Learning about the power of slow and the right to joy

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The Saugeen Times

21 October 2009

By Liz Dadson

Gabriele Del Bianco holds up a photo of a lighthouse which we want in our lives

Gabriele Del Bianco holds up a gremlin which we want to get rid of in our lives

We are a society of rushaholics who need to learn to slow down and enjoy life.

That’s the word from Gabriele Del Bianco, a motivational counsellor from Auburn whose company, Innerfit, helps people pursue wellness.

Speaking at the fall meeting of the Retired Women Teachers’ of Ontario (RWTO), South Bruce Branch, Del Bianco said he finds it interesting talking with a group of teachers because of an unresolved issue in his life. His Grade 4 teacher was the greatest around and she told the students that whoever did the best in math and science would get a trip to Paris with her.

“My friend and I worked hard and scored top points and were chosen to go to Paris,” he said. “Two weeks later, our teacher said we were driving to Paris. Now, I know geography so I wondered about that. We got into the car and travelled through Brantford and on to Paris, Ontario. But we had a great time anyway.”

He said it’s more about the anticipation and the joy we find along the way. “Joy is so complicated these days. It has to be measured and planned. It’s supposed to be something we purposely invite. But part of joy is the journey. There may be some pitfalls but you keep going.”

Del Bianco recalled teaching a Grade 8 class and he was having a rough morning when a youngster asked him for help with his mitts. “That kid turned to me and said, ‘I’m so glad you were here today.’ You’re never sure what’s going to bring you joy.”

He told the group about a student in his class who didn’t want to come to school. He picked her up and took her to school but she would just leave so he would go and get her again. She sat in class with her hood up covering her face. He wrote her a letter of encouragement and she ripped it up in front of him and threw it in the garbage.

“Fifteen years later, a woman came up to me. She was about 26-27 years old. She was a social worker and she wanted to talk to me. I didn’t know who she was until she pulled the hood of her parka up over her face. She still had the letters she’d ripped up. She had come back and retrieved them from the garbage can and scotch-taped them together. Now, she shows them to the kids she works with.

“Joy waits quietly and it affects us day by day. You have to invite in the simplicity of it.”

He recalled when he and his wife went to Italy and they got off the beaten track, ending up in a small little town. He went to the bank and stood in line and waited, and waited, but the line didn’t move.

“I asked if something was wrong, why the line wasn’t moving, and a man asked me, “Why, do you have somewhere to be?” I told him no, and he said the people were just waiting for the money to arrive. They were chatting and later coffee and sandwiches arrived.

“The simplicity was killing me. We lose out on joy because we’re used to our habits. We figure we should be moving or doing something. We have rushaholicism – we’re addicted to rushing. We have to learn the power of slow because joy just lopes along and we have to let it catch up.”

Del Bianco then used several items to demonstrate how we can find joy in our lives, even in retirement.

He started with kindling which is needed to get the fire burning. “Rejoice over the kindling – those little moments that didn’t seem too important during your rush of life. Talk about the memories and those small moments of joy.” He said in this age of information, people are struggling to simply enjoy life.

A log has rings on it which have captured its life. “Think about the many stories of our lives, tell them often and pass them on.”

Then he pulled out a suitcase which he said we often carry around with too much baggage in it.

“We need to lighten the load,” he said.

Holding up a red cup, he said the weight of it depends on how long you have to hold it. “Joy says you can put the cup down.”

Next came a lock. He said we need to check some of those doors we haven’t checked in a long time and see if they are still locked. “Those doubts that linger, we don’t have to hold on to them anymore.”

Several stones in a jar represent our needs. “Identify them and make room of them first and then everything else later.”

Del Bianco held up a gremlin, a malicious creature which invades our lives when we have no joy. “With joy in our lives, we have no room for gremlins.”

Next came a clock. “Get rid of your watch. Enjoy the time and what you’re doing rather than worrying about the time. When you run the time – what a difference that makes. Once in a while, you might not know what time of day it is. That’s the power of slow, the power of now.”

He held up some hooks. “Don’t get hooked by guilt into doing things you don’t need to do. You can say no and enjoy it. In your retirement, remember the word “no”. It’s your right to have joy and say no. It’s allowed.”

Now, with all kinds of room in the suitcase, Del Bianco suggested some things to put in it.

A strainer to catch important things and let others go.

Stress tokens – allow yourself only so many per week and if you use them up by Monday, look out for the rest of the week. “Don’t let little things stress you out. Joy lets us look at it as a spilled cup, and that’s all.”

A lighthouse gives you something to hold onto during the storms of life – friends, good memories. “Share them often and the storm will pass.”

Fuses indicate when our energy is blown. “We have to check what we have plugged in all at the same time. When two fuses blow, enjoy it. Maybe you need to step back from what you’re doing because you have too much going on.”

And real joy, he said, is walking by a mirror and saying “Ta-da”. “Real joy will occupy whatever space you give it. Enjoy your right to have joy. Do random acts of kindness at schools, find the joy in things.”

He then allowed the group five minutes for an activity. Each woman took a piece of paper on a string and draped it around her neck so it hung down her back. Then they wrote affirmations about each other on the papers.

Besides motivational counselling, Del Bianco does family and individual counselling. As well as his business in Auburn, he operates a centre in Kincardine strictly for Bruce Power and Hydro One workers.

About 40 members attended the RWTO meeting. New life members over the age of 90 were Effie Davey, Melva Reuber, Mary Fleming and Mary O’Malley. Grace Patterson is 100 years old.

Mary Jane Finn of Windsor, RWTO provincial president, told the group she was glad of the sunny weather because every other meeting she had attended she had to drive through pouring rain.

She said the provincial executive steers the group and enjoys hearing from the branches and their proposed resolutions. The provincial RWTO organization is looking for a branch to host the annual meeting in 2012, she said.


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