Category Archives: Learning

Why We Need Mature Friends

This story was submitted by Cindy La Ferle over at Cindy’s Home Office.

I met Sylva B., I rarely socialized with ‘older people’ outside my
family circle. When I wasn’t working, I hung out with friends my own
At least 40 years my senior, Sylva was the
silver-haired personnel manager who interviewed me for my first job in
reference book publishing in Detroit. I was 25 then, and desperate to

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Silence, Discernment & the Art of Listening II

By Stu Whitley

This post is second in a three-part series.

In our relationships, as with our work, listening is absolutely fundamental to leadership and the discipline of effective communication. This includes the need to be alert for situations where cocking one’s ear to the rhythms of speech, as well as its content, will ensure better understanding. To do this in the context of conversation means to project positive non-verbal behaviour, to avoid being captured by words that we know can provoke negative emotions, by not interrupting, and by silently analyzing as dialogue proceeds.

When witnesses testify, when judges speak, when communities express
concern, or when a victim expresses doubt, we sometimes—often—hear only
what we want to hear, and dismiss the rest. In doing so, we overlook
the lesson of one of the primal aboriginal teachings: to hear the most
important part of the message, it is necessary to hear with the eyes

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Silence, Discernment & the Art of Listening

By Stu Whitley

This post is the first in a thee-part series.

at a conference, recently, the dais groanedunder the ponderous weight of self-important menin bow ties and eyeglasses secured with small chainsholding forth in florid phrase and vexing verbositydemonstrating the gulf between the idea and its impartingrow on row of upturned faces, seeking wheat among the chaffsorting the useful from the meretriciouspursuing truth, or at least its cousin, knowledgebut this function depends, it seems to me, upon discernmentthe capacity to know what is essentialin any given instance or competing circumstancestheir voices fade; my mind has wandered to where you areas always, all things come back to my beloved womanand much of what engages my time, presently,groans upon the dais of my existencefor I have discerned the truth; what is importantwhich more and more seems central to my life:I am listening to the only song that mattersit is simply that, I am loving you

As any good senior bureaucrat must do these days I am required to conduct Performance Reviews and complete ‘appraisal reports’ of employees for whom I am responsible. Time and again I am reminded how important it is to listen carefully. Not only to those whose efforts we are considering over the past year (as well as those in turn whose responsibility it is to assess our work against the standards we have agreed to), but also to ourselves. It is a reciprocal, introspective process that ought to be characterized by attentiveness and absorption. Time doesn’t always permit it.

The older we get, I think, the more clearly we see how important it is to be patient in our listening.

I read something a little while ago by Jose Kusugak, President of the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, in Nunavut. He was writing about a childhood Inuit game called Aaqsiiq,
the ‘silence game’. What a wonderfully simple but elegant concept:

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Healing in Dying

By Kay Costley-White

The most joyful person I have ever met was a young man dying of AIDS. Chris’s path to serenity had been long and difficult.  In the early 1990s, his family, afraid of their community’s reaction to his gay lifestyle, rejected him. He moved from central Canada to Vancouver, developed a family of choice, and lived with a partner committed to a life-long relationship. But his partner and many of his friends died of AIDS. Then his place of employment found out the reason for his many absences for sick leave, and he was fired on the spot. Later, life-threatening infections kept him in hospital, too weak to care for himself. When I knew him, he understood that there was no hope for a cure or prolongation of his life. Medicine could do nothing beyond keeping him comfortable, and he was facing his imminent death.  But
the healing of who he was as a person—his mind, emotions and
spirit—induced people to visit his room to get a taste of his radiance.
 How could someone with such losses possibly be joyful? How had Chris got to this place of profound personal healing in the face of death? Did he have some strong religious faith to sustain him through his dark hours?  It appeared that he had opened to the anguish that can be a part of living, totally surrendered to his personal chaos, and eventually emerged beyond its confines. Witnesses to such a deep process are often left with healing of their own, a sort of ripple effect that produces a feeling of abundance in loved ones and professional caregivers alike.  You may ask, “What does this have to do with me—I’m still healthy and active?” While most people don’t aspire to the transcendence Chris demonstrated, we can all prepare ourselves to face our dying. We can explore our fear, participate in therapies to help us face the horror of final goodbyes, and find technologies to help us reach forgiveness. Employing these strategies requires courage and a certain tolerance for the unknown. But the process releases energy, and we may find that the degree of our readiness for death is directly related to the quality of our lives now. Chris showed us that opening to the full meaning of dying can enrich our experience of living. In demonstrating joy, serenity and gratitude in the face of death, he was an inspiration to the humanity in each of us, a source of hope for the growth of the human spirit. read more

Poland Remembered IV

By Stu Whitley

This is the fourth in a four-part series.

During his entire life, my father has adhered to a habit of truth—‘truth’ in that he has not been afraid to question the ‘why’ of a thing. This included the way in which the past influences the future, and his determination to manage events to the extent that it has been possible.

“It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it,” he’d say.

was nowhere more apparent than in his decision to emigrate to Canada to
seek a better future for all of us. Three homes in three countries
within the span of a decade:

my childhood in England droppedbelow the horizon of the grey Atlanticen route to a different life in a new worldwell I remember a worn train groaningto a halt for us in a remote northern townof tarred felt paper, clapboard and tin

two brothers and I jostled our way
to the smoke green Pullman cars
only to be yanked back sharply
by a skinny old man in a pillbox cap
declaiming ‘Canadian National Railway’

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Poland Remembered III

By Stu Whitley

This is the third in a four-part series.

The new museum dedicated to the Battle of Warsaw is a compelling place to visit. It opened the weekend we arrived, and the queue stretched around the block. But after being informed of Dad’s participation in the battle, we were afforded special treatment, moving quickly to the head of the line. Serious deference is paid to elders. People give up their seats on trains and trams; seniors are acknowledged in the streets, especially those who, like my father, wore the pin bearing the insignia of the resistance, a stylized ‘P’ with curving feet. He did not wear the Cross of Valour, awarded to him in absentia, for sustained courage in the face of the enemy. This an honour I only learned about recently.

Two days earlier, we had walked the street across from Saski Gardens,
where dad had been dug in. It is a broad roadway now, flanked with new
buildings for the most part. At the intersection of
Marszalkoska-Krolewska boulevards, he pointed this way and that with
his cane, to mark the presence of the German Army behind what were then
trenches in the park, and where lay the heaps of rubble in which he and

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Poland Remembered II

By Stu Whitley

This is the second in a four-part series.

There is no country more tragically concerned with war, oppression and the visitation of death than Poland. This is saying something for a continent riven by ethnic and political conflict for millennia. It is my impression that war—and in particular, the Second World War—casts a long shadow there, for the occupation by the Soviet Union that followed for nearly half a century afterward had its bitter roots in that conflict. The scars are yet there, literally. In the large block in Lublin where my father lived as a boy, a line of machine gun bullets fired 67 years ago is neatly stitched across the stone façade.

My brother and I went to
Poland with my father to visit the country he knew as a young man. In
1939, he was an 18-year-old corporal in the 24th Lancers, his father’s
regiment. The unit was stationed in Krasnik, a small town just outside
Lublin, whose sole purpose at the time was to support the regiment.

days, all that remains of the Lancers are ancient stables now converted
to storage for bricks, and a small museum

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Intentional Thinking

By Marilyn Hay

What if our thoughts had power—the power to bring us what we think about? Sounds like magic … or, perhaps, craziness. But what if it’s true?  

I’ve heard
about intentional thinking and the Law of Attraction from a variety of
different sources over the past year, only recently stopping long
enough to pay attention and learn what they are about. Simply put,
everything in the universe is energy and all energy is connected—we are
all part of the whole. Our thoughts, like everything else, have energy
that resonates with the universe and the universe ‘sends’ us more of
what we’ve

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Fear 101

By Kay Costley-White

A lot is written these days about aging gracefully. As we approach our senior years, we also become aware of a vague dread: we don’t want to acknowledge our fear of dying.

Evolution, while fitting us
with an urgent will to survive and multiply, also equipped us with a
powerful, instinctive fear of death. It is perfectly normal and natural
to have a strong aversion to anything to do with it. Many people end
their lives without ever addressing the issue. But if we choose to open
up to this part of our genetic makeup, what is it really about? Does it
relate to the course of illness leading to the body’s demise,

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