CELEBRATING THE LIVES OF GREAT TEACHERS

2016 marked the passage of many great celebrities. Instead of grieving the loss of life and potential, think how these global figures may have influenced you. Choose an example you would like to keep alive and promote in your daily interactions. Here are three of my favorite teachers who will forever bring strength, laughter and authenticity to my spirit.

“It’s the repetition of affirmations that leads to belief. Once belief becomes deep conviction things begin to happen.

— Muhammad Ali

Muhammad Ali

At a young age, Ali adopted a fearless attitude. Living outside of the status quo, he built an incredible life story full of trials, courage and success. His spiritual practices included social activism and fundraising for charities around the world. 

“I don’t want my life to imitate art, I want my life to be art.

— Carrie Fisher

 Carrie Fisher

Heroine of the classic movie series Star Wars, Fisher created a colorful life as an actress, writer, humorist and mental health advocate. She bravely and openly shared her personal struggles with addiction and bipolar disorder. Fisher spoke boldly about living with mental illness. She used her celebrity status to address cultural stigmas around mental illness and encourage people to get outside help.

“I’m going to tell you what my religion is. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Period. Terminato. Finito.

— Gene Wilder

Gene Wilder

On screen Wilder played the iconic role of Willy Wonka.  He inspired audiences to join him in the place of imagination where “You’ll be free if you truly wish to be.” Wilder used his incredible imagination and humor on and off stage as a comedian, actor, director, writer, advocate and philanthropist. Gilda’s Club, a non-profit Wilder started in honor of his late wife, offers emotional and social support for those touched by cancer. He felt that Gilda’s Club helps people believe that love will triumph over setbacks.

“Every day I feel is a blessing from God. I consider it a new beginning. Yeah, everything is beautiful.

— Prince

Prince 

Who could deny the gifts of music, passion and style expressed by this talented artist? Prince led a regal life led by creativity and social causes to benefit humanity. I was moved by Prince’s knack for bringing people together. Van Jones, a friend of the artist, shares this story about the hidden agenda behind Prince’s pop-up concerts – to get opposing parties to talk: “A lot of times, he would do these tricky things, where powerful people come [around] because they assume they’re going to meet him. Then they get stuck in a room for an hour with their once worst enemy, yet wind up being friends. They had never met Prince in their lives. He would do stuff like that to people all the time.” 

Looking for more ways to celebrate life? I am available for wellness coaching.

CLIMBING THE WINDING STAIRCASE: NAVIGATING COMPLEMENTARY APPROACHES TO CANCER CARE

When patients enter the cancer center doors for the first time, they see a tall, spiraling staircase. The mystery unfolds as they unwillingly take their first step onto the staircase. With the help of a medical team and loved ones, patients slowly take on this long and challenging climb. Some days, the way up looks clear and easy; other days the staircase seems dusty and difficult.

Swimming has been a lifelong passion for Cathy, a middle-aged woman with breast cancer. Cathy’s treatment plan included surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. At her initial oncology visit, Cathy and her doctor openly discussed when she could return to the pool. At first, Cathy adjusted her swimming routine to shorter distances. She updated the oncologist on her progress and/or setbacks. Cathy listened carefully to her oncologist for guidance. In time, she went back to swimming at her own pace. Cathy was so happy to reconnect with her body and find her old self again.

Patients soon realize that cancer is a series of steps involving physical, emotional, mental and spiritual effort. Regardless of how fast or how hard the stairs are climbed, patients desire options that minimize suffering and maximize quality of life. Outside of conventional medicine, they may discover less invasive ways of caring for themselves. Complementary Alternative Medicine, or CAM, offers cancer patients chances to feel better and reclaim some of their health choices. When it comes to using CAM and complementary approaches to cancer care, patients need to talk to their healthcare providers, ask questions and carefully evaluate the risks and benefits of each therapy.

What is CAM?

According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, CAM is defined as:

If a non-mainstream practice is used together with conventional medicine, it’s considered “complementary.”

If a non-mainstream practice is used in place of conventional medicine, it’s considered “alternative.”

Other useful terms are “Integrative Medicine” which coordinates conventional and complementary approaches within care settings. The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health officially uses “Complementary Health Approaches” to cover categories ranging from natural products to mind and body practices.

Talking to your healthcare team about CAM

When it comes to talking to healthcare providers about complementary health approaches, patients are hesitant to take that first step. AARP and The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine asked 1,559 people age 50 and older about their use of CAM and why they don’t talk about it at the clinic. Respondents reported that doctors don’t ask about their CAM approaches and patients don’t know they should disclose this information. Some patients believe doctors don’t have time to talk, lack knowledge about CAM and/or discourage patients from using it.

In the cancer setting, it is crucial for patients and the healthcare team to talk about complementary approaches. When chemotherapy, immunotherapy, surgery, transplants and radiation may be a part of the treatment plan, the healthcare team appreciates a full picture of all healthcare choices made by patients. Open and ongoing communication is essential for reducing and avoiding contraindications, undue harm or unknown reactions.  An excellent resource, full of tips, worksheets and resources is a downloadable workbook published by the National Cancer Institute called “Talking about Complementary and Alternative Medicine.” It also includes a great list of questions for patients to take with them to their medical appointment. If patients don’t have the energy or want help with this conversation, they should bring a trusted family member or friend for support.

Risks and benefits of CAM

Doctors and patients share similar challenges with it comes to determine which complementary approaches are proven, safe and effective. Some therapies are not regulated while others are not standardized. The body of knowledge is fast growing but limited depending on use of complementary therapies for specific cancer stages and disease types. Studies may involve animal subjects but not human testing because of unfamiliar side effects. The American Cancer Society has more detailed information on this subject.

Climbing the CAM stairs

Once patients get closer to selecting a doctor-approved complementary therapy, they begin the search of a professional to get help. Use these tips to ensure the experience is a positive and favorable one.

Check out the latest research on a specific CAM approach

Ask your health insurance provider if coverage available

Get referrals from friends/family/healthcare provider

Find out the practitioner’s education, training, licensing and certifications

Call local cancer organization

Carefully search online and check sources

Try your chosen CAM approach a few times. If it isn’t working out, try something else or take a break. Don’t buy pricy packages or invest lots of time until this option meets your wellness objectives.

Are you looking for more ways to talk about CAM and cancer? Rita is available for workshops.

SING YOUR SONG!

Inspired by the sweet bird songs wafting through my early morning window, I ask myself, “What exactly is my song?” 

Springtime presents a Master Class in awakening to the music inside us. Nature’s fresh growth and renewal insistently whisper: “Awaken to the sound of the music within. Dance to the music of your soul.” And so, “What’s my song?” is the refrain our souls urge us to answer so we may live our life attuned to our unique inner calling.

Songs are comprised of a series of notes. Combining notes makes melody which has the power to fuel thoughts and emotions. When songs enter conscious awareness, they activate our imaginations and memories. Within mere seconds, music can profoundly bridge us to times, places and people. Recall your favorite song. Why do you love it? What makes the song’s title, beat or story deeply resonate?

Grab your journal. Close your eyes. Relax your mind and body. B-r-e-a-t-h-e. Picture yourself swaying to a beautiful beat you are hearing for the first time. Allow yourself to compose new words and a fresh melody. What kind of mood are you in? Enjoy the feeling! When you’re ready, open your eyes. With this song implanted in your mind, follow these steps:

Title your Music.

Does it represent a life theme, relationship or special moment? A song’s title is key and sets the stage for the words which follow.  Place the title within the song’s lyrics.

Imagine your Sound.

When you put notes together magic happens. Based on your current state of mind, is your song relaxing, upbeat or melancholy? Would you describe the style as Rock ’n Roll, Classical, Country, Chanting or something else?

Compose your Words.

Lyrics come from life events like romance, dreams, celebrations or even everyday life. They offer insight into the song’s main message. If your song is one of struggle, what type of ending will you choose? Do you find strength? Success? Peace? If it’s a chant, what words draw you inward to invigorate your spirit?

Rhythm Signals Movement.

“Rhythm is the way music moves through time,” say musicologists.  What type of flow is in your song? Is it regular, strong, simple or off beat?

Write your song exercise today knowing that tomorrow’s number will represent another snapshot in time. When you’re done composing, Sing! Dance! Shake your booty! Spring’s birdsong reminds us to live our music each day and every season of our lives.

Looking for more ways to sing your song? I am available for wellness coaching! 

MAKING ROOM FOR THE STORY

On the airplane I sat by a beautiful and accomplished psychologist “Ann.” Newly retired, Ann was on a journey of discovering herself beyond her professional identity. During the flight Ann shared her new hobbies and stronger commitment to existing passions.

“If the story is worth keeping, the heart makes room for it.

Ann’s stories grew deeper during our brief time together. She met her first husband at work. On their first date he proposed. They dated for one year and got married. They enjoyed a happy relationship. He was calm and peaceful and never raised his voice to her or the children. It was clear Ann continued to admire him in many ways.

Ann’s husband passed away from illness. She confirmed it was the hardest day of her life. For six years following his death, Ann couldn’t talk about him for more than a minute without tears streaming down her sweet face. She even cried as she told me about his passing. The heartache was etched into her spirit. She couldn’t completely eradicate the brokenness of losing this man who so lovingly touched her life.

Ann and I spoke of how the passing of time softens difficult life stories whichserve as growth opportunities. In the beginning a story unfolds, and we assign intense emotions and thoughts to it. Over time the story doesn’t feel as heavy or dramatic as when it first took place. We then reach for another perspective, and possibly choose to accept and learn rather than to suffer. 

Sometimes a story’s memory becomes an invaluable part of who we are. So what are we supposed to do with it? Ann’s explanations sparked this idea: if the story is worth keeping, the heart makes room for it.

Years later, Ann remarried another brilliant and tender-hearted man. She is content and enjoys her time with him. And yet Ann looked at me softly while placing her hand on her heart. She says she is keeping her broken heart because Husband #1 lives there.  This is Ann’s way of finding acceptance of the situation and feeling love. Her heart has made room for this enduring story.

What about you dear Reader? Think about the stories still living in your heart. Hopefully they generate positive feelings, and enable you to thrive and learn how to love and be loved better.

Looking for more ways to cherish your love stories? I am available for wellness coaching! 

VACATION VS. WORK: THE WINNER NEEDS TO BE YOU

When I worked at the cancer center, taking time off work was more pain than joy. Days before leaving, I spent extra hours clearing my calendar and wrapping up loose ends. I finally realized it didn’t matter if the pile was there or not. When I returned from break, a pile of work awaited. With a big sigh and a goodbye to rest and relaxation, I settled back into crazy.

“Vacations restore our passion for life. We get to define what adventure means to us and collect another story for our hearts and minds to remember for years to come.

Does this sound familiar? We are not alone. According to a recent government study, Americans on average give up 206 million vacation days. Whoa! This is a BIG number. What’s going on?

Is it possible to prioritize fun instead of prioritizing stressful projects? Try these five tips for making vacations memorable and worth the effort:

Put it on the calendar. I cannot overstate this action. If it’s on the books, it will happen. You have something wonderful to look forward to. You save money and get excited. You can go to sleep with a mental picture of white sandy beaches instead of what Mr. Know-It-All did at the meeting. 

Make every step self-care. If you are anxious around job security, appearances of non-productivity and fear of missing out then a vacation may be the escape you need to reset your happy buttons. From planning to shopping and packing, build excitement to fuel your work-filled days leading to vacation time. Include calm-inducing activities like walks in nature and swinging in a hammock with a book. 

Focus on play. The call for easy is what our mental and emotional self needs on a regular basis. We need to shift from overbooked calendars to a simple schedule focused on playtime. What do you dream about doing when you’re on vacation? 

Unplug, literally. Digital devices and posting awesome vacation photos can wait until we get home. If necessary designate a few minutes a day to check messages. Don’t worry about posting photos and stories in the moment. Family and friends will enjoy your photos after vacation. 

Create a re-entry plan. If possible work a half day after vacation before resuming your regular schedule. Start off easy and light. Bring a souvenir or printed photo of your time out for your space. Address priority issues or organize your pile for your first full day back. Check in with a few co-workers. 

Looking for more ways to move from stressed to strong? Rita is available for workshops at your workplace! 

EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT 101: BACK TO BASICS

According to a Gallup 2016 survey on the American workforce, only one of three employees feels engaged at work. The remaining two thirds lack skills for advancement, look for better jobs, or simply give up and leave the workforce. Is it any wonder an industry of stress management and wellness programs flourish to help us focus and engage? 

“Acknowledging the humanity in another builds trust, loyalty and respect.

Numbers like this come at a high cost. Disengaged employees lose literally billions of dollars (up to $600 billion a year !!!) How can employers better capture and encourage full participation of many of their staff who have lost the desire to succeed?

1. Get personal. Satisfied employees know their manager believes in them and encourages their contributions. Too many people report to work without the necessary guidance and support to help them to excel and maximize their talents. 

Managers have an obligation to set the stage for excellence and creativity. Connect to your team from a position of caring rather than authority. Recognize that acknowledging the humanity in another builds trust, loyalty and respect. These basic ideals set the foundation for getting the personal best from others. 

2. Offer rewards and incentives. Acknowledge and celebrate excellence. When people feel valued they desire to contribute to their community.

Incentives offer job-security and peace of mind. Practically speaking, this means a flexible work schedule, paid leave, health insurance and retirement. Some extremely flexible companies offer an open policyto job shifting. If an employee gets bored with his job, he has the opportunity to fine-tune, change it around, or create a new one. 

After studying this topic, I am reminded that kindness, gratitude and presence remain cornerstones of all relationships, including those in the workplace. Productivity, inclusiveness and profits proceed from mankind’s highest virtues. Yes it is time to return to the basics and reap the rewards of being part of this beautiful world.

Looking for more ways to engage and reward people? I am available for workshops at your workplace! 

HOW TO OPTIMIZE YOUR SEARCH ENGINE

When you have a question about how to do something or need help finding a great restaurant, it’s likely you turn to the Internet. Mighty search engines kick in, and within seconds various websites’ answers appear. If a website makes it to the first page of your search, it’s likely the exact words of your questions are configured in the answers.  

“Getting clear and specific about your ideas and emotional needs builds a healthy inner search engine.

Knowing how to frame questions is key to obtaining the best answers. The process of bringing words together in search of answers is called SEO – Search Engine Optimization. Businesses spend millions to appear on the first search page. These expensive investments insure a company’s continued online presence.  

So, how to optimize our inner search engines? What to do when we struggle to locate our heart’s internal road map as we wander off the main thoroughfare?   

Let’s optimize your internal emotional search engine to keep wayward emotions contained, and replace them with congruent emotions which insure better alignment with your heart’s desires.

As with Internet questions, internal questions require clear thinking and well thought-out investigating. Double meanings or extraneous mind meanderings stifle the process. Be clear in your intentions and sincerely seek to know what your heart desires.  

What to do when you feel strong emotions, but don’t know what they’re telling you? Let’s say you begin to experience anxiety or sadness, but don’t know where it comes from. Perhaps you go through a litany of whys, but remain confused as the unhappiness drags on for days. Your mind ruminates over confusing theories, and you feel stuck to get past the pain. Over time your heart becomes tired, frustrated and unsure about how to move forward.

If you can relate to this example, then it’s time to sit yourself down, get quiet, and listen more intently. Your heart is telling you it requires your active participation.

Exercise:
Take an active role in aligning to your heart’s desires. On a piece of paper write, “How Can I Align With My Heart?” at the top of the page. Draw two columns. Label Column A “Same Old Emotional Answers” and Column B “New Emotional Answers.” Fill in each column with the emotions you believe relevant. These are your key words. Be honest. 

Uncover those emotions in Column A and release them. This is a first step towards healing.

Substitute now the new emotions in Column B – the emotions which best resonate with your heart. When we listen attentively to the stirrings of our heart, we guarantee its role as a vital compass to putting us on the proper highway and heading in the right direction. When we respect its top-billing presence in our lives, we are rewarded with feelings of harmony and authenticity.

Your heart is your most valuable possession. It insures your humanity and keeps the flame of proper love of self and others alive.

WHO AM I?

Inspired by the sweet bird songs wafting through my early morning window, I ask myself, “What exactly is my song?” 

Springtime presents a Master Class in awakening to the music inside us. Nature’s fresh growth and renewal insistently whisper: “Awaken to the sound of the music within. Dance to the music of your soul.” And so, “What’s my song?” is the refrain our souls urge us to answer so we may live our life attuned to our unique inner calling.

Songs are comprised of a series of notes. Combining notes makes melody which has the power to fuel thoughts and emotions. When songs enter conscious awareness, they activate our imaginations and memories. Within mere seconds, music can profoundly bridge us to times, places and people. Recall your favorite song. Why do you love it? What makes the song’s title, beat or story deeply resonate?

Grab your journal. Close your eyes. Relax your mind and body. B-r-e-a-t-h-e. Picture yourself swaying to a beautiful beat you are hearing for the first time. Allow yourself to compose new words and a fresh melody. What kind of mood are you in? Enjoy the feeling! When you’re ready, open your eyes. With this song implanted in your mind, follow these steps:

Title your Music.

Does it represent a life theme, relationship or special moment? A song’s title is key and sets the stage for the words which follow.  Place the title within the song’s lyrics.

Imagine your Sound.

When you put notes together magic happens. Based on your current state of mind, is your song relaxing, upbeat or melancholy? Would you describe the style as Rock ’n Roll, Classical, Country, Chanting or something else?

Compose your Words.

Lyrics come from life events like romance, dreams, celebrations or even everyday life. They offer insight into the song’s main message. If your song is one of struggle, what type of ending will you choose? Do you find strength? Success? Peace? If it’s a chant, what words draw you inward to invigorate your spirit?

Rhythm Signals Movement.

“Rhythm is the way music moves through time,” say musicologists.  What type of flow is in your song? Is it regular, strong, simple or off beat?

Write your song exercise today knowing that tomorrow’s number will represent another snapshot in time. When you’re done composing, Sing! Dance! Shake your booty! Spring’s birdsong reminds us to live our music each day and every season of our lives.

THE MANY FACES OF HUMOR

Hearing a good joke or laughing at life brings ease to our days and closeness to others. We are naturally attracted to and seek out people who make us happy. Humor is a strong leadership and communication skill. When humor is done right, it reduces stress, promotes creativity and builds connectivity within social groups and work teams.

Humor helps our bodies.

Stress is no joke. Unhappiness in the United States comes at a really high cost. In fact, stress research indicates it is one of the six leading causes of death. Billions of dollars are spent on foods, vitamins, workshops, therapy, drugs and exercise on the pursuit of stress-free living. It is said that laughing is the fastest and most dependable way of turning off the stress button. And it’s free!

Humor opens our minds.

“When humor is done right, it reduces stress, promotes creativity and builds connectivity within social groups and work teams.

— Rita Abdallah

Humans are built with the innate capacity to create and be creative. Laughter gives our controlling, confused and chaotic brains a rest. Flow and focus effortlessly show up as we step more into our imagination.

Humor lightens our hearts. 

Laughing time is not a waste of time, especially in the workplace. Humor breaks up awkward and challenging situations throughout the day. When I worked at the cancer center, humor opened up broken hearts, physical pain and distress. Patients and loved ones need and depend on humor to get through cancer’s messy moments. As staff, humor helped us cope with non-stop work demands and losses.

Some Do’s and Don’ts on sharing and promoting healthy humor at home and work:

Yes:

Use universal humor. Jerry Seinfeld and Friends were highly successful TV sitcoms looking at the quirky side of life and relationships.

Avoid jokes targeting a specific group of people such as those of different ethnic/racial backgrounds. This can be a tough one to practice.  If you think you’re crossing a humor line, you probably are. Apologize if necessary.

If someone starts a joke and you sense it veering off, it may be best not to stay for the punch line. At some point, tell the jokester the joke was not acceptable or appreciated. Otherwise, the jokester will continue to joke in this manner.

No:

Don’t laugh at anyone because of the way they dress, wear their hair and eat their food. Gossip is hurtful and harmful. 

Don’t continually make yourself the butt of jokes. This is a sign of low self-esteem and insecurity. If you know the comedian Rodney Dangerfield, you will get my drift.

Don’t use sarcasm. People are super-sensitive. Why go through the effort of trying to be funny in your eyes only? Sarcasm can be interpreted in unexpected ways.

Join Rita for two workshops on workplace humor. Workshops are for social workers, counselors and psychologists. 3 CEUs are available per course.

WHAT DO YOU BELIEVE IN?

Are you a teacher or a student of life? 

“A learner is someone curious about life. Because you are both teacher and student, there is much power in seeing which ideas wake up your spirit and which ideas positively strengthen you.

— Rita Abdallah

For some time I questioned whether or not teaching others was a good idea. Would my messages mean anything to the world? Isn’t it easier to be a lifelong student? I stressed about my need to keep people excited and interested with unique ideas. The struggle ended once I figured out that expressing ideas of love never get tired, old or dull. I see that sharing love messages is a rewarding service.

Believe it or not, you are in constant learning mode. Depending on your life experiences at any given moment, you will end up either sharing or learning an idea. If you have an idea you are sharing it. If you share an idea you are learning it.

A learner is someone curious about life. Because you are both teacher and student, there is much power in seeing which ideas wake up your spirit and which ideas positively strengthen you. Activate your learning mode to make healthy and loving choices in these four ways.

Write a list of your top three beliefs. According to Webster’s Dictionary, belief is “a feeling that something is good, right or valuable.” Believing in something means you invest your faith in an idea that guides you during transitions and unsettled times.

Live judgment-free. When you are in learning mode, the world is an endless question. Asking questions free you from labeling an experience or person. When you are confused or facing difficult choices, find your answer by checking internally: “What can I learn here? Will my decision be a continued projection of my beliefs or a twisted version of my ego?” Hopefully, you will cut to the chase and make your next move based on what is good, right or valuable.

Practice your beliefs. When you write, speak or send energy to someone, it is an extension of your belief system. For example, I am a big believer in joy. When I project joy in any form I am teaching joy. Others are now inspired to project joy too because it makes them feel good. Because joy is so valuable to me, I seek opportunities to reinforce and increase it.

Unleash useless beliefs. Does fear drive your life? Do you feel safe in the world? If you are in doubt right now, take a moment and understand that fear in any form means you believe in it. If you are driven by fear you are teaching fear. Remind yourself that you can change direction at anytime. Persuade your fear to go into retreat. Awaken your mind to your deepest genuine beliefs. Remind yourself of the values which resonate within your heart.

Learning mode allows you to be more clear about who you are and your place in the world. It also gives you the opportunity to discover and open yourself to spiritual enrichment. A delicious quote from Master Teacher Jesus Christ says: “Remember that if teaching is being and learning is being, then teaching is learning. Everything you teach you learn. Teach only love, and learn that love is yours and YOU are love.”

Work with me to learn more about your Amazing Self – I’d love to help you!