A New Approach

Since my early adulthood I have studied metaphysics and philosophy, and it has provided me with the strength to get over hurdles and to enjoy my life, no matter what. As to one of my complications, I have been struggling with cancer for over 15 years, and knowing that there was no cure, but only the progression of the disease, I could have fallen into depression and hopelessness. But I always found light along the way, met the right people, and felt that this unexpected hurdle was helping me to grow and become spiritually stronger. In other words, my studies of metaphysics and philosophy helped me live a happy and fulfilling life. 

My medical treatment is one of my blessings, for which I am deeply grateful. My oncologist, who also is a student of metaphysics and with whom I sometimes exchange thoughts and insights, mentioned a few weeks ago, that he thought I was a stoic. He gave me a link, and I started looking into it. Of course, I knew the general meaning of being stoic, but I went deeper into researching stoicism and found a lot of similarities with my mindset. I realized that my approach to dying is one of my beliefs which lead my doctor to his opinion, as well as how I handle decisions in general.

I am very grateful that he opened this philosophical approach to me, showing me that I can dwell deeper and find more peace despite my illness. Although I seem to be a natural stoic, there is much to learn, and I am looking forward to it. I know it will be beneficial for me, and I see complete harmony with my other spiritual beliefs. It shows that we can always learn, as long as we are open and willing. I am only at the beginning of this new journey but wanted to share this discovery. Here are a few fundamentals on how to live like a stoic:

  • Live as if you died but were resuscitated, and every minute is a gift.
  • Every person you meet is an opportunity for kindness.
  • Be forgiving of others.
  • Try to hold as few opinions as possible.
  • Always consider the worst-case scenario.
  • Keep a list of what you’ve learned from other people (and remember to thank them often).If it is not right, do not do it; if it is not true, do not say it.

Life is what we make it, and there is never a reason to give up or to be disillusioned. No matter where we stand in our life’s journey, there is beauty and love.

Silvia Coggin, CPC
Author and Founder of NotJustCooking.com

 

 

Hugging

 

Coming out of a culture where hugging wasn’t commonplace, I had to learn to be comfortable with people frequently hugging and kissing when I moved to Belgium. But it didn’t take long before I enjoyed and loved this gracious and meaningful gesture, and I rapidly integrated it into my life. The amusing part was that when I visited my friends in Germany, they had a startled look on their faces when I hugged them and gave them three kisses. I hoped it brought them as much joy as it did for me.

Hugging has many positive aspects and is considered good medicine. Scientific research has shown that we need four hugs a day for survival, eight for maintenance, and twelve for growth. Hugs also allow us to communicate with others when we don’t know how to express our feelings in words. And the best part is that we usually cannot give a hug without receiving one in return.

What do I feel when someone hugs me? I feel accepted and loved, a warm feeling of gratitude flows through me, and I put my whole being into my response hug. When I have the privilege to hug someone, I am grateful and wish the person much joy and happiness. And sometimes, yes, I can communicate my feelings better with a hug than with words. Our little Romeo, our loving and sweet Yorkie, is smothered in hugs and thriving. Yes, hugs are therapeutic; so dispense them freely!

Why does being hugged and giving a hug feel so good, and why do hugs make us feel happier? Hugs can instantly boost oxytocin levels, a hormone released by the pituitary gland, which heals feelings of loneliness, isolation, and anger. Oxytocin is a chemical in our bodies that scientists sometimes call the “cuddle hormone.” It causes a reduction in blood pressure and of the stress hormone norepinephrine. In simple words: Hugging makes us feel better.

I know that the scarceness of hugging in my childhood was not because I wasn’t loved. I was. After meditating on this subject, I came to the conclusion that it was part of the culture and influenced by the consequences of two world wars. My mother was loving, but she had a difficult time expressing it. She lost her mother when she was 10, lived through WWI as a child, then WWII as a young wife, giving birth to a baby daughter and a son, but losing the son because of a lack of medication caused by the war. Then I came along, but shortly afterward, she lost her husband, my father. So, she struggled as a single working mother with two young children, and although she was loving and nurturing, hugging was not a priority – surviving was.

I am grateful that I was exposed in my early adult years to lots of hugging and kissing. I quickly learned to love it and have carried it through my whole adult life. One can never get too many hugs. If you haven’t hugged someone lately, try it and pay attention to how it makes you feel. Not only will it bring happiness to you, but it will also bring joy to the one you hugged.

Silvia Coggin, CPC
Founder and Author of NotJustCooking.com

Another Lesson Learned

Another Lesson Learned

When I lost my mother at the age of 17, and consequently my life turned upside down, one of the pillars I hung on to was Christmas Eve, my mother’s birthday. I felt closest to her on that day, and I celebrated her as my mother, and later in my life as a special woman. It helped me navigate through the hurtful times of family harshness and indifference. My mother was religious, and I honored her with a church visit and the burning of a candle.

After our marriage, Steve adopted this personal tradition so that we could celebrate together.  It became a cherished Christmas Eve activity for us. It was the highlight of the evening, and we loved it.

We were looking forward to our traditional Christmas Eve, and I invited a dear friend to join us. In my heart I was ready to stand under the tree in the church courtyard to decorate an ornament for my mother, and to travel in my mind to times when she was still with me. However, it wasn’t meant to be this year.

The day before Christmas Eve, I learned I needed an emergency blood transfusion. Oh no, what about my tradition with my mother? We drove to the Mayo Clinic on the 23rd, stayed overnight, and I spent the next day in the Mayo Clinic getting a transfusion. My heart was heavy, and I felt sad and beaten down. The nurses were all loving and caring, but I was miserable and felt a deep and painful loss, a missed opportunity. And then it hit me. My sadness was only caused by my ego and long-lived habits and traditions. It had nothing to do with feeling close to my mother and celebrating her. I realized that I could have the same experience lying in my hospital bed. And I did. I sent my mother an ornament decorated in my mind, and I spent some time with her and my memories. It was an uplifting experience and a valuable lesson for me. Don’t attach yourself too tightly to traditions and habits. They are lovely to maintain and to keep in one’s life, as long as we allow ourselves to be flexible, to appreciate when they can happen, and to be in peace when we have to adapt to circumstances. This is the time to let our creativity soar.

I felt happy when we drove home, and when my Christmas Eve dinner was a slice of pizza at a Circle K on the road, I was able to smile and to enjoy it. I remembered the Christmas Eves of my childhood when we had so little, but never lacked for anything. Indeed, that pizza was delicious!

The rest of Christmas went as planned. We enjoyed a delightful dinner with friends on Christmas Day, and I felt blessed and grateful. Life is what we make it. We can fall into a dark hole following a disappointment, stay there, and feel sorry for ourselves.  Or we climb out of it and enjoy the moment. No one should feel they have to remain in a dark place, we live in a world of light, and it is our birthright to enjoy it. Sometimes one needs a reminder, a shakeup in my case, that circumstances can change, but that we remain who we are and have decided to be. Our capacity to love is unlimited.

Silvia Coggin, CPC
Author and Founder of NotJustCooking.com

 

Christmas, a Time to Celebrate and Remember

The holiday season has always been unique and meaningful for me. When Thanksgiving was added to my list after making the United States my new home, I felt blessed being able to celebrate the holiday season for a longer time.

My celebration is based on gratitude, a deep appreciation for all my blessings. One could wonder how I can feel that way with my serious health struggles, but I do. Every morning is a new beginning for me, and I feel blessed that I am still alive and able to enjoy life and this holiday season.

The sense of Christmas was instilled in me by my mother. She always made this holiday very special, and although we had little in the way of material things, she taught my sister and me to appreciate what we had and to share with those who had less. Christmas was a time for gratitude and sharing, and it has remained with me to this day.

It is so gratifying to give and to see the sparkle forming in someone’s eyes. Years ago, when my health was better, and I had more energy, Steve and I loved to adopt a family and bring Christmas to them. I fondly recall one year in particular. We learned that the little six-year-old girl of the family we adopted had lost her belief in Santa because he hadn’t shown up the year before. She felt that she must have done something very wrong, and her little heart was heavy and sad.  Steve and I thought we had to do more than visit with gifts. Steve rented a Santa costume, and we showed up with a tree, presents, and “ho-ho-ho.” I will never forget the little girl’s eyes and the miracle happening for her when she threw her arms around Santa’s neck. We always made sure that we knew what gifts would be appreciated, and the little girl’s dream was a dollhouse. Santa brought it, and her joy was a treasured gift for us. Yes, giving is more rewarding than receiving.

My Christmas is filled with cherished memories and love. I am enjoying every moment and hope you do the same. It doesn’t matter what our religious beliefs are; it is a time of the year when we can open our hearts and minds, reach out, and spread love and caring.

Silvia Coggin, CPC
Author and Founder of NotJustCooking.com

 

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