Monks, Experts In Social Distancing, Find Strength In Isolation

Monks, experts in social distancing, find strength in isolation by Michael A. Vargas

Need a habit to get through trying times? Try solitude.

Ever since the rainy season retreats of the Buddha 2,500 years ago, sages have celebrated the transformative power of being alone. In Christian monasteries, silent mindfulness became part of the everyday routine in the sixth century after the appearance of a book of monastic principles and guidelines called “The Rule of Saint Benedict.”

In periods of trouble and isolation, my studies as a historian of medieval European religion draw me to the monks who’ve taught that solitude heals the mind and body and brings one closer to others.

On Listening And Acting

The author of “The Rule,” Benedict of Nursia, lived during the chaotic last years of ancient Rome, a period of plagues, intolerance, and, for some early Christians, self-isolation.

monksRather than retreat to the desert or live atop pillars, attempting to imitate Christ in acts of extreme asceticism, Benedict wanted a monastic life that combined “ora et labora” – work and prayer. It should impose, he thought, “nothing harsh or rigorous.”

The monastic lifestyle may seem stark for modern times, but Benedict’s take on religious contemplation was moderate compared to the experiments of his era. His guidance for monks – which begins with a gentle, poetic invitation to listen with “the ear of the heart” – quickly became the monastic standard.

Today, it remains the traditional frame by which historians, philosophers and theologians regard contemplation as a monastic pursuit.

Some 1,400 years after Benedict’s Rules, Thomas Merton’s writings about his experience as an American Trappist monk influenced generations of Christians seeking spiritual healing.

Born in France in 1915, Merton moved to the United States after his mother died when he was six. His father died soon after. His 1948 autobiography “The Seven Storey Mountain” describes the long period of soul searching that ended when he recognized that solitude had become the antidote for his suffering.

Being alone in silence was not about withdrawal from the world for Merton. Rather, solitude, as the foundation for heightened self-awareness, led to greater compassion for others. Merton expressed this realization, which sustained his lifelong activism in peace and social justice causes, in “No Man Is an Island,” published in 1955 and now a classic in Christian spirituality.

“We cannot find ourselves within ourselves, but only in others,” he wrote, “yet at the same time before we can go out to others we must first find ourselves.”

Compassion Is A Rough Road

Not all monks succeed in finding inner peace through solitude, as Merton did.

Take the Dominican Order of Preachers. While researching a book on the order’s experiences during a diseased and disoriented 14th century in Spain, I found many failures among the mendicant friar-brothers.

bibleBeyond some examples of illicit sex and public criminality, there are many instances of disruptive, lewd and uncouth behaviour.

In 1357, just after the Black Death, for example, two of the order’s men, Francesç Peyroni and Bartomeu Capit, came to blows, hitting and kicking each other until, finally, clobbered with a stone to the head, Capit lost the ability to speak.

Meanwhile, some of the Dominicans I studied sought personal advantage by corrupting the order’s electoral system and government, by encouraging crusader violence and by leading repressive inquisitions.

The exploits of Spain’s bad-boy friars make for good reading, but they also raise a disheartening question: If seasoned professionals can fail at contemplative progress, how can regular folks even hope to achieve the benefits of solitude?

Keep It Simple, Keep It Moving

monkFor some solace, consider the “Cloud of Unknowing,” a practical manual for the work of reflective solitude. Written by an anonymous author of the late 14th century, it is widely regarded as one of the greatest of the medieval spiritual guides.

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The “Cloud of Unknowing” calls the practice of solitude exercise. An everyday comparison helps here: As with running or walking, some exercise is better than nothing at all, and more is even better. Encouraging oneself to be still, quiet and alone is beneficial, no matter how much effort goes into it.

The “Cloud” author says that a guide or coach might offer helpful advice, various “tricks and devices and secret subtleties,” but none of that is necessary. What is most important is getting started and staying at it: “Do not hang back then, but labor in it until you experience the desire.”

Doing the exercise of solitude, rather than perfecting it, is what counts.

Contemplative practice in the Western world has historically been the pursuit of privileged men, like so many other realms. In the middle ages, clerics often scorned female spirituality. Today, of course, meditation by and for women is common.

Aspiring practitioners of solitude in today’s turbulent times may find a capable guide in Anthony De Mello, an Indian Jesuit priest, psychotherapist, storyteller and spiritual teacher active into the 1980s – kind of a Catholic yogi.

Like the author of the “Cloud of Unknowing,” De Mello focused on reflective silence as a way of detaching from the words, concepts and emotions that can cause trouble. His 1978 bestseller, “Sadhana – A Way to God: Christian Exercises in Eastern Form,” offers practical advice with an encouraging “Well, that’s a good start” message.

Many websites offer audio and video recordings of De Mello’s conferences. They are super retro, but also, I think, just right for this moment of violence, illness and protest.

When every day conspires against inner peace, moments of solitude are all the more worthwhile.

The Conversation

Michael A. Vargas, Professor of History, State University of New York at New Paltz

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

You may also like our article, Overwhelmed? 5 Tips To Get Back Your Sense Of Peace.

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High Maintenance Women: Yes, She Is One And She Owns It!

High maintenance woman. Have you ever been described as such?

I most certainly have been and guess what? I own that crap!

When She Walks…

You know her. She walks into a room and most, if not all, heads turn to stare.

The whispers hum as she goes by each table. Some are sweet as honey but many are as poisonous as a snake’s venom.

“Oh, she’s here.”

Who the heck does she think she is?”

“Diva, that’s what! A right snob!”

“High maintenance!”

High Maintenance Woman: Loved Or Hated, But Never Ignored

high maintenanceThe funny thing is, she is not necessarily the most beautiful flower God has planted on this Earth. There are women in that room who, if they stood next to her, would make her look like the twin sister of the ugly duckling. What differentiates her though, puts her a head above the rest, is her sense of self. And that is the very thing that gets her labelled “high maintenance,”bitch,” and names too distasteful to write here.

Just about every woman hate her and an equal amount of men want her. Not all.

Have you ever been on a date, maybe a couple, and the person never calls you again? Have you ever had a relationship end and the person ending it told you that you are “too high maintenance?” What exactly did they mean?

Let No One Define You

According to the Urban Dictionary, the most popular understanding and usage of the term “high maintenance” are:

  1. “Requiring a lot of attention. When describing a person, high-maintenance usually means that the individual is emotionally needy or prone to over-dramatizing a situation to gain attention.”
  2. “A person who has expensive taste (re. clothing, restaurants, etc.). This person is never comfortable because he/she is constantly concerned about his/her appearance. This person feels they are better than most people and usually judge others based on outward appearances.”

Both descriptions may be correct in terms of the needy, self-centred behaviours and judgemental attitudes that both men and women display.  However, does it really apply to a woman who knows what she wants and goes for it? She has high standards for herself and constantly strives to meet them. Does it apply to the woman who loves to wear certain types of clothing, eat at expensive restaurants and gets a weekly mani-pedicure, paying for all these “luxuries” herself?

Is being the so-called “high maintenance” woman a bad thing?

boxYour Box, Not Mine

Such a label has been slapped on me over the years. In my younger years, it came as a result of my obvious neediness, low self-esteem and my sometimes dramatic behaviour. Lovers and others found it a challenge to continue their close contact with me because of my attitude. It simply was too much work being friends or having me as a lover.

Went through months of therapy, spiritual counselling and self-reflection. Had to put in serious work of accepting, grieving and then finally healing my wounds. The woman who you meet today is not the one who was dumped due to her neediness. Yet, there are people who might still label me “high maintenance.” This, however, does not cause me to lose any sleep.

For years now, I have come to embrace the fact that when a woman finally comes into herself and lives from her highest understanding of who she is, some people cannot cope with that.

What you will find as you grow to love yourself and treat yourself as your most prized possession is that friends, spouse, family members, dates and even coworkers will be challenged by you. You do not have to be the classical beauty, dress in designer clothes every day or at all. You might not get spa treatment on a regular basis, order lobster on your dates or have diamond dripping off your body. Actually, you might very well be like me and have “buck teeth,” wear bargain dresses and haunt consignment stores. Your nails might be chipped more than they are painted and the only diamond you have is the one in the wedding ring.

You’re Still High Maintenance If…

claudette esterineNonetheless, people will call you “high maintenance” when you have high standards and self-confidence and you are self-motivated. You are high maintenance to some because you are educated or have an opinion that you are not afraid to share even if your date holds an opposing one.

Once, I was told that I was high maintenance because of my twice a year purchase of really expensive makeup – from my own pocket. A date once said I was “too much,” because took my car to the dealership for cleaning, rather than doing it myself. My explanation that (1) that was not something that I was interested in learning to do and (2) the hours that I would spend doing that I could read a book to help advance my education, were found to be ludicrous by him.

Ignore Them

Here is my suggestion. The next time someone calls you high maintenance if all or most of the following are more in keeping with who you are or how you are living your life, ignore them:

  • “Truly powerful women don’t explain why they want respect. They simply don’t engage those who don’t give it to them.” Sherry Argov
  • “A person with taste is merely one who can recognize the greatest beauty in the simplest things.” Barbara Taylor Bradford
  • high“I believe in strong women…in the woman who is able to stand up for herself. I believe in the woman who doesn’t need to hide behind her husband’s back. “…If you have problems, as a woman, you deal with them, you don’t play victim, you don’t make yourself look pitiful, you don’t point fingers. You stand and you deal. You face the world with a head held high and you carry the universe in your heart.” C. JoyBell C
  • “A strong woman builds her own world. She is one who is wise enough to know that it will attract the man she will gladly share it with.”  Ellen J. Barrier
  • “Always present yourself as a woman who expects to succeed.” Barbara Taylor Bradford

Yes, there are “high maintenance” women, people actually, who fall within the realms of needy. For those persons, my preferred term would be wounded, needing support and guidance to become, what is often misunderstood, a woman of substance. Where would you prefer to be?

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Love always,




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Motivational Monday: Big Stuff Moments Of Michael’s Life

Motivational Monday is a popular hashtag and we are using it today to share one of my life’s big stuff moments.

How One Event Changes My Life

Well, it has been many years since this happened to me. Yet almost every day I approach almost every situation from the lessons learned from that life-altering event. So many lessons compressed in a few days.

It seems like only yesterday it happened yet it was a few decades since that life-changing day. As the pain washed over me, my emotions flowed with it. First I was confused, annoyed and eventually, with the passing of time, some clarity came to me.

“What is he yammering on about?” you ask.

motivationalMotivational Lesson Learned On A Second Hand Two-Wheeler

Let us rewind. I had graduated from a magnificent three-wheeler and was mastering a bight red and white two-wheeler. I was about six and my parents had bought it off my Dad’s sister, Hilda. She is my cousin Jim’s Mom.

It was a sweet ride and my vehicle to a little more freedom. Now, I could go around the whole block up and down the hill around the (cue joy and awe voice) whole block!

Little did I know that after a few weeks that bike would “assist” me in having a life-altering experience. I am the first to admit that athletic kid I was not. As I was learning to ride that bike, the gravel road we lived was my highway. Up and down I went dozens and dozens of times.

My father, the poor man, ended up with the legs of a marathoner by the time I finally got the hang of riding these wheels. Up and down, up and down that street we went. Yet I eventually got the hang of it. Mastery of the bike came slowly to me. Learning to balance, peddle, steer, long look and short look, brake and signal direction and stop. Did I miss anything?

As I am writing it now, I can still hear my Father’s voice. He had the patience of a saint.

Life-Changing Moment

Now, to cut to the chase. Out for a ride one sunny spring day, a little girl about three decided to suddenly turn and run in front of me. I managed to avoid hitting her, however, at that moment my life long lesson began.

My biking skills were not yet at the point that I could avoid people and objects or ditches. Steering away from the little girl, I went into a shallow ditch and over the handlebars. Helmets were not made or mandatory for kids then so, as I went over the handle-bars, I made head contact with the only rock in the ditch. Out cold for two to three hours with a concussion and a headache like I have not had since.

motivationalFading in and out for a couple of days. I was x-rayed, inspected, weighed, poked and prodded. Once I was diagnosed and placed in my room, I was supposed to rest. Sounds like a great idea. Except, I had a concussion. Protocols of the day were that a Nurse or Doctor would hourly examine me for swelling at the point of impact. They also checked whether any of my pupils was dilating more than the other. That made it extremely tough to get quality sleep with being woken up every 55 minutes.

Painful Lesson

The Big Stuff Moment came in two parts. In my hospital room for around three hours, my head was pounding, I mimicked I heard adults say many times before. “Could I have a pill for my headache?”

“No,” was the quick response.

Without a pill to ease the pain, its location and intensity were front and centre of my focus. What I learned there and then was that knowing the type of pain one is feeling, without masking it, you become clear about its location and you begin to understand what happened and what is happening. Not nice for you but helps you recognise if it is easing, whether you are healing or whether your suffering is deeper.

Wow, what a lesson. Stay with the pain, learn something from it. Don’t mask it over. Learn from your pain.

Lesson #2

The next lesson happened within a few hours. As I floated in and out of consciousness, I noticed that I got a roommate. He too had a head injury. The room suddenly got very VERY loud and bright. My injury had me wanting complete darkness, no sound, and no movement. I was suddenly hypersensitive to everything around me.

motivationalMy new roomy was the opposite. He demanded, who was about my age, that the lights be on, the blinds open so that he could see outside. Like me, he was instructed to stay in his bed and rest but he did not and instead he proceeded to do whatever he wanted. Things got louder and his behaviour escalated. Suddenly a larger bed arrived with stainless steel bars like an oversized crib and he was placed in it. He protested very loudly and angrily.

I asked to be moved when, after hours of his crying, screaming and wailing.

Looking back, with my adult understanding, it is clear to me that he was afraid, just as I was but was expressing it in the only way he knew how.

Two people, in pain, afraid, with similar or the same issue, can have two very different reactions.

The Journey Continues

That was lesson number two from falling headfirst from my two-wheeler. They would stay with me as my journey continues.

Check out Daughters of Sheba on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to learn more about my Resilience Workshop for their followers and sign up for one. The first workshop, Recovering from 2020, Redefining Yourself In 2021, is FREE and will be on Tuesday, January 19, 2021.



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COVID-19 May Turn Back The Clock On Women’s Entrepreneurship

COVID-19 May Turn Back The Clock On Women’s Entrepreneurship by Wendy Cukier

The Canadian government responded to the COVID-19 crisis in record time. It launched programs that would normally take months or even years in a matter of days. At the same time, it’s important to recognize systemic barriers to women and diverse groups are being exacerbated in the crisis.

To support them, we need to bring a gender and diversity lens to our responses, or else decades of hard-won gains will be lost.

Statistics Canada confirms small and medium enterprises (SMEs) with under 20 employees have been the hardest hit during the pandemic, and because women are more likely to own newer and smaller businesses, they are most affected.

covid-19 mayDuring the pandemic, 40.6 per cent of women-owned businesses had to lay off employees. Among them, women-owned business laid off a disproportionately a higher percentage of their workers   — 62 per cent laid off 80 per cent of their employees, which is much higher than the 45 per cent observed for most businesses.

Support Programs Exclude Women

While women are majority owners of 15.6 per cent of SMEs with one or more employees, they account for 38 per cent of self-employed Canadians. While important eligibility changes were recently made to include more businesses, many existing support programs targeting SMEs unintentionally exclude women. Successful women’s ventures, particularly in the services sector, often rely on contractors instead of employees or may not meet the criteria of eligible non-deferrable expenses, excluding some from programs focused on companies with employees.

Not only are women shouldering the brunt of unemployment, but they are also bearing the burden of unpaid caregiving, including child care, homeschooling, household duties and eldercare. The top challenge identified by women entrepreneurs is child care. Women report feeling like failures at both roles of worker and parent, adding to mental health challenges and family stress.

Racialized, Indigenous, newcomer and disabled women face additional barriers and are also disadvantaged in accessing supports and loans. For example, with limited resources and assets, Indigenous entrepreneurs are facing unique barriers   — the Indian Act prohibits reserve land from being used as collateral for bank loans.

There is also evidence that we need to further unpack many of the categories to better understanding intersectionality. For example, the experience of racialized people is not uniform — anti-Black racism has a profound impact on Black women entrepreneurs.

Access To Internet A Challenge

Under-represented groups often lack space, infrastructure and the choice of working from home or the skills needed to support homeschooling. In rural communities, access to the internet is a particular challenge.

Increasing access to venture capital is, of course, important, but women-led businesses virtually receive none of the investment. The new government loan packages are not as helpful because women are often “discouraged borrowers”   — they are less likely to seek credit. Often when they do receive it, they get smaller amounts and less favourable terms.

Unlike those who are majority owners of SMEs, many self-employed women have to put personal assets at risk. Indigenous women on reserves often do not have conventionally understood “income” to report and no property to use as collateral.

The pervasive issues around financial literacy and expert advice also present challenges. Innovative approaches, such as micro-grants and crowd-funding, have helped level the playing field for women entrepreneurs, but these models are rarely a priority.

Focus On STEM Only

The science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) bias in innovation and entrepreneurship has been well documented. Because women entrepreneurs are less represented in the technology sector, they are less likely to benefit from investments in STEM companies and research.

It is clear that digital transformation is critical to survival during this time and women entrepreneurs need additional support to implement technology solutions that underpin new business models. They are also more likely to combine social with economic goals, but social enterprises are usually ignored in the chatter about research, commercialization and innovation.

women ownedFor women entrepreneurs to thrive in different environments, they need supports that are distinctive than those for men, such as access to incubators, mentors and training or business support. Such distinctive needs are not only caused by structural inequality but also resulted from the socialization of women and girls, the gendered nature of entrepreneurship and a lack of role models.

Women entrepreneurs urgently need one-on-one coaching and mentoring, which extends beyond technical and financial advice to emotional and social supports in navigating post-COVID-19 realities.

Women’s Voices Ignored

While diverse women are leading the COVID-19 health-care response across Canada and around the world, women’s voices have been largely muffled in the discussion about economic recovery. We have seen a shocking revival of “manels” and mansplaining by pundits who, ignoring the perspectives of half the Canadian population, are oblivious to the particular challenges women entrepreneurs face.

I work with Canada’s Women Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub, which has been leading efforts to understand the impacts of COVID-19 and channel feedback from more than 200 business support organizations. The hub offers recommendations to support women entrepreneurs:

• Applying a gender and diversity lens and collecting disaggregated data on COVID-19 impacts, as well as on the effectiveness of programs to support entrepreneurs.

• Ensuring definitions of entrepreneurship are inclusive for self-employed women and owners of SMEs across sectors, including services, arts and social enterprises.

• Using innovative approaches to meet women’s needs and preferences, such as crowd-funding, micro-grants, customized counselling, mentoring and sponsorship.

• Redoubling efforts to advance affirmative actions and preferential procurement for women and diverse groups.

• Strengthening capacity in financial and digital literacy programs to assist women in considering digitization financing, incorporation and exporting, while providing human capital to support research development and implementation.

• Paying adequate attention to supports, such as affordable, accessible child care. As economist Armine Yalnizyan said: “No recovery without a she-covery, no she-covery without child care.” Experts argue child care should be considered an essential service. Similarly, supports for homeschooling of children, particularly for immigrant women, is critical.

covid-19As Canada responds to the pandemic, there is a risk that we will lose the traction we’ve gained on gender and diversity. Women-led businesses represent a growing proportion of new startups in Canada, but their businesses are younger and more fragile than those led by men.

More than ever, it’s critical to maintain intentional focus on women and other under-represented groups and to nurture their fledgeling micro-businesses from which larger businesses may grow.

The ConversationCredits

Wendy Cukier, Professor, Ted Rogers School of Management, Ryerson University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

You may also be interested in The World Needs More Women Leaders.
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Have You Checked The Details? The Devil Is Frequently Hiding There!

Have you? Checked the details?

The devil is in the details.”

Check The Core

Have you ever heard that saying? When I first did, the meaning was somewhat lost on me but not anymore. Actually, not for a long time now. That is possibly the sceptics’ way of saying what the optimist would, which is “God is in the details.”

There are people who do not like getting into the details. This is true especially of many who are on dating sites. Their profiles are huge on fluff but short on details. My friends and even readers of my previous blogs know that years ago when I was single, dating sites were an option for me. I had profiles on a couple dating sites. Okay, fine, a few! My profile was not a very popular one. Yes, my pictures attract some attention, especially as many did not believe my age – at the time.

have youHave You Checked The Details?

However, my “About Me” sections on just about any online dating site were full of details. While I browsed on these sites, if a profile attracted my attention, yes because of the pictures – I like a certain look – but if short on details, I usually keep it moving.

“The truth of the story lies in the details.”  Paul Auster

Sceptic or optimist, the point is going beyond a hello, knowing or asking more than what is presented in a profile is critical. Speed-dating is not something that would be high on my list. They would probably boot me out for sitting too long or hanging onto the interesting looking ones to find out more.

Questions I love to both ask and answer. It is the only way that I know to get the information you need to make an intelligent decision. Yes, of course, the heart will guide you but often it is your heart that is prompting you to find out more. Do you listen? Share with us in the comments below.

Pay Attention

Really love how Asuni Zeal states it,

“When Life teaches you a lesson, write it down and use it ASAP. Many destinies have failed because of lack of attention to important details.”

Follow our social media profiles for daily updates and tips. We are on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Pay attention!

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For Some People Dying Alone Is Not Such A Bad Thing – Here’s Why

For Some People, Dying Alone Is Not Such A Bad Thing by Glenys Caswell

It seems so obvious that no one should die alone that we never talk about it, but people do often die when they are alone. Sometimes they die in a way that suggests they prefer to be alone as they are coming to the end of their lives. So is it really such a bad thing to be alone when you die?

Dying Alone

When a person is dying in a hospital or a care home it is common for the nurses caring for them to summon their family. Many people will have the experience of trying to keep vigil beside a family member. It is hard – as everyday life goes on regardless – and it can be emotionally exhausting. Sometimes, the relative will die when their family have gone to make a phone call or get a cup of tea, leaving the family feeling distressed and guilty for not being there when they died.

for someThere is plenty of research literature, from many countries, devoted to trying to decide what makes a good death. There are differences to be found between countries, but similarities too. One similarity is the belief that no one should die alone.

This idea sits well with the view of dying that can be found in many different places. When interviewed as research participants, health professionals – and nurses in particular – commonly say that no one should die alone. There are also many cultural references that suggest that to die alone is a bad thing. Consider, for example, the death of Ebenezer Scrooge in Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, or the death of Nemo, the law writer in Bleak House. These are both sad, dark, lonely deaths of a kind to be avoided.

Celebrity deaths, such as those of comedian and actress Victoria Wood or David Bowie, are described in the news as peaceful or good when they are surrounded by family. Ordinary people who die alone make the news when the person’s body is undiscovered for a long time. When this happens the death is likely to be described in negative terms, such as shocking, lonely, tragic or as a sad indictment of society.

Some People Prefer To Be Alone

Of course, it may be the case that many people would prefer to have their family around them when they are dying. But there is evidence that suggests that some people would prefer to be alone as they are coming to the end of their lives.

My own research found that while hospice-at-home nurses believe that no one should die alone, they had seen cases where a person died after their family members had left the bedside. The nurses believed that some people just want to be on their own when they are dying. They also thought that people may have a measure of control over when they die and choose to do so when their family are not around.

For Some Older People

senior citizenIn the same study, I also talked to older people who were living alone to find out their views about dying alone. I was intrigued to learn that dying alone was not seen as something that is automatically bad, and for some of the older people, it was to be preferred. For some people in this group, dying was not the worst thing that could happen – being trapped in a care home was considered to be far worse than dying alone.

Cultural representations of dying suggest that being alone while dying is a dreadful thing. This view is supported by healthcare policy and the practices of health professionals, such as nurses. But we all know people who prefer to be left alone when they are ill. Is it so surprising then that some might wish to be alone when they are dying?

It is time we began to talk about this and to accept that we want different things in our dying as we do in our living. Openness created through discussion might also help to remove some of the guilt that family members feel when they miss the moment of their relative’s death.


The ConversationGlenys Caswell, Senior Research Fellow, University of Nottingham

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Tap Into The Attitude Of Gratitude In Three Simple Steps

Tap – what does that really mean? One of the definitions offered is Tap – to strike lightly especially with a slight sound.”

One could therefore understand that gratitude is not something you have to pound on the doors in order to access. A slight and intentional tap will do.

Cultivating Gratitude

“Gratitude brings light into our hearts spread warmth throughout our bodies and radiate positive energy into the world. The more we consciously and consistently grow in our practice of gratitude, the more benefits we will experience.” Michele  Wahlder

“Practice makes perfect.” How often have we heard this saying?  I say it very often to my son and every time that I do he asks me what does it mean.

tapWe would not get far if we did not practice whatever tasks to achieve the goals we set for ourselves.  Be it playing the piano, scrambling eggs or applying make-up (for those of us who powder our noses) and many other skills.  This saying is also true of gratefulness.

Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you and to give thanks continuously.  And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude. Ralph W. Emerson

In All Things…Tap

Looking back on my formative years, I was taught by grandparents and parents to simply GIVE THANKS.  We were instructed to practice gratefulness.  Over time and through repetition, I learned how to tap into gratefulness even when things did not turn out the way I anticipated. I was taught to thank God for small mercies.

My experience is that, unlike other lessons, practising gratefulness brings instant gratification.  Every other practice that I have done might take some time to bear fruit. Not gratefulness.

The practice of gratefulness brings immediate joy.

Being grateful is more than being thankful, in my view.  It is an inside gesture and an attitude from which a meaningful thankfulness will emanate. Often, there are things or circumstances that get in the way of practising and assuming this attitude of gratefulness. It could be bad news about your neighbour, a waft of pain in your chest or an unexpectedly high utility bill. Just about anything. Someone else’s ingratitude could annoy you and block or hinder assuming your own attitude of gratitude.

flowOpen The Flow

My gratefulness opens me to the flow of abundance, fill me with joy. It connects me with the Source of my flow or my joy.  I will not pretend that there are no obstacles to my gratefulness. None of us is infallible. I get overwhelmed, I worry, I become anxious about getting things done, I become distracted and feel weighed down with responsibilities – all of which are obstacles to my expectancy of “all things working together for good.”

Three-Step Tap

However, when I recognize the blockades to my gratefulness, I replace them with the ‘bright-side perspective’. As I embrace the ‘bright-side’ of whatever the seeming obstacle is, my joyful, grateful flow returns.

There are various methods we can use to practice and pursue a grateful attitude. The chosen method(s) for each of us will depend on the individual personality, goal or needs.  I have a few suggestions on practising gratitude.

  1. Count your blessings often. Even the everyday ones. The so-called small ones. Do so every single day.  However, to avoid your blessing counting practice losing its meaning, vary your methods.
  2. Express your gratitude directly. It may be to someone who has helped you, mentored you, perhaps an old teacher, a coach or a supervisor.
  3. Write about what you are grateful for. Sit down with pen and paper or at your computer and start, “I am grateful for … .” Maybe you will have to stop there for a minute and wait because you just cannot think of anything. Just wait. Something inside you will shift. The words will come.

gratefulThis Gratefulness Force that you are tapping into is bigger than you and it is bigger than your problems, no matter how big that is. That tide of fear that is overwhelming you is not all. There is so much more to you than that.

Your gratitude practice is your ride across those troubled waters so put your oars in!

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Clara 💕

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20 Lessons Learned In 2020 That Bear Daily Reminding

20 lessons that I learned last year.

Not sure what to write for today’s blog post, I recalled that in the early days of Daughters of Sheba Foundation blog, I shared 17 Lessons Learned in 2017.

20 Lessons Or Was It One?

20Frankly, it was not immediately clear to me whether there were 20 lessons or just one big one:

Life can and will change in a flash

That must be the underlying lesson – the one that points to the others that were learned this year. This will be a simple list of new things that came on my personal chalkboard for 2020.

The First 10

  1. Always, always follow your gut. Okay, this is not totally new but it came to me so forcefully during 2020 that it feels like a new lesson.
  2. Celebrate every birthday you have on Earth. You never know which will be your last, so leave good memories for your family and friends.
  3. Visit places from your past that hold precious memories. A walk down some memory lane will enrich your current journey.
  4. Airbnb’s are really nice options for vacationing. Stayed at a couple in Jamaica during January 2020. This was my first time in such properties and the experience was good.
  5. Always kiss your intimate partner goodbye. You never know which kiss might be the last you ever have with them. Kissed my husband for the last time in his life at the international airport in Kingston, Jamaica late January 2020.
  6. Getting snail mail from a loved one, family or friend is still a wonderful thing. No matter how often you speak via electronic communication means, having that piece of paper or card from them is invaluable.
  7. The way a person turns up for your special occasion tells you exactly how they feel about you. Someone turning up to your big moment in their bedroom slippers, for example, is proof positive that they do not respect you.
  8. People will for sure grab whatever they can from your little much once your eyes are closed. Always heard about this but had to learn this in real-time the day my husband died. So make sure you write and leave a will in a safe place.
  9. Some police officers are not good public servants. This was my direct experience with the murder of my husband. Would read about ‘bad cops’ all the time but this was the first time that I had to learn this firsthand.
  10. grievingGrieving is a personally intense process and comes in ebb and flow, go with it. Experienced loss before but not the death of an intimate partner. Have supported clients whose loved ones died but realised that grief is so different for each of us.

Next 9 New Lessons

  1. You never know when a pandemic will hit. The last one was 100 years ago. Some scientists were warning that another was coming. Very few took them seriously until COVID-19 swept in.
  2. Social media has awakened the worst in women. Every day, women take to social media to attack each other. Being on lockdown seemed to have released the demons in them.
  3. Ignorance, racism, hatred is alive and more than well in our world. This should not be a surprise or a new lesson but it is. The level of venom and vitriol that I saw in our world, largely because of one individual and COVID-19 requirements, was astounding.
  4. A job will ghost you. It is one thing to resign and another to be fired. However, so many have been ghosted by employers during this pandemic. It is confirmation never to put too much store on the idea that you are irreplaceable or invaluable to any employer.
  5. Reconciliation is something that not everyone will embrace happening for you. Until this year, it was my belief that friends would support you reconciling with someone who you thought did you wrong in the past. I learned that that is not true.
  6. Grocery shopping online and delivery is a wonderful thing. Into about the third month of COVID-19, I started doing my grocery shopping this way. It has been a blessing.
  7. The cancel culture, if you pay attention to it, will crucify you. Always knew that not everything is for everyone. However, the rise of the so-called cancel culture is destroying talented and educated people who have much to offer.
  8. You are 55-years-old only once. Spent this anniversary without any fanfare. Not one for regrets but seeing how the year progressed, maybe I should have done more.
  9. Buy your eldest grandchild, at least, a cell phone. My six-year-old granddaughter has had devices since she was eight-months-old. However, getting her a cell phone for Christmas 2019 was one of the best gifts as since we are social distancing, that’s our primary means of contact.

And The Final Lesson

As it is every year, the final lesson is the old one.

There will always be more lessons.

We all have pinned a lot of hopes on this new year. How it will turn or, evolve, no one knows. Many will not see the year to the end, that is just reality, and I might be one of them. So, what to do? Try to embrace the 20 lessons that I have shared and learn some new ones for as long as you have.

Do Like and Follow our social media profiles – Facebook, Instagram and Twitter – for our new Daily Dose of Inspiration and various other presentations. Subscribe to this blog (look on the right panel for the Subscription form) and get a notification once a new articles posts.

Continue to have a great day.


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Without Child Care, Work And Family Are Impossible

Without child care, work and family are impossible – by Shauna Shames, Rutgers University

I have a PhD from Harvard and a 20-month-old child.

Without child care, life revolves around the toddler.

I am a political science professor and researcher, but lacking child care, I count myself lucky to work a few hours each day.

Without Help

I am increasingly aware there is no such thing as the so-called work/family conflict. This is not only a personal observation. Scholars have found that good jobs – full-time, with benefits – and family, without help, are simply incompatible.

The concept is also wrong. If three-quarters of American women become mothers, and also most women do paid work, then doing both is, well, life; it’s not some existential, context-free choice.

withoutWork and family are both full-time pursuits. If the problem is framed as a choice between them, the battle is lost, since family will usually win. Telecommuting and “workplace flexibility” are important but do not make up for a lack of time and space to think and work.

Those who need care, especially little children, are needy and adorable, and mothers are evolutionarily disposed to focus on them.

(Whoops, excuse me, the toddler is trying to kill herself again … OK, child saved, with minimal screaming on both of our parts. Now, what was I thinking? Did I reorder all our prescriptions? Hold on, I’ll be back.)

The national shift to home-based work and schooling has had challenging consequences for parents, especially mothers. Sometimes these effects are lovely, like giving us more time with family, but if your goal is getting work done, good luck to you.

Not Alone

Working at home these days without child care is incredibly difficult unless I can escape to another room and close a door. This inevitably triggers screaming, but oh well.

She’s worse than a cat; she climbs on me, presses things on the computer, sucks its edges and screams for attention, in addition to the normal baby bodily functions that comprise a disproportionate section of my thinking – when did she last poop? Is that a rash?

It’s not just me.

pandemicSubmissions from women to academic journals have plummeted since COVID-19 hit.

One geography professor tweeted, “It’s hard enough to keep my head barely above the water with the kids at home and interruptions every 2 min … I can’t imagine writing a paper now.”

Another scholar said the data on diminished submissions from women made her cry because it wasn’t just her.

It turns out that someone has to supervise – and sometimes force – children’s learning, even if online, and this takes actual work. With parks, museums, sports, pools and movie theatres closed, and with kids mostly unable to hang out with friends, someone also has to do the physical and emotional labour of keeping children busy, engaged and upbeat. This too is work.

More Toilet Paper

Then there is the simple fact that family members are eating, working and playing in houses most of the time, which means more cooking, more cleaning, more grocery shopping and, yes, more toilet paper.

(OMG the baby took a two-hour nap. I got to exercise and even shower. No time for leg-shaving but I’m still a new woman. Now what was I thinking…)

Because it is not just time, you see. Sometimes the child is playing quietly, and theoretically, I could sit down and bang out a research article, but my brain is fuzzy as hell.

I used to wonder what cows thought, standing there chewing their cud in a field. Now I know. They are thinking about nothing. Especially with nursing, I have great sympathy with cows lately.

Before the baby, and before COVID-19, I had great plans for composing scholarly articles in my head during all that nursing downtime. But I forgot that hormones can change your brain and behaviour.

withoutHormones Play A Role

Feminist theory and research find that much of what people think of as “biological sex” – female or male – is socially constructed, as in, strongly based on culturally contingent assumptions about women and men as groups. I firmly believe, and teach, this as evidence-based truth.

Hormones, though, have undeniable physical and mental effects. If they are turning your body into a milk-production and child-protection facility, there can be some side effects on brain function. Many of these changes (increased empathy and vigilance) are useful evolutionarily, and the physical alterations appear to be short-lived. But there can also be negative effects on memory and focus. If your brain is your job, as mine is, this can cause some serious work disruption.

Pat Schroeder had two young children when first elected to Congress as a Democrat from Colorado in the 1970s. When asked how she could do both jobs, she famously replied, “I have a brain and a uterus, and I use them both.”

I try to live up to Schroeder’s standard, but lately, I’ve found I have to qualify it; I tell myself she meant sequentially, not simultaneously.

Sequential is fine, as long as I have time and space to switch gears – I’m a first-time mom at 40 and the gears sometimes stick or stall out – and the peace of mind to focus beyond the child and the never-ending housework. We don’t call this “women’s work” anymore, and men do more than they used to, but it’s essential to work and still mostly done by women.

There’s Another Way

withoutWith luck and science, COVID-19 will recede soon, and we can trickle back to offices, for which I have a newfound respect.

Will the U.S. take something positive from this crisis by learning an enduring lesson about the power of child care?

Americans tend to think of having children as an expensive, private choice. The alternative is to think of it as a public good.

Other countries offer far more generous parental leave and low-cost, high-quality daycare, knowing that “work versus family” is a false formulation. The U.S. is losing serious talent and promoting gender inequality by continuing to misunderstand the problem.

There are many potential options when child care is made a priority in society.

Child Care Centres

Government subsidies for child care centres would help low-income workers have access to good care. The U.S. almost managed this in 1971, when Congress passed, on a bipartisan vote, a bill to establish child care centres across the country, funded in part by the federal government. President Richard Nixon vetoed the bill.

Universal pre-K starting at age 3, as in New York City, is another option to advance the interests of working parents and children.

And because working parents are drowning in high child-care costs, the government could offer subsidies and tax relief for curriculum-based care – which encourages child development and learning as well as safety – for those early years. I make a pretty good salary, but still, an extra US$1,000 a month or more to ensure my child is safe and well cared for while I work is painful.

It’s not a work-family conflict; it is a lack of high-quality, low-cost child care. Framing the problem otherwise damages the ability to enact good solutions.

It also makes a lot of good, hardworking parents feel enduring guilt over a problem that isn’t theirs alone to solve.

The Conversation

Shauna Shames, Associate Professor of Political Science, Rutgers University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

You might also like this article from our archive, How Women Can Imagine An Amazing 2021.

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How Can You Be Happy? Dude, You Have Cancer!

Michael H BallardHow can you be happy? Seriously?

Several times during my often frightening challenges with two bouts of cancer, multiple treatments and life-saving midnight surgery, I would get that question.

How Can You Be Happy?

Those were very intense times. I still have the gift of 77 medical clips and several large scars that help to remind me of those years of treatment.

Once, as I was leaving yet another doctor’s appointment, a regular check-up, I was pulled aside by one of the clinic’s administrators who simply wanted to know, “Why are you happy?” Seems, out of the 2,650+ people the clinic served, I was one of six or seven they could say who seemed happy for the most part.

Seriously, Dude, You Have Cancer!

Turns out that morale at the clinic was down, with a high level of staff turnover being an ongoing challenge.  Many of the patients took their frustrations out on staff. They were “sour grapes” to deal with, according to staff members, who were doing their best to help the patients and often, support the family as they try to cope and manage with a very unpleasant illness.

Yet some patients were out and out nasty and hard to deal with. Seems, I was not one of them.

Well, mostly it is a choice.

I Decided To Be Happy

Do not get me wrong; dealing with a chronic illness that was very painful was not easy. However, soon after being diagnosed and reflecting on what my choices were, I decided that it was better to be happy than bitter.

I do not like having to fight cancer. Yet if you do not fight, how are you going to live with the circumstances if things do not work out?  An expression my English grandparents would often use “In for a penny, in for a pound,” came to my mind. In other words, if I was going to fight a little why not fight a lot?

Jumped in at the deep end I did and with the help and support of several teams of care professionals – I fought for my life.

Note I said, “care professionals,” and not health care professionals. There were several types of care teams supporting me – how many and why is for another post.  What I would like you to take away from this brief but thought-stirring post are these questions:

  1. How have you allowed your present circumstances, whatever it is, to define you?
  2. What are you doing to define your current circumstances?

Looking forward to your response. You can comment here and please, share this post with anyone who you think might benefit from it.

Till next time, Imagine Yourself with more Resiliency for Life,



To interview Michael or book him for your event or to consult, you can contact him at:

Michael’s Social Media links:

Michael was recently interviewed by Claudette regarding his work and a private workshop he will be presenting for Daughters of Sheba Foundation followers. Here is the interview and you can also sign up for the workshop here.

You can also follow Daughters of Sheba Foundation social media profiles to get daily updates on this and many other topics. Daughters of Sheba is on Facebook, Instagram as well as Twitter.

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