“Now. That’s the key. Now, now, now. Mindfulness trains you to be awake and alive, fully curious, about what? Well, about now, right? You sit in meditation and the out-breath is now and waking up from your fantasies is now and even the fantasies are now, although they seem to take you into the past and into the future. The more you can be completely now, the more you realize that you’re in the center of the world, standing in the middle of a sacred circle.”
Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive neurologic disorder that causes the brain to shrink (atrophy) and brain cells to die. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia — a continuous decline in thinking, behavioural and social skills that affects a person’s ability to function independently.
Two of my close family members suffer from advanced Alzheimer’s disease. It is a terrible, debilitating illness; but research is showing that lifestyle choices make a big difference in prevention. I recently shared the amazing work of two neurologists, Drs Ayesha and Dean Sherazi, who have dedicated their careers to raising awareness on what can be done. They are launching a free 7-day challenge, starting on Monday June 13th. I will be taking part and I encourage you to check in out.
You can sign up for free by clicking on this link:
“Can you learn to surf the chaos and uncertainty that real life includes without falling into a trance of unworthiness? You can. A surfer is powerless to change the towering wave rushing toward her. But she doesn’t want to change it. She wants to surf it and she learns to feel safe in the immense ocean of being even when she falls. She confidently gets right back up to meet the next wave.”
Excerpted from: Zen in the Age of Anxiety: Wisdom for Navigating Our Modern Lives, by Tim Burkett, page 31
“Status quo is not very helpful for spiritual growth, for using this short interval between birth and death. On the other hand, expanding our ability to feel comfortable in our own skin and in the world, so that we can be there as much as possible for other people, is a very worthy way to spend a human life.”
Welcoming the Unwelcome: Wholehearted Living in a Brokenhearted World by Pema Chödrön
“If you make happiness your primary goal, you might miss out on the challenges that give life meaning. ..Bringing good things into your life, whether love, career success, or something else, usually involves risk. Risk doesn’t necessarily make us happy, and a risky life is going to bring disappointment. But it can also bring bigger rewards than a life played safe, as the study of happiness, academic achievement, and income suggests. Those with the highest performance at work and school made decisions that were probably unpleasant at times, and even scary…
As with everything in life, happiness has its trade-offs. Pursuing happiness to the exclusion of other goals–known as psychological hedonism–is not only an exercise in futility. It may also give you a life that you find you don’t want, one in which you don’t reach your full potential, you’re reluctant to take risks, and you choose fleeting pleasures over challenging experiences that give life meaning.”
“How to Build a Life” is a weekly column by Arthur Brooks, tackling questions of meaning and happiness.
For the last twenty years, my garage has been overflowing with other people’s possessions: boxes, paintings and frames, dishes and china, photo albums, clothing, furniture, art work, paper work. You name it. I have stored it. Most of these items never get picked back up again. People move or they forget that they have put them there. People pass away. It has become the land of forgotten things.
This week, I spent four full days cleaning out my garage and getting rid of everything that is not mine or in active use. The junk guys had to do three pick ups from my house. It was epic and exhausting but I feel a great sense of accomplishment, ease and joy now that it is done. I have reclaimed this space. It is no longer cluttered, clogged and impossible to walk in. It is spacious and open.
It is interesting how physical spaces are often a reflection of our internal lives. I have only recently learned how to set boundaries and to say no. I was never taught this skill as a child, and if anything, I was actively taught that I should always say yes to others. No matter my own needs, the needs of others always came first.
I have since learned that this is neither healthy or sustainable. As Brené Brown says, “the most compassionate people have the most well-defined and well-respected boundaries.” This is because when they say yes, they mean it, and when they say no, they mean it. There is no hidden anger or resentment. A yes is an authentic yes. So moving forward, I am going to say no when anyone asks to store something in my garage: it is not theirs to fill up. This will leave me with the space to say yes to the things that I truly want to.
September 30th, 2021 marks the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. The creation of this day is in response to the 94 calls to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. It is a new federal statutory holiday in Canada, marking the genocide that took place in our country, as well as the irreparable, intergenerational harm that residential schools continue to afflict upon Indigenous families and communities. It honours the survivors. Residential schools were government-sponsored religious schools specifically established to “kill the Indian in the child” and assimilate Indigenous children into Euro-Canadian culture. They ran for over over a hundred years, from the late 1800s until 1996: impacting over 150,000 children.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission final report estimates that more than 4,000 indigenous children died in residential schools from either neglect or abuse. It is believed that this number is actually five to ten times higher, but the final total is unknown, due to poor record keeping by the churches, and unmarked mass graves.
Throughout the spring and summer of 2021, many new discoveries of children’s bodies were made due to the ground penetrating radar technology. The Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation in British Columbia discovered 215 unmarked graves on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School. The Penelakut First Nation located 160 undocumented and unmarked graves in the province’s Southern Gulf Islands, once home to the Kuper Island Residential School; and 750 unmarked graves were discovered on the grounds of the former Marieval Indian Residential School in Saskatchewan.
September 30 is also Orange Shirt Day. This is an Indigenous-led grassroots commemorative day that honours the children who survived Indian Residential Schools and remembers those who did not. This day originates from the experience of Phyllis Webstad, a Northern Secwpemc (Shuswap) from the Stswecem’c Xgat’tem First Nation, on her first day of school, where she arrived dressed in a new orange shirt, and it was taken away from her. It has come to symbolize the stripping away of culture, freedom and self-esteem experienced by Indigenous children over generations. Orange Shirt Day invites Canadians to wear orange shirts on September 30th each year to honour survivors of residential schools, their families, and their communities.
Many Canadians view the residential school system as part of a distant past, disassociated from the current day. This is incorrect. The last residential school did not close its doors until 1996, and many of the leaders, teachers, parents, and grandparents of our Indigenous communities are residential school survivors. Although residential schools are closed, their effects remain ongoing for both survivors and their descendants who now share in the intergenerational effects of trauma and loss of language, culture, traditional teachings, and mental/spiritual wellbeing.
In Canada, 52.2% of children in foster care are Indigenous, but account for only 7.7% of the child population. This means 14,970 out of 28,665 foster children in private homes under the age of 15 are Indigenous: many of them permanently removed from Indigenous communities. Results from the 2011 National Household Survey also show that 38% of Indigenous children in Canada live in poverty, compared to 7% for non-Indigenous children. This stark reality illustrates the ongoing ripple effects of racists government policies, such as the Indian Residential School System, and the Indian Act.
On this first National Day of Truth and Reconciliation, every Canadians must take small, incremental steps on the path towards reconciliation. This can be done in many different ways, through learning, attending events, or donating to your community. It is a personal journey but one that we all need to commit to if we are to successfully move this country towards meaningful reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.
Here are some links that provide ideas for how you can take action today:
As I have mentioned in previous posts, I love the French language and I love listening to podcasts while I am out walking. Nothing improves my conversational skills more than listening in on native speakers. Duolingo French is my favourite language podcast that I have discovered so far. Every episode is beautifully presented, centered on an inspiring true story, told by the person highlighted.
The producers showcase different cultural perspectives and delve into issues such as equity, diversity, social justice and anti-racism, which I deeply value. I highly recommend that you check it out. It is a high quality listening experience. Let me know if you have any recommendations for podcasts that you love!
The béret was once the most popular hat in France. But today, most French people see it as old-fashioned. Except for Valérie. As a native of southwest France – where bérets were invented – she wants to bring them back in style! A transcript of this episode is available at https://bit.ly/3ajeGbM.
Neurologists, Dean and Ayesha Sherzai, created the Healthy Minds Initiative in response to the helplessness that they felt working within the traditional “sick care” model. After watching all the latest drugs and treatments fail to stop dementia, they set out to discover a better preventative approach.
Currently, approximately six million people are living with Alzheimer’s disease in the U.S. and 500,000 in Canada. It is the most common type of dementia. Every 64 seconds someone is diagnosed. This number is likely an underestimation of its true prevalence, as many people consider cognitive impairment to be a normal part of aging, and therefore never report it.
Two-thirds of individuals diagnosed are women. The likelihood of a woman developing Alzheimer’s disease during her lifetime is 1 in 6, compared to a man, which is 1 in 11. It is projected that if we do not take measure to slow the current trajectory, the number of people living with this disease will triple by 2050.
The good news is that Alzheimer’s is not a genetic inevitability and a diagnosis does not have to result in a death sentence. In fact, according to these two doctors, 90% of all Alzheimer’s cases can be prevented; and for the 10% with a strong genetic risk for cognitive decline, the disease can be delayed for ten to fifteen years.
Based upon their extensive research, the Sherzai’s have formed the following conclusions:
Physical exercise increases both the number of brain cells and the connections between them.
Chronic stress puts the brain in a state of high inflammation, causing structural damage.
Restorative sleep is essential for cognitive and overall health.
Meat and animal products are degenerative for your brain.
Education, learning and other complex cognitive activities protect your brain against decline.
Social support has an undeniable influence on the way your brain ages.
They developed a plan to promote the necessary lifestyle changes. They call the plan, “NEURO.” It includes:
Nutrition: A whole-food, plant-based diet low in sugar, salt, and processed foods.
Exercise: An active lifestyle that incorporates movement every hour.
Unwind: Stress management in the form of meditation, yoga, mindful breathing exercises.
Restore: Seven to eight hours of regular, detoxifying sleep.
Optimize: Multimodal activities that challenge many of the brain’s capacities.