Dr John Geater is at the time of writing aged 73. He is married to Jane and has three adult children. He is a medical doctor and has worked in Bhutan, New Zealand and in England. In 2006 he received an MBE from the Queen for his work in setting up the postgraduate medical education charity, PRIME (Partnerships in International Medical Education). He has taught holistic medical education in 26 different countries around the world. Just before Christmas 2017 he was diagnosed with metastatic pancreatic cancer.
Do join us in this fascinating podcast conversation as we discuss John's life and explore questions such as:
How do you respond when bad things happen to you?
How do you make sense of being diagnosed with cancer three times in your life?
How to embrace life's mysteries when things don't go the way you want or expect.
We also ask John:
What was it like running a leprosy hospital in Bhutan at the age of 25?
What would you say to someone who has a terminal illness and is scared?
To explore with us from Bronnie Ware's book the five regrets of the dying:
I wish I lived a life true to myself and not what was expected of me.
I wish I had not worked so hard.
I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings.
I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
I wish I had let myself be happier.
What he is looking forward to in the life to come?
It is a commonly held assumption among many people that faith in God is incompatible with a scientific world view. Our largely secular media would have us believe that science and faith in a universal creator God is an irreconcilable contradiction. (See We're All Materialists Now!).Yet the more closely you examine the evidence the more you realise this does not have to be the case at all.
Brian Enderle holds graduate degrees in both science and theology. In this 13 minute TED talk he explains how scientific understanding of the universe is even more amazing and fantastic than we could ever imagine.
The more you look at the findings the harder it is not to use hyperbole and extreme descriptions. Take the finding of how much of atoms are empty space. In case you were wondering a single atom is apparently a million times smaller than a human hair. Within an atom there is, according to Enderle, 99.9999999999999% empty space! That means everything around us that appears solid, physical and real is actually practically all empty space! We assume because atoms are so tiny and so numerous objects appear solid to us, but in fact they are not!
"I need more time!" How often have you said that to yourself? Its frequently how I feel. So much to do and apparently so little time to do what needs to be done. And yet when I have found myself with more time available, I've also found myself too exhausted or distracted to make significant headway with the different projects that I have told myself are important to me. When that happens it is easy to feel guilty or be too hard on oneself. Maybe part of the reason for this is because it is more then than just a time issue.
Part of the problem comes because we don't grasp that we have overloaded ourselves in a number of different ways. Talking about needing more time is way too simplistic.
Here are some examples. I am guilty of all of them on one occasion or another:
Everyone seems agreed that we live in an overwhelming world with far too much to do and too little time to do what needs to be done. With our busy frenetic lifestyles there is always one more email to write, one more phone call to make, or one more task that could be done. Our electronic devices never switch off and we can feel the same way. The more productive I become then the more work I create for myself! I can feel like the proverbial hamster on a wheel going faster and faster just to keep still.
But could there be a better way? Could the secret to better productivity be found not in getting even faster, and doing more and more, but in learning to rest better?
Its more than likely that you, the reader, is a knowledge worker who has to produce results not physically with your hands and manual labour, but with your mind and greater clarity of thinking. However, there are certain assumptions that govern the way we look at how we produce as knowledge workers. Here are three assumptions we make. We assume:
knowledge is produced rather than discovered or revealed.
The amount of work that goes into an idea determines how important it is.
The creation of ideas can be organised and systematised.
The results of such thinking is:
We think of over-work as a virtue
We believe hard labour rather than contemplation is the source of great ideas and breakthroughs.
We assume success comes from being hard driven and work-obsessed to the exclusion of everything else.
So when it comes to rest, who has got the time for that?
Here are three surprising insights about rest that have also been confirmed by experience and neuroscience:...
So much to do and so little time to do it! That seems like the cry and experience of our day and age. With such an explosion of choice there is no limit it seems to what I can, have, do and fill my time with. But where do I put the limits? Should there be limits? How do I decide what is really important or trivial? What should I do now or leave for another day or time? That is why the concept of margin is so vital.
For me with a recent fracture of my wrist, and needing to take time off work, I have had to slow myself down considerably. What seemed urgent and essential on one occasion feels less so now. At the same time I have started to slowly appreciate the importance of having margin or space in my life. It is something I find myself continually having to remind myself about. As my pace gradually begins to pick up I am reminded of the words of King Solomon (who certainly had a lot to occupy and distract him!), "Better one hand with tranquility than two handfuls with toil and chasing after the wind." (Ecclesiastes 4:6)
I now suspect it was bound to happen sooner or later. I was recently on a skiing holiday and managed to break a bone in my left arm.
As I write this I am plastered up with a sling and can just about type with a single finger! At this point it would be so easy to get frustrated and disappointed with life, myself and the universe.
I could ask myself questions like, "Why am I such a bad skier? Why did I allow myself to go on that slope? Why did I not stay back that afternoon and rest rather than going out to ski again? How am I going to deal with all the inconvenience and hassle this will cause? I haven't got time to be unwell. Haven't I got more important things to do than just stop to recover? What have I done to deserve this?"
The problem with questions like that is they are focused on the past or outside of anything I can control. They put me at risk of getting into a negative defeatist spiral. By putting me in a victim mindset they can so easily lead to depressive thinking.
The human brain is so powerful that asking questions like that to myself will only cause me to find reasons to reinforce my situation. In other words what you focus on will only get bigger. Argue for your limitations and you will invariably be right. Argue for your possibilities and options, then you will be right as well. The choice is yours. There is a much better way. This does not just apply to skiing accidents, but to so much else in life.
Fortunately I was able to not go down that negative road and instead ask myself a better, more future focused question: What does this now make possible?
In addition to that I was able to join that question with two true statements:...
One of the great tragedies of modern life is the increasing numbers of people who feel life is not worth living. It is a difficult subject that gets relatively little coverage and yet when you look at the statistics it is quite staggering how widespread an issue it is in our increasingly complex and challenging world.
According to Dr Catherine Le Gals- Camus, a former WHO Assistant -Director General, Non-communicable Diseases and Mental Health, "Suicide is a largely preventable public health problem, causing almost half of all violent deaths as well as economic costs in the billions of dollars. World-wide, more people die from suicide than from all homicides and wars combined.There is an urgent need for co-ordinated and intensified global action to prevent this needless toll. For every suicide death there are scores of family and friends whose lives are devastated emotionally, socially and economically."
I find the quote that more people die from suicide than all homicides and wars combined staggering and will need to verify its accuracy, even though it appears to come from a reputable source. The World Health Organisation quotes worldwide approximately 1 million people die by suicide every year and that this is set to rise to 1.5 million by 2020. Even so there can be no doubt of the tragic consequences of such a final act. (See Rick Warren and The Secret Anguish of Major Depressive Disorder).
Suicide rates tend to increase with age, but there has recently been an alarming increase in suicidal behaviours amongst young people aged 15 to 25 years old, worldwide. With the exception of rural China, more men than women commit suicide, although in most places more women than men attempt suicide.
Suicide is now the leading cause of death for men aged 15-49. Men are three times more likely than women to take their own lives. They accounted for four out of five suicides in 2015.
Key factors associated with suicide in men include:...
This 6 minute video by Prince Ea, who is an American spoken word artist, poet, rapper and filmmaker makes some challenging points about what it means to live life with purpose and passion.
His entertaining style and vivid imagery challenge us to think deeply about living life with a higher and greater perspective than what we may necessarily see in front of us or how we feel about ourselves. He emphasises the dangers of living with regret for not having been more appropriately ambitious, or without courage and living instead with self-doubt.
This 16 minutes talk by clinical psychologist Susan Heitler provides helpful insights into dealing with depressive and negative thoughts without the use of medication. What she proposes is looking first at what in your life may be causing you to feel the way you do.
The analogy of the common cold is helpful. While a common cold can be quite mild, in the short term it can leave you feeling quite miserable. There is also the risk of the cold developing into something more serious like a sinus infection or even pneumonia. For these reasons it is important to pay attention to when you find yourself persistently discouraged, with low energy, self-critical and irritable with others. Our modern assumption to quickly assume such feelings are due to a chemical imbalance has led to an over-diagnosis by doctors of depression, (See Is The Rate Of Depression Actually Increasing Or Not?)
The reason this is so important is the tendency in our modern world to look for a quick fix. This has become hugely important as the prescription for antidepressant medication has dramatically increased over the last few decades with no clear evidence that clinical depression has actually increased. For example from 2011 figures at least 1 in 10 Americans are on antidepressant medication and for women in their 30s and 40s this figure is around 1 in 4. (See Why Has There Been a 400% Increase In The Prescribing Of Antidepressants?) I also write about my own experience of how your lifestyle can be leading to depressive thinking here).
Susan Heitler expands on her Conflict Resolution Theory of depression, or more simply 'Bump Therapy'!
The first step or prescription is to identify the particular hurdle or obstacle in your life that you find yourself feeling disappointed about. The more specific you can be then the more likely you are to find a solution or way through that challenge.
The second prescription is what she calls 'pump up' or identify the resources or tools at your disposal. Dr Heitler gives an example on the video of this with a client of hers called Julie. You may also find of interest the article and video with Amy Morin called Are You Looking For Inner Strength?