In this conversation, Rahzeb Choudhury, founder of Lifelong Inspiration, was joined by Dr. Gary Irwin-Kenyon, Author, Tai Chi Teacher and Gerontologist.
This conversation is part of The Best Eldercare, articles and videos bringing together experts from around the world to share their knowledge and ideas to help educate us all on their area of specialisation. I talk to care professionals, researchers, people with lived experience, and entrepreneurs. The focus is person-centred care, human-centred design and human rights-based approaches.
There is a Taoist story of an old farmer who had worked his crops for many years. One day his horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit. "Such bad luck," they said sympathetically. "May be," the farmer replied.
The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses. "How wonderful," the neighbors exclaimed. "May be," replied the old man.
The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. The neighbors again came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune. "May be," answered the farmer.
The day after, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing that the son's leg was broken, they passed him by. The neighbors congratulated the farmer on how well things had turned out. "May be," said the farmer.
.It takes courage to let go. More often it seems that you let go out of exhaustion or desperation; you feel you have tried everything else—including positive thinking. Eckhart Tolle says that most of us are dragged, kicking and screaming, to enlightenment. I believe what he means here is that we are all in stillness anyway, but until we learn to be better at letting go, our journey to stillness can be rough. From this point of view, when things happen to you that you experience as loss and suffering, you are in fact being given an opportunity to connect with your stillness, and, in the end to be free of suffering. I hardly need to add that this is easier said than done. Nevertheless, the process of relaxing into stillness and exploring your pathway is designed precisely to help you on this journey to life, by responding to your suffering in a kinder and gentler way. (From Chapter 5 in Pathways to Stillness: Relax, Release, Renew).
,In a stillness or mindfulness approach to suffering and loss, in contrast to positive thinking, you do not split yourself between what you accept as "you" and what you do not want to accept. It is all you—the stillness and the area of suffering. For example, one of my Dutch colleagues works with people who suffer from depression. His clients first say "I am a depressed person". He tries to help them move to a different story: "I am a person who is experiencing depression". In this way there is less danger for the pain part of your story to take you over and run the show—the pain story gets placed into a larger story of who you are. At this point, there is the possibility that your ordinary wisdom can emerge and help you find meaning, peace, and stillness—even in your suffering. Notice that in this approach you are not trying to DO anything or get anywhere in particular— like find a positive answer to your problem. You are accepting and letting go, but not letting go into nothing, but into stillness—a comforting presence.
A stillness approach to restorying your life is helpful because you are hoping to change your entire story which includes how you think, feel, and act. Researchers who work with lifestories—what is also called narrative research--have discovered that any change that occurs in one part of your life affects your entire life. This is true for chronic pain, widowhood, stroke, dementia, terminal illness, disability and many other changes.Increasingly, stillness approaches are being used in substance abuse programmes, as they have the potential to help addicts to step outside the vortex of their addiction story by creating a space between their thoughts of using and their sensations and actions. In this way, you feel better about things by first giving yourself a break and connecting with your stillness (to be continued).
In contrast to the effort to engage in positive thinking with a focus on controlling or fixing a particular life challenge, which comes from your Doing mode, a stillness approach such as restorying, suggests that you first get out of your thinking mind, step back, enter your Being mode and try to see the larger picture. In this way, instead of fighting or denying the change that has occurred in your life, you make room in your present story for the change that has occurred, or that you want to occur. It is about finding new meaning in your whole story, not just attempting to fix the broken part. While there are no guarantees, lasting change and stillness are more likely to occur in your life by following this approach (to be continued).
Your life as a story is made up of thoughts, emotions, and actions or behaviour—that is how you think, feel, and act. It may be possible to change your thoughts about something, and there are techniques to help you try this approach. Yes, positive thinking is one of these techniques. However, the effort it takes to maintain this attitude may become exhausting, as with such challenges as chronic pain, grief, or addiction.The problem is that you are still attempting to control or fix the problem, as your thinking mind scrambles around to find a positive solution. This can be a prison in the sense that you are either a winner or a loser, depending on how successful you are in keeping up the program. .So you are suffering from the life challenge and then you suffer more if your willpower is not sufficient to think positively. (to be continued).
You grow, learn, and find meaning, ordinary wisdom, and stillness through stillness practice and through your lifestory. However, the restorying journey does not involve simply choosing a better story to replace the old one. Also, new meaning does not come from forcing yourself to think positively about a troublesome situation. In fact I agree with the statement that positive thinking can become a prison. (To be Continued)
Tai Chi philosophy tells us that human life itself is yang energy, meaning that it is a stressor.Tai Chi is yin energy because it attempts to balance that stressor by receiving, accepting, and neutralizing. Tai Chi involves a giving-in but by no means does it involve a giving up. It is not resignation but acceptance, which means that you attempt to follow the situation until it can be brought to a balanced conclusion. You try not to interfere with the momentum of the force, whether physical or emotional. In other words do not push the river. (read more in my book Pathways to Stillness: Reflect, Release, Renew).
This video is part of the Memory Vault of virtual activities for the IG Wealth Management Walk for Alzheimer’s.
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In this episode I talk with Ashley and Daphne about the services and programmes Person Centred Universe offers their clients and the community.
It is such a pleasure to be in conversation with two former students about their dementia support and education company. Daphne and Ashley share the story of the beginnings of their vision for transforming dementia care and how the journey evolved from university days to becoming entrepreneurs in the health care world.
The ongoing story of Pathways To Stillness alone and together.
Pathways to Stillness: Finding Stillness and Coping with Stress as a Healthcare Provider in the face of Covid-19
A great pleasure to work with Daphne, Ashley and Rachel, graduates of our Gerontology programme and now colleagues. I hope this post will help you find some stillness in this 2 metre environment with its radical changes in our lives. I am hopeful you can find pathways to stillness that you can discover in your own ordinary wisdom.
Webinar: Pathways to Stillness: stress, energy levels, perspective, and our spirit in the face of Covid19
Our hope is that following the session you can begin to actively use stillness techniques to help cope with the added pressures of our new reality.
Can't make it? No problem, register anyway and we will send you the recorded video.
In this episode, our guest host Don Hemmings speaks with me about the backstory and beginnings of my book, Pathways to Stillness. My book invites you to discover your own pathways to peace and stillness in these very turbulent times.
In this episode Dr. Bill Randall and I discuss practical guidelines for practicing narrative care, and helping both yourself and others explore unique pathways to stillness. Exercises such as signature stories and the ABC's of autobiographical memory are particularly effective, very accessible, and enjoyable.
Tai Chi is a great help in these times. The moving meditation—breathing and slow movements bring you to the present moment— which helps to calm the monkey mind that constantly wants to go to fearful future thoughts. Practice whatever you can often.
The Tai Chi Wisdom section of my book Pathways to Stillness will give you helpful guidelines. I highly recommend you check out Wu’s Tai Chi Chuan Academy in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada.
Pathways to Stillness Blog
My Blog is about how you can discover your own Pathways to Stillness, and why that is so valuable to your life. We will explore what it means to lose and regain our sense of “our story” in the midst and aftermath of loss—negative beliefs about aging and how we can make them more positive, and the many benefits reaped by creating a refuge of stillness within.