a little wordy

because words can inspire

Breathe

Michele Viner
v. take air into the lungs and expel it, especially as a regular physiological process

Do you meditate?

I don’t.  But I would like to.  There is a ton of literature out there that says if we meditate, we are happier, calmer, more productive and thinner.  Well, maybe not thinner but one can hope.

That is why, when a few weeks ago my friend Charlene asked me if I would join her for an evening with Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, I jumped at the chance to sit still.

This guy is apparently the big meditation guy.  The guru.  As I settled into my seat in the large venue, I watched several hundred people fill their seats around me.  Of course my first thought is how can someone like me - a newbie who can’t do this on her own -actually be still and thoughtful amidst 500 of my new closest friends?  It didn’t seem possible.

And it wasn’t.

The evening transpired something like this.

It began with a pre, of sorts.  In this case, a lovely, serene man walked barefoot onto the stage as a hush came over the crowd.  For the next 30 minutes he led us in a “warm up” meditation that was all about our breathing.  In through one nostril, out through the other.  In through one, out through the other.  In, out.

I will admit that at first I was completely into it.  My brain seemed to sigh with relief when I consciously and deliberately fed it air.  The sound of the man’s voice was melodic as he spoke about filling our lungs, our hearts, our souls.  The collective sound of all of us breathing was like an ocean, with the tide coming in and the tide going out.  It was actually incredible and I was all in, until I wasn’t.  Then, all hell broke loose.

“Breathe in, and breathe out.”

Okay, I’ve got this...I can do this...this is awesome...I am a meditator...I knew I could do this...oh wait I am thinking too much...okay in and out...

“Breathe in, and breathe out.”

...okay I’m back...whew that was close...in and out...wait, what if I am breathing too heavily on the person in front of me..what if I have bad breath?...what if someone is watching me...I think Julia Roberts went through that too...what movie was that?...oh who am I kidding...Julia would never have bad breath...she’s perfect...

“Breathe in, and breathe out.”

...maybe I shouldn’t have worn this shirt...maybe that’s the problem...maybe it’s too loud...everyone here is dressed in light colours and I’m in black...black...again...my mother in law says that black isn’t a colour it’s a mood...my mother in law...oops...I promised her I would get her that recipe...damn...I forgot to send it to her...I will call her when I get home...home...crap I need to pay hydro... hydro...damn we need lightbulbs...

“Breathe in, and breathe out.”

...if I get the lightbulbs on the way home at the drugstore oh and deodorant for Jac too I can swing by Loblaws and get dinner for tomorrow because if I wait for tomorrow I won’t be able to be home for the air conditioning guy who promised to swing by with the new part and lord knows I’m hot...

“Breathe in, and breathe out.”

Really buddy?  In whose world?  I was not mindful, I was mind-full.  Big difference.

That said, I did spend the rest of the evening in the spirit in which it was intended, and I did put my mind to putting my mind to rest.  When Sri Sri Ravi Shankar came on stage he was in himself mesmerizing in his ability to command our attention and be peaceful all at once.  Several times since that outing I have tried to do the same - breathe and be peaceful  - just me, myself and I, in a captured quiet moment. 

In case I need to mention in one more time, today’s word is breathe

Let’s all try to do more of it.  Deeply, thoughtfully, mindfully and joyfully.  Our very life and vitality depend on it, and so does our happiness and health. 

Breathe in and breathe out.  Breathe in and breathe out.  Just like Julia. 

Change

Michele Viner
n. the act or instance of making or becoming different

I know what you’re thinking.  

You’re thinking that I haven’t blogged in a while because I have been procrastinating.  (If you remember, the theme of procrastination began this whole Blah Blah Blog thing in the first place.)

But nope.  If you are thinking that, you are incorrect.  I haven’t been procrastinating.  I have been thinking.  There’s a difference.

The difference is that procrastination is the intention to do something and never getting around to it, or putting it off for tomorrow or the next day or never, and just shutting down. Thinking about things is something that is productive. Thinking, I think, is an integral part of the creative process.

Just ask me.

A few weeks ago, I sat with my friend, Kathie.  We were having coffee in Starbucks and she was telling me about a business idea she had and what her plans were to bring it to life. Kathie is very smart and has great ideas, and her business plan is no exception.  That said, she is also one of the more practical people I know, and we ended our conversation with her admitting that if things didn’t take off within the first year she would go back to the beginning.  

“You have to be flexible,” she said. 

The word flexible stopped me in my tracks (ironic, yes).  And, for me, those words led to a lot of thinking about change.

That is today’s word.  Change.  I think we are all so afraid of it.  Sometimes the idea of change just rocks our worlds.  If we are given the choice to change or not, we often don’t.  The unknown is just too scary.  When change is forced upon us, we are often left in a tizzy. The unknown is still scary, but this time we have no choice.

What is the expression?  That which doesn’t kill us makes us stronger?  When you think about that, those words are likely describing moments in our lives when we will be called upon to live life on the fly.  To be flexible.  To embrace change.

Anyone who knows my wordy product knows that lately things look a bit different.  After leaving Kathie that day, I walked away from things for a bit to think and reflect.  Some things just weren’t right.  Now I am back and excited about some new ideas down the road.

It was also a great lesson, well beyond a small business.  Being flexible and open to change should be part of our life’s repertoire.  Being stuck in a rut is a drag.  

Novelist C.S. Lewis once said: “You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending.”

Love that.  What new ending will you begin to create today?
 

Focus

Michele Viner
v. pay particular attention to

My daughter, Emma, is in the process of deciding what university she is going to attend.  She applied to seven schools and was granted acceptances at all seven.  I think she thought that she wouldn’t get into all of them and that the decision would be made for her, but no such luck for my very smart daughter.  Now she is agonizing over which school to choose.

Just as a short aside.  When I was in grade 12 and preparing to go to university I lobbied to add my biology mark to Billy Tannor’s biology mark just so one of us could pass.  Billy was a kid in my class who had the same acumen in biology that I had.  Let’s just say, it didn’t work out the way we hoped, although I think we might each have managed to eke out a 51 on the promise we would drop sciences.  

But I digress.

Too much choice?  Seems to me to be a good problem to have.

And at the end of the day, is the choice the real issue, or is it our ability to concentrate and evaluate long enough to make that choice?

This week’s word is focus.  I think we are a generation of people who are struggling with the ability to do so. 

Every time we turn around we are being pinged, beeped, rung and insta’d this or that.  It used to be that someone who could be paged on the spot was a VIP who was saving lives.  Now we are being paged to bring home milk.  Even since I have typed these 282 words my phone has yelled at me four times and every time I have gone to it, like a gerbil to a pellet when they hear a bell.  And no.  In case you are wondering, none of them required any life saving actions at all.  Thankfully.

So.  The question is.  How do we develop focus?  How do we create the quiet in our lives to actually be able to hear our little voices; the voices that are so wise.  The voices that help us to make our decisions.

Many years ago when I worked for an industrial psychologist, she gave me advice that I have never forgotten.  I think maybe there was a lot of stuff going on in my life at the time and I was having trouble concentrating on my job.

“Treat your mind like its a puppy,” she told me.

Her instruction was to let the “puppy” wander the room and explore at reckless abandon for five minutes.  And then, coax the puppy back into my lap and ask it kindly and gently to remain there for the next five minutes.

The wandering puppy represented the chaos in our minds and the inability to focus.  The puppy in the lap represented the ability to quiet those thoughts for a brief period of time and train our minds to quieten.  The idea would be that eventually the puppy could sit for longer than five minutes.

“And you must do so kindly,” she advised.  “You would never yell at a little puppy, so you must not admonish yourself for feeling distracted.  That just makes things worse.”

Over the years I have used that advice many times.  Now I am passing it along to my daughter.

Emma’s facing a major decision that will impact her life for the next four years.  Maybe you are facing a much smaller choice.  Either way, coax the puppy into your lap and get quiet and focus.

The answer will be there.

Integrity

Michele Viner
n. the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness

What’s in a name?  Do you like your name?  If you had it to do all over again would you pick the name you have now or would you choose another one?  Not that we have a choice.  Our names are, of course, picked for us.

And chances are much thought has gone into that choice.

That was certainly the case for both of our daughters - Jacqueline Abigail and Emma Ariel.  Although things didn’t quite go to plan.

When I was pregnant with my oldest daughter, I was convinced I was having a boy.  
C-O-N-V-I-N-C-E-D. I would literally tell people I was having a boy and they just assumed an ultrasound had determined that.  

“No ultrasound,” I would say, “I just know.”

So naturally, being so sure (and so stupid), I thought only about boy names and not girl names, or gender neutral names.  For Kevin and I, the choice would be easy.  It is tradition in Judaism to honour someone who has passed away with the use of their name, or with the use of the same first letter of a name.  For us, that was Jack.  Jack was my dad who had died when I was 14 years old and it would give us great pleasure to name our son after him.  The second name would be Arthur, after Kevin’s grandfather who had also passed from this world, and who was a person very worthy of the honour.

It was decided.  Jack Arthur.

And then I went into labour.

“It’s a GIRL!” yelled my doctor, Jennifer, as she pulled our little baby into the world.

“It’s a what?!" I said, groggily, puffed up like a blowfish after labour, and sure I wasn’t hearing correctly.  But I was.

And just like that, Jack Arthur became Jacqueline Abigail.  

This past week, another little girl was pulled into the world.  The daughter of my sweet friends, Bonnie and Albert.  I have known Bonnie since she was a little kid as she is the daughter of our very good friends, and in fact, Bonnie was my flower girl at my wedding.

Trippy when your flower girl becomes a mama, not going to lie.

And, of course, I thought the whole time she was having a boy.  I was (yup, stupidly) sure of it throughout her entire pregnancy.

It wasn’t until I was with her just a few evenings before she gave birth.  We were passing each other in a hallway and suddenly I was surrounded by the most incredible feeling of a female presence.  It practically took my breath away. “Bonnie, I said.  “I just had the most incredible feeling that you are having a girl.”

And she did.  Just a day or so later, beautiful little Mollie Luna was born.  And just like Jacqueline Abigail all those years before, she was named in honour of two men - the baby’s great grandfathers - who were kind and exemplary people.

So, after all that.  What is this week’s word?  Integrity.

I heard it said once that what we ultimately leave this world is our good name.

When we are given our name at a baptism or naming ceremony it is in the hope of what’s to come. When that name is uttered one final time as we leave this world, it is in honour of all we have accomplished and given to the world.  When all is said and done, our name defines us, and defines the dignity and integrity with which we carry ourselves.

What’s in a name?  Plenty.  Use yours well.

Goodness

Michele Viner
n.  the quality of being good

You know that rule that you shouldn’t grocery shop when you’re hungry because you end up clearing out the aisles of Twinkies and Haagen Dazs?

Well, I am sure that somewhere in the blogging 101 handbook (if there is such a thing) there is a similar rule about not blogging when you are having an emotionally charged reaction to something.  

But what the hey.  Rules were made to be broken.

Yesterday my family and I saw the musical, Come From Away.  Wowza.  For anyone who has been living under a rock (haha - get it?) it is the musical account of 38 planes landing in Gander, Newfoundland in the panic of September 11, 2001.

Anyone of a certain age who lived through 9/11 knows exactly where they were on that morning.  I know I certainly do. I had just dropped my two year old daughter off for the very first time at a three morning a week daycare program.  I remember saying cheerio to Jac and then pushing one year old Emma home in the stroller.  It was a 15 minute walk, the sun was shining, the sky was blue and I was despondent.  I had separated from my baby for the first time.  It felt like the world was coming to an end.

Little did I know.

When I entered my house the phone was ringing and it was my friend, Charlene.

“Turn on your tv,” she said and hung up.  And so I did, sinking into the couch in horror.  

I also remember the days after the attack, when we were all glued to tv sets trying to make sense of all that was happening. My innocent little babies played at my feet in a world that no longer was innocent.  

“Big boom?” asked Jacqueline on one occasion when she entered the room before we had a chance to turn the channel. 

“Yes, honey,” I said back.  “Big boom, but it’s all okay.”

And so began the job of every parent in a post 9/11 world to teach our children that everything was going to, in fact, be okay.   From that day on, I started to tell my girls what I firmly and truly believed - that even though terrible things happen, there is more love in the world than hate.  That even though some people do bad things, far more people are good.  And that even though circumstances will coax you into thinking otherwise, we must always believe in goodness.

That is this week’s word.  Goodness.   

Now, 17 years after the big boom, when I find myself sitting with my husband and two daughters in a theatre in Toronto, all of those feelings come back, and I am overwhelmed as the story unfolds.  

Here it is on stage for all to see.  For the thousands of people from all over the world who were literally pulled from the sky and grounded, Gander became a temporary home.    Through the telling of this story, while using humour, dance, song, incredible stage direction and choreography, and a few hits of screech, we see first hand that an entire community swooped in to embrace them.

We see that clothing, food, shelter, companionship, support and friendship is extended in a way we can’t imagine.

We see that a community becomes transformed, and in the matter of just five days, people from other cultures and locales become honourary Newfoundlanders for life.

And we see that even though terrible things happen, there is more love in the world than hate.  That even though some people do bad things, far more people are good.  And that even though circumstances will coax you into thinking otherwise, we must always believe in goodness.

And in the end, we do a jig.