Beth's Ponderings Without taking the time to celebrate how we are showing up in the world, we starve our hearts of acknowledgement. Without pausing to celebrate, we continue to pile up things on our ‘to do’ list, thinking we haven’t done enough. This is exactly how many of us create that sense of perpetual busyness, with no deeper sense of meaning for our efforts. Celebration, on the other hand, allows us to stop and enjoy what we have accomplished. It gives us that sense that we have made progress. We are moving forward. - Linda McLean We are right smack dab in the middle of one of the biggest celebration times of our year. Are you celebrating? Or are you frantically bustling about cramming your schedule full of activities, buying countless presents, attempting to re-create every Christmas tradition you had growing up (or wished you’d had growing up), and generally wearing yourself to an emotional and mental frazzle? Christmas is supposed to be a time of peace, of quiet reflection, of love, kindness and goodwill to others. But all too often it isn’t. Could it be because we are trying to make Christmas into something it isn’t really supposed to be? As the quote above references, we tend to fail to celebrate the smaller, daily moments, so when a big celebration comes up on the calendar, we tend to burden it with all our unacknowledged baggage, hoping that “this year will be different” and it usually isn’t. Celebrating doesn’t have to be complicated or elaborate. All you need to do is take a moment and say thank you for waking up this morning. Even if you aren’t where you think you should be in your life, you can still say thank you that you have the strength you need to get through whatever comes your way. And, by taking the time to celebrate the smaller things, you’ll be able to enjoy celebrating the bigger occasions, such as Christmas, with your family and friends, because what true celebration would be complete without some good food and fellowship involved? Merry Christmas!
Beth's Ponderings When a big change occurs in your life it forces you to change direction. Sometimes the new path may not be easy, but you can be absolutely certain that there is magnificence for you on the new path…the new path contains things that you could not have experienced otherwise. – Rhonda Bryne For me, the past few months (and last couple of years) have certainly been a time of big change, with changes across the board in terms of my career path and volunteer activities, daily and weekly routines, habits and foods eaten, hobbies and interests, sleep patterns and activity levels, as well as emotional and mental upheaval too. Practically every area of my life has experienced total and dramatic change. Many of the changes involved eliminating or cutting out something. A few introduced new things to my life. As a result of those many (and seemingly endless!) changes, I am healthier than I was, and despite still having a ways to go, in some respects, I’m healthier than I have ever been in my life. Every once in a while someone will ask me when I will reintroduce something I’ve cut out. Short answer: never! The reason I have been able to turn my health situation around is because I made the choice to change what needed to be changed. Why would I throw it all away now and head back down the path to illness? For example, that means I still have to be careful what I eat and avoid pretty much all veggies and dairy products. Now that I have a better idea what my body can handle and what it can’t, it is easier to make the right choices and know where I can take food risks and where I can’t. Also, I am not a Type A personality at all. I joked to someone once that the only thing 9-5 about me is the time I spend in bed sleeping at night. I work best, and feel best, when I have lots of flexibility and space in my schedule. Being at a desk and required times creates a lot of stress and strain in my body. Thus, returning to library work is not an option at this time. Thankfully, the paper is a better fit, and allows me to continue to grow and explore my new reality.
Beth's Ponderings How committed are you moving forward in your life? Not too long ago, the governor of the Bank of Canada gave some advice to unemployed youth and students suggesting they volunteer to get some experience instead of just sitting around doing nothing. His remarks have generated quite the backlash across the country and many people are disappointed and disgusted with what he said. I agree with him, and here’s why. What is the basic career advice given to older adults who are downsized out of a job, or who are nearing retirement, or looking for work after retirement? What are mothers, returning to the workforce after a prolonged absence to raise their children, told? They are told to gain experience and re-establish a good employment record, volunteer in a field that interests you. Once you have some experience and your foot is in the door, your chances of landing a job improve. The job may be with the organization you volunteer for, and if it isn’t, you have gained a valuable reference as you continue your search. So why should it be any different for a student, or anyone of any age who is having trouble landing a job? And what it really comes down to isn’t whether there are any jobs. At the end of the day, all that matters is how committed you are to your life, career path, and your community. I recently read about an entrepreneurial workshop in which the presenter laid out for an attendee the actual dollar and time commitment required for the first year of their proposed business idea (it was a lot!). The presenter then asked if the attendee was committed enough to spend that much time and money, because if they weren’t, the business wouldn’t last past the first month or hurtle, whichever came first. Yes, a paycheque is necessary to live, but how committed are you really to getting it, because if you are really committed to moving forward in your life, you’ll explore any avenue available to get you to where you want to be, even if it means volunteering. Who knows what doors it may open for you, and directions it may take you.
Beth's Ponderings Will this matter in 100 years? The statement above, along with multiple variations of years (5, 10, 20, 50, etc), has been repeated often in our family after many seemingly horrible or embarrassing events. One time when I was having difficulty with the university over something regarding my Masters program, and I was pacing around the house grumbling about the university staff making my life miserable, my mom asked if it would matter in 5 years. I responded that it wouldn't matter in 5 minutes, however it really mattered right now! I was reminded of that situation when my computer stopped working unexpectedly the day before I had to have this issue finished. Catastrophe in the extreme! Long story short, the problem was easy to fix - a single button had been accidentally pushed that had disabled most of the functions on my laptop. Button pushed again and all was quickly returned to proper working order. Whew... When looked at from the perspective of a longer bigger-picture view, it is true that the vast majority of what we fret, stew, worry, and get upset about isn’t that big a deal. Within a few minutes, hours, weeks or years, it will have made no obvious difference to our lives. However, it does matter in that particular instant. And that is the key. While it is always a good idea to look for the silver lining and not wallow in worry or gloom, it is also important not to suppress how we feel when things seem to go wrong in our lives. A study I read once said that it takes a mere 90 seconds for an emotion to be felt and dissipate through our bodies - provided we allow ourselves to feel it. If we don’t, it is stuck within our muscles forever, and the only way to remove, or process, it is through manipulation of the muscles by massage or other body work. By being honest and feeling what we feel in that brief 90-second moment, we can clear our minds and bodies like a summer storm clears the air, before moving forward to either finding a solution to our problem, or realizing that there isn’t actually a problem there at all. Beth Read the complete issue of The Chautauquahere. Contact The Chautauqua via email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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I love to dance. I took Highland Dance lessons for 23 years and earned my Teaching Certificate. I also took a year of Ballet, and as an adult, I enjoyed Irish Dance lessons for a couple of years. I also enjoy dancing waltzes, polkas, and two-stepping. My favourite part of gym class was the dancing - which always was too brief. When my sister was in Grade 9, I attended her gym class during the dancing weeks to provide another girl for the boys to dance with, and for the teacher to have a partner to demonstrate some of the dances. My Dad was a wonderful dancer, and it was a thrill every time I got a chance to dance with him. The very first time was when I was 15 at my Grade 9 Farewell at Mirror School. My Dad was from a family, and an era, where they all got together on the weekends to dance. When my parents met, Dad was involved in three dance clubs in Calgary and dancing most nights during the week. Once, following our performance at the Robbie Burns night in Camrose, a couple of veteran dancers decided they were going to teach my sister and I how to social dance. After a brief verbal lesson, the music started and we started dancing. They exclaimed, “You know how to dance!” Seemed very few “young” people they knew could waltz. I also enjoy dancing around the room with my 4 year old niece who enjoys any type of music or rhythm. Recently, I came across this quotation... “Optimist: Someone who figures that taking a step backward after taking a step forward is not a disaster, it's a cha-cha.” ― Robert Brault It was also a very timely reminder that the healing journey I’m on isn’t a linear Point A to Point B to Point C, etc. journey, but more of a graceful dance circling around, sometimes revisiting a spot I’ve already been before - which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. And it reminded me of another famous dance quotation… “Life’s a dance, you learn as you go. Sometimes you lead, sometimes you follow. Don’t worry about what you don’t know. Life’s a dance, you learn as you go.” (sung by John Michael Montgomery) Beth Read the complete issue of The Chautauqua here. Contact The Chautauqua via email: email@example.com
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Beth's Ponderings Scientists and researchers have told us that we’re victims of our genetics, that the neural pathways in our brains become fixed, and that we are born with a set point (level) of happiness and optimism. Yet, newer studies show beyond any doubt that not only can our genetics been altered by our environment/emotions/thoughts, that our brains are very plastic and our neural pathways can be changed or created at will, and our happiness/optimism set points are not set in stone. If we are able to change ourselves - even below the cellular level - why do some people seem incapable of changing, even when their existence depends on it? Why do some people go around like they have a dark cloud over them wherever they go, spreading doom and gloom? We are - from very early childhood - encouraged to try new foods, new activities, learn new information and skills, go on new adventures, develop new habits and more. That is a good thing and important for growth. However, everyone is unique and what might appeal to one person will turn off another. What may work like a charm for you, may not for me. As you try new activities, learn new skills, and go on new adventures, which ones do you want to repeat? The ones that most closely align with your innate personality. Someone who is naturally rhythmic and is always humming may benefit from activities such as learning how to play a new musical instrument, learning a new style of dance, or being introduced to a different form of music than they normally listen to. On the other hand, they probably would not be drawn to activities that require them to do complex mathematical tasks, or that require them to remain completely motionless for long stretches of time. While there is much we can change about ourselves, the best and most lasting changes, are those that “come naturally” to us. Could it be that optimism and pessimism - and thus the secret to success - have more to do with how “naturally” you are living your life, than about what is happening around and to you?
Beth's Ponderings “Home is where the heart is” - we’ve probably all heard this quote many times in our lives, and may have even used it a time or two ourselves. To some people, this refers to the building in which they reside. They take great pride in their houses and yards, making them as large and beautiful as they can. They invest lots of time, money and energy into these dwellings. In some cases, to the point that it no longer appears as if real people live in the home, it is just so perfect. In other cases, the home in question could refer to the workplace, if that is where you end up spending the majority of your time and energy. Along a similar vein, time spent on special hobbies could be considered a home as you often put your best efforts - aka heart - into them. To others, the home refers to the people around them. This includes family members, close friends, and work colleagues. It is the daily interactions with the people you love the most that makes a home. But here’s another way to look at that quote. Where is your real heart? I’m referring to the organ that pumps blood around your body and keeps you alive. It’s in the middle of your torso, in your body. So that means that home is literally your body. How many of us feel “at home” in our bodies? How many of us can say we feel totally comfortable in our own skin? If we look around us, we see countless ads and products for improving our bodies from makeup to exercise equipment, diets to surgery, and much more. As a society, we tend to either put too much emphasis on changing our bodies - thus hiding them behind a mask or veneer - or too much emphasis on neglecting our bodies - through poor habits or certain mental or spiritual pursuits. We tend to have a public and a private persona and what other people see depends on our location. What would happen if you let yourself be totally at home in your body? As you are, who you are. And what would happen if you shared that particular you with those around you?
Beth's Ponderings Does it feel like time is going by faster and faster the older you get? If it does, you’re not imagining it. Time really is going faster, though probably not for the reason you think it is. Scientists, particularly quantum physicists, have discovered that time really is relative to where you (or the clock) are in relation to the gravitational field, and whether you (or the clock) are moving or not. The closer you are to the centre of the gravitational field, the slower time goes. Additionally, if you are moving, time goes faster than if you are stationary. Realize, of course, that we are never totally stationary as we are on a rotating planet that revolves around the sun. What does that mean? Your head travels faster than your feet - even if (or especially if) you are standing still. While the difference in speed is so minute you’d need a special clock to record the extremely small increment changes, your body registers the difference, and it does have an impact on you. That is one reason why time goes slower for children - they are closer to the ground. Which is why it takes so long for Christmas or a birthday to arrive for a child, yet it seems like yesterday was Christmas to adults. The view of watching scenery go by you as you drive not only creates an illusion of time passing quickly, it really is passing more quickly. Again, not enough for us to register on a normal clock, yet our bodies notice. Ever experienced jetlag after a flight? It wasn’t the time zone difference that caused it. How do you slow down time? One way is by not moving around so much in high speed vehicles - use a slower means of travel such as bike or walking. Being active is important to health, however we should engage in moderate activities with rests interspersed throughout, rather than rushing through one event and then rushing to another and then another all day long. As well, put your feet and head on the same level for a few moments during the day - preferably as close to the floor as possible - will help to even out your body’s perception of the passing time.
Beth's Ponderings It’s been a while since I gave a health update, so I guess it is time for another one. It has now been 15 months since my life turned upside down and I started on this particular journey. When I started, I was told that normal (i.e. relaxed) muscles look something like this… ________________________________________
with blood vessels and nerves in between
With the liver stress, and everything else, mine were like this… ________________________________________ ________________________________________
My blood vessels and nerves had to really strain and work overtime to try and get anything through. No wonder I felt totally exhausted! So the past 15 months have been spent trying to release the muscles, as well as figure out what exactly was triggering them to constrict so tightly and stay tight. Through much trial and error, and various leaps forward, as well as great setbacks, progress has been made. The muscles are releasing a bit at a time and are about halfway released. While the release is positive and necessary for healing, it isn't without what feels like drawbacks. Now that the muscles are loosening, any toxins, emotional energy, etc. that have been chronically stuck in the muscles are also being released and flooding into my system. Unfortunately, my liver is still not up to processing such a flood so is still acting stressed at times which means my energy levels tend to bottom out. As I explained to one person, it could be said that I’m improving by inches daily, however the scale is not a yardstick but rather a mile, so there still many inches to go.
If you could say anything to anyone, what would you say? I came across the above thought in a book I read recently. Now, there are different ways of looking at this. You could look at it from the angle of what wisdom would you like to leave behind for people as your personal legacy. Or, you could approach it from the angle of healing a troubled relationship - past or present. Or, do you need to say something to end a current relationship that is poisoning your life? Perhaps there is someone you really want to meet - famous or otherwise - whom you’d love to ask that single burning question that has been circling around your brain forever. Ever been in a situation where you couldn’t think of what to say at the time but had a great reply or rebuttal hours later? You can probably think of someone, or a group of people, for all the above scenarios, as well as some I may have missed. So...if you could say anything, what would you say? So many of us think that we can’t say what we want, or need to say, because we fear the other person’s reaction, or because the person has died, or because we feel the person is too far out of reach for us to contact. But we don’t have to actually say it to the person. Yes, we often feel we need to be acknowledged, listened to, and understood, but the most important aspect of this is not the other person. And you can put your fears and concerns totally on hold. Write it down. Go somewhere where you are completely alone and say it aloud as you picture the person in front of you. If you feel comfortable after that step, you can share it with the person if possible, however, that step isn’t really necessary because after you say what you need to say, you will probably be quite surprised to discover that what you said isn’t for the other person after all, but rather something you needed to hear at this time. What is it that you, and only you, can express, to be fully you?
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What is the first thing we want to know when the rug is pulled out from under us? Why? Why did it happen? Why did that person do what they did? Why me??? We all do it. It is a very natural response. Yet, ultimately, it doesn’t matter at all why, it only matters what we do after. After the rug has been pulled out from under you, do you move forward, or sideways, or do you try to stay put, or even go backwards? It is impossible to go back, no matter how much we may wish our lives to return to the way they were before. It happened, it’s in the past, and it can’t be undone. You can only live from where you are now after the fact. Despite some appearances, you also can’t stay put. Life won’t let you remain in a static position. More changes keep coming at you, forcing you to keep making decisions. Moving sideways (or laterally) tends to have a bad rap in the business world as corporate types are encouraged to climb up the ladder of success. Yet, far too often, the worker is promoted right out of their area of expertise into a world of endless conference calls, meetings, and paperwork, which can result in chronic stress and health issues. Moving sideways - in business and life - gives you the chance to grow and be challenged, yet remain where your strengths and contributions are best served. It also allows you to test the waters of endeavours you wish to explore without changing your entire life. Instead of moving up a ladder, you are circling up a spiral. Moving forward can be thought of as the great leaps of life such as when you have to make great changes across all areas of your life. While moving forward is considered the ideal, there is a dark side to it as some people use the massive changes involved in moving forward as an excuse to hide from whatever caused the rug to be pulled out in the first place. Whether moving sideways or forward, you know you’re on the right track if you feel a sense of timelessness and relaxing of body tension.