Posted by: jude49 | February 19, 2015

“Being” Kind

Hello All,

“Do three acts of kindness a day, and you’ll feel better.” Words from my supervisor in the 1990’s. There was something that didn’t sit right with me about her declaration even then. But I didn’t know what it was until now.

Doing kind things is good. Being kind or developing a kind heart are two different things. Let me explain. I can set out to do 3 kind things and then be quite miserable to myself and others for the rest of the day. Or I can say, “Whew, I’ve put in my kindness portion for the day, and now I can relax.” Or I can choose 3 kindnesses I want to do and implement them. But all of the above does not mean you ARE kind.

Being kind is a choice…to be kind to those who don’t necessarily treat you kindly; being kind when you’re having a bad day; being kind to those who try your patience; being kind to those you perceive are actually presently doing you harm…

Being kind to all people under all circumstances is hard, hard work. It requires focus, pure love and dedication.  It means seeing beyond unacceptable behaviors and outbursts of negative feelings. It means seeing the intentions of the person. Intentions are positively motivated. The best of intentions are expressed, many times, in negative ways.

Being kind is a process that begins with you! Being kind to you consistently gradually ripples into being kind to others.

Does being kind mean you a doormat and let people walk over you? No! It means using empathy, asking yourself what is behind their behaviors/feelings, talking things out when cool heads prevail or simply walking away.

In the past few weeks, I have struggled to “be” kind to a family with two dogs who live close by. The dogs scare me, and they scare my dog. From what I’ve heard, other dog owners are frightened of them as well. When I am scared and feel protective of my dog, I can be reactive. And that’s what happened a few weeks ago. I said some things I wish I wouldn’t have said…all in all, in resulted in a short, heated exchange between me and the owners of the other dogs.

As I have reflected on the incident, I have concluded that I don’t want to be reactive. It’s just negative energy I can do with out. I want to be kind. I have had a few occasions to see the owners and dogs since then. Although we haven’t spoken (I don’t think the timing is quite right for that), I have viewed them more kindly. My thoughts and feelings towards them and their dogs have changed. I feel compassion. I send them compassionate energy. I send them hope…hope that they can receive the help they need to better manage their dogs. I refuse to think or say unkind things. I don’t know the full circumstances around the owners, their dogs…who am I to judge what I do not know? So, for now, I send them blessings. It’s hard work; it’s rewarding work.

The world is full of negative situations…how can we cultivate a kinder heart in the midst of what seems to be a world that is less and less kind?

Recommended Readings: Dr. Rick Hanson, Dr. Tara Brach, Dr. Elisha Goldstein, Jack Kornfield (Google them…great wisdom available!)

Blessings,

Judith

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Posted by: jude49 | December 19, 2014

My Most Memorable Christmas Present

Hello All,

My most memorable and precious Christmas gift came from my mom when she was in her eighties. She and my dad were living on Vancouver Island, B.C., and I was living in London, ON.

When I opened the box my mom sent, I saw 6 prune cakes. She had made them, and I had tasted them many times before. Tasty!

She had included a letter which included an apology that the prune cakes were slightly burned. I didn’t pay much attention to that statement. My mom had been a professional cook and baker before she married; after her marriage, she still continued cooking, on occasion, for a previous employer. I doubt she had ever burned anything!

When I opened the wrapping, I noticed that the bottoms of the cakes were slightly over-cooked. They still tasted good.

When I phoned to thank her, she was resting, and I talked to my dad. He told me that my mom had wanted to bake me something for Christmas. She had spent 2 days on her feet making the cakes. My mom’s knees were arthritic, and dad told me she was in great pain when she was baking. It was difficult for her to stand. Dad had suggested that she stop, but she refused. She wanted me to have the cakes.

Looking back now, I think she had a premonition that these cakes would be her last baking gift to me. And she was right. She had chosen not to bake me her wonderful cinnamon buns or her one-of-her-kind cookies, but something healthy, something that could be frozen, something practical, something that would last.

Every time I ate a slice of prune cake, I remembered her willing sacrifice for me. I savoured the cake more than usual. I could “feel” her love for me in the cakes. And the burnt pieces…they were the best part.

A gift from the heart…one made with love and perseverance. Thank you, mom.

May you be reminded of special gifts this Christmas!

with love,

Judith

 

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Posted by: jude49 | November 24, 2014

Relish the Moment!

Hello Readers,

I had just received six new books which I immediately wanted to delve into…however, my dog, Gemma, had other plans. She sat on the pillow next to me, touched my arm with her paw and snuggled closer. I knew what was coming next…sloppy kisses!

A feeling of irritation swept through me. “Not now, Gemmie,” I wanted to say. As I started to open a book, I stopped. “Why must I read this book now?” I asked myself. I put the book down and leaned towards Gemma. We had a pleasant time “being” together. After our snuggle, Gem turned the other way and went to sleep. I opened one of my books and started to read.

Usually when Gemma wants to snuggle, I divide my energy and focus…petting her haphazardly and working on one of my tasks equally haphazardly. After a few minutes, I usually ignore her and focus on what I feel I need to do at the time. I admit that I feel sad when Gem realizes that I’m not her priority, turns away and moves to another part of the bed.

What was the lesson I learned?

Snuggling with Gemma was enjoyable. I let myself be and enjoyed her. When she went to sleep, and I went to work, I felt satisfied. By relishing the time I spent with Gemma, I could put my full energy into my work. No guilt! And more accomplished! And a happy Gemma and a happy me!

What meaning do you make of this post? Does it encourage you to stop multi-tasking?

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As usual, comments are welcome.

Warmly,

Judith

Posted by: jude49 | October 19, 2014

What Happened to the Life I Planned?

Dear Readers,

Death is often viewed as the biggest loss anyone can encounter. I’m wondering if that is true…Certainly it is the loss that receives the most attention…obituary notices, wakes, celebrations of life, etc. I don’t want to demean the devastation that death of a loved one causes, but there are other losses that result in a quiet and often desperate deprivation of the human spirit. Often, they go unnoticed, unacknowledged and unmourned. 

And, then, at some point, there’s a realization that, “I’m not where I wanted to be. I thought by now, I’d still be married to the same man, enjoying my grandchildren, travelling… But I’m alone and still working. I don’t know what happened.”

Loss of expectations, loss of what “could have been” is heartbreaking and can result in shame, guilt and regret. 

What to do?

  • Mourn your losses
  • Count your blessings
  • Identify the positives, what you’ve learned on your journey so far
  • Remember, you can’t change the past; however you can LESSEN the IMPACT the past has on you 
  • Identify reachable goals and work towards them regularly & consistently
  • Change/modify beliefs and expectations
  • Refuse to compare yourself with others
  • Move forward with faith and hope
  • Identify and get involved in your interests/passions
  • Invest in a therapist or life-coach who will help you move towards positive growth
  • Stay in the present and enjoy it!

The key point is to accept life “as it is” and not as it “should” be. Many times, our dream lifestyle doesn’t turn out to be such a dream after all. Keep moving toward your goal and don’t give up!

Blessings, 

Judith

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Posted by: jude49 | September 25, 2014

Anxious? Finding It Hard to Make a Decision? Here’s how…

Hello Readers,

Anxious women often find it difficult to make decisions. Why? Here are some clues…

  • Anxious women are often placators/pleasers…and they seek to make others happy, often at great personal expense
  • Anxious women often feel it their responsibility to make others happy
  • Anxious women often make decisions from a place of fear, guilt, frustration, anger…
  • Anxious women fear the consequences of making decisions (“My kid is going to hate me if I do this”…”My friend will desert me”..”.Some of my family members are going to criticize me”)
  • Anxious women often make decisions when they are feeling “big” emotions (e.g. feeling overwhelmed, angry, frightened)
  • Anxious women feel that their decisions won’t be respected by others, and they will be met with disrespectful behaviors (“You don’t love me”…”If you were a good mom, you wouldn’t make this choice”…”You’re selfish”) that will result in them backing down
  • Anxious women often wait for the “right” moment (timing is important, but sometimes there isn’t any right moment…Putting off making the decision often results in more anxiety.)
  • Anxious women are worried that they may not word their decision in the right way…
  • Anxious women avoid conflict at all costs. They keep their feelings inside and can find it a struggle to manage their emotions
  • Anxious women often put their “happy” face on in public while their insides are churning with discomforting emotions
  • Anxious women keep reviewing the situation over and over in their minds and seldom feel peace

How do you, as a woman experiencing anxiety, make good reasoned decisions?

Here are some pointers:

  • Make sure you are calm and coming from a positive place of strength and calm when you make the decision. (A couple of ways of calming yourself are following your breath in and out, visualizing a calm place in nature…) If the discussion becomes too heated, take a break. Nothing is resolved in anger
  • Use empathy…put yourself in the other’s shoes
  • State your request clearly, directly and calmly
  • Keep your focus on the issue at hand. When the decision is one that is  probably difficult for the other to hear, there is often an attempt to distract (e.g. “You don’t love me.” …”Aunt Jane told me you’ve never been good at making decisions”) Refrain from engaging and re-focus on the issue at hand.
  • Make sure your decision results in positive change/growth for all concerned
  • Sometimes decisions that were made previously need adjusting…sticking to a decision that is no longer serves a positive purpose keeps everyone stuck and results in negative energy

Description of DESO Script

(Based on DESO script developed by Dr. Randy Paterson in “The Assertiveness Workbook”)

D means describing the situation

–define situation concisely

–focus on behavior, not personality (“You’re lazy”) or intentions (“You’re doing this to make me mad”)

E means expressing/stating (not acting them out) your emotions clearly

–emphasize the positive, the strengths

–use “I” statements (“I feel angry when I see you roll your eyes” rather than “You make me angry when you roll your eyes”)

S means specifying what you want to happen

–decide what you what ahead of time…practice what you want to say and how you want to say it

–be clear and brief (one or two sentences)

–frame the request positively (“I need you to check with me before you take the car” rather than “It’s inconsiderate of you to take the car before checking with me”)

–focus on behavior (“I need you to listen to me without interrupting, rolling your eyes or making faces” rather than “Don’t be so disrespectful”)

–specify what you want (“I want you to water the garden within the next 30 minutes”…”I expect you to come up with 2 meal plans for next week and not use more than X amount of money” “When you are feeling angry, I need you to write down what you want from me rather than shouting at me”

O means outcome…consequences, positive and/or negative

—feelings…”If you would tell me what you are feeling and what I can do to help, I’ll feel less overwhelmed”

…positive concrete results (usually phrased as when/then)…When you have finished doing your chores, then you can go swimming with your friends”

—negative concrete results…”It’s unfortunate that you chose to take the car out without asking me. You don’t have car privileges this week-end”

Example

Situation:

An adult sibling writes an e-mail criticizing one of her siblings about her failure as a parent. This criticism has been on-going from other siblings as well over a long period of time. Even though the sibling who is being criticized has had challenges with her children, all of them are doing reasonably well and moving towards positive change.

Impact:

The sibling who is being criticized feels overwhelmed, angry and discouraged.

What is Wanted:

The sibling being criticized wants her siblings to stop criticizing her and treat her respectfully (e.g. refrain from judgment, listen to her perspective, respect her decision even if they disagree, stop bringing up past mistakes).

Describe

Hi Julie, I rec’d your e-mail this morning. I was glad to see your name come up on my computer screen. And then I read your e-mail, again criticizing my parenting skills from when my children were younger.

Emotion

I feel sad and discouraged when I read your comments about how I parented my children years ago when they were little. I did the best I could with what I knew at that time.

Specify

Julie, you’re my sister, and I want to have a loving and supportive relationship with you. I’d like you to stop talking about the mistakes I made in the past and focus on the good relationship I have with my children now.

Outcome

Julie, I can’t change the past. I can only make changes in the present and continue to do my best in the future. If you choose to focus on the mistakes I made twenty years ago, I will need to distance myself from you. Hopefully, you will choose to see me for who I am now and focus on “growing” our relationship forward.

Is this DESO script helpful?

Judith

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Posted by: jude49 | August 5, 2014

Keeping Calm in Summer’s Heat

Hello Readers,

In my part of the world (Vancouver, B.C.) and in many other parts of the universe, it’s hot! Hot weather and anxiety don’t mix well. When you feel anxious, you often feel hot. So here are some tips I have used to keep cool and calm in the heat.

  • Drink water; flavor it with real fruit or sliced cucumbers. Avoid soft drinks, coffee, energy drinks and alcohol.
  • Eat hydrating foods like melon, watermelon, cucumber, radishes, broccoli, cauliflower, tomatoes, peppers…
  • Eat small meals more often.
  • Avoid using the stove. If you need to cook/bake, use it in the morning or evening.
  • Wear looser clothing, preferably cotton.
  • Wear a hat, preferably one with a brim that shades your face and neck.
  • Take soothing baths in tepid/cool water. Adding epsom salts and/or baking soda helps take the sting out of bites.
  • Walk barefoot as much as you can. Let your feet breathe. When wearing shoes, wear cotton socks.
  • Wear less make-up.
  • Keep your hair shorter or ponytail it.
  • Walk in the morning and/or the evening. Stay indoors…at home, in the air-conditioned library or mall…during the hot afternoon hours.
  • Freeze water bottles. When you go outside, grab one. You can drink from it…and you can rub the outside of the bottle on your face, arms and legs to keep cool.
  • Have ice in your freezer to rub over your face, legs, chest and arms to cool you down.
  • Make your own popsicles or freeze fruit (blueberries, strawberries, etc) in water in an ice cube tray.
  • Store your lotions in the fridge (a tip from my mom)
  • Put some ice in your hat and flip it on your head (a life-guarding tip)
  • Ditch your quilts/duvet. Use a single sheet for a cover. Put your sheets in the fridge for a few hours before you go to sleep. Cool sheets will help you sleep.

Enjoy summer!

Warm Wishes,

Judith

 

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Posted by: jude49 | July 10, 2014

What Stories Do You Tell Yourself?

Hello Readers,

I love stories! However, there is one kind of story that is dangerous… and that story is the one you tell yourself that is based on assumptions and faulty interpretation. Here is one example…

Story 

A client discovers she has some health problems. She takes the information her physician gives her and carefully reviews it. Questions arise. She creates a story based on her interpretation of the facts. As well, she consults Google and visits medical sites that create more questions. She makes assumptions. Her story changes. The more she thinks about her condition, the anxiety mounts. She makes her own dire diagnosis. Finally, the anxiety becomes too much for her, and, in tears, she phones her physician in utter panic. After listening to her, he tells her than her interpretation is faulty, and he reassures her that her medical condition is very treatable.

Analysis

  • First, there is always more than one interpretation to every situation, every issue.
  • Second, she “trusts” Google sites that can only give general information.
  • Third, she views her interpretations and assumptions as fact.
  • Fourth, she builds her anxiety by focusing on what she “believes” will happen.

What Could She Have Done Differently?

  • Told herself that interpretations and assumptions are just that and not facts.
  • Phoned her physician and checked out her assumptions/interpretations with him.
  • Resisted googling her “medical condition.”
  • Kept herself calm by focusing on her breath and/or her place(s) of peace.
  • Stayed in the present moment.

So much of what you worry about never happens. In the example of my client, all that worry was negative energy that could have been put to better use by focusing on quieting her busy mind. When your mind is quiet, you then have the ability to make good decisions because you are not overwhelmed by “big” emotions.

The worst stories you tell yourself usually happen when you are:

  • fatigued
  • triggered
  • hungry
  • experiencing a change in routine or have had your routine abruptly changed by an unexpected event

Next time you are tempted to tell yourself a story about yourself, meditate first. Doing so will help reduce those “big” emotions, calm down and see issues in perspective. When that happens, you can make a reasoned rather than a reactive decision. Your body and mind will thank you for being kind and compassionate.

Challenge: When you find yourself moving into anxiety, can you stop yourself and listen to the story you’re telling yourself and stop it by going to your place of peace?

Blessings,

Judith

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Posted by: jude49 | June 21, 2014

Have you said hello to the crows today?

Dear Readers,

Last week as I walked out of my condo building, I was met by a few pre-schoolers. One of them pointed to the trees, waved hello and said, “Hi crow.” Until then, I hadn’t even noticed the crows!

Later as I was thinking about that experience, I realized that I “see” crows negatively.  Their loud cries of  “caw, caw, caw” remind me of my many times spent on my relatives’ farms in Alberta. Just hearing the distinctive cry of the crows brought worry about the crows. I remember various relatives chasing the crows away. Crows weren’t popular there. I remember seeing numerous scarecrows, built specifically to hopefully divert the crows away from eating the crops.

Today, as I again walked my dog, I heard the crows.  My reaction to them was different. I found their cries comforting.  I smiled. And in my mind, I said hello to the crows.

What made the difference?  I credit that little 4 year old girl for helping me view crows more positively. Today after my walk, I googled crows. I found that they are highly intelligent birds and that they are not picky eaters…both a positive and a negative.

I don’t know why that little girl said hi to the crows. I do know what I saw. Her eyes were bright; her smile was wide. What I heard was an enthusiasm and a joyfulness in her voice. She was present in the moment. She was living in the now. And the result for me was that she changed my perspective on crows. And I thank her!

What is the meaning that I take from this experience? My experience with crows was based on my childhood perceptions. Crows were bad; they could and did destroy crops. However, that is where my understanding of crows stopped. I never researched them. I just continued to view them negatively.

Now I have a more balanced view of crows. I know the positives and negatives. Truthfully, I like them better than I once did!

People are like crows. Many times we have negative experiences with individuals and we keep those perceptions.  We stop “knowing” that person. Our negative experience becomes their identity. We forget that they are more than our negative experiences with them.

My challenge to you: Is there someone in your life that you feel negatively toward based on one or a few negative experiences?  Are you able to open your heart and mind and be curious about who that person really is? Are you willing to be more flexible and open-minded and see that they are more than a few negative experiences?

Warmly,

Judith

Comments always welcome!

I invite you to visit my web-site at http://www.judithbarnard.com

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Posted by: jude49 | June 15, 2014

Chocolate Golf Balls for Dad

Hello All,

Father’s Day holds a special place in my heart.  Here is one of my favorite memories of my dad.

On a trip back from Utah where I had received one of my degrees, we stopped at a gas station.  While dad was filling up the gas tank, mom and I were in the little convenience store picking out some treats.  We were looking over the selection of chocolate bars, and I asked her what kind of chocolate bars dad liked.  “Oh your dad doesn’t like chocolate,” she replied.  I remember looking at her with disbelief, but I didn’t say anything.  I paid for my treats and headed out to the car to talk to dad.  “Mom says you don’t like chocolate.” My dad chuckled.  “I love chocolate,” was his response.  “Then why did she say you don’t,” I asked.

My dad was a teacher and he told me that he’d receive lots of chocolate from his students and their parents. When he’d come home, he’d welcome my mom, put his treasures on the dining room table and go upstairs to change his clothes.  When he’d come downstairs, the chocolate on the dining room was gone!

I thought it terrible my mother would “steal” his chocolate so the next Father’s Day, I bought him 12 solid chocolate golf balls! I made sure that when I gave them to him my mom was not looking.  I told him he was not to share them with mom. Since mom regularly cleaned his room (even though dad kept it tidy and clean), I told dad he’d have to find a very safe place to hide the chocolate.  He smiled.

Several months later, dad told me he had ate through most of the chocolate golf balls.  He said it was a treat each night to watch television and gnaw on one of his golf balls.  When he finally finished eating all the chocolate golf balls, I decided to tell my mom.  I must admit she took it gracefully.  Dad continued to share “his” chocolate with mom, and mom even bought dad some chocolate…once in a while.

But for one time that I know of, dad didn’t have to chocolate.  I’m glad!

Love you, dad. Miss you, dad.

love, Judith

 

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Posted by: jude49 | May 23, 2014

Wisdom From Our Canine Friends

Hello All,

Dr. Daniel Siegel and his colleague, Dr. David Rock, created The Healthy Mind Platter (see below) as a helpful tool to identify seven mental habits that, when practiced consistently, result in optimum well-being.

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As I have thought about this useful tool lately, I have realized that dogs, our canine friends, model these seven essential daily mental activities much better than we humans!

According to Drs. Siegel and Rock, the seven essential daily mental activities are:

 Focus Time. When we closely focus on tasks in a goal-oriented way, taking on challenges that make deep connections in the brain.

Play Time. When we allow ourselves to be spontaneous or creative, playfully enjoying novel experiences, which helps make new connections in the brain.

Connecting Time. When we connect with other people, ideally in person, or take time to appreciate our connection to the natural world around us, richly activating the brain’s relational circuitry.

Physical Time. When we move our bodies, aerobically if medically possible, which strengthens the brain in many ways.

Time In. When we quietly reflect internally, focusing on sensations, images, feelings and thoughts, helping to better integrate the brain.

Down Time. When we are non-focused, without any specific goal, and let our mind wander or simply relax, which helps our brain recharge.

Sleep Time. When we give the brain the rest it needs to consolidate learning and recover from the experiences of the day. (Excerpt from Announcing the Healthy Mind Platter by Dr. David Rock in Psychology Today, June 2, 2011)

Now, let’s look at how my dog, Gemma, models these mental activities.

  • Time In.  My patio doors are usually open, and a few times a day, Gemma will head outside to the balcony and sit on her flowerpot or her mat.  From her flowerpot perch, she can feel the sun, hear the sounds of nature, smell and see nature. I don’t know what Gemma is feeling or thinking.  What I do know is that she, on her own, irregardless of what I’m doing, finds her way to the balcony at least once or twice a day. (And, no, she does not use her “pot” for a bathroom.)

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  • Physical Time.  Gemma is an energetic and enthusiastic Jack Russell.  She loves to run and explore.  Here she is at the off-leash dog park close to our home.  She loves to climb over logs, roll over in the grass and dip her toes into the water.

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  • Focus Time  One of Gemma’s favorite activities is to chew, with great gusto, the big rawhide bones I buy her. Another enjoyable activity is demolishing, with great glee, her inexpensive stuffed animals.  As you can see from the photo below, she is focused on tearing a stuffed duck my sister gave her for Christmas.  By the time we left later that afternoon, there was little left of the duck!

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  • Down Time  Here is a picture of Gemma after a good run.  She’s on our bed (I say “our bed” as I am lucky if I manage to sleep on 1/4 of it!) just “being.”

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  • Connecting Time  Gemma enthusiastically greets humans and other dogs.  She usually doesn’t stay around to “chat” much, but she does like to say hello.  A few times, she will wrestle with the other dogs, but she’s happiest when she’s running and exploring. She tries to connect with the geese, birds and cats, as well, but they are skeptical of her intentions! The picture below shows Gemma and her friend “connecting” at a Dogs Hallowe’en Party.  (Yes, she did have a costume, but she wriggled out of it quickly!)

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  • Play Time  As I have a home business, Gemma is always present.  She is terrific at playing independently.  She can always find something to keep herself occupied.  Here she is in her chair alternating between chewing her bone and ripping apart a rope toy.

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  • Sleep Time  I always know Gemma wants to sleep when she curls up in a ball.  Usually, she curls up beside me in bed and, in a few minutes, she’s sound asleep.

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What meaning do I make of this?

Gemma has been my dog for close to two years now.  She is about 7 years old.  She is a healthy, cheerful, good-natured, enthusiastic, calm, obedient, loving and empathic dog who seems to enjoy life to the fullest.  Yes, she is bothered by aggressive and barky dogs, but, instead of engaging in a tussle, she obeys my command to keep walking.

I am so grateful I was fortunate enough to find her.  She has enriched my life and taught me much about the principles of mindfulness.  Her well-being and happy “self” has enriched my life, and I know I am a calmer, less reactive woman because of her.

My challenge to you is, “What mindful qualities about your pet(s) that can help you live a calmer and emotionally healthier life?

As always, comments are welcome.

Blessings,

Judith

http://www.judithbarnard.com

judith@judithbarnard.com

I gratefully acknowledge Dr. Daniel Siegel.  I visit his web-site often and re-read his books frequently.

 

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