top of page

"If one dream should fall and break into a thousand pieces, never be afraid to pick one of those pieces up and begin again." Flavia Weeden

I went to the State Fair today. I can’t remember the last time I went to the Fair. I think my boys must have been six and five. I remember pulling them around in a wagon, their faces covered with chocolate from Sweet Martha’s cookies. Some things never change. My son and his wife went with us to the Fair and the thing he wanted most was a bucket of Sweet Martha’s chocolate chip cookies.

I’ve been working on a new thing I call positive activations. I’ve been trying to do more activities I enjoyed before I had terrible pain but I try to end them while they are still a positive experience. Ideally, activations involve an activity that would be stressful, but planning and framing it so that the experience is positive. A key is limiting the activity before it becomes dreadful. With this plan, I'm encouraged to do more activities, and slowly I feel like my world is growing, little chunks at a time.

Today we went to the State Fair for the first time in years. My husband made a carefully planned route of the most important foods we wanted to eat and the attractions we wanted to see. Then, even though we didn’t get to see them all we left in an hour before terrible pain set in.

I’m still smiling, happy I got to go to the Fair.

  • DAJ

"We are all in the gutter but some of us are looking at the stars." Oscar Wilde

Our beloved best friend and yellow lab died recently. She was our faithful friend for 14 years. She was a gentle soul who always wanted to be by your side. To say the family is suffering feels like putting it mildly. We are all in pain.

The show must go on though, and so I chose to put one foot in front of the other and try to focus on the good. I sat in the backyard and watched the birds flying into the trees, drinking from the water, and I thought of the beauty of life. I saw the sun shining and sparkling through the trees and was overwhelmed by nature's beauty. I spent days focusing on the good, enriching that experience, savoring it, holding every good experience I could close to me. Did it help? It did. The pain isn't gone, but it did help mitigate my suffering.

Suffering is not selective. Everyone experiences it at some point in their life. However, we do have the ability to mitigate the suffering. Focusing on whatever good you can may just be enough to enable you to take the next step, or it may pull you out of the gutter completely. Either way, it seems to me the right way to turn.

  • DAJ

“Every day brings a choice to practice stress or practice peace!”

I had an appointment for a two-hour root canal procedure today. Of course, I wasn’t looking forward to it, but then when I got there they told me after looking at the x-rays it looked like they were going to have to remove what was left of the tooth. They told me I had many more complicated dental procedures to look forward to. I could feel my stress going through the roof.

We should be proud because those of us who have a significant stress response inherited it from our ancestors, and that is part of the fight and flight reaction that helped prevent us from being consumed by a tiger, allowing our gene pool to survive. Our ancestors were always on the lookout.

In our modern world, we don’t need to run away from tigers, so we don’t need an intense stress response. But our complex world also exposes us to more frequent stressors, and reacting to each of our daily challenges with a significant adrenaline burst is not helpful. We need to change our relationship with stress to help us bounce back from life’s frequent challenges. When stressed, our sympathetic nervous system is activated, so we need to activate the parasympathetic nervous system to get the “relaxation response”. The relaxation response encourages our bodies to release chemicals and brain signals that make our adrenaline system slow down.

We can help train our body to activate the “relaxation response” through focused breathing, meditation, yoga, visualization, progressive muscle relaxation, and other activities - even knitting. Meditation has been shown on MRI to induce healing changes in the brain. Sometimes even retraining our belief system can help activate the relaxation response.

Focused breathing and progressive muscle relaxation are two resiliency techniques that are great for turning off the fight or flight response. The more it is done the more it comes naturally to you any time you feel the adrenaline rush of stress. Stress provides us with an opportunity to practice what resiliency is all about, and by using these techniques, we can mitigate the negative effects of stress and thrive.

“Peace is every step.” Thich Nhat Hanh

bottom of page