Your Mindful Journey

You can try to build a practice of mindfulness using the 10-minute guided meditations on my website. However, they’re probably not enough in themselves. They’re definitely here to support you—that’s why I made them—but establishing a practice tailored to your own life experience takes reflection. That’s why we put on workshops throughout the year.

The workshops bring your life into it. What are the situations that trigger automaticity? Why are mental patterns so hard to break? We discuss and demonstrate mindful thinking and attitudes that nudge you towards a mindful lifestyle. In today’s multi-tasking, consumer world, this is no small thing. In that uphill battle you need all the help you can get.

The workshops teach, demonstrate and encourage that process. The technique of mindfulness is simplicity itself—much easier than learning a new musical instrument for example. However, it can be elusive. Making it a lifelong practice takes a steady shift in perspective and repeated recollection. It’s something you gradually get better at.

Everyone has the occasional mindful moment. What enables mindfulness to change your life is daily commitment and recollection.

Best of all, you’ll meet and share your mindful experience with like-minded people. You will be inspired.

We begin a self-compassion Workshop in the Montreal area on September 26. More info HERE.

What’s Best For Celia?

Celia couldn’t stop. She was the administrator of a retirement home, busy from dawn to night. Everyone depended on her and, as she always said, “The only way to get something right is to do it yourself.”

She loved the home. She knew each of the residents by name, as well as their history and their family visitors. She loved to see the old folks relax and settle in, and especially to see the young folks feeling less guilty. It didn’t always work out that way, of course, but that was her measure of success, and on the whole she was pretty successful.

However, the time finally came when she could no longer hide her exhaustion. It was profound. She went to the doctor, who told her to rest.

She tried, but the calls poured in from staff. They needed decisions. The realization that she couldn’t escape her work suddenly scared her. She felt confined by her own creation—almost imprisoned.

The doctor was right. She should rest. But just being told that wasn’t enough. Resting meant a 180° turn-around in her work ethic. That much change intimidated the hell out of her.

When a friend told her how she’s managed a huge transition from a 20-year marriage with the help of a life coach, she decided to see if that person could help her too.

The coach listened to Celia’s story, interjecting questions to make sure she didn’t gloss over anything. Before, she’d always thought of her life story as a series of anecdotes. Gradually she came to see it as a continuous narrative, with all its connections of cause and effect. She began to regard her exhaustion not as something that had happened to her, but something she’d done to herself. That was Step #1.

Next, Celia’s coach suggested she practice some self-compassion. Celia didn’t see the point. “That’s indulgent,” she said. “I was taught to put others first.” Still, she agreed to give it a try.

Things started to change. As Celia began to take care of her own needs, she noticed that she had more to offer. She let go of control and began to delegate.

It turned out that some staff did as good a job as her, if not better. Instead of telling them what to do she listened to what they had to say. She allowed them to explore, and they began to flourish. The spirit in the workplace changed. There was more cooperation. Everything improved.

As for Celia, she felt free in a way she thought she’d forgotten. For the first time in years she booked a holiday. She didn’t receive a single call during her week away from the home. She returned to find everything just fine. In her absence, problems had arisen and been resolved. Instead of putting out fires, she heard all about her staff’s innovative ideas.

On their last meeting, her coach narrated Celia’s journey back to her, from the first session till now, in the very words that Celia had used at the outset when describing her frustration and resentment. It all sounded so foreign to her. She hardly recognized that person and realized that the intimidating journey she’d envisaged was indeed huge, but that she’d made it, and it felt entirely natural.

All because she chose to be compassionate towards herself.

What I Wish I Could Tell My Father

It always shocked me to see Dad helpless. It didn’t happen a lot. Mostly, he was larger than life, unafraid, defiant.

I have a memory of him standing in the hallway of his restaurant, staring at me blankly. I’d asked him for my birthright, his legacy to me. Irritatingly, I had to clarify that I wasn’t talking about money. Then it happened: he squirmed.

In my mind’s eye I reached out to him with my arms wide open, but some memories aren’t trustworthy. I doubt I’d have opened up like that. I was emotionally stunted in those years. In any case, it was his look of helplessness that made the scene indelible.

The son reached out to the father, and the father knew not what to do. It sounds biblical doesn’t it? It certainly the sort of primal story you might find in the big book: about the paradox of having to love, and about the gulfs that exist between fathers and sons.

These days men are increasingly judged by maternal standards, as if we should be as cooperative and empathetic as mothers. It doesn’t help. We operate differently. We’re less cooperative and more self-protective, One big no-no is to appear at a loss.

Which brings us back to the day that Dad was at a loss. I witnessed it as directly as can be, from a distance of about five feet.

Right there and then something fell out of me. I’d always imagined that one day my father would bless me with the secret of life’s purpose, or at least of manhood. He spent a lot of time in prayer with his god, or in confession with his priest. I’d always assumed that he was pondering the infinite and his place in it.

What I began to realize that day was that what prompted him was not the wonders of creation, but guilt. He’d done wrong by some people in his life and was no saint, and he hung on to that judgment so tightly and harshly that he felt unworthy to give me—his own son—his benediction.

Today, what do I wish he’d said? That in time I’d be able to accept and even celebrate myself. That I would do good for others by doing good for myself. I wish he’d told me that there was a way to befriend myself. Because like him I always expected more of myself. I was never good enough.

I always saw dad as unhappy, and I mostly remember him that way. I would have loved to share some joy with him. Still, he role-modeled courage and determination. That’s a part of him I picked up young and am happy to carry. It’s served me well.

On that day, inadvertently but quite decisively, he also spurred me to go out and seek life’s purpose for myself. That’s what I’ve done. Not just for me but for him too. It’s been a journey, and it gets better every day. That’s what I’d love to tell him.