Archive for April 7th, 2012

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Happy Birthday

Happy Birthday (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In honor of Stephen Batchelor‘s birthday, I thought I would share one of his passages from “Buddhism without Beliefs:  A Contemporary Guide to Awakening.”

Stephen Batchelor (en) at Upaya Zen Center in ...

Stephen Batchelor (en) at Upaya Zen Center in New Mexico. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Distraction drugs us into forgetfulness.  even when we yearn to be focused on something meaningful, it erupts again.  We cannot switch it off — and the more frustrated we get, the worse it becomes.
Instead of fighting it, embrace it.  Accept that this is how things are right now:  I am compulsively distracted.  Acceptance might even lead to understanding what it is that we’re running from.  Instead to understanding what it is that we’re running from.  Instead of giving in to irritation, gently and patiently keep bringing the attention back.  Then we may suddenly notice that the turmoil has stopped, as though a storm has passed.  There might still be an occasional gust, but — for the time, being, at least — it is calm.”

~~ Stephen Batchelor

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Sensory Memories

Our memories are strongly connected to our sense. There has been scientific research on this subject, but as I stated in an earlier blog, I spent my weekend reading The Hunger Games and not researching for these blogs.

But we do not need a scientist to tell us that certain smells, taste, sights, and the feel of certain objects can bring back strong memories of past times and people who we have lost.

The smell of Old Spice, the sound of country music, the taste of blue jello, the sight of someone in aviator ray-bans, and the feel of my father’s old flannel shirts instantly remind me of my father.

Of course, these memories are broad and far-reaching. There are other sensory memories that can bring about specific moments with my father, moments that I have tucked away in my mind.

Sensory memories can be tricky, sometimes they are welcome in a time of need and other times they can be quite unwelcome.

About three years ago I spent some time in India and found myself very ill on a houseboat wanting nothing more than to go home when suddenly the smell of old spice and cigarettes came wafting through the door. (at the time I thought this smell came from my roommate on the trip Lauren, who was very accommodating while I was ill, but I have since concluded that it may have been part of a very strange fever dream) Nevertheless the reminder of my father was very welcome.

I was on a date with a boy, one of the first I had ever been on, when suddenly the boy’s scent overwhelmed me. He smelled like fuel stabilizer and cigarettes (I was going through a phase.) The same way my father smelt after he worked on his car (which he did on many occasions). This was before I really came to terms with my father’s death, and I don’t believe I even told this boy who my father was dead.

I was overcome with memories and emotions, sadness, fear, and a bit of embarrassment. I excused myself to the bathroom and tried to put myself together but it was no use. I spent the rest of the date on the brink of an emotional breakdown. Needless to say there was not a second date.

The point of telling you these stories is that sensory memories can come up at a time that isn’t convenient for us. Though I have worked through a lot of my emotions surrounding my father’s death and am pretty confident the scent of fuel stabilizer won’t send me into an emotional breakdown now I am still surprised by the occasional song on the radio or scent that reminds me of my father.

It’s important to give children a safe way to work through emotions involving all memories, especially those tied to our five senses. Letting children know that it is okay to feel sadness, anger, fear, and a myriad of other emotions as they come up and working through them can prevent surprises such as my ill-fated date night.

Even with all the planning in the world and activities to work through every emotion under the sun, sensory memories will still sneak up and surprise us. It’s an unfortunate part of being a grieving person, sometimes we just can’t help when a memory comes up.

I have no advice for such moments except to ride the wave, these moments are the price we pay for loving someone so much, and it’s a small price when you think about it.

-Liz Hendrickson

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Mindful Lifestyle - Devoted to Healing & Being

http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/what-should-you-eat/pyramid/ — the article where I found this diagram

Remember that health institutions put out guidelines for the general public.  I do believe that some people do better with some foods or should totally avoid some foods.

I think this is a great depiction of what a plate should look like.  Research shows that most women with migraines tend to eat high carb, high fat diets and I am sure there are a lot of reasons why… comfort and the ease of digestion come to mind first.

Be smart.  Don’t be extreme.  Listen to your body.  Breathe.  Drink water.  Manage Stress.  Love some one or something… or practice lovingkindness to all beings.

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This post I write with the greatest of care as it talks about a lot of things that we are uncomfortable with… children, death, war, and more…

Have you ever read …I Never Saw Another Butterfly…?  If not, put it in any kind of bucket list that you might have.

This book is a compilation of poetry and pictures created by children who were enslaved in the Terezin Concentration Camp from 1942-1944.  I could not find any photos to post online from the book, so the pictures here all have captions as to what they are…

Photo 1:  After 9/11/2001, United States

Why on earth am I writing about something so painful… there are so many reasons.

First, this book is incredible for its art.  If you want to understand how kids understand death, traumatic events, and unsaid things, study these drawings.  They are powerful and profound.

Second, this book really drives home that kids know about death.  If you aren’t there to help fill in the blanks as to the who, what, where, how, and why (in an age appropriate way), then the kids around you aren’t going to be supported in what they do know.  Many people I have known that work with kids, like we did in our weekly programs and camps, know that kids have incredible imaginations and when things are kept secret, all of us tend to imagine the worst.  This is as true of death as it is anything else.

Photo 2:  From World War II

Third, because what these kids had to say is still relevant to how we need to be with grieving kids and to our world.  Read the book and tell me that you don’t want to go march for peace so that no child has to suffer again.

Here is an excerpt:

The Closed Town

Everything leans, like tottering, hunched old women.

Every eye shines with fixed waiting and for the word “when?”

Here there are a few soldiers.

Only the shot-down birds tell of war.

You believe every bit of news you hear.

The buildings now are fuller,

Body smelling close to body,

And the garrets scream with light for long, long hours.

This evening I walked along the street of death.

On one wagon, they were taking the dead away.

Why so many marches have been drummed here?

Why so many soldiers?


A week after the end,

Everything will be empty here.

A hungry dove will peck for bread.

In the middle of the street will stand

an empty, dirty hearse.


All of the children in this camp were under 15 years old.

Now, we don’t live in Germany, in another place and time… but we do live in a world with constant wars… constant news casts… constant exposure to tv death.

Photo #3:  Palestinian Child Artwork

Please don’t think that the kids in your life know nothing about death.  Don’t think they don’t feel grief.  Please don’t think they aren’t affected by the silence, the violence, the chemical dependency, or the other things that we think we are hiding from them in our own homes.

Despite the horrors that the children in the camps saw, they were able to see the beauty as well.  It was all a part of their lives.  There are some incredible poems in the book I never saw… if for no other reason, read the book to see the resilience of those children.  15,000 children lived at Terezin and less than 100 survived.  The book is  a touching snapshot of the human condition as it relates to trauma, dying, war, childhood, and life.

Please support children in their grief.  Do your own healthy grieving if for no other reason than to be their to support the “forgotten mourners.”

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