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Monday
Nov142016

A phrase to change the world...


The most liberating thing I have learned in my life to date is the following phrase…..

Everyone is doing the best they can…if they could do better they would.

-       Matt Kahn

Thinking lightly about that phrase we often find ourselves viewing it with a degree of judgement, ‘I know Bob, and I have seen him do a lot better than he is giving me right now!’ or my personal favorite, the self-deprecating ‘Jeez you would think after so many years I would do that better than I did’.  However, both of these miss the mark of what is being said in that small phrase., so let me repeat it to make it fresh for us all…

Everyone is doing the best they can…if they could do better they would.

That means that in every moment, second to second, everyone is doing their very best, if they could do better they would.  You see, over the last 20 years I have had the opportunity to see a lot of folks, probably in excess of 300,000, and so I have gotten a pretty good look into a lot of lives, and I can categorically tell you that not once, not even once did anyone ever come in and tell me that they had gone out and given their very worst to anything.  In fact, when I would ask, almost to a one, they looked dumfounded as if the thought of giving less than their best was crazy…and it is.

You see, we are always giving our best in every single moment of every single day.  It changes, some moments our best is expansive and fantastic, at others we would prefer no one ever spoke of it again.  It is like that for everyone, I can assure you of that, and everyone has moments when their best made them soar, and moments when their best seemed to leave them feeling worse.  However, it was in each moment their very best, and that is the important part of this whole phrase.

Everyone is doing the best they can…if they could do better they would.

That means as I am writing this now, it is my very best.  That might be great or it might not, hard to see from this perspective, but I can tell you, it is the best I have at this moment in time.  If I had anything better to give, I would be giving it to you right now.  So, let’s take a moment to feel how that feels when we try it on, shall we.

I am doing the best I can…if I could do better I would.

So how did that feel?  Comfortable? Strange? Crazy?  Did it prompt immediate conversation in your head?  Words like ‘oh sure, I have seen you do better’ or maybe ‘that is not all that good you know’ or maybe you are one of the lucky folks who believes and you heard ‘damn right you doing your very best’.  However, none of what is said changes the fact that in this moment you were/are in fact doing your very best and if you could do better you would. 

So why bother?

This phrase is a step toward liberating yourself of all the judgment that comes from beating yourself up about the actions you took, failed to take, thoughts you had or failed to have.  It frees you of the need to judge yourself harshly, and if you use this phrase often, you can find that it heals some of your deepest wounds.  If you use this phrase when you encounter memories from your past you would rather not review, then it can be the first step toward learning to love yourself just as you are.

One my own examples

As I am sitting one day in meditation, simply enjoying the moment of quiet, enjoying the fact that the chatter of my mind seemed a little less loud, a memory arose that was big, in my face, and unpleasant.  It was a realization that for 18 years of medical practice I had been needing the patient to fulfill my need to be loved.  I realized in a flash, that pretty much every encounter I had over those many years had an underlying context of need I had not been aware of, my need to feel wanted, worthy and loved.  I used the examination room, and my encounters with patients to feed that voracious need in my life, and if the person in my room met that need then everything went well, if they did not, well let’s just say I could get a little less friendly in my presentations of the options you could choose for you care.  I was mortified, horrified, and really felt crushed when I realized that for the last 18 years, my provision of medical care was done all in an attempt to get my needs met by the poor souls who landed in my office, and not really about the delivery of good medical care (that was just a lucky by product).  In that moment I felt like I was a complete farce, a fake, someone who had really been living a lie.  Yet in that moment the gold phrase of compassion came through my head again….

Everyone is doing the best they can…if they could do better they would. 

It was true, I knew it deep in my heart, it was indeed true.  I saw that in each of those moments I was doing the very best that I could, and that my best had changed moment to moment.  It changed a lot once I began to understand the unmet needs of my subconscious and it was as that change occurred that I realized exactly how I had been practicing previously.  But in seeing that I had been doing the very bet that I could, I was able to see that version of who I was with compassion, to feel for the struggle that had been present that was unknown to me at those moments in time.  To that version of who I was, what was being given was the very best, and as I looked back upon it, I could see how that best had changed again and again but the act of giving my best had not changed even once.  And as I began to see that for myself, I began to see it more clearly in others, they were giving their best, each moment of each day, and when that best was rough, unkind, uncaring, it broke my heart a little for each of them as I realized that this was the best this person had to offer in this moment. It allowed me to feel into their lives and into their pain and love them despite it.  By acknowledging the best that we each offer, it allows our best to step up and to improve in each moment.  When I recognize the best you are bringing is the best that you have and treat it with respect because it is your best, then funny enough, you best steps up just a little bit more.  So one person at a time, one moment at a time, we bring our best forward, acknowledge it in ourselves and celebrate it in others, and the world starts to change.

 

Friday
Jul012016

Forgiveness...it is the heart-seed of compassion…

It is interesting how life can take you by surprise.  Just when you feel like you have things figured out, and that you are finally moving forward and understanding yourself, life comes along and drops some stuff in your lap to review.  

Bang!

Wow, I thought I had worked through that stuff…..maybe not…..the fact that it is here means it is important to work on…..what is it asking me to do?!?

In my case, it was a lovely series of memories of my anger.  Anger towards the ones I love, to those who could defend themselves and against those who could not.  But most of all it was anger toward my own innocence.  To my own sense of who I was, to my own inner being.  The starkest memory was of a generous soul who taught me about unconditional love in the most in your face manner possible, my dog Paddy.  He was a lovely German Shorthair Pointer that was found in the Oquirrh Mountains in Utah scratching for something to eat.  Nancy brought him back to me as I was working at the weekend clinic on post and said, ‘Here, I found you a dog!’ and indeed she had. 

He was a fantastic dog, loyal, humble, playful, and loving.  As an owner I had my ups and downs, and one of my biggest downs was in the harshness of my training of him.  That is the gem that life dropped into my lap, an opportunity to look back at the highlight reel of harsh training methods from my current perspective, and it was gut wrenching.  However, it was the gut wrenching starkness of that review that led to the most profound healing.  In looking at how magnificently Paddy continued to love me despite my actions I had a glimpse at the unconditional nature of love.  As I reflected up on that unconditional nature of love, I was able to see so many others in my life who had loved me as deeply and as unconditionally in spite of my actions, they saw me as I was, deep inside, and looked past those aspects of me that were not bright shiny moments.  The loved me beyond my actions and in spite of my glaring imperfections.  They found me worthy of that love even when I did not find myself worthy of such love, and certainly did not have any for myself in that time.

In looking at these moments something becomes very clear, that in each of these moments I was doing the very best that I was capable of doing, and that if I could have done better I would have.  It is this knowing, that is the ground for forgiveness.  It is this knowing that even my worst was still the best I had at that time, in those moments, and if I had been capable of anything better at that moment I would have brought that forward.  Forgiveness is seeing that aspect of every action and interaction, it is seeing that in every moment you do the best that you are capable of, and being gentle with yourself if that best appears awful.  It is accepting and loving the one who could only do so much from the knowledge that in that moment, this is all they were capable of doing.  It is looking into that moment and giving yourself that unconditional love as Paddy, and as so many did for me.  It is looking into that moment and seeing past that action, seeing without judgment, seeing it for what it is, the best you had in that moment, and loving the one who could not do any better at that moment in time.  

When you step into that space where you can love the ones who seem so unlovable, it is here that your compassion arises.  In looking within, with compassion and knowing that you did your very best in every moment, you start to see those around you in the very same light.  You see actions that look very much like your own, and realize, ‘they are doing the best they can, if they could do better they would’. You see people where they are, in their struggles, and realize they are doing the very best that they can, and so you can love them where they are for they are doing their best, if they could do any better they would.

So, as you sit and meditate, do not shy away from the gifts that life drops into your lap.  They are brought to you for a reason, they are brought at the perfect time, and they arrive to further the healing of your soul.  Love whatever arises, knowing that in any given moment, you are in fact doing the very best that you can, and that there are so many around you who see this, know this, and love you just as you are.  In time, you become the one who loves yourself as well.

For a wonderful talk on compassion that touched my heart and resonnated deeply, see Matt Kahn's talk

Saturday
Mar052016

Where is your expectation today? Or Where did all these Miatas come from?

We often see what we are looking for, in fact, I would say that it is very hard to NOT see what you are looking for, it is what I call the Mazda Miata effect.  I rarely saw Miata’s on the road when I did not own one, but the minute I purchased one, they seemed to pop up all over the landscape.  It is not like Mazda suddenly imported a glut of Miata’s to fill the landscape, they were always there, I just did not see them. 

Where we look is what we see.  What we expect is what we see, the things we see are the things we are looking for and the places we search. 

If you look for trouble, then you will find what you are looking for almost every time.  If you look for things to turn out badly, then things will turn out badly almost every time.  If you expect things to be difficult, then things will be difficult most all the time.  It is your expectation that colors your experience.  You are looking for Miatas and they are everywhere.  

I have had some wonderful opportunities to see what changing my expectation does for the way that i feel about a situation.  The best one I have had was in my work at the O’Leary Health Center when I switched from working for the government (salaried doctor) to a payment model where I was paid for each patient seen (fee for service).  In essence I went for working for someone to working for myself (any discussion about the toughness of the boss is really another post all together).  This switch happened on a weekend.  On Friday I was Salaried and on Monday I was Fee for Service.  Nothing else changed.  I was in the same office, with the same nurses and support staff, used the same examination rooms, saw the same patients and my schedule was the same as it had been for the previous year.  The only thing that ‘changed’ was how I was being paid and for ‘whom’ I was working.  Yet my attitude and point of view changed profoundly.  Suddenly it was no big deal to work someone in to my schedule.  I looked forward to work, and the work I was doing.  I felt like a weight had lifted of my shoulders.  I felt like my future was laid out ahead of me and it looked wonderful.  This was what I felt during lunch on that first day, and all I had done that day was work a usual Monday morning.  The thing that had changed was my point of view, my expectation, the way that I felt about the situation.  The fundamental reality of the day was no different, my point of view was different. 

This was the first of many understandings I have come to about the profound impact that our point of view has on how we feel about everything.  “Reality as we know it” is not the truth, the world around us has no meaning until we give it meaning.  The rain or snow has no meaning until we observe it and give it a meaning.  It might mean we stay in and rest, or it might mean a cancelled outing, either way it is just water falling form the sky, the meaning arises from within ourselves, and that meaning is the one thing that we have complete control over in our lives.

There are many ways to change your point of view about the world.  This lovely lady in her TEDx Talk speaks of how her point of view shifted dramatically from her near death experience.  Suddenly she was aware of a much bigger world, aware of the role that her perception of that world had upon her life.  She learned to change the way she looked at her world, her place in it, and the effect that her point of view had upon how the world seemed to present itself to her.  You can achieve this same thing without having to face near death to bring it about (and believe me when I tell you, having had a few near death experiences, it hurts far less to figure it out without trying to die first).  For centuries, monastics and other religious folk have used meditation to quiet the mind so that they could see the effect that their perception had on the view of the world. Past Life Regression, Hakomi Psychotherapy, Meditation, Mindfulness, Focus therapy, or just learning to pay attention to your thoughts are all methods of achieving this same heightened view of the world, and our place within that world.  They are all ways to see where we fit in, the effect of our point of view on the world that we see, and provide us with the knowledge to change who we are into who we wish to be. 

When we change the was that we choose to look at the world, then the world changes before our eyes.  Your point of view, the meaning that you give to the world will be the difference between the life that you have and the life that you prefer.  Change your point of view and you change everything.

Saturday
Feb272016

Thoughts on focus and attention…or what you notice you can change

a halloween lantern from a different perspectiveOne of the many wonderful things about moving to a place that you were completely unfamiliar with is how it points out to you, behaviors and patterns of thought that may not be serving you well. In 2007, Nancy and I discovered that our thoughts, values, beliefs, and ideas really did not resonate with the majority of the population where we were living. This is neither good, nor bad, it simply was something we had noticed.

Knowing this, we had a choice at that time to continue to stay where we were even though we really did not fit in and hope that others would move to meet us, or we could choose to leave and see if we fit in better somewhere else. Of course, you all know the choice that we made, we opted for an adventure and so we left the comfort of all that we knew for the adventure of all that we didn't. 

As is often the case during the adventure you learn many things that you did not expect to learn. You learn that you have strength that you did not know about, and at times weaknesses that were unknown as well. The beauty of moving somewhere completely different is that it throws everything you believe about yourself against a much different backdrop. It creates a contrast, kind of like the really dark shirt showing off the dandruff :-) And so, it was on this Gentle Island that we begin to see aspects of ourselves that had previously remained in the background. However, the background had changed and suddenly what have been perfectly camouflaged was readily visible to anyone who chose to look.

We opted to look, we turned our attention to those things that now stood out against the background and asked ourselves whether or not these behaviors, beliefs, and ideas still played an important role in our life and our well-being. Do these things really mean that much to us? Do these beliefs bring us joy, a sense of excitement, a reason for being? Or, are these beliefs, values, and ideas simply leftovers from stories we had learned long ago that really do not represent who we are, what we believe, and how we think. It is interesting, there are so many stories that we carry around that we are completely unaware of, and once we become aware of them we stand there, gob smacked. And so it was with us. We saw the stories and we begin to hear them in voices that were not our own. We begin to hear the story of "you aren’t worthy" as well as "you're unlovable", “your opinion does not count”, “you are to be seen not heard”, and one ring particularly true for me "you are unwanted". None of the stories felt like they were ours and none of them were, in fact, true. However, it wasn't until we shifted our point of focus, shifted our attention, that we became aware that the stories even existed at all. They were there all along, driving our decisions, our behaviors, our interactions and responses. These beliefs that were unknown to us we're driving the daily activities of our lives. 

These stories are the core beliefs that we carried around, the ‘core memories’ if you will.  The things by which we unconsciously defined ourselves and our personas.  These core memories/beliefs are what make us tick.  They are the things that drive you to continue to do things that are not in your best interest.  They are the reason that you drive yourself so hard, that you stay in a relationship that is not so good, that you work the job that makes you miserable, that you live a life that is so full of suffering, that you stay so busy and distracted that you do not have time to look around.  None of us chooses to be in pain, to suffer, we all move to the place of the least amount of suffering possible, yet we all clearly engage in behaviors, thoughts, beliefs, and ideas that bring more suffering into our lives.  Why?  It is the core beliefs, those stories that you carry in your head and your heart that drive these seemingly crazy behaviors.   These core beliefs are often left over strategies and stories that we have carried around from a very young age.  Things that at one time served us very well, but have since lost their luster, and like a dull knife, are more dangerous than helpful.

So now we look at things a bit differently, we notice more readily when we feel ill at ease. It is that feeling/emotion that is the tip off that we are encountering something that we carry around which really isn't true. In shifting our focus internally and noticing anything, and I do mean anything, that takes us out of the positive sense of wonder, joy, or excitement, we find those beliefs that are there, buried deep, that are simply not true.

The beauty about moving to a new place is that it provides a stark contrast that allows you to look deeply into who you are. This is what it took for us to figure some things out, but contrast comes in many shades and many flavors. That contrast may simply be the way that your life is turning out. It may be the difference between what you would prefer and what you are getting. It may be the anger that you feel in general that doesn't seem to have any focus or source, the sadness that seems to come from nowhere and for no purpose, the temper that a short without cause, detachment from the world around you, in short the contrast is the difference between the feeling you currently have and the one of joy.  You can use this contrast that is available to you to identify the thoughts, beliefs, values, and ideas that are not yours. And in identifying those things that you carry around in your head that are not yours, you can choose whether or not to continue to carry them or to let them go. The choice is yours, it always has been and will always be.

 

 

 

Friday
Dec252015

A Christmas Gift to You.......

It is no secret that there have been big changes in my life in the last 9 months. For anyone who has seen me, there is clearly a transformation taking place.  There are two transformations taking place, one internal and one external.  The external transformation is very clear to everyone, but what is harder to see is the transformation that is occurring internally. And of the two transformations, the internal one has had a far greater impact upon my life, and through those internal changes, the lives of every person that I touch.

This article from the HeartMath Institute, An Appreciative Heart is Good Medicine, outlines some of the medicinal effects that the practice of Gratitude has upon the heart, the brain, and subsequently the body.  A grateful heart is one that is less likely to have disease, less likely to suffer, and leads to a life that sees the world as a glass half full instead of half empty.  Unlike many of the prescriptions I write in the clinic on a daily basis, this prescription does not have a list of ugly side-effect.  That is not to say it is side effect free, it definitely has effects beyond those that you would expect directly from the practice, but they are side effects you look forward to with a sense of eagerness.  

Gratitude: a feeling of appreciation or thanks.  

This is the basis of the prescription, that you take a little time each day to be grateful.  It is a simple practice and one that will only take a few minutes out of your day to undertake, and the lifelong benefits will be tremendous.  It is a practice that I began some months ago and formalised in the last 90 days.  It is nothing more complicated than taking a moment to sit each day and write down 10 things for which you are grateful.  I do this every evening, and some evenings the list is virtually unchanged from the previous night.  However, over time, it has become increasingly easy to generate that list and I find that the list of things for which I am grateful has continued to grow.  As this list has grown, I have come to see things throughout my day for which I am grateful and am grateful in the moment as well as in the evening.  In doing this daily, my view of events, people, and situations was changed.  I found myself being grateful for the events, people and situations that had previously vexed me, I have begun to see the lessons that these events, people, and situations are there to teach me, and I am grateful for their presence in my life.  As my gratitude for these events, people, and situations grew, I have seen that my view of who I am has changed as well, and this has lead to the external transformation that others see so easily.

So, as I sit on this Christmas morning in gratitude for all of my life, and the lessons that come to me every day that lead me deeper into gratitude, I give freely to you all, this prescription for a life filled with contentment and joy that naturally arises from a gratfeul heart.  My thanks to you all for the lessons that you teach me on a daily basis and the opportunity to learn from such wonderful and lovely folks.  Merry Christmas from Doc Grimes to you all.

Meditations on Gratitude

Gratitude meditation #1

Gratitude meditation #2