Categories
Compassion Coping with Loss Love

Remembering Mom

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Today is my personal annual day of grief. It is the 17th anniversary of my mother’s passing. On that worst day of my life, she died unexpectedly while doing an exercise class with her friends at the Confederation Seniors Centre.

In a moment, she went from being active and feeling well to unconscious. She received immediate CPR. The paramedic’s report read PEA – pulseless electrical activity. This would suggest that she had a massive heart attack – perhaps due to the sudden thrombotic occlusion of a main coronary artery.

There was absolutely no warning.

She was not fortunate enough to have a gradual narrowing of a coronary blood vessel that would eventually have presented with the symptoms of angina – chest pain with physical activity. That is the usual signal for physicians to request exercise tests and angiograms, allowing us to intervene with bypass surgery or angioplasty.

In fact, she lived an extremely healthy lifestyle and attended to her two atherosclerotic risk factors, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. She felt well. Her memory remained sharp.

She was only 72 (but looked twenty years younger). Looking at this photo taken a month or so before she died, she looked younger than I do now.

Having lost her parents by age 9, she was always health conscious.

She was also socially conscious. She always put the needs of others above her own. She looked after her family, and also her friends, family and community. Her concerns extended to the whole world.

If she were alive today, the sickness and grief that is now pandemic would have affected her deeply.

But she would not be overwhelmed. She had a great heart. She would have turned her fears and sadness into generous action.

That is what she did as a child with her siblings to survive when their parents had died. That is what she always did for us as we grew up. That was her way until the day she died.

My mother is the single most important influence on my life. As human and imperfect as I am, the best of me is because of my mother – who she was, how she lived her life and how she loved.

Since she died, I often wondered how much better our lives would have been if she had not died when she did – my children were still in elementary school and aged 10, 8 and 4.

How many more family dinners would we have shared? Just a few weeks before she died, my mom had made us a wonderful Easter dinner.

She would have come to all of my daughter’s dance, piano and violin performances, my children’s award ceremonies and all of their graduations. She would have been so happy to see them grow up and so proud of the young adults they have become. How many more small and great acts of kindness would they have seen?

She would have been to them – as she was to me – the embodiment of unconditional, limitless and active love; one who sees the best in you and inspires you to be your best; one who gives more than she gets; one who always does the right thing even when no one else is watching.

I have come to realize how lucky I was to have her as my mom in my life even if not forever. Few people even meet one person who loves so much and lives a life of unquestionable integrity.

My mother set the standard of behaviour and caring to which I aspire.

Her legacy is the love that remains in her children and grandchildren to actively give as much as we can to others throughout our lives.

Categories
Burnaby Division of Family Practice Compassion Empowering Healthcare empowering patients Growth Love Positive Change Positive Potential Purpose Relationships Self-care Wisdom Your Calling

Your Positive Potential: Notes from my keynote for Inspiration Day

inspiration-day

Saturday, February 22nd, 2020 was Inspiration Day at Century House in New Westminster. Gracious members of the audience requested my speaking notes. Here they are.

I began with a brief introduction to my Empowering Patients public education program sponsored by the Burnaby Division of Family Practice. The purpose of my series of workshops, videos, posters and key points handouts is to provide everyone in our community with unbiased health and wellness information essential to live healthy, happy lives.

With respect to the things within your control, the best predictor of your future health are the habits you practice today.

Real healthcare is self-care as it is individuals – not professional healthcare providers – who provide over 90% of their healthcare.

The four foundations of self-care are: 1. what you eat (what you put into your body); 2. what you do (physical activity and rest); 3. how you feel (emotional wellbeing), and 4. how you connect (healthy relationships).

These are all key topics of my Empowering Patients talks. The slides and handouts are available in addition to videos on the public website for the Burnaby Division of Family Practice. https://www.divisionsbc.ca/burnaby/for-patients/empowering-patients

Upcoming 2020 Health Talks

Everyone is welcome to attend these no-cost talks, however registration is required as space is limited.


March 12, 7:00 – 8:30 PM – ‘Emotional Wellness’
Brentwood Community Resource Centre, 2055 Rosser Avenue, Burnaby
CLICK HERE to register.


March 31, 7:00 – 8:30 PM‘The Positive Potential of our Relationships’
Bonsor Recreation Complex, 6550 Bonsor Avenue, Burnaby
CLICK HERE to register.


April 8, 7:00 – 8:30 PM ‘Healthy Eating’
McGill Public Library, 4595 Albert Street, Burnaby
CLICK HERE to register.


May 14, 6:00 – 6:45 PM – ‘Healthy Physical Activity’ & Walk With Your Doc
Confederation Seniors Centre (4585 Albert Street, Burnaby)
CLICK HERE to register.


For more information, check out all Empowering Patients materials.

THE POWER OF OUR STORIES

How we tell our stories affects how how we experience our lives.

HOW OUR STORIES CAN LIMIT US

The helplessness of the victim can feed anxiety.

If we can’t let go of anger, what we hold continues to harm us.

Remembering only loss and surrendering to hopelessness begets depression

With an attitude of entitlement, you will never be satisfied.

THE DEFAULT MODE NETWORK is the brain on autopilot creating stories. This typically happens when we are daydreaming, neither focussed on a specific task nor meditating. We can adopt unquestioned assumptions and core beliefs – many of them limiting beliefs, such as: “I have to be perfect to be loved.” “I can’t trust anyone.” “Life is unfair.” “I’m not good enough.” “I don’t deserve success, happiness or love.” “I am powerless.”

COGNITIVE BIASES are unconscious cognitive shortcuts with which we misinterpret reality. One such bias is the negativity bias. We notice more of what is wrong than what is right – with our partners, our situation and ourselves. To counter the negativity bias, we need to see (and hear) FIVE positives for every negative. This is a key principle for maintaining positivity in your most significant relationships and in creating a happy home for our children.

Actively see the positive in your life by the daily practice of gratitude. I start each day – before I even get out of bed, with a prayer of thankfulness for all the blessings in my life, beginning with the person lying next to me: my wife. This attitude primes the pump for noticing the positive aspects of all that I will see throughout the day. By days end, when I will reflect on the day with another prayer of thankfulness, my cup is overflowing.

I teach quality improvement to my physician colleagues to improve patient safety and health outcomes. When problems arise, we do a root cause analysis. This might include using the Five Whys. Ask at least 5 whys to get beyond the proximate or superficial causes of problems to get to the root cause.

I applied the Five Whys to every problem I could think of and found a single root cause for every problem in the world: a false sense of self.

We live with the illusion of separateness . . . and a life of competition.

There is the illusion of the Other . . . that engenders prejudice based on colour, gender, age, body shape, clothing, faith, language, accents and customs. The other may appear strange, different, less than, threatening or dangerous.

We went through an exercise in compassion to dissolve this false separation. I asked audience members to look at a person directly across the table from them. They were to look into each other’s eyes – not speak – but rather listen to these words. This person was once a baby, loves and held in the arms of parents . . .  just like you.

This person was once a child who laughed and cried, with big hopes and dreams . . . just like you.

This person has felt alone and sad, heartbroken and disappointed . . . just like you.

This person just wants to be happy . . . just like you.

This person needs to be loved . . . just like you.

The inescapable truth: you are not a separate, independent individual. You are a global citizen interdependent with every other person on this planet. Your wellbeing is dependent on the wellbeing of others.

We are all a part of a greater whole, members of a family, supported by a network of friends, neighbours and peers.

We are part of a community, citizens of this country and members of humankind, connected to all living things, a part of nature and this planet.

This is your true identity.

You belong here.

Another exercise to foster unconditional love. Imagine in front of you, one whom you love naturally and easily. Someone who always brings warmth to your heart and a smile to your face.

Say these words to them: May you be happy, healthy, peaceful and safe.

Now imagine someone you have had a disagreement with in the past week.

And say those same words: May you be happy, healthy, peaceful and safe.

The big problems of our society and the world will never be solved by people looking out for themselves. When we realize our interdependence and connection with the global community and all life on this planet, we will see the positive evolution of humanity and life on Earth.

It begins with us.

Together let us be the change we wish to see.

What is your story?

Engaging with Life and Coping with Change

The reality of change. Change is the nature of all things. It is our very nature. It is futile to pursue and cling to that which does not last. Nothing lasts.

We must appreciate what we have when we have it.

Every gift is not ours to hold forever. We must love and appreciate others while we can and let go when we need to. Accept what you cannot change. Accept responsibility to change what you can.

Be an Agent of Positive Change

Be dynamically response to change. Seek out the positive potential of each moment. Be responsive not reactive.

The Science of Neuroplasticity

Though our habits of thought and behaviour seem hardwired, with effort and repetition, we can transform our own minds. Donald Hebb, Canadian neuropsychologist said, “Neurons that fire together wire together.” this is how we can adapt to our changing world. You can retell your life story . . . and see beyond the illusion of a separate smaller self.

Evolving into Our Positive Potential

Discovering your potential in life. Your calling is the intersection of four circles: your passions, your talents, your values and the needs of the world.

Joseph Campbell said, “Follow your bliss.” When you listen to life and rise up to meet the challenge, you will find meaning and purpose.

Heed the call which may change at different stages of your life. There is a potivie potential to be realized in each day. We must see, feel and act.

We are all a part of the Love Cycle. In our lives, we receive love in many forms. We give it forward. The giving of love does not diminish us but connects us and makes us stronger.

At the end of each day . . . and at the end of this life, you don’t want to regret having not given enough or loved enough. The greatest tragedy in life is that we may die not knowing how much we were loved.

Life is lived fully by loving without limit, giving all you’ve got and holding nothing back.

We are all human and imperfect but still deserving of love, beautiful and able to love.

You ARE good enough.

You ARE worthy of love.

You DESERVE to be happy.

You are BEAUTIFUL just as you are.

You belong here.

We are all interconnected in the Cycle of Love. When we realize our interdependence and connection with the global community and all life on this planet, we will see the positive evolution of humanity and life on Earth.

It begins with us.

We are part of a greater whole.

We are all Agents of Positive Change.

You are greater than you think. We can make a difference.

Together let us be the change we wish to see.

Dr. Davidicus Wong is a physician and writer. 

Tapestry Talk

Categories
Growth Happiness Love Parenting The Qualities of a Child

The Privilege and Joy of Parenting

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Fathers Day is not just a day to honour our dads (My own dad is my role model for kindness, generosity and resilience); it’s a time to remember the privilege and joy of being a parent.

This month, as my son turns 27, I recall that I was just three years older, when he came into this world and into our lives. He was due on our 3rdanniversary but came two days early. (I was looking up the traditional present for a 30thanniversary. Not silver, gold or diamonds but rather a medal my wife deserves . . . for all the times I’ve come home late for dinner or stepped out of social events to attend patients in hospital).

Though I was in the early years of my practice, I had already delivered hundreds of babies. Nearly three decades later, each birth seems no less transcendent; I appreciate the privilege of being a family physician and to be present during the spiritual milestones of my patients’ lives.

As new parents, our lives and identities were transformed much as they did with marriage. We were no longer just individuals or a couple, living only for ourselves. In a magical moment, we became parents . . . and a family, living beyond our own self-interests.

We were responsible for all of the needs of a precious child.

Being a parent is the greatest of gifts. From the moment of his birth, my life has been infused with new levels of joy, enhancing my experience of everyday life. I would come to see life through my son’s wide and curious eyes. The world was again teeming with wonder and adventure.

I became more mindful and present. Those ordinary parent-child activities – reading and drawing together, playing in the park, building sandcastles, going to the Vancouver Aquarium, riding the Stanley Park train, swimming and learning to ride a bike – were extraordinary. They remain vivid, palpable memories today.

We grow too as our children grow up. We learn patience, acceptance and most importantly unconditional love. We are given the honour to give forward the legacy of love we have received from our own parents.

And being loved by our children, motivates us to be our best selves that we may be exemplary role models and worthy of their love.

This Fathers Day, we will celebrate and thank our fathers – and graciously appreciate the joy and privilege of being parents.

 

Categories
Love

How to Stay in Love

Mom & Dad's Wedding Photo

Dad and Mom’s Wedding Photo

My sensible wife reminds me that Valentine’s Day is only a Hallmark holiday – a day when florists are overwhelmed selling roses at the highest prices of the year and when you should have made a reservation if you wanted an intimate night out.

Of course, we could never outlaw Valentine’s Day in Canada; the chocolate, floral and greeting card industries would lobby ferociously for their biggest day of the year.

Quite contrary to Hollywood movies, I’ve always told my children I wouldn’t let them get married when they were head over heels madly in love. After all, infatuation is not unlike a psychosis where reality testing is impaired. We see only the idealized good in the other and none of the bad.

Legally, individuals with impaired judgement cannot give consent. So why should they be allowed to sign a marriage certificate? Every young couple needs a cooling off period . . . . until they see (and love) each other as they really are.

With mature love, we see the best in our loved ones, want what is best for them, see their faults, accept them and love the whole imperfect, human package.

We’ve seen many wedding invitations with the inscription, “Today, I marry my best friend.”

In my practice, I’ve seen some marriages fall apart over time. I’ve seen young couples blissfully in love and delivered their babies, but years later, they can’t stand being in the same room together.

If they were to have invitations to a divorce party, I would expect to find the inscription, “Today, I divorce my worst enemy.”

Why does this happen?

Sometimes they have fundamental incompatibilities in values and temperament. Sometimes, one partner does something that forever changes how the other sees them. Instead of all good, the other is seen as all bad.

Neither of course is a true reflection of reality.

And there is that Negativity Bias of the human brain. As Rick Hanson – the psychologist and author of “Hardwiring Happiness” – has said, our brains are Velcro for the bad and Teflon for the good.

This Negativity Bias has had survival value for the human race; it helps us spot and avoid danger. Yet it makes us miserable; we don’t recognize the good in our situation, our partners and ourselves. It also makes us miserable to live with if we voice all those negative observations as complaints and criticisms.

Many couples just drift apart. We take the other person and our relationship for granted. When they are neglected, the relationship is at risk.

Lasting relationships – like good health – require our daily attention and maintenance.

Here are four suggestions that have worked for my patients in lasting loving relationships.

  1. Foster emotional intimacy. Agree on a habit of checking in with one another each day. How was your day? How are you feeling? (Don’t ask the tired parent who has been at home with the kids, “What did you do today?”).
  2. Show your affection. Express your positive feelings. Remember that Negativity Bias: you have to say 5 positive for every negative comment just to come out neutral. Think about that before you criticize your partner or your kids.
  3. Schedule regular dates. Commit your time to what and who matters most to you. Don’t wait ‘til there’s time; make time.
  4. Communicate in a healthy way. Take a breath and let anger cool before you react. Acknowledge your partner’s feelings and point of view. Express how you feel without blame.

Before you open your mouth, carefully consider your words. Is it true? Is it helpful? Is it kind?

This Saturday, I’ll be enjoying a nice dinner with my wife before watching a play. It won’t be a celebration of Valentine’s Day but rather our relationship.

Categories
Burnaby Division of Family Practice Emotions Empowering Healthcare empowering patients Happiness Healthy Living Love Relationships Uncategorized

Healthy Relationships (Davidicus Wong)

 

Why relationships matter

  1. Social support from friends, family and partners are key to your emotional health and resilience.
  2. Harmony in the home is essential to your wellbeing.
  3. Loving friends and family support your health.
  4. Conflicts at home, work or school are major sources of stress and contribute to anxiety and mood disorders.

The sources of conflict

  1. Incompatibility (religion, culture, language, introversion/extraversion, values and beliefs.)

Game changers: incompatible values (core beliefs about right and wrong)

                                     abuse(physical, emotional or sexual)

  1. Cognitive Distortions– When we start seeing each other differently.
  2. Mind reading: making negative assumptions about the other’s intentions without checking them out.
  3. Excessive blaming: when something goes wrong (or is left undone), it’s the other’s fault.
  4. All or nothing thinking: seeing all of the BAD (and none of the good) in the other, in your relationship and your situation.
  5. Neglect and loss of intimacy.Too often we can let the rest of our lives take over our life together.
  6. Feelings change.We mistake the inevitable fading of infatuation and romantic love with not being in love. With attention and commitment, we can transition into enduring love, from passion to compassion.

The quirks that endear us when we fall in love eventually irritate us when the honeymoon is over, but they are the things we’ll miss when our loved ones are gone.

The 5 Love Languages (Gary Chapman)

  1. Words of Affirmation
  2. Quality Time
  3. Receiving Gifts
  4. Acts of Service
  5. Physical Touch

The Qualities of Healthy Relationships

  1. Mutual respect– for our individuality, our feelings and our ideas
  2. Commitment to one another and to our relationship. We express our commitment with time, thought, patience, effort and a willingness to work together.
  3. Acceptance and management of the differences that make us unique– personality, passions, preferences, spirituality, customs. Extraverts are energized by people and parties; introverts need solitude to recharge. Extraverts need to speak to think; introverts think before they’ll speak. With acceptance and understanding, we complement one another.
  4. Unconditional love: mutual positive regard, compassion and good will.

Nurturing Your Relationship

  1. Foster emotional intimacy.Agree on a habit of checking in with one another each day. How are you feeling? How was your day?
  2. Show your affection.Express your positive feelings. Remember the 5 languages of love.
  3. Schedule regular dates. Commit your time to what matters most. Don’t wait ‘til there’s time; make time!
  4. Communicate in a healthy way.Take a breath and let anger cool before you react. Acknowledge the other’s feelings and point of view. Express how you feel without blame.
  5. When things get stale, have an affair . . . with your partner.

The Four Things That Matter Most (Dr. Ira Byock)

  1. “Please forgive me.”
  2. “I forgive you.”
  3. “Thank you.”
  4. “I love you.”

THE 4 FOUNDATIONS OF SELF-CARE

What you eat(What you put into your body). What you do(physical activity and rest).

How you feel(emotional wellbeing). How you connect(healthy relationships).

 

Categories
Happiness Healthy Living Love Wisdom

Thanksgiving: The Holiday with Attitude

Autumn in Whistler.jpg

Wine may grow in value with age, but as I age, I appreciate more the value in all things.

The celebration of Thanksgiving has become more meaningful with each passing year. It is the holiday with attitude – a decidedly positive one.

Unlike other stat holidays that are to many just a reason for a long weekend and cross border shopping, Thanksgiving asks us to pause and reflect, gather and give thanks for what we have been given. It can bring about a frame of mind that can frame our words and actions in the days that follow and possibly for the rest of the year.

Unlike Christmas where the meaning can be lost in the frenzy of feasting and shopping, Thanksgiving remains comparatively simple though much thought and love goes into the preparation of a meal to share with family and friends.

It is a reason to gather and appreciate that which we have. It turns our thoughts and actions towards the needs of others – the homeless and others who struggle to stay warm each night and to keep food on the table.

Grace may be a prayer of thanks many of us will be saying before dinner, but it is also an attitude – a way of thinking and acting.

Thanksgiving is not just the giving of thanks. I divide it into “thanks” (or appreciation) and “giving.”

The thanks is in the appreciation of the gifts of our past, present and future. The gifts of your past have enriched your experience and shaped your growth. Think of the special people who have supported you through love, teaching and inspiration.

The gifts of the present are those that you have this day. One of the tragedies of every human life is that we don’t always recognize and appreciate the gifts that are in our hands at this moment. Both this moment and those gifts are fleeting.

The gift of the future is its promise – so rich in youth but still present in our later years and even at the end of life. This is what you give forward – the seeds you have planted, the good you have done and the love you have given. It is your gift to the world of the future. What can you give to others in the time you have left?

Thanksgiving reminds me to give. We give away . . . to others – not just the things we don’t need or can part with, but rather what is most needed by someone else. We give back . . . not just to those like our parents who have given so much to us but also to our community, to nature and to our world. We give forward . . . to our children, to the future and to others who may never be able to thank us.

The greatest gifts in our lives are not always obvious or appreciated when we have them, and they are not ours to keep. They are given in trust for us to give away, give back or give forward. And the greatest of our gifts is the love we receive and the love we express.

Davidicus Wong is a physician and writer in Vancouver, B.C.

Categories
Forgiveness Friendship Grace Happiness Love real love Relationships

Say What Needs to be Said: The Positive Potential of Your Relationships

On Thursday, November 24th at 7 pm, I’ll be speaking on the topic of healthy relationships at the Tommy Douglas Library 7311 Kingsway (at Walker Avenue). This free presentation is sponsored by the Burnaby Division of Family Practice and the Burnaby Public Library. Because seating is limited, please register by phone at 604-522-3971, in person or online at http://www.bpl.bc.ca/events.

blank sand beach

As family doctors, we carry a heavy responsibility and profound privilege to serve each patient at every point in this precious human life. We share in our patients’ dreams and aspirations, support wellbeing, treat illness, and provide comfort at the end of life.

I continue to enjoy the soul-renewing service of delivering a newborn baby into the arms of a mother. I see every baby as a bundle of potential.

As a physician, I share in that child’s parents’ and our society’s responsibility in the realization of that child’s uniquely positive potential.

But at the end of our lives, the greatest tragedy is not that we have failed to reach our potentials but rather we die not knowing how much we were loved.

How many times are we moved to act with kindness and generosity – giving up our place in line, offering a kind word and donating to others in need – but hold back and let the moment pass? How many times do we let the sun set without saying what needs to be said? We seem to be given countless days as we go about the busyness of living, distracted by the news of the day and preoccupied with the world of material things. Yet when we lose the special people we have taken for granted, we realize we were short one precious day when we could have expressed how much we cared.

How do we get off track?

The biggest illusion in life is our case of mistaken identity. We get so caught up in our personal autobiographies that we mistake ourselves as separate and alone. We begin seeing every one else as for us or against us. We value those who serve us but not when they seem to work against us.

This may be the biggest problem in the world today: the illusion of our separateness, and the perception of a world of “others.” The “others” are no longer three-dimensional individuals who share with us the same emotions and needs with their personal dreams and stories. They become our enemies or our scapegoats. They literally become objects of our hate and fear. They represent the darkness that lies within our own hearts.

The antidote for our disconnection is remembrance of our connection – all that we share. Begin with family and friends. When we argue and disagree, we may begin to separate; but the alternative is to see different opinions and different goals as different points of view – an opportunity to deepen our understanding.

In everyday life, we take cognitive shortcuts based on caricatures (2-d stick people versions) of even those we know best, and we interpret what they say and do with assumptions we don’t check out. This leads to greater misunderstandings and separations.

For example, if your friend doesn’t call you back, you might assume she’s avoiding you and not that she didn’t get your text or lost her phone. If your brother brings up an embarrassing event from your past, you could take it as a personal attack rather than affectionate ribbing.

We are worse still with people we don’t even know but perceive as different based on outward appearances: clothing, accents, skin colour and position. We may even be guilty of the ridiculous assumption that the “other” is less important and of less value than ourselves.

We need new rules of engagement. The goals of conversation are not to get our point across and get what we want but rather for personal connection, mutual understanding and cooperation.

As a separated human being in your individual life, you will never be able to achieve and hold onto all that you seek. Together we are better.

Our place in this world becomes clear when we remember our very real connection with all of humanity. As infants we are connected to our mothers through the umbilical cord; we are dependent on our families as we mature and grow; we create a network of connections with our friends, in school and at work; we become participants of the greater society; we discover our uniquely positive potentials – our gifts to the world, and we help others and the rest of the world achieve theirs.

But in each day there lies a profound potential – the potential to nurture each of our relationships in many ways big and small. We can express our potential for love in countless forms – by forgiving and apologizing; by giving without expectation; by expressing gratitude. We can say we care with words, with actions, with a smile, a hug and a gentle touch.

Each day is a gift with which we can make a positive difference in the lives that we can touch, and let them know that they make a difference to us. At the end of life and at the end of the day, that may be all that really matters.

 

Categories
Compassion Friendship Growth Happiness Love Parenting Positive Potential real beauty real love Relationships

The Game Changer in Life: Seeing the Best in You

Central Park Lake 1

I confess that whenever I came across a green bag labeled for donation after my children had cleaned their rooms, I would rummage through it.

There I might find books and collectible items I thought they would treasure forever. After all, I had spent many hours finding just the right birthday or Christmas gifts at each stage of their lives.

Over time, I realized that such material things (though inspired by love) are not made to last forever nor should any of us cling to them. Kids grow up and outgrow them all.

The best gifts we can give our children are those they will keep forever.

A priceless gift my parents gave me continues to enrich my life, and I’ve done my best to pass it on to my children. Their gift was to always see (and expect) the best in me.

Though my parents were very thoughtful and deliberate in the decisions they made, I suspect that the ability to see the best in brother, sister and myself was a natural byproduct of their love for us.

 

We were each unique and as flawed as any other kids. They would give us feedback and correction when we could do better, but they always gave encouragement and praise when we did our best. Much more than looking for what’s wrong in us, they were always looking for what was good.

That simple but profound view – to the see the best in others – is a game changer in everyday life.

More often, we live on the surface of society and when looking at others, stop only on the outer surface. We judge – and then behave – based on appearances, gender, dress or disability, race and roles. We make sweeping judgments, and we forget that we see only glimpses of whole people.

We forget that every person that we pass on the street, sit beside on the bus, and interact with in the course of our daily lives is a complete and complex individual.

Every one of us has hopes and dreams, pain and disappointment. Everyone is someone’s friend or cousin, sibling or parent. When we remember this, we are more open to compassion and it becomes more natural to treat others with kindness and understanding.

Consider this when you disregard or ignore another human being or when you immediately dislike someone you don’t even know. We all have good and bad days, but we can always make someone else’s day better.

With those we live and work with, we can get caught up in our quirky habits and differences. We can take one another for granted and keep a running tally of what we don’t like about each other. One of the secrets of a happy marriage is to deliberately make more positive than negative comments about your partner. It reminds us to look for and express the best in the other, who in turn feels more appreciated.

The teachers who see the best in their students can inspire them to work harder and achieve their best. The manager who sees the qualities of each team member will lead a productive and positive team.

The doctors who can help their patients see themselves as agents of positive change in their own lives will guide them towards their potential for wellbeing.

Today, take a good deep look into the mirror and in every face you meet. See the best in everyone.

Categories
Caregiving Compassion Coping with Loss Forgiveness Friendship Letting Go Love Relationships

Live with the end in mind

Nitobe Memorial Garden, UBC (Davidicus Wong)

Mindfulness of death is a Buddhist practice that informs more meaningful living.

If anything can happen anytime and if your next breath was your last breath, you would pay attention to the quality of each remaining moment of your life – every sensation, thought, word and action.

If this was your last week or today was your last day, what would you do differently?

You may update your facebook . . . or you might not.

Would you spend more time on social media, go shopping one last time, go to your favourite restaurant and eat all you can? Would you reflect on your life in retrospect, recognize what really matters and spend your remaining time there?

If you had one last chance to talk to the people you love, what would you say?

Dr. Ira Byock, a palliative care physician wrote in his book, “The Four Things That Matter Most” that those four things are what we need to say to our loved ones before we part: “Please forgive me,” “I forgive you,” “Thank you,” and “I love you.”

We are all human and imperfect. We hurt the people we love, and they hurt us. We take one another for granted. We don’t always speak or act in loving ways.

If we knew our time together was limited, we might be kinder, more patient and loving. The truth is our lives are indeed limited, and few of us knows how much time we have left. In fact, the only ones who know this have been diagnosed with a terminal condition.

My mother died suddenly in April 13 years ago.

I was fortunate that my profession had taught me how precious life was and that I was able to give back to my mom the love that she gave me. Yet I have often thought of how her kind and generous presence would have enriched my life and those of my children if she was still here.

When grieving, I recalled every word from those who offered comfort. One patient said that to die suddenly is a good way to go. Ten years later, that patient would die from end-stage congestive heart failure. Without warning or in palliative care: neither is easy for loved ones.

Last year, my dear aunt passed away in palliative care at St. Michael’s Hospice. She was surrounded by her loving family, and we all had the opportunity to express our love and gratitude for all that she had done for each of us.

Palliative care focuses on the comfort of the patient suffering from a life-limiting condition. The aim is the best possible quality of life even in the final stages of illness.

It takes a team to attend not only to the physical aspects of care but just as importantly the psychological and spiritual. Patients with their families and friends are supported by a team that includes nurses, doctors and volunteers.

Since 1986, the Burnaby Hospice Society has provided trained volunteers to offer emotional and practical support at home, in hospitals and in long term care facilities to those with life-threatening illnesses and their families. They also offer free grief counseling to family members.

On Sunday, May 1st, the Burnaby Hospice Society will be hosting the 2016 Hike for Hospice at Central Park to raise money for these services. The cost is $25/person (children under 12 are free). For more information, see their website at burnabyhospice.org.

Though we cannot predict how our lives will unfold, we can live with the end in mind. We can invest in our most important relationships with the gift of each day and each moment together. We can stop wasting our time, doing things that don’t matter, holding grudges or putting ourselves before others. In the end, what can we hold on to?

We can say what needs to be said. We can use each moment more mindfully. We can express all the love we have in our hearts because it’s only worth something when we give it away. We can’t take it with us.

Davidicus Wong is a family physician and his Healthwise columns appear regularly in the Burnaby Now, Vancouver Courier, Royal City Record and Richmond News.

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Nitobe Memorial Garden, UBC (Davidicus Wong)
Categories
Compassion Forgiveness Happiness Letting Go Love Uncategorized

The magic of self-compassion

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St Stephen’s Basilica, Budapest, Hungary

Sometimes what we long for is right in front of us, and like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, we already have what we need.

Each day, I see patients searching for a solution to their suffering that can come as feelings of emptiness, anxiety, stress, low self-esteem or depression. They may expect that solution to come in the form of medication or counseling.

An example is the burnt out accountant or business owner, giving 100% of himself to his work, leaving nothing for friends, family or self. Another is the perfectionistic student, struggling to keep up with her extracurricular achievements and maintain an A+ average.

There are many unhappy in their own bodies, concerned about their weight or magnifying perceived imperfections. Some with wavy hair like it straight; those with straight hair want the waves. Some with big body parts want them smaller. Some with smaller body parts want them bigger.

When you look at those you love unconditionally – children, parents and friends, do you wish them to look different or “better” or to be anything other than who they are?

What we all need is self-compassion, an essential aspect of emotional wellbeing.

It’s not what we usually think about when we say self-love that most might associate with narcissism – a self-centred obsession with a superficial self.

Self-compassion is an extension of the authentic love we more freely give to others.

Through the habits of negative self-talk, guilt, perfectionism or self-neglect, we can become our own worse critics and fail to give ourselves the care we need.

Through the magic of self-compassion, our world becomes a better place – even if nothing else has changed. We struggle less. We are happier, less judgmental and more accepting of our selves and others. When we look in the mirror, we smile instead of furrowing our brows.

How can you nurture self-compassion?

Practice this lovingkindness meditation borrowed from Buddhism. Picture someone you care about, someone who makes you smile when you think of them – a child, parent or friend, and say in your mind, “May you be happy, healthy, peaceful and safe.”

You can nurture compassion for others, by imagining their faces and saying, “May you be happy, healthy, peaceful and safe.” Foster self-compassion by saying, “May I be happy, healthy, peaceful and safe.”

Be mindful of critical, judgmental thoughts towards others and yourself. One key to a happier marriage is to offer five honest positive comments for every negative one. Be a good partner to yourself.

A good parent ensures the children are well fed, exercise, play safe and get enough sleep, yet so many good parents don’t extend that care to themselves. Be a good parent to yourself – eat well, don’t skip meals, avoid recreational drugs and limit alcohol. Engage in daily exercise and get enough rest.

Being human, we are by nature imperfect yet we are still beautiful and worthy of love. Be kind to yourself, and may you be happy, healthy, peaceful and safe.

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