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I wish I hadn’t worked so hard

Bronnie Ware found that almost all the men and quite a few of the women she spoke to, regretted spending too much time working at the cost of spending time with family and loved ones.

This one did not surprise me at all.

It seems that as a generation, we have completely blurred the boundaries between work and non-work life. Our work has taken over all aspects of our existence.

With the advent of technology, work follows us home, on the dinner table, on the prayer mat, in bed, on vacation, in the shower . . . you get the picture.

It may be helpful to remind ourselves that no one on their death bed ever wished they had spent more time at the office. (attributed to Rabbi Harold Kushner)

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Learning life lessons from the dying

Are you familiar with the story of Bronnie Ware the palliative care nurse who wrote the book The Top Five Regrets of the Dying?

Although employed as a personal carer primarily to look after physical needs of dying patients, Ware found herself having deep and meaningful conversations with her clients.

Ware came to appreciate that people who are dying realize what is most important and what is not, and are more likely to speak honestly about their life and what they wished they had done differently.

Through many conversations and interactions with the dying, she began to notice some common regrets they expressed and gathered their wisdom and experience in her book.

Over the next few days, lets explore the top regrets of the dying. Maybe we can learn from their wisdom and live a regret-free life ourselves.

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Let’s talk about the ‘D’ word

family spirituality Apr 17, 2017

Let's talk about the 'D' word.

Death.

What every one of us will face and what few of us like to think or talk about. Some of us might even believe that thinking about death and dying is morose and depressing.

While spiritual traditions, including Islam and Buddhism have advocated reflecting on the temporary nature of life in this existence as a path to virtue and salvation/bliss, it is fairly recently that secular psychologists have affirmed the benefits of thinking about death.

Kenneth Vail of the University of Missouri, headed a study about 'death awareness' and said, "There has been very little integrative understanding of how subtle, day-to-day, death awareness might be capable of motivating attitudes and behaviors that can minimize harm to oneself and others, and can promote well-being."

Vall specifically mentions three ways consciousness of death can improve our lives:

1) Thinking about death helps us prioritize our goals and get in touch with what we truly value

2) Just...

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At Day’s End

Here are some of the questions to ask ourselves when the day is done.

Did today matter?

At Day's End By John Hall

Is anybody happier
Because you passed his way?

Does anyone remember
That you spoke to him today?

The day is almost over,
And its toiling time is through;
Is there anyone to utter
Now a kindly word of you?

Can you say tonight, in parting
With the day that's slipping fast,
That you helped a single brother
Of the many that you passed?

Is a single heart rejoicing
Over what you did or said?--
Does the man whose hopes were fading
Now with courage look ahead?

Did you waste the day or lose it?
Was it well or sorely spent?
Did you leave a trail of kindness
Or a scar of discontent?

As you close your eyes in slumber,
Do you think that God will say,
"You have earned one more tomorrow
By the work you did today?"

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The wisdom of silence

Continuing with our series on the timeless wisdom of Imam Ali (as), the quote for today is: "Safety lies in silence. It is easier to rectify what you miss by silence, than to secure what you lose by speaking". Imam Ali (AS)

Have you ever put your foot in your mouth? Said the first thing that came into your head without pausing to consider if it met the criteria for wise speech or if it needed to be said at all?

If you have, you have probably lived to regret such statements. It is so easy to react in the moment and say things which add no value to our life and can cause pain and distress to those we love.

It is helpful to remind ourselves that we lose nothing by pausing, breathing and choosing silence in the moment. Our speech is more impactful if we are intentional in choosing our words, not reacting in the moment.

A mental mantra that I often repeat to get into the habit of pausing before speaking is: "Engage brain before operating mouth".

Try it.

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Be creative with your interpretations

Continuing with our series on the timeless wisdom of Imam Ali (as), the quote for today is: "Do not think of anyone's statements as evil if you can find it capable of bearing good".

It is clear that what people say to us and how we interpret their statements are two distinct parts of each communication.

When our emotional bank account with a person is low, it is easy to interpret what they say more negatively than they intend. We can pause, notice this tendency and choose to give it a positive interpretation. Give them the benefit of the doubt, so to speak.

Being creative and positive with our interpretations of another's words and actions takes intentionality and practice. Over time, it can become a habit.

A habit that brings more positivity into our lives and improves our relationships.

Worth a try, don't you think?

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Be open to influence

Continuing with our series on the timeless wisdom of Imam Ali (as), the quote for today is: "One who is headstrong and opinionated perishes, while one who seeks the advice of others becomes a partner in their understanding".

When we are highly protective and defensive of our opinions, it is usually a sign of fear, insecurity and a lack of confidence. It also leaves us little room for growth, reflection or expansion of wisdom.

So the next time someone offers us a suggestion or a piece of advice, lets pause before automatically dismissing it. Just fully consider it before making a decision either way. Considering something does not mean agreeing. Listening to a point of view with an open mind does not meant that you automatically accept it.

Listening with an open mind leaves the opportunity open, though, to grow in understanding and insight and to become a 'partner in their understanding'.

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Pause before you promise

It is hard to say no to those we care about. It seems much easier in the moment to make a promise when a request is made than to disappoint and upset the one who is asking (especially if they are a child, a family member or co-worker that we see everyday)

The trouble is, when we promise something we have no intention of doing or are not in the position of doing, it ends up causing twice the amount of upset and disappointment, both for ourselves and others. Our words and our promises do not hold much weight. The promisees are never quite sure whether or not we will make good on our promise.

Imam Ali (as) puts it very eloquently: “One who is asked a request is free until promising". On another occasion he said, "A graceful refusal is better than a lengthy promise.”

So the next time a request is made which you cannot or will not fulfil, consider a graceful refusal.

This may be challenging in the moment, but so much easier in the long run for you and for the relationship.

...

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Turn knowing into doing

Many Muslims around the world are celebrating the birth of Imam Ali (as) this week and so I would like to share some timeless wisdom from this great spiritual leader which continues to inspire millions today.

Imam Ali (as) said: "Knowledge, if not acted upon, departs." Along the same lines, he also said: "Knowledge is of two kinds, that which is absorbed and that which is heard. And that which is heard does not profit if it is not absorbed".

Have you ever wondered why we remember so little of what we read and hear? It is because what we hear, does not 'settle' into our being. It passes by without making an impact. "In one ear and out the other", as the saying goes.

Can we change this so that we remember more of what we learn? So that what we learn transforms our lives for the better?

For sure.

As soon as we learn something, we need to ask ourselves: "What will I do differently as a result of this information?"

Then put knowledge into action. Even a tiny little action.

Remember the...

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Enjoy the wait

The fourth principle that we will explore from Sonja Lyubomirsky's The Myths of Happiness is this:

Spend money now to enjoy something in the future.

Research confirms that anticipating a pleasant or happy event brings us joy.

We have probably experienced this ourselves, when we book a summer holiday, for example. The planning, the dreaming and the talking about sunny days on the beach and starlit nights bring us much pleasure and enjoyment long before the event actually takes place.

Now before we all go and look for that super once in a lifetime trip, a quick word of caution: the results of happiness research favour "the ordinary over the intense".

In other words, we get more "bang for our buck", so to speak, if we spend our money on many small pleasures rather than a few big ones.

So instead of spending our life savings on that one fantastic trip, we would be better off planning small but regular get-aways or outings with the family. Or even planning a free picnic to the local park...

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