Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Zoom to Assume

What trouble lurks beneath the quilt of arghhh!ssumptions? Misunderstandings. Feelings that get hurt. Arguments that brew. Actions that are or are not taken.

We live in a fast-paced, sound-bite world, where it's easy to make an assumption or jump to a conclusion. After all, who has the time to clarify?

In our haste to save time, we end up losing more time. Rather than clarifying the message we cut corners by making assumptions about what the other person meant by their words or actions. As the popular joke goes, "Then the fight started..."

We may be afraid to clarify because we remember situations with different people where our attempts at clarification resulted in pain or injury of some sort. The amygdala is responsible for remembering strong emotional events that are pain or fear-filled and is constantly scanning for situations that are "close enough" to the original painful event. When it finds them, it says, "Yep, looks like that other frightening event. Get ready to duke this one out." Or, "Let's get the heck out of here! It's not safe."

The antidote is at heart. By learning to balance the nervous system with heart-activated techniques, the right course of action becomes clear. You may begin to recognize that you are in the habit of making assumptions. Once you know this, you can begin to correct it, if you choose.

Knowing what to say and how to say it becomes easier without the winter-weight quilt of assumptions. Kick off those covers and take heart!

Photo courtesy of Kinsey

Friday, September 25, 2009


Hot - Delicious
Appetizing - Energizing - Nourishing
A great way to fuel your day.
Cold - Salubrious
Break Fast

I thought I was done. Apparently, this next poem was percolating, just like my morning coffee!

First light of day, rosy and clear
Stretch, yawn, go put the coffee on

Break fast, I'll have an egg today
Vitality, more energy

Fuel for the body, fuel for the brain
Hot or cold, on breakfast, I'm sold

Sun is higher, light is brighter
Breakfast done, gee, I gotta run!

Loose Blog Consortium: Please visit the blogs of Ashok, Conrad, David, Grannymar, Maria and Ramana to see what they've done with Ramana's topic - Breakfast.

Image: Breakfast in the garden in Nice, France.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Songs in His Heart

In through the ears, straight to the heart and up to the head. Music has that ability to stir us deep in our core. It evokes feelings - regret, sadness, longing, joy and peace. It reminds us of beginnings and endings, of firsts and lasts. Music is emotional.

When I first listened to Pictures by the Damien Cripps Band, the scene was set in my heart and mind. A warm summer breeze, the light of day dimming into night and the lighthearted conversations and laughter of friends effervescing around me on the patio. The positive feelings that are generated by that scenario work wonders in my heart - turning my jagged heart rhythms into smooth ones.

I have had the pleasure of several cyber chats with Damien. What has become apparent to me is that he works hard at doing something he loves. And, as is true of all who are skilled at what they do, he makes it appear effortless. He is a kind-hearted man who honours his word. He also uses his music to make a difference in the world by performing at charity events. Thank you for caring and sharing, Damien.

I'm always curious about the creative process and asked him about his own experiences.

When and where do you feel most inspired?

"Usually the most inspiration comes from other people and their reactions to situations. This makes me think about my own personal reaction to that situation. It allows me to take a first person view-point when writing."

Do you need certain conditions in order to write your music? (mood, special place?)

"I generally find it comes in periods of about three months - where I love everything I write. Strangely enough, the really good periods where what I consider to be the best stuff comes when I am emotionally charged, either positively or negatively - it doesn't matter. High on emotion, high on inspiration.

Location-wise - I do like to be on my own and I have to absolutely love the sound of whatever instrument I'm using.
(He plays piano and guitar and 'will work out how to play anything.') Outside usually doesn't work for me, the acoustics of a room provide a sound and ambience that keeps an idea different and moving along. I can't create a place to write - they occur randomly. I usually start with a theme or concept, then toy with lyrical options until I come up with what I think is a great starting point. Then, I develop a melody and add the instrumental part thereafter."

When is a song finished?

"I know that I am done when material I actually want to explore further stops coming."

To paraphrase Damien, it is a force that cannot be called upon at will. The act of wanting it, actually stops it. I've noticed that in my own writing. When I am in the flow, it feels as if the words stream out of my pen, without intervention from the brain. This isn't the case, though. It is the brain operating as it should, with the guidance of the heart, encouraging cortical facilitation.

He writes. He plays. He sings. He will soon be touring North America. Damien, when you get here, I'm holding you to that cup of coffee you were talking about!

Related post: Reverberational Effect

Image courtesy Robert Proksa

Friday, September 18, 2009

Coping => Hoping => Renewing

Every Friday, members of the Loose Blog Consortium (LBC), post on a topic suggested by one of the members. Please visit the blogs of Ashok, Conrad, David, Grannymar, Maria and Ramana to see what they've done with the topic that was suggested by Conrad - Hope and Renewal.

My sister recently reminded me that for a short time in my twenties, I used to sign my name Marianna Lauren. What is unusual about that is that Lauren is not my second name. In fact, I don't even have a second name.

Now that I think of it, perhaps Hope may have been a more appropriate choice. I seem to have an abundance of hope, perhaps long after I should have given up on hoping.

Hope comes in many guises - big and small, private and public, whispered and shouted.

There is the unexpressed, yet understood hope I have for health:
  • cook nutritious meals from scratch
  • get enough exercise and rest
  • be aware of the need to protect my joints from further deterioration and dislocation
  • do what brings me joy by ensuring that my values are met in various ways
  • stay connected and be involved to the extent that is right for me
  • regularly transform my stress
There is the hope that I extend to others:
  • I wish you a safe journey!
  • Good luck!
  • Many happy returns!
  • I hope you have a speedy recovery. (Grannymar & Laurel)
  • My fingers (eyes and toes) are crossed for you!
Finally, there are the hopes and wishes we sprinkle over the things a part of us knows most likely will not come to pass, but we do it anyway, for good measure. I hope that:
  • by showering Murphy with love his cancer will go into remission.
  • I'll win that contest.
  • he'll do things differently this time around.
  • I can help my sister find a home for the stray cat that is in her neighbourhood.
  • I can ease some of your pain.
Hope is that thing that allows me to move forward, in spite of knowing that some of the things one hopes for won't come to pass. It's almost as if it's the breath in between - the one that allows you to come to terms with the realisation that some things won't come to pass. It's the make-peace-with-it sentiment.

It is also the holding of a dream - a wish that things will get better. And, sometimes they do.

Having an abundance of hope allows me to get out of bed each day and get through my day, when often doing the simplest of things (holding the milk carton, opening a water bottle or typing) can cause pain or can be a drain on energy.

There is a positive change in physiology with hope. This is the difference between the Stress Zone and the Stress-Free Zone. Positive emotions change our heart rhythms so that they begin to smoothen out. This signals the brain that there is is no need to activate the stress response - a cascade of 1400 chemical changes complete with side-effects that are necessary in a true emergency. Remember, our system dates back to the time when we had to catch our dinner or run from it!

Plain and simple, hope feels better. Having hope increases our ability to renew - whether it be our emotional, mental, physical or spiritual self. Sometimes we may want healing of one type, when it's another realm of healing that occurs.

Can there be too much hope? I don't think so. Hope is the pause that refreshes and renews. Some may call it denial, but I call it coping by hoping. Is it genetic? Perhaps. Can it be learned? Definitely.

I hope you will...

Count your night by stars, count your life with smiles, not tears. ~ Italian proverb

Image courtesy of 4younity.

Monday, September 14, 2009

The "C" Word

Last week, we received the diagnosis that Murphy, our dear, sweet dog, has bone cancer.

We've heard those words before. It'll be 10 years this November that Mom passed away from ovarian cancer. It seems that no family is untouched by this disease.

I did nothing but cry when we first heard the dreaded "C" word. I was immediately reminded of Mom's arduous struggles - 6 rounds of chemo and always the hope that this would be "the one" - ascites that had to be drained on a regular basis - hospitalisation for months.

10 years ago I didn't know the techniques I do now. Then, I spent most of my time worrying and eating my way through the grief, doing the best I could to cope.

This time, I'm doing things differently. After the initial shock, I now make a conscious choice to convert my worry and grief to feelings of love. As often as possible, I focus on the joy that he brings to us. This helps balance my nervous system so that I'm better able to cope with the tough times that will arrive.

It is also better for Murphy. He has always been attuned to me, so it is in his best interest that I effectively manage my emotions.

Our family and friends are saddened by the news and feel our pain. It seems that Murphy has managed to wiggle his way into their hearts, too! I've asked them, as often as possible, to think about Murphy in a positive way and shower him with love. I can see their faces change when I ask them to do this for us. That makes me feel good knowing that it helps them deal with this situation.

I am thankful that he is still his happy and curious self, even though we've had to curtail his walks. I am also grateful for the supportive care we're receiving for him.

We'll take it day by day, heartbeat by heartbeat.

Related posts:

Friday, September 11, 2009

Oh, Canada!

Every Friday, members of the Loose Blog Consortium (LBC) post on a topic suggested by one of the members. Please visit the blogs of Conrad, Ramana, Grannymar, Ashok and
Magpie 11
to see what they've done with the topic that I wrote on the blackboard (white board!) for this week - Your National Anthem.

O Canada!
Our home and native land!
True patriot love in all thy sons command.
I remember when we replaced "God Save Our Queen" with "O Canada." Shivers always run up and down my spine each time our voices unite to sing our anthem.

With glowing hearts we see thee rise
The True North strong and free!

I was both surprised and saddened to learn that with the 2010 Olympics, the phrase "with glowing hearts" was trademarked. In my opinion, our national anthem belongs to all of us, as do our lakes and rivers.

From far and wide,
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

I loved beginning the school day paying tribute to this place I call home. Where and how are we to learn this glorious anthem if not in school? It's time to stand and guard this piece of our heritage and give thanks for all we have.

God keep our land glorious and free
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

If we, as Canadians don't do so, who will?

With glowing hearts we see thee rise
The True North strong and free!
I'm thankful that I live here, in such a place, where we are fortunate to have the services, the resources and the people we do.

O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.
Yes, there are things that desperately need fixing. We need to find a way to work and stand together to maintain our standards of health, education and environment.

When I chose the topic Your National Anthem, I was unaware that it would fall on Sept. 11th - Patriot Day in the U.S.

Here's to those who have fallen. May you rest easy.

May those left behind find peace in their hearts.

May the people of the world also know a time of peace, a time of cooperation, a time of joy.

Photo courtesy of Alistair Williamson

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Simply Shibumi

Can you describe your life as shibumi? This is a Japanese word describing the true sophistication of simple things. Everything about this concept is elegant - even the word itself; from the initial sibilant sound to the gentle, soft closing.

How shibumi is your life when it is filled with stress? Stress tends to redesign your life and make a mess. Messes are far from simple or peaceful. Before you even know it, you have taken on habits or assigned importance to things that are more complicated than simple.

When you begin to look at your values and investigate how you can live your life to support those values, extraneous things often fall away.

This is different for everyone. Some may ease off on the number of commitments they have, others may join a community group or pursue an interest in the arts. Maybe the children don't need to be in 8 different activities or you'd like to encourage everyone to contribute more to the household chores and change the way you do things as a family?

The answers are within. By listening to what is deep in your heart, you may begin to feed your soul and in the process, find the antidote to stress.

Here are some tips for you to consider if you would like shibumi in your life.
  1. Start with the heart. Smoother heart rhythms means less stress and an opportunity to "hear" that quiet voice that tells you what you really want out of life.
  2. Action. Get curious about how can honour your values, and take action, even if it's in a small way.
  3. Notice. How does it feel when you are honouring a value? Are you energized? Do you sleep better? The beauty of healing is that you often forget how badly you felt, so it's important to notice your progress.
Related posts:

Friday, September 4, 2009

Hands of Time

Every Friday, Conrad, Ramana, Grannymar, Ashok, Magpie and myself - all members of the Loose Blog Consortium (LBC) - post on a topic suggested by one of the members. Please visit their blogs and see what they've created with the assignment which was handed to us by Magpie - Hands.

These hands of mine
They've done some time

They've been gripped in such fury
Known the wringing of deep worry

For many years, they were cold
Locked in sadness, I felt old

Choking and sputtering, it was apparent
Creating and relating, they had been errant

Stress had infixed a big detour
From heart to hands, of that, I'm sure

They've known sadness and grief
But now there's hope and belief

Although my hands are deformed
My heart, my hands, they're transformed

It gives me joy, it makes me sing
Helping you ease that stress thing

I extend my hand to give you assistance
But you'll need to reach out, to cover the distance

Blending four hands and two hearts
Don't you just love those fresh new starts?

These hands of mine
They've done some time.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Queen of the Castle

Are you so busy defending the castle that you never get to play in it?

Have ever you watched children at play on the beach? There's often one child who spends all his/her time running around the castle protecting it from intruders of all shapes and sizes.

Operating in "protection mode" is not only exhausting, but also stress-producing. Danger or the threat of danger causes the body to go through a cascade of 1400 chemical changes which are designed for flight or fight. This was necessary for survival in prehistoric times, when it was action that was needed in order to deal with the beasts of the day.

Today, many of the things one fears or think one needs to fear doesn't come to pass - fortunately. However, being constantly on guard resets the nervous system so that it takes less and less to activate it. The window of calm gradually closes. Many of the defenses people set up to keep themselves "safe" end up wearing them out and down. They may be afraid to experience joy because "something bad is just around the corner."

I understand this way of being because I was also a "disaster thinker." Always worried and wondering what next? (The "next" wasn't something pleasant, either!) I'm thankful that I have tools and techniques in place that have allowed me to recognize and transform those thoughts and emotions when they do arrive - far less frequently, I am thrilled to report!

Life is much more fun when I get to be the welcoming queen of my castle!