When It Rains, It Pours

Good beautiful frosty -30°C last day of February!! Went for an incredible and invigorating morning walk appreciating the sunshine, the crisp feel of the morning on my cheeks, and gratitude to feel alive! On this journey of joy that I find myself, one great way to start the day feeling wonderful is to go for a walk of appreciation.

Like all people who have the good fortune to live in this incredibly rich country of ours, I have a lot for which to be grateful, but this morning what filled my heart with joy was the feeling of pouring rain☺ Historically, I associated the expression “When it rains, it pours” to unpleasant things happening in one’s life; that when one “bad” thing happens, a succession of things going wrong seemed to occur. Well this week I have experienced the exact opposite. When one “good” thing happens, a succession of things going right occur.

Last week I spoke of facing fears, overcoming mental obstacles of doubt and insecurity. Last week I decided to feel the joy of doing what I love – “bringing joy to others through life coaching, motivating, writing, educating.” I decided to focus on these feelings of passion and possibility, versus feelings of monetary fears and personal “who do I think I am to be a Joy Coach” doubts. Last week I danced as I met my first life coaching client. This week I dance and sing as my client base has grown to three!!!

What happens when you focus on feelings of possibility and passion? Things immediately begin to shift in your environment and what you are feeling continues to grow and blossom. The “trick” is to feel the possibility, to feel the passion, to feel the joy. It is also to accept that to experience the feelings you have to clear yourself of the negative thoughts running in the background that are blocking the feelings; hence when the opposite occurs. A negative experience feels bad and when we are focused on how bad we feel, we draw more “bad” feeling experiences.

The good thing is that it is possible to re-write the negative thoughts running in the background. It requires desire and dedication, but it is possible to re-train one’s brain to think with a positive perspective. Does that mean that you never feel bad again? Heavens no! What it means is that the “bad” feelings become signposts guiding you towards your joy. So on this beautiful cold February morning I gleefully thank the Universe for signposts of pain, a positive re-tracked brain, and the possibility to Coach Joy!!!

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The February Rose

Yesterday was that day for me, the day that I am calling “The February Rose.” The first day that actually felt like spring was around the corner. The snow was melting. The temperature was above zero. The jacket didn’t have to be zipped up. People were smiling. Birds seemed to chirp louder. The day felt longer. The tipping point. The realization that winter was moving into the latter half of the season. The pinhole of light shining into the February Blues.

At the beginning of the week I finally admitted and accepted that I was experiencing the February Blues. Despite a two-week reprieve from winter, I did not feel like my normal cheery self. Moving through the days felt heavier. It was harder to shift my perspectives to a more positive space and my fears seemed to subtly attach themselves to my thoughts. Gratefully my fears did not harass me like past years. I attribute that to all of the hard work I have put in to re-training my brain to a healthier, positive self-outlook. Now I am able to identify those fear spots as they enter my mind and my newly trained inner cheerleader and activist go right to work. (If you are interested in learning more about my mental health training program contact me at cynthia@sweetperspectives.ca☺)

So I reminded myself what the February Blues means to me. February (and arguably winter as a whole) is a natural time of introspection and acceptance of difficult change. A time to go inside. A time to honestly look at all areas of life, of beliefs, and assess their joy factor. Are there parts of my life that do not make me joyful? Are there beliefs of myself that I hold that make me feel badly about myself? If I answer yes to either of these questions, then I have to look more closely at the parts or beliefs. I have to ask myself what I need to change in order to feel more joyful. That usually brings up areas of fear. Things that need to be changed. The beautiful aspect of change is the freedom of fear. The daunting element of change is the snowball effect it has on other parts of your life, which brings up other fears, and inevitably the scary reality that there are a lot of fears.

In the past, the February Blues was a time to hold on to gratitudes like a life preserver because I was too afraid to face the big parts of my world that made me unhappy, like my relationship or my job. Fear of leaving either was palpable. The snowball effect of change overwhelming. The end result? Disaster. Why? I needed a disaster to force me out of the big parts of my world because I didn’t have the courage to walk away on my own. I needed a disaster to set me free. I needed a disaster to make me realize that my fears, both real and imagined, were blocking me from true inner joy. I needed a disaster to make me feel the freedom of the pain in facing one’s fears.

This February, the Blues reminded me of my fears and last year’s disaster. This February, the Blues reminded me that I do not want a repeat of last year’s disaster. So this February, I consciously looked for the parts that made me most afraid so that I can identify the fear and make a conscious plan to work on facing it as the snow melts and the sun shines brighter. Turns out this year’s fear is connected to last year’s disaster. Last year’s disaster kicked me out of my job and gave me the courage to start a business doing what I love – bringing joy to others through life coaching, motivating, writing, educating. This year’s fear is that the business won’t work. That fear is connected to old beliefs that I won’t be able to make enough money doing what I love to do. So what do I need to change in order to feel more joyful? Feel the power of me and possibility! I can do it. I bring joy to other people. I believe in me.

And what happens the moment I face my fear and believe in me? I meet with my very first life-coaching client and dance home with joy.

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Culture Shock

Hola y un pequeño regalo del sol de Cuba!! Hello and a little gift of sun from Cuba! Yes, the reason I have not written for the past couple of weeks was a glorious writing trip to Cuba. Nothing like getting on a plane and travelling to a hot Spanish speaking country with a group of writers to inspire life-work harmony☺ Nothing like waking every morning, one week with a view of the ocean, the next with a view of the countryside, journal in hand, finishing the last chapter of my book The Beauty of Disaster☺ Nothing like taking a chance and just going for it.

Last August I learned of a trip to Cuba with a group of Canadian Writers who had an alliance with Cuban writers. This group, the CCLA – the Canadian Cuban Literary Alliance – was celebrating their 10th anniversary of travel and connection with Cuban writers, launching books in Cuba and doing cultural exchanges with Cuban writers. The price tag for the two-week Cuba trip made the traveller in me jump for glee. The time frame, the last week in January and the first week in February – right around exams and semester two turn around – made my stomach do uneasy rolls. To commit to the trip truly meant committing to a full year off work with no income potentials in sight, and that felt scary. The tipping point? Travelling with publishers and the guarantee of getting work written in Cuba published.

So last August I took the proverbial plunge, committed to the pursuit of my dreams, and found myself in Cuba chasing euphoria. What an incredible experience!!! I fell in love with Cuba and Cuban culture. I fell in love with their passion for life; their generous hearts and their love of family. I fell in love with their ingenuity and positive energy, with their smiles, their music and their dance with life. It was their spirit, their joy, their pride, their love of life that embraced me for the entirety of the trip. And it is precisely the lack of spirit, joy, pride and love of life that has hit me since I have been home.

Granted, I came home to -25°C weather and it is difficult to feel bouncy with energy and spirit when one is bundled up beyond recognition, but it was more in the interactions and exchanges between people from the time I got off the plane to now that I noticed just how negative we are in how we interact and speak with each other. For the first time in my life I acutely noticed how much we complain, how much we criticize, and how much we judge everything. It is like we don’t know how else to speak except to put ourselves and each other down. It has struck me hard how very little is said with enthusiasm and passion, with a zest for life and a positive perspective.

I expected to experience culture shock when I went to Cuba. I expected poverty and a lack of resources. I expected old cars and dilapidated buildings. And I got what I expected. Cuban lifestyle and means is humble at best. While in Cuba I met an incredible family, both parents university professors with one son. The CCLA group was treated to supper in their home. They hosted 22 people in their humble three-room home (bedroom, bathroom, kitchen). A space that some Canadians would shudder to invite people into as guests, let alone 22 guests!! It was the most incredible example of the connectedness between family and friends that I have experienced in a very long time.

It was also one of many experiences that highlighted just how abundant and fortunate our lives are in Canada. While walking the other day, I realized that every house we have, even the poorest of the poor, would be considered a mansion in Cuba. All of the amenities we have, including good washrooms, are considered a luxury. (The university professors that hosted us for dinner had their washroom put in with the help of Canadian friends, because they could not afford it themselves.) The internet has recently arrived to Cuba, but much is monitored by the Cuban government. Basic items that we take for granted, like razors and deodorant are difficult to find. The tour representative joked with us explaining that the country is out of deodorant and is waiting for the supply to come in by cargo ship from China. “It should arrive in a few months time,” he said.

Yes it was a cultural shock to go to Cuba, but it has been an even greater cultural shock to come home. To come home to a country that has more material wealth than the wildest dreams of any Cuban. To come home to a country that has it all, yet the looks on the faces don’t correlate to people who have everything. The conversations are not reflective of people who live in abundance. The spirit does not coincide with all the incredible amenities that we enjoy.

And I wonder, which is the first world country – Canada with its immense material wealth or Cuba with its passion, fire and joy for life?

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Blessing in Disguise

There are many difficulties on this beautiful journey called life. One of the many is the ability to maintain a positive outlook and perspective through a seemingly difficult experience, especially one where you do not get what you want, despite all the focus, effort, hard work and maintenance of a positive outlook.

About a month ago a friend emailed me a job posting for an education coordinator. It had all of the perfect elements to it, especially the giggly excited feeling in the pit of my stomach. It was like the Universe posted the perfect job to help me on my journey to re-defining my life and starting something new. It was also the perfect job to plug a drain so to speak. The drain being my line of credit. The plug being the part-time job so that the debt load would not continue to accumulate quite so quickly.

For the first time in a long while, I felt excited about a job. I felt excited about the new challenges and the possibilities to be a part of forward thinking education, a part of a forward thinking team. I felt excited about creating feeling-centred curriculum that would involve experiential learning that leaves an impression and inspires imagination. I felt more than qualified for the job posting and I happily wrote a resumé and cover letter, tasks I ordinarily avoid.

I practiced what I have learned in Spiritual books on meditating, visioning and focusing all my energy on believing I had the job. I pictured myself working there. I visioned ahead to how this job would help me financially. I meditated on ideas I could present when I got called for an interview. And I knew I would get an interview. I honestly believed I would get the job, despite my brain cautioning me not to “count my chickens before they hatched.”

I even realized that cautionary expressions like that crush exuberance and enthusiasm. Why not count chickens before they hatch? So what if they don’t all hatch like you expect. Isn’t that a way to avoid the pain of disappointment? What if you need to experience the disappointment to learn something that puts you on a more beneficial path? What if being cautionary means you avoid taking the very risk necessary to find your joy?

As you may have guessed, I got an interview, but I didn’t get the job. The interview went extremely well. I rocked it. So when I got the call telling me that the position was offered to another, I felt extremely disappointed despite the fact that I was told that the interview was excellent. There was nothing that I could have done differently to get me the job. The interview panel decided to go with the applicant with more content-based knowledge. Fair enough. That still left me feeling extreme disappointment. That still left me feeling afraid financially. That still left me to manage my brain that was screaming: “See!!! I told you not to count your chickens! What about all of that visioning and meditating that you did?? What about that “feeling” that you had? You can’t trust your feelings! The fact that you didn’t get the job just proves that spiritual stuff and positive thinking is not true. You need to listen to me and accept that you must go back to work in the fall.”

Fortunately, I have been developing a mental practice and method to temper my brain and turn down the volume with which it yells in my head. Yes on the one hand it was right. I did count my chickens. I did hope to have a visionary job. I did vision and meditate. I did focus on believing in me and trusting my feelings. And I did experience disappointment and an inability, in that moment, to give “evidence” to my brain that everything would be alright.

On the day that I was told I did not get the position I felt sad. I felt disappointed. I felt worried and concerned for my financial situation. I felt uncertain. But underneath it all, I knew it happened for a reason. I just didn’t know the reason at that time. I also knew that I may never know the reason, but that something more in line with what I really want is coming. I just needed to have faith in me, faith in the Universe, faith. And faith is difficult to have in a society where we are supposed to know ahead of time.

So I did what I always do. What I do every day. Where I find my place of understanding and return to my inner calm. I wrote. In my writings I realized that I need to re-evaluate what I really want. What am I afraid of? Why don’t I believe? In my writings I reminded myself that I wanted to set myself up freelance and not have to work under someone else. I am afraid I won’t make money and I don’t believe in my abilities to make money because I was educated to follow a narrow specific charted path.

It was actually an assignment that I helped my daughter with over the holidays where I found the analogy I required to help me return to my calm. The project was on John Cabot and the early explorers, the ones who set out to cross the seas in search of lands they believed were there, but they had no proof. I imagined there had to have been moments, out in the middle of the ocean, when the food stores were running low, that they questioned their beliefs and experienced extreme doubts. But they were out there and they had travelled too far to go back.

So I realized that I am simply in the middle of the ocean. I am taking a risk to believe that it is possible to live joy, follow your dreams, chart one’s own path through uncharted waters, and discover “life-work harmony”. I believe I will arrive to a place where I will create and facilitate forward thinking positivity. A place where I lead people in risk and show a joy in being alive as we follow our passions and give back to people and the planet. A happy person spreads joy and joy can be contagious.

Some might consider my beliefs a touch idealistic, but since it is a choice to believe, I prefer to believe in the possibility than the alternative. Why would I choose to believe that you cannot live your dreams and live your joy? Does that leave me out in the middle of the ocean in unchartered waters uncertain, but alive? Yes. Gratefully, yes, because I am moving towards something that feels infinitely better – the pure belief in me, no matter what, and that alone is the blessing in disguise.

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Freedom 45

Never in my wildest imaginings would I have believed I’d be experiencing Freedom 45 on my 45th birthday. Yet here I am, 45 today, living a prediction I carelessly threw out to the Universe some 10 years ago boasting Freedom 45 versus Freedom 55. Admittedly, at that time, I actually meant financial freedom at 45 where I’d be living the life of a writer with a bucket full of money invested that was paying my way as my words graced the pages for all to read.

At the moment half of that prediction is true. I am living the life of a writer and my words are gracing the internet for all to read. I am living the life of a writer and working on the second draft of chapter 5 “Accepting the Inner Dandelion” in my book The Beauty of Disaster which I optimistically hope to have published by late spring of this year.

I am living the life of a writer presenting her book material to others. I delivered my first presentation to a lovely audience and group of writers – the Reading Writing Connection last Wednesday at the Haliburton Library and I will be delivering part two of the presentation this Wednesday at the Minden Library at 11:30 (it is open to the public so feel free to stop by, do some fun writing exercises and meet you inner dandelion☺).

I am living the life of a presenter and motivator as I apply to conferences with the hopes of securing workshops and delivering my positive message to others. I am creating opportunities and working with like-minded people as we try to forge ahead, merge talents and discover ways to live our passions. I am applying to positions that use my skills as an educator in the hopes of providing personal growth opportunities to write cutting-edge curriculum that opens people to the endless possibilities that are out there if only we believe.

If only we believe in who we are. If only we believe in living our passions. If only we believe that it is all possible. If only we believe in ourselves enough to take a running jump off the proverbial cliff and take a chance on freedom.

Freedom 45 I have come to realize is the feeling that you are free to choose. Free to forge your own path as opposed to following the ones laid out by others. Free to go in the opposite direction. Free to spin in circles. Free to be.

And what is so ironic is exactly how difficult that statement “free to be” is to live. We are so trapped by our programming of what it is to be. To be means you must be something – a doctor, a lawyer, a teacher, a waitress, a wife, a husband, a mom, a dad – all with prescribed mannerisms and outlined behaviours. What I have discovered to this point in my life is that I had been walking and acting with preconceived notions of what I was supposed to be doing, how I was supposed to be acting, how I was supposed to be feeling. What I discovered was that I didn’t like what I was doing, I didn’t like the perception of how I was supposed to act, and neither made me feel like the pictures I saw in media or what I was taught in school.

I honestly thought that freedom meant to have a lot of money. How much? That figure changed and grew as I aged, from enough to travel the world to enough to pay off the house to enough to pay off the house and retirement to enough to live free of debt and have a 6 figure income coming in off investments so that I could do what my heart desires.

To wake up and realize on my 45th birthday, that Freedom 45 does not mean financial security. It means to take a chance, to live my heart’s desires, to challenge my programming and create my own. It means to do exactly what I am doing. To carve out what it means to write, to motivate, to create life-work harmony. To give myself permission to not have all of the answers to the “what about” questions. To have faith in my talents and skills. To feel the abundance of my life and what will come in this 2014 year. To be my own champion and march to the beat of my own drum. It means that I am alive and I am free to be – me. Here’s to jumping off the cliff and freedom!!

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Happy New Year’s Challenge

Happy New Year’s Everyone! I would like to start off the 2014 year wishing everyone inner joy, peace and gratitude. Gratefully this New Year’s Eve brought my family together in a way I wouldn’t have imagined going into the 2013 year. On the surface, it was nothing special. My parents joined my daughters and I for a New Year’s Eve dinner and stayed the night so that we could ring in 2014 together. No noise makers. No party hats. No champagne. What felt different to me was the depth of connection that I experienced, that we experienced together.

For the first time, alcohol was not involved in the celebration. For the first time we played games, a new one my parents brought over called “Left Centre Right” and the old classic “Go Fish”☺. The girls put on a little singing and dancing concert. I took out the guitar and added a few tunes reminiscent of times my parents and I spent in Newfoundland with my dad’s side of the family. We laughed a lot. Before the ball dropped in New York Times Square, my youngest announced her New Year’s desire to read and write more in English (which makes the English teacher in me smile with glee☺). My oldest wants to do more art work (which makes the creative side in me chuckle with joy☺). My mother wants continued good health in the 2014 year (hear hear☺). My dad’s goal is to maintain two beers a week and continuing to smoke only 5 cigarettes a day (yes please☺).

As for me, my New Year’s challenge comes from my Christmas present E2 that I started reading over the weekend. In it Pam Grout states on page 157: “…it’s imperative to talk about and focus on life the way you want it to be, not about how it may appear. Instead of asking ‘What’s wrong?’ – probably the most repeated question in the entire English language – focus on ‘What’s right?’ That’s the only question that really means anything.” Immediately, when I read that, I knew that would be my New Year’s Challenge for 2014, to focus on what’s right.

Given the fact that the New Year is a time of reflection I decided to try out that new challenge as I reflected on 2013. I was pleasantly surprised to review the year and realize that the most “right thing” about the 2013 year, for me, was getting evacuated from my home in the spring due to the flood that hit Minden. It was one of the most difficult experiences of my life, one I am still recovering from mentally, but the catalyst that propelled me on this journey to Chase Euphoria, make significant life changes and feel alive once again.

Another beautiful “right thing” that happened, that contributed to the wonderful New Year’s Eve celebration, was my dad’s terrifying hospitalization in November. As I wrote in “A Quick Breath,” one “right thing” was being off work to be able to play a supportive role in visiting and helping my mother while my father was in hospital. Another “right thing” is my father feels healthier, has more energy and has chosen to cut back on drinking and smoking. Despite the horrible feelings experienced that fateful week in November, the time now spent with my dad is fun and enjoyable. He is laughing and living and connecting with us again and that is what made this ordinary New Year’s Eve family celebration so special.

Now I will honestly admit, that I hope when I reflect on what is right about the 2014 year it’ll be more about trips to Cuba and books being published versus flooding disasters and life threatening hospital visits, but it is nice to feel that there is much that can be right in that that feels so wrong. Wishing you all everything that is right for 2014!!!

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Merry Christmas Eve

I woke this morning to the glorious sunshine streaming through the ice glistened branches and gentle rise of river mist, feeling an inner peace beyond what I have experienced thus far in my life.

To what do I attribute this deep inner feeling? To the fact that I faced my discontentment full on. I feel joy versus fear because I now own the consequences of my actions. I faced my fear and left a stressful, emotionally painful and controlling job so that I can be in control of my life and feelings. My job was like a sharp tack that I sat on for a long time causing me a great deal of agitation and anger. I now feel happy because I am no longer sitting on that tack. I no longer feel the stress that there is no resolution to the feelings of work life discontent because I am pursuing my bliss and creating life work harmony. I no longer need to take a vacation from my life because living it is a holiday. Anxiety, an inability to feel at peace, is slowly shifting to an inner peace beyond all understanding, Euphoria.

Has the journey felt like a walk in the park? Well yes actually. It was quite difficult at first because I didn’t know where I was going in the park. My feet and legs hurt because they were not used to moving firmly, facing fear and taking risk. My lungs had to learn to breathe through the scary bits and breathe in the surprising joy that I am in control over my movements. I choose my route, my pace, my everything. I owe no one an explanation. I need not ask anyone’s permission. I simply walk and experience the connection I feel to my life and the beautiful park environment. Sometimes I wander along a path that leads to a dead end and I experience the joy of retracing my steps to take in all that I missed initially. Sometimes I sit and appreciate the joy of not moving, really allowing me to feel the interconnectedness of the environment, the parts I was too busy to notice before. At other times I wander in wonder at all of the potentials and possibilities that are available to me; the ones I couldn’t see when I was living that painfully busy life.

So on this beautiful Christmas Eve day, I wish for everyone the deep feeling of connection to people we love (and don’t love) over the magic of the next two days. I wish for everyone to take a moment to experience the gratitude of living in a place where we can afford to be consumed by gift giving and where we can choose to chart any course our heart desires. Most significantly I wish for everyone the joy of walking in the park and the gift of inner peace. In the words of Santa from the poem “Twas the Night Before Christmas,” “Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.”

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The Christmas Holiday Challenge

It is hard to believe that another Christmas holiday season is upon us. A time of joy, a time of togetherness. A time of love, a time of sharing. A time of good will toward people and peace on earth. I’m old enough to remember a time like that, way back in the recesses of my childhood, a time when people would get together and laugh and share and smile and it felt like they meant it, but somewhere along my journey in life something shifted and the flavor of Christmas changed. Maybe its because I’ve become an adult. Maybe it’s because I’ve become an adult with children. Maybe it’s because as adults we have shifted our focus, our priorities.

Recently the Christmas holiday season feels more like a time of buying, a time of stress. A time of spending, a time of obligation. A time of putting up with people and hell on earth. The first time this change became apparent to me occurred a couple of years ago when a woman in the toy aisle said, “It is so nice that people are good to each other at this time of year.” And I thought to myself, “Yes, but they should be good at all times of the year, not just save their goodness up for the holiday season.”

This year I decided to do some observing and listening in on my fellow humans to hear some of their feelings about Christmas and although the peace on earth and goodwill toward people is still present, it does not feel as prevalent as I remembered in my childhood. When I walk through malls, the energy feels heavy and busy and grumpy. People look stressed and vacant. The odd time that I listened in I heard complaining about having to go to so and so’s house for dinner, or having to put up with in-laws or family and wishing the holiday season to be over. I heard tales of woe and concern that it will take 6 months to pay off the debt incurred buying Christmas presents they can’t afford and worry that it won’t be enough.

The challenge of Christmas has become about survival – surviving financially and surviving the family. And we know it. That’s the funny part. We know it. We know we are buying things we cannot afford. We know we are buying things we don’t need. We know we are contributing to major packaging waste. We know the person is not going to appreciate it to the degree that we want given how hard we worked and sacrificed to buy it. We know we are spoiling our children and not in a beneficial way, in an entitled way, and that is dangerous. And stressful because we want our family happy and we feel guilty if we cannot provide for their happiness.

So I’m suggesting a Christmas challenge for all of us, well all of us over 18 years of age. We’re adults. Consider what you want Christmas to feel like, truly. How do you want to feel over the Christmas holidays? What would have to happen for you to feel the way you want? How would you have to change your behaviour for you to feel what you want? Do you need to stop doing so much for others or do you need to be nicer and do more for others?

If surviving the consumerism aspect of Christmas is the hard part, maybe it is time to give ourselves permission to provide a beautiful Christmas dinner as the gift to the family and what better gift than to bring everyone together so they can share a meal and reconnect. Maybe it is time to give ourselves permission to give second hand gifts to reduce on packaging and cost and set an example of reusing items. Maybe it is time to focus on gifts that bring us together, where we can share experiences and create memories. Maybe to each gift we can add something meaningful. A hand written letter. A love letter. About why you chose the gift or why the person is a gift to you.

If surviving family gatherings is the difficult part, maybe it is time to give ourselves permission to have a quiet celebration or to create new family traditions. Perhaps it is time to approach the celebrations reflecting on all that you are grateful for, including the difficult people in your life. Maybe we need to write him or her a loving letter or do something extra special for that difficult person because maybe he or she needs extra care and someone to show him or her how to be kind.

One thing we can all do is one extra special thing for someone every day. Something that does not cost money. Something that makes a person’s day easier or makes the person smile in joy and wonder. The person can know you are doing something for them or not. Regardless, imagine how good you will feel. Imagine how good the world will feel when everyone does one special thing every day for someone. Merry Christmas and Inner Peace to all on Earth.

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No Time Like the Present

Dear Cynthia,

“The Oxymoron Society”

All around the world we are led to believe that the people in charge have ours and the world’s best interests at heart. Governments are constantly putting rules and regulations in place under the guise of showing us what is most important. Then there are the one percent who are able to write their own rules and regulations or at the very least circumvent the ones written by government.

Laws regarding automobile safety & pollution, scrap your old clunker and buy new; they are easier on the environment. This may be true but is it easier on the environment to produce these new cars every other year? One of my favorites, why do people insist on driving full size pickups with 4 doors when they have no children and the only thing ever put in the box is a bag of groceries, followed closely by contractors that drive 4-door trucks with short boxes. How do they carry 12 – 14 foot lumber in a 5 1/2 or 6 1/2 foot box? Or the little old lady driving the Lincoln Town car. Shouldn’t people drive things that are proportionate or relevant to their needs?

Laws regarding home safety: you cannot use wood as your primary source of heat. You must use electric, propane, or oil; they are safer, perhaps, but are they better for the environment? A properly managed forest is a renewable resource, what happens when the oil and propane run out, and when the electricity becomes unaffordable for people, as it already has for some? What about sun and wind power? How about putting the oil companies on notice that it is time for a change.

We tear down houses and cut down trees to build huge stadiums and parking lots so that a select few can play games and earn outrageous amounts of money. Another select few watch those games, while a few blocks away people are living on the streets and don’t have enough to eat, and this is acceptable because it provides entertainment. But what does it do for the environment?

Perhaps the people in charge should be the ones setting the example. Politicians taking public transit, machines designed to help people with their work instead of doing it for them and putting them out of work. Couples with no children living in a house with one bedroom, a couple with one child 2 bedrooms, and so on. Sporting events held outside in fields or on frozen ponds, this would truly make them an exceptional athlete. Lotteries that have one person winning 10, 20, up to 50 million dollars, why not 50 winners of 1 million, or 25 winners of 2 million?

Just a few more thoughts from the mind of Kelvin ;)

Hello Kelvin!
Thank you again for sending me your comments. Sounds like your mind was spinning in quite a few fun and interesting places:-) I believe you are right on all counts and that is truly the frustrate point for most people. The hypocrisies of the upper class. The pains of the lower and middle class. The diet and model that we are fed by social media, the media, education, everywhere we turn – the more we have, the happier we will be. The lower and middle class aspiring to be one of the upper class, and sadly becoming like the upper class. All of it a part of being here and what we are working out as humans; our part in evolution.

It feels insurmountable when placed in the big picture context. One of the misnomers I used to believe is that it is up to the big guy, the bosses and CEO’s, the politicians to make change. I cannot have an impact; all I can do is chime in with others and complain and hope someone somewhere will change. I used to believe that if I was in a position of authority I would be able to make change only to discover that my “position of authority” didn’t hold any power over systemic change. So I tried learning a little more about the political arena and took on a union position only to discover that didn’t hold any more power and the entrapment of the “system” seemed to prevail there too.

I began to catch myself complaining about the proverbial system and feeling deeply frustrated, especially as a mother and a teacher of young minds. I wanted to teach my girls and my students that they have the power to make change, yet I was feeling powerless. I wanted to show my girls and my students how to make change when faced with beliefs that don’t feel right, when faced with the bully, but I didn’t know how. Instead I felt like the system was bigger than me, the bully was bigger than me. I felt like people in authority over me were controlling my life.

Most importantly I wanted to model my belief that moving through life with love, kindness, care and compassion for yourself and for all others, the bully especially, is where you start to make and inspire change.

I started to ask myself, what different actions can I take? I have no control over the actions of other people, but I have total control over my actions. I can’t keep blaming things on a system because people created the system. And I believe that if people created the system then people can change the system. So how can I shift my actions so they are more in line with my beliefs? Because I believe one person can make a difference; I can make a difference. I can make different choices. I can create a different way of life and perspective on life. Systems change one person at a time. If each individual is willing to question the beliefs being taught by society and risk changing the parts that don’t feel right, change will occur, one person at a time. The hard part is to convince people to go through the pain of change, because to change a belief pattern means you change how you think, talk and act.

And if I can use your comment Kelvin to the last blog piece: “If the leaders of the world really wish to honour the memory of Nelson Mandela then they should strive for this. Part of Mandela’s statement to the court became the rallying cry for the anti-apartheid movement: ‘I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if need be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.’ RIP Nelson Mandela.”

What I wish to emphasize is that for Nelson Mandela’s ideal to occur, it is the responsibility of ALL people to live together in harmony. Harmony occurs when we work together; when we act with kindness and understanding; when we speak with positive and encouraging words; when we cry together and support each other through hardships; when we take only what we need and share our abundance; when we value inner joy and peace; when we realize we are all connected and we are all responsible.

What that means is we have to stop chirping each other and putting each other down. We have to stop speaking unkindly about ourselves and about others. We have to stop judging and criticizing. We have to stop valuing actions of violence as a solution. We have to stop valuing the big and the strong and the aggressive. We have to stop valuing consumption over connection. Most importantly, we have to stop waiting for someone else to start first.

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Optics and Opulence vs Moderate and Donations

Dear Cynthia:

I recently learned of a 10 year old girl in Woodville that has contracted lime disease. A fundraiser has been started to help pay for the treatment which apparently must take place in Pennsylvania, at considerable expense.

This is also a topic of great frustration and anger for me. Treatments for illnesses such as these especially in children should be free, but instead doctors and medical professionals are allowed to charge huge premiums for services. I understand that in this world people must make money to survive, but is it really necessary to put the treatment out of the reach of most people? We put people in jail for murder or manslaughter, yet we allow people to die because they can’t afford medical treatment. What is the value of a human being?

You may soon regret asking me for ideas for your blog, as it seems that everyday a new issue comes to mind. I can really relate to your hermit lifestyle desire; some
days I wish I could just disappear into the countryside and turn off the world. However the only thing I have given up so far is smoking, so I guess I will just
carry on and do my best to make the world a better place one small gesture at a time. Happy thoughts. Happy thoughts.

I hope you had a great day. :)

Kelvin

Dear Kelvin:
Thank you so much for writing to me and telling me about this beautiful young girl in Woodville who is in need of medical treatment and whose family is in need of financial assistance for the treatment. And it is wonderful that fundraising efforts have started for the family. Where can I go to give a donation?

What is interesting for me, although not surprising, is your letter hits on two things that have been on my mind these last two weeks, both blog ideas, so thank you for the perfect opportunity to write about them☺

Two weeks ago I did a four-day training session on Compassion Fatigue at the Donald Gordon Conference Centre in Kingston. The course itself was interesting, informative and I look forward to being hired to talk about Compassion Fatigue awareness in the near future and I will write about it in a future blog. What stayed with me though was the opulence of the Conference Centre. Beyond the fact that it was in a beautiful old building in a beautiful Kingston neighbourhood, was the excellent, rich food that was served all day long. We were treated to incredible breakfast pastries and hors d’oeuvres; we had decadent snacks for both the morning and the afternoon, and lunch?! Lunch was an incredible three-table buffet of delicious, melt-in-your-mouth food and desserts. I was trying to guess the price tag for any given day if I was to order the same in a high-class restaurant and my guess is at least $100 per day (taxes not included☺).

It was a nice treat on day one to experience such delicious dining, but by day two I was starting to feel bad about the fact that I was eating such rich food when so many people were going without. By day three I was experiencing some moral conflict wondering where all the uneaten food went and I prayed that it did not go to the dump. By day four I realized that this was the bar that we set for our executive business class. This is what we train our students to aspire toward, becoming the big boss, the CEO, so one can sit in conference centres making “difficult” decisions while enjoying rich delicacies.

Two of the groups making use of the conference centre in the time that I was there was the Kingston City Council and CUPE. They were negotiating the contract between the workers and the city. They had apparently been in negotiations for three weeks and were expecting another 3 months. Now I am not mentioning them with the intention of putting them down, nor to make a commentary on their venue of choice. They likely got a super huge discount for using the facility. Nor am I trying to make a commentary on the difficulty of negotiations when the goal is to be “more right” and “stick it to the other side” versus coming up with an agreement that works in the best interest of all. I might be suggesting that maybe, if they chose a slightly less opulent venue, they might wrap up the negotiations sooner and perhaps save a few dollars that could be donated to the poorer people of the community. And I might be speaking out of ignorance here, but unless they are writing a brand new contract that is rooted in compassion and caring (at which point they could have joined our training session and we could have written the framework for them), they are likely arguing over the usual pay increase, benefits, pension, sick days, a tweak here and change in wording there. In the end none of it benefits the people who really need the help, our working poor.

This journey I am on is really putting me head to head with our unwavering belief that our goal and aspiration is money, the material accumulation of things. Stuff. More Stuff. The lives of the rich and the famous. If I won the lottery I’d buy…then I’d buy… and then I’d buy… I often asked students what would happen to the earth if everyone on the planet had a three-bedroom house and two cars in every garage. Turns out they believe mother earth would not be able to sustain it, but they want it. Why else are they going to school but to get the better jobs so they can afford the better stuff – big house, atvs, cars, boats, luxury travel, everything. And my beautiful daughters are no different. When we walk past big houses they are quick to ask my why I didn’t buy that one and how they will buy a big house when they get older. Naturally I ask them the same question as I do my students and point out the dangers, but the sad reality is they are fed an obese diet of material wealth. And they have no choice in the diet they are fed☹

It is impossible to turn on the tv, the internet, to walk around town, to anything without coming face to face with material accumulation. In schools we promote the importance of higher education so you can get the good jobs that pay more and then you too can buy buy buy. Higher education, striving to get better marks, striving to be the best, striving to be at the top are the messages sprinkled with a little lip service to mental health and remembering your neighbours. And what of the students and the people who don’t have or can’t get those “better jobs?”

There is an old saying, “Money cannot buy happiness.” And it can’t. I challenge people to look around and pay attention to the faces they see as they move about their day. Do they look happy or do they look stressed? Do they look connected and joyously interacting with the people they are with or are they complaining about something or other? And then I challenge people to ask of themselves, how do you feel as you move through your day? Do you walk with a sense of inner peace and joy, an appreciation for the steps you are taking or are you simply too busy to notice the beauty of the gentle snow falling and the sparkle of the icy trees in the sunlight?

Which brings me to the second crazy idea that came about in a car conversation with a friend and colleague. What if, in order to become a teacher or really any profession, you have to be trained as a yogi (a person who is skilled in yoga – a Hindu spiritual discipline, a part of which, including breath control, simple meditation, and holding of specific body positions, is widely practiced for health and relaxation, according to the Compact Oxford Dictionary) as well? Now I know that sounds radical and I can here the nay-sayers screaming in outrage at me, but the intention is not to promote one religion over another. The intention is to get people into a practice that recognizes that we are all interconnected and the importance of inner peace versus external accumulation!!! Although I have not done the research, my guess is that most yogis are not of the rich affluent upper class. My guess is that if one follows a true spiritual practice one begins to understand that we all depend on each other; therefore I am not going to take more than I need. I am sure that there are some very rich yogis out there, but I believe that if they are not sharing their wealth in some way to improve the planet, they are not true yogis. (And yes I too have a personal spiritual practice, but I am not a yogi).

My point and my observation is that we are missing a very key and important piece to the puzzle and I believe it lies inward, in inner peace and some form or practice of spirituality. Of late I have watched some incredible documentaries on Netflix and I highly recommend them and if I was still in the classroom I’d be finding ways to bring them all into the class: I Am, 10 Questions for the Dahli Lama, The Quantum Activist, No Impact Man, The Horse Boy, and Chasing Ice. They all talk to the importance of us as individuals to take action, to make change.

So yes Kelvin, if we as a society practiced and truly understood interconnectedness, then no professional, no worker would need to take more than needed, nor would they aspire to a lifestyle that required so much money to sustain. The advertising, media and social media would be geared to affordable living versus materialistic gain. Those very doctors would be able to provide affordable care without high overhead costs, high insurance costs, high everything costs. People would treat themselves and others with love, kindness and compassion first and foremost. And it is us, the people, that really need to change our focus.

Which means that everything you do, every kindness, every smile, every gesture makes a difference. More people need to lead by example, just as you do, and walk the talk. Believe me, there is more wealth in inner joy than material accumulation and I really do believe there is more goodness and compassion out there than we realize. Our own community of Minden is a good example. We rally together and we fundraise and we help each other. The same will be true for this young girl in Woodville.

Thank you for sharing the story and allowing me to add my commentary to yours. And good for you for quitting smoking. I know from past experience, it was one of the hardest things I’ve done in my lifetime.

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