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Kindness: A Touch of Class

There are many times in life that I’ve contemplated what I believe to be the Qi of life — the essence, or energetic quality that gives people an extra verve/meaning to their existence.  For me, this would come down to one word – kindness.  Kindness is the touch of class that makes my life sparkle.  Giving it, receiving it, sharing it, feeling it – they all make my heart sing and dance with joy and exuberance.

I can name a number of kindnesses that I appreciate.  There’s the obvious: a sincere compliment.  We’ve all heard the less-than-sincere or sarcastic “well, I’m glad you had a good time” or “that dress looks great on you” (as they stare at your bloated midsection); or your spouse saying “that was a  really nice meal” for a simple spaghetti dinner you’ve made after an argument.  And these too have value in my mind.  Because they didn’t need to be said, but someone has chosen to say something kind rather than unkind.  Sarcasm always reminds me that allowing others to experience joy is itself a gift of kindness and some are not as generous as others in sharing this gift.  Seeing others happy never takes away from my own happiness; rather, I know it adds to my own.

But back to kindnesses.  Here are some more that I appreciate:

– when someone tries to make me laugh when I’m having a bad day

– when someone laughs at my jokes because they know that at least I think they’re funny!

– a gift of treats (or any other gift really) “just because” — i.e., for no particular reason

– a smile

– that understanding look from the person you’re speaking with because you connect over some trouble that neither wants to fully discuss (e.g., sickness/death of a friend or family member/any loss)

– slowing down to let in another car on the road

– pay-it-forward ideas

– enjoying an activity with another only because it is enjoyable to the other and not reminding them about this fact

– calling/emailing or yes, even facebooking (is that a word yet?) just because you were thinking of them (even if you haven’t spoken in years)

Ok, you get the point.  What I’m saying is that I appreciate kindness.  I think it is what provides the Qi of Life.  On a personal level and even on a global level.  Qi is Energy.  Kindness is a positive Qi.  In this blog, I hope to share my experiences and thoughts about health, day-to-day life, and the less-than-easy experiences that can also be shared with compassion and kindness.

Feel free to add any of your favourite acts of kindness here.

May you pass a kind Qi of Life to others as easily as I share my thoughts with you.



Mothers and Daughters

It’s been such a long time that I’ve been thinking of writing a post about this subject but clearly I had to put some things together in my mind before putting my gathered thoughts into writing.  What amazes me is the number of women I have met throughout my years as a health care practitioner that has brought me to this awareness.

I believe that there is a shared female-experience that deserves some discussion here.  Now please know that I am aware that this post will not match every woman out there, nor is it meant to.  But if the group that reads this post reflects my patient population, a good number of women might have peace about their mother-daughter experiences.

So here goes — not all Mother-Daughter relationships are wonderful.  Maybe we all know that some daughters (especially through those awkward teenaged years) are not easy.  But here’s the big surprise: Not all mothers are easy or wonderful (gasp!).  I am not referring to that small percentage of Mothers that is truly hurtful or cruel with their daughters.  I am talking about Moms that have a different relationship with their daughters than what is nurturing for their daughters.  But Moms are inherently nurturing, right?

Oh yes, our society encourages the glamorized image of the perfect, nurturing and self-sacrificing Mother.

Let’s take a look at something beautiful I read recently:

For all Mothers
(including soon to be Mothers)
We are sitting at lunch one day when my daughter casually mentions that she and her husband are thinking of “starting a family.” “We’re taking a survey,” she says half-joking. “Do you think I should have a baby?”
“It will change your life,” I say, carefully keeping my tone neutral.
“I know,” she says, “no more sleeping in on weekends, no more spontaneous vacations.”

But that is not what I meant at all. I look at my daughter, trying to decide what to tell her. I want her to know what she will never learn in childbirth classes. I want to tell her that the physical wounds of child bearing will heal, but becoming a mother will leave her with an emotional wound so raw that she will forever be vulnerable. I consider warning her that she will never again read a newspaper without asking, “What if that had been MY child?” That every plane crash, every house fire will haunt her. That when she sees pictures of starving children, she will wonder if anything could be worse than watching your child die.

I look at her carefully manicured nails and stylish suit and think that no matter how sophisticated she is, becoming a mother will reduce her to the primitive level of a bear protecting her cub. That an urgent call of “Mum!” will cause her to drop a soufflé or her best crystal without a moments hesitation.

I feel that I should warn her that no matter how many years she has invested in her career, she will be professionally derailed by motherhood. She might arrange for childcare, but one day she will be going into an important business meeting and she will think of her
baby’s sweet smell. She will have to use every ounce of discipline to keep from running home, just to make sure her baby is all right.

I want my daughter to know that every day decisions will no longer be routine. That a five year old boy’s desire to go to the men’s room rather than the women’s at McDonald’s will become a major dilemma. That right there, in the midst of clattering trays and screaming
children, issues of independence and gender identity will be weighed against the prospect that a child molester may be lurking in that restroom.

However decisive she may be at the office, she will second-guess herself constantly as a mother.Looking at my attractive daughter, I want to assure her that eventually she will shed the pounds of pregnancy, but she will never feel the same about herself. That her life, now so important, will be of less value to her once she has a child. That she would give herself up in a moment to save her offspring, but will also begin to hope for more years, not to accomplish her own dreams, but to watch her child accomplish theirs.

I want her to know that a cesarean scar or shiny stretch marks will become badges of honor.
My daughter’s relationship with her husband will change, but not in the way she thinks.
I wish she could understand how much more you can love a man who is careful to powder the baby or who never hesitates to play with his child.
I think she should know that she will fall in love with him again for reasons she would now find very unromantic.

I wish my daughter could sense the bond she will feel with women throughout history who have tried to stop war, prejudice and drunk driving.

I want to describe to my daughter the exhilaration of seeing your child learn to ride a bike.
I want to capture for her the belly laugh of a baby who is touching the soft fur of a dog or cat for the first time.
I want her to taste the joy that is so real it actually hurts.

My daughter’s quizzical look makes me realize that tears have formed in my eyes. “You’ll never regret it,” I finally say. Then I reached across the table, squeezed my daughter’s hand and offered a silent prayer for her, and for me, and for all the mere mortal women who stumble their way into this most wonderful of callings.

Please share this with a Mum that you know or all of your girlfriends who may someday be Mums. May you always have in your arms the one who is in your heart.

By Dale Hanson Bourke
‘Chicken soup for the woman’s soul’

Isn’t that a beautiful expression of thoughts from a loving mother?  Unfortunately, this is not the experience that some daughters have with their mothers.  Daughters may feel neglected, blamed, challenged for their life choices/decisions, guilty for not living up to the expectations of their mothers, or even burdened by a maternal role that they find themselves in, with the woman they expect to receive this energy from.  And I am not referring to a time when the mother-daughter role may naturally shift as many daughters become caregivers for their aging mothers.

Not all mother-daughter relationships are nurturing.  What is troubling for me to discover in my practice is the number of women who have had or who currently have difficult (at best) or incredibly challenging (at worst) relationships with their mothers.  Remember that I am a Naturopathic Doctor working especially with cancer patients.  Could this relationship be a possible root of the psychological links to various women’s cancers?  I am so aware of the number of female patients that I see that have troubling relationships with their mothers that I can no longer deny that some connection exists here.  So I will be creating a page specific to Mother-Daughter relationships to elaborate on this thought further.

For now, I am convinced that overcoming the frustration/sadness that surrounds difficult relationships helps create healthier directions for us all.  And I do intend to discuss some of the “taboo” matter surrounding at least one of the most important relationships in any woman’s life.  Luckily, I do have plenty of personal experience to draw from as well 🙂

Looking forward to posting more on this topic soon!



Some Insights

Regardless of whether your Mother-Daughter relationship is wonderful or terrible, I have seen some common themes among women in my practice that I’d like to share with you.

I have seen 2 types of relationships most frequently in practice:

1. The relationship is seen as “good” with a very caring Mother figure who is brought to worry and/or sleepless nights over any problem going on in the Daughter’s life.

2. The relationship is “okay” with the Mother showing some care/concern over the Daughter’s concerns but always with the Mother’s concerns/problems being more difficult relative to the Daughter’s (from Mother’s perspective and/or reactions to Daughter’s concerns, or sincerely felt by both since Mother has had a difficult life or is currently going through a difficulty).

The Challenge:

In both cases, the experience is very real for both  the Mother and the Daughter.  It’s the feeling that is left with the Daughter that I believe is of importance here.  Both cases leave the Daughter feeling guilty over her expressed concerns.  This guilt does not put value to the Daughter’s individual experience.  And I believe that this inner-turmoil contributes strongly to some of the chronic diseases that I see in practice.  Both scenarios leave a sense of frustration for the Daughter; the first case is due to a feeling of guilt over sharing a difficult experience with a Mother and then creating challenges in the Mother’s own well-being, and the second case a sense of frustration over the Mother’s minimization of the Daughter’s experience.

Frustration over anything is a strong contributor to stress in the body.  When the body experiences frustration (from work or personal matters), it becomes worn-down and the body’s natural defenses become weaker.  Often, immune concerns will follow — frequent colds, allergies, and over a long-term, even cancer can result from such stress.

So how can we modify such relationships?  I believe that one very important step is for Mothers and their adult Daughters to see each other as equals.  Mutual respect and compassion should ideally be the foundation for these relationships.  Every age group sees different challenges, and a loving relationship can support the challenges that arise.

My advice to Daughters:  recognize that your Mother will choose to handle your stresses in her own unique manner; it is not to put unnecessary pressure on you personally.  Equally important – do not try to handle your own stresses in the way your Mother would have, or currently does handle hers (if it’s not what your core feels comfortable with).  Every person has the choice to view their stresses from a “glass half-empty or half-full” perspective.  In overcoming challenges, we can all benefit from moving forward optimistically — if your Mother is optimistic and supportive, then by all means carry forth this wonderful tradition, knowing you do have the strength to get through whatever challenges life may send you.  If she models worry, impatience or frustration, please know that you do not have to repeat these emotions.  Your health will thank you for a movement towards optimistic healing.

My advice to Mothers:  Daughters need their Mother’s support.  No matter how old they become, there is a special “lift” received from the nurturing energy that I believe only a Mother can provide.  If your daughter is going through a challenge (health or otherwise) just listen.  Much of your own energy and wisdom is already within your adult Daughter, and she needs only positive support from you as an adult to get through a tough time.  Your challenges/problems matter too — but when your Daughter is sharing her own challenges with you, try to listen, support, and find a later time to share your own challenges.  I believe that Daughters want to be of great support to their Mothers, but they need support too. Oh, and a concern I’ve heard from many daughters… their Mothers never ask them how they are (or ask in a superficial manner only) — it’s ok to hear your Daughter’s concerns and recognize that she has her own journey in this life — and you can make a difference for her even as an adult by just showing you care.  And you too will get through whatever life brings your Daughter’s way — you can choose how you handle her challenges — hopefully with a positive spirit and belief that she will do (and can do) whatever she really needs to get through her challenge.

We are all Daughters of Mothers.  We have had experiences with our Mothers that shape us.  Sometimes however, the emotional reactions that we have (frustration, worry and/or anxiety) are not our own personal styles of handling things.  They are the subconscious energies of our Mothers that we have learned and have taken on as our own.  If you notice that your coping strategies for stress cause you distress, I believe it’s important for you to re-think your reactions and see if they follow your Mother’s energies/styles of coping.  If they do, it might be time to spend some time thinking of how you would like to best handle stresses before they arise.  I believe that if all women (Mothers and Daughters alike) are able to take charge of their reactions to stressful situations, we will have a much healthier generation of women rather than one that is re-living past patterns of behaviour and/or illness.

More to come soon  about my thoughts on this interesting relationship.



What if…

It really WAS easy!

easy and hard way How many times have we heard “well, no one said life was easy” or “it’s not going to be easy, but it’s worth it” or “life is not a bed of roses” (well, you get my point).  There are innumerable ways that we’ve heard this message in our lives.  But maybe it’s our perception of what is or isn’t easy that makes it so.  If we tell ourselves that the task ahead is going to be difficult, it will probably be so.  I suppose the risk in thinking that something is going to be “easy” is that we won’t work as hard for it or we won’t appreciate the results or the accomplishment will be less meaningful in general.  Why?  Maybe we’ve been taught all of our lives that good things come with difficulty or that meaningful accomplishments require hard work (and sometimes they do).  So when we do anything less that what we consider “hard work” we refuse to fully enjoy and appreciate the accomplishment.  Then we minimize the accomplishment when we speak with others — reminding them that “it’s no big deal, I found this really easy.” And this perpetuates the limited reaction we receive from others too (reflecting our own energy), so others hearing about the “easy” accomplishment think less of it, or they share an equally limiting/negative perspective such as a jealous energy directed towards us (in person or not) or anger because of their own perception of the ease with which they would achieve a similar accomplishment.

We have a choice to either feed into the energy that most of us have been raised with all our lives and this is: life is not easy.  This maintains the public (and many times personal) status quo and we can still move forward in life, perhaps with some difficulty.  Or we can choose to think “life is easy” — and start working with our own hearts and minds in a way that encourages this thought.  Let there be no doubt that many things in life are not easy and many challenges do arise that we would rather not be forced to overcome.  There is an ease however, in knowing that there is a purpose to it all (whether due to a belief in ourselves, in a faith, or belief in a divine universe that has a unique intelligence and direction for mankind), there is peace within the self that can be gained through this perspective.

The language with which we speak to ourselves makes a difference in how we take on any challenge.  We know when we direct any child who thinks he “can’t” ride a bike with “yes you can” or use this same encouragement in other situations, it makes a difference.  It changes the energy with which a person takes on a task, the enthusiasm with which they work through it and the sense of “really trying” at the end of it (regardless of outcome).  So why can’t we look at life in this same way — “this is easy=yes you can” — because it will all make sense one day, but for now you can still commend yourself if what you accomplished today was “easy” — I believe that it’s the attitude you had before beginning your task that allowed you to feel this way.  Of course, every task seems easier once it’s accomplished 😉 but starting with that sense of ease will undoubtedly make the task easier and will certainly make the task feel more enjoyable 🙂

Have an “EASY” day ahead!



Remember: “The greater part of our happiness or misery depends upon our dispositions, and not upon our circumstances.”
―Martha Washington

The Caterpillar and the Butterfly

Some say that there are three views of the world – my viewpoint, your viewpoint and reality. I believe there are only two – the way I choose to see the world and the way you choose to see it. Whilst there may also be an objective reality, this is always superseded by the way we choose to look at it. When the reality of our world is full of fear, worry and/or sadness, then our viewpoint is that from a wounded soul who seeks to manage the outside world in order to bring peace to the inner world. When the reality of our world is full of co-operation, happiness and compassion, our viewpoint is that of a healing soul who is aware that our viewpoint on reality is always a reflection of the inner world that we create.The journey to change our perspective or awareness will last a lifetime, but the decision to change, takes place in a single moment – why not now?

Changing the world within and healing the childhood wounds, changes our perception of reality. It takes us on a journey from fear to love.

Remember that what the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the butterfly calls a new beginning…



Why Wait?


Life certainly is short.  Recently, I have been thinking a lot about why people wait to say kind things to others.  Do we need to have a reason, an occasion, a move, or… dare I say it, a funeral?  Sounds crazy, but I bet you know as many people as I do that say the kindest things about people that have suddenly (or not so suddenly) lost their lives.  Many times I hear the words “I wish I had told them______________” (fill in the blank).  But why wish?  I wish people would share kind thoughts about each other more freely, and for no reason at all!

Think of how uplifting it is to hear how you have touched someone by a kind word, action, or just smile in the middle of a bad day.  There’s nothing so wonderful as knowing someone has noticed something you have done either through effort or without even thinking about it.

I have to say, this thought has been on my mind a lot lately.  Not because I’m looking for a boost to my ego, a pat on the back or just a kick.  I wonder what my efforts mean to people.  Perhaps what I mean to people.  Do I make the difference in people’s lives as I hope to?  Do I inspire?  Amuse?  I would like to know if there’s something that’s unique about me that my friends or my patients remember.  Of course I hope there is something.  Something meaningful.  I still hold on to an “autograph” book that I asked teachers to sign for me in high school but requested that they write something meaningful in, rather than just sign their names!  Yes, words matter to me.  Experiences matter.  And obviously, kindness matters.  And sharing kindness thrills me (thus, this blog) 🙂

To be clear, I do believe that the best feedback a person can get about their actions is from themselves — that gut instinct that tells us whether we’re doing what our own purpose/destiny is driving us to do.  And I feel that.  I also believe that beyond this life, our spiritual selves live on and can feel or be aware of every positive thought that is sent to us.  And I have no desire or intention of moving into the spiritual world anytime soon.Image

But again, life is short.  And although I hope my one-day funeral will bring about many expressions of kind memories from my friends and family, I do not wish to wait until then to hear some thoughts about what might be said about me.  So I pose this question to you today: If today was the last day you could express some kind thought/memory about me to me, what would it be?

Because I am in this state of thinking/awareness, I have decided to randomly choose a friend/acquaintance of mine per week to write to and express my own thought/memory about them.  Maybe I can inspire you to do the same or something similar.  Let’s not wait for special occasions to share kind thoughts with each other.

For now, I would love to hear from you if you have something that stands out in your mind about me (write here or email me or facebook message me — I would love to hear from you).



Puppies and Laughter?

ImageDid you know that it was National Puppy Day yesterday?  I only learned of this through a friend’s post on facebook (isn’t that where many of us catch up on tidbits of info that we could be fine without knowing, but we’re kind of happy to learn about too?!).  And tomorrow I will be providing a Laughter Yoga start to a large group of participants in a fundraiser for breast cancer, so I thought my post title was appropriate today.

I must admit, these are 2 areas that really do bring a smile to my face.  Puppies with their trusting eyes and admiration of their owners as well as their wonder and excitement of all sights and smells that are new!  And laughter with its contagious effect of happiness and feelings of well-being that are generated from its practice.

Oh sure I’m leaving home around 7:30 on a Sunday morning to make sure we’re nice and early for the event tomorrow, but I have to tell you that it feels good.  Also felt good to review the 2010 new puppy videos that were taken of our miniature schnauzer (Caesar Augustus von Schnauzer; aka DogtorCaesar on youtube).  Really, this entire blog could have been about Caesar.  I really never knew that even just the act of looking at him (awake or sleeping; being naughty or being good) and loving him would have brought me anywhere near the joy that it has.  But I’m sure I can/will write more about him later!

And being asked to offer a brief Laughter Yoga session before such a meaningful event tomorrow brings me joy too.  Being around energies of people that have come together for a common positive purpose is such a wonderful feeling.

So I notice a common thread in these 2 experiences that seem to be the foundation of my own Qi.  It’s a shared bond (whether with people or with Caesar) in which words don’t really matter. It’s a shared positive energy that fuels oneself and another and is reciprocated unknowingly.  What a joy.  I encourage you to share a positive energy with a friend/family member or even complete stranger or animal.  Do it with intention and meaning and be sensitive to the positivity returned to you. And I’d love to hear about your experience(s) with this task — whatever you do/did, I’d love to hear about it, so leave a comment.

Funny, for a person who is quite drawn to meaningful conversations and purposeful verbal communication, I feel enlightened today to really recognize the power of nonverbal positive communication.

Wishing for you to enjoy you own “puppies and laughter” in whatever forms they may take in your own lives.



Oh–by the way — here’s a picture of Baby Caesar!

I Think of You and Smile…


The other day I was able to connect with a patient of mine who is currently in the hospital.  She’s doing fantastic (relatively speaking); a few days ago she wasn’t feeling well as her bowels are a bit (very) blocked up and she is battling cancer currently.  Recently her husband emailed over her contact info at the hospital (she’s been in for about a week, but needed some time to herself for calming her own nerves), so of course I called her!  I started our chat with a “laughter yoga” hello (a customary “ho, ho, ha, ha, ha!)  And I could already feel her smile through the phone.  We caught up on her health, her improvements, her challenges, her eagerness to get home soon.  Some serious chat-time, some laughs and all genuine connection.  Ahh… what a great start to the day!  I finished the call with another laughing outburst which led to contagious laughing from her, and I felt we both had an equally good start to our day.

Sometimes it takes the smallest gestures to share kindness.  I think of many friends and patients daily.  If I haven’t called you or heard your voice lately, or emailed or facebook-messaged you, don’t think I’m not thinking of you. 

I encourage you to find a way to connect with someone you’ve been thinking of today to allow both of you to smile.

Wishing you a wonderful weekend!



Nurturing Hope

Do you nurture the hope within you?  Or do you allow fears and worries to guide your actions and thoughts?  In 2012 I encourage you to nurture the positive inspiration and hope that can come from within the depths of your being to manifest in health and happiness.  Why am I thinking about this, you might ask?

Well, as a health care professional working with a large number of cancer patients I am often surprised to hear about patient experiences with family members and friends and even health professionals (often radiologists, oncologists and family practice medical doctors, but not limited to these), which are less than hope-inspiring.

I am aware that there is a fine line between healthy optimism about health care outcomes and offering false hope to patients, but if this line is so fine, why are people more comfortable in preparing themselves/friends/family or even their patients for worst-possible scenarios rather than the best-possible outcomes?

The mind-body connection in health has been demonstrated in so many of the patients I work with.  When there is despair or gloom, patients have difficulty in fighting off even the mildest of infections.  And when there is positivity and optimism, many patients overcome even the most chronic diseases. The term “overcoming” which can include everything from shrinking tumor sizes, to extending quantity of living years, to vastly improved energies and quality of life.  So why shouldn’t we encourage these sorts of outcomes with our own optimism?  Patients need encouragement to reach achievable goals.

I believe that each and every person should have some preparation for their own death.  This may include making a will, arranging  finances to ensure savings go to loved ones rather than to the government or to bill payments, or saying important and meaningful messages to our loved ones.  Often, however, it is the diagnosis of chronic illness that makes us think about these details.  But this should not become the focus of the patient or practitioner.  In doing this, one assumes that death is imminent.  I think death is eventual.  For all of us.  We know that this is the end that each of us will face one day.  If this encourages a person to truly live in each moment and appreciate the nuances of life, this is a wonderful thing.  If the awareness brings about a sense of hopelessness and desperation, this is not useful to the individual or for their loved ones.  I believe we all need to know that our lives aren’t forever.  But as long as we each have life, we should enjoy our families and/or friends and the beauty that surrounds us.  If any healthy person was caught up in gloom over his/her eventual death, we would be worried about depression leading to an earlier (possibly) self-fulfilling prophecy.  So why is it good to see someone with a chronic diagnosis in a hopeful state?  Symptoms can more easily be overcome and health can be more easily achieved with a positive and hopeful state of mind.  I have seen this time and again in my practice.

I am often reminded of the following poem that I read years ago when I face difficulties in either my own, my family/friends and even my patients’ lives.

When things go wrong as they often will,

When the road you’re trudging seems all uphill.

When the funds are low and the debts are high

And you want to smile but you have to sigh.

When life is getting you down a bit,

Rest if you must but don’t ever quit!

–Author Unknown

I hope this will encourage and inspire you to live in this moment.  Choose to be happy in the now and hopeful for a happy and healthy future.  There is always something good in the now – you just have to look for it and feel it.

Wishing you a happily hopeful and healthy year ahead!



RIP Jack Layton

“My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.” — Jack Layton, 2011

Wonderfully wise and kind words from one heck of an inspirational leader.  I sincerely hope that our future leaders will be as clear in their messages and behaviours.

And I hope that every one of us will keep these words close to our hearts and the sentiments at the forefront of each action we take.



Qi of Life


Hello there!

Isn’t it interesting how so many of us want to share our ideas with each other?  Here I hope to share with you some of my thoughts and perhaps you will think about how you were also thinking about this, or perhaps you might see a new way of thinking about something?  Of course I would love to hear your (positive) thoughts as well.  I envision a mutual give and take of healthy and positive information that will enhance all of our lives.

Let this space be our Qi of Life.

With positive tid-bits to come…

Hanifamcos :)

“When our focus is toward a principle of relatedness and oneness, and away from fragmentation and isolation, health ensues” – Larry Dossey