Thursday, May 31, 2012

Listening in, researchers learn about end-of-life communication

Listening in, researchers learn about end-of-life communication:

'via Blog this'

This article should be read by anyone working in hospice or palliative care. Ministers and pastors especially can be of help to all the people involved in the expected death of a loved one. Much of what the study has commented on matches "On Death and Dying" by Kubler-Ross, but approaches it from a more clinical point of view.

When I read this, I hear that clinicians, the doctors or palliative care consultants are just as in need of counselling. Consider how you would deal, if your job included spending a couple of hours a day (or more) telling people that they were going to die. Having someone on staff available for these people to talk to, someone trained to be able to help them pick up the pieces, is so important.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Wordy Wednesday - May 16

"The only real security is not in owning or possessing, not in demanding or expecting, not in hoping, even. Security in a relationship lies neither in looking back to what it was, nor forward to what it might be, but living in the present and accepting it as it is now." -- Anne Morrow Lindbergh

“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I’ll try again tomorrow.” -- Mary Anne Radmacher

“Lay a firm foundation with the bricks that others throw at you.” --David Brinkley

“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it’s time to pause and reflect.” -- Mark Twain

Magickal Container Gardening with Lyrion and Raven ApTower

Peace on Earth Festival

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Wordy Wednesday - May 9

"I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use." -- Galileo Galilei

"Words are irrelevant to prayer; they are merely the intellectual channel in which the river of spiritual supplication may chance to flow...God answers the soul's attitude, not the words." -- The Urantia Book, (91:8.12)

"...spirituality is not about a lottery ticket to the next life, but a front-row-center ticket to this one." --Terry Hershey

"I am told that in Scotland and Ireland the old farmers always leave wild and undisturbed corners in their gardens, where they sow nothing, out of respect for The Little People, to give them a place to be. What wild undisturbed corners do you leave within you or within your partner, your children, your parents, your closest friends? What is left respectfully and quietly for passive cultivation, for privacy, for the imagination, for discovery, for serendipity, for faith, for secrecy, for grace, for reverence, for the untapped, for the future, for the unknowable and the unknown?" -- Kathryn Hall in Plant Whatever Brings You Joy: Blessed Wisdom from the Garden

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Interview with "Pearls of Wisdom" author Susan McMillin

I find myself reaching the last, but not least, of my interviews of the authors of "Pearls of Wisdom," and I am sad. This has been a thoroughly enjoyable experience and I have learned a lot about myself and these lovely ladies. Today's final interview is with Susan McMillin, and her chapter is called, "Be Happy and Success Will Follow."

Remember that you can find Pearls of Wisdom at, and that there are many other interviews on the blog tour at Pearls of Wisdom Tour.

The first sentence in your chapter is, "The notion that we achieve success first and happiness second is an ancient misconception." Where do you think this misconception came into being, and why? Do you believe it served a purpose at one time?

Thank you, this is an excellent question!

I think this misconception is as old as recorded history. Aesop's fables were written about 500 years before Christ, yet we still tell these stories to children today. One fable talks about the Grasshopper and the Ant. The ant toiled all summer putting away food for the winter while the grasshopper played and sang all summer. When winter came, the grasshopper was unprepared and died, while the ant lived warm and dry and well fed because of his efforts. The moral that we need to delay some pleasure in order to prepare for a better future is absolutely true.

Modern studies in psychology show the same thing. There is a famous study of young children. Each child is given a marshmallow and told they can eat the marshmallow now or wait 15 minutes and get a second marshmallow. The study then followed these children into adulthood. Researchers found that
the children that waited for the second marshmallow were far more successful in school and in later life.

The truth behind the misconception is that the rewards are often greater when you can delay immediate gratification for a larger reward in the future. This is a real truth.

The problem comes when we learn this lesson too well, as many successful people do. We are so used to delayed gratification, that we delay gratification forever, leading to a second truth in the expression, "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy." We work and work and succeed and succeed, but rarely take the time to enjoy our success. Often, when we do take time, the habit of hustle is so strong that we approach our recreation with the same competitive, must be first, delay the pleasure approach that we use in life and rob ourselves of the enjoyment of that success.

Another reason the "success leads to happiness" misconception arises is that the grasshopper and the ant fable motivates us through fear -- the fear of dying of starvation in the cold winter. Fear is a powerful motivator to help us survive. Love, happiness, gratitude, appreciation and the other positive emotions that make up happiness are powerful motivators to help us go beyond survival and thrive. Nature has given us both mechanisms. Once we have mastered survival, the skills that take us to the next level -- thriving and flourishing -- change from delayed gratification to the appreciation of the gratification we have achieved. 

If you have the skills to succeed and you want to take your life to the next level of thriving and flourishing, then happiness comes first, and success second.

You suggest that as we raise our moods, we also elevate our chances to see things we want in life. Seeing is not having, though. How do a happy attitude and positive emotions lead to more success?

Another excellent question! There are lots of answers to this question and science is discovering more every day. I'll focus on two main reasons here -- physical and attitudinal.

Physically, happiness and positive emotions impact how our brains function. We now know that our emotions are tied to chemical states in our bodies that impact how we respond to the world. Many people are familiar with the fight or flight response to fear. When we feel fear, our bodies produce adrenaline and cortisol to give our muscles more strength and our lungs more endurance. Our mental focus narrows to the immediate problem at hand -- removing the threat. We do not consciously think about it. It happens automatically.

It turns out that positive emotions have a similar, but opposite effect on our bodies. When we feel joy or love, our bodies produce endorphins and oxytocin. Oxytocin is a hormone often associated with mothers and babies during breast feeding, but it turns out that both men and women produce this hormone whenever they feel close to, or bonded with, other people. The more oxytocin, the more attracted to others we become. These hormones broaden our focus making it easier to see attractive options around us. They send more blood to our brains, improving our intelligence and learning capabilities. They also increase our immune function making us more resistant to disease and perhaps injury. 

Psychologists believe that the negative emotions signal our bodies to run away from a threat, while our positive emotions signal us to move towards a growth and cooperation opportunity. Certainly, as humans, our success is based on our willingness and ability to work together to hunt, farm, and create shelters and goods in communities and cities. We are hard wired to work together.

Attitudinally, a positive outlook helps us see opportunities. Our brains like to be right, so they sift through the tremendous amount of information we take in through our senses and filter out the things we do not expect to see. If we expect to see that we are failures, or that we have to work hard to succeed, we will see evidence that is true. If we expect to succeed by a hidden opportunity or to find a silver lining in the cloud, we will find that too.

It's easy to show that being happy makes things run easier in our lives, but not so easy to put into practice. How do you suggest people go about "practicing happiness" on a daily basis?

I offer a free e-book on this very subject, growing happiness, available at Also, my website, is dedicated to teaching people how to practice happiness.

The first step is to actively take control of being happy. Choose to be happy and to make changes in thinking and action to be happier.

The next step is to focus on the positive things around you. Look for what is good and right first, instead of what is wrong. For example, when someone annoys you, take a moment to think about the positive qualities the person has and what they can bring to your life. Often we are closely related to the people who annoy us because we live or work with them, or they are doing us a service, like helping us purchase groceries or driving the bus we ride. We take the good for granted and only see the bad. When we reverse that, and focus on the good first, our relationships improve.

The final step is to get quiet and still a couple times a day and really tune in to how you feel. Make small adjustments to feel a little happier in whatever situation you are in at that moment. I think of this process as similar to that of a butterfly drying its wings right after it breaks out of the chrysalis. It senses that heat of the sun and breeze and makes tiny adjustments in its position to get the most sun. When the sun shifts, the butterfly shifts.

Each shift towards a happier demeanor, makes it easier to make the next shift because as we get happier, we take advantage of all those lovely hormones that make changing and growing easier. We start an upward spiral.

This process does not create massive change overnight. It does work instantly in that a change of perspective or thought can instantly improve our mood, however, these small changes do build up over time. As our skill in looking on the bright side improves, we will start to make more productive and happy decisions. Over time, our lives will change for the happier.

Happiness is catching, sort of like measles and the flu, but what's the best way to ensure that we infect the highest number of people?

Smile a lot. Look people in the eye when you greet them and say hello. Make a positive comment, even if it is just about the weather. If you can manage a sincere compliment, that is even better. When people complain to you, help them see the bright side of their complaint. For example, in the work place when someone says how bad the work environment is, you might respond, at least we are employed, or there's nowhere to go but up. Even though these comments might seem clich├ęd and trite, when they are delivered with a smile and a cheery voice, it gets some people thinking about other positives.

Happiness is contagious, but it cannot be forced. When spreading happiness, it is important to be sincerely happy and to be tolerant of those who are not happy. You cannot force anyone to be happy. Our emotions serve an important purpose and we never know what makes someone else unhappy and how that emotion protects them. The happy choice is to be tolerant and compassionate when faced with an unhappy person and, if you cannot help them, accept their state as the right one for them and move on to infect someone else with joy.

What is your "happy thought"? What is it that carries you through times that are less than happy?

I do not have a happy thought so much as a happy question. When I am feeling down, I ask myself, "What is good about this situation?" I will often take a moment and write down 5 good things.

It turns out that gratitude is a powerful happiness booster. In research studies, scientists found that people who spent 5 minutes a day writing down things they were grateful for, had measurably higher life satisfaction after 7 days. Even when they stopped writing their gratitude list after 7 days, they were measurably happier a month later.

How can my readers find you?

Thanks very much for all your answers, Susan! Good luck with your book.

If you want to, you can go back and read all the other interviews I have done: Liz ByrneStacy Goforth, Stephanie Bennett Vogt and Sheila Pearl. It's definitely worth your time if you haven't seen them yet. Also, check out the blog tour itself, where every author has been interviewed. There's some really great information out there.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Wordy Wednesday - May 2

"No matter what looms ahead, if you can eat today, enjoy the sunlight today, mix good cheer with friends today, enjoy it and bless God for it. Do not look back on happiness -- or dream of it in the future. You are only sure of today; do not let yourself be cheated out of it." -- Author Unknown

"The mother eagle teachers her little ones to fly by making their nest so uncomfortable that they are forced to leave it and commit themselves to the unknown world of air outside. And just so does our God to us." -- Hannah Whitall Smith

"In nothing do men more nearly approach the Gods than by doing good to their fellow man." -- Cicero

"Time spent laughing is time spent with the gods." -- Japanese Proverb

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Interview with "Pearls of Wisdom" author Sheila Pearl

Sheila Pearl is the fourth author from "Pearls of Wisdom" that I have been privileged to interview (the others are Liz Byrne, Stacy Goforth, and Stephanie Bennett Vogt), and I must say, it's quite the interview! Her chapter, "Awful Gifts: Blessings in Disguise" details a part of the journey she experienced during her husband's terminal illness. It is heart-rending in places, but she accepts her part in it with aplomb. I had so many questions, and it was hard to pare it down to only these few. I hope you enjoy reading her responses as much as I did.

Why is your chapter titled, "Awful Gifts: Blessings in Disguise"?

"AWFUL" is, literally, filled with AWE!  How can we find blessings and gifts in those very experiences of life which are so filled with dread, pain, and difficulty?  I was invited by this experience with my husband to ask this question and to wonder.  Really, to wonder about those things in life we THINK we ought to wish away, to hope never happen, and to demonize when they do.  It's like Job in the Bible who responded to his wife who was cursing God, "Should I only bless Adonai when He gives me the good things and curse Adonai when He gives me Evil?"  In other words, since God is the author of everything in Life, is there not something of goodness and beauty even in the so-called "evil" things (or "bad" or "difficult")?

In Jewish tradition, the ten days between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur are called the "Days of Awe"...the Hebrew word for "Awe" is "norah" and the connotation of that word is akin to "fear" and "dread" but with the notion that "this is a serious time for serious self-reflection..."  The idea of "awe" here is one of treating life as sacred and the opportunities of life, whatever they are, as stepping stones to our next story that we are writing for the "book of life."  I wanted that word to connote the sense of awe and wonder which exists in each moment of life, if we choose to look at it and see it.

I also called this "Awful Gifts...." because I have learned from this experience -- as well as others -- that the most difficult and painful adversities often bring the most awesome growth and resilience.  What came out of this experience for my husband was his finally being at peace with the process of death, knowing that he was much more than his body and brain.  What came out of this experience for me was my developing my intuitive sensitivities and evolving my own consciousness to levels I would have otherwise never explored nor experienced for myself -- and now, teaching others.

In your chapter, you describe meeting Yoram, who brought you the message to "receive this gift." How did you feel initially upon having someone refer to your husband's illness as a gift?

At first, when Yoram brought me his message, I was angry with the thought that Aaron's illness was any kind of gift.  It felt like a curse, a burden, and a nightmare.  How in the world could I SEE it as a "gift"?  Yet, Yoram was a scientist, a physicist, and an intelligent man who had developed his intuitive abilities and I somehow had this calm sense of "knowing" that his message was something I would be wise to receive with gratitude, not anger.

You talk about the possibility of imagining the conversations with your husband, that they might not be real. Would it have made any difference, at that point, whether it was real or imagined?

Of course, I wanted to know whether or not these conversations were "real" and not my own fanciful imagination.  However, at the same time this was happening, I was also studying with Neale Donald Walsch who writes in "Conversations with God" that whatever we are "imagining" is as real as real can be.  In fact, I have to laugh because Neale actually said to me, when I asked that question, "so, what difference does it make if you are in fact just making it all up -- don't we make it all up anyway?!?"  So in my doubting, I just took a leap of faith, and listened.

When Aaron was ready to die, you explain that it was the same day the Pope died. What is the significance, to you, of your vision of the Pope inviting Aaron to join him?

My husband, who was a brilliant Rabbi and scholar, had a great love for that Pope.  He felt as if the Pope was a kindred spirit.  It was just an interesting so-called "coincidence" that the Pope died on April 1st, and that was the day Aaron chose to stop eating.  Since I don't believe in coincidences, and since I imagined that possibility, I have continued to giggle with that thought, knowing that the Pope believed in an afterlife and Aaron did not.  Perhaps that was Aaron's first invitation to open that doorway to the other side.

You use the term "Continuation Day" near the end of the chapter in reference to Aaron's death. Can you explain this term?

My teacher, mentor and friend Neale Donald Walsch refers to the physical death of the body as "Continuation Day" and I have embraced that notion for myself; and since Aaron was at peace when he took his last breath, and we both felt strongly that who we are doesn't die, just the body dies, referring to his day of passing as "Continuation Day" seemed appropriate.

The act of being with someone when they are in the final process of dying is very intense. Are you willing to share a little bit of how it felt to you, to be with your husband during the passing of his body?

As a clergy person myself, I have had many occasions to be with congregants and clients who are in the final process of dying -- so that aspect was not strange or difficult for me.  It was the fact that this was my husband of 32 years, the love of my life and my life partner whose hand I was holding, whose breath I was following, with great intention being with him as his "mid-wife" for his transition. I had actually prepared for that moment several times before that date, when Aaron had lapsed into a coma and Hospice was called in.  This time was the seventh time, but this time, I somehow knew that he was ready (unlike the other six times) and would willingly release.  I called into play all of my training as a healer, having beside me two healers to support me as well.  We all treated this process as sacred: we used essential oils, lit candles, played soft gentle music for this sacred transition.  I had the intention of remaining present to Aaron and his breathing.  While I stayed with his energy and his breathing, I remained calm and serene.  Once he took his final breath, I felt I had participated in "giving birth" (as I describe in my chapter).  The last exhale of breath was extraordinary and I had determined to remain in the moment with eyes wide open, knowing that this was as important a moment in our life together as the birth of our grandchildren or the moment of our marriage.  In our wedding document which we wrote (it's called a "Ketubah") it declares: "...and we pledge the very substance of our lives together."  Indeed, we shared the very substance of life!

We often hear that the “whole is greater than the sum of its parts” – how does that proverb apply to the 30 authors in "Pearls of Wisdom"?

I love the way synergy works: when two people are having a conversation, a third reality emerges; when 30 voices are sharing their energy, their messages, entire new worlds are being born within each moment of the sharing. Exponential Synergistic Energy: that is how I see the whole being greater than the sum of its parts.

How can my readers find you online?

Visit my websites: and and

Thank you so much, Sheila! Readers, you can find Pearls of Wisdom at I highly recommend it. Each chapter has pulled me in a different direction than the last. I have enjoyed every page, and find it difficult to put down! To read the many other interviews on the blog tour, check out the Pearls of Wisdom Tour!