The power of one

My COVID excuse is about to expire.

I used the opportunity offered by the restrictions to go deep within myself and question my “why” and the way I’d been living life.

As restrictions are lifted and I contemplate the immanent opening up of life, I want to be mindful about how I re-engage with the world.

2020 was heralded as the year of clear and perfect vision and, for me, it didn’t disappoint.

I’ve seen how hatred begets more hatred, how judgment and separation keep us from understanding what’s different, and the consequences of blindly following without critical thinking.

I’ve watched the destruction that comes when we judge others who differ from us as lacking, stupid, and wrong.

I’ve experienced the understanding that comes when I respectfully connect with others who live differently or hold different view points. I’ve found commonality as I listened to understand instead of prove my point and argue, and to connect with the humanness of others.

An eye-for-an-eye only leaves the world blind, and it’s time to see more clearly. I’ve truly found the benefits of not judging and staying curious.

I’ve learned, ever more deeply, what’s important as the extraneous busyness dropped away. It’s been healing for me and has called me to a more meaningful way of living. People, human caring, and connection are essential to our well being and survival.

As much as there’s been great sadness, division, and fear, I also witnessed the goodness of humanity rising to support one another.

Communities have rallied together like never before. I love the word community, because it’s our common unity, joining together in the most human way that matters the most.

One man in our community, John Thiessen, owner of Engaged Films, has been a leader in inspiring and gathering people to do good and make a positive difference in the lives of many locals.

John’s call to action happened unexpectedly on Nov. 24, 2019, when he saw past the stereotype of homelessness and became a community champion, giving voice to the voiceless, and rallying people to help in a meaningful way.

John believes in adding value to life through meaningful engagement, and used the power of one to give many others the opportunity to help; he’s a man of action.

John’s a humble man who created ripples of goodness that became a tsunami of care. He also organized opportunities at Christmas and Easter to provide for locals whose lives were compromised by the pandemic.

He buoyed up people’s spirits, and gave us hope and meaning in the darkness of what was happening by offering us a way to help others. John constantly reminded his followers to remember the gentle art of kindness, gratitude, and thinking of others.

Our Christmas and Easter of solitude was made so much happier and better because of John’s call to help. It pulled me out of my own navel-gazing and caused me to remember my own ability to serve and how wonderful it feels to contribute meaningfully to help others.

The power of one person, John Thiessen, who looked beyond his own circumstances, identifying a need, and taking action, blessed not only recipients, but each and every person who participated in sharing their good.

We feel better when we remember our common unity, instead of our differences, and reach out to help other people.

We all have something to give, no matter our circumstances. Many of those who were recipients of caring also participated in giving what they could contribute to others. The small ripple grew into a wave and it lifted everyone.

John is a great community leader because, despite having suffered from COVID and its effects, and the economic challenges due to a downturn in his industry, he found his why and a place to find and offer meaning and purpose in the chaos.

John has exemplified the power of one person saying “Yes” and calling others to action.

The value of one second in time is important to John; knowing one second, one choice can make a positive difference in someone’s life. He uses his seconds wisely.

Community engagement saved John during a time of great personal darkness and challenge in his life. He said helping others helped him more than those he supported. It gave him purpose and meaning, and a powerful answer to the ‘why’ of living.

Each of us has been changed by the events of the past 16 months, and let it change us for the better. Consider your why, and what gives your life value and meaning.

Let all we’ve learned change us at depth for the better as we remember the power of one, and the ripple of goodness that became a wave of kindness in our community.

Harness the power of one; it becomes the power of many. Thank you, John.

Nomophobia: new disease?

It was close. I could have hit her and then this would be a different story.

I am thankful I saw the woman as she stepped blindly in front of me into traffic, her eyes glued to a cellphone. She was so absorbed by her fascinating screen, she was oblivious to how close she’d come to her demise.

As my heart slowed down to normal, I again lamented the Invasion of zombies that have overtaken society.

As I glanced around me, at least two-thirds of the people on the sidewalks were exactly the same; their eyes glued to their devices. Here, in one of the most beautiful places in the world, they were unaware of their surroundings.

While drinking-and-driving is a well-known recipe for disaster, the risk of cellphone use and walking may be lesser known. People are getting hurt because of this habit, experiencing:

  • Sprains
  • Concussions
  • Broken bones
  • Brain injuries
  • Even death

All because their eyes are glued to a screen.

I’ve had to dodge people while walking down the sidewalk because they’re oblivious about where they’re walking. In London, England, they’ve resorted to padding lamp posts to save people from themselves.

Let’s face it, cellphone addiction is rampant — two-out-of-three people are addicted to their device.

It’s common to see people being alone together, each glued to the screen in front of them. It’s like an invisible cage they’re held in, absorbed in the virtual reality of a device.

Have you ever been interrupted mid-sentence because someone’s cellphone beeped or rang while you were visiting? Whoever was on the other end was more important than anything you have to say.

It doesn’t feel very good, does it? What happens to relationships in the context of this ever-present digital companion?

While it’s easy to go blind to what’s become normal, it’s valuable to question what’s happening to us as a society with our growing addiction to our devices.

I admit to having a love-hate relationship with mine. With a world of information at our fingertips, we seem to be anywhere else but where we are.

I’ve noticed any moment of waiting seems to present opportunity to check these ubiquitous devices. We love our technology, which is great when we’re using it, not when it’s using us.

Nomophobia, a new word born from our love of technology, is the fear of being without a mobile device or being outside of cell range. It’s really a thing.

My friends Jim and Kim Rhindress even wrote a song about the prevalence of this new phobia. I thought it was a joke, until I realized it isn’t.

My awareness of the growing epidemic of cellphone addiction heightened when I viewed a photo series, Removed, by Eric Pickersgill.

Pickersgill captured photos of people in modern life, consumed by their devices, except the devices were removed from their hands in his photos. Images that are all too familiar in today’s society become odd, absurd, and alarming through Pickersgill’s lens.

This photo series was like a cold slap of reality to me. The stark truth of what’s happening caused me to wake-up and notice the isolating and intrusive nature of life married to digital devices.

I call it the invasion of the zombies.

Technology is good, but overusing it creates challenges for the cognitive function of our brains. There are many health costs arising from cellphone addiction.

It may be startling to realize the abilities of our brains are changing due to the increased use of technology.

We are harming our ability to remember and to solve simple problems on our own.

How many phone numbers can you remember? Are you able to quickly calculate sale prices in your head? Our spatial awareness is being altered through the use of Google Maps. Use it or lose it.

As I stood with a young clerk in a store recently, she was shocked when I was quickly able to calculate the final price of an item when the sale price was 20% off. She was impressed. I’m concerned that she was impressed.

Digital dementia, a term coined by Manfred Spitzer in 2012, is the breakdown of the ability of the brain to think. Poor short-term memory, anxiety, depression, and sleep disorders are only a few of the consequences of the overuse of technology.

Whether it’s distracted walking, digital dementia, or relationship challenges arising from over-use of digital devices, the effects are alarming. We’re the only ones who can change it for ourselves.

As my friend Jeff cautioned, “Beware the cyber-toothed tiger.”

Realm of Hungry Ghosts

What separates me from those souls living lives tortured by addiction to drugs and alcohol?

Not much!

I know luck and Divine intervention played a big roll in the way my life turned out.

My parents were alcoholics and two of my three brothers died because of their addictions. I am thankful my one remaining brother, Dave, found Alcoholics Anonymous and sobriety many years ago.

Just because I didn’t turn to substances doesn’t mean I escaped unscathed by addiction. I found a more socially acceptable form, and it made me sick.

The more I work with people, the more I realize many of us have an ‘aholic’ running our lives.

While I escaped addiction to drugs and alcohol, my form of addiction was erosive and detrimental to my health. My addiction was greatly encouraged and valued by others, making it tricky to stop.

It became a part of my identity for a long time, until it nearly took me out.

I was a workaholic. Internal pain drove my addiction; it robbed me of life and made me sick.

Through the work of Dr. Gabor Maté, a renowned addiction expert, author, and speaker who worked in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, I’ve come to understand what laid beneath my addiction.

He says addiction isn’t about moral failure or genetics; addictions of all varieties are rooted in trauma.

Whether it’s being a workaholic, shopaholic, sexaholic, over-eating, overuse of the internet, or drug/alcohol use, helping people heal from trauma is the answer.

According to Maté, “trauma is not what happens to you, it’s what happens inside you as a result of what happened to you. Trauma is that scarring that makes you less flexible, more rigid, less feeling, and more defended.”

In his 2009 award-winning book, In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts, Maté revealed that the neuro-biological source of addiction is rooted in trauma. Our brains and nervous systems are influenced by trauma and each person responds differently to traumatic situations.

According to Maté, our lives are shaped by the invisible force of trauma, which affects the way we live, love, and see the world.

In speaking of people who’re addicted, he wrote, “the painful longing in their hearts reflects something of the emptiness that may also be experienced by people with apparently happier lives.”

Trauma creates a sense of emptiness or pain, causing us to seek outside of ourselves to soothe this feeling with substances, objects, or pursuits.

Addictions of all kinds are an attempt to soothe an insatiable inner need and to quell painful feelings arising from trauma, but the beast is never truly fed with these attempts to soothe.

I believe we’ve all experienced a collective trauma as we’ve navigated the pandemic and the challenges of the past year. I’m curious about how we’ll all emerge as the world opens up. Understanding more about trauma and how it may show up in our lives is important.

It’s timely that a new movie, The Wisdom of Trauma, featuring Maté, will be premiered from June 8-14.

In this movie, Maté shares his vision for a trauma-informed society, offering us hope of healing what drives addiction, pain, and troubling behaviours. The movie is only available during this seven-day period.

I encourage you to check out the website and learn more about the cycles of trauma. There’s even a wonderful free download of The Wisdom of Trauma; Companion Booklet.

Addictions of all kinds are indeed the shadow of our society, and according to Maté, “No society can understand itself without looking at its shadow.”

His vision is to create a trauma-informed society.

As we get curious about what drives the insatiable urge of any addiction, we move closer to creating a more compassionate society and truly breaking the cycles of trauma and addiction.

This important work of being trauma informed may be for others, or for ourselves.


Seeing the world clearly

Oh, the stories we tell ourselves.

The many stories I’ve told myself over the years have caused me suffering, as they reinforced my beliefs about myself, others, and the world.

I used to view myself and the world darkly. My experience of life wasn’t great.

We have habitual ways of seeing ourselves, life, and others. And, because of the confirmation bias, the tendency to see only what matches our beliefs, we always get to be right.

Our lenses are often tinted or shaded, limiting what we’re able to see.

I’ve found this to be true, and I learned much of my personal suffering was a direct result of optical rectumitis, also known as a crappy view of life.

I was quick to judge, and slow to change my mind. I was the author of my own painful experience.

It was a powerful moment when I learned to question my beliefs and assumptions, and consider there might be another way to look at things. This revolutionary act was liberating.

A friend recently had her world beautifully shaken as she asked herself, “What if everything I’ve always believed isn’t true.”

The prospect filled her with fear and excitement, as habitual perceptions came into question.

It’s been lovely to see this friend open and soften as she allowed herself to see the world in a different way.

As Wayne Dyer wrote, “if you change the way you look at things, the thing you look at change.”

My world was cracked open when I first heard the phrase, “be curious, not judgmental.” My dear friend, Jane, changed my life when she shared this wisdom of American poet Walt Whitman with me.

Learning to stay open and curious and not judge people and life’s circumstances through my worst assumptions created space for me to see things differently.

I stopped taking life and others’ behaviour personally, and learned to see things in a better light.

I’ve found it helpful to take a breath and ask myself, “what’s really going on here?” Curiosity opens up our awareness to look past the surface, and gives us the potential of learning more.

I came to recognize that people are trying their best, given their histories, beliefs, and circumstances. I’ve found most unskilled human behaviour is the tragic expression of an unmet need.

I’ve found beneath many reserved or prickly exteriors, there’s a person who could benefit from caring presence and understanding.

Being willing to question my beliefs and assumptions and see beyond the surface has offered me places to show up with caring and compassion instead of judgment.

This feels better for me, and the world feels like a much friendlier place.

Learning to stay open and curious, and allowing others the grace and understanding we, ourselves would hope to receive, allows us to calm the waters, not only for others, but also for ourselves.

More New Thought articles

About the Author

Corinne is first a wife, mother, and grandmother, whose eclectic background has created a rich alchemy that serves to inform her perspectives on life.

Corinne, a registered nurse with a master’s degree in Health Science, is a staff minister with the Centre for Spiritual Living Kelowna, and a hospice volunteer. She is an adjunct professor with the school of nursing  at UBC Okanagan, and is currently teaching smartUBC, a unique Mindfulness program offered at UBC, to the public. She is an invited speaker and presenter.

From diverse experience and knowledge, personally and professionally, Corinne has developed an extraordinary passion for helping people to gain a new perspective, awaken, and to recognize that we do not have to be a slave to our thoughts or to life; we are always at a point of change.

Through this column, Corinne blends her insights and research to provide food for the mind and the heart, to encourage an awakening of the power and potential within everyone.

Corinne lives in Kelowna with her husband of 41 years, and can be reached at [email protected].

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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