Sharin the Journey: A Note from the Director

hands on wheel chair handles

Recently my husband Joe and I went up to Niagara to visit my parents.  While we were catching up and making a plan for what we would be doing together my parents shared that they had only one commitment for the day and that was to go to Maryhill (the local nursing home) and push people down.  My sweet husband (of course knew what they were referring to but) responded anyway, “There’s something that sounds not quite right about that.  Is that what you do for entertainment around here…go the nursing home to push people down?”  We all had a good laugh.  You see my mom and dad are very active volunteers at the nursing home.  One of the things they do is to push the residents in their wheelchairs or beds down to the chapel for the daily service or mass.  They have over the years shortened the description of this labor of love to “pushing people down.”

This bring a smile to your face story, does demonstrate a very important principle of communication.  Many times our actions, body language or even words all play a significant part in communicating effectively with others.  In this story my parents words certainly did not convey the message they intended.  Not being aware that there is often an “under our radar” message being sent can create problems with misunderstandings, confusion, hurt feelings and even significant conflicts in relationships.

Here is an example of a more common “message mix-up.”   “The dishes are always left out on the counter.  I have asked that they get put in the dishwasher so I don’t have to deal with them when I get home from work.”   Given the chance to explore, this person will usually connect to the fact that it is not so much the dishes being on the counter but the message being taken in by the action.  Often the message is; “They don’t respect me.  They don’t care about me. or I don’t matter enough to them.”  At this point the individual who is leaving the dishes out usually indicates that they truly do respect and care about the other.  It was never their intention to be disrespectful or less caring towards the person.  They just had no idea that their actions were sending such a hurtful message.

woman with question marks above his head
man with question marks above his head

One way each of us can try to minimize “message mix-ups” is to walk aware of what possible message we might be sending.  If someone gets upset about what we have said or done, checking in with the person to ask what message they received from us could go a long way to minimize hurt feelings and reset the relationship.  Another option is to remember to ask ourselves the question, what message do I want my spouse, my friend, my parent to take away?  Working from the question we can make choices that insure the message we want to send is the message that gets sent.  We can make sure that our actions and our delivery system are all working to send the message we want.

Sharin the Journey: a note from the Director

Peace in Preparedness.

by: Peggy Mason

child attempting to bake, has hands on her head

Don’t we all wish we were prepared for anything?  Really?  Who in their right mind wants that?  If we live our lives in a state of constant preparedness, all the joy would be sucked right out.  Wouldn’t we miss spontaneity, the spur of the moment opportunities and adventures, what about surprise, what about the unknown or unexpected, and what about the thrill of anticipation?

This time of year is a time of preparing. Many people begin preparing for the holidays, preparing for vacation, preparing for gift exchanges, preparing for the year end reconciliations, preparing for the New Year, we even prepare for the flu season.  Since the very state of preparing means we are looking towards the future, the “doing and busyness” of preparing can really take away from the importance of today.  Now, please don’t think that this means all preparation is bad or that the things we prepare for are not important.  The point is all too often our attempts to prepare get out of balance and lead people down a path of unhealthy results. We begin feeling overwhelmed and stressed, many articles have been written on the theme of how to remove stress from your holiday planning.  To put things back in balance we need to move away from the external preparedness and move towards a sense of internal preparedness.

Spiritual preparedness is an internal experience different than just a state of readiness. It does not mean a specific religion, it doesn’t even need to be a religious state.  It just means getting your core value and belief system in check.  Spiritual preparedness is of even greater value and importance as it provides a much deeper and more meaningful perspective.

Now, doesn’t that sound like something we all need, not just at this time of year? There are many ways for us to begin this Spiritual preparedness in our lives.  Starting slowly will build success into your efforts.  Understandably many of us have overlapping obligations in our schedules; we certainly don’t want to add another 20 minutes into our already overloaded 24 hour day. But even a couple of minutes can help to identify areas where you can simplify and refresh your spirit. Think about taking the time that you are getting ready for work or school in the morning, or your driving to your first appointment of the day, the break in the morning schedule, or your lunch hour. Choose one of these routine times and rather than catching up on the phone with someone, or checking your emails, Facebook, etc. engage in a grounding mindfulness practice in order to connect to your spiritual self.  For just a few moments take note of how you are feeling physically.  Is there tension anywhere in your body, are you tired, notice your breathing, how do your clothes feel against your skin?  Focus on what feels positive in the moment and bring those good feelings to the stressed areas of your body.

woman leaning back in a chair with a laptop open in front of her

Taking the time, even just a few moments a day to rejuvenate our inner self will make a difference. Then as the days go by perhaps you will start to find it important to take a few more minutes for yourself, you will leave the radio off in the car, not turn on the TV or computer as soon as you walk in the door, and perhaps even turn off the phone….okay, so that may be a bit of a stretch for most of us.  Allowing yourself to connect with the part of you that desires this new found spiritual preparedness will be a release from the bondage of all the other preparing we do.

When we begin to change our daily schedule a little at a time, we will loosen up the strain of overload that so many of us have. This is when we will find the peace in preparedness that our souls are searching for.

Sharin’ the Journey: A Message from the Director



Some years ago Richard Carlson wrote an inspired book, Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff (and It’s All Small Stuff).  His message offered readers the chance to step into a less stressful more grace-filled view of our world by not getting worked up about the small stuff; the daily challenges of life.  Carlson encouraged us to be open to going with the flow.  There is no doubt that this is sound advice.  Recently, a friend shared a story about her son and I found myself realizing that although it’s important not to sweat the small stuff it is just as amazing to appreciate the little things in life knowing that this is where we can experience God’s presence, love and joy.

Ryan’s Story

Ryan is a young man that I have known for nearly 15 years.  Ryan’s brother, Ben, and my son played basketball together beginning in elementary school.  Ryan is Ben’s older brother and he has always been Ben’s biggest cheerleader.  Ryan is autistic and throughout his life has faced many physical challenges.  He currently lives at home with his parents, Sandy and Mark.   

Predictability is important in Ryan’s life so you can imagine that babies are not on the top of his favorite things list.  Sandy shared, “Babies cry, they can be messy and at church Ryan doesn’t like the “diaper isle” because babies don’t know how to use the bathroom.”  Sandy noted that Ryan has never been interested in babies or had not touched a baby other than when Ben was one. 

bubbles with a light source

While at a church service, during which baptisms were to be held, Ryan and his parents were sitting just behind a little baby boy; maybe 2 months old.  Ryan didn’t know that he wasn’t one of the babies to be baptized so he thought the baby was going to have to have water poured over his head.  During the service Ryan had been listening to old Sunday School cassette tapes.  During the sharing of Peace, Ryan leaned over towards the baby.  Sandy admitted there was a moment of panic as she wasn’t sure what Ryan was going to do.  As she watched, Ryan gently shook the infants hand and said, “You little light will shine.”  The infant responded by giving Ryan a big smile.  Sandy smiled and thought…”God can speak through anyone!” 

This story reminded me not to sweat the small stuff and when the opportunity comes to celebrate it instead.  May Ryan’s story bring a smile to your face, gratitude to your heart and be an invitation to you to let your light shine through this Thanksgiving holiday.

A Wellbeing Tip

Providing understanding and support in the face of cancer

How you can make a difference!

by Amy Helein, MAC, LPCIT

3 women on a sofa

Cancer. That one word heard from a doctor or as a loved one shares a recent health diagnosis can create anxiety, fear, anger, sorrow and, in some cases, a deep sense of loss. This very same word can also bring compassion, courage and reveal an inner strength we have never felt before or witnessed in others. Whether we are the individuals receiving this life-changing diagnosis or we are the person supporting our loved one, the journey is a difficult one.

October is Cancer Awareness Month, although needing a month specifically on a calendar is not a necessary factor to show support or raise awareness. However, it can be a time we stand together and recognize those who are in the midst of battling cancer, those who are survivors and honor those loved ones whom we’ve lost. Advances in research, preventative measures, new treatment plans and holistic options have all increased over the last several decades. How does one navigate through this maze? How do you know which approach is best? How do I support someone beginning this journey? Her journey; her story

A friend of mine, Marcia, shared what it was like for her when she came face to face with the diagnosis of pancreatic cancer over seven years ago. She explained that it took several months of doctor appointments to pinpoint the reason for her symptoms of nausea, pain and loss of energy. Through the use of tests, a tumor was located on the distal part of her pancreas. Surgery to remove the encapsulated tumor was scheduled within the same week. In addition, the physician also ordered 18 chemotherapy treatments to be administrated upon her recovery from surgery.

Marcia began the chemo treatments several weeks later. As with many individuals before her, the treatments resulted in awful side effects. She struggled with the thought of receiving 16 more treatments and enduring the long months ahead. Sitting in the doctor’s office awaiting her next dose, Marcia made the very personal decision to stop her chemotherapy treatments. She realized, for her, this was not the path she wanted to continue. If she were to have a limited amount of time left, she decided to use her time differently. The choice brought her relief and a sense of peace.

For most of Marcia’s adult life, she relied on a combination of a holistic approach and Western medicine with her health care decisions. To further clarify, she did not believe one was “better” than the other, just that she had options. She considered the ability to customize her health care using both approaches a blessing. This strategy may not be the choice for everyone when facing such a serious illness. However, I share this story for that very reason — it is a personal choice.

Marcia experienced a great amount of support from her daughter, Tina. Unfortunately, this proved to be difficult for Marcia’s sister to accept, who decided to stop all communication for over a month. One of the most painful experiences is to see those we love suffer. So to see Marcia walk away from the recommended treatment plan created a fear and anger within Marcia’s sister. To let go and trust Marcia’s unconventional decision was difficult. Fortunately, the two were able to reconcile and continue their relationship. After she decided to withdraw from chemo treatments, Marcia began taking the natural form of chemotherapy. In addition, her daughter suggested the healing energy work of Reiki. Marcia received weekly in-home Reiki sessions for a year, which she continues on a monthly basis today. Marcia considers her journey through cancer one filled with a tremendous amount of gratitude. She is grateful that she had a loving and supportive son, doctors, nurses, friends and extended health care practitioners who listened and met her needs.

Strategies for support

The following points are a few suggestions from the American Cancer Society when talking with someone who has just been diagnosed with cancer.

older women holding hands

Listen. The person may or may not want to talk about their diagnosis. Let them lead the conversation. They may need to unload or want the distraction of talking about something else for a while.

Treat them the same way you did before. If going out for coffee was a weekly get-together, try to continue that same routine. It can bring a sense of normalcy when their days are filled with managing the illness.

Simply ask how you can help. Just running to the grocery store or getting the mail can mean so much.

For more helpful hints, refer to the  American Cancer Society website:


Sharin’ the Journey: A Message from the Director

co2 written in clouds

      When most of us see – CO2 – we think of our days in high school chemistry class when we learned that CO2 stood for carbon dioxide.  Although there is no disputing this as fact, we are invited to consider expanding our definition of  CO2  from a scientific notation to a spiritual perspective on life.

CO2    =    challenges are opportunities X 2
Each of us has faced and will face challenges in our lives.  Those challenges may include health concerns, pending surgery, job loss, the death of a friend or loved one, or adjusting to a new role as the parent of an empty nest.  Maybe your challenges involve relationship struggles either personally or professionally.  No matter what the challenge; along with any particular circumstances comes opportunity times two.

The first opportunity is to acknowledge the challenge as a chance to lean into our relationship with God.  During the stress of facing a challenge there is no better time to recognize that we are not alone.  God’s support can be felt by reaching out to others to share our story and receive the words of support and kindness that we long for.  We can do something as ordinary as following our breath for 30 seconds reminding ourselves that God formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath or spirit of life, and man became a living being (Genesis 2:7).  Each breath we take can be a reminder that we are supported by God’s love.  We can also opt to reach for a favorite scripture or inspired affirmation.  Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion…(Philippians 1:6) or We cannot – not be blessed.   These are two favorites that keep me grounded in God’s presence and promise.  There is no right or wrong way to lean into God’s love and support the important way is your way.  In the face of a challenge take the opportunity to LEAN IN!

The X2 is the opportunity to see challenges as potential for growth.  We can reframe a challenge as a blessing resulting in our growth.   By asking ourselves some simple questions we can jumpstart the process of seeing challenges as valuable steps towards growth.  Answering questions such as: “What can I learn from this?” “How can this strengthen me?” “How can I use this to help others?” “What would make this a worthwhile experience?” can help us feel empowered for ourselves and others, find the positive, gain the confidence, and know that we are not the victim of circumstances but that we have a choice in how we respond.  (Everything changes when you see challenges as blessings — Advanced Life Skills)

Fact is CO2, carbon dioxide is a scientific notation and CO2 is also what gives soda its bubbles and fizz.  It’s fair to say that CO2 is a real blessing to soda.   I venture to say;  CO2 = Challenges are Opportunities X 2, is what gives our lives its fizz and pizzazz.  Even more importantly if we choose challenges can be opportunities.

                   CO2    =  Challenges are Opportunities X 2
                             Lean In  &  Choose Growth!

woman praying
woman thinking

Sharin’ the Journey — A message from the Director

handprint within a handprint

One of the most exciting parts of working with clients is witnessing “Holy Handiwork.”  As a counselor I get to witness God’s working in people’s lives and I also am blessed in that client’s in turn often are my teachers and messengers.  Some time ago a client came and shared that in several areas of his life he felt stuck, frustrated and out of options.  One area in particular was his job.  The client explained the various ways he had tried to pursue improvement for himself while becoming a more valuable asset to the company.  This process and his attempts to advance had been ongoing for several years.  More recently he questioned and opened up conversations with supervisors and their bosses to try and understand why the opportunities he longs for and feels qualified for have not been presented.  The client described that the response from those he had spoken to has turned out to be nothing more than “rhetoric”.

During a session this week the client described that he had decided to make himself a parachute.  The parachute image represented his decision to change direction and create for himself a safety plan.  Instead of trying to pursue advancement in the company he had decided to return to school to first attain an Associate’s Degree and then on to his Bachelor’s Degree.   With this degree added to his significant manufacturing experience new opportunities are on his horizon.  What the client shared next was a great lesson for me and I hope you can find meaning for it in your life as well.

row of doors with one open

He took out his phone and pulled up a message he had been holding onto as it had inspired him to rethink his actions.  He read, “If God shuts a door.  Stop knocking.  What is on the other side of the door is not in your best interest, not in your highest good.”  I immediately thought of the gospels of Luke and Matthew where each encourages us….

“So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”

The insight from this client’s message — that if we let go (stop knocking on what we think is for us) and let God guide us to the door…we will land on the threshold of what best serves our needs and brings us to who we were created to be – has proved to me that scripture is alive with richer perspectives and deeper meanings.

Thank you God for continuing to open the doors, that lead me closer to You!

man walking with jesus

I Openers

We clean our yards…

We clean our houses…

How about doing some…

Spiritual Spring Cleaning

On occasion Marcia shares with us the beginnings of CCM.  This story includes a moment when Marcia, while waiting upon God, remembered her earthly father’s words “Cleanliness is next to Godliness.” and so she scrubbed the floor.

We invite you this spring to do a little Spiritual Spring Cleaning.  Our Spirits can get heavy and weighed down by various things in our life.  In Matthew Jesus tells the leper, “Be Clean cialis prisfald.”  Jesus was referring to the man’s physical ailment but we could use the same inspiration to lighten the load on our Spirit so that we might make more room for joy in our lives.

*Do you have Old Baggage dragging behind you?  Hanging onto old hurts, unforgiveness and bitterness is like old baggage in the attic you just can’t seem to part with.  You are so familiar with it, you don’t even realize it is hindering your life and dragging down your Spirit.  Remember the letting go is a gift to you; the gift of freedom and peace.                                                             

*What drains your Spirit?  Is it a situation, a person, or an activity you do that you don’t really like doing?  Is it something you have been meaning to do and never get around to?  Make a list of these things and see if every day you can take one thing off the list.  If this is too much, try weekly to remove something from the list.  This may include recognizing that what you have been meaning to get around to isn’t meant to be anymore. Think fun!  Mary Poppins was on to something when she made the work for the day fun.  So sing, invite a friend over to help, include music, and for sure limit your time to 1 hour.  Next treat yourself to doing something REALLY fun.

*What habits do you have with the way you treat your body that need to be released? Our Spirits are housed in our bodies.  If we don’t treat our body well what impact might that have on our Spirits.  Certainly we run the risk of experiencing a drop in our energy level.  Do you need to drink more water?  Do you need to get more exercise or rest?  Is there a health issue that you have been trying to ignore.  Now is the time to clean that area up.

*Is it time to take out the garbage…What thinking patterns do you need to release to have a lighter Spirit?  If your Spirit feels heavy, chances are you have thinking patterns that need to be released.  Begin to walk awake to what you are saying to yourself.  As you listen you will recognize the fear inducing, heavy thought patterns.  This is a wonderful opportunity to “talk-back” to that voice and reteach it.  Very often what is ACTUALLY true is the exact opposite of the limiting belief.  If you are looking for a source of healthy thinking patterns to replace the less useful ones check out the book:  THE LANGUAGE OF LETTING GO.  It is filled with inspiring healthy patterns that can lighten our Spirits.

*How is your alignment…(no not your tires…) Are your actions and your words reflecting what you truly believe?  If you believe “with God all things are possible”, do your actions reflect this belief?  If you believe you are called to share joy and love, are the words out of your mouth complaints and gossip or supportive and compassionate?  The more congruent your actions with your beliefs the lighter and alive your Spirit will be.

spring cleaning bucket_opt

Thanks to M. Fairchild and S. Riutta for inspiring this post.

I Openers

tulips and daffodils

Hip Hip Hooray!! 

Spring is on its way!

We have reached the last installment of our series on ways to boost your mental health and maintain balance in your life.  Anticipation can be such a fun, joyful experience.
Knowing that the beautiful bright colors of the first tulips and daffodils are on the way
can certainly bring hope to a winter weary heart!

TIP #9: 
Refresh yourself…

Get plenty of sleep. A bedtime routine isn’t just for kids. Going to bed at a regular time each day can lead to better sleeping.  Sleep restores our both our mind and body.  However feelings of fatigue can still set in if you feel constantly rushed and overwhelmed when you are awake.  Allow yourself the gift of time even during your day time schedule.  Remember the old saying, “Stop to smell the roses.”  Slowing down can be a great way to refresh.
TIP #10:
Build healthy self-esteem…

woman praying

Self-esteem is more than just seeing your good qualities.  It is being able to see all your
abilities and weakness together, accepting them, and doing your best with what you have.  For example you may not play golf, tennis or cards well enough to be a star, but that should not stop you from enjoying the game.  Building your confidence is about letting our strengths shine and knowing we have the ability to work on our weak points which helps us mature, grow and feel engaged in life.
TIP #11
Get involved….contribute to your community…

Being involved in things that really matter to us provide a great feeling of purpose and
satisfaction.  You should always remember that you make a difference, no matter how big or small your efforts.  Read to children at your local library, help out a neighbor, work in a community garden, or do something nice for a friend.  There are many great ways to contribute that can help you feel good about yourself and your place in the world.  An effort to improve the lives of others is sure to improve your life too.

TIP #12
Have a spirituality to call your own…

Learn to be at peace with yourself.  Get to know who you are: what makes you really happy, what you are passionate about.  Learn more about what you believe.  Give yourself time to learn what “leaning into God” means to you.  Learn to balance what you are able to change about yourself with what you cannot change.  Read scripture, get out into nature, use daily inspired readings  — finding your way to connect to Divine Love is an adventure worth embarking on.

Sharin the Journey — A note from the Director

group hug

Just when you think you may have heard it all, someone comes along to remind you —  that what you have heard is only the beginning.   Sr. Caroline, Director of The Bridge Between Retreat Center, joined us during our staff meeting this month to share insights and stories related to the theme….”So, Who hugs the huggers?”  Our time together began with an invitation.  We were asked to close our eyes and breathe in the Divine and breathe out the Divine.  After a few moments Sr. Caroline had us open our eyes.  There she was sitting with a fur hat on her head complete with ear flaps and visor.   The room filled with laughter as Sr. Caroline explained that when she needs a hug she puts on this hat.  The next hour or so was filled with idea after idea on how to intentionally “on purpose” bring joy, love, gratitude, and emotional, spiritual and physical hugs into our daily lives.

Here are a few insights we learned or were reminded of……

Be kind to yourself.  Know when you need a hug and ask for one.  YES, ASK!  PLEASE ASK!  Scripture is always reminding us… to just ASK!                                       

Dream Big….Really Big….Even Bigger!  A favorite movie of mine takes place in Scotland.  Towards the end of the movie there is a scene where Ted Danson is kneeling by the bed of a tiny Scottish girl.  He says, “Sorry Lizzy, I have to see it to believe it.”  The little girl responds, “No, Mr. Demsey you have to BELIEVE IT TO SEE IT.”  Believing is a hug for our soul.

man hugging dog
lady hugging cat

Giving yourself a mini-vacation or what I call a “brain-break” is free but the results are priceless.  Sr. Caroline encouraged us to take time as often as we need to get outside and take a few deep breaths of fresh air or sit in a chair and just observe the view out the window.  How about closing your eyes,  imaging a favorite place and the just being in that place for a bit.  Let’s not forget how our pets can provide an instant mini hugfest.  The renewing power of any one of these mini-vacations is truly a hug for any hugger.

It is easy to see how our actions affect others and the environment.  We were challenged to be aware that our thoughts carry the same impact.  How different we would think (about others and ourselves) if we truly embraced just how connected we are.

Speaking of connecting…stories are a wonderful way to enjoy the oneness of our human experience.  So here’s a story Sr. Caroline shared and it’s our hug to each of you….

Sr. Caroline used to work at a local parish.  On this particular day she needed to make a phone call to a couple.  She dialed and instead of hearing the voice of one of the adults, she heard a little boy whisper…”Hello.”  Sr. Caroline asked, “Is your Mom at home?”  The little boy again whispered, “Yes, but she is busy.”   Sr. Caroline politely replied, “Would it be okay if I call back in about 20 minutes?”  Again with a whisper the little boy stated, “Yes that should be fine.”  Sr. Caroline went about taking care of a few other tasks she had on her to do list.  With these the tasks completed she was ready to make her return phone call.  She dialed and once again she heard a whispered, “Hello.”  She had reached the little boy again.  Sr. Caroline asked for his mother but was
again told that she was busy.  So this time Sr. Caroline asked the little boy if she could talk to his Dad.  To her surprise the little boy whispered, “I’m sorry he is busy too.”  At this point Sr. Caroline’s curiosity was peaked.  She engaged the little boy in a few more questions to which he answered each question in a whisper.  Finally Sr. Caroline to ask the big question…”What are your parents busy doing?”  This little boy didn’t hesitate but rather answered proudly,

little boy on phone hiding

“They are looking for me!”

“I” Openers

yoga peace

We are sharing ways to boost your mental health and maintain your life balance.  To add to the 4 tried and true tips from the previous post we have 4 more ideas that can melt any humdrum mood.

TIP #5: Learn to deal with and manage your stress effectively…

Stress is a normal part of life.  How we deal with it depends on our attitude. It helps to know what triggers our stress.  This gives us a chance to avoid unnecessary stressors and prepare or manage others.    Winding down from stress can include relaxation breathing, yoga, or a mini-vacation — brain break.   To take a 5 minute vacation — each day set aside 5 minutes for a mental health break.  Find a spot to be alone and give yourself to permission to day-dream.  Enjoy dreaming about a place, person or idea, or think nothing at all!  You will feel like you have been on a mini-vacation.

TIP #6      Deal with your Emotions…

We are all challenged to find safe, constructive ways to express and share our feelings of anger, sadness, joy and fear.  How can we deal with our moods?  Share joyful news with a friend; “cry on a friend’s shoulder” when you feel blue.  Physical exercise can help you deal with your anger.  Keep a stack of your favorite funny cartoons or a collection of humorous stories or videos for times when you feel the need to laugh.

healthy habits

TIP#7             Take time to enjoy…

Set aside time for activities, hobbies and projects you enjoy.  Let yourself be spontaneous and creative when the urge takes you.  Do a crossword; read a book, sew, scrapbook, draw pictures with your kids or grandkids, play with your pet, bake, cook, or write a letter to someone special.

TIP#8    Participate and share interests…

Being part of a group of people with a common interest provides a sense of belonging and is good for our mental health.  Join a sports club; a band; a dance class; a theatre or choir group; a book or car club; or a bible study.  If you know your way around the internet, google  –meet up groups–.  Meet up groups can connect you with people who have similar interests to yours.  Recently a client shared that her Meet Up group took in a local art event.  Now that’s a great way to bring beauty into a blustery winter day.