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Compassion Coping with Loss Empathy Forgiveness Friendship Grace Growth Happiness Letting Go Love

The gifts that give back

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7 Mantras (Davidicus Wong)

At one time or another, we all think about ourselves when we give to others.

That’s perfectly fine when your gift is a shared experience: a nice meal, a concert or a movie. You’re celebrating your relationship and saying “I love you so much that I want to enjoy some special time together.”

Some gifts are thinly veiled gifts to your self. Examples among spouses abound. Consider the husband who buys a big screen TV for his wife a week before Valentine’s so that they can enjoy watching the Super Bowl together. Have you ever received a gift that someone else uses more than you?

When I was 14, I gave my brother a record album that I liked myself. He immediately noted that I would be enjoying the music as much as he so I exchanged it for something he really liked (that I couldn’t use).

There are three virtues that I call “double blessing”: forgiveness, gratitude and generosity. They are two-way gifts – gifts that give back. They benefit the giver as well as the receiver. They strengthen our relationships, and they nourish our souls.

Forgiving

Shakespeare said it best in The Merchant of Venice:

The quality of mercy is not strained.

It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven

Upon the place beneath; it is twice blest;

It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.

Sometimes we are loath to forgive someone who has hurt us. It is especially difficult if that person’s actions have caused great suffering, were done with ill intent and with no remorse.

To forgive may feel like you’re letting the other off the hook, giving something up or diminishing yourself, but what you give up and lighten may be a load that has been weighing you down and holding you back.

If you’ve travelled by plane recently, you’ve noticed that most passengers are maximizing their carry on luggage, stuffing them under seats and overhead. This makes for an even more uncomfortable flight for themselves and their neighbours.

We weigh ourselves down by carrying into each new day the baggage of our past: resentments, prejudices, insults and slights. They hold us back from stepping lightly, moving forward and welcoming new experiences.

Forgiveness isn’t so much letting someone else off the hook as it is unhooking you from the load you’ve been towing. You are the one who is freed.

Appreciation

I taught my children that two of the most important prayers are those of gratitude at the dawn of each day and at dusk. When we frame the day counting our blessings, we nurture both optimism and happiness. We greet a new day with a cup half full and go to bed, with a cup overflowing.

But we can do much more than just counting our blessings and acknowledging the gifts of the day. We can strengthen our relationships and spread happiness by thanking those who have helped us.

We all need to feel appreciated and to know that we make a difference to the people around us. If someone has touched you and made your life better, thank them. Don’t take anyone for granted. Don’t miss a day’s opportunities to express appreciation and to make a difference. All is fleeting.

Generosity

Each day you can see people in need, and you can help in ways big and small.

You don’t have to be rich to enrich your own day and make a positive difference. You can make someone’s day with an act of kindness, a sincere complement, a helping hand, encouragement and appreciation.

When we give freely and without expectation, we are nurturing our own capacity for unconditional love. We are each beneficiaries of kindness and love from many people throughout our lives: teachers, coaches, health care providers, family, friends and benevolent strangers. We cannot give back all that we’ve received, but we can give that love forward.

It is the greatest re-gift.

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Compassion Emotions Forgiveness Letting Go Love Parenting real beauty real love Relationships

Love . . . the real thing

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Central Park, Burnaby by Davidicus Wong

I believe we are each a unique manifestation of the divine in this world.

When we are self-less, identifying less with this everchanging physical body and the elaborate personal story of endlessly conditioned thoughts and feelings that we have created throughout our lives, we see that we are all connected.

When others harm or insult me personally, they are also harming themselves. If I respond with misery or anger, I also harm myself – I allow myself to be twice stabbed, and it is my own self-inflicted wound that causes the longest suffering.

Our bodies are 60% water, but we don’t own that water. We are each a part of the water cycle. We take it in, we let it out. Water flows, evaporates, condenses and precipitates.

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We are also vessels of love and part of a great Love Cycle. It is an essential part of us, we take it in through many forms, it nurtures and sustains us, we give it out and we let it go.

Like all gifts in life – youth, health, friends, loved ones, careers – it is given to us in trust. It is not ours to own or cling to. We must appreciate these gifts when they are present but we cannot hold them forever – even our selves are not forever; we must let go of every gift.

But being human, we do not always love unconditionally – particularly with those closest to us. As parents, we may add judgment and expectation in our love for our children. The newborn baby is beautiful to us (even in her imperfection) because she is our own baby. When I was younger, I thought that I had to earn my parents’ love by being an overachiever but I later realized that that was not the case. They loved us each just as we were.

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Loved ones, friends, neighbours, coworkers and classmates may say and do things that attack our personal selves, and we can be pulled back into the usual mode of thinking of ourselves as separate selves – defending ourselves and competing for limited resources – the status quo of the win-lose game.

When couples fall in love. It begins with love, the idea and love, the emotion. Love, the idea is the product of infatuation – and we don’t see clearly. It’s like a psychosis, and I wonder if young people madly in love can really give informed consent to be married (until they have cooled off and come to their senses). Love, the emotion is a complex of our physical responses (which always fades with the passage of time) and our ideas and beliefs about that person (often inaccurate and incomplete).

With these limiting definitions of love, we can only love a few people in our lives.

Agape, metta or unconditional love is the real thing: the capital “L” Love. It is Love, the spiritual experience. It comes from an unlimited wellspring. It comes without conditions. Although it may seem foolish from a self-centric perspective, Love-based thoughts and actions benefit our truest, deepest, spiritual selves.

Just as Shakespeare said of mercy in the Merchant of Venice: The quality of mercy is not strained . . . It is twice blessed. It blesses both the giver and receiver.

Forgiveness is the same. Letting go of the past, acknowledging but relinquishing anger, and completely forgiving others – benefits most the one who forgives.

Life on Earth in a human body is a delicate balance. So easy is it for each of us to get lost in the delusion that we are just our separate personal identities. So easy it is to forget who and what we really are. When someone else – enemy or loved one – pokes at our little selves, we feel that natural response to defend and react. Mindfulness of our true identity reins us in.

We are human and imperfect, and we don’t always love unconditionally. In fact, most of the love that we have received in our lifetimes has come of course from other imperfect humans and came with conditions. But it is still love and part of the love cycle of which we are a part. It is the love that we give forward.

We can filter that love, purify it and share it with the rest of the world more unconditionally and closer to the original source of Love.

With real Love, I see more clearly. I see real beauty in the world and in other people. The two greatest spiritual experiences are to Love . . . and to be Loved in this way. It comes from the divine within us, and with it, we see the divine in others. As human beings, this is the purest way that we can experience God.

May you be happy, healthy, peaceful and safe. May you be filled with Love and give it freely.

God Creating Adam

 

 

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patient-doctor relationship

The long term relationship that’s vital to your heart . . . and every other organ in your body

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During the month of Valentine’s Day, many of us think about our most significant relationships. Young couples think about grand and romantic ways they’ll express their passion; married couples think about the money they’ll save by dining at home.

But the relationships that are more often taken for granted are those you share with your physicians, and of course, the most significant of these is your relationship with your family doctor – a long term relationship that’s important not only for your heart, but every other organ of your body and your wellbeing as a whole.

It is my relationships with individual patients that originally drew me to family practice. The practice of medicine can become cold and clinical without the emphasis on the human connection. Nothing can match the potential depth and breadth of the patient-family doctor relationship.

As physicians, we must earn our patients’ confidence – to trust us to keep private their medical history, their deepest secrets and their greatest values and to have the faith that we will be their advocates and do our best for them.

In exchange, we are privileged with the sharing of our patients’ personal stories – the good and bad things they may have done, the great and awful things they have lived through and how they make sense of it all.

Over the years, we become a part of our patients’ stories. Sometimes, life can be overwhelming and each of us could lose our sense of control. When we feel helpless, we feel anxious. When we feel hopeless, we feel depressed.

When needed, physicians can help shape patients’ stories with more positive, empowering perspectives. Though patients may present a number of problems, I encourage them to verbalize and visualize their goals.

One of the greatest gifts I can give to patients who see themselves as hapless victims of bad luck, relationships and health is the transforming perspective that they can be agents of positive change in their own lives.

Though we may not have chosen the canvas of our lives nor the colours on our palette, we can choose how we see this life and what we will create with it.

On Tuesday, February 16th at 7 pm, I’ll be speaking at the Metrotown branch of the Burnaby Public Library on “The Patient-Doctor Relationship: making the most of the every medical visit.” I’ll offer some tips on improving communication and working together to achieve your personal goals. I’ll cover the key information you should know about medications and other treatments and the key screening tests we need at different stages of our lives. For more information, please phone the Metrotown branch at (604) 436-5400 or register online at http://www.bpl.bc.ca/events.

Categories
Caregiving Love Medical Ethics patient-doctor relationship Positive Potential Purpose Relationships Your Calling Your Goals

Find your inspiration!

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To make the most of this life, we must make the most of each day.

What inspires you to rise out of bed each morning, do what needs to be done, pursue your goals and give the extra effort that makes a difference? What gets you through the in between times with a mountain range of challenges between you and your destination?

From an early age, I was hooked on reading. By grade 6, I had finished reading the World Book Encyclopedia and spent hours each week at the McGill Branch Public Library in North Burnaby. Like my mom, each week, I would borrow my limit of books.

I was inspired by Norman Vincent Peale’s The Power of Positive Thinking, Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence people and James Allen’s As a Man Thinketh. I learned much more from countless books, and my eyes opened to an expanding horizon of possibilities.

So enriched and moved by the writing of others, I imagined how wonderful it would be to help and inspire others with my own words some day.

For ten days in grade 6, I had a flare-up of rheumatoid arthritis with rashes, fevers and painful joints. On Burnaby Hospital’s pediatric ward, I was cared for by my doctors and nurses who weren’t treating a disease but rather me as a whole person. I trusted them to do their best for me, and it was then that I decided to be a physician – to give forward the care that I had been given and to care for others when they are most in need.

An inspiration can get us started on a path, but what keeps us going?

We can be most inspired by those we serve. When I became a parent, the awesome responsibility of caring for a helpless baby, loving unconditionally and nurturing each of my children to their greatest potential was the greatest of callings.

I had to rise to this responsibility and strive to be my best to give my best. My children have made me a better person.

As a physician, I developed my golden rule of medicine: treat every patient with the same degree of care and consideration I would want for a best friend or family member. For any of my patients, I refer to the same colleagues and order the same tests in the same time frame that I would want for those in my personal life.

The needs of my patients have inspired me to be a better physician. I am inspired and supported by a few of my colleagues, including my classmate, Dr. John Law, who like me, commit to continuous quality improvement in their clinical skills and looking outside of the box, learn advanced techniques to meet the needs of our patients.

The most inspiring physicians learn from one another and from their patients.

In your personal life, whom do you serve? Look both inside and out of your own home, community and workplace. If there is a need, can you rise to meet it?

Each day presents us with infinite opportunities to make a difference big or small – to lift up the hearts of a few people and to live a meaningful life.

Celebrate Inspiration Day from 10:30 am to 1 pm on Saturday, February 6th at Century House at 620 Eight Street in New Westminster. I’ll be there to enjoy the entertainment of the Century House Singers and Comedians and give the keynote presentation. Admission is $5. Call (604) 519-1066 for more information.

Davidicus Wong is a family physician and his Healthwise columns appear regularly in the Burnaby Now, Royal City Record, Richmond News and Vancouver Courier. For more on achieving your positive potential in health, see his website at www.davidicuswong.wordpress.com.