Posts Tagged ‘Alzheimer’s disease’

Friends are indispensable in our lives whether they are people or pets.  Each has similar reasons for entering our lives and each play different roles.  There are so many quotes about friendship in The International Thesaurus of Quotations that it would take a long time to choose just one.  In this moment what definition comes up for you?  What verb, what adjective, what noun, what name, what face?

Emerson is to have said, “To have a friend, you must be a friend.” And he also said, “The glory of friendship is not the outstretched hand, not the kindly smile, nor the job of companionship; it is the spiritual inspiration that comes to one when you discover that someone else believes in you and is willing to trust you with a friendship.”

Who are you trusting with a “friendship” today?  Someone has said that man’s best friend is a doAnnie sleeping in red bed with dollsg.  One of my “friends” sent me a link today to a video entitled “So God made a Dog.” It is a beautiful tribute to dogs of all sizes and shapes and ages! And, of course, my new best friend Annie was listening to the video while I did.  Well, not really, as you can see, she was napping contentedly in her little red bed next to my desk with her two stuffed animals quietly snugging up next to her and her paws wrapped around them.  Stuffed friends, live friends, people friends who’s to say which is the best—each lives with us in separate moments in time just when we need them.

My mom had two dolls made of cloth that she treasured. As she became less and lesMom's dollss lucid from her Alzheimer’s disease she would sit in her wheelchair staring out from some hidden place in her mind. She lived in another world—of which we do not know.  Most days I would put one of the dolls in the crook of her arm.   She would hold onto the doll with care and tenderness and I trusted that each time she looked down the precious doll would still be there helping her up to heaven– waiting for that eternal moment to appear.

Friends are there with us in every moment if we just look for them, reach out to them, and covet their friendship with all of our might and with all of our love in every moment possible. I leave you with this mystery of the moment…

“Don’t walk in front of me, I may not follow;

Don’t walk behind me, I may not lead;

Walk beside me, and just be my friend.”

~Albert Camus

In gassho,



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Today we begin our adventure with the third of 10 Paramitas in Buddhism.  So far we’ve worked on Generosity and Morales and today it is Renunciation.   I looked up the word on Dictionary.com and it gave some great synonyms for the word: denial, forgoing, sacrificing, relinquishing, abandoning, surrendering, and yielding.  I liked all of these so much better than the word “Renunciation.”    The example they gave of the word was a king renouncing his thrown, which reminded me of King Edward III giving up his thrown for his lover Wallis Simpson, the famous American divorcee. To me it was more of sacrificing a life of fame and power for love.  For others it seemed like he was abandoning his country for sex and personal desires.

Each of us must follow our path in this life if we are to be true to ourselves.  Renouncing his thrown was not easy for him, accepting his proposal with all its intended and unintended consequences was not easy for her either.  Our lives may not be as dramatic and open to the eyes of the world as Edward and Wallis, but each and every day we make choices to renounce, to forgo, to sacrifice, to surrender things, ideas, habits, and more—we do so to be faithful to our “true self.”

Today let us take an inventory of our lives, let us see what is helping us design and live a happy, healthy, and fulfilling life—one that embodies the 10 Paramitas and beyond—one that lifts up humankind.  In the Christian Faith we are coming into Lent which is a time of renunciation a time when we sacrifice something for the memory of Jesus and his teachings of peace and love.  The Buddha is said to have sacrificed a life of riches and luxury to wander and seek the real meaning of life.

Sylvia Boorstein talks about Buddhism and life in her book Pay Attention, For Goodness’ Sake (2002), she writes: “And maybe it also means that people are realizing that what seemed important to them in their life—materialism and consumerism—doesn’t work at all to make a happy heart. It actually makes an unhappy heart. And an unhappy world. And maybe people are discovering that they really need something that speaks to the essence of their being, something that connects them directly with conscious intention, to the truth of their experience so that their lives become meaningful (page 4).”

And so when you take inventory of your life look closely at the things that made a difference, the things that brought you joy, peace, love, contentment, and a meaningful life. Then list the things that brought you pain, fear, anger, suffering, and loss.  Taking an inventory is not easy; it can open old wounds, faults, fears, frustrations, and losses.  But it can also help us remember past joys, happiness, loves, and successes. 

Once the inventory is completed take time to review the list and remind yourself of the things that you had to renounce or yield in order to survive.  It has been said that if life’s experiences do not kill us they make us stronger—sometimes in ways that we may not even recognize. 

I had to move in with my 92-year-old mother with Alzheimer’s disease and that meant giving up many of my so-called freedoms.  Freedom to come and go when I pleased, to sleep in or stay up late, to think only about myself, my schedule, my wants, desires, needs, ability to travel at will and more.  But what I have sacrificed is not nearly as much as I have gained in opportunities to actually practice what I teach: Living a life of the 10 Paramitas.

This experience gives me many opportunities daily to practice kindness, compassion, unconditional love, patience, yielding, relinquishment, and to sacrifice time and energy for something good and important—giving my mother a life of honor and respect where she can feel love and compassion each and every day.  Do not get me wrong it is not an easy path for me or anyone else that is taking care of an elderly parent or relative or a child or significant other who may be ill or disabled.  But millions of us do it and are, in the end, better people having had the experience.

For others reading this blog post you may be desiring the opportunity to relinquish an addiction to drugs, alcohol, food, or shopping—whatever is holding you captive to a life of fear, ill health, financial difficulties and the like.  Others may find themselves looking at a job or a relationship that is not functioning or fulfilling and it needs to be relinquished.  Let us each surrender to our good today.  Let us sacrifice expediency, fear, anger, and revenge for love, compassion, and joy.  Self-love and respect can be awakened in us if we yield to our good today. 

So take one thing from your list of past hurts and abandon it and surrender to the joy and peace that lives deep within you.  Creating a new you is not done overnight, and many of you will need help from friends, family members, self-help groups, spiritual/religious groups, doctors, and the like, but if you are willing to reach out, to relinquish your fears the consequences of change will be magnificent! Be free to relinquish the powerful hold the negative has on you, give it up, renounce it and instead yield to your good today! You may even find your true self! How wonderful is that. 

Let me know what happens!

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The holidays are a very stressful time for most people.  Holidays are also times when those who suffer from depression, suffer even more acutely.  Patterns of the past brought into the present often harm us more than they help us.  The ideas below are not meant to replace your prescription medication or advice from your doctor– they are simply to be in addition to them.

Williams, Teasdale, Segal, and Kabat-Zinn wrote these wonderful words in their book The Mindful Way through Depression (2007). “What if, like virtually everybody else who suffers repeatedly from depression, you have become a victim of your own very sensible, even heroic, efforts to free yourself—like someone pulled even deeper into quicksand by the struggling intended to get you out?”

This may seem like a very disheartening idea, and you are right—it is.  But there is a way out if you will only take the time to look at this very difficult life’s situation through new eyes, with new thoughts, with new information, and with new light.  You all have heard this funny yet ironic definition of insanity: Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different end result.  Today is the day to begin anew, to begin doing something differently and watching and waiting for a fantastic, positive, new end result: peace, prosperity, and happiness!

The authors share with us these two very important ideas:

  • At the very earliest stages in which mood starts to spiral downward, it is not the mood that does the damage, but how we react to it.
  • Our habitual efforts to extricate ourselves, far from freeing us, actually keep us locked in the pain we’re trying to escape (page 2).

They also caution us as well when they write: “Exactly how you will experience the profoundly healthy shift in your relationship to negative moods and what will unfold for you in its aftermath are difficult to predict because they are different for everyone.  The only way anyone can really know what benefits such an approach offers is to suspend judgment temporarily and engage in the process wholeheartedly over an extended period of time—in this case for eight weeks—to see what happens (page 3).”

You may be saying, “Eight weeks! Yikes I can’t do anything for eight weeks are they crazy?”  Maybe, but how about trying it out by starting with one day, and if you feel even one tiny bit better, do it for another day, and if that day goes just a little better why not try it for a third day?  Make no plans or promises longer than 24 hours.  No one wants to get depressed about setting a goal and then not achieving it that’s for sure!  So let’s not set ourselves up for failure once again.

So let’s begin with one simple mindfulness exercise that we can do beginning today.  The authors go on to write, “Mindfulness is not paying more attention but paying attention differently and more wisely—with the whole mind and heart, using the full resources of the body and its senses (page 55).”  So there are several different exercises that you can do to practice mindfulness even when you feel sad or depressed.  You can focus on your breathing, eating, or singing for a start.

One of the ways I get my mother, who has Alzheimer’s disease, out of one of her loops is to do what we call “pattern interruption.”  I ask her to sing one of the songs I know she can sing or to recite one of the poems that she has written and memorized.  Within a few short minutes she is able to go onto something different and her breathing slows down, her mind is less confused, and she can think more clearly.

The authors also share some important information with us when they write, “The difficulty occurs when we confuse the thoughts about things with the things themselves.  Thoughts involve interpretations and judgments, which are not in themselves facts; they are merely more thoughts (page 59).”

As a teacher many times my students have shared with me the fears and thoughts that they have about taking tests, writing papers, or giving presentations in class.  For them the thoughts about those things are making them more difficult than they should be, especially if they have prepared well for them beforehand.

For these students I have them use the “Three Breaths Exercise” from Jan Chozen Bays wonderful book How to Train a Wild Elephant & Other Adventures in Mindfulness (2011).  Dr. Bays says, “As many times a day as you are able, give the mind a short rest.  For the duration of three breaths ask the inner voices to be silent.  It’s like turning off the inner radio or TV for a few minutes.  Then open all your senses and just be aware—of color, sound, touch, and smell (page 76).”   Begin by closing your eyes, and counting one on the in breath, and two on the out breath, just for three full breaths.  Once you have done that observe how your mind and body feel.  If three breaths don’t work, take four, or five.  Then observe how your mind and body feels.

Do this as many times a day as you feel the need to.  When you get stressed, the mind starts to get into that “monkey talk” or “fear talk” or “anger talk.”  This is a perfect time to stop and take the three breaths.  You can even do them right in the middle of a meeting with your eyes open, or you can take a break and go back to your office or desk or to the bathroom and do it—then  observe the results.

For me I find that after only three breaths my blood pressure calms down, my mind calms down, and I feel significantly better than I did before the three breaths.  I am now able to go back to what I was doing with calmness and peacefulness.

If I am eating I take the time to eat mindfully, focusing on each mouthful, the taste, smell, texture, and feel of the food.  Doing this helps me focus on the food instead of my thoughts, and helps me quiet my body, mind, and spirit.  Try it.  I think you’ll like it.

Anyone of these things can help you in a small way during this holiday season to return your focus to the good, the wonderful, and the new opportunities that lie just ahead. Being mindful about simple things can help you be mindful about complex things when they enter your life.  Stop the struggling—start the mindfulness—and watch that depression melt away slowly like caramel in your mouth—with sweetness and light.

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