Category Archives: Gratitude
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.
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.
I wrote this post three years ago, but I decided to post it again as we wind down our holiday preparations. A reminder of what is really important at this time of year.
Correspondence from an earlier time helps us to gain perspective about our own circumstances. These letters, written by my husband’s ancestors, span the years between 1928 and 1936. The mood changes from comfortable and optimistic, to worried, to discouraged, to desperate.
In 1928 times were good. People had no inkling of the challenges to come. They proudly made use of electricity as they gathered around their radio in the evenings.
By October 1930, people had started to feel the pinch, but hope did not elude them. Reading this now, we know the long, lingering hard times that lay ahead of them—the Great Depression and then World War II—but back then, they were certain it was a short-term dip.
In 1933 many people were out of work. Lay-off notices were dreaded but common. Without a social safety net, no work meant no food or shelter. This lay-off notice came just before Christmas.
At Christmas 1934, this letter was sent: “. . . we find that it will be impossible to send any gifts this year, and therefore we would rather not receive any gifts this year.”
By comparison, we are wealthy beyond all imagining. Our social safety net is not perfect, but it helps.
Rest easy. Enjoy our luxury. Happy Holidays.
In a conversation at my office, one co-worker shared a story about his son-in-law who was born in England but has been in Canada for the past ten years. My co-worker reported that when his son-in-law returns to Great Britain now, the people tell him he speaks with a Canadian accent, even though his accent sounds decidedly British to Canadian ears.
As he spoke, he turned to another man who came to Canada from Beijing. He asked him, “When you return to China, do people say you sound Canadian?”
The man thought for second and then said, “No, they don’t comment on my accent, but I do find myself saying ‘Sorry’ a lot.”
Our compassion is contagious. It makes me proud, and not the least bit sorry.
Once again, the insights of author Paulo Coelho inspired my writing.
During one Christmas Eve dinner, he spent time complaining about something that was not perfect in his life. His thoughtful wife pointed out the beautifully illuminated Christmas tree nearby with one burnt bulb among the brilliantly shining ones.
“It seems to me that instead of thinking of this year as dozens of enlightened blessings, you chose to look at the one light that did not glow,” she said.
What is the ratio of enlightened blessings to burnt bulbs in your life?
My eyesight is not good. Most days I don’t consider this a blessing, but at Christmas I do. When I take off my glasses, a Christmas tree looks star-filtered to me. The lights lose their sharp edges and take on a starlight glow. When I admire a Christmas tree in that soft focus I think about how lucky I am to see a Christmas tree in a way that my sharp-eyed friends can’t.
Best of all, when I look at a tree that way, I couldn’t possibly pick out any burnt bulbs.
This month, whether you enjoy Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, the solstice, or any other celebrations, may you bask in the glow of so many enlightened blessings that you don’t notice any dark spots.
Read Paulo Coelho’s post here: My wife and the burnt light
“Imagine, adorable, if we were walking through a beautiful field, in a beautiful day and suddenly a storm fell over our heads. How wonderful! Is there greater emotion than seeing the elements producing wild power and energy? Let’s go to the fields, Mary, and seek the unexpected.”
—Khalil Gibran, from a love letter written to Mary Haskell, May 24, 1914
Imagine, readers, if we were walking through a beautiful field, in a beautiful day with a person we love and suddenly we decided to celebrate the “wildly ever after” instead of the “happily ever after.”
Is there a greater achievement than successfully withstanding the wild power and energy produced by the elements?
Forget the fairy tale and the happily-ever-after ending. How dull! (And unrealistic.) Look with delight upon the storms that fall over your head and the wild power and energy of the elements.
Go to the fields and seek the unexpected.
I am writing this post early in the morning on Monday, October 19. It’s federal election day here in Canada, but I don’t know yet what’s going to happen. The polls haven’t even opened in my region. When I finish writing, I will pre-schedule this post to run tomorrow morning when the results are in and people will either be mourning or celebrating. I don’t yet know what’s going to happen, but I do know this.
“The arc of the universe is long but it bends toward justice.” —Martin Luther King Jr.
All shall be well.
No matter what happens, all shall be well.
If you invested your whole being in the Conservative party, and they will not form the next government, it’s okay. All shall be well.
If you believe that Justin Trudeau is the sure and certain leader for our country, but the Liberals did not win enough seats, it’s okay. All shall be well.
If you live and breathe the politics of the New Democratic Party, but Thomas Mulcair’s NDP candidates did not show well, it’s okay. All shall be well.
If you believe that Stephen Harper is a megalomaniac who holds too tightly the reins of his ministers and the public service and does not respect human rights, but the people of Canada voted his party back into power, it’s okay. All shall be well.
If you believe that Justin Trudeau is just not ready, but the votes carried him into the footsteps of his father as prime minister of this country, it’s okay. All shall be well.
If you believe that Elizabeth May is a fine candidate and her Green party has the potential to re-shape our country in a positive way, but the Greens still didn’t manage to gain any political headway, it’s okay. All shall be well.
I have close friends in all of those camps. Close friends of mine live and breathe the politics of vastly different parties. I love all those people. Not a one of them is evil incarnate.
That’s how I know that all shall be well.
Since confederation, this country has been led by either Liberal or Conservative prime ministers. Collectively they shaped this country into, what I believe is, the finest democracy in the world. Each one of them changed us for the better in some way. Each one of them made mistakes.
In between elections, the parties not in power raged about the travesties of the governing party. They ranted about what they would change. After all the bluster though, when changes in government happened, the new governing party kept what worked—even if they had raged against it—and changed what didn’t.
My diverse friends, although they approach it from different directions, are all driven by the same ideal: the building and maintenance of a great democracy.
I believe that Martin Luther King Jr. was right. Events which, at first blush, appear horrific or unjust, often lead to a greater good.
“The arc of the universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” All shall be well.