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Seize the day

Life lessons from my college professor

The recent anniversary of the death of my college advisor and professor reminded me again of how much I owe him. Dr. Gale Thompson taught me not only psychology, but about finding meaning and beauty every day. Here are six life lessons from Gale that made an impact on me.

  1. Don’t sweat the small stuff…because as Gale and many others have said, “It’s all small stuff.”
  2. All of life is a blessing. Before Gale died, he asked for this Facebook post to be widely spread after his death: “You are living a miracle, a mysterious experience, which you will not experience again; do not make judgments of your own experiences, but just let them be…all of life can be a blessing.”
  3. Spirit has many forms, some more direct and physical than others. He used to explain how hugs can relieve pain and depression and make the healthy healthier and the happy happier!
  4. Be kind whenever possible. When I was with friends at his house for a yoga class taught by his wife, he would open up his pantry and share many delicious treats that you would never find in the school cafeteria. He treated us not just as his students, but as people very special in his life.
  5. Eat consciously. Gale taught me what mindfulness meant when enjoying food. He told us we would enjoy food more if we slowed down and really tasted it, rather than just shoveling it into our mouths. It wasn’t always easy to do, especially as an always-hungry college student, but it’s a strategy I still use.
  6. Relieve stress by relaxing and breathing deeply. Gale’s stress relief technique combining deep breathing with a mantra and I have shared it with hundreds of clients. It goes like this:

Breathe in–CALM, breathe out–RELAX;

Breathe in–RELAX, breathe out–SMILE;

Breathe in–SMILE, breathe out–CALM.

Visualize the words in capital letters while you breathe. For example, at RELAX, scan your body and relax any part of it that is tense. With SMILE, actually put a smile on your face.

Take time today to think about the people in your life who have touched you and thank them. I wish I could have had just a few more days to share with Gale the difference he made in my life.

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