Tag Archives: Compassion

Mindfulness on a Rainy Day

Today’s post is going to be a little shorter than normal. Why write more words than you have to?

As I mentioned last week, the weather here in Ontario has been unusual in all sorts of different ways over the last few years. We have finally seemed to drift away from the summer-like heat of September and early October, but we’re continuing to experience the same kinds of heavy rainstorms we did this past spring and summer.

Yesterday was a particularly drizzly day. We didn’t get many millimetres of rain, but it did rain off and on so frequently that it felt like the world was always going to be this damp. What made me giggle about this thought was that only a few days ago I felt like the world was going to remain hot and humid forever.

Oh, how things change. Sometimes it happens when we least expect it, too.

I stood in front of my window and watched the rain fall. There weren’t any particular thoughts rolling through my mind in that moment. It was relaxing to watch the people, cars, and bicyclists pass by on the ground below me.

Suddenly, I remembered a story from my childhood that had to do with rainy days and the things people do on them.

Old Memories Surfaced

When I was a child, I loved going out for long walks in the rain. My mother didn’t know this at the time, but I used to collect some of the earthworms that crawled onto the sidewalks when the ground became too soggy to hold them.

Some of those worms came home with me if I thought they weren’t strong enough to survive outside or if I hadn’t already picked up my fair share of them during the current storm. Sometimes people accidentally stepped on worms on the sidewalk. It made me sad to see them injured. I tried my best to help out the ones I could. There was an aquarium filled with soil and plants in my bedroom where they could live safely, so that’s where I put them.

A year or two later, my family moved a few thousand miles away. One of the many things we did before we packed up the moving van and began a new chapter of our family’s adventure in the same state my siblings and I were born in was to take that aquarium and dump the soil (and earthworms!) into our backyard. I assume we repotted the plants as well, but I don’t remember that part of that day.

It wasn’t until all of the soil had been dumped out that mom noticed there were an extremely large number of plump, healthy worms wiggling around in it. I believe I told her what I’d been doing at that point and that she was surprised by it. One of my strongest memories of that day was feeling surprised that she hadn’t noticed what I’d been up to. I’d always assumed that she had ways of knowing everything her kids did!

It’s funny how a storm can dredge up half-forgotten moments like that. I hadn’t thought about that memory in years.

Mindfulness Through It All

The rain continued to fall yesterday. I saw people scurrying on the street below. They stayed close to the buildings and other covered parts of the street. Maybe that was why I only saw a handful of opened umbrellas being used down there? The sidewalk was quite damp, but there weren’t too many big puddles on the ground.

One of the things I appreciate the most about practicing mindfulness is how it frees me to enjoy little moments like this one.

I smiled at the memories that cropped up in my mind. When they faded away again, I returned to watching what was happening on the street.

There’s something beautiful about living in the moment like that. I was grateful for the rain and for the time to relive a happy, old memory before returning to the present day.

The Third Option: A Response to Take Nothing Personally

This post was originally published on February 10, 2014. I will have a fresh topic for my readers on Monday!

Feed the real hunger, which is a plea for understanding. It’s their cry for help. The question is how we answer the cry. It starts with compassion. I’m not talking about pity, or pop psychologizing someone in the heat of their rage. That will make it worse. I’m talking about genuinely feeling compassion for the other person, and hearing their pain.

From Take Nothing Personally.

I strongly recommend reading the entire post I linked to above. It’s short and has an extremely powerful message.

By no means should this blog post be construed as a criticism of “Take Nothing Personally.”  I’ve seen how genuine compassion can transform people that you’d never imagine would be capable of such great change, but I would argue that there’s a third option other than responding with anger or compassion.

Compassion-LogoTake a step back.

Not every battle has your name on it. Not every person you meet will be willing to (or capable of) changing. Sometimes the kindest and most compassionate thing you can do is stop trying to fix someone who hasn’t reached a place in his or her life yet when they’re ready to take that step.

I’m not saying that we should completely cut off people who cry out for help through their anger, abrasiveness, or overwhelming desire to control others. Life isn’t always that black and white.

But you can turn the dial down. Call once a week instead of every day, or visit a few times a year instead of twice a month. There are many ways to set limits, and doing so can be really good for your mental health. Some relationships work better with a little distance.

The beautiful thing about steps is that they’re flexible and reversible. The limits you set today might be completely unnecessary tomorrow. Or they might need to be drawn in tighter in order to keep the relationship as healthy as possible.

By all means practice compassion, but remember that it can be used in a wide variety of ways and from any distance.

How the Worst Moments in Our Lives Makes Us Who We Are

If the embedded video doesn’t play, click here.

This is a 20 minute talk about how people find meaning in their own suffering without relying on supernatural or religious explanations for it. If you don’t want to watch the whole thing, try skipping through the first half. The last 5-10 minutes is where this talk gets really good.

Andrew Solomon acknowledges that you can do this while still being really angry about what happened. You don’t have to say something is at all ok in order to find meaning in it.

Here is where I disagree with Andrew. I understand why he focuses so much on the circumstances that have spurred people into doing amazing things, but the former is much less important than the latter.  This is a minor quibble with an otherwise invigorating talk, though, and I suspect that he’d agree with me if we were sitting down to dinner. It’s hard to compress this kind of worldview into such a short amount of time.


Is It Ok to Not Like Kids?

A response to I Don’t Like Kids. There, I Said It

I actually agree with much of what Nissa has to say on this subject. Many years ago I decided to never become a mother for the same reasons she mentions: a complete lack of interest in parenting, a strong preference for a quiet, orderly adulthood and a desire to not add to the seven billion+ humans already in existence. To be honest I don’t think life on earth is going to be pleasant for anyone in 50-100 years and I’d rather not be responsible for creating one or more people who would still be alive if and when ecosystems collapse.

It makes me cringe when other Childfree adults say they don’t like children, though. Let’s substitute a few other groups in that sentence. Is it ok to say you just don’t like black people? Bisexuals? Women? Mormons? New Democrats?

Any group will include members who do things others find irritating but it’s counterproductive and unethical to punish everyone for something one person said or did. Not all children are noisy or distracting. My favourite activity as soon as I learned how to read was picking a good book and curling up to read behind the couch or underneath my grandmother’s piano while the adults talked.

Occasionally new grown-ups treated me like a nuisance because they assumed I couldn’t sit still and be quiet. Nothing could be further from the truth and being treated differently based on their pre-conceived expectations hurt. Now that I’m an adult I see no reason to say, “I don’t like kids!” (Or the equally inane, “I love kids!”)

Specific behaviours may be annoying or endearing but there will always be children in this world who are nothing like your ideas of them.

A few years ago a romantic dinner with my husband was marred by a table full of demanding, shrieking…businessmen. Every man at that table was so drunk he didn’t realize how loud their table was or that not everyone found them amusing.

Kids are individuals. I adore some of them, like others, and have met a small handful that I never want to meet again but the same can be said for Christians, lesbians, bloggers, cyclists, and librarians . 😉


They Don’t Belong Here

It was a cold, windy afternoon.

While checking out some library books I heard a conversation heating up:

“… and they could have bedbugs.” The woman anxiously jerked her grey curls to three men reading in the corner surrounded by their tattered backpacks and faded grocery bags.

“Everyone is welcome here,” the clerk replied.

“But bedbugs jump! Someone could be infected just by walking by them.”

“I can’t ask them to leave just because they have a few bags.”

“Well, how are you going to keep the books safe? Vancouver has had serious issues with bedbugs hiding in their library books. They’ve even had to shut down some of their facilities.” [note: I have no idea if this is true by any stretch of the imagination.]

“We vacuum and clean the library regularly.”

“That isn’t enough! There are other community centres they can use. They don’t need to stay here…”

To be honest, I had sympathy for everyone involved here:

  •  The clerk for being forced to entertain such a bizarre request.
  •  The disheveled men for once again being stereotyped and rejected.
  •  And even the woman who made the complaint. It must be exhausting to live with that much anxiety.


Anyone old enough to read this has no doubt had his or her own share of interesting encounters in public spaces. Come tell us about them in the comment section.



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