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A Lesson in Hope – The Tattooist of Auschwitz

A Lesson of Hope

A Lesson in Hope – The Tattooist of Auschwitz

In the middle of the year, within a relatively short space of time, I had two people say to me, “I think you’d like the book, The Tattooist of Auschwitz”. Within two weeks of the second mention of that book, I saw that book – at my mother-in-law’s place. Well, when something pops up multiple times on my radar, I figure I need to take note. So, I knew it was time to read this book! Fortunately, my mother-in-law was happy for me to take it home for a read.

Well, it is quite the story! The Tattooist of Auschwitz is based on the interviews between the author, Heather Morris, and an elderly man, Lale. Lale was born Ludwig Eisenberg, who, during his time in Auschwitz, had the role of Tätowierer. As you would expect of a story about Auschwitz, much of it is truly horrendous. There was the complete obliteration of human rights, deprivation of food and liberties, the inhumanity of brutality and cruelty, callous dehumanisation, endless uncertainty, and of course death – lots of death. The mind shudders to think how someone could even conceive of such an idea, let alone give it the light of day.

However, what was unexpected was the story of enduring hope (and there’s also an unexpected yet beautiful love story, too). I knew as I was reading that the main character, Lale, must have survived since he had lived to tell his story to the author. However, as his SS minder had said, he must have been a cat because he just seemed to have so many lives. So many times, he was so close to death. Each time, he survived.

Back to the story of hope. Lale and his fellow train companions had no idea what was awaiting them at the end of their journey. Pause for a moment as you consider that this was a time of no smartphones and no instantaneous access to news of the world. Outside these remote camps, it wasn’t widely known what fate awaited those who were destined to arrive. When Lale arrived, it was in the early days of the concentration camps. At the time he entered Auschwitz, Lale fairly quickly sensed this was not going to be over any time soon. Lale was multi-lingual and as he walked through the open iron gates he looked up to read the sign Arbeit Macht Frei, ‘work will make you free’. As his first day in this living hell draws to a close, he makes a commitment to himself, “I will live to leave this place. I will walk out a free man.

Lale held onto that commitment and the vision that he would walk out of that place, see his family again, get married, have children, and have a good life no matter what his current circumstances. His sense of hope – that vision he held onto so clearly – for a better future was remarkable given the horrendous conditions he endured for over three years. Each day with the uncertainty of not knowing what would happen nor how long he would be there, he shone a light to his vision of a better future. He was a very resourceful young man. In his later life, he knew that his story had to be shared so that this never happens again. 

The science of hope, pioneered at The University of Kansas by Rick Snyder and his graduate student Shane Lopez, has three main components:

i. Goal – a vision of a future that is better than our present.
ii. Agency – belief in ourselves that we can make that better future a reality.
iii. Pathways – that we are willing to take as many pathways as required to make that a
better reality.

If plan A hits a brick wall, then move onto plan B. Lale was a master at working multiple pathways!! We can conveniently think of those three steps by the acronym they form: GAP. Hope is about closing the gap between our current reality and that vision we see of our better future.

Holding onto hope no matter what, for however long it takes, is a key to getting through difficult and uncertain times. Lale had hope in abundance – in every chapter of his life in Auschwitz. As the author wrote in the postscript, “Lale lived his life by the motto: ‘If you wake up in the morning, it is a good day.”

If you are reading this, it is a good day! How can you close the gap and build a little more hope into your life, today?

Click here for course info

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My two core fundamentals to Mindful Living

How to practice Mindful Living
How to practice Mindful Living

 

My two core fundamentals to Mindful Living

Earlier this year, my life got rocked to the core. My beautiful mother went from being pretty independent to having two falls (she’d never had a fall and these were just one week apart), two hospital stays, then subsequently died in late February.

I now understand from a very visceral sense how grief can hit hard.

It was super hard. 

 

Apart from having to organize a covid-restriction-imposed funeral to channel my energy-zapped focus, two things above all else helped ground me during that haze:

 

1. My mindfulness practice

…and

2. My daily exercise


I was back on my meditation stool and back at the gym the morning after my mother died. From my work and all I’ve learned, I knew just how important it was to stick to a routine in tough times. Two quotes stood out for me… Phil Stutz: “the worse you feel, the more you need to commit to your protocol” (aka morning routine) and notable child Psychologist, Haim Ginott, “When a person is drowning, it is not a good time to teach him to swim”.

I knew I was “drowning”. The first two weeks after my mother died, it was like being in a time-warp, and going through quick-sand. I knew I had to draw on my life-raft. My life-raft was my morning routine of mindfulness meditation and exercise. I’m super glad that I had that routine firmly in place long before I really needed it. And it has come in handy in the past on a number of occasions.

BTW that morning after, I wasn’t exactly wanting to do these things. But I knew that I had to – it was going to be the only way to get through this and out the other side. I knew it was that important to just show up.

How about you? Do you know what your grounding habits are? And do you work with them regularly? Or do you think you’ll be scrambling to put a life-raft in place when you really need one? In other words, are you going to wing it? Or are you going to be prepared for the inevitable curveball that life is going to throw you?

 


If you want to develop a mindfulness practiceyou can contact me to get started: 

Phone 0410 264 224 | patrea@positivepsychologystrategies.com.au

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What’s all natural, costs nothing, and boosts your well-being?

What’s all natural, costs nothing, and boosts your well-being?

Mindfulness

So would you take that pill? 

This is a quote from American psychologist, Jonathan Haidt, author of The Righteous Mind, The Coddling of the American Mind, and The Happiness Hypothesis. 

Knowing that, if meditation came in the form of a pill, would you take it? Surely the answer is obvious: if it was as easy as taking a pill, of course, you would take it! However, meditation does require just a little more effort. But the payback is huge! 

The good news is that mindfulness can be both a form of meditation and a way of living. Mindfulness as a way of living is about being mindful of our thoughts, words, and actions helping us to truly live in the present. As a form of meditation, mindfulness does require training – the practices are simple though not necessarily easy. 

Combining both mindfulness as a meditation practice and as a way of living, can yield a lot of the benefits that Jonathan Haidt outlines above. Making mindful decisions moment to moment day in day out.

So, what’s all-natural, cost nothing, and boost your well-being? – Mindfulness meditation


If you want to develop a mindfulness practice you can contact me to get started: 

Phone 0410 264 224 | patrea@positivepsychologystrategies.com.au

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The impact of one simple change of getting sugar out of my diet

The impact of one simple change of getting sugar out of my diet

In 2011, I watched my partner lose a few kilos – initially 2kgs, ultimately about 10kgs.

For a man in his late 40s, he had a six-pack! I was a happy woman 🙂 Anyway, all he did was make one change to what he ate – just one – and the weight seemingly just melted off him. He had signed up for one of those gym challenges. He was most inspired by what the dietitian had to say. In particular, a book she referenced, Sweet Poison, by David Gillespie.

The one change he made to what he ate was to cut out all added sugar from his diet. Nothing else!

Inspired by his weight loss and body transformation, a few months later, I decided to give it a go. I committed to giving sugar the flick. I wasn’t a big sugar junkie, but I was someone who had a little bit regularly. Well, the day I decided to start my sugar-free eating, was the day I realized that the little amount I’d been drip-feeding myself all that time, had made me into a sugar addict! 

Yikes! The first meal I went without the sugar treat to finish off my meal was the moment I knew what it was like to be hooked to a substance – hook, line, and sinker. This legal substance had a total hold on me. It was like my mind, taste buds, and body were all in cahoots screaming, “oh no, you’re not finished yet. You know you want it; it’s just over there. Go get it!”. It was such a vivid visceral experience – fascinating but tough. 

Sugar is nature's sweet poison

I managed to refrain from giving in to the sirens’ calls for a fix of ‘sweet poison’ that meal.

But I realized that to succeed at getting sugar out of my system and my diet, not just for one meal but for many to come, was going to be an exercise in living consciously. To succeed in that, I was going to have to draw on  all my training as a psychologist. 

Mindfulness was the primary tool of choice for me. I knew that if I didn’t react to the experience, and could just mentally step back from it, then it would pass – just as the classic saying goes, “this too shall pass”. By this stage, I had been a mindfulness practitioner for nearly 5 years, and had been running mindfulness groups for nearly 3 years. However, this was going to be my first application of mindfulness to a physical change I was choosing to make in my life.

Well, the first two weeks were quite the challenge, like walking up a steep mountain that just never seems to end! I was going through sugar withdrawal symptoms for an ‘addiction’ that I didn’t know I had just a little while earlier.

Those withdrawal symptoms from sugar seemed super intense AND relentless! I was committed so I stayed the distance, and as I did, I observed the waves – more like tsunamis in those first two weeks – of cravings rising up in my mind and body, with every lunch and dinner. 

Once I got through those first two weeks, it was as if I turned a corner. Going into the second two weeks, I noticed a subtle but distinct change in the cravings. They were there, most definitely, but not as intense nor as long-lasting. I continued. And I was encouraged because the scales had begun to change.

After four weeks, I could honestly say that I was no longer hooked. I still had cravings at the end of my meals, but it was more like a little toddler wanting some attention – totally manageable.

I acknowledged those cravings, and then they’d go away. By the end of that first month, applying my focused mindfulness training, the cravings would sometimes be gone in just a few breaths. Whilst I have not been 100% sugar-free in the 10 years since, I have drastically cut back on my sugar intake.

There’s about 10kg less of me now than when I embarked on culling the sweet poison from my diet. Whilst not all 10kgs were to do with sugar (see below), I’m certain that like compound interest on financial investments, there will be compound interest benefits to my health as a result of that one change. And mindfulness helped make that change happen.

Note: I dropped 5kg due to sugar. The other 5kg have come off going plant-based (ie vegan since 2018), and I now train differently at the gym doing more HIIT. Once again, mindfulness played a role in making these changes happen 🙂

 


If you want to develop a mindfulness practice you can contact me to get started: 

Phone 0410 264 224 | patrea@positivepsychologystrategies.com.au

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Top 10 Big Ideas – Optimized Wisdom Distilled (Email Series)

Top 10 Big Ideas – Optimized Wisdom Distilled (Email Series) from my Coach Training Program

I spent the better part of 2020 participating in an intensive Coach Training program that focused on core wisdom (from ancient wisdom and modern science) and life’s fundamentals. As part of the program, we all had to participate in an obstacle course race. The obstacles in these races symbolize our commitment to what we’ve learned: to finding a way over, under, around or through any challenge we face in life. 

I thought I was reasonably fit for a person my age; participating in an obstacle course race showed me that I’ve still got a long way to go!! By the end of the course, I had continued to tweak what I eat, I trained differently at the gym, lost a few kgs (burpees will do that!!), and got a whole lot fitter and stronger! And prompted by my active participation in this course, I’ve also improved my sleep, do a daily journal, and now consistently meditate in the mornings!
 
I’ve distilled the best of what I extracted (best for me) from my ten months of training into my Top 10 Big Ideas. Here’s the overview of my Top 10 Big Ideas (+ 1 bonus idea) – Email Series. On the other hand, I have also made a separate Youtube Videos abou this Top 10 Big Ideas which you can watch here. 

Click the links to read the emails for
Top 10 Big Ideas – Optimized Wisdom Distilled

Big Idea #1 – Start with the End in Mind

Big Idea #2 – Close the Gap

Big Idea #3 – What I can be, be

Big Idea #4 – Step forward into Growth – not back into safety

Big Idea #5 – Finish What I Start

Big Idea #6 – Right Why

Big Idea #7 – Protocol is Primary

Big Idea #8 – W.I.N (What’s Important Now)

Big Idea #9 – Oscillate with the natural rhythm of the body

Big Idea #10 – There is no “THE” way

Big Idea #11 – Bring back the boon!

 

Which of these big ideas resonates with you? Share what resonates with you by writing a comment – I’d love it if you would.

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Top 10 Big Ideas – Optimized Wisdom Distilled from Coach Training Program (Video Series)

By: Patrea O’Donoghue – Psychologist

I spent the better part of 2020 participating in an intensive Coach Training program that focused on core wisdom (from ancient wisdom and modern science) and life’s fundamentals. As part of the program, we all had to participate in an obstacle course race. The obstacles in these races symbolize our commitment to what we’ve learned: to finding a way over, under, around or through any challenge we face in life. 

I thought I was reasonably fit for a person my age; participating in an obstacle course race showed me that I’ve still got a long way to go!! By the end of the course, I had continued to tweak what I eat, I trained differently at the gym, lost a few kgs (burpees will do that!!), and got a whole lot fitter and stronger! And prompted by my active participation in this course, I’ve also improved my sleep, do a daily journal, and now consistently meditate in the mornings!
 
I’ve distilled the best of what I extracted (best for me) from my ten months of training into my Top 10 Big Ideas. Here’s the overview of my Top 10 Big Ideas (+ 1 bonus idea). I like to share with my clients what I learn (from research papers, books, and professional training courses) and this video is no different – you’re getting the best of what I learned over the course of 2020. Note: I did this video as part of the final ‘assessment’ for the course. It was never intended for ‘publication’ however, I figure it’s a bit of fun – so enjoy this single-take video in all its raw glory!!

My Top 10 Big Ideas – Optimized Wisdom Distilled

BIG IDEA #1 – START WITH THE END IN MIND

BIG IDEA #2 – CLOSE THE GAP

BIG IDEA #3 – WHAT I CAN BE, BE

BIG IDEA #4 – STEP FORWARD INTO GROWTH – NOT BACK INTO SAFETY

BIG IDEA #5 – FINISH WHAT I START

BIG IDEA #6 – RIGHT WHY

BIG IDEA #7 – PROTOCOL IS PRIMARY

BIG IDEA #8 – W.I.N.

BIG IDEA #9 – OSCILLATE WITH NATURAL RHYTHM

BIG IDEA #10 – THERE IS NO ‘THE’ WAY

BIG IDEA #11 – BRING BACK THE BOON!


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