You and The Hope for Today Cafe

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Have you ever started a project and been really excited about it? Sure you have! Sometimes the stars align and you think, OK, this is going to be good. Well, that is what’s happening for The Hope for Today Café.

My friend Deborah Kimmett and I have started work on a podcast that we think is great. I don’t want to over sell it but I think its going to be the best thing that anyone has ever done ever. (Sorry, I was just channeling Kanye West for a second) We’re going to bring you a bit of hope and humour to help get you through the day.

Let’s face it, If you’re a human (and I’m guessing you are) you may on occasion go through a tough time in your life. Some of you may be saying “Ya, of course Rob, that’s part of the deal”. Well, we are going to do a show based on the idea that we all face a challenge now and then and when we do, it can help a lot to get a boost from a couple of friends. That’s where The Hope for Today Café comes in. Once a week we’ll bring you short episodes packed with energy, hope and discussion about issues that face people going through health challenges and their care givers. We’re going to have shout outs to listeners, special guests and a ton of witty banter to lighten your day.

In fact, we’re already recorded a few and it was so much fun we figured we had to share it with you.

We’re looking forward to your feedback when our first episodes roll out. There is a huge community of courageous people out there and we want to serve you.

Let’s face it, we’re all in this together. We might as well try to help make the journey a bit easier.

Want a sneak peek? You can follow us on Sound Cloud here! The Hope For Today Cafe

Adventures In The Hope Workshop

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I am standing in front of a group of people who are at various stages of dealing with cancer. We have come together for something called “The Hope Workshop” and because this was the first time I had presented it, I was more than a bit nervous. No one was laughing at my jokes and if I tried, I could probably hear crickets.

Everyone looks really serious and concerned.

They listen as I talk about what is going to happen. How we are going to laugh, how we are going to share “the wisdom in the room”, how we are going to do exercises to help us feel good. It feels a bit like the atmosphere on the first day of school and I must admit that I am a bit nervous and excited. The Hope Workshop has begun.

The next two and a half hours fly by, if you have ever been on stage in front of an audience or ridden a bike at high speed or heck, done anything that is truly engaging; then you know what it’s like to give yourself to something in the moment and just run with it. That’s what it’s like in The Hope Workshop. A group of people come together and very quickly become comfortable with each other. Complete strangers laugh, share stories and share vulnerability.

Quicker than I think possible this disparate bunch has become a group of friends that is eager to help each other. Suggestions come fast and furious and I try to capture them all with an old school sharpie on a flipchart. People are eager to share what they have learned on their “journey with cancer”.

Before I know it, the group leaps ahead of me  and tackles issues I didn’t even know were on the table. I try to look like a calm workshop leader as someone shares an insight on a challenge that very few of us have faced. I am in awe of the life changing collaboration that’s happening right in front of me.

At the end of the night, folks tell me that they feel happier, lighter, that they even learned something. They thank me, which feels a bit odd because quite frankly, they helped each other with
their insights, courage, and bravery.

Writing Is Better for You Than You Think

that_thing_you_are_writing_is_awesomeThe timer on my phone is set to 4 minutes. “OK everybody, go!” A group of folks start scribbling in old school notebooks. We are writing something pretty simple. In fact, I had asked, “What is something terrific that happened this week? People actually smile as they write. This might not be what they expected when they joined a cancer support group called “Write For Your Life”. It wasn’t what I expected either. As they hit the three minute mark, I remember my first experience with therapeutic writing. I sat down at a Starbucks, put a notebook on one of their tiny round tables and was pressing so hard with my pen through the paper that I was sure I was engraving my thoughts on the unsuspecting wooden surface. It seems the wooden laminate wasn’t ready for how angry I was at being sick. I had written things like “Why did I get cancer? What am I going to do now? How am I going to pay my bills after surgery?” That was a pretty tough day. I certainly didn’t leave the coffee shop with any easy answers, but I did feel a bit better. It turns out, that wasn’t a coincidence. My friend Eugene Nam explained to me that Therapeutic Writing has benefits that would make any drug company jealous. Writing and journaling when you’re sick has been proven to (believe it or not) lower blood pressure, alleviate depression, reduce stress-and get this-reduce the length of hospital stays.

I say “Two Minutes” to the group. They write a bit faster. I noticed something else that happens as well. When we write in a group we give people the option of sharing what they have come up with. People tell bits of their story and we all learn from everyone’s experience. At times we have all doubled over in laughter when someone talks about something ridiculous that happened or listen intently while a member shares a particularly tough challenge.

My timer rolls past one minute. People scribble even faster, trying to put the finishing touches on their short piece. “Remember, it’s OK if it’s not perfect, it’s your story and however you tell it, is just fine.”

My phone chimes.

“Ok Everybody, times up. Does anyone want to read their piece?”

I have no idea what’s going to happen next.

Here’s some fancy research on how great Therapeutic Writing is…

Writing about traumatic, stressful or emotional events has been found to result in improvements in both physical and psychological health, in non-clinical and clinical populations. (Pennebaker & Beall, 1986)

In clinical populations, a meta-analysis (Frisina et al, 2004) of nine expressive writing studies found a significant benefit for health.

Expressive writing about one’s breast cancer, breast cancer trauma and facts related to breast cancer, significantly improved and physical and psychological health, such as the quality-of-life (Craft, Davis, & Paulson, 2012; Henry et al. 2010)

Testicular cancer survivor participants assigned to the positive expressive writing showed significant improvements in physical and psychological health (Pauley, Morman, & Floyd, 2011)

A Spoonful of Laughter featured in The Canadian Jewish News!

It was amazing to present to The L’Chaim cancer Support Group for Jewish Women. As you can tell from the photo in the Canadian Jewish News, we all had a blast. Many Thanks to Elizabeth Erlich and the entire group.Screen Shot 2015-04-01 at 9.10.27 PM

So, what do you want to know about happiness?

happinessWhat do you want to know about happiness? Seriously.

It seems to me that happiness is one of those things that all of humanity is after but not that many of us get on a regular basis. After we have enough to eat, a warm place to sleep and access to a decent PVR all of us start to wonder about how to obtain this strange commodity called happiness.

We stumble on it on occasion in strange places that always seem really funny to me. In fact, one of the happiest times I had this past year was standing ankle deep in water during a thunderstorm while unplugging the drain at the side of my house. Really. This raises several questions, the first of which is probably “Why don’t I get out more?” There are a whole ton of questions you might have about happiness as well. Ones like…

Can we be happier on a daily basis? Is it something we arrive at when we get a new BMW convertible? What about sex? (I mean in relation to happiness..) What about money? Is it the root of all evil or does it actually help us get more satisfaction in our lives? What about genetics? Can we do simple things everyday that will help us increase our happiness?

What are your questions about happiness? I really want to know. In fact, I am currently writing a book about happiness and I would love to get your questions and input. What do you want to know happiness?

Please drop me a line at robhawke@gmail.com

And if you want to hang out with me, you’ll find me by the side of my house waiting for the next thunderstorm.

Look forward to hearing from you!

John Cleese on the “How” of creativity.

I am a huge fan of Mr. John Cleese. Yes, I was one of those irritating teenagers who could repeat the Argument Sketch (A brilliant Monty Python bit) ad nasuem. I love Cleese’s work. Its funny, absurd and wickedly smart. A few years ago he did a talk on creativity. He talked about what creative people have to do to have an effective process. The “How” of creativity if you will. Most people don’t really believe that the HOW of creativity exists. They think that we (those who create) just blunder about until some great (or not great) idea falls from the firmament and then we write it, sculpt it, draw it, or deliver it in whatever discipline we choose. Cleese doesn’t agree with that. He feels we need SPACE to create. Here’s the video here…

He believes (as does another hero of mine, some unkown named “Stephen King”) that inspiration does show up but that it will show up much more often if we are present, ready and waiting for it. We have to keep our appointment with creativity in order for things to happen. Like a lot of appointments though, sometimes we have to wait for the other party to show up. Sometimes we have to twiddle our thumbs and wait.

I honestly think that most people can’t handle the uncertainty of not knowing what will happen next. Sometimes when we are making something we have to sit there for long periods of time waiting for something to happen. OK maybe its not that long, but it FEELS like a long time.

I have done some creative work in my time. A couple of books, a bunch of live comedy, a CD with a very good friend of mine, and in the process of ALL of them there was some time spent just wondering what the heck to do next, but if we stick with it and stay in that uncomfortable space for a while, an idea will magically bubble up from somewhere. Call it the collective unconscious, call it the depths of your psyche, call it Harold, but whatever you call it, something, some idea or inspiration will arrive.
 
Keith Richards, another remarkable artist who I have a tremendous amount of respect for was asked how he writes. He said “You don’t really write, you transmit.” When we are writing, improvising or whatever, we sometimes lose yourself in the process and feel a kind of beautiful “Lift Off”. The thing we are working on creates itself in an almost effortless fashion. That is a wonderful feeling, but we have to force ourselves to show up and do our art in order for that to happen. So what’s the big deal here? I think that as creative folks we have to embrace what most people do not. We have to come to terms with not knowing how its going to turn out. We have to hang out in the “uncomfortableness” of being unfinished and trust that somewhere out there or somewhere in here, there is an answer and it will arrive.

If we keep showing up, it will.

The Power Of Laughter Rocks!

FullSizeRender (3)It was my absolute honour to present A Spoonful of Laughter to the L’Chaim Cancer Support Group for Jewish Women last night. From the moment I walked in people were telling me jokes. “Oh, You’re the comedian? I’ve got a joke for you! A postman and a raccoon were walking down the street and…” And so it went. I was in stitches.

Taking a group of people who have had very little to no experience doing Improv through a workshop can be an adventure but these ladies went for it with incredible trust and enthusiasm. We talked about the medical benefits of laughter and how laughter can be such a powerful and positive tool for healing in our lives. As always at about the 20 minute mark the energy in the room shifts in a palpable way. We transformed from a bunch of individuals concerned about how we look in front of others to a unified group that is ready to share and take risks. Frankly, I love it. I’ve seen this happen again and again with groups of 15 to crowds of well over 100. When that happens it sets the stage for very good things to happen. We could see bits of this last night when by the end of our evening people were sharing their stories about the cancer journey, laughing at each other’s jokes and generally having a blast. Who knew a cancer support group could  be such a good time?

A Spoonful of Laughter for L’Chaim Cancer Support Group for Jewish Women

I am thrilled to be presenting my workshop “A Spoonful of Laughter” for the L’Chaim Cancer Support Group for Jewish Women on March 10th. (That’s tonight. So, I’m having a coffee no to get ready.) This incredible group comes together to support each other on their journeys with cancer. Talk about community service. I am honoured to be a part of the evening! Thanks very much.

Barf it Out! One of the keys to Creativity

Boy-on-High-DiveHave you ever had a bunch of ideas for a project and stood at the precipice only to stop dead in your tracks? Sure you have! Sometimes it feels as if we’re teetering on a high diving board before we begin something. We’ve done our preparation, we have our materials, we have told ourselves we HAVE to do this thing and we are ready to go. So we stand with our toes over the edge of our creative project staring down into the abyss at what looks like cold water below us. (Holy Metaphor Batman!) Worse yet, that water might have rocks underneath it! We might be killed when we jump off this cliff, and we’re only wearing a small bathing suit that covers the bare minimum of our intimate creative bits! (Ok, now my metaphor has lost its mind).

If you make stuff on a regular basis (and by stuff, I mean media or art of any kind) you have probably faced this many times. Writers refer to this as fear of the blank page, actors and improvisers get stymied by stage fright. Painters get, well I don’t know what painters get, but I’m sure they get something.

Recently I was creating a workshop and I had a ton of ideas on what I wanted to say and how it was going to happen, but I couldn’t get myself to begin. I had elements all picked out, I knew what my main message was but I couldn’t get myself to start. Why? I realized that I was terrified that it was going to suck!

I know that’s incredibly obvious but I think that’s what it comes down to for many of us. We might ask ourselves “Gosh, what if it’s terrible?  What if we’re not as good as we think we are? What if this one piece of work reveals to the world that we have no place even pretending to be a creative person?”

So, we often find reasons to not begin. Common reasons include…

1: Hey, I’m a bit hungry and nobody else is going to eat that pork chop.

2: I should really re-watch season 2 of Game Of Thrones. (perhaps while eating a pork chop)

3: I haven’t dusted my light bulbs in a while and the neighbors are starting to talk.

We would rather do ANYTHING but start the creative process because it feels risky and vulnerable.

However, a person far wiser than me once said “The Best Way Out is Through”. My rough interpretation of that would be Barf it Out. Yep. Hike up your pants, square your jaw, look fear in the eye and just start.

Bring whatever it is to life in its ugly first draft stage. Let it be terrible. Make the worst first attempt that anyone has ever made. Why? Because then it will exist. Once you have that first try, then (Halleluiah!)  you have something to work with. The best part is, the work is usually pretty darn good!  

So barf it out in all its glory! Whether it’s a talk or a book or a blog or a drawing or a recipe for brussel sprouts. Once it exists you can congratulate yourself for having something, and then the rest of the process can start. In my own example of the talk for Waterloo, it actually went really well. The participants loved it and we had a blast.

Have you ever “barfed out a project” and actually found out it was better than you thought?

 

On Being A Positive Sh!T Disturber

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThese people are Positive Sh!t-Disturbers

Are you a positive shit disturber? If you are, I’d love to buy you a coffee. Positive Sh!t Disturbers can be seen throughout the world disturbing the status quo and making a difference. In fact, I think that most positive change comes from those who disrupt in a thoughtful way and use as much positive energy as they can to improve our world.  Essentially these brave folks recognize that something needs to be changed and see themselves as the vehicle for making that happen.

We all know the names of people who have changed thousands of lives for the better like Martin Luther King and Mother Theresa. But there are some other folks who are doing incredible work right now to make the world a better place. Want some examples? Sure you do. Ever hear of Jessica Jackley and Matt Flannery? No? Well they started a little organization called Kiva which gives people a chance to loan money to entrepreneurs in the third world. This bringing together of lender and borrower known as “micro-lending” has changed the lives of thousands of people in places like Vietnam, Cambodia and Bolivia to name a few.  People have been able to start businesses and increase the level of prosperity for their families and the positive ripple effects for the community are huge.

The benefits of being a lender (and yes, I am looking at you) are really something also. When you lend money on Kiva, you read a person’s story and feel part of their entrepreneurial journey. It’s amazing to get an update that says “Maya has purchased noodles, sugar and other supplies to restock her store and can’t wait to get started” or “Miguel has purchased construction supplies for his new business and has begun his first project”.  It has been my pleasure to lend to Kiva for a while now, and I still get a ton of satisfaction from seeing people do such great stuff. You might want to check out their site here Be warned though, once you get started on lending to people it can be highly addictive.

Check out Kiva here…

Kiva!