Category Archives: Inspiration
September—the word, to me, is a calling-to-attention for my brain. After allowing said brain to go fallow for most of the summer, September re-snaps my focus. Forward momentum rolls on new beginnings.
This year in particular the “new beginnings” theme resonates with many of my friends and acquaintances. With the whir of the passing of time come new retirements, new jobs, new universities, new courses, new living arrangements, new projects or new health challenges. Around me friends and acquaintances thrive or survive in changing circumstances, finding ways to fill empty spaces or empty full spaces. Like unicycle riders, afraid, excited, overwhelmed or uncertain, they hold arms out for balance and find a way to peddle forward.
In such times, the book The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg comes to mind. At times of upheaval we need to mindfully form or change our habits to shape our days in the most positive way.
In The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg breaks down the three-step loop: Cue, Routine, Reward. A habit is triggered by an external cue (a particular location, a time of day, a certain mood, other people, or an activity), the external cue sets a routine in motion, and at the end, we receive a reward. For example, an alarm goes off at 6:00 a.m., a person puts on jogging clothes and goes for a run, and then enjoys the runner’s high and a strawberry smoothie. Or, at 3:00 p.m. every workday, a person, bored and restless, leaves the desk and visits the vending machine for an afternoon chocolate bar boost.
Many of our habits serve to sustain us as we navigate daily life. Putting on our clothes, making our toast, or driving our cars requires a series of habits. The first time we do any of these, we think through each step. Cued by a feeling of cold, a hunger, or a need to get from one place to another, we work through every step of managing buttons, setting the right toast preferences and backing out of the garage. Eventually these routines become automatic “habits,” so our brain doesn’t need to think about them anymore. In other words, we need habits or our brains would be overwhelmed. “Habits, scientists say, emerge because the brain is constantly looking for ways to save effort.”
Because habits are so necessary, and because our brains are constantly seeking to create new ones, habits have a powerful influence over our lives. And once a habit takes root, it doesn’t disappear. Duhigg writes: “. . . unless you deliberately fight a habit—unless you find new routines—the pattern will unfold automatically.”
What it means for us? We can examine our daily lives, identify our habits, figure out which ones serve us well and which ones could bear re-routing, especially during this autumn time of new beginnings.
I spent the weekend at the Galilee Retreat Centre in Arnprior, ON. It is a multi-faith “welcoming holistic spiritual life centre that is an oasis of peace, care and comfort.”
While there, a person may choose to walk the labyrinth. According to the Labyrinth Society, a labyrinth is “a single path or unicursal tool for personal, psychological and spiritual transformation.” Unlike a maze, which is a complex puzzle created to confuse or challenge, a labyrinth is a single path with a clear destination. A labyrinth doesn’t confuse: it clarifies.
Labyrinths are not some New Age loopy out-there phenomenon. They are an ancient tradition, and walking one can soothe a scattered soul. Different people need different things, so there are no firm “how to” rules for a labyrinth. But if you’re unfamiliar with the practice it might be helpful to make use of the five Rs: Ready, Release, Receive, Respond, Reflect.
- Ready. Before entering the labyrinth, think about a question you have, a worry you’re carrying or an intention. Come up with a phrase, a word or a question to carry in your mind.
- Release: Enter the labyrinth and walk at a pace that is comfortable for you. Don’t overthink it. Just walk. As you walk silently repeat the phrase, word or question that you chose.
- Receive: When you reach the centre of the labyrinth, stop there. Spend some time receiving whatever comes to you in whatever way it comes.
- Respond: Leave the centre of the labyrinth and as you retrace your steps out, respond to what you received.
- Reflect: When you finish the walk, spend some time reflecting on the experience.
As you can see by the picture, the Galilee Centre labyrinth is grassy with stones outlining the path. From my labyrinth walk on the weekend, I learned this:
- The path is not always clear.
- There are weeds on the path.
- There are flowers on the path.
- Sometimes you wonder if you’ll ever reach the destination.
- Sometimes you think you’re almost there, but then there is an unexpected turn.
- At the destination just “Let It Be.”
- You don’t need to make the path.
- You don’t need to tend the path.
- You just need to walk the path.
- If you’re really lucky, at the end of the walk there will be a dragonfly on your shoe.
I am enjoying a summer vacation. During my time off I am sharing posts from some of my favourite blog sites. Today’s is from The Cathie Barash Blog. I love the final quote: “Children are happy because they don’t have file in their minds called ‘All the Things That Could Go Wrong’.”
I’m sure we’ve all had our turn at disbelieving the power of positive thinking, and finding negative thinking to be more realistic. In actuality, negative thinking is the lie that tells us that we aren’t smart enough or deserving in some way and . . . read more here . . . Believe in the Positive
I am enjoying a summer vacation. During my time off, I am sharing posts from my favourite blog sites. This week is from Roughwighting: Life in a flash – a weekly blog on daily living. This is a story that anyone with a sibling can relate to.
It all began on the Saturday of the Tri-County Swim Meet. A glorious turquoise sky bled into the waters of the pool where people screamed in excitement as my brother won trophy after trophy, culminating … read more here . . . The 11th Summer of My Discontent
I’m enjoying a summer vacation. During my time off, I thought I would share posts from my favourite blog sites. Today is from Tuesdays with Laurie. Her insightful posts give me something to think about every Tuesday.
During recent travels, a walk on the beach had me looking at seaweed as a visual metaphor for the brain… THIS IS YOUR BRAIN Psychiatrist Edward Hallowell, MD, director of the Hallowell Center… read more here . . . This Is Your Brain On Mindfulness
When I attended the Canadian Writers Summit in Toronto, Canada this summer, the daily walk from my hotel to the conference site at the Harbourfront Centre took me through Roundhouse Park. When I walked there my steps slowed, and I had to stop to contemplate the metal tracks and the mighty engines on display. I could not walk through the park apace. Something about the circular shape and the radiating rail lines gave the site a sacred feel. In slowing down, in breathing in the spirit of the place, I felt reinvigorated.
In the early days of rail travel, steam locomotives could only travel forwards. Toronto-bound locomotives arrived at the John Street roundhouse for servicing and light repairs. The turntable allowed the locomotives to be turned around for the return journey.
According to the Toronto Railway Historical Association, the locomotives serviced there were “so attractively maintained that their appearance became known among railroaders as the ‘John Street polish’.”
Today, Roundhouse Park no longer services locomotives, but it still provide servicing and light repairs. Like a forward-moving locomotive, I arrived in Toronto this summer and the John Street roundhouse gave my creative soul a “John Street polish” of a different sort.
We all need a little servicing and light repairs from time to time. Where is your “roundhouse?”