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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.

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On Gratitude

By Donna Sales, R. Psych. “Gratitude is not only the greatest of the virtues but the parent of all others.”  Roman philosopher Marcus Cicero, 106 BC – 43 BC Research studies over the past decade show resounding support for Cicero’s observation more than 2000 years ago. Gratitude has one of the strongest links to mental health than any other character trait. Grateful people are happier with themselves and their relationships. They have more positive coping and problem solving strategies. They sleep better at night. Are less depressed. Less stressed. Grateful people are, overall, more satisfied with life. (Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gratitude) Gratitude is about being thankful for what we have and appreciating all the little miracles in life. Miracles like the glorious sunrise each morning, safe drinking water that pours from a tap, and eyes that can see. Living with gratitude keeps us grounded and reminds us to not take anything for granted. We realize how fortunate we are to have have we do. “Wake at dawn with a winged heart and give thanks for another day of loving.” Kahlil Gibran Each day is a precious gift. All we have for sure is this moment, right now. To live, to give, and to love. To appreciate what life has to offer and to never lose that sense of wonder about the beauty that exists in the world. In gratitude, we are open to life and live it with an open heart. Gratitude helps us to weather the storms in life, to have roots and resiliency in the face of pain, grief, and heartache. We also have to dig deep during the tough times, and this creates opportunity for growth we might not have otherwise had. And it is, of course, the tough times that make us appreciate the good times even more. When we live with gratitude we are surrounded with abundance. We feel rich, regardless of how much money we have in the bank. We cherish each precious day and live it with a sense of wonder, awe, and appreciation. March is Attitude of Gratitude month here Hope Cafe. Join other readers by participating in weekly 'acts of gratitude'. Each Monday a new idea will be presented on how to foster a sense of  gratitude in your own life. We invite you to join our blog to let us know how it's going. In closing, here is a wonderful poem I came across on gratitude. Be Thankful Be thankful that you don’t already have everything you desire. If you did, what would there be to look forward to? Be thankful when you don’t know something. For it gives you the opportunity to learn. Be thankful for the difficult times. During those times you grow. Be thankful for your limitations. Because they give you opportunities for improvement. Be thankful for each new challenge. Because it will build your strength and character. Be thankful for your mistakes. They will teach you valuable lessons. Be thankful when you’re tired and weary. Because it means you’ve made a difference It's easy to be thankful for the good things. A life of rich fulfillment comes to those who are also thankful for the setbacks. Gratitude can turn a negative into a positive. Find a way to be thankful for your troubles, and they can become your blessings. Author Unknown Yours in Gratitude, Donna Donna Sales is a psychologist and writer living in Calgary, Canada. She is the founder of Hope Café.  Share this post with friends by choosing your options below. Expresso Yourself! We welcome your comments below. Read previous posts by Donna on Intuition,Simplicity, and Hope The Inspiration Station

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On Intuition

Feb 1, 2012 By Donna Sales, R. Psych. "Can you step back from your mind...and thus understand all things?" ~ Tao Te Ching There is an inner compass within each of us. A personal guide to help steer us in the right direction. It presents itself in a number of ways, some easier to notice than others, but it is always there. Loyal. Reliable. Wise and true. It is your intuition. Talk about hope. Honouring and tapping into our intuition can be a game changer. When we trust ourselves we navigate our way through life with a greater sense of security and confidence. This opens up all kinds of doors of possibility. So what exactly is intuition? How do we access it? How do we discriminate between intuition and fear or something else we may be experiencing? This article explores these questions but does not claim to have the answers. It’s based on extensive reading of books, research and articles, observations in my counselling work, and my own personal experiences. Everyone seems to have a ‘different take’ on intuition which is, I think the beauty of it. No matter how hard we look I don’t think we’ll find definitive research that provides clear answers about intuition. Even after decades of study, observation, and reflection, by neurologists, physicians, psychologists, business executives, and spiritual leaders, intuition remains somewhat of a mystery. All fields recognize it and see value in it yet each appears to interpret it somewhat differently. Which is the beauty of it! Intuition is a very personal thing. It refuses to be clearly labeled and tied into a neat little package. I see great value in researching intuition, I think it’s fantastic, but ultimately the greatest truth comes from our own research: Going Within. Here lies the most valuable information of all to help guide us in life. The youngest amongst us have the closest relationship to our intuition. The older we get the more influenced we become by external cues, expectations, guidance and advice. We are bombarded in our culture by ‘expert opinion’, news, advertisements, information overload and self help books and TV shows. It’s overwhelming, is it not? Yet there it is, unfailingly, amidst all the ‘clutter and clatter’, your inner guide. The challenge is to sift our way through the noise, the distraction, to cue in, to honour the wisdom that lies there waiting to be put to use. In 1999 I was beginning my career as a psychologist and landed a terrific job in the counselling centre at a college in Calgary. I ended up staying for five years and will always remember my time there with much fondness and gratitude. I worked with a talented, dynamic group of people and the days were jam packed full with individual and group counselling, running groups, doing presentations, case consults, and professional development sessions. I was eager, enthusiastic, and incredibly energetic (oh, to be in my 30’s again!). Over time, in my one on one counselling sessions with students I started to notice some disturbing common language. If only I’d listened to my spidey sense I wouldn’t have married the wrong person. If only I’d gone with my gut I wouldn’t have taken the wrong program at school. Then one heartbreaking day a lovely young woman confided, If only I’d trusted myself I wouldn’t have been raped. This was the day I crossed the bridge from being painfully aware that a great many of us do not trust our inner wisdom to being committed to helping people to do just that. My gut told me very clearly that this was something I had to do. I started reading books, articles, and research studies on intuition. I explored new territory in counselling, ‘unpacking’ intuition with the people I saw in my office to help them examine, understand, and honour their gut feelings, their spidey sense, that little voice – whatever they named it, however they experienced it. I developed a closer relationship with my own intuition, too. I was on an intuition mission! I started running workshops on campus in the meditation centre. It was enjoyable and rewarding work. Then in the spring of 2000 I was invited to present on intuition at a faculty retreat. It was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done for a few reasons: I was incredibly nervous (the room was packed and both my supervisor and the vice president of the college were in attendance); I felt extraordinary pressure to not disappoint people who chose to attend this session over the others running at the same time; and a couple science teachers, one in particular, challenged me at several points in the presentation. I thought of the most brilliant responses…two days later! Nowadays, intuition has managed to weave it’s way into our culture and conversations more than ever before. It’s not unusual to hear police officers at news conferences encouraging people to ‘follow their gut’ to keep safe, for example. This would not have happened in 1999. Back then there was still a great deal of skepticism, misunderstanding, discomfort, and even fear, about intuition. A (very) little bit about the brain and intuition. 
Our left neocortex is the centre of language, is logical, rational, objective, analytical, focused on parts, and deals with external reality. Our right neocortex is nonverbal, random, intuitive, holistic, subjective, looks at the whole, and absorbs information from both the external and internal world. The right brain translates perceptions into visions, glimpses, intuition, and the left brain processes this information into language. Both the left brain and right brain are always working. You can think rationally and intuitively at the same time. Western culture has placed a great deal more value on left brain learning, development and functioning, but schools and businesses are now more open than ever to recognizing the gifts in right brain learning and expression. There is a growing appreciation for what the right brain has to offer. Defining intuition
The Webster dictionary defines intuition as: 1: quick and ready insight 2: [...]

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On Hope

Dec 1, 2011 By Donna Sales, R. Psych. Perhaps not too surprisingly, I’m writing this, the first column for Hope Café, in a coffee house. Or is it a coffee shop? Or café? Doesn’t matter, I love them all (it’s true, I’ve never met a coffee shop I didn’t like). Call it what you will, there are common threads that bind them. Comfort. Community. Ritual. All essential but sometimes missing in our hectic lives and rather impersonal culture. It is early evening on a cool fall day in Kelowna, B.C. and this coffee house is filled. Conveniently, images of hope surround me. There’s the little wide-eyed boy staring into the showcase filled with desserts turning to his father with such a hopeful look I’m tempted to slip him a cupcake if his father doesn’t give in. There’s the young couple out on a date, leaning in towards each other so far you can hardly tell there’s a table between them. You can bet they’re both hoping for something, and it may or may not be the same thing. There’s the elderly gentleman sipping his tea while he reads the newspaper. Maybe his wife’s a talker so he came here hoping for some peace and quiet. Or maybe he’s a widower and the house was a little too empty tonight so he’s here because he’s hoping the loneliness will lift a little, for a while anyway. Then there are all these people on their laptops. Mostly students working away at the long counter that stretches the length of the window, hoping to do well on the test or project so they can get a diploma or degree and end up with a good job one day. Yes, hope surrounds me. What’s interesting is that hope is here because I’m choosing to look at the world through this lens of hope. I realize now that I’ve never actually done this before - took the time to scan a room of strangers and ask myself, ‘for each person here, what might they be hoping for?’ It’s not always as obvious as it is for the boy who wants that cupcake, but it really does provide a refreshing perspective regardless. Hope, without doubt, resides within each person here. Hope transcends race, culture, and class. Everyone has experienced it yet we each have a deeply personal relationship with it. We need it like we need the air we breathe. It both anchors us and motivates us. It’s even managed to insert its way into our daily communication. Hope all is well with you. Hope you have a good day. Hopefully things will get better. Hope even transcends the species. The look on my dog’s face when she suspects she might be getting a walk is so hopeful it borders on pathetic. Every inch of her furry body goes on high alert, she won’t take her eyes off you, and she lets out this high pitched, barely audible whine. She acts this way too when the wheels of the car get within three blocks of the dog park (play time with her buddies) or Tim Horton’s drive through (old-fashioned plain timbit). She also likes to rest her chin on your thigh and look up at you when you’re sitting on the couch having a snack. Hope brimming in those unblinking brown eyes. Everyone has the right to hope and no person or event has the power to take it all away. Jaycee Dugard, abducted in 1991 at the age of eleven and held in captivity for eighteen years, never gave up hope that she would be reunited with her family and neither did her mother. The Hebert family in British Columbia whose three-year-old son was abducted from his bed overnight this past September never gave up hope that little Kienan would return home safely. The boy miraculously appeared on their sofa wrapped in his blanket four days later, unharmed. Forty-eight hours after the massive earthquake in Turkey this past October, rescue workers never gave up hope they would find someone alive and miraculously pulled Azra, a two week old baby girl from the rubble, followed by her mother and grandmother. There is a universal hunger for stories like these. We feel tremendous joy for people we don’t even know who beat the odds; it warms our hearts and inspires us. Hope can be highly contagious and fuel a revolution, overthrow a dictator, and create tremendous social and political change. In the wake of the “Arab Spring” in the Middle East, leaders have fallen in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya over the past ten months and hope is spreading, too, to neighbouring countries where it is sparking civil uprisings and protests. Dictators are ‘hope stealers’, using desperation, fear, and intimidation as power over the people, manipulating them to be so focused on everyday survival that they do not have the strength or resources to create change. They know that chipping away at people’s hope will eventually bring them to their knees. The most desirable leaders in the world are ‘hope dealers’. The rise of Barack Obama is, of course, a striking example; hundreds of millions of people across the globe projected their hopes onto Obama. Mother Teresa breathed hope, we know this from the remarkable humanitarian work she committed her life to. Mahatma Ghandi, of course, was a hope dealer, too, and his assassination is a reminder that taking on this role can take a lot of courage and even put your life at risk. In the business world, inspirational billionaire and lover of life Sir Richard Branson exudes hope. According to Branson, “A business has to be involving, it has to be fun, and it has to exercise your creative instincts.” Although I couldn’t find the word hope in any of his quotes, hope is clearly interwoven into his personal life and business operations. We can be hope dealers, too, in our everyday lives and interactions with others. We may not be politicians or CEO’S but we [...]

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