Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Wisdom for Living in Harmony with Yourself and Everyone Else

Last week, I finished reading Byron Katie's latest book, A Thousand Names for Joy, which she co-authored with Stephen Mitchell. Katie is best known for her process of self-inquiry which she calls "The Work", described in her popular book Loving What Is.

When I met Katie a few years ago at a book-signing and demonstration of her work, I felt a sense of joy in her presence and respect for how she worked with people. And I recall having wished that I had known the profound wisdom in her inquiry process during the many years I worked as a counselor with individuals and couples (not to mention for my own emotional healing earlier in my life!).

Her new book focuses on Byron Katie's response to the Tao Te Ching, the great Chinese classic book of wisdom translated so beautifully by Stephen Mitchell in the late 1980's. Each of the 81 brief chapters contains her insights about a statement from the Tao. Also included are three longer dialogue sections illustrating the inquiry process of The Work.

Among the "pearls" in her book are many about our thoughts:

"Every thought is already over. That's grace. No thought: no problem. It's not possible to have a problem without believing a prior thought. To notice this simple truth is the beginning of peace."

"You can't let go of a stressful thought, because you didn't create it in the first place. A thought just appears. You're not doing it. You can't let go of what you have no control over. Once you've questioned the thought, you don't let go of it, it lets go of you. It no longer means what you thought it meant. The world changes, because the mind that projected it has changed. Your whole life changes, and you don't even care, because you realize that you already have everything you need."

"Generosity is our very nature, and when we try to pretend otherwise, when we hold back or give with a motive, it hurts. A motive is just an unquestioned thought. On the other side of our thinking, generosity naturally appears. There's nothing we need to do to achieve it. It's simply what we are."

While I don't intend to make this a book review or treatise on The Work, I'd encourage everyone to use Katie's process to end emotional suffering in their lives by questioning the thoughts that create it. Her four questions and "turnaround" -- a way to experience the opposite of what you believe -- look simple, but they're the most powerful way I've found for dealing with any stressful thoughts. Whenever a thought upsets you, take time to ask:

1. Is it true?

2. Can you absolutely know that it's true?

3. How do you react when you believe that thought?

4. Who would you be without the thought?

Detailed instructions for the process are included in the Appendix of Katie's book or on her website, www.thework.com. I encourage you to try it the next time you're upset about what someone says or does ... or you have troubled thoughts about your life, your relationships, your work, or our country's wars "on terror", "on drugs", "on Iraq". The Work really works!
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Monday, March 19, 2007

Learnings from Pediatric Palliative Care: Life Legacy Questions

At our quarterly Partners to Improve End-of-Life Care meeting this month, I learned about the palliative care and hospice program available for children in our community. Called "Little Stars", it serves children with life-threatening illnesses, focusing on care that enhances quality of life for the child and their family from the point of diagnosis through bereavement.

Like palliative care and hospice for adults, pediatric palliative care is delivered by an interdisciplinary team that addresses the physical, emotional, social, cultural, and spiritual healing of the child. It can be provided concurrent with life-prolonging care or as a main focus of care -- neither hastening nor postponing death. This type of care assists the child and family in making decisions about care during whatever remaining time they may have.

One of the handouts provided by the presenter offered a list of "questions to ask children and families to elicit palliative care goals" (from The Hospice of Florida Suncoast). Among the 20 questions were several that I thought were appropriate for use in creating an ethical or spiritual will (some of which I've edited slightly):

  • What are the most important relationships in your life?
  • What is most important to your family?
  • What are things that bring you joy and comfort?
  • What are you proud of? What are your greatest achievements?
  • What do you want to accomplish or do?
  • What activities such as music, art, reading, massage, or touch provide peace or comfort to you?
  • What do you wish you could still do?
  • What spiritual or religious practices bring you comfort?
  • What are you hopeful about?
  • What are your concerns for the future?
  • How and where do you want to live for the rest of your life?
  • Is spiritual peace important to you? What would help you achieve spiritual peace?
The remaining questions in the palliative care assessment focus primarily on issues about a child's illness -- their knowledge about it, treatments, pain control, and other concerns they may have.

While hospice care is covered by Medicare and most other insurance today, unfortunately, palliative care for both children and adults remains mostly "not covered" by insurers in the U.S. Some states have made progress in getting palliative care coverage for people but funding of these vital health care programs remain unresolved.

For more information on "Palliative Care for Children" an abstract and article is available from the journal, Pediatrics. My hope is that palliative care will become an essential (and funded!) part of our health care system in the future.
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Friday, March 09, 2007

A Mother's Gift: A Cherished Cassette

Among the many blessings I receive from giving public talks about life legacies is the stories people tell me about their own family legacy experiences. Yesterday, after speaking on a panel of people who work with seniors in our community, a woman came up to me and shared a wonderful story about her mother.

She told me that her mother had made a cassette tape of songs she had created as she drove long-haul eighteen wheelers across the country. The cassette was a most cherished "legacy" that her daughter often listened to, especially at times when she felt like her memory of her mother's voice was fading. As she shared the titles of her mother's songs -- "Trucking with Grandma", "Bright Eyes" and others, her eye's teared up as she spoke.

She told me that, at the age of 50, her mother had gone to trucking school so she could drive eighteen-wheelers with her husband. "Being left at home after being newly married was not part of the deal!", her mother had said to her new husband. So, without hesitation she had packed up and moved across the country to go to school and begin her new career. Then for over 15 years, as a truck-driving couple, they traveled through every state in the U.S. and Canada before retiring. She loved her life on the road!

After her mother's death from cancer in her mid-70's, her daughter had CD's of the cassette made for other members of her family -- all of her brothers and sisters (seven of them) -- who loved being able to hear their mother's voice again (listening to her "songs from the road" . . . a mother's lasting gift to her children).

Have you recorded or videotaped yourself telling stories about your life . . . telling stories about ancestors that you're the last one in your family to remember . . . reciting your favorite poems . . . or singing your own songs? Chances are, whatever you choose to do, that tape will become your loved ones' most cherished legacies of your life after you're gone.
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Friday, March 02, 2007

The Way I See It # 83: A Woman's Truth

The Oregonian had a front page story this week (February 28, 2007) that featured the wisdom of a 38-year old woman -- Tiana Tozer -- who wrote the following words in response to how people look at her in her wheelchair.

The Way I See It # 83

They told you that beauty is in the
eye of the beholder. What they
failed to tell you is that it is best
seen with the eyes closed. What
you look like isn't important. What
is important is who you are inside
and the choices you are making in
your life.

Her words appear on the side of a Starbucks coffee cup! Tom Hallman Jr., the reporter who wrote the story about Tiana began the article by saying, "A girl raised in a culture that idolizes Britney, Paris and Lindsay wouldn't understand the quote. Sure, it's a bit cliche, a cousin to an old chestnut that everyone spouts but few girls believe. But if a girl's lucky, a woman will explain the truth behind the 51 words on the side of the cardboard coffee cup."

Great message. Great story (sorry I couldn't find a link to it for you). What it says to me about life legacies is summed up in Tiana's truth -- "what is important is who you are inside and the choices you are making in your life." I hope that is a message that my granddaughter, grandson, and sons will take into their hearts ... and live throughout their lives.

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