Healing is optimal when we follow the natural rhythms of
our lives, our environments and our bodies. And that is what Eco psychology is
We can learn so much about life and growth by observing
nature ~ the seasons and the cycles. And we can tap into that divine wisdom
when we connect more deeply with nature and spend time there.
Breathe in the air. Walk barefoot in the grass. Feel the
wind in your hair. Hug a tree if you like.
Nature demonstrates ultimate patience with the process.
Nothing is forced. Nothing can be controlled. As human beings, we often try to
predict and manage our environment ~ looking at weather reports, fretting about
inclement weather, lamenting the stuff we don’t enjoy. It can often be one of
the first topics of conversation when we connect with others.
But no matter what, if it’s going to rain, you hope you
have your umbrella. Nothing we can do about it.
And our own growth and evolution and healing is much like
that. We can do things that support our wellbeing and yet, there is an
invisible and intangible process that requires patience and trust.
To everything there is a season.
Finding Your Personal Rhythm
If we honor what nature teaches us, we come to learn how to
listen more carefully to our inner wisdom and the natural cycles of our being.
We eat when we are hungry, rest when we are tired, work when there are things
to be done, play when we need rejuvenation, laugh when we are joyful and cry when
we are sad.
To move in harmony with the needs of our physical bodies
and the desires of our souls is what we are meant to do. We have all the
information we need contained within our natural existence.
Eco Psychology reinforces this perspective and allows us to
capture this internal guidance and wisdom that is available to us to make
“sense” out of what we are experiencing.
We become better equipped to sense on deeper levels what it
is we need in each moment.
This is an invaluable gift for anyone who is drawn to
practices that connect one with nature. And extremely precious for those of us
who identify as Caregivers and Service Providers. We are often so intent on
determining and responding to the needs of those around us that we become
somewhat disconnected from our personal nature and the rhythms of our own
This is key to developing practical self-care plans as well
as tuning into the deeper soul wisdom that can guide your experience as a Caregiver
and Service Provider and enhance the quality of your interactions with others.
Honoring your personal rhythm puts you in better touch with
your intuitive guidance, your creative energy and your natural capacity for
personal health. All the wisdom you need is contained within.
(Please note: I am offering this article in two parts: the
first on Alzheimer’s itself and the second on treatment, to be published later
My first experience of dementia was in my twenties. I went
to visit my grandmother in her room at a care centre. What inspired me was that she preserved her
characteristic dry sense of humour. However, she also pointed out to me that
she felt her life was not at all like the (free) robin perched on a branch
outside her window which looked out on the residence garden. (See image,
Dr Alzheimer (1901) first discovered Alzheimer’s disease, the plaques and tangles that are so prevalent in AD. Dementia is actually an umbrella term for a neurodegenerative syndrome, which includes Alzheimer’s Disease, and another common sub-type: vascular dementia (this last one occurs as a result of a stroke.)
Last summer I read Karen Tyrell’s ‘Cracking the Dementia Code: Creative Solutions to Cope with Changed Behaviors,’ (Karen Tyrell of ‘Personalized Dementia Solutions,’ 2013). In this informative book, two concepts really resonated with me. These are, first, the concept of the ‘memory onion.’ In the memory onion concept, people with dementia often revert back to earlier and earlier memories, just like peeling the layers of an onion. Furthermore, not only are they returning to memories of their youth, they are actually reliving their memories in real time.
In my father’s case (he has been exhibiting symptoms of
dementia but is not yet diagnosed); he once said an academic he knew years and
years ago when he worked at a university, visited us recently. Of course she
hasn’t—he knew her many years ago. But
then, I always have enjoyed listening to my father’s reminiscences. If a story
from his past has meaning to him, then I encourage him to share it.
The second concept Tyrell introduced me to is what she calls
‘therapeutic reasoning.’ In this process, you accept the person’s reality, it
is not about being ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. It is more about maintaining peace and
harmony, as well as reducing stress. For example, today, my father wanted to
put ketchup on his pizza. To my mother it sounded bizarre, and yet, why not? If
it encourages him to eat, so much the better!
About Dementia Solutions: Ms. Tyrell has a 20-20 service in
which you can speak to her one-on-one by phone for twenty minutes. The cost is
$20.00 plus tax.
Thus completes Part I of ‘On (Not) Second Childishness and Mere Oblivion.’ In Part II, I will go over what I learned during some online courses I took at the Alzheimer’s Society of Toronto this year.
There are so many competing messages in the world these days. Many of us feel attached to our phones and devices compelled to check messages, texts, and social media even when we don’t know what we’re seeking. Breathing a heavy sigh of relief, we put our phones on silent eager to unplug, only to pick it up moments later just in case.
There seems to be this collective concern that we might miss something if we aren’t paying attention. Then we wonder why we’re on edge, feeling distracted and overwhelmed with all the details of our lives. Suddenly, we realize that in our attempt to keep our finger on the pulse of worldly events, we have lost contact with the beat of our own hearts. In our attempt to respond to the needs of others, we have neglected our own. Is there another way? How can we balance the benefits of technology with the necessity for personal stillness and presence?
If you have explored various mindfulness strategies, you know that there are a number of ways to experience the gift of internal presence. Perhaps, you have already carved out space in your busy life to engage in practices that bring you to this sense of connection with yourself and your divinity. You know what it feels like to be in a mindful state. The challenge then is to integrate mindfulness into your life when you need it the most.
When life moves at top speed around us, connection to self seems to get further and further away. We can walk around disconnected from ourselves for hours or days before we realize that we aren’t present. The idea that the moment in front us contains the power to shift our experience seems elusive. Instead, we feel as though we can only reach that state of internal stillness if the conditions around us shift first. But, mindfulness is an inside job. It is not necessary to escape life in order to bring peace to it.
We don’t have to spend our entire lunch breaks in a dark room, eyes closed, chanting mantras just to make it through the rest of the day. It is possible to create a practice that includes both foundational mindfulness practices and integration in the moments of our lives. In fact, this is the key to experiencing greater presence, calm, and joy in life.
Consider using any technology in your life for both practical and sacred purposes. What if you used your phone to set reminder alarms ~ ones that will signal several moments throughout your day as a time to stop, breathe, close your eyes, and tune in. Set an intention early in the morning and write it in your notes. Use that same timer to remind you to read that intention as your day unfolds.
There are many apps on the market (some free, some for purchase) that are designed to enhance and support a mindfulness based practice in your daily life. Expanding technology is a reality in our daily lives. It can be more than a convenience and serve our sense of connection instead of serving as a distraction.
How can you take what you already use and make it work in your favour?
I began volunteer blogging at NSCR in 2014. Since then,
North Shore Community Resources (NSCR), has provided me with a safe, supportive
place for me to create and express my ‘voice’, which often goes silent as a
caregiver on a limited income. It was my hope all along that together, my voice
would be woven in with the other caregivers’ voices, so that we could weave a
meaningful, rich tapestry as a way to find community and greater empowerment.
Over the years I’ve enjoyed sculpting animals and fantastic
creatures (pictured above) such as wizards and gnomes. This, together with my
writing, has given me a sense of wholeness which I find very healing.
Oftentimes I’m up late crafting (or writing this piece!), and during those
times I find a measure of peace which can set me off to sleep better than any
In the spirit of creativity I would like to share with you
my poem ‘Old Age Is Not For Sissies’. The poem is meant to be humorous and
expresses the ‘lighter side’ of the caregiving journey (which is often quite
intense). So here it is, I hope you enjoy it.
However, I must pause to give credit to Gabor Maté and his book ‘In the Realm of
Hungry Ghosts’ in which one of his patients wrote a poem on the ‘life-as-train’
metaphor which appears in stanza 4 and 6 of my poem.
Old Age is Not for Sissies (by Calm Pond)
There’s no point
Crying over spilled tea
Or every single
Those pesky chin hairs
Are so annoying
And all the money’s
But never mind
(I’ve lost mine anyway)
You will be kind,
You must be kind,
Even if it expands
It’s the aging brain,
That’s the name
Of this new game
And grey is the colour
Of your new mane
So hitch a ride
On the aging train.
It can’t be denied
It’s a wild ride
You’re no longer slim
But don’t be dim
And drown your sorrows
In bathtub gin!
The aging brain,
The aging brain
Hitch a ride
On the aging train…
I would like to recommend that you watch a short video (5
minutes) entitled: ‘Can Art Be Medicine?’, on the use of drama, art, and
storytelling in medicine.
In addition to my crafting and poetry I have explored the
art of lifewriting, an engaging hobby that I highly recommend, because it gives
you deep insights into the meaning of your life, a process I will share with
you at a later date.
Also, if sufficient interest exists and it is okay with the
folks at NSCR I’d like to offer caregivers in need some of my ‘worry cubes’
(pictured above). They help turn
‘worriers’ into ‘warriors’, and are a lot healthier than ‘bathtub gin’, (to
quote my poem).
I’d like to close with a quote from the great author Mark
‘I have worried about thousands of things in my life, most
of which never happened.’