Month: May 2014

Branding…Not Just For The Donkey Anymore

The University of New Brunswick is planning to hire a “communications manager” in an effort to help “build the president’s brand”.  I am applying for the position and am sharing my cover letter with you.  I hope you will all support me in my bid for employment.

 

May 27, 2014

To Whom It May Concern,

Please accept my resume in response to your available position of communications manager.  As you will find, I have absolutely no qualifications for this job.  I am attaching my resume anyway, because I have a “secret ingredient” that is bound to secure this job for me.  Intrigued?  Thought so.   Read on.

So, essentially you are looking for a brand manager to cement your vision for UNB to the world.  It is my understanding that brand managers engage in a few of the following tasks:

  • analyze and plan how the brand is positioned in the market
  • hone in on which target public the brand is targeted at
  • development of a good relationship with the target public
  • create and/or manage the emotional connection between the “product” and the “customer

Looks pretty…sounds complex enough to be a “fancy” job.  I liken it to the landscaper that refers to him/herself as an “environmental aesthetics technician”.  Remember my reference to my “secret ingredient”?  It’s called common sense.  So, here is my offer…

Eddy Campbell, who would be my “boss”, makes between $325,000 and $349,000 per year.  This is in addition to a home and car allowance.  It was interesting to discover that he earns 142% more than our premier and 463% more than the median family income in New Brunswick.  That said, I’m willing to solve your problems for $75,000 per year and an unlimited supply of Pepsi.  Knowing you’re going to jump on this, I’ll divulge a little more…

Your “brand” is as a university offering education.  You don’t need to “brand” it-it is pretty self-explanatory.  And, PS-it’s the only university in Saint John so you’re pretty safe in that department.  As far as your target population, I would draw on my expertise of people and go with young adults (say, those nearing high school graduation) as your main focus and spend a little time on us old folks that know that it’s never too late to learn.

Now, when you consider developing a positive emotional relationship with target public, you really have done on number on that one given the events of the last few months (that pesky little strike is like that wart that just won’t go away).  You don’t need a communications manager here…you need David Copperfield to make the last several months disappear.  Even this is beyond my scope of practice.

My suggestion is this-cut your salary and benefits back to something reasonable (say, $112,578).  Interestingly enough, that’s the average annual salary for a university professor in Canada.  OK…maybe you can have a little more since you are on those committees and things.  In addition to my fee of $75,000 plus Pepsi costs to act as your emotional, caring brain, assemble a focus group of professors/students (present and past) to determine what would make the whole experience meaningful for them.

Branding?  Maybe for companies like Nike and Apple.  You don’t need a communications manager…you just need to learn how to communicate.

I can be reached at my home number listed on my resume when you get my office ready and my paperwork is in order.  Until then…

Regards,

Amanda E. McEvoy

 

**Wikipedia and The Brunswickan helped me out here

 

Mind Interrupted…

As I assume lotus position and softly let my gaze fall on the calm ocean before me, I drift away to the feeling of hot sand on the sides of my feet and the salty breeze filling my lungs…

For anyone who has asked me about meditation over the past few months, this is SO not my experience.   Granted, it sounds like an enjoyable time, but realistically-especially for beginners, it generally isn’t like this.  I thought I would share with you how it plays out for me-how I began with the “meditating” thing and where I’m allowing it to bring me.  I think we hear a lot about it now-especially in terms of words like “mindfulness” and “awareness”…but, really, what does it mean?  What does it look like?  I’m enrolled in a teacher training program right now which has encouraged me to examine my own practice a little more closely-what I have learned thus far is the tip of the iceberg.  I’m a believer in hearing about other people’s experiences to make your own experiences seem a little more “normal”.

I began my meditation practice when I was very little-only I didn’t know it at the time.  I grew up in the Roman Catholic faith, and always remember saying prayers before bedtime.  As I got older, my prayers morphed from recitations to conversations with The Big Guy.  I would lose track of time.  I would tell HIM about my day, what was troubling me, and ask for help when I needed it.  As with all organized religions, there really is a “meditation-like” component to them.  Rosaries, morning prayers, chanting…whatever you believe or what you call it, essentially you are separating from the here and now and turning your attention to a life energy outside of yourself.

Meditation came up for me again in the form of guided meditations (aka-ITunes).  I would download them and use them for sleep, relaxation, healing or whatever my “issue” seemed to be at the time.  These are awesome-I still engage in this practice often!  The birth of my third daughter was facilitated by a process known as hypnobirthing-a process grounded in guided meditations.  My pregnancy was healthy, happy and (mostly) anxiety-free…as was my delivery.  This was an amazing accomplishment as I had experienced two high-risk pregnancies prior with one premature delivery.  This experience, for me, solidified the idea of how “changing” or interrupting your thoughts could manifest a different outcome.

In true Amanda form, though, I wanted to know more.  I wanted to go deeper.  Enter my trip to Deepak Chopra’s Center in Carlsbad, CA and participation in the most amazing program called Seduction of Spirit.

It was at the Chopra Center where I was introduced to Primordial Sound meditation.  For ease of reading, essentially this is a type of meditation whereby you receive a mantra-a primordial sound.  It is based on the date, place and time of your birth and is a combination of the vibrational energy sound the universe was making when you passed from womb to the outer world.  It’s personal-not shared with anyone.  The mantra is repeated silently in meditation-it acts almost as an anchor.  It brings you back when your mind starts racing with thoughts.  This is the type of meditation I use now and is what I am learning to teach.  Now, there is far more theory behind it than my simple explanation-but this blog is about how I engage in my practice.

This is where we get to the good part…how it works for me.  I’m really into lists, so I’m going to break this down into bulleted form because heavy stuff is easier to digest that way.

  • I start my meditation by using an app called Insight Timer (ITunes).  Very straightforward to use.  I set my timer for 35 minutes.  Then, I get comfortable (I usually meditate in a chair in front of my fireplace-I’m always cold.  It’s essential to be comfortable-you won’t last long if something is bothering you).  The goal is to meditate for 30 minutes twice per day…for many people this is a struggle (me included).  I use the 5 minutes at the beginning to settle myself down.  I do some breathing exercises (breathe in for the count of 4, hold for the count of 4 and release the breath to the count of 4).  After a few minutes, I’m generally resting a bit easier than when I started.

 

  • I then use the next couple of minutes to begin my Soul Questions.  These are 3 questions that I ask myself to help set an intention for my meditation (you do not have to have an intention…just asking the questions is enough).  Now…it’s SO hard not to try to answer them or attach some kind of meaning to them when you’re silently asking them.  It WILL get easier.  The questions are: who am I, what do I want, how can I help/serve/heal?

 

  • I then breathe in very deeply (which, actually, takes quite an effort for me still as I hold A LOT of tension in my body all the time).  I let this breath out with a huge sigh-this is my signal that I am releasing these questions to the world.  I am NOT going to try and figure out the answers-the universe is going to handle the details for me (in the beginning, this concept is very, VERY difficult to understand.  By nature, we are bred to figure everything out, look it up, seek it out.  This is an area where it is acceptable not to know…in fact, we CAN’T know-we can’t control what is going to unfold for us).

 

  • I start repeating my mantra at this point-silently.  My meditation teacher, Davidji (Google him please-fantastic!!) explained that it is not so much about repeating it as it is about listening to it be repeated.  Just let that sink in for a minute…kind of mind blowing I know.  If you don’t have a mantra (as I didn’t at first) you can use “om” or even a phrase such as “I am”.  There’s no “right” way to repeat it.  There are times when mine gets jumbled and I can’t remember what word I just heard/said.  You just come back to the mantra again-gently.  When the time is up, you leave mediation easily.  No jumping up from the chair to unload the dishwasher.

This is the general process…the details are not important.  Here are some things that have happened to me during meditation:

  • I get bored.  This happens usually if I’m really stressed about something.  I’ll be opening an eye to look at the clock or I’ll be unable to stay still.  Generally, I try to simply relax and return back to my mantra.  Sometimes it doesn’t work.  That’s OK.
  • I fall asleep.
  • I get caught up in my thoughts (what to make for dinner, I need to clean the bathroom, the dog is barking)
  • Noise (children, telephone, animals)

The most reassuring news is that this is all supposed to happen!  It’s life!  I’m not Buddha parked under the tree.  Ironically, I have discovered that the more my meditation practice evolves, the more detached I become from these occurrences.  You’re there, but these things are flowing through you instead of slamming up against you stopping your progress.  I have had physical sensations (my hands…which are ALWAYS cold…are warm if not hot by the end of the 30 minutes).  I have also been more aware of happenings in my life-synchroncity if you will.  People, events, books, dreams, songs, conversations all happening for reasons that become increasingly clear to me.

The most powerful thing you experience though, is the interruption of the hamster wheel in your head.  The thoughts-one thought every second.  Because, really, that’s all just your ego.  No matter how “intelligent” you think you are thinking…they are just constructions of the ego.  To interrupt that process-even for seconds is so beneficial (that’s another blog post entirely).  Suffice it to say that, to change your thoughts, is the most powerful ability in the world.  Even to be aware that you have the capability to do so is an amazing start.  All of the sudden, you look at ALL of your interactions differently.  That 60 minutes of silence a day is like a pressure washer to a dirty car.  The room you make in your soul is endless.

 

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Fungus…or a work of art?

When I Think Of You…

This Saturday I will work my last shift on the acute care floor I have worked on since I graduated as a nurse.  I’m making more room in my life to pursue some different interests and the time has come for me to take a different path.  

In thinking about leaving, I have thought a great deal about how people often will wait until extreme circumstances to acknowledge how others have touched them in their life.  Many times these revelations come about as the by-products of serious illnesses, injuries and death.  In so many of these cases, it’s too late for the person to know just what they have brought into your life-what they have taught you or how they opened your heart.  

This is a letter to the beautiful people I have worked with for the last eight years.  Not all of you reading this letter will know these people, but that’s not important.  Think about the people in your own life-especially the ones that you may be more apt to take for granted (co-workers).  Reflect on how much of your time you actually spend with them and understand how amazing their impact is on you-even if you may not always agree.  

 

My Dear Neuro Friends,

First of all, you need to know how fantastic it was to know that I would see all of you faces each time I came in to work!   For the last eight years I’ve been privileged enough to sweat it out with the most team-centered, compassionate bunch of people ever…I am so lucky!  And when I thought about what it was that I really appreciated about my time with you all, it was the amazing ability for all of us to immediately come together-without hesitation-when it was necessary.  Over the past several years, the cohesiveness of all of our staff has been the tie that binds.

We work in such a acutely intense environment…pun intended.  If you sit back and think about the things that we witness, the lives we touch and the work that we do-it’s really overwhelming.  And not one of us could make that happen alone-and as gracefully as it’s executed on our floor.  

I have learned so much from all of you both formally and simply from observation.  When I think of each one of you that I have worked with over the years, it’s amazing how quickly a certain memory comes to my mind…and that’s how you’ve touched me.  With kindness, with love, with humour and with integrity.

So, from the absolute fullness of my heart to all of yours, thank you for sharing your lives with me for the last eight years.  I know that between Rose’s “lovin’s”, Trudi’s OCD and Katie’s amazing ability to recite complete passages from the funniest movies ever, neuro will keep on keepin’ on!  And it is my sacred promise to introduce Amanda’s bowel bars to whatever work environment I happen to find myself in.  May you all keep regular and full of probiotics!

Love,

Amanda (Lloyd Braun)

 

 

Corey Hart or Idina Menzel…that is the question…

I have this clear memory of my father singing “Never Surrender” in the car one day.  I remember him looking at me in the passenger’s seat saying “listen to the words…never surrender”.  There was something about the way he said it to me…even as a child I somehow knew I was supposed to hang on to that little nugget.  We have so much thrown at us when we are growing up-it’s so amazing to see what sticks and what doesn’t.  I guess maybe one of the complications of this phenomenon though, is that we catch these blips of knowledge…but we are interpreting it through a child’s perception.  That day I remember thinking…”I will never give up.  Ever.”

And I didn’t.  Ever.  But in the midst of “never, ever giving up”, my grip became firmer in fear and instability.  I morphed “never surrender” into “never give up”.  Two very different things.  Especially when you don’t allow any space in your mind to actually digest which of the two are necessary in any given moment.  Or are either necessary at all?

Then, there’s the “letting go”.  Out of interest, I asked my husband what he thought the difference between the two were-surrender versus letting go.  Quite quickly he said “surrender is when you HAVE to let something go-no choice“.  “Letting go is when you WANT to let something go-your choice” (as a side note, his blog entitled “Coles Notes on Amanda’s Thoughts” will be live by tomorrow).

Active versus passive.  Fighting versus releasing.  Expending energy versus saving energy.  Moment of clarity when you realize that you have been making like the provincial government and wasting A LOT of resources on things you can’t control.  

One of the exercises that I was asked to do when I was away at my meditation retreat was to make a list of things I want.  At the beginning of meditation, we ask ourselves three questions:

-who am I?

-what do I want?

-how can I help/serve/heal?

Then, we LET THOSE QUESTIONS GO!  We let the universe handle the details-or, we are supposed to.  It’s really hard for the control freaks among us to do this.  For some reason, we feel that we can certainly outwit the universe and plan the details ourselves.  I struggle here…but I am learning to embrace the struggle too.  It’s something I (obviously) have to work through.  Just like the list of things I WANT.  

It took me no time at all to make this list-it poured out of me like a dam bursting.  In making it, I didn’t think about the logistics of anything-it’s just a list of what I WANT:

  • creativitiy
  • humor
  • reading
  • healing
  • health/wellness
  • autonomy
  • peace
  • quiet
  • growth
  • spirit
  • security
  • innovation
  • connection to others
  • challenging thoughts
  • beautiful/thoughtful images

These are in no order-just the order in which they surged up and onto the paper.  After we had all completed our list, we were encouraged to “let go…let go and let God”.  You can insert any word into that sentence for God that means something to you.  Really, it just means to release it and let the universe handle the details.  How freeing is that?  And basically goes against anything we have ever been taught to be “in charge” of our destiny.  Really, we have very little say in our destiny other than our intention.

And I thought back to that moment in the front seat of the powder blue LeBaron, and I realized how little Amanda had clamped hard onto that “never surrender”-so hard that it pinched off most of the free-flowing energy.  Little Amanda took that advice so literally, but missed the essence.  Dad was really trying to help me understand not to live my life passively…as a character who has things “happen to them”.  

I encourage you reading this to make your own list-it takes minutes (the less thinking, the better).  And then, the best part-do nothing.  The list, after all, came from your most personal, deepest desire.  The universe knows how to manifest it if you are willing to be open.

Let it go.  

Idina for the win.

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The sky doesn’t “try” to look like this.  It just does.  How awesome!

Man In The Mirror…

Who is looking back at you when you look into the mirror?  Is it you…really you?

One of the most interesting things about my nursing career thus far is the insight I have gained into people’s perspective of themselves.  Right now, I work primarily with patients afflicted with varying degrees and types of dementia.  In a very strange way, it gives you such a truthful, naked view of people…and how they see themselves.   Because dementia wreaks such havoc on the brain, the “regular” functions of the brain are all affected-including perception and judgement.  The experience of observing a person look at themselves in the mirror and not recognizing their own face is incredible.  Although there are pathological reasons for why this happens, it made me wonder about how people identify themselves and the role of physical appearance in “who” someone is.

Because I don’t think “who” you are is what is displayed right now in your physical reflection.

People identify so heavily with how they look or physical abilities/inabilities they have.  What happens when that is taken away as it so often is with illness or other circumstances?  Does it change “who” you are…your true nature?  If anything, I believe that it makes your intimate knowledge of yourself even that much more solid-you realize that sometimes those things can fall away.  And YOU are still there.

I have thought a lot about this concept over the years-especially when loved ones have passed away.  How many times has the “chatter” in the funeral home turned to “oh, that doesn’t look anything like Uncle Teddy in the casket”? I remember when my dear grandfather passed away-how little and waxy he looked laying so perfectly still.  It gave me such a sense of reassurance…that absolutely was not him!  He was not in that physical body that was laying in front of me not moving.  What made him HIM was all around me-and what made him HIM also made that physical container he carried around as his body look beautifully alive and strong.  Spirit, soul, inner beauty-whatever resonates with you, is what breathes life into the carcass that you happen to be carrying around.

When I’m in those moments with my patients, it has been my experience that they won’t even look at themselves in the mirror.  To them, it’s a part of the wall-just another fixture in the bathroom.  There are times when I will say “look at how lovely your hair looks today” or something other general comment to engage conversation.  Most often, there is complete non-attachment to the person reflected back to them.  Sometimes, the response is even “who is that” or “that’s not me”.  Medically, of course, there are reasons for that.  I believe that part of that, though, is absolute truth. That is not who they believe they are-in THEIR mind at THAT particular time.  There is no recognition-no connection.  Sometimes, a person will even say “I don’t have gray hair!”  And who am I to tell them any different?

I am reminded of this when I’m playing with my 15 month old now-she sees the “baby” in the mirror, but she does not realize that baby is her.  It’s just an interesting little face!  She hasn’t yet linked physical appearance to her identify.

Imagine if that step in development never happened.  If you never latched onto your physical body as a part of what made YOU up!  Who would you be then?  No parameters placed on your self-image…no limitations.  Absolute freedom.  Because, essentially, you are eventually going to end up back there anyway-this vehicle we call our body will give out at some point.  Who does that leave YOU with?

 

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