On Quotes:
Changing Mindset and Promoting Health

When my aunt passed away a few months ago, I was overwhelmed both by my loss of her and the task of writing something to be read at her memorial service. How could I possibly grieve for her and capture all that she was to me in merely a few minutes of prose?

I initially did what I usually do in response to grief or overwhelm: got quiet and tried to focus on simple things like my breath, preparing food for myself, or carving out some time for a long walk in the woods.

Until I was reminded one day, on a lunch-hour run to the grocery store, of another way I’d always responded: reading the wise words of others. I’d come across Cheryl Strayed’s latest book, “Brave Enough.” I’d heard it was a compilation of quotes from her previous works but knew little else about it. I picked it up and placed it in my basket without even opening the cover.

A few days later, I found myself sitting in the living room of my aunt’s best friend: wrapped in a blanket, warm tea in my mug, my copy of “Brave Enough” in my lap. I began to read the introduction:

“The best quotes….guide, motivate, validate, challenge, and comfort us in our own lives. They reiterate what we’ve figured out and remind us how much there is yet to learn. Pithily and succinctly, they lift us momentarily out of the confused and conflicted human muddle. Most of all, they tell us we’re not alone.”

As soon as I read it, I realized that it was what I needed to hear most: that I’d been stuck in a confused and conflicted place and that I was not alone. To experience grief and overwhelm was to be human. And so many others, Cheryl Strayed included, had experienced them before me. The burden I’d been carrying since my aunt’s passing suddenly seemed a little lighter.

I decided to reread the introduction in light of my new perspective and, the second time, was struck by the following:

“...I believe in the power of words to help us reset our intentions, clarify our thoughts, and create a counternarrative to the voice of doubt many of us have murmuring in our heads- the one that says You can’t, you won’t, you shouldn’t have. Quotes, at their core, almost always shout Yes!

"This aims to be a book of yes.”

In my own personal life, and in my work as a Chinese medicine practitioner, these things have been essential in times of crisis:

Someone’s shoulders to either stand or lean on.

Help creating a counternarrative or a change in mindset.

Access to at least one of the many “books of yes.”

But they have also been essential in the promotion of health.

Grief and overwhelm certainly have their place in our lives, but to get stuck in them is to be out of balance: the very definition of disease.

The wise words of others, on the other hand, have always been a reliable way to get unstuck and find a way back into balance: the very definition of health.

As I sat reading “Brave Enough” that day, I learned this lesson again for myself. I ultimately chose to include several quotes from the book in what I wrote for my aunt’s memorial service because they said, so succinctly, what I’d been unable to find the words to say. In doing so, I felt I was able to begin to capture everything that she was to me—a feat I may not have been able to accomplish had I gone it alone.

I realized, too, that I needed a way to let the people in my life, including my patients, know that they didn’t have to go it alone. Which eventually led me to start a free email series with weekly quotes. Feel free to join in below:

It is my hope that these quotes be a force of yes in your life. A means through which you can create a counter-narrative to your voice of doubt and change your mindset, and find your way back to the greatest expression of you — in health.