Create a culture of care and respect in the workplace

Most advice columns offer tried and true practices, and they are soothing to us, but they also limit our options, and often render us complacent. Mary is about possibility; I approach the questions I receive and the answers I deliver as inventions. My theory is that all of life is a story we tell, which in some ways makes everything very easy. If you don’t like what is happening you can always rewrite the story. So in this column I pay attention to the narrative elements of the question, and I pen answers that create new spaces to walk into. I hope to give readers the experience of coming upon an undiscovered room in a house they have long inhabited and thought they knew every inch of.

Dear Mary,

I would like there to be a culture of caring and mutual respect in my workplace. When it gets really busy and some people in management get stressed, tempers flare and they resort to name calling, ie. “why don’t you understand how this is done? You are stupid” (and that is an example of a rather mild interaction). How is it possible to reframe this situation to something like “You don’t understand? Let me help you.” How is it done?


Dear Beverly,

I applaud you for being willing to tackle such a widespread condition. Stress pairs nicely with the notion that a business must grow and exceed its prior results. A very common reaction to feeling unable to cope is to blame your neighbor or you colleague, or indeed, any man, woman, or child standing in your line of view. Blaming is also a cultural norm, so it is probable that this is a way of acting that people in your business find normal, and like a rising tide, it floats all boats regardless of the will or direction of any individual craft.

Short of overthrowing our economic system in favor of slowing down growth, I would suggest you undertake a gradual culture shift:

1. Rename the blamer

Gather a small team of like-minded people, perhaps three or four, and speak of your vision of a best-place-to-work, where there is caring and mutual respect. Agree to intercede, when stress levels are escalating, by asking the blamer “Is there anything I can do to help?” Acknowledge that the blamer is under stress and not acting like his real self.

2. Enroll others in your vision

Concurrently, ask at a staff meeting for a show of hands as to how many people share your dream that your company could be a best-place-to-work. Say what that means to you. All this is much easier to do if you are in a position of authority, but it is also perfectly possible to lead the culture shift from any position in the company.

People may try to trivialize what you are doing by making jokes. Simply laugh good-naturedly and keep moving the conversation along. Ask for suggestions on how to mobilize the new culture.

3. Manage the new conversation for possibility

Meet with your original group of three or four for lunch once a week and have an obviously good time. Talk about possibility; talk about wonderful events and things you love about life. Pretty soon one or another of the staff, as in Harry Met Sally, will want some of what you’re having, and your team will expand. Be sure you are being an ambassador for possibility, which means you will not complain about how hard this is, or how certain people just don’t get it.

Make staff meetings festive, signaling “we love to be together.” Institute acknowledgement of some kind for contributory behavior and make sure that you and your team can find an act of the habitual blamer that you can celebrate for its generosity or kindness. Be specific about what you found positive. Start using humor in a constructive direction, like awarding frog-into-prince statues or a sheep in wolf’s clothing, or a story of Beauty’s Beast in bliss.

Keep asking people in the workplace if they notice a change.

4. Invite communication and expression

Solicit suggestions from everyone about what might make the workplace more pleasant or more enlivening for them, so that they feel heard and see that they have a hand in changing things. Then, if you have regular staff meetings, the dialogue will begin to open up between you and them and possibility will spread beyond you.

How to cope with grief and loss

As we go through life, we lose many things. We lose friends, relatives, parents, looks, youth, wealth, health, jobs, reputation, possibilities, opportunities, love and at the end of it all, life itself. There is just a translucent veil that separates the peaceful, unaffected life from the one that goes suddenly wrong. In any given second the veil tears down with the sudden gush of crisis and pull us inside the murkiness of sudden grief.

Of course most of us never think about this, because if we did, we would never plan or dream; in fact we would never get out of bed.

However, when grief strikes we get sucked into its hollow pit, but we must remember that grief is an emotion that requires the application of deep and insightful imagination to resolve that period of mourning, which is essential to come to terms with these losses. Because by being trapped in “negative grieving,” we are subconsciously “choosing” to keep our heart broken. It is often advised that if we find ourselves stuck in the grieving process and not moving forward through it, we must look for how we can find happiness in everyday things. Keep our focus on doing things that make us feel calmer.

Many people confess that grief feels like fear. The fear of everything coming to a cessation. The fear of you standing on the precipice, looking down at a dark dungeon of nothingness. It feels as if life itself has come to a stop and nothing will ever be the same again.

A friend of mine, Simon Webb, is the social media manager for the UK based company He runs and oversees their social media presence and sees people from all walks of life due to the nature of the business he’s in.

Having dealt with grief himself, we chatted the other day about it and he gave me this insight – he is both European and Asian through descent.

“Different cultures have different rituals for expressing grief and going through periods of mourning. Europeans are more reserved and prefer to keep their grief private. On the flipside – In most Asian countries, grief is expressed through loud weeping.”

Having Simon give me this insight, I then went on to discover that in Mediterranean cultures, wailing in public is an important part of grief and in ancient China people were expected to mourn the death of their parents for 39 months. They were compelled to retire from public life and were expected to go and live quietly in some countryside during this period.

Also in India, group wailing is often observed, when all the relatives and friends gather together to cry, and express the pain loudly when struck by tragedy such as death of a close relative or family. In the villages of Rajasthan (India) when an important person dies they call a troupe of wailing women to express grief at the time of funeral. These wailing women are professional mourners called Rudali. These Rudalis are paid to weep, shed tears, beat their chest, bang their heads and keep crying until a certain period. It is basically done when a rich man dies, to express the loss in a huge way and to showcase how important and wealthy he is.

Imagination training

Imagination training is another method of coping with grief. Imagination training during grief helps us to know that we may be physically or perhaps financially diminished, but the loss and grieving is going to make us emotionally powerful and maybe spiritually enriched.

It also helps to imagine grief as a dark tunnel through which we have to pass, in order to see the sun drenched path again.

However, we are faced with three choices at the entrance of that tunnel:

  • Denying that the loss has occurred.
  • Acknowledging the loss but denying its impact. Not giving in to grief, not inclined to move on.
  • Accepting the loss and working through the period of mourning to reach a healing solution.

If we opt for the third choice, we enter the tunnel. Just remember that the tunnel will be very dark, very black. But there is bound to be a glimmer of light somewhere. While passing that tunnel, the bleakness, the misery and the acute fearfulness will dissipate eventually, leaving you with essential relief.

Like fear, other feelings associated with grief are shock, anger, loneliness, numbness, disbelief and guilt. When any kind of loss occurs, the initial reaction is often a sense of unreality. Phrases like, “I just don’t believe this has happened.” “This feels like a nightmare.” “It must be a mistake.” All these sentences denote confusion and disbelief. There are chances of vacillating or having ambivalent emotions during the period of grieving. One moment a person would stay calm and next they would be crying their heart out. But healing comes after going through various stages of grief.

These stages are denial, anger, depression, resignation and finally acceptance.

Different kinds of losses take different time period depending upon the gravity of loss but in every case, working through grief is like going on a journey.

The journey that might be full of troubled stopovers, but most definitely takes you to calmer roads.

A very brave man

Ted has been my friend for well over thirty years. But curiously, I have never met him. I get a very gentle magazine called “Fellowship in Prayer”, and once long ago they asked if subscribers would like to correspond with prisoners. Of course, I said yes. And that is how Ted and I got connected.

I have never asked my friend what he did to land himself in prison. I felt it was not important unless he wanted to tell me. He never has. And I respect his privacy and dignity in this matter. So, Ted and I relate on more hope-filled dimensions than the mistakes of the past.

We have written letters off and on pretty much continually all these years. When Ted did get out of prison, much to his dismay, he was promptly deported back to the land of his birth. Since he was not an American citizen and had a criminal record, he no longer had the right to live in the USA.

Ted had gone to America as a young child and had no real ties with his home country at all, including the language. But off he went. He knew no one, was unskilled, and had no real work experience. Likewise, his folks, both in the USA, were just making ends meet, so a trip to the “old country” seemed nearly impossible. The situation was dire at best.

Fortunately, Ted hooked up with the church, where priests took care of him, as they do even now. He also made friends in the congregation. They still give him love and support, which he desperately needs.

Added to Ted’s list of woes is that he has developed Parkinson’s disease to the point that he is now in a wheelchair. Yet, in a relatively recent photograph of his, I saw that his mother had indeed managed a visit, which I am sure was a crowning event in her son’s life.

What makes Ted a beautiful person in my mind is that despite his many problems and his tremendous loneliness, depression, and fear that seem to engulf him at times, he has never, ever closed his heart. He feels very deeply, yet is never defensive. Also he humbly notices things that are truly life affirming.

He might write to me and say, “I didn’t feel so great this week, but friends helped me out. “ Or “I can’t write anymore, but I dictate letters to my priest friend and he sees to it they get sent.”

And another arena that shows Ted’s connection to life is in his love of cooking. Every time I hear from him, he sends me a recipe he has either found or created himself. I am not a great cook and have minimal time for the kitchen, but he urges me to send him recipes, which I shamefully seldom do.

The other day he asked if I would get some of his recipes online so others could enjoy his culinary creations. I thought that was a great suggestion, so here are a few of his recipes, just as he wrote them himself.

Bon appetit!

Fish With Selery

Here is a recepie for fish curry with selery:
30 grams fresh fish cut small
30 grams selery fresh cut in small pieces
pinch of hot pepers fresh
soy sauce, bulion chicken a little chives
fresh parsley, fresh garlic pinch fresh and small pieces of tofu.

Stird-fried cucumbers with chicken

35 deco chicken brest cut to small pieces
25 deco fresh cucumbers garden cut tinnly in halfs
5 deco fresh parsley sprinkled with lemon juce lithly
1 smalla amount of chicken bulion
pinch of cholendra fresh
pinch of fresh garlic
small spoon of sweet cream
salt, peper pinch of oregano
First stir-fried chicken sprinkled lightly with lemon juice fresh cookied ad cut in half fresh garden cucumbers add to the chicken.
Cooking it first add chicken bulion, pinch of cholendra, fresh garlic, peper, salt, pinch oregano. Mixed lightly add small spoon sweet cream. Make sure that lemon sprinkled chicken do sour the sweet cream. Add last fresh parsley.
Served with wild rice.

Fish in celery salad

35 deco white fish fresh cut in squers so they cooked in stir-fried for a seconds cooked fast.
30 deco celery stacks fresh cut in to squares
1 spoon small chives fresh, small amount of curry sprinkled lightly, small amount of fresh basil and
˝ teaspoon of mustard, normal hot mustard,
home made fresh mayonaise add salt peper
˝ teaspoon sweet red pepers mixed lightly to tick salad look not runny
Served french bread baked daily in stores or home made backed.

Stired fried shrimps in whisky sauce

35 deco fresh shrimps medium size not large
sprinkled with whiskey lightly, don’t go aflemed cover the wack fast so don’t flames up, light up. Vegetable bulion small amount,
salt pepers fresh pinch, thicken it with flower.
Served with curry rice.
To make curry rice, rice coked rice with small amount of curry, so the rice is not overcooked.

Fresh dill salad

2 eggs hard boiled cut to squares
˝ spoon red onions fresh cut to squares
1 medium size (fresh) boiled parsley root cut to squares, don’t overcooked so it cut to squares
1 spoon dill fresh cut small pinch of fresh ginger salth peper, yogurt mayonaise mixed lightly. Served on rye bread.
Bread home made or garlic.

Bambu soup with fresh spinach and tofu with shrimp in chicken broth bullion

30 deco bambu water chestnuts sliced tinnely
20 deco shrimps fresh
2 deco ginger root fresh cut into small pieces
1 spoon chicken
bulion leveled spoon
5 cups water
pinch of fresh garlic
small amount 15 deco
Rice noodles
15 deco fresh spinich
1 ˝ grams cholendra, parsley fresh
20 deco tofu
First take 5 cups of water, put in boil add chicken broth and shrimps so it cooks in the broth. Add bambu water chestnuts, ginger root fresh, pinch of garlic fresh, salt, peper. Cut small spinich. Add rice noodles. Add tofu, lastly cholendra and fresh parsley and served.

Read bean salad

1 can red bean without water dry beans cooked
1 large spoon sweet pepers
1 spoon mustard (french) dark
1 spoon of red onions
1 large spoon of cheddar cheese cut to squares
pinch of fresh garlic
sprinkle with sweet orange juice lightly
small spoon of parsley
1 large spoon of smoked ham
1 ˝ spoons of mayonaise
salth,peper, pinch of cumy and ginger mixed first all the vegetables add mustard and mayonaise. Refrigerate.

Garlic hot peper chicken in yogurt sauce

1 lg chicken breast cut to squares (or beef)
5 grams fresh garlic
1 hot peper fresh cut out the seeds thinly sliced.
Salt, chives (pinch) fresh 1 ˝ large spoon of plain yogurt, oriental season mix (pinch) cooked the chicken. Add garlic fresh, hot peppers salt seasoning oriental mixed and yogurt served with rice.

Spigeti noodles in bacon cheese sauce (warmed) served

1 package noodles rice or regular noodles
30 deco cheddar cheese
35 dkg beacon, not fat beacon lean with meat cut squares
1 spoon red onion cut squares
pinch of fresh garlic
drain fat away dry from bacon when cooked lean bacon in pan with onions. Add after bacon cooked drain dry add cooked onions still to the bacon cooked together. Add butter (little) milk meting, cheddar cheese in milk and little butter when the sauce in made poor over noodles toped lightly fresh baisl leafs.

Stir-fried Brussels with beef

15 large (medium) brussels cut in halfs or thinly fresh
20 deco beef tinnly sliced good tenderly, pinch of fresh garlic, salth, peper, oregano pinch, pinch of chicken bulion
pinch cholendra cookied in a wack till tender is beef crispi brussels served with curry rice.

Stuffed hot pepers with ground beef and cheese and bacon

4 large hot peppers fresh without seeds
15 deco ground beef lean without fat
pinch of garlic, pinch of salth
4 large lean slices bacon, pinch of red onion
10 deco cheddar cheese ground up
pinch of parsley
Take 4 hot peppers fresh, wash them with water. Take a pan cook ground beef with garlic. Red onions seson cookied till is cooked cool it for a whitle 10 minutes in plater mixed the ground up beef with cheddar cheese and parsley. Stuffed the bacon first then ground beef with cheddar cheese. Bake it in oven for 8 minutes till peppers are soft and cheese melted cooked lean bacon.
Served with baked potatoes.

You are what you think, you are what you believe

Many of us have handed over our health and well being to an outsider called the ‘good doctor’. In effect, we have given up an innate capability of healing ourselves when something goes out of balance in our body. This capability comes through our own belief system. As with anything, if we believe we can, it may come true and if we believe otherwise, that will come true too. This is true for our health too.

Now there is research to prove this.

Bruce Lipton in his book Biology of Belief wrote;

“I was exhilarated by new realization that I could change the character of my life by changing my beliefs.”

We live in a delicate dynamic balance, not only with other life forms, but with the physical environment as well. It was life’s harmony – not life’s struggle – that Lipton was inspired by.

Biology’s central premise is that genes control life. “Not so”, says Lipton. “It is our environment and beliefs and not our gene driven hormones and neurotransmitters that control our bodies and minds”.

This opposes contemporary biology that lingers in the physical age of Newtonian linear thinking as opposed to the new quantum age where there are no absolutes. The quantum world is invisible. It is about fields of energy and cannot be physically grasped. Our beliefs are not absolute. They are personal and how and what we believe cannot be measured in any way.

Biology also pays little attention to the important role of co-operation, because it’s Darwinian roots emphasize life’s competitive nature. So, the world has shaped itself around the ‘survival of the fittest’ philosophy. So, we generally leave things up to the genes.

Biology is also in alignment with the Cartesian system of development where the mind and body split is its cornerstone. Body is physical and mind is not. Quantum philosophy, on the other hand, accepts the mind-body linkage and accepts mind as a field of energy.

So, what is standing in the way of people moving in the quantum direction ?

It is the fear of the unknown compounded by the medical establishment’s propagation of the old system for its own survival and economic gains.

So, the medical establishment has the whole world sewn up in their philosophy of “The good doctor is always right”. So, we hand over our illness to the ‘good doctor’ who writes us a prescription for some chemicals, which we happily take and get better. So, the cycle is perpetuated and reinforced. We are afraid to move outside this paradigm. After all this is our life we are dealing with. What we do not realize is that the most ‘good doctors’ have a huge pharmaceutical industry behind them. That is why news such as the western medical industry kills as many as 300,000 people annually in the USA (Death by Medicine; Null et al – 2003) gets stifled by the establishment.

We are also happy to ignore this as we have become comfortable with our dependence on the ‘good doctor’ – who may not be so good for our health after all.

So, this requires a mind shift in our thinking. We need to value ourselves more and trust in our own belief system. This is linked to our self esteem.

Self Esteem

If we define self esteem as the confidence in our right to be happy, feeling of being worthy and the ability to think and cope with the basic challenges of life, our beliefs are central to keeping our esteem up.

If our self esteem is low we may not have confidence in our own belief system.

So, how do we build our self esteem when it comes to our health? It is not easy.

I am not espousing that we abandon the medical system entirely. It has its merits in overcoming many health hazards that could destroy us. It just needs to be put in perspective. We have to understand that it has limitations too. On the other hand, as thinking, believing humans, we have a major say in managing our own health. Drugs may cure a particular illness, but often it has other side effects, that may make us ill later and even kill.

Also when we go to the doctor and take the prescribed drugs, we hand over the entire process of curing to them. We do not take ownership of the problem and the solution. So, we become passive observers in the process. We lose our self esteem in the process, as we feel helpless.

When we understand that our mind and beliefs can help in the cure, in balancing the system, our self esteem will rise.

What proof is there that our mind has so much power ?

The Proof in the Placebo

A placebo is an inert drug (usually a sugar pill) given in place of a drug for a certain illness. Scientists have done many experiments using placebos as alternatives to actual drugs in controlled experiments and found people get cured in the same way. How can that be ?

The only explanation is that our minds were fooled into believing that the drug, whether it was a sugar pill or a chemical, was going to cure us. Only that we believed it was a drug. This belief sent a signal to our mind to commence the curing process. Once we realize that it was just a sugar pill that cured us, it will enable us to think differently about the power of our beliefs. That will lead to our increased self esteem, when it comes to health.

Self esteem is also linked to our emotional well being. Our ability to respect self and others and live positively amongst others is a part of this. These are based on our values and behaviors which in turn anchor our emotional well being. Go deeper and all this is based on our spirituality.

We need to put spirituality back into life when we want to improve our physical and mental health. So, we have to become more aware of our mind and body. Becoming aware will help us to realize that we do have control over it all. A fully conscious mind wins over both nurture and nature.

So, Lipton, through his research and the book has given credence to age old traditional health systems like Ayurveda that are usually ridiculed by the establishment. It has also given us an opportunity to take better control of our lives, which will result in improving self esteem, thereby becoming more aware citizens of this world.

Lipton says, “You can live a life of fear or live a life of love. If you live a life of love your body will respond with good health”.

Prevention is the best cure

Prevention includes all the measures health providers use to keep their patients healthy, such as vaccinations, cancer screening tests, and counseling. As a primary care doctor, my practice has a major focus on preventive medicine. But this new report reveals doctors are falling far short of providing optimum preventive care for their patients. The five simple steps are all standard, established procedures that, sadly, are underutilized in our healthcare system.

Given the challenges in our healthcare system with various obstacles for preventive care, such as high deductibles for preventive services or lack of insurance coverage, empowering individuals (along with their doctors), will have the greatest impact in saving lives. The choices we make about the way we live shape the quality of the life we lead. Choosing to make these steps a priority can help bring remarkable quality to our lives.

So what are these five easy steps?

  1. Take daily aspirin to help prevent heart disease. An impressive 45,000 lives would be saved annually if we increased to 90 percent the number of people who use aspirin daily to help prevent heart disease. Currently, fewer than half of American adults who would benefit from taking daily aspirin preventively actually do so.
  1. Stop smoking. An estimated 42,000 lives would be saved annually if we increased to 90 percent the number of smokers who receive smoking cessation support through tools, such as counseling or medication, from their health provider. Currently, only 28 percent of smokers receive advice from their physician on how to quitting smoking.
  1. Colon cancer screening. Fewer than half of Americans age 50 and older receives regular screening tests for colon cancer. Increasing the amount of people screened to 90 percent would translate to 14,000 additional lives saved.
  2. Get your flu shot. Too few adults over age 50 receive their annual influenza vaccination. Study results showed only 37 percent of people in this age group get this crucial immunization. Increasing this number to 90 percent would save 12,000 lives each year.
  3. Stay up-to-date with your breast cancer screening. Barely 67 percent of women over age 40 received recommended breast cancer screening tests during the past two years. By raising the number of screened women to 90 percent, 4,000 lives would be saved each year.

Ben Franklin was right in his remark “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” So why have we been neglecting to make these simple, healthy choices? Why aren’t more people getting flu vaccines, quitting smoking, or getting cancer screening tests? In part, it may be that we only consider seeing our doctor when we are sick, rather than before we get sick. Prevention may be a new concept for some, but it should be the cornerstone of how we think about healthy living. Each of us has the power to make a profound difference in the direction of our own health. Doctors have heard the appeal to amend their practices and renew their commitment to prevention. They understand their responsibility for the shortfalls in use of preventive services and the resulting negative impact on lives. While policymakers work to remove the financial restraints and access dilemmas inherent in our healthcare system, each of us can help close the gaps in the use of these five preventive services by choosing to put prevention into practice for ourselves.

The Key to True Happiness: Does it Even Exist?

Do you feel like happiness is more elusive than ever? Like God must have skipped you when he was handing out the “happy” gene?

I have to admit I used to feel that way. And it never made sense to me because I had a great childhood. But then suddenly depression hit me like a brick wall. For the life of me I couldn’t understand why I should feel depressed when I had so much to be thankful for.

At that point in my life I chased happiness like it was a runaway freight train full of gold. I seemed to have read every resource out there on how to be happy. But somehow true happiness seemed to always be out of my reach.

It wasn’t until this passed Fall that I had a grand realization about happiness.

But let me be clear that when I speak of happiness, I don’t mean the constant state of feeling elated each and every waking hour of my life. What I’m referring to is a general state of mind. Of course I expect highs and lows in life – anything otherwise would be unnatural and unhealthy.

So what happened in the Fall? Well, first of all I started back to work full time. The previous year I had been part time as a way to “ease back in” to work after my long illness.

Everything was going quite well until I started feeling those signs of depression again. I know them now, and I wasn’t going to wait for a major setback before taking action.

I immediately (quite literally the next day) dropped down to part time and that’s where I’m at today – and I’m thriving.

Now, you might be wondering how I manage to keep up a blog if I was struggling to keep my full-time day job. Well, this is where the big epiphany came for me – because I asked myself the same question.

You see, when I was teaching full time I truly enjoyed it. But the problem was, I had no time to myself when working those kinds of hours. I desperately wanted to write, but just couldn’t make it happen.

Not having time to foster my passion for writing made me feel trapped. I had to go to work every day for a certain time, and when I came home I was exhausted. But I didn’t have any choice – or so I thought.

When I switched to part time it meant I now had my mornings to myself. After getting the kids ready and off to school, I can now do what I want (to the degree that we can all do what we want ;) ).

I can write all morning; I can clean up the house; I can do errands; I can do whatever I think will make me feel productive that day.

So, the key to true happiness? Choices. It’s when we feel that we have no control over what’s going on in our lives that our happiness starts to dwindle.

And although I enjoy teaching, it wasn’t enough to fulfill me. I needed an outlet for my love of writing and now I have it.

You may not be able to currently do something as drastic as going from working full time at your day job to part time, but there are many other ways to give yourself choices in your life:

1. Choose to give yourself the gift of time. Allot a certain hour or half hour of the day to do whatever it is you want. Even if it’s only 15 min, this will feel very liberating.

2. Choose to follow your passion. Give up unnecessary activities such as T.V. and Facebook. This will give you more time to pursue want you really want in life. Think about it…Do you know anyone whose passion in life is to watch more T.V.?

3. Choose to say no. Say no to the myriad of after-school activities you have your children enrolled in (they may even thank you!). Say no to a co-worker when they ask you if you have time to take on yet another project.

4. Choose to be honest with yourself. Lying will get you nowhere – especially when it’s to yourself. Are you living your best life? What realistic changes can you make that will make life more fulfilling?

5. Choose to give yourself choices. Seem redundant? Think about it. Often we keep telling our selves we “don’t have a choice”, when actually, we always do. You just have to be willing to open your eyes and your mind to all the possibilities in front of you.

6. Choose to be happy. Stop chasing. Just be.

And lastly, take your focus off of your state of mind and start counting your blessings. Put your focus on helping someone else. You’ll hopefully realize that not only are you not as bad off as you thought, but nothing breeds happiness like doing something for others.