Archives for posts with tag: life

I recently started a new job and spent the past weekend on a company retreat in Sydney. My expectations grew as I  heard bits and pieces of colleague’s stories from past retreats. From the sounds of it, the retreat was going to be filled with fun, excitement and a little too much alcohol. What I wasn’t prepared for was the guest speaker who would transform my life.

Sessions were scheduled Friday and Saturday from morning to night. It seemed like it would be a lot of time to sit still and listen to one person speak. The first session commenced and we were greeted by a bright smile, warm energy and texan charm. Our guest speaker was Dr. Brené Brown. I was delighted to hear another north american accent this south of the hemisphere but when she told us she would be speaking about shame and vulnerability, you couldn’t help but uncomfortably wince, why?

Dr. Brown spent 10 years studying vulnerability and shame and assured us we can’t truly learn ‘how-to’ be happy if we don’t first deal with the issues that are holding us back. Her insight struck a chord with me. Getting the most out of the experience would require me to dig deep to my most personal, uncomfortable and vulnerable places.

In no way do I intend to re-teach her session but merely share some valuable lessons I learned. She began by explaining the difference between shame and guilt – how guilt is a focus on behaviour (“It was wrong for me to cheat”) and shame is a focus on self (“I am an idiot for cheating”). Already I began to examine my self talk and how I blamed myself in certain situations.

“Shame corrodes the part of us that wants to be better.”

Brown spoke of how prevalent shame is in day to day life. Many of us have no idea when we are shaming others or that certain adverse reactions we feel are from someone shaming us. What shames us tends to be derived from our conditioning and childhood as she explained, “children store shame as trauma”.

“Shame is the threat of being unlovable.”

She came to a part of her presentation where I began to see shame in an entirely different way. Brené explained shame was about managing perception. The way we want and do not want to be perceived is the number one solicitor of shame. It was all too prevalent in my life. In relationships, friendships and in my family I saw a pattern of constantly being disappointed by people. It wasn’t until this retreat that I realized I would get upset not because of something they did wrong, but because they didn’t live up to my expectations; expectations I unjustly imposed. I realized I needed to love the people in my life for who they are now – not for who I want them to be or foresee them becoming.

Something as simple as asking my partner to clean the counter would cause him shame and myself, anxiety and frustration. “You call this clean!?” – my common response to his cleaning abilities thinking I had clearly been wronged. In reflection, I was unfairly criticizing the way he best knows how to satisfyingly clean a counter; two different perspectives, equally as valid.

This was one of many revelations I had throughout the weekend thanks to her sessions. I love our capability as humans to constantly learn, grow and transform.

I am grateful for change agents, positively transforming and inspiring people’s lives.

We found ourselves standing in front of the mundane instant-coffee assortment yet again. I was about to reach for my fast and fail-proof brand when my partner guided my hand toward a bag of roasted beans. “What are we going to do with this?” I asked. He suggested we try real coffee. Real coffee!? I was confused and disheartened when I realized that coffee consisted of much more than just adding some water to granules. Overwhelmed, yet excited with the unknown process ahead, we grabbed a bag of beans and headed for the checkout.

I only started drinking instant coffee when I moved to Australia. It was the quickest and cheapest caffeine fix before dashing off to an early morning class or cramming all night for an exam. My earliest encounters with coffee came from the household drip coffee maker brewing my nation’s pride and glory, Tim Hortons. Many canadians will tell you they can’t get through an hour of their morning, let alone a day, without their large double double. To my compatriot’s defence, there was some controversy around ‘addictive substances’ like msg being added to the coffee. Regardless, if you asked me what the best coffee in the world was, I would’ve naively yet proudly proclaimed, Tim Hortons!

After purchasing a percolator we came to the sudden realization that we would need to grind the beans. I suggested we buy a coffee grinder but my partner insisted it was too “industrial” (he comes from an italian family and likes to do things by hand as often as possible). After my sight realigned from an over-exaggerated eye roll we agreed on using a mortar and pestle; and man am I glad we did!

The first to do was grinding the roasted coffee beans. I poured a handful into the mortar and pestle and began to crush them. I’ve never used one before but the process just felt natural. Instantly the room was infused with a vivid coffee aroma. When the beans became a fine ground, I brewed two beautiful cups of fresh coffee.

I find the whole process from trying something new, to uncovering novel techniques, to creating something from scratch (or near scratch), really rewarding. I find such exuberance in learning that the time and effort in creating gives even more satisfaction in the sharing and consuming. By questioning and trying we discover, and discovery is what life is about. It’s sad that our society has become so fast paced and industrialized that we can call text messaging ‘conversing’, processed frozen meals ‘food’ and instant coffee, ‘coffee’. I believe we should reject these notions and begin to rediscover the human connection in speaking face to face, the vibrancy and nutrition in preparing food from fresh ingredients and the warmth from grinding and brewing your very own cup of real coffee.

I am grateful for curiosity and discovery.

“Keep your thoughts positive because your thoughts become your words. Keep your words positive because your words become your behaviors.”

– Gandhi

As I mentioned in the previous post, I am a major advocate of positive thinking and it’s powerful effects. Today, I want to prove it to you.

A while ago a close family member was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. In a search to find alternative healing methods, I stumbled across some mental healing techniques. Sloughs of survivor stories made me think there might be something more to the power of thought then just trying to see the “glass half full”. I found an experiment that claimed to give concrete, visual evidence of the effect positive and negative thinking can have on a living organism. The results were compelling and it seemed very probable. But, just to be sure, I decided to try it myself.

The Carrot Story 

Four carrot tops were severed and placed into two equal sized containers, with the same amount of water, next to a window. On one container, we marked a plus sign (positive), and the other, a minus sign (negative). Over the next few weeks, my roommates and I said and thought of nice, positive and uplifting words to the carrots in the positive dish and horrible, ugly, negative things to the carrots in the negative dish. These are the results…

Day 1 (The carrots settle in)

Day 2 (Still looking strong)

Day 4 (We have sprouts!)

Day 7 (Look at the Positive carrots go!)

Day 8

Day 25 (The results. Hey, those negative carrots don't look so hot, let's take a closer look...)

Day 25 (No wonder, with all that negativity we were throwing their way)

This was remarkable visual evidence considering the only changing variable was positive and negative thought. The positive carrots remained orange and sprouted up high and proud. The negative carrot in the front didn’t even manage to sprout (maybe because he was baring the brunt of the negativity) while the other carrot managed to sprout a little, yet began decaying.

I believe this experiment can relate to our own lives. If thought has this effect externally on a vegetable, imagine what our mind can do to our own bodies. Sure you can be successful and ‘grow’ a little in a negative state of mind (like we saw with the carrot) but it also began rotting from the inside out. It’s an interesting metaphor for illness in humans (maybe this has some relevance to cancer? who knows).

For the naturally optimistic, you don’t need me or carrots to tell you positive thinking works, you live it. As for the self-prolaimed skeptics, I encourage you to doubt because the best part of it is, the experiment is so simple you can try it and see the results for yourself!

I’m grateful that each of us has the power to create our own realities.

It all started in Grade 7. My Language Arts teacher introduced “Magic Journals” to the curriculum. We were instructed to keep a log each day about special moments in our lives. At the time they seemed nothing more than a daily nuisance. There was nothing mystical, surprising or supernatural about a notebook full of college-ruled paper. We were 12 year old kids and the last thing we wanted to do was sit and reflect on “magic” in our lives. Looking back now, Mrs. Hanrahan was a genius.

It was later in life when I began to explore and question. Explore spirituality, question my religion. Explore the reason for living and question why I was taught to recite a religious prayer every night before bed – and was still doing it! Instead of reciting a rhyme I didn’t really understand night after night (a pretty morbid one, now that I think about it), I decided to stop. Feeling a bit lost uprooting a life long bed-time ritual, I decided to replace the prayer with something else. Something simple, something that felt right and most importantly, something that made sense to me; I decided to think of three things each day that I was genuinely grateful for.

Before starting such a routine, pessimism can overwhelm the best intentioned thoughts. We live in a society that tends to broadcast negative events relentlessly while disregard the good. It can leave one to think, well, I have nothing to be grateful for. I believe the following quote says it all:

“Let us rise up and be thankful,
for if we didn’t learn a lot today, at least we learned a little,
and if we didn’t learn a little,
at least we didn’t get sick,
and if we got sick, at least we didn’t die;
so, let us all be thankful.”

– Buddha

I am an advocate for the power of positive thinking. Call me a blind optimist but I believe thinking more about the good in life tends to bring more good. No matter the situation or circumstance we face, I believe we always have something in our lives that could be acknowledged with a Thank you. I dedicate this blog to sharing one a day, of the many things, I am immensely grateful for.

I’m grateful for blogging, so I can share my ideas.