Tag Archives: Mindfulness

Positively positive

I am an optimist. I CAN’T HELP IT. When unfortunate events occur, my natural response is: “Okay, let’s deal with this. How can good come of it?”

This past week I was alarmed and disturbed when someone brought the phrase “toxic positivity” to my attention. The Psychology Group calls it “the dark side of the ‘positive vibes’ trend.”

We define toxic positivity as the excessive and ineffective overgeneralization of a happy, optimistic state across all situations. The process of toxic positivity results in the denial, minimization, and invalidation of the authentic human emotional experience.

— The Psychology Group: “Toxic Positivity: The Dark Side of Positive Vibes”

Has my relentless positivity been annoying the heck out of people? Have I been robbing people of their sorrow? Maybe I have friends who are secretly licking wounds I unintentionally inflicted on them?

If so, I apologize, but I CAN’T HELP IT.

It’s not that I don’t ever feel sad, or mad, or angry. I do. But I am incapable of dwelling in those states, and I find it hard to understand it when people do.

If there was ever a time for people to explore the breadth of emotions, it’s during a pandemic. Over the past seven months I have felt sad, mad and angry. Of course I have. But I’ve also been saying, “Okay, let’s deal with this. How can good come of it?”

I have been practising gratitude at every turn, and I have found so many things to feel positive about. For example, I am grateful to have acquired the skill of picking up a tennis ball without using my hands, so as to (ahem) not touch other people’s balls.

Woman picking up tennis ball using a shoe and the racquet
No more bending! I can now lodge the ball between my shoe and the racquet and lift.

When I asked my Facebook friends, they too had found many positives amongst the negatives.

Physical Activity: My friends took up physical activities they had never done before, or had not done in a long time: tennis, biking, walking, and stand-up paddleboarding. One friend described her new kickboxing habit as a “great way to work out the COVID angst.”

Technology: We have learned how to use online communications platforms. We are doing online coaching, yoga and fitness classes. One friend learned how to use a coverstitch sewing machine to make athletic leggings with a professional look. And, of course, there’s online grocery shopping.

Connections: We aren’t seeing people like we were before, but we’re seeing people in a different way. One women meets a 94-year-old friend from Scotland every week via Zoom. Many people have met neighbours they never knew before, because suddenly everyone is working from home and going for walks. We’re helping each other with groceries and dropping off baked goods. We’re enjoying family time. playing games, eating together. While stocking up on books before the lockdown, a friend met someone who runs a writers group.

Services: Two of my friends learned how to groom their dogs. Many, many of them cut their own hair or a family member’s hair. We watched YouTube videos to learn how to do just about anything. Another friend has learned how to do her own gel nails.

Hobbies: Sewing, cooking new things, gardening, drying seeds, and canning are on the list of hobbies developed in the past seven months. I’ve been doing lots of writing. One friend started buying and selling used vinyl (albums in my lingo). He is, “having a blast. Meeting all kinds of interesting people (at a distance) and adding considerably to [his] music knowledge base.”

Self-care: Through all of this we have been trying to take care of ourselves. The physical activity is helping with that. One friend lost 30 pounds. Another friend has taken up a meditation practice.

These are all little ways of dealing with the negative. When can do them when we’re sad, mad or angry.

Collectively we’re saying, “Okay, let’s deal with this. What good can come of it?”

yellow frisbee with a happy face
Put on a happy face . . . but only when you’re ready.

Found hearts

While hiking at the Mill of Kintail last week, I came across this heart rock on one of the boardwalks.

Rock painted with a purple hear

A few weeks ago, I woke up and looked out my bedroom window to see this collection of hearts on my neighbours’ lawn, in celebration of their 60th wedding anniversary.

Over the years, I’ve encountered heart-shaped rocks in several locations, including during a Habitat for Humanity build in Bolivia. That heart became part of the foundation of the house we built together.

My niece went to an amethyst mine near Thunder Bay and brought me back this sample.

Heart-shaped amethyst

When I come across an unexpected heart, it always makes my smile. I think we all need a little lift these days, am I right?

May my found hearts help to lift yours. What are your favourite hearts?

A good time of year to dance: Hafiz

Here is a phrase I’ve heard some lately: “If I don’t laugh, I might cry.”

Laughing is good. Or dancing!

The God Who Only Knows Four Words

by Hafiz, as translated by Daniel Ladinsky in The Gift: Poems by Hafiz the Great Sufi Master

Every
Child
Has known God.
Not the God of names,
Not the God of don'ts,
Not the God who ever does
Anything weird,
But the God who only knows four words
And keeps repeating them, saying:
"Come dance with Me."
Come
Dance.

What Should We Do About That Moon?

by Hafiz, as translated by Daniel Ladinsky in The Gift: Poems by Hafiz the Great Sufi Master

A wine bottle fell from a wagon
And broke open in a field.

That night one hundred beetles and all their cousins
Gathered

And did some serious binge drinking.

They even found some seed husks nearby
And began to play them like drums and whirl.
This made God very happy.

Then the "night candle" rose into the sky
And one drunk creature, laying down his instrument,
Said to his friend—for no apparent
Reason,

"What should we do about that moon?"

Seems to Hafiz
Most everyone has laid aside the music

Tackling such profoundly useless
Questions.
Photo by Helena Lopes on Pexels.com

Rain on a cottage roof

“How was the weather?” people ask when we return from our cottage. They assume we would wish for nothing but sunshine and warmth.

But wet weather is a wonderful part of vacation life too. Rainy days are perfect for cocooning with a good book, or for settling in for a nap.

There are few sounds more soothing than rain on a cottage roof . . .

Photos are way more dramatic is wet weather too.

Grow with the flow

A few weeks ago in her post Planned Spontaneity, Laurie Buchanan of Tuesdays with Laurie contemplated the different growing patterns of trees and pondered how that compared to how we lead our lives.

  • Are you a planner, with specific ideas of which you want to go?
  • Do you live haphazardly, bending every which way?

Like most people, she is a cross between two styles: 70% planned, 30% free spirit.

I am about 50/50, but when I was younger I led a much more planned existence. Spontaneity made me uneasy back then. In fact, friends used to make fun of my wary stick-to-routine life and pushed me to step outside my comfort zone.

And then I became a freelance writer. Talk about unpredictable.

I have developed more comfort with the “unexpected.”

Once I discovered that some of my most amazing life experiences occurred when I said, “Let’s go this way and see what happens,” spontaneity came more easily. When I allowed life to unfold naturally, it always seemed to lead me to an important and life-changing experience.

“Given the unpredictability of this crazy world, it’s good to be able to grow with the flow,” I wrote in Laurie’s comment section, and that feels true to me. Best not to cling to plans in this COVID time, am I right? It has forced even the most wary of us out of any routines we might have been sticking to.

I’m trying to grow with that flow. All of this feels important and life-changing.

Two trees twining together as they grow.
These trees are growing with the flow together.

Hasten slowly

“Hasten slowly and you will soon reach your destination.”  

—Milarepa, as found in Finding Water: The Art of Perseverance by Julia Cameron

But, how can we hasten slowly? Isn’t that an oxymoron?

And yet, it seems we do. All the good stuff comes out of hastening slowly.

  • A university degree: scribbling notes and typing assignments during caffeine-driven all-nighters . . . for four years
  • A thriving marriage: juggling careers and taking whirlwind vacations, chasing around after toddlers, paying down the mortgage . . . for decades
  • Children: pacing the floor during sleepless nights, car pooling to hockey games, gritting teeth at parent-teacher interviews, wanting everything to be perfect for them . . . for, well, forever
  • Published writing: handwriting first drafts, transcribing messy second drafts, editing, reading aloud, pacing, getting up in the middle of the night to change a word . . . for days, weeks, years

When rewards are slow coming, it is easy to get discouraged. Whether it is raising money for a good cause, learning a language, landing a recording contract, establishing the perfect garden, or mastering the “Moonlight Sonata” on piano, we must push on.

And if we stop typing, juggling, paying, pacing, gritting, planting, weeding, watering, playing, practising, reciting, conversing—if we stop hastening—then we never reach the goal.

Whatever your destination, hasten to it, and slowly you will arrive.