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New-Thought

Down the rabbit hole

When we fall down the rabbit hole, climbing out isn’t as hard as it seems.

It’s easy to get drawn into the negativity and drama. People have told me I’m too happy and should be more concerned.

Really?

With so much doom and gloom in the news, it’s easy to fall prey to perspectives promoting fear, hatred, and separation. All of which provide reasons to be afraid, cynical, and suspicious.

Why would I do that to myself?

Someone even sent me an article skewed by “facts” promoting judgment and hatred of another culture, telling me I needed to take a look at the real world.

I was initially angry, then humoured, then saddened as I dug deeper into the “statistics."

The so-called statistics meant nothing in light of the larger picture. The full perspective had not been shared, likely for good reason. Yet, people were willing to take it at face value, not looking further or asking an important question: whose interests are being served?

The person sharing the article felt these limited statistics were reason to dismiss concerns of the other culture. Sadly, this is not uncommon.

When we wear lenses of negativity, we’re often quick to assume the worst, and find more to be negative about. We’ll find more to support our own perspective; tending to look for things that support our beliefs and bias, blinding us to other facts.

While it’s important to be aware of world events, there’s wisdom in being aware of how far down the rabbit-hole we’ve been drawn. It’s important to wonder whose agenda is being served, and to dig a bit deeper.

I don’t wear rose-coloured glasses. I’m well aware of what’s happening in the larger world.

People lament there’s more bad news than good. That’s not the truth.

As I scanned recent headlines, the balance between happy and negative news was nearly 50/50.

The question is, which ones do I open first.

It’s about where I pay attention, and to which stories I give the biggest weight, or air-time.

Instead of focusing on negativity, I remember there’s more good in this world than there is bad.

I prefer to focus on, and be an advocate for, good. And what you focus on increases.

There was a time when I read every negative news story and spent the day discussing them, ruminating on why people were so mean, stupid, or dishonest.

My day was coloured by a back-drop of negativity, and I missed the good.

When I arrived home, I spent more time reliving the challenges from my day, ignoring all the wonderful things that happened. I gave more attention to challenges and problems, which were small, compared to all of the good thing.

I had a habit of negativity.

My health and happiness experienced the consequences.

Our bodies don’t know the difference between real and imagined. Every negative thought has a corresponding effect within the mind and body.

As the negativity grew, I felt depressed and cynical. My body grew sluggish.

The same is also true of positive thoughts. Positive thoughts create a cascade of beneficial chemicals within the body.

Think of a nice, yellow, juicy lemon for a few seconds, and you’ll salivate. The body responds to our thoughts, not just in noticeable ways like salivation, but also in ways we might not notice so readily.

It’s up to us which thoughts we choose to feed. It’s up to us which chemicals our cells are bathed in.

When I choose to focus on the negative, I am paying personal consequence for all the challenges of the world. When I do this, it affects my brain and body. My mind doesn’t work as well, my mood turns sour, and my overall health is affected.

Why would I do this to myself? How does this position me to make a positive difference?

I made a conscious choice to change my focus and change my mind. I chose to give more attention to the goodness in life than the negative. I’ve rewired my brain.

I’m grateful for the ability of the brain to change. With a more positive perspective, life’s become so much happier and my health is better.

This has not only benefitted me, personally, but has helped me to be more effective in contributing to make the world a better place.

Our tendencies of thought are just a habit. We can change our habits of thought by becoming aware of them. We can look for the good.

We are always at a point of choice. Making a new one surely helped me.

We all could use a little good news today.



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Get rid of your big but

Big buts and boomerangs are holding us back from enjoying the goodness in life.

In popular culture today, large, firm butts are considered attractive.

Just look at Jennifer Lopez and the Kardashians. People exercise to increase their glutes, get butt implants, and inject God-knows-what into their behinds to increase their size.

But what is true for physical beauty does not hold true for living a positively attractive life.

Have you ever offered someone a gift only to have them refuse to accept it, or to quickly give it back to you?

A physical gift, maybe not so much, but this is what commonly happens when compliments are offered.

Compliments are gifts.

Have you ever noticed the cultural trend to diminish the compliments offered?

I sure have.

When I offer an accolade, I’m saddened when my gift is refused, diminished, or returned. When, instead of having it accepted, I only get their big ‘buts’ or a boomerang compliment in return.

When I tell friends their hair looks fabulous, so often they criticize themselves, or question my opinion by adding, “but I’ve got so many split ends, or grey hairs.”

Recently, I saw a cartoon clearly depicting this societal norm.

In the first cartoon, a woman was complimented by her friends. She responded with all of the reasons why the compliment wasn’t true, pointing out her shortcomings. The friends all nodded and smiled.

In the second frame of the cartoon, the woman who was offered the compliment simply said thank you. Her friends were outraged and they attacked her.

Sadly, this cartoon is closer to reality than fiction. The buts are expected, and they’re often automatic.

Last week, I told a friend just how wonderful I thought she was and why. I really wanted her to hear me. It hangs in my memory, her sad eyes looking at me, saying “Thanks, but…”

She never finished her sentence. I don’t know what she was going to offer as the reason why I was wrong. I’m hoping she couldn’t think of one good reason, yet I’ll bet that wasn’t the case.

What I find interesting is the opposite, when we’re offered a criticism. Boy, we hold onto these babies and milk them for all they’re worth.

Curious isn’t it?

Compliments are refused, or they’re like water off a duck, yet negative statements are nurtured and held on to, sometimes for years.  Something’s wrong here.

I don’t know what’s up when it comes to compliments and criticism. It may be related, partly, to culture and to the negativity bias.

The negativity bias is an evolutionary capacity. It’s our tendency to give more air time to the negative than the positive. It’s the genetic predisposition to fear danger more than be aware of the good.

Negativity bias helped keep us alive back when sabre-toothed tigers were lurking in the jungle. We needed to pay more attention to lurking shadows, to what might threaten us, just to stay alive.

In the absence of sabre-toothed tigers and the like, we’re overusing this capacity when it’s not needed. We’re safer in modern society than we were when we lived in the wilds, yet continue to focus more on the negative, to our detriment.

It can cost us our health, as it keeps us in a state of fight-or-flight.

Most people appreciate positive acknowledgement from others, we may even seek it, yet dismiss or denigrate it when it’s offered.

What I do know is we’re more often critical of ourselves than we are praising. We’d never be as nasty to a friend.

The good news is we can rewire our brains from a negative focus to a positive one by becoming aware and practicing different neural pathways. We can take in our good, receive compliments, and not fear them. We can change this societal norm.

A more positive focus increases the beneficial chemical cascade within our bodies.

When we’re offered acknowledgement and praise it’s a gift another wants to share.

The most gracious thing we can do is to receive the gift with gratitude. In this, we acknowledge the other, but we also acknowledge ourselves. It’s OK to feel good about yourself.

What would it be if we were to graciously accept the gift of compliments offered with a simple, sincere thank you?

I dare you to try.

This is your challenge for the week. Only the brave dare attempt this challenge.



Thank you, annoying people

People can be so annoying. Argggghhhh!

Modern life’s filled with delays, demands, reasons to wait.

Life can become one big irritation.

Our shoulders tense and our faces grimace as we curse under our breath at yet another red light, slow driver, long line-up, or pressure to do even more.

A good day can become hell-in-a-handbasket as our internal thermostat of frustration and pressure continues to climb.

As the sense of frustration and stress accumulates throughout the day, we become like tightly wound springs.

If we stuff those feelings down inside, they make us sick, affecting our mental, emotional and physical health. 

We can end up releasing tension on unsuspecting, innocent people, safe people, like our families. When this happens, a whole new set of problems develop.

What to do?  Gratitude is a powerful antidote.

As a young person, it drove me crazy when my aunt would remind me to be grateful for my health and ability to walk when I was on a rant about something. I wanted to slug her. But she was on to something I didn’t understand. 

Just like me with my aunt, I’ve had people become frustrated and annoyed when they hear about the power of gratitude. They are likely the ones who’d benefit the most from this age-old practice.

Don’t be too quick to dismiss the power of this simple, yet effective exercise.

Science is revealing there’s wisdom in the old adage to be grateful.

The power of gratitude came to mind again recently when a friend, Midge, told me about a time when she made her living driving people to appointments. She’s such a sweet person and I couldn’t imagine a better companion for people needing a ride.

Yet, her frustration with traffic began to take a toll, and she didn’t feel so sweet.

By the end of the day, she was so filled with a physical sense of frustration, even her clothing became an irritation. She grew very unhappy. 

She’d have to go sit alone when she got home to decompress, just to allow her to take care of her family. She knew something had to change and she needed help.

The help came when she started to practice gratitude, but with a new twist I’d not heard of.

With each delay, Midge began to pause and list seven things she was grateful for.

With her new practice, red lights and traffic delays became an opportunity to pause and be grateful.

This simple practice was a game changer for her. Her sense of frustration fell dramatically, and her happiness and health increased.

Practising gratitude boosts the production of neuro-chemicals and hormones that support well-being. Our brains and our bodies benefit from practising gratitude.

Even if we can’t find anything to be grateful for, the mere practice of stopping to look for something to be grateful for creates a shift.

Or, you can up the power of gratitude.

While merely listing what we are grateful for is helpful, thinking of why we’re grateful for the items on our list enhances the benefits we receive.

Try this out for yourself, paying attention to how you feel inside.

Think of something you’re grateful for, pause for a moment and notice how you feel. Then list the reasons why you’re grateful. How do you feel now?

For example, my husband, Tom, is frequently on my gratitude list. That’s nice. 

But, when I consider all of his beautiful personal qualities and the amazing way he supports me, I can feel a deepening of my gratitude. Sometimes, I’m moved to lovely tears as I remember how blessed I am and I appreciate him even more.

And, what we appreciate grows. It appreciates.

For me, following Midge’s wisdom, I’ve expanded my gratitude practice. No longer is it something I do once a day. Gratitude’s now a practice I use throughout the day.

Especially when I notice a sense of tension in my body, I pause and list seven things I’m grateful for, and consider why I am grateful. It’s paying huge dividends.

It’s easy as I recognize the privilege of my life. The phrase "First World problems" often comes to mind as I realize I can choose to see the benefits of my life, or the challenges. So much of what I griped about as a challenge is actually a privilege not afforded to many in this world.

So, give gratitude a try.

You’ll be looking forward to those red lights and long line ups. When we use delays or frustrating people as a reminder to be grateful, we’re boosting our health, and enhancing our experience of life.

So many opportunities to practice. Thank you, annoying people.

Be like Midge. Thank you. I am grateful.





Living a life that matters

There’s nothing like the cold slap of a tragedy to wake us up.

If any of us were to condense our lives into a few brief minutes, what would we say?

If I were to check out of this world tomorrow, would I feel I’ve really lived, or would I feel like I wasted my time on things that didn’t really matter in the end?

These questions were brought to mind again this past weekend, as we celebrated the life of young Derek Flowers-Johnson. In his short life, Derek truly made a difference for good in the world.

I’ve made it a practice to stop periodically and ask myself how I want to spend my precious time on this planet, but even then, I fall asleep sometimes.

We all want our life to represent and stand for something. But, in the busyness of living, we sometimes forget to consider what’s really important.

Life’s filled with many things I consider a diversion from really living.

People are filled with ideas of great ways for me to spend my time.

But in the end, will those things even matter?

When life’s demands pull us along, from one activity to another, it’s easy to lose sight of what’s really of true and lasting value. We can get pulled off course.

We can become absorbed, spending so much of our life’s coin on making a living, that we forget to make a life.

My Dad was a company man who dedicated his working life to doing an excellent job for his employer. He rose through the ranks, he had many great accomplishments, he bettered the company, and he supported our family well, financially.

Dad spent a lot of time travelling, conducting trainings and investigations. He was a tough old bugger, but he was well respected.

Dad had no hobbies. He worked. He never took vacation. He’d drive us to Christina Lake, drop us off, and return the next day to Calgary, to work while we played.

When my older brother died at the age of 27, he received the shocking news and then he went to work. That’s what he thought he was supposed to do.

I keenly remember a day many years ago when Dad, now retired, reflected upon his life and how much he worked. The wheels of the company he was dedicated to kept on rolling after he left, like nothing happened.  Life goes on. He knew that.

I remember the sad look in his eyes, as he lamented, “if I’d only known how little it all mattered, I never would have lived my life that way.”

My beautiful Dad was filled with regret in his twilight years. Dad felt he had not spent himself, proportionally, in the areas of life that were of greatest importance to him in the end. He’d missed out on so much.

I’ve taken the lesson my Dad taught me, and use it to guide my life. I choose to spend myself on those things I consider of greatest value.

But we still need to make a living. We still need to work.

I believe our jobs are simply an opportunity, a vehicle through which we are able to engage with the world.

How we show up is what matters.

Our attitudes and the way we touch people is where the magic happens. This is what creates meaning in our lives.

For my Dad, he came to recognize the way he’d supported and cared for those he worked with was the magic.

Dad came to see what was of true and lasting value was the way he touched and influenced many lives, including mine.

When he was home, he was a present and loving father. He even let me curl his hair. Seeing this eased his burden of regret.

Dad recognized the quality of the time spent with us was where memories were made. It was about relationships.

We are each a unique piece to the puzzle of this thing called life. We’re all on this planet to spend ourselves in our own unique way, as no one else can.

What matters most to each of us will differ. Thank goodness we’re not cookie cutter people. That would be boring, and make us redundant. What’s important and of value to one person will not matter a lick to another.

For me, what’s of true and lasting value in life isn’t the material. It’s the way I’ve touched people’s lives. It’s about relationships, the way I’ve cared, and how I’ve made people feel. I want care to be my legacy.

Pausing to consider what we want our lives to stand for, what legacy we want to leave, certainly helps to clarify matters. We’re always at a point of making a new choice, of living a different way.

When we’ve gone off course, we must remember to be gentle with ourselves, as we reset our compasses to sail in the direction, we value most.

We are always in the process of becoming, no matter our age.

Today is an invitation to pause and consider, “What do you want your life to stand for?”



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About the Author

Corinne is first a wife, mother, and grandmother, whose eclectic background has created a rich alchemy that serves to inform her perspectives on life.

Corinne, a registered nurse with a master’s degree in Health Science, is a staff minister with the Centre for Spiritual Living Kelowna, and a hospice volunteer. She is an adjunct professor with the school of nursing  at UBC Okanagan, and is currently teaching smartUBC, a unique Mindfulness program offered at UBC, to the public. She is an invited speaker and presenter.

From diverse experience and knowledge, personally and professionally, Corinne has developed an extraordinary passion for helping people to gain a new perspective, awaken, and to recognize that we do not have to be a slave to our thoughts or to life; we are always at a point of change.

Through this column, Corinne blends her insights and research to provide food for the mind and the heart, to encourage an awakening of the power and potential within everyone.

Corinne lives in Kelowna with her husband of 41 years, and can be reached at [email protected].



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The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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