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  • Becky Livingston - The Writing's on the Sign

The Writing’s on the Wall: A story of grief, hope, and synchronicity

* The photo is the sign referred to in the story below. Submitted by the writer, Becky Livingston On a rare, sunny Vancouver morning I set off to Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Gardens, a tranquil space housed in the city’s Chinatown. In the 30 years of living in this city, it was my first-ever visit. It was also fourteen months since my 23-year daughter had died. […]

Readers Stories Grande|

Hope’s ‘Attachments’

When we have struggles in life no matter how hard they are it’s up to us to decide how we will deal with them. We can choose to get wrapped up in them, let them consume our lives and destroy us, or we can choose to look for the good in them and enjoy the journey no matter how hard the journey is. Without hope this isn’t possible…hope, like life, is a gift. I considered myself a healthy person who enjoyed an active life, had a great job, was financially secure, had wonderful children and a husband who I had no idea how much he loved me (until faced with this challenge)… I was living the dream. […]

Readers Stories Short|

Simplicity – Focus on the Big Rocks

In our world, simplicity does not mean uncomplicated, less or easy. We have chosen to break the consumerism cycle. Instead of “keeping up with the Jones’” we are maintaining and choosing to keep up with our own standards. We list our priorities; eliminate items and facets of our lives that do not fit our value set and evaluate excess things or distractions that keep us from achieving our goals. We inject into our lives in the spaces that remain what matters to us most. […]

Readers Stories Short|

Hope in Her Smile

My best friend and the love of my life is sick. Really sick. He is waiting for a double lung transplant. I have watched Michael’s health decline for the past few years from COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease ). Slowly at first and then rapidly. It is tough. And sad. He used to be strong and take care of me. Now I take care of him. Sometimes I think that I struggle to breathe as much as he does. But my struggle is fueled by panic and fear….the fear of losing the man I love so dearly, the fear of losing my best friend. […]

Readers Stories Short|

The Joy of Simplicity: Creating Space for a More Authentic Life

January 9, 2012 By Candy Paull "The sculptor produces the beautiful statue by chipping away such parts of the marble block as are not needed—it is a process of elimination."
 Elbert Hubbard When asked how he carved beautiful elephants from blocks of stone, a famous Indian sculptor replied that he just chipped away everything that wasn’t elephant. Deciding to simplify your life is like carving away the pieces of your life that no longer serve you. It clears space so a more authentic life—and a more authentic you—can emerge. True simplicity involves more than clearing the clutter from your home, making do with less, or organizing your outer life more efficiently. Authentic simplicity is a self-empowering choice to move out of the frenetic pace of an ever accelerating and ever accumulating worldview into a life lived more in harmony with the priorities of the heart. It is easy to be sucked into false urgencies, whether by screaming headlines or an overwhelming list of things that must get done before the end of the day. Focus on what’s really essential. Ponder these questions: 
• Do I consider the activities I engage in to be worthwhile? 
• Will this simplify my life or make it more complicated? 
• Is this something I love to do?
If many of the activities you engage in seem superfluous or onerous, it’s time to look at what’s most important to you and make some new choices. Lives based on having are less free than lives based either on doing or being.
William James Simplicity means different things to different people. For some it means paring down to the bone and a more ascetic approach to life. For others, simplifying might mean an adjustment in spending habits or restoring order in a chaotic life. Sometimes it can be a reordering of priorities. What does simplicity mean to you? What would it take to make your life a little less complicated, a little more satisfying? How might choosing simplicity become a liberating force in your life? Could cultivating an inner simplicity create a more spacious and gracious expression of who you are right now? Think of images of simplicity that speak to your heart, and how you can bring the essence of those visions into the life you live today. The ideas of a simpler life are like seeds planted in the mind and heart. Choosing silence over media distraction, emphasizing loving relationships above monetary calculations, and becoming a contributor to life instead of merely being a consumer are all ways to create a life you truly love. No matter how hectic life can feel, there is a sweet, slow sanity waiting at the center of your being; an inner serenity that carries you through whatever life has to offer. Choosing a simpler life means that you put more of your energies into creating instead of consuming. Rather than being defined by what you own, you define yourself by expressing your creative gifts and making a meaningful contribution. Instead of consuming the world’s resources, simplicity helps you find ways to contribute to the good of all. Appreciating life’s simple joys offers an antidote to the constant craving for more. Choose to delight in the gifts life brings your way. Enjoy the simple things in life: sunsets, delicious food, loving friends and family, beautiful flowers, and peaceful pleasures. Your soul responds to beauty and serenity. Order and harmony are the hallmarks of a life of simplicity and joy. Timeless simplicity creates an oasis of serenity in a busy life. Make a commitment to clean up, clear out, and bring order into your life. "The more a man lays stress on false possessions, and the less sensitivity he has for what is essential, the less satisfying his life."
Carl Jung Conscious Simplicities. A few practical suggestions for creating a simpler life. • Create an oasis of restful serenity in your home. Things run more smoothly when the house is ordered, freshly cleaned and the atmosphere is lightened by your elbow grease. Cleaning house can also be a time to put your thoughts in order. • Focus on quality instead of quantity. Instead of cluttering your closet with trendy clothes that will go out of date, enjoy a few classic pieces that take you through the years. • Concentrate on enjoying the things that money cannot buy, such as time for family, friends, and creative pursuits.
• Donate clothes and household items you no longer use to a charity of your choice. Cultivate a spirit of generosity by giving away something you have enjoyed so that someone else may enjoy it, too. • Each night before you go to bed, list five simple pleasures in a gratitude journal.
• Set aside time for mending and making repairs. Enjoy the satisfaction of creating order and harmony as you make something useful again. • Create a schedule that balances busy times with down time. Make quality personal time and getting enough rest a higher priority and you will be rewarded with greater energy, clearer thinking, and a more relaxed attitude toward the ups and downs of life. • Take stock. Evaluate the activities and pursuits you currently put your time and energy into. Are they consistent with your innate gifts and talents? Do you see them as fulfilling your priorities and life purpose? • Go outside and listen to a birdsong chorus, or look up into the sky to the clouds floating by. Be aware of the rhythms of nature that continue despite the stock market, the bad news, and the daily cares of life. It will lift your spirits and place human cares in a higher perspective. Simplicity offers a deeper, richer way of being present to life. Choosing simplicity helps you make room for the important things in life: love, friendship, beauty, fun, creativity, and following your heart to a place of deep contentment and peace. "Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication." 
Leonardo Da Vinci Candy Paull is the author of The Art of Abundance, The Art of [...]

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  • Dawn

Fresh Starts and New Beginnings

By Donna Sales, R. Psych. … This new day is too dear, with its hopes and invitations, to waste a moment on the yesterdays.”  Ralph Waldo Emerson This post is dedicated to fresh starts and renewal. Spring is always a wonderful time for new beginnings but, fortunately, so is the dawn of each new day, regardless of the season or circumstances. The cells throughout our entire bodies are constantly renewing themselves to keep us physically healthy. We get a fresh red blood cell supply every four months, another layer of epidermis skin every couple weeks or so, and new bones about every ten years. Our bodies are constantly working to replenish, restore and recover to keep us healthy.1. But we are more than physical beings – we are emotional and spiritual beings, too, and these aspects of our health are equally important. Caring for our mental, emotional and spiritual selves improves our quality of life and makes us better equipped to handle challenges and setbacks. What if we adopted a fresh perspective when the old one holds us back, replaced a bad habit with good one, and replenished our energy reserves on a continual basis, rather than wait until we are completely depleted? How might our lives be different if we choose optimism over pessimism, gratitude over complaint, and self-acceptance over self-criticism? A new beginning in any aspect of our lives can be born at any moment in time. The only ingredient required is free will, which we all fortunately have an endless supply of. Is it time to hit the ‘refresh’ button in your life? What do you need right now to feel healthy, balanced and recharged? What brings you joy, fills your heart with love, and builds your confidence? We have one opportunity to make this the best life we can with the hand we’ve been dealt. And it’s never too late for a new beginning, no matter how small. Maybe it’s committing to a daily walk, taking a painting class, or ‘unplugging’ from technology one day a week. Or how about spending time in nature, saying ‘no’ more often, or signing up for a fitness class. It could be bigger, too, like changing careers, ending an unhealthy relationship, or moving to a different home or city. No one knows better than yourself what you honestly need, and you’re the only one who can hit the ‘refresh’ button, too. If we wait for someone else’s permission to follow our heart or dreams we’ve given our power away. If we care too much about what other people think, or try to please everyone all the time, we give our power away. If we are constantly reliving old hurts or feeling sorry for ourselves we are definitely giving our power away. New beginnings are born in consciousness and executed with intention. What life do I choose for myself and how will I get there? This is the beauty in it all…. We are never too old, too tired, or too torn or worn. It starts now, in this moment, a new way of thinking and doing things. It's never too late to shed bad habits, abandon past hurts, or de-clutter soggy minds from old, rusty tapes that keep telling us lies about how limited we are. You deserve to live a beautiful, glorious life. So here’s to new beginnings, my friends. Here’s to refreshing and renewing our whole selves – our bodies, minds and spirits – to be healthy and whole. Here’s to evolving with the tides and rhythms of life to embrace the best life has to offer. I wish you all the best every step of the way. Yours, as always, in hope, Donna 1.Wade, Nicholas. “Your Body Is Younger Than You Think.” New York Times August 2, 2005 Share this post with friends by choosing your options below. Expresso Yourself! We welcome your comments below.          Donna Sales is a psychologist and writer living in Calgary, Canada. She is the founder of Hope Café.

Inspiration Station|
  • Roasted Red Pepper Hummus Recipe

Creamy Roasted Red Pepper Hummus

We had a lot of fun in the Hope Café kitchen creating this irresistible roasted red pepper hummus that’s so good you’ll want to skip the pita and go right for the spoon! Two batches were made, one with fresh garlic and one with roasted fresh garlic. Both were fantastic but there was a distinct difference between the two. Using fresh garlic gives a little more bite to the dip and slightly more pungent flavour. Using roasted garlic gives a more even and creamy taste and is slightly more mellow in flavour. Roasting the garlic is easy and definitely worth a try. You can also use both fresh and roasted to get the best of both worlds. Serve with pita bread, pita chips, crackers or vegetables. This dip is healthy and quick and easy to make. Keep on hand as an appetizer, easy snack or side dish. Your guests will love it, too. 1 – 19 ounce can chick peas (540 ml) drained and rinsed with cold water ½ cup tahini (sesame seed paste) ½ cup lemon juice 1 tsp. salt 1 head roasted garlic (*roasting instructions below) or 3 cloves fresh garlic ½ cup jarred roasted red peppers  (**instructions below if you prefer to roast your own. If you do add two tablespoons of olive oil to the recipe as the jarred peppers already come in oil) olive oil for drizzling on top paprika for sprinkling on top 1.  Place all ingredients except peppers in a food processor and mix very well, stopping to scrape sides as needed with a spatula. 2.  Add peppers and mix thoroughly until creamy smooth (do not undermix). 3.  Spread into serving dish, finish off with a drizzle of olive oil and dash of paprika and dig right in. To roast garlic: Remove outside casings from garlic bulb, leaving cloves intact. Chop off the very top of the bulb so cloves are slightly exposed. Place on a piece of aluminum foil and drizzle with a little olive oil, about 1/4 tsp. Wrap the bulb and bake in 375 degree Fahrenheit oven for about 30 minutes (toaster ovens are perfect for this if you have one). To roast peppers: There are a few options for roasting peppers, this is one of the easiest… Slice peppers into quarters, removing stem, seeds and membranes Place on a baking sheet and bake in preheated 450 degree oven until skin is soft and charred, turning as needed for even baking (approximately 30 minutes). Remove from oven, peel off skins and place in a sealed container, allowing the steam to soften peppers for about 30 minutes. *meat free *gluten free *dairy free Recipe by Donna Sales from the Hope Café Kitchen. 

Our Deepest Fear by Marianne Williamson

Our Deepest Fear Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our Light, nor our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous.   Actually, who are you NOT to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that others won't feel unsure around you. We were born to mani

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  • Ronna - Tree of Hope

This Thing Called Hope

Photo by Ronna Jevne When Hope Cafe officially launched in December, 2011, I asked Dr. Ronna Jevne if she would consider writing the first feature article and was thrilled when she agreed. Ronna is the most ambitious ambassador of hope I have ever known. Her extraordinary work as a professor, author, psychologist, researcher, group facilitator, and more, has benefitted not only countless ordinary people and health care professionals but also the field of psychology. Ronna is also a terrific photographer (see one of her photos above) and Hope Cafe's 'hope photos from around the world' initiative was inspired by her. I am deeply grateful to Ronna for her ongoing support of Hope Cafe! Donna By Dr. Ronna Jevne  Welcome to Hope Café. It is a daunting task to write the inaugural feature article. What might best be offered as a starting place for sharing thoughts and resources about “this thing called hope”? The temptation is to share stories and moments that I have observed in three decades of counselling that attest to the power of hope. There is the woman sentenced to life for murder who described herself as locked in the “bowels of existence”in solitary confinement only to discover that scratched into a corner of her cell were the words, “Where there is hope, there’s life”. That was a turning point for her taking baby steps back to the life she had lost. There was the young mother who, knowing that she was dying, left a legacy for her two small children on a video. There are the Stephen Lewis grandmothers who creatively and practically assist the grandmothers of Africa. In each of us there is a story of hope. In 1992, we opened the doors of the Hope Foundation of Alberta, a research center affiliated with the University of Alberta, dedicated to understanding and enhancing hope in individuals, families and institutions. The Foundation offers counselling to the hope deficit, trains professional in hope-focused practice and pursues a variety of research projects related to hope.  For two decades, we have had the priviledge of witnessing firsthand the power that hope has in the daily lives of ordinary people. When I began to study hope, I read passionately across numerous disciplines only to discover there were a wide range of views about hope. Since the myth of Pandora, scholars have argued whether hope is a blessing or a curse. The views have ranged from German philosopher and poet Nietzsche who declared it “The worst of evils for it prolongs the torment of man” to American psychiatrist Menninger who was adamant it was “an indispensible factor in treatment”. We ridicule those with too much of it and we hospitalize those with too little.  It is dependent on so many things, yet  indisputably necessary to most. Words can destroy it. Science has neglected it. A day without it is horrible. A day with an abundance of it guarantees little. Those with it live longer. Hope is not only a concept. It is a “lived experience.” So often we only notice hope by its absence, when we are living in uncertain times. This summer, in a period of six weeks, my husband required emergency life threatening surgery, my only surviving sibling who might be described as Mr. Fit had a surprise heart attack, my son-in-law was in intensive care, my best friend was diagnosed with breast cancer, my maid of honor of thirty years ago who has remained so special in our lives died of lung cancer and a serious storm did $40,000 worth of damage to our home. Without hope, I am not sure how I would have navigated these emotional landscapes. I must not only understand hope, I must practice it. When hope becomes a practice, something we take care of as routinely as we do dental care, the likelihood of being present in constructive ways for ourselves and others goes up exponentially. Reflecting on hope one day, I wrote: “Tell me of hope.” So the scholars mused and the theologians struggled. The linguists quibbled and the philosophers argued. And all were puzzled. She said again of others, “Tell me of hope”. So the nurse said it with compassion, and the dying grandmother sang it with her eyes. The mother cried it with her tears and the brother tied it to the tree. The cancer patient knew it with his soul And none were puzzled. As I grew increasingly more familiar with the existing literature about hope, I wrote “I have a dream…” as my personal vision statement. Perhaps this dream will stimulate discussion at Hope Café as visitors reflect on their own thoughts about hope. I have a dream that one day we would understand hope well enough to reach those with the deepest of despair, well enough that each child and parent, each student and teacher, each patient and doctor, each person -rich or poor, wounded or well, would envision a future in which they are willing to participate. That despite hardship and uncertainty that they would say “yes” to life. Not “yes” only if they are employed, well, loved or educated but “yes” to the very condition of being human.  For this we need a commitment to hope. I have a dream that every child would know hope as a companion throughout life. That every person would know where to look for hope when it fades. That each person who stands at the edge of hopelessness can step back intentionally. That we will be part of encouraging  those moments when it is unquestionable that someone has taken a step towards hope. Albeit a small one.  I dream of places  where young and old, employed and impoverished, well and ill, join in a search for hope. Where wounded bodies, heavy hearts and weary souls exchange their despair for hope, their fear for courage.  For this we need a practice of hope. I have a dream that the three h’s- hope, health and happiness, would take their place beside reading, writing [...]

Busyness is Not a Long-Term Health Plan

By Joan Friedlander "I'm really busy right now, but it's better than the alternative." I hear these words spoken quite often by those who feel fortunate to have a steady paycheck - or enough clients - to pay the rent and enjoy a few nice things in their lives. It amazes me how easily and frequently such statements are made, like a cultural mantra no one questions. Although I know that I am happier with a more relaxed schedule than most people tolerate, it’s not always easy to ignore these words when they are uttered with frequency by friends, colleagues and folks in the media. Maybe they’re right and I am wrong. Should I be busier now in case it all falls apart next year? Am I naïve to think that I can live on less now and not pay for it later? In divine order, I was given a chance to experience increased busyness last summer. I didn't like it. After dinner, instead of going outside to enjoy the summer evenings, I would often close the draperies and collapse in front of the TV for a few hours, only to become plagued by worry-thoughts around bed time. When I did go to sleep I might wake up later, thinking about what I’d not gotten a chance to do, or what needed to get done the next day. As a writer and an Introvert, being overly scheduled with client meetings robbed me of two critical needs: 1) creative writing time; and 2) longer periods of unscheduled, uncommitted time in my work day. I'm pretty sure my busyness was a "good busy," as I gather "good busy" means that I was making plenty of money.  Why wasn’t it fun for me, then? Is it because I was busy doing things I didn't thoroughly enjoy, working on projects that no longer suited my purpose and my goals? Or, am I the kind of person who doesn't thrive on busyness, no matter how “good” it may be? I would say it is a little bit of both. I vouched not to accept more clients than my ideal schedule would allow, nor accept work that I was not delighted to do. Busyness is Not a Long-Term Health Plan Adrenaline production is a symptom of busyness. It creates a false sense of energy where there is none. Adrenalin, along with cortisol, is pumped into your body when you get caught up in the pressure of back-to-back deadlines. Adrenaline is addictive. Without a steady flow of adrenalin, some people actually become bored. When the pressures associated with an overly full schedule disappear, the sudden reduction in adrenalin leaves people feeling lethargic. Mistaking this for depression or lack of motivation, adrenalin addicts create “emergencies” to feel better again. Responsible for the fight or flight response, adrenalin gives you much needed boosts of energy and strength in true emergencies. Unfortunately, we create mythological emergencies every time our thoughts project danger where there is none. "I'm really busy right now, but it's better than the alternative" is one of those thoughts. If you never stop to ask yourself, “Am I OK today?” you are likely to project danger into an unknown future, often unnecessarily. "Bursts of adrenaline give us a buzz or feeling of excitement. But when you don't get a chance to unwind from stress, when the battering of adrenaline and other stress hormones continues without a break, the body goes into overdrive. The result is a drain on your body's vital systems." The Hidden Link between Adrenaline and Stress by Archibald D. Hart, PhD. (1995, USA) Making Changes In today's busy, high-pressured world, self-care habits are the first to go. If you talk to anyone who has said that an otherwise inconvenient illness or ridiculous accident turned out to be the best thing that happened to them, you have met someone who will also admit he or she ignored earlier warning signals. I once met a man who told me about an accident he had over Labor Day weekend. He slipped and fell at a pool party, which laid him up for a several weeks due to a resulting back injury. I asked what he learned from this experience. He said one word, "patience." He is now more patient on the freeways, with his children and family, and with life in general. Often, when I start coaching a busy entrepreneur who is attempting to bring more order to their life - the very person who is supposed to have the most freedom to choose how they spend their time - exercise and self-care routines are the most frequently named missing practices. Next on the list of neglect is a spending a sufficient amount of time with friends and family. Their first assignment? Take at least one completely business-free 24-hour period off each and every week. That means no email, no catch-up project and no phone calls, nothing associated with their business. If you recognize some of the symptoms, thoughts or behaviors mentioned in this article, here are a few things you can do now to reduce stress associated with busyness. 1. Identify one thing you can do, just one thing that will eliminate one ounce of busyness from your life. Eliminate it now. Just stop doing it. 2. Identify the most prominent fear-based thought, the one that is creating the greatest amount of pressure and stress in your life. a. First, give into it completely. What is the very worst thing that could happen? What could you do if it did? b. Now, argue for the other side and see if you can’t find some evidence that it may, in fact, be an exaggerated thought or entirely untrue in the moment. 3. Educate yourself. Do some research to gain a clearer understanding of the role excess adrenalin plays in reduced health and well-being. Start with these three keywords in your favorite search engine: adrenaline health problems. Be well! References:
 Stress Can Rot Your Brain by Dr. Trisha [...]