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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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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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SMART goals

parenting spirituality Jan 22, 2017

Some of you may have heard of SMART goals.

Here are the criteria and some examples of SMART goals.

Specific - Studies show is that in order to activate our creativity, engage our focus and call out our best resources, the goals that we set need to be very specific. So what EXACTLY are you aiming for? Do you have a goal to read more? How many books will you read? What kind of books? If your goal is to connect more with family, who specifically will you connect with and how? How often will you initiate connection?

Measurable – How will you know that you have achieved your goal? Becoming a better person is not a measurable goal. Breathing and counting to ten before responding to sass from your teenager is more measureable. Becoming more efficient is not measurable. Getting through your task list at home before 2pm is measurable.

Action oriented – what will you DO differently? Becoming healthier is much too vague and does not specify the action. Eating dinner before 8pm on...

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Getting in touch with your values

Did you practice pausing over the weekend? How did it go?

One of the ways that we can make the pause effective is to remind ourselves of our deepest values often.

Recently I have become aware of my temptation to become critical in conversations with certain people. This is not serving me at all. It makes me feel bad about myself as it goes against my values of supporting family and choosing kindness in all circumstances.

So whenever I am in a situation that has a pattern of triggering me, I do two things:

1) Before the interaction, I remind myself of my values related to this person or situation. Values that are much bigger and more important than the petty things that are causing me to be critical.
2) I repeat the words "be kind, be kind, choose kindness" softly to myself throughout the interaction.

I am realizing that it is SO much easier to stop myself rather than deal with the consequences of my inappropriate reactions later!

Here are the steps to doing this process for...

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Where are you focusing your energy?

Where are you focusing your energy?

Once you have drawn your circles and written in them the things that you are concerned about and the things that you have influence over, it is time to get honest about where you are focusing your attention and your energy.

It is tempting to rant and complain about the things that concern us like politics, the economy, the weather, the lack of social justice in the world etc. etc. It makes absolutely NO difference to what we are concerned about.

Focusing our energy and our attention on matters that we cannot change or impact is guaranteed to bring about a sense of powerlessness and unhappiness in our lives.

But here's the thing: if we focus instead on things that we DO have control over, guess what happens? Our circle of influence grows.

So here are some things that I care about (Circle of Concern), followed by an example of something I could do to impact the situation (Circle of Influence):

My physical health – eat well, move and sleep
...

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Intentions for ourselves and prayers for others

productivity spirituality Nov 03, 2016

When we are interacting with others in life, it is not enough to have intentions for ourselves. Even if we are mindful in every interaction, and have a strong intention to show up in a purposeful way, we need to address the role of the other in the interaction.

While we cannot make intentions for the other, we can certainly say a prayer for them. A prayer that their intentions are realized in the most perfect way.

This is not an agenda or a goal. Once again, it is creating the space for God and the Universe to work a synchronistic outcome that allows both people in an interaction to fulfill their needs, desires and intentions.

Let us take an example. I am in a business (or community work) meeting discussing a potential future project for the organization.


My intention would be to be open to possibilities and allow myself to fully consider all suggestions and opinions so that the best possible outcome could be discovered. My prayer for the others in the meeting would be that they can...

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