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An Introduction to Mindfulness

by Davidicus Wong, M.D.

This is a handout I share with my patients to introduce them to the practice of mindfulness and principles of cognitive behavioural therapy. I consider these to be two fundamental emotional wellness skills that every adult and child should learn.

Like any other skills we wish to master, practice – particularly daily practice – is essential. Through the power of the human brain’s capacity for neuroplasticity (to change itself), we learn new skills – including new ways of thinking and feeling – through repeated practice. In the words of the pioneering Canadian neuropsychologist, Donald Hebb, “Neurons that fire together wire together.”

MINDFULNESS MEDITATION helps us to centre our minds, increase our awareness and calm the nervous system that modulates how we experience pain and other sensations. The practice of mindfulness teaches us a less reactive approach to the rest of our lives. We become open to accept and experience every aspect of our lives, our selves and our sensations, without clinging, aversion or judgment.

We begin meditation by spending 15 or 20 minutes each day just sitting in a quiet place in a comfortable position. We turn our attention to the natural flow and sensations of the breath without trying to control it in any way. This becomes a safe and calming anchor that we can return to at any time.

We can then turn our attention to sounds as they arise in our immediate environment, just attending to the arising and disappearance of different sounds as they come and go from our awareness. We don’t have to label or identify each sound. We simply remain aware of them as they arise.

We can centre our awareness on different physical sensations in the body, perhaps the pressure at points of contact, warmth, coolness, vibrations, pulsations, tingling and even pain. We can move awareness to different areas of the body, and if a sensation such as pain in one part of the body is difficult to manage, we can shift our attention elsewhere, to the part of the body that is most comfortable or back to the anchor of the breath.

With practice, we are able to maintain awareness and attention to every sensation without reacting to it, without aversion, clinging, judgment or identification. With time, we recognize that everything within our awareness is ever changing; nothing is constant – no sensation (not even pain), no mood, no emotion and no thought.

We are able to attend to each thought as it arises without getting carried away in a train of thoughts or a story in the remembered past or imagined future. We can note thoughts as they arise, without judgment or identification and let them go. We can do the same with the transient feelings and emotions that arise without getting caught up and carried away with them. We experience moods, feelings and emotions but we are not our moods, feelings or emotions. We can see them as transient, temporary conditions like a mist, a fog or a shower. They pass through us or we pass through them.

We can be mindful when walking, attending to the sensations of each step, the sounds and pressures on the feet and the movement of the legs. This becomes a mindful anchor from which what we hear, see, feel and think arises in our open and accepting awareness. 

Mindfulness can be practiced while eating, attending to the taste and texture of each bite of food; swimming, attending to the sensations of buoyancy, flowing water on the surface of the skin and rich sounds of moving water and air; and even driving. Mindfulness only begins with meditation. When you apply the healthy attitudes of non-reactive acceptance, gratitude and compassion to everything in your life throughout each day, you will discover a deeper level of peace, happiness and meaning. 

Mindfulness when diligently practiced can bring serenity to your mind and body throughout each day – an open, accepting and nonreactive approach to your life. It can foster in you greater compassion for others and yourself.

COGNITIVE BEHAVIOURAL THERAPY trains us to uncover our underlying beliefs and assumptions, choose our conscious thoughts, reframe our situation and shape our emotions. We can discover that we can improve our moods, thoughts and function in life through healthy self-care – eating regular healthy meals, ensuring adequate rest, daily appropriate physical activity and spending quality time with supportive friends and those loved ones who naturally lift our spirits. Mindfulness meditation can help us identify unskillful thoughts (those that increase suffering) and help us choose skillful ones.

MORE RESOURCES (I’ve put my favourites in bold)


The Miracle of Mindfulness: An Introduction to the Practice of Mindfulness (Thich Nhat Hanh)

Insight Meditation: The Practice of Freedom (Joseph Goldstein)

Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Awakening (Joseph Goldstein)

Radical Acceptance (Tara Brach)

True Refuge: Finding Peace and Freedom in Your Own Awakened Heart (Tara Brach), Jack Kornfield and Tara Brach’s videos, guided meditations and lectures are available for free on these websites. By listening to these teachers, you will quickly see how the attitude of mindfulness can be applied to your everyday life.

Local mindfulness retreats: Westcoast Dharma Society will show you how to fit in routine mindfulness breaks in just a few minutes a day


Hardwiring Happiness (Rick Hanson)

Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love and Wisdom (Rick Hanson)


Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment(Martin E. P. Seligman)

Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy (David D. Burns)

Mind Over Mood: Change How You Feel by Changing the Way You Think (Dennis Greenberger, Christine Padesky) has many useful resource including the Mindshift app for smart phones

Checkingin is a free mindfulness app for your smart phones

DIALECTICAL BEHAVIOURAL THERAPY (a synthesis of mindfulness and cognitive therapy)

            The Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills Workbook for AnxietyBreaking Free From Worry, Panic, PTSD, & Other Anxiety Symptoms (Alexander L. Chapman)

For an effective technique for establishing healthy new habits, check out TINYHABITS.COM

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Your Positive Potential: Notes from my keynote for 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.

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.


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


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. 

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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.

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How Words Can Transform Your Life

7 Mantras (Davidicus Wong)

There is power in words.

They have the power to harm or heal. They can incite an uprising or inspire a revolution. The right word at the right time can change the tone of your whole day or alter the trajectory of your life.

I grew up surrounded by books. My parents were very literate. Scrabble was a favourite family board game, and dinner conversation often centred on the correct spelling, usage and origin of particular words. My dad kept his university dictionary by the kitchen table under the fish tank.

I learned to read with the Dr. Seuss books my parents ordered by mail. As a preschooler, I would eagerly await the next monthly delivery much like online consumers today await their smiling Amazon packages.

Later my parents would subscribe to numerous magazines to satisfy our growing minds. I had already finished reading every volume of our World Book Encyclopedia many times over. The McGill branch of the Burnaby Public Library was our second home. My mom and I would reach our borrowing limits of 20 books each week.

The books I read were transformative. They opened my mind to whole new worlds of knowledge barely touched in my classes at school. I learned about the beliefs and lived experiences of people around the world and throughout history.

I was moved by the poetic mastery of great authors including Dickens, Shakespeare and Hemingway. In creative and original ways, they used words to portray the human experience. As a teenager, I was uplifted and inspired by the classic self-help books of Dale Carnegie, Napoleon Hill, Maxwell Maltz and Wayne Dyer. Appreciating how I had been enriched and helped by these books, I imagined how wonderful it would be to inspire and help others through my own words.

We each wield potential power with the words we use. The words of our thoughts are our self-talk. They shade how we see reality – our circumstances, our lives and our relationships. They can limit or enhance how we conceive our selves and one another.

Your first thoughts in the morning can shape your mood throughout the day. So choose them carefully, and as each day unfolds, consider the impact of your words on others.

Here are some ideas to get us started each morning for the next few weeks:

Today, what can I do to make someone smile?

Finally I will express gratitude to an unsung hero in my life.

I’ll tell others how they make a difference to the world . . . and to me.

I’ll say to someone, “I’ve always admired this quality in you . . . .”

How can I make someone else’s day?

I belong here; I am a part of a greater whole.

Being young means a future of surprises, wonder and potential. Being older means having enjoyed the gift of many decades of adventure, learning and love.

Today, I will take one more step in the direction of my dreams.

I am an agent of positive change . . . in my life . . . and in my world.

Words have the power to heal or harm. What will I say today to heal another’s pain, support our relationship and lift our hearts?

I’ll be returning to the McGill branch of the Burnaby Public Library on Saturday, February 10th, 2018 at 3:30 pm to give a free talk as part of the Burnaby Division of Family Practice’s Empowering Patients public health education program. The title of my talk is “Healthcare is Self-Care: Achieving Your Positive Potential for Health.” I’ll talk about preventive and proactive care, the keys to a healthy lifestyle, screening tests and tips for making positive changes in your life. You can register online or at any BPL information desk. For more details, call (604) 299-8955 or online



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A Hundred Days to Happiness #33: Happiness is being in the presence of a child


Happiness is being in the presence of a child.

I loved the days that I got to drive my daughter to elementary school. I’d rush home from my morning swim to make her favourite breakfast and wake her up with a hug and kiss on the cheek.

Her smile still makes me smile.

My kids always had a way to bring me more fully into the present, and because of that, my memories – of days at the zoo, towing them in my bicycle trailer, teaching them to skate, to swim and ride without training wheels, pushing them on swings and catching them at the bottom of slides – remain vividly real to me.

These experiences in my children’s presence remain in my heart and remind me of the joy of living.

I loved chatting with my daughter en route to school. No matter what wisdom I tried to impart, she was always teaching me something new . . . or reminding me of something I once knew but had forgotten.

One morning, thinking of my busy day ahead, I said to her, “You’re so lucky to be a kid!”

“What do you mean?” she asked from the back seat. “You’re a grownup! You get to drive a car, and you can go wherever you want.”

I couldn’t help but smile and laugh. She was right again.

“You can eat whatever you want” she added, “and go shopping all by yourself.”

After I dropped her off, she thanked me and wished me a happy day. Knowing I could drive wherever I wanted, I chose to go to work anyway, and I did have a happy day!

Your happiness exercise: be in the presence of a child, be fully present and see your world from a child’s perspective.

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#12 To feel fulfilled

Caribbean Sky by Davidicus Wong

In each of us lies potential – for good and bad. You are a unique individual with your own qualities and liabilities – some inherited, some mutated and uniquely yours; some from the luck and randomness of life; some from your experiences, the choices you have made and how you were transformed by them.

Each of us, made of light and shadow, has great potential for good. Simply being human, we are social beings with the ability and need to connect with one another, to engage our passions and talents to help others – family, friends, neighbours, strangers in need, our community and society.

The greatest tragedy is the call unanswered:  the opportunity to do something heroic, loving and kind that we let slip by, the day we fail to seize, extraordinary potential unrealized. This is the greatest tragedy yet it is also the norm. Every day is everyday; life remains dull, mundane and ordinary, and we remain unfulfilled.

What does it mean to feel fulfilled? Is it simply being satisfied – having enough money and possessions, enough entertainment, enough food to fill our bellies? Is it when we get everything we want? When all is perfect?

Fulfillment, and the happiness that comes with it, is not a destination at which we finally arrive – the award, the graduation, the perfect relationship, the wedding, the perfect job, retirement; that’s not the purpose of the journey. It’s not a place where we get everything we’ve wished for or when all is perfect. There is no such place, and life will never be perfect at least from our usual perspective.

Is fulfillment winning a gold medal? Or is it the achievement of your personal potential and wherever that may take you?

Fulfillment can be found every day in the journey itself, in being and becoming:  being engaged in the gifts of the present day, exercising your unique abilities, connecting with others and the world, and walking the path that is right for you.

It is the path of mastery, and the learning never stops.

We expect our children to grow and learn as they attend school.  As grownups, we sometimes forget that we are still learners and still on the path. Are you on the right path?  Are you feeling fulfilled in your everyday life?

Though most of us no longer hope to become Olympians, we should each ask ourselves, “Am I achieving my potential in life?  Can my body be stronger or faster? Can I be happier? Am I doing enough for others? Am I answering my calling?”

What do I need to learn? What do I need to work on?

We grownups think we no longer have anything to learn nor homework to do. We are oblivious to our blind spots.

To get back on the path, we sometimes have to listen to life (What challenges keep coming up for me?), listen to our hearts (What feelings do I need to resolve?), connect with others (Ask your good friends and family what you need to work on), reflect and act (Return to the path of challenge, learning and personal growth).

There is daily homework on the path of personal fulfillment. It is challenging to push yourself to overcome obstacles, pursue your dreams, engage your talents, and achieve your potential to meet the needs of the world.

It is work that only you can do. The alternative is the easy but frustrated life of the ordinary, unhappy and unfulfilled.

Ready to take a fresh look at life, question self-limiting beliefs and discover enduring happiness? Join me in “A Hundred Days to Happiness.” Since February 1st, I’ve been sharing insights I’ve learned from my patients, friends and family. Each day, I will post one new insight on, and my blog,

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#10 Your 3 tasks for this day

Cousins hiking in Banff - Davidicus Wong
Cousins hiking in Banff – Davidicus Wong

When my kids were small, I loved driving them to school. They went to a Catholic school but they knew their Protestant dad wouldn’t let them out of the car without his own benediction – a reminder to perform three tasks each day: learn something new, help someone else and have fun.

Learn Something New To learn is to grow, adapt, expand, evolve and change. We can expand in our awareness and in our abilities. It is a stretch towards our personal potentials. All of us can learn from the lessons of experience as well as adopt new skills in music, sports and crafts.

The best physicians learn from experience, educational rounds, journals and their patients.  I am continually learning new skills and adopting improving practices to provide the best care to each patient.

I challenge myself physically, progressively improving my swimming technique, increasing my speed and endurance to discover my athletic potential.  I nurture my creative spirit in music, art and writing.  I am continually learning and growing.

And in the process of learning, discovery and becoming, I have found happiness.  As my friend, Stan says, happiness is a byproduct.

To be a daily learner, we must be open to the wonder in the world of knowledge and the precious individuals that share our lives. A learner’s mind and heart will be open to the change and evolution in our loved ones and see them as who they have become and not just who they were.

Help Someone Else If we each cared only about our own interests, happiness will always elude us for our lives will never be perfect and we won’t come up ahead in the end. When our attention turns outward and success is no longer defined by our own personal advantage, our potential for lasting happiness expands.

Life becomes more purposeful, meaningful and fulfilling. We are well aware of our potential to harm others and our world, through ignorance, malice or self-interest. Yet we each have a tremendous potential to make the world a better place by making it better for others.

Of course, this is the nature of the work of firemen, health care workers, police officers, librarians, teachers and lifeguards.  But it is also a capability and calling we are each given.

Each day, we have fleeting opportunities to help others in unique and special ways.  It is therefore a daily calling to recognize another’s needs, consider what you can do, and seize the momentary window to do it.  It can be a helping hand, a smile, a needed complement, an expression of appreciation, a word of comfort and encouragement, or an anonymous gesture of kindness.

It is more regretful to have given too little than too much, to let an opportunity for kindness slip by than to have seized it.

With compassionate giving, we can be happy as we bring happiness to others.  We can make the world a better place for everyone.

Have Fun To seize the day does not mean to take the money and run or to blindly pursue gratification. It is to enjoy and appreciate the pleasures of being a live human being today.

There are the simple pleasures of seeing beauty, enjoying our food and physical touch. These can be all the more significant and enjoyable when we are mindfully focused and remember that these gifts are just ours for the day and that we are mortal.

Regardless of age, we can remain open to new experiences.

Happiness is not a goal, place or time in the past or in the future. It is within your grasp this moment. Seize it today. Help someone else, learn something new, and have fun.

Ready to take a fresh look at life, question self-limiting beliefs and discover enduring happiness? Join me in “A Hundred Days to Happiness.” Since February 1st, I’ve been sharing insights I’ve learned from my patients, friends and family. Each day, I will post one new insight on, and my blog,

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#9 Seize the day!


We devote so much of our souls in the pursuit of happiness. Yet we often mistake happiness to be represented by a place in the future (or past) when we have that perfect mate, job, child, house, or the next new thing. Sometimes we define happiness in the negative – when we will be free of the drudgery of a dead-end job, school, debt, growing up, or living with people who drive us nuts.

Such happiness is illusory. Real happiness is within your reach today, and part of the secret lies in a not so secret phrase.

At the entrance of my last workplace were inscribed the words, “Carpe diem.” This Latin aphorism, taken from one of Horace’s Odes, reminds me of the fleeting gift of each day and my responsibility to make the most of it.

When I would drive all three of my children to the same elementary school, I wouldn’t let them out of the car without the benediction to make the most of the day. They knew that at dinnertime I would ask how they had fared in my challenge to meet three personal tasks:  help someone else, learn something new, and have fun.

To seize the day is to appreciate and make the most of the blessings, challenges and opportunities before you right now. What you see depends on your perspective. Look for the negative and you will find it. I have to remind patients who are rightly overwhelmed by the suffering caused by acute or chronic illness and disability that overall their health is good and that most of their bodily systems are working very well. They are still alive after all. We can then work together to do what we can to help them feel as healthy as possible and to improve their function at home, work or school.

The admonishment of carpe diem is as relevant to adults as it is to children and students of the classics.

Ready to take a fresh look at life, question self-limiting beliefs and discover enduring happiness? Join me in “A Hundred Days to Happiness.” Since February 1st, I’ve been sharing insights I’ve learned from my patients, friends and family. Each day, I will post one new insight on, and my blog,

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#7 The Three Gifts

Maui with the kids

Each morning before rising, I open my mind with a meditation of gratitude for the gifts of a new day. There are three gifts that we are each given: the gift of place, the gift of person and the gift of presence.

These gifts are not meant to be clung to, put on a mantle or stashed away. They are ephemeral and precious. They must be appreciated right now for they are not ours to keep. We are entrusted with them this day and perhaps this day alone.

The Gift of Place This is where you are in life right now. You may be a child, a teen or an adult; at the beginning, middle or end of life. You may be pondering your choices for a vast, unknown future; beginning a course of study; starting a new job, considering a change or nearing retirement.

Wherever you may be in life, there’s no other time like it. In spite of the challenges facing you today, appreciate what you have right now. This may be the stuff that nostalgia is made of.

To embrace the gift of place is to see what is before you at this time and to appreciate what you have in your life this day. Look around you. Though all may not seem perfect, much of what you see today may be gone tomorrow.

In youth, we have energy, dreams and enthusiasm, but we lack experience, wisdom and money. As adults, we learn from life experience, make a living and may finally be able to do the things we’ve dreamed of, but we may lack the health and vigour to live those dreams. Parents are often too stressed and overworked to enjoy their children as much as they would wish; when they finally have the time, those children may have grown up and moved on to their own independent and busy lives.

The Gift of Person These are the people in your life today. Just as a man can be adrift in the ocean and die of thirst, we can be surrounded by people yet feel alone. To live fully, we must feel connected; the deeper our connections, the greater the satisfaction.

It’s too easy to take others for granted especially those we see every day. Think of the people in your life today. Who would you miss if you were never to see one another again? Treat them accordingly – with respect, affection and joy.

There are special people in my life with whom I can’t help from smiling whenever we meet. I know I would miss them dearly when life separates us as it inevitably will. The most precious gifts in life are not flowers, metals or jewels; they are the special people who come into our lives, bring joy and enrich our experiences but must eventually say good-bye.

I no longer have my mother in this world, but I do have my father, sister and brother; my wife and children; my extended family and my friends. Whenever I feel a pang of irritation or start to take them for granted, I remember how precious each is to me.

The Gift of Presence When our names were called during roll call in school, each of us would pipe up, “Present!” In both school and life, we may be physically present but without our hearts and minds fully engaged.

The gift of presence is the ability to master our conscious awareness of life’s experience; that is, being more fully awake, in touch and involved in the very experience of our lives today. As we explored in my previous article on meditation, we exist on many levels. To be fully present is to know our own thoughts and feelings, see our world with clarity and act with passion and deliberation. It is to be open to the experience of wonder.

So seize this day, and enjoy the ephemeral gifts of place, person and presence.

Ready to take a fresh look at life, question self-limiting beliefs and discover enduring happiness? Join me in “A Hundred Days to Happiness.” Since February 1st, I’ve been sharing insights I’ve learned from my patients, friends and family. Each day, I will post one new insight on, and my blog,


Coping with Loss Emotions Grace Happiness Letting Go Love Parenting Positive Change Purpose Relationships Wisdom

#5 Grief, loss and appreciation of the gifts

blank sand beach

So much of our unhappiness comes from (1) fear of losing what we have – our cherished possessions, our jobs, our reputations, our relationships, our homes and our loved ones, (2) grief with the loss of health, abilities, relationships and loved ones, and (3) dissatisfaction with not having what we want or need.

When my mother died suddenly nearly eight years ago, everything in my life changed.  It felt as if all was lost.  Many times since, I have counseled others who have lost loved ones.

How can we ever remedy what is lost and which cannot be regained?  Where there is life there is hope, but when a life ends, where is hope?  How can we regain happiness in the present when happiness, remains in our memories in the past?  All life thereafter which would seem good and beautiful and happy can only be bittersweet.

But what is our life but change?  We are born, we live and love in the eternal summers of childhood, we relate, worry, agonize as we grow and mature, we make a place for ourselves in the world, we age and wear down, we fade or we end unexpectedly.

What of us and our lives endures? Memories that eventually fade and die as those we have known also pass away or forget?  Foot prints and castles in the sand which once were real and seemingly solid but will inevitably be blown by the winds and washed by the waves?

Life is a gift, but it is not a possession to hold and grasp forever.  It is to be appreciated, cherished and shared while we have it.  We are but custodians of the gift, of the many gifts in our lives – blessings, good fortune, opportunities and challenges, and relationships. 

People, all special and unique step into our lives for a time.  We can be open – smile and talk, listen and learn, help and share.  Opportunities will arise and they will pass.  Or we can walk on by, miss opportunities to make a connection, to forge meaning, to make a positive difference in another’s life, to enrich our daily lives and the daily lives of others.

Take life and its precious gifts, be open to others, to their beauty and the beauty of all life, cherish the blessings of the day but let go when the time has passed, when life moves on, when loved ones and old friends leave. 

We cannot hold back our beautiful children from growing and maturing and discovering their true selves and new worlds.  Our parents cannot live forever no matter how much we want to hold them near.  They are all gifts we may hold and enjoy for a time.  Appreciate and cherish them with loving care and an understanding that they are only ours for a brief span of time.  We ought to feel grateful for at least that brief span.

Ready to take a fresh look at life, question self-limiting beliefs and discover enduring happiness? Join me in “A Hundred Days to Happiness.”

Since February 1st, I’ve been sharing insights I’ve learned from my patients, friends and family. Each day, I will post one new insight on, and my blog,