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Sometimes our physical symptoms can be interpreted in a variety of ways. For instance when someone describes butterflies in their stomach, it could mean they are anxious or it may mean they are excited or maybe there is yet another explanation. When my daughter was young, we were going to visit a friend and for the first time, she was to stay for a visit on her own. As we drove there, she said it felt as though there were butterflies in her stomach. I knew that she was probably a bit anxious about staying on her own, but also that she really like the family we were going to visit and was most likely she was also excited. Without asking her about the details her feelings, I asked her what colour the butterflies were. I asked if they were dark in colour or if they were more like the colours of the rainbow. She immediately said she thought they were the colourful kind. With this imagery we were then able to talk about how one feeling can have muliple meanings. It also allowed her to choose her emotion regardless of the physical sensation she was feeling in her body. She chose to be excited. This story illustrates how we can choose a perspective and alter our experience. When our thoughts are focused on fear or negativity, we will often interpret our world in a negative way. If we are feeling light and hopeful we are more likely to see possibility in even difficult situations. But how can we notice how our perspectives are influencing our thoughts and actions... read more

Every Ending is a New Beginning – Mindfulness Day 30

So here we are at the final day of my challenge to post a mindful moment each day of June in honour of Brain Injury Awareness month. It is somewhat fitting that I have decided to be mindful of endings today. One of the toughest parts adjusting to a brain injury is that the life will never be the same. You might look the same after a brain injury, but inside there have been many changes. A brain injury is typically an involuntary change and as a result most survivors are understandably resistant to the change. Embracing memory loss, impulsivity, sleep disturbances, irritability and quick anger is not on the top of the survivor’s list. Most often the survivor and their family would just like life to go back to the way it was before the injury. I suppose in some ways brain injury is a soft ending in that the changes and challenges present themselves over a long period of time. There are the primary changes that you notice right away like changes in the ability to speak or walk. There are the changes that take longer to show themselves, like personality changes. And then there are the secondary changes like the inability to work or maintain relationships in the same way as before the injury. All of these changes result in a very different life than prior to the injury. Because the ending is long, so is the grieving process. Many people have suggested to me that working in the field of brain injury must be sad. And yes there are times when I find the stories... read more

My Big Toe – Mindfulness Day 29

What is your favourite part of your own body? Perhaps you like the shape of your big toe, or the strength of your legs. It could be that you have always been proud of your long eyelashes or that you like the speed and agility of your fingers as you type. Give your body a scan and choose a part for which you feel pride, happiness or admiration. Our inner critic will often direct our attention to parts of our selves of which we are self conscious or embarrassed or unhappy. As you may now know, those things to which you apply your attention usually grow. So if you allow your inner critic to direct your attention, you may find that you are focused on things about yourself which are negative. Today I want you to mindfully direct your attention to something about yourself for which you feel positive emotions and for which you think positive thoughts. Revel in the wonder of your chosen body part and let the sensations marinate today and see if they grow. Day 29: Be mindful of your favourite body part or of a body part that makes you happy today. Notice this body part in detail. Be mindful of how it works for you and of what aspects you feel proud. As you put your attention to this body part be mindful of the physical sensations it feels. Also be aware of your own thoughts and feelings as you keep this body part in your mind throughout the day. Should you find that your inner critic is jealous of all the attention this body... read more

Metaphor – Mindfulness Day 28

Metaphor is a figure of speech used to compare the similarity of two things. I find that using metaphor in therapy can be an excellent way to expand a person’s perspective and gain additional insight. Our bodies are often a metaphor for our thoughts and emotions. For instance our shoulders might rise and our muscles may contract when we are feeling “uptight”. We can then often tap into our physical bodies as we look to identify what we are feeling emotionally. As clients are looking to increase their sense of connection and grounding, I may have them tap into their legs and imagine the image of a tree with it’s roots into the earth. The tree is strong, flexible and connected with the earth. We can also use concepts with which we are very familiar to better understand or visualize those that are more difficult to grasp or communicate. For instance grief can come in spells. Sometimes the sun is shining and you are looking forward to what the future might bring and then a memory comes up and a cloud passes over the sun, feeling sadness and grief for a spell. For some people this image allows them to embrace the transient nature of grief and that it comes and goes. They can learn through the imagery to expect clouds to cover the sun at times and they also anticipate the it will not last forever. Last year for Brain Injury Awareness month I took on a challenge which I called Metaphors of Brain Injury. I encouraged people to come up with metaphors to help others better understand... read more

Relationships – Mindfulness Day 27

With whom do you choose to spend your time? Think of the four or five people who are the most frequent players in your life. Are they family, friends, or co-workers? How is it that you spend time with these people? Do you choose the time you spend with them? How do they influence your life? Who are you when you are with them? The relationships we create with others are a huge part of who we are in the world. I suppose that it why therapists so often look at those primary relationships we had or have with our parents, when we were learning how to be in the world. If I am counselling someone in regards to a relationship, I find there can be a tendency to blame or credit the other person for their influence. This perspective can lead to a sense of helplessness as the person waits for the other person to change, or relies on that person to maintain their current state. In order to empower the person who is assessing that relationship, I will often direct their attention toward their own behaviours and reaction patterns within the relationship. It is their behaviours over which they have control and where they have the power to influence the dynamics of the relationship. Day 27: Be mindful of the primary relationships in your life. As you think of these four or five people who have such a influential role in your life, think about who you are when you are with them. Do you like who you are? How do you choose your behaviours differently when... read more

Times Passes – Mindfulness Day 26

Today when I woke up I was aware that I am getting close to the end of this 30 day commitment in honour of Brain Injury Awareness Month. I admit there is a part of me that will be relieved to take the pressure off of coming up with a new and insightful mindful moment every day. There have been many days where this was easy and also those where it truly has been a challenge. Overall I have really enjoyed the opportunity to immerse myself in the varied ways that I can invite mindfulness into my life. So today I wanted to be mindful of time. Mindful of its passing, or the anticipation of its passing, of clock watching, and of schedules. What ways do you structure your thoughts and feelings based on what time it is? Are you always aware of the time? Do you wear a time piece, and if so, how often do you refer to this object. Do you ever look at the time and then find yourself doing so just minutes later, realizing that you so quickly forgot or needed reassurance again? Mindfulness is about being in the present moment. Right now as opposed to the future or past. Being mindful of time is a great way to encourage your mind into the present, even if your present moment is noting that your are once again looking at the clock in anticipation of what will come next. Day 26: Be mindful of time. What time does your alarm clock go off? How do you structure your day? Do you base your meals on... read more

Hey Mom, Dad Look! – Mindfulness Day 25

Children interact with the world in a different way than adults. I suspect part of this interaction is the beginner’s mind that mindfulness attempts to foster. If you were to look through the eyes of a child you might be more likely to see a monster in your closet, but you might also be more able to see the magic in a rainbow. Think about how often, when we see something cool in life, we want to share it with a child. When a child sees a rainbow, there is excitement and magic, there is gold and a leprechaun. Through the child’s eyes you can tap into the wonder and excitement of the world. Today let’s be mindful of that child-like wonder. Watch children today as they interact with the world and be mindful of their wonder. Notice if it allows you to tap into your own wonder and be mindful of what that feels like. As you observe interesting or amazing things today allow your inner child to react and interact. Be mindful of the way in which this changes your perspective. Day 25: Be mindful of wonder and magic today. Notice how naturally that happens as you pay attention to the perspective of children. Be mindful of how this experience alters your perception of the world and how it impacts the way you experience a moment. Notice the rainbows and sparkles, the caterpillar that magically becomes a butterfly. Wonder at the ability of a plane to take off into the sky, or the speed and the awe of a firetruck. Take time today to notice and appreciate... read more

I’m Touched – Mindfulness Day 24

The phrase “I’m touched” is often used to describe the emotional impact of a gesture made by another person. It also leads me to believe that feeling touched is a good thing. I notice that when I rub my grandmother’s shoulders, she sighs and says how good it feels to be touched. She lives alone and does not share her physical space with another person, so is very aware of the enjoyment her body feels when touched. Some of us who live with others or spend time in busy crowded environments may not be so keenly aware of the sensations of physical touch. Throughout our days we have many interactions with others that involve touch. When someone makes change, they will often brush our hand as they give us our money. When someone is sad we might put our hand on their back or shoulder. When we meet another person we will often shake hands or hug. We might hold hands with our children or spouse. In close quarters, we may bump into another person. Playing sports we will often have contact with another. We might pay someone for physical therapy such as massage or chiropractic. Day 24: Today, pay attention to the physical contact you have with others. Is the touch conscious or unconscious? What type of contact is comfortable for you? What type of contact brings you joy? Is there any contact you prefer to avoid? Do the contacts you have with others impact your emotions? Be mindful of physical contact with others... read more

Don’t Freeze Me Out. . . Mindfulness Day 23

Temperature is a another great area of mindfulness practice. It is constantly shifting and there are many exposures throughout the day to which you might draw your attention into the present moment. Heat and cold can also be associated with different emotions or constructs. For instance heat is often used to soothe, such as in a cup of hot tea or a warm bath. And cold can be refreshing such as an icy drink on a hot day or after a workout. Heat can also be overwhelming or exhausting at times and cold can be chilling or isolating. In the extremes, heat and cold can be life threatening, but the subtleties of a typical day are more or less navigated without much attention. We will often notice a temperature shift as we enter or leave a building or as we walk between the sunny side or the shady side of the street. The route we decide to walk, the activities in which we decide to partake and the clothes we choose to wear are all based in part on our assessment of temperature. Today let’s be mindful of all the ways in which temperature influences our lives. Day 23: Be mindful of temperature. Notice the shifts throughout out your day of the environmental temperature. Be aware of air conditioning and how it feels on your skin. Is it a relief, or does it give you a chill? Notice if you have a cup of coffee or tea, attend to the warmth feel in your mouth and the steam as it tickles your nose and face. What about the breeze, is it... read more

Let it Flow – Mindfulness Day 22

Lakes, rivers, oceans, puddles and precipitation. Water is everywhere and is essential to life. We use it everyday. We wash with it, drink it, use it in our art, travel over it, and play in it. Notice today the various ways that water plays a role in your life. This is another area of life to which we are usually unaware of the details. As we drink, we don’t often think about where the water came from and how it got into our glass or our body. Exposure to water happens on a daily basis and as such it is a great opportunity to develop your mindful practice. From a drop of dew to a raging river, attend to the everyday in a new way! Day 22: Be mindful of water. Foster an awareness of it’s colour, feel, temperature, and taste. Notice the way it runs across your skin as your bathe. As you drink water, can you feel it in your mouth, throat, and even as it enters your stomach? Be aware of how water is held and contained, and also the way it moves. Notice what feelings and thoughts arise as you are mindful of water today.... read more