Pain, inevitable; Suffering, optional

The other day I was reading Anais Nin’s diaries and came across this quote:

” The secret of joy lies in the mastery of pain.”

Of course, as the saying goes: “Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.”

It is not the pain, but the aversion to pain, that causes suffering.

It works out too this simple equation: Pain + aversion=suffering.

In the Buddha’s 4 Noble Truths, individuals are prompted to acknowledge the simple inevitability of suffering.  That said, in the Western world, we have access to treatments for both physical and emotional pain, and we have every right to seek them.  For me, I take an over-the-counter medication called ‘Antistax’ for achy legs.

And oddly, in my experience at least, it is not my own pain and suffering that is so unbearable, but the pain and suffering of the loved ones in my life.  Is this true for you also?

Wishing you well,

Calm Pond




Things I do to decompress


Whenever I get home from work or volunteering I take the time to change into comfortable clothing.  In the process, I shed my work/volunteer self and re-enter my home/family self.

Also, sometimes cooking a dish from scratch can help create a pause between the workday and the evening family time.  Why not try the following recipe for Carrot and Garlic Soup (copied from ‘Good Times’ magazine)?  If you feel like it, add a teaspoon of curry powder for Curried Carrot and Garlic Soup, which tastes delicious!

You’ll need:

2 heads garlic, 1 tbsp. olive oil, 1 chopped onion, salt and pepper, 5 cups vegetable stock (but you can use cubes), 3 cups chopped carrots (I used a bag of baby carrots), 1 potato peeled and chopped, 1/4 cup sour cream or yogurt, minced chives if you have them.

Fry onion, garlic, salt and pepper, stirring until onion is softened, about 5 minutes. Add stock, carrots, potato and one cup water, bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes.  Using immersion blender or batches in blender, blend until smooth (I like to leave some chunky bits for that rustic feel.)  Serve, top with chopped chives, and sour cream or yogurt dollop.

(Makes 6 servings)

Bon Appetit!

Calm Pond

Seniors and driving issues

Recently I’ve had to think about my Dad’s driving.  It is a very delicate issue, as you can imagine, because in North America we value mobility and independence.  Also, in North America (unlike Europe) the distances are longer so accessing convenient transportation is more of a challenge.

If you are also facing this issue, I highly recommend one website, which I will provide below.  Basically, you have to watch for warning signs, such as : close calls, or getting lost on familiar routes.  One thing I’ve implemented with my parents is to suggest not driving on the freeway and avoiding driving late at night or in very bad weather.  I have had some success in this regard.

But undoubtedly, the time will come when my Dad will have to give up driving altogether.  So alternate forms of transportation, such as the HandiDart, taxis, and the Senior’s Hub (more on those in future posts) will have to be explored.

Stay safe!

Calm Pond


Introduction to Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR)

Last June I attended an information session for an 8-week course called Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR).  Briefly, MBSR is a course in self-healing and self-care for individuals who experience chronic stress or physical ailments.

MBSR began in 1979 with Jon Kabat-Zinn, a world-renowned mindfulness expert ( and also a molecular biologist.)  According to the research on mindfulness, the brain’s inherent neuroplasticity means that when you sit down to meditate, you actually change your brain, particularly the areas called the limbic system (the seat of emotions) and the pre-frontal cortex.  When you strengthen the connection to the PFC, you will end up much less reactive and much less stressed.

Mindfulness meditation in based on thousands of years of wisdom traditions, though the MBSR program does not require any religious affiliation.

I  highly recommend this program for those individuals who are searching for healthy ways to manage stress.


Calm Pond

Hawthorn for the Heart


As care givers, we rely on our hearts. Not just as an emotional source of love but also physiologically to endure long hours, carry stress, worry and self sacrifice for those we love and those who need us. Our hearts and cardiovascular systems take on the weight. When self sacrifice means cutting time for our own health and things like diet and exercise fall to the wayside, it’s again the cardiovascular system that is one of the first body systems effected. Also, the natural changes that come about with aging are also straining on the heart organ and vasculature throughout the body, so there is good reason to take special care of this crucial body system!

Hawthorn is a shrub or tree that has a long history of use and for good reason. This plant in the rose family produces an abundance of “haws” at the end of the summer that contain multiple herbal constituents (particularly flavonoids) that are beneficial to blood vessels and the heart muscle. Some of the indications that this herb helps with are: as a tonic for cardiovascular disease, to improve coronary circulation by dilating coronary arteries, to increase contractility of heart muscle, reduce atherosclerosis by influencing LDL fats and supporting the health and function of the blood vessel walls by stabilizing collagen. Hawthorn also decreases BP, increases blood supply to the heart and offers further benefit not discussed here. *Reminder: with herbal medicine, as with conventional medicine, it is important to speak first with the appropriate health care provider before implementing new routine, as it pertains to herbal medicine, go speak with your Naturopathic Doctor.

Hawthorn can be taken as a tea, tincture or in capsules of dried herb. The tincture offers the most potent form of absorbing the medicinal value from the plant, but tea made from dried haws is valuable although a bit gentler. You can make a tea yourself by picking the haws at the end of the summer, cutting them in half and drying them in a food dehydrator until they are fully dry. Or you can go to any health food or natural supplement store and ask them if they carry Hawthorn tea. Make sure if you are purchasing Hawthorn tea that the tea is indeed the dried haws and not leaves or flowers. Tinctured form of herbal medicine is made by an alcohol extraction that was done on the plant material. It allows some of the constituents that are not water soluble to also come out of the plant into the alcohol so that the end product has a larger array of medicinal components. Tinctures are also available at health food stores and natural supplement stores. Visit a Naturopathic Doctor and they can go through this with you and most NDs will have Hawthorn products available in office. If you would like to learn more about hawthorn herbal uses click here.


Hawthorn packs a hefty herbal punch to support our bodies, but the medicine this plant offers isn’t only available by taking herbal extracts or tinctures. The very presence of hawthorn has healing effect on our bodies. Being in nature has scientifically measurable health benefit, if you research the term Shinrin Yoku and you will find a plethora of research on the subject.

Shinrin Yoku is a Japanese term that means “forest bathing” or “taking in the forest” and was designed to encourage the public to go seek out time spent in natural surroundings. Since the 1980s researchers in Japan and Korea have observed subjects after having spent time in natural settings and compared stress hormone levels, heart rate, blood pressure and other health markers to people who have not recently been in nature. They have repeatedly found that being in nature has measureable beneficial health outcomes. Although this might appear obvious to many of us, this has great use to convince everyone that when it comes to our health, our time with nature is indeed doing us good. In the countries where Shinrin Yoku is studied, medical doctors also prescribe certain patients to spend specific amounts of time in nature each week as preventative health care. If you would like to read more of the subject click here.

Spending time with hawthorn is of no exception. In Folklore the hawthorn is one of the most revered plants and has a strong history in England and religious history. The Glastonbury Thorn is a hawthorn tree that is associated with legends of the arrival of Christianity in Britain. Many churches throughout the lower mainland have hundred-year-old hawthorns in their properties and are beautiful and powerful to be around.

Energetically the hawthorn is a very grounding tree, it promotes cleansing, fulfillment, guardianship and fertility. The flower blossoms in May are connected to folklore for fertility and abundance. The heart shaped leaves resonate with what is called a “doctrine of signatures” and give hint to the helpful heart medicine of hawthorn. The plant is not all flowers and dance however. Hawthorn has strong thorns that are demanding of respect, they are there to protect the hawthorn and offer guarding for the plant and those around it. To go and sit with a hawthorn, meditate, say some prayers and ask for healing is a great way to gain some of the subtle healing that this plant offers. If you are familiar with this plant already then offer to gather some of the haws in end of summer and play with making some of your own teas for your health.


Connecting to nature in this way is like an easy meditation without the rigors of committing to daily practice. It helps put things in perspective when stress is running on our minds and allows ourselves to let go and permit healing for our hearts to unfold. Being with plants and allowing their healing is obvious to gardeners and is a big part of why they love getting their hands dirty. If you don’t have a garden of your own, then I encourage you to look and observe the plants around you and start noticing which ones you would like to spend time with. As it pertains to matters of the heart, the hawthorn rules, and going to seek out time with one will do you a world of good.


Christina Weir

Third year Naturopathic Medical Student


Visit her website for more local herbal info and DIY herbal projects




Quote and Relaxation Poem

‘Spring’ by Calm Pond

Why, pray tell

O Earth mother

this plague of insects

in my humble rooms?


Is it the end of

the dormant winter

the long sleep

everything suddenly alive?


And I, too, I suppose

with my desperate scrawl

in the dead of night

am awakening


Each year, a new

re birth, a new life:

a coming again.

Hope, at last


A quote from T.S. Eliot’s East Coker:

‘I said to my soul, be still and wait without hope

For hope would be hope for the wrong thing:

Wait without love, for love would be love for the wrong thing:

There is yet faith.

But the faith, and the love, and the hope are all in the waiting.

Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought:

So the darkness shall be the light

And the stillness the dancing.


For the love of poetry, and all the truth and beauty it brings to life,


Calm Pond

How to Help a Suffering Partner

These strategies can really be two-fold, as in the caregiving journey it is common for both partners to experience emotional suffering.
Thank you Eric, for sharing these suggestions on how to be mindful of loving well. They bring the notion of supporting another person back to a more grounded, simple place.
Caregivers, what has helped you be with someone that is suffering, and not become totally consumed by the pain of it? We welcome your sharing.


Written by Eric C., MA., PhD Candidate (USA)

Founder of: MakeItUltra™

“Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them.” ~Dalai Lama

1. Fight the urge to run away or shut down
Let’s face it, it is in our nature to seek pleasure and avoid pain. Seeing a loved one suffer is one of the most heart wrenching experiences. If you feel like running away or giving up, you are not alone. But remember, it is not uncommon for a loved one who is suffering to prefer solitude. If this is the case, make sure not to feel guilty for going about your regular routines. And especially, make sure to continue doing the things that bring you joy. Just be mindful if you begin telling your partner how great things are going.

2. Manage your reactivity 
It is not uncommon to feel angry, frustrated…

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Review of Meal Replacement Shakes

There are many meal replacement shakes on the market.  Here are some of the big names:

Boost Original-Chocolate has 26 essential vitamins and minerals and 10g of Protein.  See also Boost 100 calories and Boost Plus.

My personal favorite: President’s Choice Ultra-Shake (lactose-free) with 15g of Protein.  Their strawberry flavor tastes quite good.

Ensure Original has 9g of Protein and 26 vitamins and minerals.  See also Ensure Light (70 calories, 12g of Protein, 23 vitamins and minerals).

Bottoms up!

Calm Pond

My Favourite Grounding Meditation


This meditation can be done anywhere without anyone being none the wiser. It’s extremely helpful if you’re feeling anxious, overwhelmed, or scared.

Take a deep breath in through your nose, out through your mouth. 

Look for three things in the room and notice them, one at a time.

Listen for three things and notice them, one at a time.

Feel for three things and notice them, one at a time.

Take a deep breath in through your nose, out through your mouth.

Cassandra Van Dyck 

Mindful Monday no. 74 – Fight or Flight


I was invited to try out a zip lining and high ropes course this weekend. Participants are strapped in to harnesses and the harnesses are tied in to cables. People are led through the trees to navigate obstacles and slide down long lines, many feet in the air. From beginning to end, you are attached to a cable. Barring some horrible accident, the chances of injury are slim. Even though I knew this, my childhood fear of heights kicked in, and I had to take some very deep breaths and let out a few loud noises to talk myself in to completing the course and not calling for help to somehow get me down.

This experience got me thinking about mindfulness and fear. Just like when we are feeling overwhelmed and stuck, fear can be paralyzing. Whether you’re standing on the edge of a platform about to trust a cable to safely carry you to the ground, or you’re sitting with your loved one in a doctor’s office processing a diagnosis, fear can show itself in one of two ways: fight or flight. 


Sometimes (often) it can feel easier to escape the situation you’re in than to work through it. Although it conjures up visions of flying away, flight isn’t always a physical reaction. People can escape by hardening themselves to a situation, by using substances to numb difficult emotions, or by avoiding or procrastinating things that are causing fear (paying bills, calling health care professionals, etc.). Flight is not always a bad thing. Sometimes fleeing a situation or checking out for a little while can help us cope with trying times and renew our energy so we can better face challenges. In tense situations when emotions are high, sometimes it’s better to walk away and plan a response than to react.

Flight becomes a problem when we are avoiding problems, people, or experiences that need our attention and energy. It becomes a problem when it’s our immediate response to flee and when we lose the ability to think rationally about fears so we can tackle them. A flight response rarely makes obstacles go away.


The word can have negative connotations if we imagine a heated argument or a boxing match, but this is the drive that can prompt us to face challenges and work out plans to address problems and get the support we need to keep going. As mentioned, it can also cause problems. If fight is causing us to react, we may not have the perspective to best face tough times. We might say things we regret and we might not know when to walk away and give ourselves a break. Constantly being in “fight mode” can cause burnout.

How do we know when to fight or take flight?

There are many ways to talk about and interpret the flight or fight response that is so ingrained in us. One of the most useful ways it can be used and thought of is in reaction to situations that cause a lot of fear. If you are feeling paralyzed by fear, here are three questions to ask yourself to help you decide what to do next.

First, ground yourself.

 Try taking a few deep breaths to stabilize your breathing and connect to your emotions. If you’re having trouble staying calm, try my favourite grounding exercise. Now that you feel grounded, ask yourself the following:

What is my fear?

When we’re scared, emotions can be intense and we may lose track of what we’re really scared of. Identifying the root of the fear can help us address it.

Is my fear rational?

Often times the fear you’re feeling will be rational, but sometimes it is not. Sorting out whether you’re feeling a rational or irrational fear will help you answer the next question.

What do I need right now?

This is the question that can help you decide whether to fight or take flight. Maybe what you need in your moment of fear is answers from your health care professional or to express what you’re feeling. You might also some time to give yourself a break and work through your emotions.

If you’re choosing fight or flight mindfully, either response can give you what you need. When we ground ourselves in moments of fear, we allow ourselves to make decisions rather than to simply react. 


What do you do when you’re feeling scared? We’d love to hear from you!


Cassandra Van Dyck