Nature Is All Around, Even When you Don’t See It…

Sometimes living in the city gives us the impression that we don’t have many aspects of nature around us. My family and I live in a suburb North of a city. We often see rabbits, squirrels and chipmunks wandering the yard.

A squirrel in the tree adjacent to my yard

This afternoon, my son and I were having a rather spirited snow ball fight in our back yard. Temperatures reached a warm high of 4 degrees, which is a welcome change to the frosty and foggy conditions we’ve had recently. While we were tossing snowballs at each other (with our dog Molly jumping around our legs) we noticed this cheeky squirrel chirping at us and leaping from one branch to the other.

It served as a great reminder that no matter where you live, nature finds a way to join in the fun!

This little guy seemed to be just as curious about us as we were about him! he hung around and chirped loudly at us for the longest time. Of course, maybe we were making too much noise and disturbing him.

With milder weather available, it’s important to get out and stay active. Get some fresh air, enjoy the outdoors and everything it has to offer.

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Why So Sensitive…?

Have you noticed that the world has changed its point of view significantly in the past ten years? Maybe it’s just me… I remember a time when people would speak with one another before a problem, became prominent, first and foremost, and everyone wasn’t so damned sensitive about everything.

“I identify as…”

“That offends me…”

“You know, SOME people may not appreciate your point of view…”

It seems as though no matter what you do nowadays, you can offend someone with almost anything you do. One of my favourites is how medical professionals have started getting offended when a patient offers up an opinion…“Oh, let me guess! You Googled that, didn’t you? Congratulations, you can searcgh for things online! Maybe you’d like to be the doctor???” Considering how many medical professionals I’ve dealt with due to my Type 1 Diabetes, I’ve had this retort thrown in my face on a number of occasions. I guess that all things considered, I can’t blame them! In my line of work, I’ve had people suggest that they know the law better than I do. Although that hasn’t saved them from getting charged. And with the World Wide Web at everyone’s fingertips, where does a professional draw the line in knowing when a client is simply postulating and not threatening your skills?

The other issue that seems to have changed radically in the past ten years is what I like to call “The Holiday Effect”. Canada is home to diverse cultures and multiple backgrounds. And even though we are living in 2019 and should all be able to just get along, this tends to cause an unmeasurable amount of head-butting! We see a great amount of that during the Christmas holidays. These days, saying “Merry Christmas” seems to have taken the wayside and the preferred greeting is “Happy Holidays”, so as to not offend those who may not celebrate Christmas.

Really? So just because you don’t celebrate Christmas, I can’t wish you a happy one, based on how I was raised? Seems kind of backwards, doesn’t it? Shouldn’t we be advanced enough in our development by now that we can respect and ACCEPT all beliefs and cultures?

As a Buddhist, I generally tell people that I am a student of all religions and beliefs. I pride myself on being open to anyone’s perspective (at least until I learn that it is realistically harmful to themselves or others, of course). But where do we draw the line at how far we are willing to change ourselves in order to accommodate others? And is it appropriate to do so?

Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that I change my habits to accommodate someone of different background or culture in order to accommodate them. Many would believe that it would be insensitive if I didn’t do so. How far does it go before it starts becoming insensitive to me?

These days, it seems everyone gets to choose the core aspects of themselves: Their name, their gender, EVERYTHING! And people get outright offended when you don’t refer to them based on their chosen lifestyle or perspective. And you know what? It’s okay to choose your own way of life. Maybe it’s not quite okay to get offended, and even angry, if I don’t understand, especially when I don’t know you.

A part of me believes that the advent of social media has made things worse. These issues have plagued the world for decades, but the arrival of information at the world’s fingertips has made it possible for us to hear about these things, even experience them in a much more comprehensive manner than we would of, say ten years ago.

The bottom line is this: No matter what your cultural, religious, racial or ancestral background may be, we can all co-exist. The world is a mighty big place (even at its current population of approximately 7,700,000,000 people (as per the World population Clock at http://www.worldometers.info/world-population/). But despite that fact, there’s room enough for us all to carry our beliefs with us, without disturbing or interfering with anyone else’s. If someone wishes you a Merry Christmas and you don’t celebrate it, no big deal! Just say thank you for the well wishes and move on. I’m certain your respective beliefs teach you to appreciate kindness, and it would be just that! If you identify in a way that may not be clear to other people, don’t get offended or angry; embrace your right to explain it so that people understand. We are all capable of learning, so take the opportunity to teach. If someone offers up a suggestion regarding something related to your professional trade, don’t take it as an insult; simply use it as an opportunity for open dialogue (and remember that YOU are the professional and the opinion is simply that: an opinion).

Let’s find the balance. Let’s learn to co-exist with one another. In a world where every culture is available and visible to the entire globe, it becomes more important than ever for us to learn to get along.

Balance!

We Sometimes Only Recognize The Light Because Of The Darkness…

Depression is a very real thing. Unfortunately, the term “depression” is thrown around far too much these days, as most people generally use it as a word to describe simply feeling down. The reality, however, is much more elaborate.

The American Psychiatric Association defines Depression as “a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think and how you act.” One of the big problems associated to depression is that the person in question will often be unaware that this is what they’re going through. The website goes on to describe some of the symptoms as changes in appetite, trouble sleeping or sleeping too much, loss of energy or increased fatigue and often obvious thoughts of death or suicide. These are just to name a few. More can be read on this at the actual website (https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/depression/what-is-depression)

I believe that most people have suffered from depression at some point in their lives. It’s not a sign of weakness nor is it a sign that they “can’t handle life.” Sometimes it sneaks up on us when we least expect it. Sometimes it comes as a result of matters that are outside our control, which is the case for yours truly.

It’s a lot easier to deal with if you happen to have a good support system in place. Great friends, great wife and an awesome four-year old Tasmanian Devil who destroys everything in his path but makes me giggle as he does so (that’s my boy!); these things all go a long way towards helping me deal with the frightening demons that accompany depression.

Sometimes I feel as though my body won’t respond to my brain ordering it out of bed. Some days I can’t seem to get to sleep, regardless of how exhausted I am, and when I do I’m plagued by nightmares. Motivation seems to bleed out of me for even the most beloved of activities (and I don’t think I need to explain how this can affect play time with a four-year old). There is constant pain and often lack of understanding as to how life could have gotten to this point… Any of this sound familiar to anyone out there?

The good news is that for the most part, depression is treatable. If you’re able to speak to someone, reach out. Your family doctor can definitely be a fantastic resource and can refer you to people who can help. If you or someone you know is in immediate danger of harming themselves, make sure to dial 911! Otherwise, the Canada Suicide Prevention Service can be reached by dealing 1-833-456-4566 and they even have a Crisis Text Line that you can reach by texting “TALK” to 686868. They have some different ways of contact, which you can check out here: https://thelifelinecanada.ca/help/crisis-centres/canadian-crisis-centres/?utm_source=google&utm_medium=cpc&utm_term=suicide%20hotline%20canada&utm_content=!acq!v3!39436515258_kwd-55273995352__288566371603_g_c__&utm_campaign=Branded+-+Canada&gclid=EAIaIQobChMIht_D-Kv-4AIVBS9pCh1RIwcsEAAYASAAEgJtq_D_BwE

The bottom line is that we wouldn’t recognize the light if it weren’t seen from the dark. There’s always a way out and it’s always worth fighting for. If there’s one thing that the past ten years have taught me, it’s that even though I’ve seen and dealt with things no person should have to, I know I can still find the strength to fight if I can just dig down deep. The strength you need is right there. Make sure you search for it, and never be afraid to ask for help.

Take care if yourself before you can take care of others!

National Nap Day

Today happens to be National Nap Day in the United States. Now, I happen to be Canadian but I am a firm advocate of the power of napping. Here are some facts…

Naps have been proven to increase memory and can even lower the amount of time it takes to fall asleep. There are a number of doctors who believe that naps are almost as important as exercise and should be included in your weekly routine the same way as exercising.

Some work industries actually believe in providing nap periods throughout the work day as studies have shown that a small nap in the middle of the work day can help increase productivity and imagination. The Japanese have this practice and they call it “inemuri” which means “to be asleep while present.”

Certain studies have found that napping can help reduce heart issues and just knowing a nap is coming can help lower your blood pressure. And contrary to popular opinion, napping will NOT affect the sleep you get at night. Of course, this is offset if you decide to nap for hours during the day. Then you start falling into a deep sleep cycle and can cause grogginess that can last despite coffee and the other fun stuff you may take to wake yourself up.

But the takeaway here is that naps can be good. So if it’s a rainy afternoon and you have a cozy couch and thick blanket, stretch out and let yourself drift off for half an hour to sixty minutes. I took a nap this afternoon, which is how I’ve managed to post twice today! Sleep well!

Fear Is Temporary. Regret Is Forever.

Many years ago, someone in my life once told me that “we often find our destiny on the road we least thought to travel.” I can’t recall who said it to me, but it’s been a guiding principle that I’ve followed throughout my entire life. The closest I’ve ever found to this saying is Jean de la Fontaine’s saying, which reads “A person often meets his destiny on the road he took to avoid it.” Pretty close to what my forgotten role model was trying to relay, I think.

In recent months, I’ve had the opportunity to examine life and the opportunities it provides. Keeping with the Buddhist state of mind, it’s important to remember that for every opportunity, there is the chance for loss. I’ve experienced a lot of good opportunities in my life, but I’ve also had life firmly kick me in the gonads more times than I can count. The thing is, and I often say this to people, is that life rarely cares about your plan.

I’m a fighter. Through and through, I’ve taken on every obstacle that life has thrown at me. But about a year ago, I had a bad turn of luck. The proverbial rug has been pulled out from under me, as it were. My year has been one of difficulty, on my family, my home, my career and on myself. It hasn’t been easy. When these difficulties slapped me out of my comfort zone, I could have sat in the corner and sulked about it with my head in my hands. I know that most people in my position would have. But instead, I embraced the opportunity that this difficulty produced. I learned new skills. I made new friends (you know who you are). I used the silver lining of my situation to contain the otherwise dark cloud of what was happening to me.

We always hear people talk about what they regret in life. But here’s the thing: you should never regret anything in life. Regret is a weight on your soul; a blight on your existence. Regret saps your positive energy and makes it difficult for you to focus on the positive. Is it possible to consider how you would have done something different? Sure! but every decision you’ve ever made and every event you’ve ever lived through has brought you to the hear and now. If you ever had the opportunity to go back and change something because you regret it, you would ultimately change the person you are now. And the person you are now is great.

L. Ron Hubbard said: “Never regret yesterday. Life is in you today and you make your tomorrow.” And I’m going to say that you can never reach the top without a rough uphill climb. So get at it. One step at a time and one foot in front of the other.

A Moment To Yourself…

Human beings, as a rule, are pack animals. We tend to gather, live and travel in groups. Evolution has brought us to that point. And although there are some people who actively choose to spend their entire lives alone, the societal norm generally involves growing up in a family dynamic. This is followed by becoming an adult and building a family of one’s own and so on and so forth…

But you really shouldn’t deny the importance of taking time for yourself. Even when involved in the expected dynamic of life, some time alone can lend to a number of benefits.

In 2017, Forbes Magazine posted an article entitled “7 Science-Backed Reasons You Should Spend More Time Alone”. I won’t provide all the details about the article, but some of the benefits listed describe how spending some time alone increases empathy and productivity. Being alone helps to spark creativity and build certain mental strengths. Learning how to be alone can also help to curb certain behavioural issues in children. I’ll admit that I’ve faltered in this aspect, as my son generally feels the need to be attached to my hip and generally refuses to spend any time alone.

Meditation can help. Obviously, I’m a firm advocate of taking some time to meditate daily. I’ll admit that I’m guilty of being “too busy” to maintain this practice, despite my study of Buddhism.

It’s important to plan for some time alone. This helps you to plan certain aspects of your life and get to know yourself better. Amy Morin, the Psychotherapist who wrote the list, recommends that setting aside even just 10 minutes a day can help. This obviously includes shutting off all your electronic devices, of course.

Everyone needs a little time alone. Considering the possible benefits, ten minutes to yourself every day can go a long way towards helping you cope with the hustle and bustle of daily life.

The article is a short read and has a lot of good information. It can be found at https://www.forbes.com/sites/amymorin/2017/08/05/7-science-backed-reasons-you-should-spend-more-time-alone/#67f8832d1b7e

The Wonder That is the E-reader

I’ve written before about reading and how it seems to have become a bit of a lost art in today’s technological society. People tend to prefer their smart phones, tablets and devices as opposed to the classic paperback that you need to carry around.

A lot of people don’t seem to realize that there’s a happy medium: e-readers. An e-reader is a small, hand held device that can be used to read an electronic version of books, magazines and newspapers. And since the books are simple text files, you can store hundreds (in some cases thousands) of books on one device.

I know what you’re likely thinking. You’re wondering, what is the difference between an e-reader and an actual tablet? Well the answer to that is simply this: a tablet is an electronic device that is designed to perform multiple functions, much like a computer. An e-reader is simply for reading.

Also, a tablet’s screen emits light, which is not great on the eyes for prolonged use. An article posted by the University of Birmingham explains that when using a computer, the user should take a ten-minute break for every hour in front of a screen. Otherwise, the extended screen time can lead to eye strain and irritation. This would be the same concept for a backlit screen such as a tablet or smart phone.

In general, e-readers are not backlit screens. They use a technology called “E ink”, which is commonly referred to as “electronic paper”. They require normal room lighting to read, but the benefit is that they use very little power or memory on your reader. One of the disadvantages is that they take longer to load or refresh a page, which can be mildly bothersome if you read extremely fast.

E-readers are nice because they come in a variety of sizes (memory and physical size) and depending on your needs, range from anywhere start in the low to mid twenties’ all the way up to several hundred dollars. When you consider that the average paperback is usually about twelve dollars or so at time of release (Canadian prices), this can be an optimal choice as e-books are often less expensive than their physical counterparts.

I got pretty lucky. In 2009, I purchased a Kobo Mini from a local retail store. It was roughly about eighty dollars at the time and it was 50% off, so I got it for about forty dollars. I’ve got dozens of books on it, and it fits conveniently in my back pocket. Now, the Kobo Mini I have seems to have been discontinued in recent years (at least, I can’t seem to find it for sale anywhere). but the Kobo Aura is comparable.

At the end of the day, I’m still a firm believer in holding a physical book. Turning the pages, feeling the paper and the weight of it… maybe I’m just old school that way. But e-readers are definitely a wonderful and easy-to-use alternative that helps combine the “old school” with the newer, more technological age.

An example of the e-reader I have