Official blog for the book "Just Behind the Door"

Posts tagged ‘Near Death Communication’

Your Social Footprint

A recent article in ‘The Week’ magazine summarized a research study from the University of Michigan regarding social-networking sites (Facebook). Looking into this a bit further, I discovered that there are many research studies that have been conducted on the topic. The conclusion of these studies is a bit unnerving. It seems that frequent and continual use of these sites (5 times or more per day) leads to greater feelings of loneliness, depression, sadness and even anger. Whoa! I had no idea about the research but had felt a nagging unease when I saw teenagers and adults waiting in line to check out of a store while simultaneously viewing a social media site or texting a 5 second response to someone. I have wondered how present are they in the moment? Watching a family attempting the annual school clothes shopping trip while half of the members are on their phones and emotionally out there in space somewhere just takes the joy out of the experience.

The good news is that the study also found that when the research subjects used direct face-to-face communication with others it resulted in happier and more cheerful feelings. Remember the idea of staying in the present? Another way of thinking about this is to try to keep our attention where our feet are planted. You, your friends, clients and colleagues are worth the time.

Could it be that PART of the reason that people in the United States rate the highest (9.6%) for depression compared to 14 other countries is that we have begun to substitute actual personal contact with a social media site? Are we choosing to live in the shadow of texting and posting rather than ‘live’ contact?

Granted, there are many additional reasons for depression. The economy, personal challenges, family obligations, the pharma companies telling us that if we feel ‘down’ there is a pill for this or that … are just a few examples. What if part of the solution to unhappiness is the overuse of social media and the lack of face-to-face communication? You can fix that one – no cost, no worry, no problem. Just a slight change in habit. Are you up to it?

We may think we do not have a moment to spare in our lives as it is and to take the time to reconnect with a friend or make a new friend is simply out of the question. It may just seem easier, faster and more ‘with it’ to post a message and wait to see who responds. But now you know the long term effects. We can fix this – one person – one commitment at a time.

Like everything else in life the issue becomes one of awareness and moderation.

Have a great few days!

The Gift of Today

Today really is a gift. This day, this moment will never come again. It cannot be returned, or traded in even with a receipt. When we choose to use it to make ourselves and others a bit happier we have had a good day. We can take pride in our accomplishments – in simply living another day. If we use it to judge, devalue or find fault we simply lose those 24 hours for the rest of our lives. Rather like throwing money out the window of a speeding car – only worse. You can’t stop and pick up the pieces because they are lost in the winds of time. There are no ‘do overs’ for this moment. When you think about it that really makes this day the most important day you have had so far. You have brought all of you – your life, love and lessons to this moment to use it to the fullest. Wow!

Living life to the fullest, regardless of our circumstance, is a choice. Everyone could say I wish I had more…. or less…. and the list goes on and on. For some it may take more effort to be grateful for today, this moment and this life opportunity but it is so worth it. Maybe you can help them see more positives in their lives. Sometimes we all need a little reminder to ‘put on a happy face.’ That’s okay. Those nudges of positive energy and inspiration come in a million different forms. All are designed to help us along our life path. As the clock ticks away over the next 24 hours we realize that this unique, one of a kind day is gone. Did we make it a good one?

The next time you get a chance to think about it try this fun experiment. Set a goal to start the day out with a smile – to yourself and everyone else you come across. It is amazing how infectious a smile can be. Smiles open the door to life and the window to our soul. Case in point, Isn’t it amazing that a smile has no language or culture barriers?

There is a tribe in Africa that when they greet each other with a smile rather than saying a simple ‘hello’ they say, ‘I see you.’ They look deep into the eyes of their fellow travelers with a sense of respect, honor and awe. Life is not looked at as something to get through but something to relish in for as long as they have the opportunity. That’s really something to wrap our minds around don’t you think?

We are all on our own unique life journey, learning our lessons one at a time. It helps when we come across someone who lightens our load with a kind word, smile or nod of acceptance and agreement.

Have a great few days!

Optimism Takes Practice

Just like an athlete or musician or any talent, we get really good at what we practice everyday. What are you practicing? Is it happiness, love and understanding or something else?

Positive, caring behavior delivers more of the same. Likewise, if we allow ourselves to be weighed down by anger, fear or sadness we will simply get more of the same tomorrow. The Universe just has a way of delivering to us what is foremost in our thoughts.

Think of the process like a magnet with a negative and positive end. Our thinking is energy. We attract more of the type of energy (positive or negative) that we surround ourselves with. Personally, I feel life is tough enough so I choose to do everything possible to lighten my load by seeing the positives in a situation. Some may see this as Pollyanna thinking. So be it. I have found huge benefits to an optimistic attitude or as Eleanor Porter said in her original Pollyanna books, applying ‘The Glad Game’ to life. There really is a silver lining behind every cloud that crosses our path. Sometimes it takes a little while to realize the purpose, or the lesson, to the difficult event we are experiencing. Eventually, the ‘Aha’ happens and we relax in knowing that everything will work out just as it is supposed to. We simply need to control our thinking and not let perseverating on fear and the ‘if only’ ‘ or ‘poor me’ highjack our ability to handle the issue at hand.

Practicing optimistic thinking takes effort. It does not take work to be a ‘resident critic’ or to find the fault in a situation. That kind of thing is easy to do. Since optimism does not come naturally we need to redirect our thinking each time we realize the ‘negatives’ have taken over our thought process and look for a positive in the situation.

Look at your own life at this moment. You may have difficult challenges to over come, that is part of the human condition. We all experience moments of worry or momentary despair? But it is the length of time we allow ourselves to be concerned or worried about the issue that is the critical difference. A little time to be concerned about a situation is natural – a long time is unhealthy and unproductive. As we worry the issue becomes larger in our thinking and what may have been a mole hole can quickly become a mountain to overcome.

When we force ourselves to find something good or positive in every situation a strange phenomena happens. We feel more empowered, more energetic to face our life challenges and keep things in perspective. Life just seems a little easier. Trust me, it is worth practicing. Next time you have a life challenge try looking for something good in the situation. Will overcoming the challenge cause you to feel stronger, more confident the next time an unexpected event happens? Remember, the more you practice something the better you get at it!

Make it a great few days!

Are You Listening?

I once met a couple that had managed to work out a system for communication that was so unique it made a lasting impression on me. The gal was a nonstop talker and when her husband wanted to say something he simply gave her a friendly hand signal and she would stop immediately and let him get a few words in the conversation. The first time I saw them do this I was surprised and a little embarrassed for the wife but then I thought about it later and realized that they had developed a mutual understanding that worked for them.

I also remember in elementary school when we were trying to teach kids the importance of listening we would use a prop that was passed to each person as a signal that it was their turn to talk. The kids enjoyed the lesson and learned the importance of having everyone’s voice in the room.
Hopefully, some of the learning carried over into their adult life to make them better communicators.

It takes effort to hold back, and make sure that everyone has an equal amount of time to speak. But when we put ourselves in someone else’s shoes it is easier to understand the importance of doing so. Everyone wants to feel important, and to know that their opinions matter. Listening to them reaffirms that they are an equal partner in the discussion.You may not agree with them and that’s okay. We all have our own personal view of things depending on our life experiences.

Doesn’t it feel good when someone truly listens to you without interruption, judgment? People who are willing to give you their uninterrupted attention and time are rare. Most people are simply waiting (albeit) impatiently for their turn to talk. We can tell caring listeners by their eye contact and body language. We know that they are not thinking about what they have to do tomorrow, or their next meeting or client but are focused on what we are saying. They may even rephrase what we said to be sure they heard something correctly but otherwise, they simply listen with their head and heart. They are giving us something that can never be replaced – their time. The moment, once elapsed, is gone forever. Folks like this do not worry about ‘losing time’ but are more concerned about making a difference in the life of someone else. They are genuinely interested in what we are saying and doing. People like this are hard to come across but we all run into a few such special individuals in our lives. Their listening behavior signals an unconditional acceptance that causes us to feel more valued, cared for and respected.

Listening is at the heart of communication . In our hectic world so many people are yearning to be heard. It takes effort to sit still and listen attentively without interruption. It takes effort to learn to ask questions that empower rather than using simply declarative statements that disempower but the results are so worth the effort.

Have a great few days!

90% is a Good Percentage!

It has been said that 90% of what we worry about never happens. Yet, many of us find ourselves ruminating about the many things that can go wrong when trying to make a decision or simply facing a new day. We may conjure up all kinds of ‘what ifs’ regarding things that could happen. I understand the need for caution and to think through the pros and cons of a situation before making a big decision. However, many times we can become paralyzed by fear and refuse to move forward with a change in our lives because something negative might happen.The operative word here is might!

If you fast forward to the end of your life how do you think people will remember you? Will they say he/she gave me energy when I was around them and encouraged me to grow? Or will they think that being around you was an obligation which drained them of their own energy? Something they needed to do simply because they were a family member or close friend. You really never know which of your words or actions will create a lasting memory for someone else.

Our thinking, whether positive or negative takes root and produces seeds that will grow into the tomorrows of our lives. In fact, these seeds can affect the tomorrows of our loved ones lives as well. Our legacy to family and friends can be one of hope, possibility thinking and love or not. It is completely up to us to choose. I believe our words, behavior and overall modeling can be the greatest gift or burden we can pass on to future generations. Our life is no brief candle but a torch that we pass on to future generations that will, hopefully, burn brightly when they remember us. When you put your thinking and behavior in that perspective it takes on a whole new meaning.

The next time you find yourself in a cycle of negative thinking and unable to move past the fear involved in either decision making or simply facing a new day remember that the law of averages is on your side. I believe, without question, the axiom that 90% of what we worry about never happens. Personally, I like those averages!

As my son said in my book, “Mom, everything is as it should be.” I believe this with everything in me. This message from the other side has given me confidence to make changes in my life, face uncertainties when necessary and continue to move forward with a belief of the rightness of my decisions and the wonderful possibilities in my tomorrows. Hopefully, I can pay it forward to you.

Have a great few days!

Remembering Others at Christmas

During the Christmas season it seems like there is not enough hours in the day to get everything done. In addition to the gift purchasing, wrapping, tree decorations and outside lights to put up there are the Christmas cards to send. You might think twice this year about actually sending them. We debate all the reasons, as we try to get everything else accomplished, why the card thing could just be put aside- just this year.

I had a personal reminder this week of the importance of reaching out to others by sending cards. For those who have read my book you know that I am a Hospice volunteer. I have had the good fortune of being with my special person for 1 and 1/2 years. It is rare to have a patient last this long once they are officially determined to be hospice eligible. However, for this length of time we have visited weekly, discussing the books she reads, and I take her lunches that she can only dream about since she has been home bound for 2 years. Can you imagine literally not leaving your house or room for this length of time? And yet she does so with acceptance and grace. At 91 years old her mind is still sharp. It is her body that has given up the go. She basically lives in a 14 x 14 area that has become her entire life. She can no longer write the letters herself but loves to receive cards in the mail. It is her only contact to the outside world that she once knew.

Our job as Hospice volunteers is to bring a little joy to our patients during whatever time they have left on this earth. A big part of that is to keep them connected with others so they, temporarily, can forget about their situation or the inevitability of what they will soon be facing.

Just like last year, I asked her who she would like to send a Christmas card and letter to this month. She was able to give me a list after working on it for a week and then a few ideas verbally on what to say in her Christmas letter. Coming home I transcribed her thoughts and printed it on cheerful Christmas stationary then began addressing the envelopes. To my utter surprise she had 18 different people on her list for cards! She will probable receive 15 or so in return. That means that she will have 15 opportunities to read, remember the special memories of these folks and smile as she momentarily touches the outside world from her hospital bed. That may sound like a small thing to some of us but to her it will make this season, no doubt her last, something to remember. She has said to me many times that she can’t figure out why she is still here. What lessons does she have yet to learn, she questions. I think it is not her lessons to learn but her lessons to teach others, including me.

The next time I become harried with the things to accomplish during the holiday seasons I will remember with gratitude the fact that I can still do them. Christmas cards and letters will no longer seem like a chore to accomplish but something to be done that may make someone smile who receives it. All because of this special lady.

Regardless of our age, when the student is ready the teacher comes along. I was grateful I was reminded of the importance to keep this practice going. Wouldn’t it be incredible if we lived to 91 and still had 18 people to send and receive cards from? It is humbling and significant to think about how this woman has change people’s lives and continues to do in her ninth decade! She is a reminder of what the season is about, reaching out and touching the lives of others and warming their hearts.

As you check off items on your ‘to do’ list this week remember that there are others who really are interested in what you have been up to this year. They do want to stay connected in your life. Whatever form of communication you choose it will bring a smile to them as they remember a special memory of something you did together. As you read their messages in return you will also smile, remember and be grateful to have them in your life. It is funny, life is just like that, what goes around comes around.

Have a great few days!

Are You Worth 5 Minutes?

An interesting article on meditation appeared recently in The Week magazine. The editors have a way of informing readers without adding more stress to our lives. They engage the reader without the fear factor that seems a large part of most news coverage. Anything that can help us reduce stress in our lives is important. That is why the article on meditation caught my eye.

Many people think that they don’t have time to meditate daily because of the demands in their daily schedule. I would hasten to point out that your ‘to do’ list will always exist and you will be more effective in completing the tasks if you feel both physically and mentally better. Finding a no cost way to help ourselves – really help in many different ways – is a big deal.

Starting with even 5 minutes a day sitting quietly and breathing deeply will help you get started. It is a form of meditation that works for me. You may choose to increase the time later as your schedule allows but just getting started is the most important step.

Meditation has been promoted to help us get in touch with our higher self, find a greater sense of peace and well being and even help us connect us with our loved ones who have passed on. But imagine my surprise when I read about the positive effects of meditation in relation to heart attacks and strokes!

According to the article, sitting quietly and clearing our minds can ‘dramatically improve heart health.’ The researchers involved in this study divided 200 people with known heart disease into 2 groups. One group was taught to meditate for 20 minutes daily and the other group was taught to use the same amount of time exercising and preparing healthy meals. After a decade the researchers found that those who meditated reduced their risk of heart attack and stroke by 66 percent compared to those who didn’t meditate. The meditators also reduced their blood pressure and said they felt better able to control their anger! “What this is saying is that the mind-body interventions can have an effect as big as conventional medications,” said Robert Schneider, director of the Institute of Natural Medicine and Prevention reporting to WebMD.com.

Although they are unsure of just how meditation works, cardiologist Michael Shapiro said previous studies have also shown that meditation can reduce anger, stress, and increase happiness.

I think it is worth a try – don’t you?