Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Growing Old and Wise With Grace

After a while
You learn the subtle difference between
Holding a hand and chaining a soul,
And you learn
That love doesn't mean leaning and
company doesn't mean security
And you begin
To learn that kisses aren't contracts and
presents aren't promises.
And you begin
To accept your defeats with your head up
and your eyes open,
with the grace of an adult,
not the grief of a child.
And you learn
To build all your roads on today because
Tomorrow's ground is too uncertain for plans.
After a while
You learn that even sunshine burns a little if
you get too much.
To plant your own garden
and decorate your own soul, instead of
waiting for someone to bring you flowers.
And you learn
that you really can endure...
That you reall are strong,
and you really do have worth.
[This is a gift from The Gecho Bar & Grill in White Rock]

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Toxic Emotions: The Clinical Data

"...Yale researchers point out that it may not be anger alone that heightens the risk of death from heart disease, but rather intense negative emotionality of any kind that regularly sends surges of stress hormones through the body. But overalll, the strongest scientific links between emotions and heart disease are to anger: a Harvard Medical School study asked more than fifteen hundred men and women who had suffered heart attacks to describe their emotional state in the hours before the attack. Being angry more than doubled the risk of cardiac arrest in people who already had heart disease; the heightened risk lasted for about two hours after the anger was aroused.

These findings do not mean that people should try to suppress anger when it is appropriate. Indeed, there is evidence that trying to completely suppress such feelings in the heat of the moment actually results in magnifying the body's agitation and may raise blood pressure. On the other hand, as we saw in Chapter 5, the net effect of ventilating anger every time it is felt is simply to feed it, making it a more likely response to any annoying situation. {Dr. Redford}Williams {at Duke University} resolves this paradox by concluding that whether anger is expressed or not is less important than whether it is chronic. An occasional disply of hostility is not dangerous to health; the problem arises when hostility becomes so constant as to define an antagonistic personal style -- one marked by repeated feelings of mistrust and cynicism and the propensity to snide comments and put-downs, as well as more obvious bouts of temper and rage. [my highlighting]

The hopeful news is that chronic anger need not be a death sentence: hostility is a habit that can change. One group of heart-attack patients at Stanford University Medical School was enrolled in a program designed to help them soften the attitudes that gave them a short temper. This anger-control training resulted in a second-heart-attack rate 44 percent lower than for those who had not tried to change their hostility. A program designed by Williams has had similar beneficial results. Like the Stanford program, it teaches basic elements of emotional intelligence, particularly mindfulness of anger as it begins to stir, the ability to regulate it once it has begun, and empathy. Patients are asked to jot down cynical or hostile thoughts as they notice them. If the thoughts persist, they try to short-circuit them by saying (or thinking), "Stop!" And they are encouraged to purposely substitute reasonable thoughts for cynical, mistrustful ones during trying situations -- for instance, if an elevator is delayed, to search for a benign reason rather than harbour anger against some imagined thoughtless person who may be responsible for the delay. For frustrating encunters, they learn the ability to see things from the other person's perspective -- empathy is a balm for anger.

As Williams told me, 'The antidote to hostility is to develop a more trusting heart. All it takes is the right motivation. When people see that their hostility can lead to an early grave, they are ready to try.' "

pages 171 - 172, Chapter 11 Mind and Medicine, "Emotional Intelligence" by Daniel Goleman

Sweet Pickin's At Draggonfly Bog

(photo by "Angeldust", Aug.2006)

On Thursday afternoon i went for my usual walk
around Dragonfly Bog. I took an empty 1L Yogurt
containter, hoping that i would get enough wild black
raspberries to make some jam. What i encountered
exceeded my wishes and abilities to contain, and as
i was picking i vowed to go back on Saturday.

Not only was i hugely rewarded by the quantity and
sweetness of the wild fruit, but i was greeted by many
shimmering dragonflies, damselflies and an assortment
of small birds. There was a light breeze which made
gathering comfortable, as the sun blazed down on my
hatless head. I was the only person in the little park, and
i felt so calm and content. As allways seems to be the case,
there were some berries beyond my reach, big ripe plump
ones that i really really wanted. As i reached through the
rails on the bridge spanning the small creek, i knew that i
had to draw back as i was risking tumbling into the sharp
brambles. The thought of me lying helpless, trapped in
the viscious thorns, made me laugh; i though of myself
crying out for help, life a pathetic troll, the late afternoon
strollers looking about, wondering from whence came the
catawalling. Sigh....i chuckle to myself now at the memory!

As i rounded the south bend of the Bog and headed for the
east side, i heard a tap tap tap tap.....tap tap...tap tap tap - well
kind of a sound that is between a tap and a knock, being not one
or the other...and i knew it could not be the workmen who are
building a complex of townhouses nearby. A WOODPECKER!!
Could it be? Excitement making my heart beat a bit faster, i
looked towards the trees straining my eyes to find took me
awhile, so well camoflarlged she was. I'm sure it was a female
as i could see no colouration on this tiny bird. I stood transfixed
as she tapped away, marvelling at her tenacity and ability to
so diligently work at her task of gathering food, oblivious of my
own gathering of sweet fruit. Finally i had to move towards
home, as was becoming dizzy from the sun beating down on me.

But, filled with renewed energy and joy, i headed home, excited
about my project, knowing that the fruit i had collected
would yield only a small amount of jam. I was right, after
adding sugar, and a small amount of apple for some natural
pectin, the result was a 2 cup mason jar of slightly runny
fruit preserve. The next morning i decided to take a small taste
to "Angeldust", which is what you see in the above photo.

see also "Some of Life's Simple Pleasures" posted on August 2nd.