“Casual Peace”
 Peace between two slices of bread

When I was with my ex I made sandwiches daily. I’m a precise person, so I took care to make these sandwiches in a precise manner. There would be an exact amount of butter and lettuce, with a measured amount of salt. The filler was meat. This varied. Sometimes it was salmon, sometimes cheese, sometimes luncheon meat. In all the years that I made R’s sandwich just perfect, I never once made a sandwich for myself with the same care.

Until now. Why? Because now that he’s gone I’ve learned to care for myself. Before I began my personal growth and spiritual journey I neglected myself. Sure I did all the outward things; attending to my grooming and wearing clean, stylish clothes, but I never took care of the inner me. It’s amazing that in making a sandwich I could see where I’d failed myself before.

Now that I’m alone (all one) my attention has turned away from the material things we focused on as a couple, to the deeper more meaningful aspects of life. These things aren’t always found in sunsets and peak experiences. They can be found between two slices of bread.

In making a sandwich for myself this evening, I realized that I was growing. I was doing something just for me, with love, attention and care. I was nurturing myself. I started my sandwich with two slices of thick multigrain bread. This glorious bread was then layered with my favourite margarine and mustard. Next I placed 3 slices of veggie-meat atop it, plus a slice of soy cheese. As I did this I reflected on how much I appreciated that I’d stuck to my vegetarian diet for so many years. I smiled as I gave myself praise for this, which is something I’ve learned to do recently. As a vegetarian it’s easy to feel like the odd-one-out. We may want outer approval, but what we need is inner approval. Realizing this, I scattered lettuce atop the slices, and put one slice of tomato on top.

As I ate this sandwich I felt immense peace. I had made something, the details of which are ordinary on their own, into something extraordinary. I had treated myself in a way that was kind, kinder than I had ever been to myself before. On this day, at that time, I felt peace.

It didn’t have to be a sandwich. It could have been luxuriating in a delicious bubble bath., which I did later The point, in finding peace, isn’t what we get out of things. The sandwich left me with a full stomach and the bubble bath left me with smoother skin. The point is what we put into them. Any time we act towards ourselves in a loving and caring manner, the way we would to a dear friend or a lover, we are closer to peace. Not that self-love by itself brings peace, but we can’t have peace without it.

Galina Pembroke is a self-taught medical writer. She has been published internationally. Unlike an MD she has no letters, but has been told she is “AOK.” You can visit her writer’s site at www.galinawrites.ca

Why Madonna was wrong.
©  Galina Pembroke

As Madonna once observed: “We live in a material world.” As part of this it is conditioned and expected that we will focus on and act on material and practical concerns. But is this necessary? Madonna might argue yes, but I have to disagree.

We are physical beings, but our true value lies in the people we are, and this is rooted in our character and how we conduct ourselves. You can’t buy this. You can only live it. Living this way has its own rewards. They may not be measured in dollars, but in the moments of our lives and whether they fill us or drain us.

Tonight I was having coffee with an elderly neighbour. She’s a delightful and kind soul who is years younger in spirit and mind than her age would tell you. Time wore on, as it always does with girl talk, and I started to resent that our trivial conversation was interfering with my writing and web work, which are sources of income.

Even in the deepest moments, if we let it, material concerns can rear their green papery head. It’s not that we should dismiss these; it’s just that sometimes we need to know when to fold them up and tuck them away. I knew I had the luxury of procrastinating my work another hour, and our conversation was more important than finishing work at a self-appointed hour.

Why? Because we make our own priorities. You can get money back but you can never get people back. Conversations about the afterlife and visitations aside, when someone is gone they are gone for a long time. This is especially relevant when speaking to people who have been on earth for a significant number of years. And when someone is gone, you will never regret a moment spent with them for one missed at work. Thankfully, this realization came to me as I was talking to my neighbour, and I once again became immersed in our conversation.

This principle isn’t true only for people of mature years. Moments with people are precious. People move. People leave our lives for a variety of reasons. Make sure that while you are with them you are truly with them, and not thinking of something presumably more important.

So before you volunteer overtime at work, consider if it will mean “undertime” with a person, whether this be family, friends or a romantic interest.

Galina Pembroke is a self-taught medical writer. She has been published internationally. Unlike an MD she has no letters, but has been told she is “AOK” .You can visit her writer’s site at www.galinawrites.ca

Chocolate Heaven
©  Galina Pembroke

Aren’t we our own worst enemies? I know I can be. I allow myself the basics; nutritious food, clothing and shelter, but for years I’ve denied myself the indulgences. I’m working to change this. Why? In learning about manifestation I discovered that to attract what we want we need to move into the feeling that we have it. This is mentioned both in “The Secret” DVD and book and in Wayne W. Dyer’s philosophy-most notably in “Manifest Your Destiny (1997, HarperCollins).” It’s also common sense. Since often behaviour follows feeling, if we don’t feel like we deserve luxury we’ll probably behave in ways that repel it. Pondering this, and because I love sweets, I decided to buy myself a luxury I’ve denied myself for some time.

Weeks ago I was meandering about the baked goods aisle of my favourite grocery store and I spotted the most exquisite delicacy I’d seen in some time. It was in the form of cake. This was no ordinary cake, no slab of plain-jane floury confection spread with a slim coat of icing, this was cake in its finest form. It is called “Mint Slice” but the title doesn’t do it justice. You could see the fluffy moistness from 5 feet away, and recognize the supreme work that went into it. Layers of icing held together cake perfection in a just-so presentation that looked more like art than food, and the entire creation was topped off by a slender design of melted chocolate, resting on top of its delicate fluffy light green icing.

It cost more than I’d pay for an ordinary chocolate more. More than I’d pay for an ordinary pastry. Weeks ago, before I started reading about manifestation I would have denied myself this delicacy. That was then. I ordered the slice, which by my luck was priced at a slight discount, and carefully escorted it home. I ground myself some flavoured coffee which I ordinarily reserve for guests, telling myself I should forever treat myself like the most honoured guest. Since the piece was big and I am small I didn’t eat it all right away. I took a third and sat down with it, cherishing every morsel.

Did I feel guilty after? No. I felt good. Our behaviours can form our perception of ourselves, so when we act in a way that honours our self, whether its eating a fine pastry or taking time out to listen to beautiful music, we are telling ourselves we are deserving of feeling good. It doesn’t mean that right away we will heal our self concept and see our self esteem rocket, but we will climb one step further to this higher state.

What does this do with abundance? When we feel down on ourselves it is hard to believe we deserve things, and in this state it is hard to accept them. Small actions that say “luxury” to us are ways we can nurture ourselves and make steps in raising our self esteem. The best time to do this is today. So rent that movie you’ve been waiting to see, phone that friend that makes you feel good, or talk to yourself in a kinder fashion. We all have things we want to do but put off.

What do you deny yourself? Unless, and even if you are a hedonist, it’s probably quite a lot. Sometimes starting with allowing ourselves the small things in life can pull the drain off this trap, allowing a smooth flow of abundance.

Galina Pembroke is a self-taught medical writer. She has been published internationally. Unlike an MD she has no letters, but has been told she is “AOK.” You can visit her writer’s site at www.galinawrites.ca

The Author Feeling Sheepish

Not Anxious About Anxiety
©  Galina Pembroke

Last night I went to a healing drum circle. It was something I would have avoided in the past; or went and sworn never to return. Not because there was anything wrong with the circle, but because of my disposition.

Since I was a child I’ve struggled with anxiety. It isn’t something I’m happy about or proud of, but it’s a fact I recently made peace with.

Recently I’ve been learning cognitive behavioural techniques to manage anxiety. The theory behind cognitive behavioural therapy is that we can think and will our way through anxiety. It doesn’t mean we can cure it, but we can reduce the damaging effects that anxiety has on our functioning. The slogan that author Susan Jeffers coined “Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway” is one important approach that CBT uses. I used CBT techniques to manage my anxiety during the healing circle. I needed these techniques because social situations with strangers give me great distress.

Since I’ve been using CBT techniques I’ve found myself attending appointments and engagements that give me anxiety, rather than avoiding them and cursing my nervousness. The healing drum circle is one recent example. I felt enormously uncomfortable through most of it, but I didn’t leave early with an excuse or make excuses to myself for why I’d never return again. I didn’t have a good time, but I take the positives from it. I had a memorable experience far superior to watching television or listening to the radio, for example.

We all have anxiety to varying degrees, but there are many like me who have it to the severity that it’s classified as a disorder. Many are afraid to go public with this condition. Those who do give me hope that greater understanding will be given to anxiety conditions in the future. It is especially relieving to see public figures speak about their anxiety conditions, because they are so admired. One example I personally appreciate, because he brings so much laughter to people despite his condition, is Scrub’s star Zach Braff. Zach Braff has spoken openly suffering from a variety of anxiety disorders, including obsessive-compulsive disorder and panic disorder, and has been medicated several times for anxiety. (1) Like others who successfully manage their anxiety, Braff goes to the set when required and attends promotional events for his movies whether he’s anxious or not.

Part of being at peace is learning how to function when we’re not at peace. There’s an expression in CBT that encapsulates this principle: “Fumble as long as you function.” All of us, even the worry-free, could benefit from this ideal. Many of us set high standards for ourselves that are daunting. We’d have greater peace if we could recognize that greater perfection lies in recognizing and shrugging off our weaknesses than in reaching for the unattainable.

I went to the drum circle to heal. Within the 2 hours I spent there I moved towards this ideal. Perhaps not because of the sound therapy or vibrational medicine that was an aspect of the circle, but because I entered a situation I knew would be uncomfortable and stuck with it until the end.

Reference: 1. Moses, Alexa. The Next Woody Allen?The Sydney Morning Herald. 2004. Accessed February 6, 2007. The Next Woody Allen

Galina Pembroke is a self-taught medical writer. She has been published internationally. Unlike an MD she has no letters, but has been told she is “AOK.” You can visit her writer’s site at www.galinawrites.ca

No magic cures
©  Galina Pembroke

We live in a quick-fix, fast food society. In a culture geared toward the automatic, patience can be unfamiliar. Yet patience is a necessity. Even in the seeming quantum-physics-magic world of manifestation, The Secret authors tell us we can expect a time delay.

Do we need patience? How essential is it? Sure, we can get cool techno gadgets that sometimes actually do make certain aspects of life easier. I don’t know what I’d do without my microwave, for example. But the big things in life; relationships, career, school, fulfillment…all these require patience.

Fulfillment is the most challenging. After we’ve gotten all the possessions and something’s still lacking, what or who do we turn to? How do we fill the emptiness inside? I hate to tell you, but no matter how great the cell phone or how big the television, the pleasure of its newness will be temporary. Then there’s a choice: Do we move on to the next new gadget or do we look within. Looking within is harder, and it is the essence of spirituality. Looking within takes work, but the old truism “Nothing good ever came easy” is true for a reason.

Within the self-examination process that is crucial to self-development and spirituality we may find things we don’t like about ourselves along with those we do; We sabotaged our relationships, we screwed up our deadlines, we are materialistic and our past shallowness is our responsibility alone.

Okay. Own it. Now toss it. Regret is not compatible with healing. Now start thinking of the things you’ve done right. The road to fulfillment is long and filled with brambles, and you’re going to need tools to remove them. The first tool is self-love. Spirituality is a journey of one and the greatest thing you can do for you and only you. Knowing what you like about yourself will help you feel worthy to continue on this lone path. Make an inner list of all the things you like about yourself. Doubt is our greatest enemy on this path. When doubt arises you need to have an arsenal of self-likes you can wield to challenge self-doubt.

The path to peace isn’t easy. Many times it’s uphill. There is no magic book or words that will leave you with perpetual fulfillment. Yet if you walk the path long enough you will emerge stronger. If you walk the path for long enough, and look deep within, you will emerge with answers that are uniquely your own.

For true peace, patience is required to find these inner answers. Meanwhile, we have wise guides like the authors of The Secret (as an example) to motivate us. But the journey is ours. If we will be patient, we will emerge more peaceful and fulfilled than we ever thought possible.

Exercise:

How have you been responsible for what you don’t like in your life? Make a short list of things you’ve done in the past that are bringing you present discomfort.

What are you responsible for doing that is currently bringing you great fulfillment? Make a list as long as you can. Keep it where you can see it and keeping adding to it as often as possible.

Galina Pembroke is a self-taught medical writer. She has been published internationally. Unlike an MD she has no letters, but has been told she is “AOK.” You can visit her writer’s site at www.galinawrites.ca

The implications of cream
©  Galina Pembroke

Today I bought cream for my coffee. It isn’t a big deal. Not in of itself. It is a huge deal, however, when you consider the implications of cream, the calories it contains, and how in the past it left my mind tangled in distress.

I’ve always had a body image problem. Through years of reading and reflection I’ve brought it’s severity from a 10 to a 1. It’s this one that can rear its ugly head sometimes, as it did today.

Cream is a luxury. The very word “creamy” conjures up images of rich, delightful delicacies, whether in liquid of solid form. Buying cream for me is a way to obliterate that final “1” on the scale of 10 in my ongoing body image problem.

Certain problems aren’t cured so much as managed, and I’ve found body image to be one of these. I should note that I’m slim and fit by any standards, particularly the University of Michigan Health System which has an excellent height-weight chart that outlines target body weights, so it’s ridiculous for me to have any body image issues at all. I know this intellectually, but you don’t feel with your mind.

Feelings of remorse aside, I bought the cream and poured it in my coffee. It’s really great I might add-definitely creamy. I’m working at coming to peace with this decision. The nattering, unhealthy part of my brain that’s sabotaged my self-esteem since childhood tells me I’ll get fat if I drink cream. It is wrong. Per tablespoon, cream only has 5 more calories than the Silk soy creamer I usually use, and since I use less cream because it is so “creamy” I’m taking in the exact same amount of calories.

Sometimes it’s the little decisions that block the path to peace the most. Getting over (note the choice of words here) my cream block takes me one further on my ongoing journey towards peace. If I can’t have peace with my body how will I have peace with my soul or my life? These are all connected. A nattering mind is no less of a significant block just because it natters over trivialities. In fact, in obsessing over trivialities we encounter our most significant hurdles. Often trivialities emerge the most, because in their trivial nature we neglect to take them seriously.

Cream is one example. Your example may be similar if its food related. It may not be. You may tell yourself that although you like purple you look awful in it and what will people think but then again it is a great color etc. It may be, instead, that you really want to donate money to charity but then you’d have to buy cheaper sneakers this year and who wants to wear cheap sneakers so absolutely not but then again it feels so good to give etc. We all have concerns that feel big, but objectively are trivial.

Galina Pembroke is a self-taught medical writer. She has been published internationally. Unlike an MD she has no letters, but has been told she is “AOK.” You can visit her writer’s site at www.galinawrites.ca

Write it or not, mindfully
©  Galina Pembroke

I write everyday whether I like it or not. This is an admirable trait for a writer, yet it doesn’t make me special. We all have things we do that we don’t want to. Paying bills comes to mind immediately. If you think about it for a minute, you can probably list three or four. The key to enjoying your day despite these, is to change both your approach and attitude to these potential inconveniences.

Mine is writing, which I admit is ironic for a writer and may be irritating to some who think it’s the greatest job in the world. The job is but not the business. Freelance magazine writers have to deal with floods of rejection, regardless of how accomplished they are. So as a freelance writer you need to focus on the good and disregard the bad to survive mentally and emotionally. That’s my story.

What’s yours? What do you have to do on a regular basis that you find anywhere from mildly irritating to all out unbearable? Think about it for a moment, and to keep your sanity switch to thoughts about something you love to do. Feels better. Whenever I’m doing something I don’t want to be doing, my mind is on all the wonderful things in life I have to be grateful for, and all the enjoyable things I have to look forward to. This elevates my mood and makes the task go smoother. It’s an approach that takes work, admittedly, but over the years I’ve slowly spent more time in pleasant reflection than in current-moment angst. This is one approach.

I rarely use this approach anymore. It’s a very earthy and effective approach, but it wastes my time and gets me no further on my spiritual journey. As Wayne W. Dyer reminds us in Staying on the Path(1995, Hay House): “These are the good old days” which means that whatever state or situation we’re in at this immediate moment, we’ll look back at the end of our lives and reflect on it in fond memory. Imagine that! Days and chores you dislike now will be one day looked upon as pleasant. Of course, it’s unlikely that we’ll ever look upon the worst days and events we experience as unpleasant, but the majority of things we currently regards as unpleasant will eventually be regarded fondly.

Recently I’ve been using Dyers wisdom to change my attitude towards things I regard as unpleasant. I hate doctor’s appointments, for example, because waiting rooms bore me. After I read Dyers’s point about these being the good old days I reviewed my attitude towards waiting rooms. Aren’t I lucky to have medical care? Can’t I appreciate the time-out it gives me from my busy day? Aren’t there many wonderful magazines for me to read while waiting? You see what I mean….our attitude can change a potentially unpleasant situation into a pleasant one. Admittedly I’m not at the point where I salivate in anticipation over being in a waiting room, but with this new attitude the wait seems less long and is far more pleasant.

In Buddhism there is a concept called Mindfulness, which simple means present-moment-awareness. This is a task I struggle with daily, because it is so challenging to implement. I spend much time previewing and reviewing, which I’m working hard to curb. I’m not alone in previewing and reviewing. We all do it. Becoming more mindful is a goal for me.

Mindfulness is hardest to achieve when we’re doing something unpleasant, and my quest is to stay mindful regardless of where I am and what I’m doing. You might want to try mindfulness too. It’s both an approach and an attitude. The approach is the concrete step of being present, and the attitude is that the present moment is worth our full attention. Every moment we do this we acknowledge that our current reality is worthy of our focus. It’s a beautiful state, when you can achieve it.

Our society encourages work for many reasons; money, prestige, consumerism. It’s time we worked on ourselves solely for ourselves. It may seem selfish, but it’s the least selfish thing we can do because spiritual changes in ourselves directly benefit mankind.

As I’ve been writing this, I’ve been working on staying present, despite the grumbles in my tummy. I know I’m nearing the time I will munch on a delicious goodie but the moment hasn’t yet arrived. It doesn’t matter. There’s nothing I would change about this moment. This moment will one day be reflected upon as “the good old days”. The details are perfect. There’s nothing I would change. This is mindfulness. I’m working on getting more: It’s one of the wonderful things I can be acquisitive about without being greedy.