The Book “The Second Moutain;” wise words about suffering from David Brooks

I have just finished reading a book entitled “The Second Mountain” by David Brooks. In this book, Brooks explores four commitments that define a life of meaning and purpose. It is a book about personal fulfillment and the sense of agency that is required to live a joyous life. In the beginning chapters, he speaks about suffering:

“There’s nothing intrinsically noble about suffering. Sometimes grief is just grief, to be gotten through. Many bad things happen in life, and it’s a mistake to try and sentimentalize these moments away by saying that they must be happening to serve some higher good. But sometimes, when suffering can be connected to a larger narrative of change and redemption, we can suffer our way to wisdom. This is the kind of wisdom you can’t learn from books; you have to experience it yourself. Sometimes you experience your first taste of nobility in the way you respond to suffering.”

He goes on to say, “The right thing to do when you are in moments of suffering is to stand erect in the suffering. Wait. See what it has to teach you. Understand that your suffering is a task that, if handled correctly, with the help of others, will lead to enlargement, not diminishment.”

Suffer our way to wisdom – a hopeful sentiment and so true. We learn just as much about ourselves from what hurt us as from what loves us. Brook’s wise words also touch on the importance of leaning into the support of our loved ones, for it is the midst of care and connection that we best heal.

Check out “The Second Mountain” by David Brooks here:

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A Lovely Story of Empathy and Forgiveness

I regularly listen to a podcast called Ear Hustle. It is based out of San Quentin and gives the listener a glimpse into the daily realities of life in prison. In their latest episode entitled “Tell Christy I Love Her,” we meet Tom, a police officer, his wife, Christy and an offender, Jason, who is serving 19 years in prison for shooting Tom in a violent encounter in 1997.

Jason, a 17 year old gang member in 1997, mistrusted the police from an early age. After being pursued on foot by Tom, the encounter turned violent when Jason shot Tom in the neck. Jason was found guilty and sentenced; Tom and his wife were left to try and heal from a traumatic and life changing event.

When Tom attended a parole board meeting to ask that Jason not be granted parole,  he noticed and heard some things about Jason that he wasn’t expecting. And so began a journey into trying to understand what happened.

Through a restorative justice project, and what is named the Victim-Offender dialogue, victims and their offenders have the opportunity to write to each other through a mediator. There are times when they are also given the opportunity to meet. This is what Christy had to say upon watching Tom meet Jason for the first time:

“One of the first things that I noticed about Jason was how remorseful he was; that was one of the first things that touched me when I saw that. And if the victim could see that the person was remorseful, imagine how much of their life they could save, not having to wonder?”

This was an absolute lovely story to hear about; rich in detail with the opportunity to listen to all of them tell their story. It is worth your time to listen to it:

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Chanel Miller Speaks; Oprah Podcast

In 2015, we knew her as Emily Doe. She was the victim in what the world has come to know as the “Stanford Rape Case.” Brock Turner was found guilty of sexual assault and served only three months.

In Oprah’s SuperSoul Conversations Podcast, she sits down with Chanel Miller; Chanel has written a book called “Know My Name” and is speaking out about the experience and how her life changed as a result. When Oprah asks her if there was ever a time when Chanel felt like harming herself, to not go on living, this is what Chanel shared:

“I think sometimes, when you are really isolated, you think I’m just going to slip out the back door, the world is going to keep spinning,  I can’t be here right now. Then I would think, no that’s not the case – I would always keep coming back to the thought – This can’t be it. This can’t be the ending, or where the story ends. How impossible. Because up until then there were so many things that I enjoyed doing. I enjoyed drawing, I enjoying running. And I knew that self was there and I would look around and wonder what happened to her – I knew she was always there, I just couldn’t figure out how to get back to her. And I would always tell myself, “Even if you have no idea what your future looks like, something is there.”

In her times of hopelessness, Chanel searched for the hope – even when it was momentarily hidden from her. She goes on to speak about leaning into mantras she had learned from her mother about staying open, about learning in order to grow and she would focus on how to do that in even the smallest of ways.

A very poignant episode, an eloquent and well spoken young woman. This podcast is worth your listening time:

After the trial was over, Chanel’s (then Emily Doe) 12 page victim impact statement was released, with her permission. It was a powerful read:

Photo credit: http://Photo by Faris Mohammed on Unsplash

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A Tip About Panic Attacks

One of the books that I read on vacation was entitled “maid” by Stephanie Land. A memoir, “maid” was  Stephanie’s story about how an unplanned pregnancy, and subsequent life as a single mom, saw her strapped in poverty for years as she struggled to support herself and her daughter.

For anyone who suffers from panic attacks, you know first hand how frightening and debilitating in the moment they can be. You most likely also know that they do tend to pass, and when we ground ourselves, we can help to dissipate the panic. A passage in the book that I earmarked spoke about how Stephanie handled her overwhelming feelings:

“At the stop sign at the end of the street, I pulled over to the curb. I leaned forward, pressing my forehead against the steering wheel. This had happened often in the last year. Whenever I felt the pain of loss – my chest caving in right at the hollow spot in the center – I found it best to stop and wait, to give the feeling a moment to pass. The pain didn’t like to be ignored. It needed to be loved, just as I needed to be loved. As I sat in my car, I breathed in and out, counting to five each time. I love you, I whispered to myself. I’m here for you. Reassurance of self-love was all I had.”

What I like about this passage is process, grounding, and affirmations; a great combination in how we can focus on the panic to help ourselves get through the overwhelming feelings. Being able to acknowledge our fears in the moment, breathe through them while focusing on our courage will help us to keep the love for our self close by.

A lovely story, “maid” is a worthy read.

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The Concept of a Bridge; Pastor John Gray

In a recent episode of Oprah’s SuperSoul Conversations, she featured Pastor John Gray. This is what he had to say about a concept he refers to as the bridge, a figurative meeting in the middle for people who are on opposite sites of ideology or experience:

When I think about the bridge, I think about what I must do,to connect and engage people who didn’t come from where I came from so that we can have a place of commonality and understanding. In our society, shame has permeated the culture. If you don’t believe what I believe, then shame on you and if you don’t like what I like, then shame on you. Shame has permeated the culture. The bridge says, I don’t understand you, I don’t agree with you, and we may never see eye to eye, but if we are all in the same space at least we can begin the dialogue and conversation that may lead to healing.”

He goes on to say “If you want people to see life from your lens, you need to become relational, relate-able and relevant. And then you’re going to have to do two other things that are intentional and uncomfortable. Because if you’re going to build bridges, your going to have to connect to people who don’t look like you. Come meet me on the bridge, I don’t care where you’re from.”

His message was one of being open to the experience of others, to be flexible in your thinking, to lead with love.

He was also very funny; laugh-out-loud funny. His podcast is worth listening to:

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A Great Book On Attachment

If you have ever wanted to get an easy to read, common sense book on attachment, I have just finished reading one that I highly recommend!

Entitled “Attached.” by Amir Levine and Rachel S.F. Heller, subtitled “The new science of adult attachment  how it can help you find – and keep – love,” this book will bring you through the three styles of attachment most commonly found in adult relationships:

Adult attachment designates three main ‘attachment styles’ or manners in which people perceive and respond to intimacy in romantic relationships, which parallel those found in children: Secure, Anxious and Avoidant. Basically, secure people feel comfortable with intimacy and are usually warm and loving; anxious people crave intimacy, and are often preoccupied with their relationships, and tend to worry about their partner’s ability to love them back; avoidant people equate intimacy with a loss of independence and constantly try to minimize closeness. All people in our society fall into one of these categories, or more rarely, into a combination of the latter two (anxious and avoidant.) Just over 50% are secure, around 20% are anxious, 24% are avoidant, and the remaining 3 to 5% fall into the fourth, less common category.”

Levine and Heller help the reader to not only understand attachment theory in the context of our romantic relationships, they help us to identify which style we, and our partners, ascribe to (with quizzes – got to love those!) and chapters on how to create change so as to move towards secure attachment. I loved this quote about the importance of secure attachment as a way to independence:

If we had to describe the basic premise of adult attachment in one sentence, it would be: If you want to take the road to independence and happiness, find the right person to depend on and travel down it with that person. Once you understand this, you’ve grasped the essence of attachment theory.”

And finally:

“A relationship, from an attachment perspective, should make you feel more self-confident and give you peace of mind. If it doesn’t, this is a wake-up call.”

A real gem of a book; it will help you not only understand your partner, but most importantly, yourself, and the relationships that you have been drawn to based on the attachment style that was formed in your childhood. “Attached.” is a worthy read.

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Advice from the Experience of Prison

At the age of 19, Shaka Senghor was sent to prison having been convicted of second degree murder. In what he describes as the most “chaotic night of my life,” Shaka admits to having made a mistake that forever changed him. In a recent podcast featured on Oprah’s SuperSoul Conversations with Shaka Senghor, he speaks to what prison has taught him in terms of healing and growth:

“I began writing. I began to realize that the man that I was at the time was really a broken little boy with accumulated years of masked hurt and abandonment. And as I began to repair these things, it made me think about the world that we live in and how we see ourselves…..and it makes me think about the power of transformation. Its about the ability to emerge from the cocoon of spiritual, mental and emotional immaturity into your full actualized self………Transformation comes when we can see the broken child in every person we encounter. The broken child inside; that is their authentic self. And I remind myself that if I only respond to their authentic self, I can only respond out of kindness, empathy and compassion.”

Well said, Shaka, well said.

To listen to the full podcast:

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The Band Played On Podcast; a worthy listen

I recently finished a podcast series entitled “The Band Played On,” hosted by journalist Julie Ireton and featured on CBC Radio. It was a 7 episode podcast which featured stories of historical, sexual abuse at the hands of three teachers, spanning four decades, involving forty-four identified victims. And it all happened from the 1970’s – 1990’s in an Ottawa high school.

The podcast itself was very well done; there were many interviews with the victims, we were able to follow along through the paths of justice, and it shone a light on not only the importance of individual accountability for someone’s sins, but also systemic responsibility for allowing the abuse to continue.

For anyone who struggles in understanding how high school students can “let themselves be abused,” just listening to this podcast will give you a greater understanding of how power differentials create not only a blind trust in those who lead us as children; it also forges an internalized shame that is isolating and long-lasting.

In the final episode, I appreciated one victim’s account of having to potentially face his accuser in the courtroom:

Julie Ireton explains that Bob Clarke (accused teacher) was already in prison when police laid new charges against him in John Coady’s case. Coady braced for a court appearance. “I thought if he pleads not guilty, then we are just going to have to go to court and fucking testify in front of people so we’re going to play this cat and mouse game. I’m not doing that. And then I said “Oh, hold on a second, I am fucking doing that.” No more secrets for John Coady. “I’m not a secret keeper.”

Very often, those who have been sexually abused as children, do become the secret keepers; the keeping of that secret can be devastating. The Band Played On provides its audience with an honest view of what it feels like to not only keep a secret, but also the healing qualities of having finally let it go.

The Band Played On is a worthy listen. Visit the website at:

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The Effect of Intergenerational Trauma

I have just completed both a podcast and a book that feature what I would consider to be examples of intergenerational trauma.

The first was a podcast called “Finding Cleo;” featuring Connie Walker, a journalist for CBC Radio, who explores cold cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women. Although the podcast is primarily about trying to find answers, and therefore closure, to Cleo’s family, it also themes the damaging effects of both residential schools and the 60’s Scoop; times in Canadian history in which the government attempted to strip Indigenous people of their culture in an attempt to assimilate them.

The second was a book entitled “We Were the Lucky Ones” by Georgia Hunter. Based on her own family’s story, Hunter brings us to a devastating time in Poland’s history where during the Second World War Jewish families were persecuted for their culture. Hunter writes about her ancestors, the Kurc family, and what they were forced to endure due to the atrocities of the darkest war in our world’s history.

Intergenerational trauma is what happens when the effects of trauma in one generation affects the next one (and sometimes the ones after that.) Unresolved trauma can often lead to self-destructive behaviours, depression, anxiety, post traumatic stress symptoms, addiction, and a decreased ability to securely attach. What happens intergenerationally isn’t the actual traumatic experience itself, but rather the effects that accompanies it.

Understanding intergenerational trauma is important when considering the effects of persecution to a people or a culture; especially in examples we continue to see in our present society. Compassion, kindness and empathy can help support those who are navigating through the quite often rough waters of intergenerational trauma.

To check out “We Were the Lucky Ones” by Georgia Hunter:

To check out “Finding Cleo” at CBC Radio:

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A Cool Concept by Marie Forleo

In a recent podcast in Oprah’s SuperSoul Conversations with Marie Forleo we hear from entrepreneur, Marie Forleo with the concept that “everything is figureoutable.” Here is what she has to say:

“What this is is a practical discipline. This is an approach to life that can make you virtually unstoppable. Not unstoppable in the sense that everything will go your way; cause you know that it won’t. And not unstoppable in the way that you’ll never get disappointed, or feel defeated, or find yourself in impossible situations because we all do. But unstoppable in the most pragmatic and profound sense; meaning that nothing, no thing, no situation, no circumstance will ever again stop you from moving ahead. And here’s why this idea is so important – because whether you realize it or not, the actions you take, every moment of every day are shaped by what you believe……what we say to ourselves in the privacy of our own minds, matter.”

Everything is figureoutable. I like it 🙂

To hear the full podcast:

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