety, sharing what is important, and complete acceptance. Our differences only seem to enhance our experience together; there is way more that is the same. If I step on a stone it hurts. Sometimes I feel anger. I need food to live. I want to be happy. So do we all. I guess it’s kind of like the “Ten Thousand Things” spoken of in the ancient, fourth century Chinese text, the Chuang Tzu. We are all our individual selves, but we are also part of the whole. The whole can’t exist without its individual parts and the parts necessarily need to be part of the whole. I guess that another way of putting it is that the parts enhance the whole just as the whole enhances the parts.

Perhaps there is a bit of a message here? What a world we would have if everyone on the planet could be like all of us as we are with each other. A community. The best of what we as human beings can be: Loving. Caring. Sharing. Helping. Compassionate.

Community is about friendly. My neighbourhood feels like that. Where I live it is the norm for people to say good morning as they pass each other. Very special. In other neighbourhoods in the city where I live, the norm is to avert ones eyes, look down, askance, anything but to make eye contact. And to say hello? Umm…lots of strange reactions to that one. Some people can’t get away fast enough when that happens. Some people act as if you’re not there, as if you didn’t say “Good Morning.” Some people speed up the second you have passed. Let me get this straight. I’m definitely not scary looking, unless you’re a mouse or some such thing.  And then, go ahead, skitter away. I would too.

I feel blessed to have so many wonderful neighbours. A couple of them I have become very close to over the last few years. I take care of their house and garden when they are away on holidays. I don’t drive. They do things like drive me to the train station when I’m heading out of town for a day of fun, or give me a ride to somewhere I need to go. I don’t do it because I have to. They don’t do it because they have to. We just do it. It’s what neighbours do. Community. Very, very special.

One of our neighbours invites everyone in the community to their house for a giant picnic on Canada Day. How cool is that! It has become quite an event on our street. They drop invitations in mailboxes and post invites throughout the neighbourhood. More than once I have found myself smiling as I walk down our street to catch a bus and notice one of the invitations posted on a pole.

I bumped into Martha awhile ago as she was walking a dog. She doesn’t have a dog; she was helping out another neighbour who was away.

Someone else who lives nearby stopped me one day. She needed to unload. She needed an ear. She had just supported a friend who was going through a very rough time. It hurt her to see her friend in such emotional pain. I could see that she was upset. She shared. The two of us are not close friends. Does that matter? I felt honored and touched by her trust in me.

We currently live in a world where there is much strife. Much anger. Much about being caught up in “me”. Caught up in “me” versus “you”. Duality. There really is no duality. We create it. When we live in community the “me” versus “you” disappears. We become one.

Community.

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Posted in Interbeing

Insight

Something has been happening. No matter. Just be with what is. If I’m meant to understand it will happen. If I’m not, that’s just fine. I have learned not to trust my thinking head. Answers, the ones that I pay attention to, just pop up out of nowhere. That’s my signal to pay attention. I love not knowing. I love just letting be.

So what was going on? Fear. For months. It’s interesting to me that understanding isn’t something finite. It seems to change. Alter. It isn’t always easy to just let be, especially when something like the strong emotion of fear seems to run the show.

I am a meditator. Every day I sit for about an hour, simply coming into the present, again, and again, and again.

So this day was no different. I made my morning coffee, carried it over to the mini-table upon which I place the things that I like to have with me when I meditate, placed it down, same with a mug of water, my meditation bell, and the vase of brightly yellow coloured tulips. As per usual, I am sitting in front of the big picture window in our living area overlooking the backyard. I make myself comfortable on my meditation bench. Ring the bell, shut my eyes, notice what I have brought in with me. I notice if there are any strong emotions, what my thinking head is doing, and my physical self. I don’t try to change anything: I just notice. I then do a body scan, systematically going through my various body parts, one by one, from the top of my head to my toes. I imagine that I am breathing in to each part, then relaxing it as it connects with my breath. I then breath out from that part to my lungs and into the room. I then imagine something that makes me feel good, something like bunnies, or flowers, or the friendly kitty that always greets my husband and I when we walk by where it lives. I say in my head to myself with every in breath, May I be filled with well-being. Sometimes I skip the words part and just visualize that bunny or kitty and breathe that in. Then I go to the breath, just feeling the sensation of my body as it breathes in, and as it breathes out.

And so it began on this particular day. As I was following my breathing, my mind went to a new computer security system that I was going to install in my computer and then: fear. Fear? I felt my insides tighten, the nausea, and the tightness in my chest. As I have learned, I just let the fear be. I didn’t feed it with my thoughts. It just was. I stayed in the present. Didn’t have a clue. No matter. My thinking head kept going to why? Why now? Why fear? I went back to the breath, still just letting the fear be. My thinking head said, “I’m afraid of a security system? Back to the breath. Fear. I’m afraid I’ll fail with my attempt? Back to the breath and the sense doors. I brought my full awareness to the aroma of my coffee and the silky sensation of the fragrant liquid as it passed over my tongue,  seeing the leaves on the trees and hearing the sound as the wind gently blew through them, the colours in the sky, the sensation of the warmth of the air around me, and the sound of the hum of my refrigerator. I brought my full awareness to the sound of the raindrops as they connected with the ground and trees. I let the fear just be while simultaneously managing to keep my awareness on what my senses were experiencing.

And then I knew. I cried. Decades have passed and yet still I suffer. Sometimes it becomes so hard. I didn’t deserve it. No one deserves that. I lived in fear of my ex-husband for such a long time: Afraid of being threatened, kicked, hit, and put down verbally. Of walking in the door after grocery shopping or gardening and knowing that I had to make it past him without my presence triggering him somehow. Years and years and years of fear, of trying to make it through my day unscathed, and of jumping when he said jump. Years. Stay with the feelings Maureen. It’s so bloody hard sometimes. Stay. It hurts. Stay. So sad.

And then, out of nowhere, the concept of “brain plasticity” popped up. Of neural pathways. Of habitual patterns. Okay, I can work with this. And then peace. L.S.A.G. That’s what I came up with, or probably, to be more accurate, it kind of just appeared. I can create a new neural pathway. And so I began. L for loved. S for safe. A for alive. G for grateful. I began to say my new mantra: I am loved by the universe/creator. How can I not be? I am one of its countless manifestations. I live through it. It manifests through me and all creation. I am loved by my husband. I smiled. Such love. S: I am safe from harm. My being hurt by my ex-husband is over. It is in the past. No more. In the present, I am safe. My second husband is a gentle, patient, and kind man. I live in a neighbourhood that is friendly and safe. I live in a safe country. Even as I write this I am feeling peace. Contentment. A: I am alive. I have this wonderful living body. And G: I am so very grateful for this largess that is my life.

And so it began. I started to say my new mantra. As I repeated: I am loved. I am safe. I am alive. I am grateful. Something changed. Gradually. Very gradually. I am loved. I am safe. I am alive. I am grateful. I noticed my stomach unclenching. I am loved. I am safe. I am alive. I am grateful. The tightness in my chest loosened. It felt as though my heart was opening. Loved. Safe. Alive. Grateful. My new mantra. My new habit. And so it began. Every time the old pattern of fear manifested I would say my new mantra. I was creating a new neural pathway. And then finally, as though it had never been there, I become cognizant of the fact that the fear was completely gone. Freedom. Relief. Peace.

The brain is so amazing. I love that one can create new pathways. The old ones don’t go. I know that. I like to think of it as the old pathways get rusty. After all, if they’re not being used, they shrivel up from lack of use. Shrinking. Shriveling. I like those images. This new pathway that I am creating, as I use it more and more, gets stronger.

In Buddhist thought, it’s like we have a storage part of our brain where everything abides. When we think or feel it’s like that thought or emotion comes up into our consciousness out of storage. While it is out, it gets stronger. When it goes back, it stays stronger. Other thoughts and emotions do not get stronger while we are strengthening the current thought that is in our mind consciousness. It’s kind of like a garden. When a thought or emotion leaves storage and arises up into our mind consciousness, we are watering it. If we keep watering it, as I am doing when I repeat the mantra, it grows into a plant. By watering the positive we have flowers. Meanwhile, in our storage consciousness, all of the thoughts and emotions not being currently watered do not grow.

Over time, I have extended the use of my new mantra. Sometimes, due to the negative events of my past, and my embodiment of them, I feel like I am not worthy. Especially of love. Now, when I recognize what is happening, I repeat: I am loved. I am safe. I am alive. I am grateful. I am loved. I am safe. I am alive. I am grateful. I begin to feel that I have value. That I am worthy of love. And you know what? The nice thing is that I can say it anywhere, be it walking down the street, while washing the dishes, and even in the shower.

Loved. Safe. Alive. Grateful.

 

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Posted in Buddhism

I See You

My Mum is ninety-seven years of beautiful. I love every precious wrinkle on her dear face. Yes, it is a face that shows the ravages of time, but it is more than that. Way more. It is a face documenting a life. A life that is very precious to me. A life. A legacy. I see you Mum in all that I am:

  • I see you in my ability to write. You asked me to help you once by checking over a letter that you had written to city officials. When I read your letter it was like seeing another you. A you who came alive on the written page. A you who wrote convincingly with style and creativity. A you who was pulled out of school when barely a teenager to go out to work to help your family survive.
  • I see you in the ceramic Christmas tree that you made for me so many years ago. I see the expression on your face as I open your gift. My heart opens to your happiness.
  • I see you in my positive outlook on life; if there ever was a “glass half full” person, you are it.
  • I see you in my enjoyment of physical activity: every time I ride my bike, every time I go to the weight room, every time I do Tai Chi, every time I go for a walk, I see you. I phoned you the other day and was an ear for your frustration. I listened as you spoke about not being able to go outside right now. It’s too risky for a ninety-two year old with all of the snow and ice. I know that whenever you can’t get out to go for a walk, or to work in the garden, or even to hang out laundry in the fresh air, you miss it.

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    My Mum and I on Easter going for a nature walk together.

  • I see you in me every time that I nod off when I watch a movie. I am rather amused by it. I think that I am becoming you. I like that. It makes me smile. It only started happening when I was fifty-two years old. We are each other. How wonderful is that! It doesn’t get any better than that.
  • I see you every time I play Scrabble. I remember that it took until I was thirty-nine years old before I was finally able to win a game against you.
  • I see you are not perfect; neither am I.
  • I see that you are a product of the generations as am I. We cannot be separated. I am you; you are me. I am my grandparents. I am my great grandparents. I am all the generations that have gone before. We are one. I am your continuation.
  • I see you in the marmalade that I put on my toast this morning. You made a jar of it for me because you knew that I liked it.
  • I see you in my spirituality. You are Roman Catholic; I am Buddhist. The sacred knows no boundaries. On a warm summer’s night up at Lake Huron we sit outside on the deck under the stars as we talk about life after death. You confide to me your secret fear: What if reincarnation is real? It scares you that you might come back as a worm or something. We both chuckle about that one. I see you beside me in your church as we listen to the priest talk. I share what your religion means to you. The words coming from the pulpit are universal. They are about love and compassion.
  • I see you now in front of me. I close my eyes and I see you. I will see you forever.
  • I see you were a willing and caring listener when I was having to deal with my estrangement from my daughter. It lasted years. You never lost hope; that was transferred to me. Your example taught me how to be there for you when you were having difficulty with someone you love. It felt good to do for you.
  • I see you in the pink lacy dress with the cap sleeves that I wore to my grade eight graduation. You picked it out for me. You spoke of that dress for years after the graduation: how pretty I looked in it; how beautiful the lace was. Years. Decades. I think it would have been your dream to have worn such a dress to your graduation, but it was never to be. You grew up in poverty.
  • I see you in my love of nature. I see you every time I smile as I watch a raccoon scooting across the road, or as I marvel at a blue jay flying in to the nest and watch and feel excited at the sheer miracle as he places the peanut he is carrying into the open beak of the female as she sits on the nest protecting her eggs.
  • I see you when I smell that wonderful fresh air smell of just washed laundry hung out to dry outside in the backyard. Like you, I have always loved the smell of the outdoors. It amazes me that at the age of ninety-five you still like to hang your laundry outside. There is nothing more wonderful than, after having a shower or bath, I am wearing the outdoors. I just have to breathe deeply and you are there.

And so Mum, a legacy: for you, for me, for us.

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Posted in Mom

Happy Birthday

The following is something I wrote on February 2, 2014:

Happy Birthday to my mother today. She is ninety-two years old. Wow! Bruce and I went to see her last evening with a homemade lemon cake (her favourite) and birthday gifts in tow. What a wonderful visit! She was so pleased that we thought of her and that we visited and she LOVED the cake (a bonus!). We went last night because she and my sweetie share the same birthday. Bruce and I will be celebrating his birthday today.

For me my Mum’s birthday is not only a time of celebration, but a time when I find myself reflecting on what this special human being means to me. I owe my very existence to her. IMG_8732 Here is this woman who took care of me, loved me, guided me to the best of her ability throughout my childhood, teen years, and into adulthood. And she is still there caring about me as I make my way through adult life, as I raised a family of my own, and now as I experience what it means to be a grandmother.

I love this woman with all my heart. I love everything about her: her generosity, her incredible joie de vivre; I don’t think that I have ever known anyone so incredibly positive. If there ever was a glass half full type person, she is it. I even love her sometimes critical nature. Yup. You heard me right. And to be honest, our life together has had its ups and downs. We survived. We grew. But you know what? I don’t just love the good parts; I love all of the parts. Everything that makes her what she is. Every last wart and every last flower. Hey, I am certainly flowers and warts. If I can accept them in me, I can certainly accept them in her. I mean, is anybody perfect? I love that she is part of me, and that I am her continuation. I am her and she is me. She is in every cell of my body. And I am so very, very glad. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Five years have passed. Bruce and I showed up at my Mum’s with birthday gifts and  cake (now a tradition) to celebrate her ninety-seventh birthday. My mother. My gift. I love you Mum. To a very special human being, from the bottom of my heart:

HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

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Posted in Mom