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Entries in mindfulness (4)


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.


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.





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



Mindfulness practice

As many of you know, I often recommend mindfulness as a way of managing many aspects of your health. Mindfulness, or as I like to think of it paying attention, has a profound impact on how you care for yourself, as well as how you care for the world around you. It seems to me, something that requires no specialized equipment, only your time and effort, should not provide the kind of benefits that this does. However, I have found over my life as a physician, as well as the lives of my patients, that mindfulness practice provides untold benefits far beyond what I would ever expect to see.


So what is it? I like to think of it is paying attention. When I say paying attention I mean bringing one’s complete attention to the present experience on a moment-to-moment basis.  Another way to think of it is paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally. Or as Bishop Lau offer "The first component [of mindfulness] involves the self-regulation of attention so that it is maintained on immediate experience, thereby allowing for increased recognition of mental events in the present moment. The second component involves adopting a particular orientation toward one’s experiences in the present moment, an orientation that is characterized by curiosity, openness, and acceptance."

Mindfulness has been shown, in clinical research, to have a positive and beneficial effect for the following illnesses: depression, psoriasis, smoking cessation, dementia, chronic pain, anxiety, irritable bowel syndrome, asthma and many others.

With this in mind, no pun intended, I would like to mention that the mindfulness-based stress reduction course is soon to be offered again on Prince Edward Island. This is an exceptional course, and I speak from personal experience, the instructors are fantastic and it is well worth your time and effort. Additionally, the West Prince Family Health Clinic has a number of books and videos in our lending library on the topic of mindfulness. These are available for checkout from the clinic, just ask at the front desk.  You can also learn more about mindfulness from the Mindfulness and Yoga links on this site.

If you are intersted in the Mindfullness Course this spring, click for more information.