Over the long weekend, I had the chance to go up to a cottage. It was 2 hours away from the city, surrounded by trees, surrounded by farmland. In essence, it was in the middle of nowhere. And that was a great thing.
The drive up there was very relaxing a half hour out of the city. There were green and yellow pastures as far as the eye could see, gorgeous white puffy clouds against a backdrop of sky blue, and the air just kept getting crisper and cleaner as I went.
Having the chance to sit at the cottage outside, things were different compared to my time in my backyard. The air flowing through many trees created the perfect white noise, a calm hiss like waves against a beach. When it began to rain, you could hear the rain approaching as the drops on the leaves would get louder and louder. Sitting and reading for several hours in this area, with its clean air, surrounded by nature, was nothing short of refreshing.
Then, driving back late at night, I found myself becoming even more relaxed. There was hardly any civilization to worry about. It was just me, my car, the moon, and the silent whir of the motor. It was a fundamentally different experience driving up at night than in the city. No distractions. No lights. Just calm, tranquility. The solitude provides an excellent opportunity to get to know yourself.
I hope you had a chance to get away from it all. If you haven’t, you should. You may find parts of yourself that you lost.
Just yesterday I had received a nasty email from a lawyer. As I read through it, I could feel my blood boiling. I wanted to hit “REPLY” and give them a piece of my mind. But since I started writing again, whenever I find myself getting emotionally reactive, I am curious to find out “WHY?”. It has served me well so far.
Why ask “WHY?”? There are a few benefits I can think of:
It immediately places a bit of distance between you and reacting. The process of thinking about this could very well give you enough time to cool down a bit.
Emotions are natural. Anger, frustration, hurt, these are all normal. Trying to understand them can help us uncover the reasons why we do things, which can help us react better in the future.
Looking for the reasons why we do things triggers our pre-frontal cortex. Rather than looking at things as simply ‘just the way they are’, we treat it like a problem that should be solved. It’s a puzzle, and there’s a bigger picture that needs uncovering. This too could give the necessary space from the problem and the emotion allowing us to deal with it with grace.
By shining the spotlight on yourself, instead of the subject of your anger, you give yourself the chance to grow and to improve. There is no limit to how much we can improve, and the only person we need to best is the person we were yesterday.
So the next time you feel yourself growing angry, or frustrated, and want to lash out, pause and ask “WHY?” to try to uncover the reason why something triggered that reaction within you. Responding to these situations with calm, grace, self-awareness, and self-love/care not only makes the situation better, but it makes us better humans overall.
With the hurricane happening in Texas, I’ve turned my attention to the people down south who are suffering. Up here where I am, everything is dry, cool, crisp. When I put myself in the shoes of the people currently in the hurricane, it makes me realize a fundamental truth: life can change in an instant.
Maybe it’s a hurricane. Maybe your house gets robbed. Maybe a loved one dies. Maybe you are diagnosed with cancer. The point is that in an instant, EVERYTHING can change. What creature comforts you once had may suddenly become unhelpful. Things you enjoyed, may no longer be accessible. People you love, may no longer be around.
Writing this, it can be difficult not to feel depressed with the fragility of life. The fact that things can change so quickly to something so much worse could feed the pessimism in the optimism of most people.
But what if you looked at it another way…What if you looked at it as a way to value everything and everyone you have in the here and now? What if you paused, right now, looked around you at the people in your life and the things you have, and simply realized how fortunate you are to have those things.
What if rather than pessimism, you were filled with gratefulness? I think that’s the more important lesson here, to be grateful for the things we do have, and to really appreciate them.
Take time to slow down when you eat food.
Listen and love the people who matter in your life.
Marvel at every day objects.
Appreciate every moment and the things/people in that moment. Because in another moment, all of that could change.
When was the last time you sat in complete solitude? In our day and age, everyone is constantly connected. Connectivity is great: it is convenient, it helps us keep in touch, and it gives us a sense of something greater than ourselves. But in excess, it has its downsides too: we become dependent, or addicted to constant connectivity, we are forced to remain plugged in, and we don’t get a chance to slow down in our lives.
I had the opportunity to sit in solitude yesterday. My bag was torn so I decided to sew it back together. In the half hour I was trying to do this, I sat alone in my living room. There was no social media, there was no music. Just me and the world around me. Sewing became a form of mindful meditation, each thread of the needle, each poke of the bag, each pull of the needle.
Emerging from the other side, I had a repaired bag, but also a newfound appreciation for the value of solitude. I’m an extrovert and so I value connections and find myself energized by interactions with people…but there was something wonderful being energized by the simple act of being in my own presence, doing something.
Many think that solitude can be lonely. Like many things, in excess its not a good thing. Solitude can be an opportunity to find yourself.
Give it a shot. Set some time aside to just be by yourself, with no distractions.
Not to worry. The world will still be there when you choose to connect again.
Recently, I’ve been thinking about what it is that makes a civilization great. The more I think about it, the more I think compassion is the greatest aspect of a civilization, especially one which is as diverse as Canada is.
People come in many shapes and sizes and colours and cultures and beliefs. The ability to see self in others, and others in self, this is what true compassion is founded on. We can look at people who are fundamentally different from us, and recognize the many similarities. We see them as equals, as partners, as humans. We see them as people who are trying to make their way in the world.
A compassionate society is one that embraces differences as something that can be learned from, rather than something that needs to be oppressed. It is a society that realizes that every member within it offers a contribution to the greater whole.
This may be a difficult thing to do. Civilizations can be quite large. The egos in play can sometimes derail things. The gaps between people are accented when people focus on the differences, rather than the similarities.
But integrate compassion into the moral fabric of your civilization, and it will be great. It will allow more and more people of many different backgrounds to come together, learn from one another, and co-exist peacefully.
I can think of nothing greater that a large group of people with compassion for one another, and for the outside world. I’m very proud to be Canadian right now.
There is definitely something about nature that brings calm to us all. Maybe it’s because we live in concrete jungles, where we grow used to shades of grey, where we are bombarded by artificial sounds, and artificial air, and artificial light…or maybe there’s an ancient part of us which despite all of our technological development longs for simplicity from a time when having food, water, shelter, and family were all we needed to be truly happy.
Whatever it is, stepping out into nature once in a while is immensely rewarding.
I had the opportunity to do this early this morning when I stepped outside and looked out my backyard to the large trees that surround it. The sun was gently poking through the green leaves, the air was crisp and cool, and the faintest sound of young birds chirping, or squirrels starting their day, could be heard.
If you haven’t already done so, take a walk somewhere GREEN today. Let your lungs fill with the air around you. Do this every day until you have the opportunity to go somewhere away from the city, where you can allow your lungs the even better opportunity of non-city air.
Stepping out into nature can remind us of the things we have to be grateful for. Or at least provide us with a connection to the natural world around us.
For many of us, this little shift is exactly what we need to shake up the routine of the normal, and add a little mindfulness or gratefulness in our lives.
Your Turn: I’d love to hear about what your thoughts are on stepping out into nature. Do you find it relaxing? Calming? Does it make you think? Or do the many thoughts quiet down a bit? What are some of your favourite natural settings?
One of the wisest men on the planet shares his 40 greatest insights.
Many of you reading this will know and love Dr. Jordan B Peterson.
For those who don’t, I’m going to show you why you should.
Jordan Peterson is an award-winning lecturer at the University of Toronto, a practicing clinical psychologist, and the author of the revolutionary book on the psychology of religion Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief.
He is most famous, however, for his YouTube channel, which has 270,000+ subscribers. An insane amount considering most of his videos are over an hour long and cover very deep topics such as philosophy, mythology, psychology, and religion.
He is a man worth paying attention too.
On Quora, Jordan Peterson was asked this question:
“What are the most valuable things everyone should know?”
Instead of answering in a long essay, he wrote 40 maxims that I’ve presented below.
Before you read, keep in mind that these maxims are not your ordinary list of self-help tips.
They are simple. They are short. But they contain within each of them decades of study and thought.
How did we create a world in which we have more and more and more to do with less time for leisure, less time for reflection, less time for community, less time to just… be?
Somewhere we read, “The unexamined life is not worth living… for a human.” How are we supposed to live, to examine, to be, to become, to be fully human when we are so busy?
This disease of being “busy” (and let’s call it what it is, the dis-ease of being busy, when we are never at ease) is spiritually destructive to our health and wellbeing. It saps our ability to be fully present with those we love the most in our families, and keeps us from forming the kind of community that we all so desperately crave.
Our overscheduled lives leave little time for contemplation and reflection. How do we enable each other to pause and reflect together and ask how our hearts are doing? Check out the article below!
The influence of Facebook and advertising have made us creatures that constantly like to compare ourselves to others. But in this podcast, I explore the importance of comparison only with ourselves. The grass is greener, RIGHT HERE!