Kindness Times Two

In my last post I mentioned I would have the opportunity to share with Nimo again. This evening was very special to me, it was an evening of inspiration at HopeWell Cancer Support Center. It was a wonderful evening of sharing, hugs, kindness, love, smiles, tears, music, and a few bubbles.

This facility is in an amazing location, surrounded by nature. I was sitting on the front porch watching a doe grazing in the grass not more than 50 feet from me. She didn’t have a care in the world, neither did I.

I’m not sure I can highlight just one thing about the evening so I will give you a few.

Ellie, from the Empty Hands Music crew was filming guests as they arrived, asking what was one thing they were grateful for. Do you have any idea how tough it is to pick just one thing you are grateful for? She later did her best to piece them all together as part of the Gratitude video. It was a wonderful surprise.

Survivors, caregivers, and family members shared their stories and inspiration. There were so many beautiful people in attendance.

I gave a little background into my journey and shared the story of the handmade kindness cards I leave in random places. Everyone was so excited to be taking home their own they asked if they could just start passing the box around while I was sharing. Before I could finish a wonderful woman stood up and started sharing. She thanked me for helping her know why she was there. She had been scheduled for surgery in the morning and they sent her home, she didn’t understand why and what the message was until I spoke of the cards. The joy I felt at that moment was absolutely overwhelming.

The entire evening was filled with these “kind” moments. Wherever you are, if you have the opportunity to be a guest for an evening of inspiration with Nimo and Empty Hands Music, don’t pass it up. You will be forever grateful and blessed.

A very fitting photo to cap off the night-Heartfelt!

Gone too long!

Hello everyone! Wow, I really have been gone too long. Life as a health coach, caregiver, yogini, and the many other hats I wear, can get a bit crazy. Just know that you are always in my thoughts even when life doesn’t allow me the time to write on the blog.

I hope you have been out spreading kindness and love everywhere you go. I would love to hear some of your stories.

For today, I would like to share one of the best nights I’ve had in quite some time. Last Wednesday I had the honor and privilege of meeting some of the most amazing people who all share a desire to spread love and kindness in their own special ways.

To my left was the guest of honor and a very special musician, Nimo. Empty Hands Music is a labor of love created by Nimo as his gift to the world. I invite you to go to his website where you can download his 10 track album absolutely free. I guarantee you will love it!

Although the name is Empty Hands, Nimo’s music will fill your heart with joy. I handed out Kindness Cards and simply had a wonderful night. I now have the opportunity to do it again this week at a cancer support center. I’m so excited!

A bonus to the evening, I now have new friends and someone to guide me in accomplishing a life-long dream of volunteering in India. Thanks Nimo!

Blessings!

See a need, fill a need–that’s how I live each day. Do I always know how I am going to fill the needs of the day? No. The one thing I am certain of is that I would not be shown the need if there wasn’t some way of filling it. We are shown a need because we have the power to do something about it.

I am truly blessed with the friends in this community. All your donations go to helping fill those needs. Those of you who donated last week helped to feed a family with 4 young children that had almost no food. The money I make as a writer feeds me and the remainder goes to the random acts of kindness that happen every time I see someone who needs help. When I offer a Laughter Yoga session that is donation only, I make sure that everyone knows that although the donations are to cover my costs, if there is anyone in that class that has a need or knows someone else who does, those donations are theirs for the taking.

I have learned to be creative, think outside the box, and do whatever is within my means. If I don’t have what is needed I examine whether there may be some other way to be of assistance. It may be that I can guide someone in the direction of another person that can fill their need. I may make a phone call to a government agency asking the right questions to get the necessary solution. I don’t give up until I feel I have done everything humanly possible. There is always something we can do, even if it is to simply give someone a hug when that is all you have left to give.

I’ve quickly learned that when I give all I have, my needs are met. I won’t hide the truth, fear can sometimes get the best of me. I never let fear take control, I acknowledge that it exists and then I let go. Letting go can be a very powerful tool.

I’ve found that any time I am willing to let go of the outcome and let go of the fear everything works out for the best. I set my intention for the good of others, the universe and myself and all is well.

If you have ever found yourself in a place where you just don’t think there is anything you can do, remember, the most valuable thing you have to give is yourself and your time. Live to give!

Giving is Living!

How important is giving back to the community, your family, your friends, or even a complete stranger you meet on the street? Do you need to be wealthy to give back? Do you need to have hours of free time? Have you ever felt like you don’t have any skills that will be useful to someone else? Everyone has something they can contribute to the world around them. The tiniest acts of kindness can make the biggest difference in someone’s day. Just ask Kristin Pedemonti who has given away over 500 bottles of bubbles on the NYC subway and carries a “Free Hugs” sign wherever she goes, because we all need our daily quota of hugs.

It is important to the community as well as you to be actively giving back each day, even it is simply giving someone a hug to make their day a little brighter. I promise you that for every act of kindness you show not only will you bring joy to someone else but your day will be brighter and your body, mind and soul a bit healthier.

There are many ways to volunteer that don’t involve money in any way, not even a dime of gas. You don’t need hours of free time to bring a smile to someone’s face. Read a story to a child, compliment a stranger, give a hug to someone who may need one, share a meal with a neighbor, the list goes on and I am sure you can come up with a few of your own. Become a virtual volunteer, check out ways you can volunteer online, no special skills needed, if you are living, breathing and can do anything at all you have what it takes to make someone’s day better.

A 2005 Stanford University survey of 7000 older adults found that frequent volunteering and helping others is linked to a healthier, longer life. The study also showed it didn’t need to be giving on a grand scale, it could be anything meaningful.

Allen Luk’s 1991 survey of thousands of volunteers in the US found that people who helped others reported better health than peers in their age group who didn’t volunteer.

A recent survey of 4500 American volunteers showed the following;

  • 73% reported that volunteering lowered their stress levels
  • 89% reported that volunteering improved their sense of well being
  • 92% reported that volunteering enriched their sense of purpose

So what are you waiting for? Get out there and give some free hugs, blow some bubbles, give someone a smile..you have no excuse…I have given you links to some great opportunities and I’m sure you can create a few of your own…give to others and you will always be giving back to yourself.

For more on Kristen and her storytelling adventure as well as her literacy program please visit her site. To leave comments on her TED video click here.

Smile and others will smile with you…

Have you ever noticed that when someone yawns you immediately feel a yawn coming on? How about those moments of contagious laughter? I remember moments of laughter with my family and friends that went on so long that my cheeks hurt, I was crying, my stomach was cramping, and I thought we would never stop laughing.

Do you notice that when you are spending time with someone filled with doom and gloom you feel a bit blue? I suggest you pick a new color, after all there’s an entire rainbow. Have you ever cried simply because someone else was crying? Even if you had no idea why they were crying? Do you ever find yourself smiling when someone smiles at you? There is a correlation between your emotions and your facial expressions and a real smile is an emotional contagion.

So what is real? How do you differentiate between a real smile and a fake one? It’s all in the eyes, yes really it’s all in the eyes. The Duchenne Smile was first identified by French physician Guillaume Duchenne who discovered a clear anatomical difference between a real smile and a fake one. His research showed that a real smile activated not only the muscles that lift the corner of the mouth but the muscles around the eyes. You know the ones, those muscles that we lovingly call crows feet..so be proud if your crow’s feet are quite visible..it is a sign that you have had a long life filled with smiles.

Most often we associate a smile with first being happy, but did you know that if you are feeling down and you think of something that makes you smile, you now bring happiness to your day by first having the smile. Try this experiment, think of something that makes you smile, keep smiling and now change your thought to something sad and try to maintain your smile. If you are truly smiling and then think of something sad you can’t maintain that smile. Now, think of something that brings joy to you and try not to smile..not so easy is it?

Each of us have so many reason’s throughout our day to smile and if you can’t think of a reason just stop and think of all the things you have to be grateful for in your life. If you are still having a problem just look at the list of reasons to smile on this website and I bet you will come up with a few of your own.

Smiling improves your health and well-being. When you smile and feel the joy associated with a smile you can lower your blood pressure, reduce anxiety, increase positive energy, and enhance the life of those you meet throughout your day. A smile crosses language and cultural boundaries and is the best communication weapon you have and you carry it with you everywhere. Whoever may have said that the mouth is a very powerful weapon may have been speaking about what comes out of the mouth but I believe that the silent voice of our mouths is equally as important.

No matter the emotion or the facial expression, it is undeniable that what is written on your face and is in your heart effects those around you. The more genuine the expression, the more effective it is, so if you think faking a smile is going to make someone’s day..forget it…if you really want to make someone’s day, keep it real. Make today the day that you unleash your inner smile guru!

Inspiration in the most unlikely places..

You may ask yourself, why I am visiting places along my journey that most people try to avoid. The answer would be a simple one, love and inspiration. I have learned that some of the most inspiring people are those you meet in some of the most typically uninspiring places. With my family history of cancer it is only fitting that these destinations be on my agenda. And I must say, using the Brompton is making that process a whole lot easier.

I received a very warm welcome to MD Anderson, Orlando from the moment I contacted them right through to the end of a wonderful tour. I was guided through the history of this premier health care facility and shown many unique features and programs by the centers Manager of Customer Relations. She has had an impressive 23 years with this organization and her dedication and pride show, not only in her smile, but in the wealth of information she imparts.

I arrived at about 10:15am and was greeted by two smiling happy women working the reception area. As I waited for my tour guide to arrive I watched and listened. This wasn’t about what I saw as much as what I didn’t see. Yes there were people who were very sick coming and going from their appointments and treatments. What was not present was sadness or an air of negativity. I would find later in my tour that it didn’t seem to exist anywhere in the building.

I won’t linger on the history of MD Anderson, for that you can visit their website www.mdacco.com
I will instead touch on things that I think go above and beyond in making this a stand out facility. The first thing you notice when looking at anything concerning MD Anderson is that the word Cancer in the name has a strike through it and underneath the name the words, “Making Cancer History”. This is one very powerful message.

This beautiful lady sits in the lobby/reception area, her name is Sophie and I was told she is the “Cower of Hope” and her name holds a special meaning. Rearrange the letters, have you figured it out? Hope Is! She is adorable and fun, loved her rain boots and beads. She helps to set the tone and lightened the mood of what could otherwise be a very somber environment.

I noticed a gentleman coming in with a wheeled cart filled to the brim with fresh citrus. He was immediately greeted at the reception area with a smile and a hug. He explained that this fruit was just a small token of his appreciation for the care his wife had been receiving. He went on to explain what all the things in the basket were and then talked a bit more about his story. I politely spoke up and said I couldn’t help but overhear the conversation and that I was grateful to hear such an inspiring story. He explained that he couldn’t express how grateful he was and that if it weren’t for the doctors and nurses at MD Anderson, he didn’t believe his wife would still be with him. This was just the beginning of the gratitude I sensed from so many people on this tour. If you are reading this sir, thank you for the grapefruit!

Up we go to a testing floor. The first thing you hear and see when you come off the elevator is Craig. He is playing a soft, soothing tune on his guitar, it was almost Zen like. I was told that he is part of the Arts Program and moves around to different areas to play as a way of additionally soothing the patients. It was amazing, thanks to Craig for taking his picture with me.
It turns out that music is only a small part of MD Anderson’s Arts Program and I would see some of that later in the morning.

The little touches that make a big difference didn’t end with the Arts Program. Even the art on the walls was carefully chosen. Next floor of the tour, I met a wonderful woman who had just come back from running with the Team Livestrong in Austin. It was clear that she loved what she was doing. Livestrong is a resounding message throughout this center.

One thing that stood out as I made my way around this facility was that they are treating the patient, not just the disease. I was taken to an area where integrative medicine or mind/body medicine is offered. The most fun for me with my massage therapy and Reiki background. Once again it was the little touches that stood out. Yes they offer presentations on healthy living, and nutrition, but who would have thought about a drum circle, tai chi, and a Labyrinth. Better yet, how about afternoon tea.

Or how about the small class we passed along the way learning how to make healthy dessert choices. I was introduced to the leaders in that class and I could immediately see they were very passionate about what they were doing. They certainly had everyone’s attention.

Just outside of this area where they held afternoon tea was a special bell hanging on the wall. This bell is for anyone who has finished their treatment. They are told to ring it in celebration of life and the end of treatment. How cool is that.

There are many more great things I could say about the couple of hours I spent at MD Anderson however I would just like to end this post with a thank you to all the wonderful people at MD Anderson. You are doing a spectacular job. I think this last picture sums up in one word what the atmosphere at MD Anderson speaks volumes to. So you see, many inspiring moments can come from the most unlikely places. Share your inspiring moments in an unlikely place in the comments below.

Blessings

Where do I begin this update? Every moment of the day I feel so blessed. I am blessed to have all of you, my followers and supporters. I am blessed to be able to do what I am doing. I am blessed by all the kind strangers I meet along this journey. I can’t begin to count all my blessings, I will start with the two newest.

The first came as a complete surprise. I was contacted via Say Hello which isn’t unusual but this time it was someone who was hired by a major university health system to do an educational infographic on cervical cancer risk factors and preventative measures. It was explained to me that this company found me while researching information for the work they were hired to do and that my story inspired the design for the infographic. Now how cool is that! In less than a 2 week period of online collaboration the project was finished and is now live. I am so honored to have been asked to be a part of this project that will be an educational tool for potentially thousands and thousands of women. Please check it out, it is interactive so drive the car and whatever you do, don’t forget to click on the bicycle. Follow this link; http://iuhealth.org/cancer/cervical-cancer-risk/

On to the second blessing. I do believe that everyone that enters our lives is a teacher and although we may not know the lesson at the time, we need to just be mindful and learn. Some of you know that one way I am able to keep spreading smiles and happiness to survivors is by taking on some freelance writing projects. I was searching through some ads and came across one that peaked my interest. I could feel the emotion in the ad. It was written by a father who lost his daughter to a little known disease. I replied to that ad offering my assistance. After exchanging a few email I was introduced to the founder of an organization that celebrates women. Just this week I was featured on that site; http://acelebrationofwomen.org/?p=76128

I cannot begin to express the gratitude I feel for being asked to be part of these amazing projects. The exciting thing is there are more to come. I can’t share just yet but you will be the first to know.

Positive intent brings positive results. If you are struggling and not sure where you are going in life, set your intentions in the way you wish to go. See life as you want it to be and that is what you will soon create.