Dare boldly

a blog by Louise Gallagher


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Let peace of mind have its way

I have a rule when I walk with Ellie. That rule is: Do not answer the phone.

I’m not always conscious of following my own rules. Yesterday was no exception.

While C.C. was resting from the procedure that removed a cancerous lesion on his forehead, I decided I needed to clear my head, restore my balance and find my centre. The best way I know to do that is to get out into nature so, Ellie the Wonder Pooch and I headed off to our favourite walking trail.

It was a gorgeous spring day. A slight breeze blew in from the west where the Rockies lined the horizon, their snow covered ridges a sleeping dinosaur’s razor edged back separating earth from the blue sky above. Birds sang and squirrels skittered along tree branches. Ellie, whose age no longer allows for a fast pace or off leash running, toddled beside me, eagerly sniffing spring scents in every blade of grass.

We walked westward along the ridge that parallels the river below that flows in from the Rockies in the distance. Patches of ice and snow still clung to its banks in tucked away places and behind us, the centre of the reservoir was a giant island of ice surrounded by still dark waters that had freed themselves from winter’s grip.

It was beautiful.

Ellie and I sat on the ridge. I breathed in the fresh air, the sounds and scents. Ellie snuffled about in the grasses then lay down beside me for a bit before getting up to sniff some more. She knows this spot well. It is where we always stop. It is where I meditate, legs crossed, face slightly uplifted to feel the air against my skin. Ellie is not that impressed with meditation. It bores her to sit still and mostly she rolls in the grass, nudges my leg with her nose, wanders off to check out a new scent.

It is our ritual. Our ‘thing’. We both like it.

As I sat and let my mind rest, I felt the tension easing. C.C.’s results from the surgery are good. The doctor removed all the cancerous cells and is satisfied — he got it all. Of course, the critter mind would like to play in that field. Stir that pot. Create fear where none need tread.

I don’t let him. I breathe into what I know. The doctor removed all the cancerous cells.

Ellie grows tired of my stillness and leans up against me. She pushes her head against my shoulder, “C’mon. C’mon. It’s a beautiful day outside. Let’s get moving.”

Finally, after a short ten minutes of silent contemplation, I give into her exhortations and stand up again.

She is delighted. She also knows there’s a treat in my pocket and butts her head up against my thigh.

Okay. Okay, I laugh and give her a treat.

It is a beautiful day.

And then, as we walk eastward, back towards the main trail, my phone rings.

I promised my daughters long ago that I would always carry my phone on my solitary walks. Mostly I remember.

I promised myself long ago that if my phone rang while I was on my walk, I wouldn’t answer it. Mostly I remember.

Yesterday, I forgot. Well, not so much forgot as checked the caller ID and saw it was a girlfriend I’ve been wanting to talk to.

I answered.

We chatted and then she asked me where I was. When I told her, she exclaimed and said, “Didn’t you hear about the stabbing?”

“What stabbing?” I asked while my mind leaped into high gear. Another stabbing? Haven’t we had all the stabbings we can take?

“At Glenmore Park. Granted, on the south side, but you get out of the woods right now and back on the main trail. It’s not safe. They don’t know if it was a random stabbing or not.”

I thanked my friend for her words of caution and hung up.

Now, I have run and walked through the woods, along the escarpment, into all the nooks and crannies along the river in this park for years. Years.

I have never felt scared in my aloneness.

Suddenly, hearing my friend’s cautions, fear leaped in and said, “Ha! Here I am! Gotcha!”

The sunny blissfulness of my walk started to slip. I felt fear nipping away at my peace of mind.

No way.

I am not letting fear take over.

I breathed and reminded myself that nothing had really changed in the past few minutes other than a piece of information I didn’t know about before I started my walk. It was that piece of information that was playing tricks with my peace of mind, not the reality of my experience right now.

Ahhhh…. there’s that stinkin’ thinkin’ again.

Take an isolated incident. Move it onto centre stage, maybe even run it up a flagpole and dance around it in excited anticipation of the havoc it will wreak.

No way.

Fortunately, I couldn’t pick up my pace. Ellie’s lumbering body and arthritis won’t allow it.

We trundled along the path. I spied several patches of crocus pushing up through the ground. A flock of Canada Geese flew over head, their honks filling the air. A gopher raced across the trail in front of us. Ellie tugged on her leash as if to give chase. I settled her down and peace returned.

And when I got home, I checked my computer to see if my friend’s words were true.

Yes. There had been a stabbing the night before.

The police had one person in custody. They were not looking for any other suspects.

There were no random attackers running wild through the woods. No marauders lurking. It was just the critter trying to steal my peace of mind. I won’t let him.

No way.

And next time, I will follow my own rule. I will not answer my phone while on my walk. In fact, I’ll just turn it to silent and let peace of mind have its way with me!

 


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Ain’t no room for stinkin’ thinkin’!

I am taking my beloved to the hospital this morning to have a cancerous spot on his face removed.

They say it’s not life-threatening.

They say it’s  not of concern.

They didn’t ask me.

What my mind knows is not always what my thinking listens to, and given the dreams I had last night, I think my thinking may have been stinking up my mind.

I read somewhere that 15% of what we think is conscious. The rest is all subconscious.

No wonder my dreams were in high gear. They must have been fuelled by my subconscious fear and anxiety.

The only recourse is to get conscious of what I am thinking and put out the stinkin’ thinkin’ in the trash.

Scott Peck writes in, People of the Lie, about the importance of acknowledging the shadow. He equates it with taking out the garbage. You can’t just ignore it. It won’t go away by itself. If you don’t take it out, you are at risk of disease, unwanted pests and other calamities — all because you refused to acknowledge the garbage needed dealing with. 

The shadow’s like that. It often contains those aspects of ourselves we don’t want to look at, or love, or acknowledge we possess. When we avoid the shadow, or refuse to acknowledge its presence, we are at risk of the shadow taking over our lives.

Consciously, my mind hears what my beloved has told me about the doctor’s comments concerning the cancer on his face.

Subconsciously, my mind kicks up a fuss because it thinks it knows best.

How do I tell it that it doesn’t?

How do I reach my subconscious and quiet my fears that are based on nothing other than…. fear of the unknown?

Meditation helps. And so does staying conscious with my thinking. Staying clear of the shadows where fear lurks.

It isn’t always easy. The mind is a shadowy place. It likes to hold secrets, keep fears intact and doors shut.

My job is to not be confused by my mind’s desire to control me through fear based projections of the future. My job is to not negative fortune tell and to stay in the present where what is known is the best information I have to work with, and create with.

So… in 20 minutes I must take C.C. to the hospital for a procedure that will remove what doctors have told him is a non-life threatening spot of cancer.

I’m going with that.

I’m staying in the now.

And, in this place of being present, I’m taking my stinkin’ thinkin’ for a walk out to the black bin in the laneway behind the garage where it belongs.

Namaste.


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I hate to but I have to….

It began as one of those “I hate to but I have to” tasks. After so much snow and not enough time in between to clean up all the backyard mess, (and did I mention a habit of procrastination?) Ellie’s presence was visible across the lawn. As were all the dead leaves that fell after our big fall clean-up was followed-up with an early season snowfall last October!

I’d avoided it all weekend, even the evenings last week when I had had an hour to clean up. I hate to thinking had gotten in my way.

Now it was time. I hated to but I had to clean it up.

But first, I needed to change my frame of reference. I needed to change my glasses.

I hate to but I have to was not sitting well with my psyche. To spend an hour in ‘I hate’ was not going to be an hour well-spent.

It was time to acknowledge the power of choice.

It was time to reframe my thinking from “I hate to” to “I choose to for the benefits of”….

I choose to clean up the backyard for the benefits of…

It’s a gorgeous afternoon and I want to spend some time in the sun. (“But you’re tired. You cooked Easter dinner for 18 last night and you’ve only just finished cleaning up the kitchen,” my critter mind hissed)

I’ll be able to spend an hour outside in the backyard. (You could be reading on a deck chair in the sun, the critter continued)

True. But I’ll also be getting some good exercise. (What? All that bending isn’t good for your back. You’ll regret it!)

I pulled on a pair of plastic disposable gloves. Got the bags, shovel, trowel ready.

Seriously? the critter asked. You’re going to do this? It’s supposed to rain tomorrow. Maybe the rain will wash it all away.

This time the critter’s voice made me laugh. Really? Wash it away? How disgusting.

I turned my back on the critter and began to clean up.

Even though I had cleaned up throughout the winter, even though I’d done a major clean of missed doggie-doo during the last melt, there was still a lot of Ellie’s evidence around the yard.

That’s because you’re a loser, the critter hissed. You should be out here everyday. You’re so lazy? What’s wrong with you?

I smiled at the critter (perhaps a little pityingly) and kept cleaning.

I don’t have to listen to you critter. In fact, I choose to not hear your voice and am choosing to focus on the benefits of what I’m doing.

I got the rake from the garage and moved onto raking up the dead leaves that lay in sodden messes all over the yard.

I kept my mind blank. Calm.

And even though the critter attempted to hiss and distract me, I consciously pulled my thoughts away from listening to him to thinking about how I was choosing to do this for the benefits of Ellie the wonder pooch, the beauty of the yard and my peace of mind.

I tackled one small portion of the lawn at a time. Kept my thoughts from going wide and big to appreciate each small section as I completed it. Going wide and big depresses me — it is a big yard and wide and big makes the job seem insurmountable. Best to keep my focus on where I am at so that I don’t become discouraged.

I reminded myself that I was there by choice. And my choice was to focus on the benefits of cleaning up the yard so that when I was done, I could look out the kitchen window and appreciate our pretty yard and a job well done.

It worked.

An hour and a half of silent, meditative cleaning and the yard was finished. No more doggie-doo. No more dead leaves. No more mess.

And best of all, the critter was silenced! Even when he tried to remind me that the mess was all my fault. That I should have been out there every day. That my excuses for not doing it were just not good enough,  I bested his pesky sibilant whispers with a peaceful mind that focused on the benefits of what I was doing.

Which means, I didn’t spend my time in ‘I hate to’! Instead, I got to spend a lovely sojourn working in the yard, enjoying the afternoon sunshine, physically using my body and benefiting from the exertion.

And, when I was done, I raked away the dead leaves C.C. had piled on top of the flower garden last fall as winter insulation and found several plants already popping up! Bonus! My plants survived and are now ready to greet the spring sun.

Of course, I’ll have to remember to cover them up again at the end of the week as the weatherman is predicting frost. But that’s okay. I love to enjoy my garden in all kinds of weather, especially when my mind is cleansed of “I hate to” thinking!

 

 


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Love is never foreign

“Life is the journey of learning to become ourselves.”

That phrase was on my mind as I awoke this morning. I don’t know if it was something said at dinner last night, or if it was part of a dream. But it continues to resonate, to shimmer in the morning light, pushing back the cold, dark winter of my thinking spring will never appear.

Spring always appears because spring is part of the earth’s journey around the sun. It is its nature to arise and push forth blossoms and blooms every year. It cannot stop itself. It must spring forth into being.

It is in my nature, and yours, to arise. To push out of the darkness, to push through to life beyond the narrow confines of the past and our limiting beliefs that what happened “then” is the limit of what is possible now.

Our life journey is always about becoming — our true self and true to our selves.

It isn’t that my true self or your true self were never there. Like seeds awakening from the earth’s embrace beneath the warmth of spring’s welcoming rains and lengthening days, my true self has always been within me. It’s just, its been sleeping. Hibernating. Holding itself close to the roots of my soul’s path into the light waiting for me to feel the warmth of spring loving me just the way I am so that I can become in Love with myself and all my world, just the way I am and just the way it is.

Neale Donald Walsch, author of Conversations with God, talks about how when he first began the process of transcribing onto paper the words he was hearing that could only be divinely sourced, he wrote something so scandalous, so startling, so upsetting that he dropped his pen and sat back and exclaimed that it wasn’t possible. What he wrote was that because God understands, Hitler too went to Heaven.

Not possible, his mind wanted to insist. But, as Walsch explains, while that thought was ‘foreign to my mind, it was not foreign to my soul.’

Loving ourselves can feel foreign to our minds. Sometimes, we might say, of course I love myself, even when we’re doing things that demonstrate clearly our lack of love for ourselves. Sometimes, we know we don’t love ourselves. Our minds repeat the litany of our sins, it reminds us of our wounds and in our distress, we cannot embrace the one we believe ourselves to be — this wounded, broken, and shattered human being.

Our soul knows.

It always knows we are loving, loveable and loved.

It always knows there is nothing we can do that will turn it away from loving us.

Our soul knows.

And in this journey of becoming who I am, I step into the love of who I’ve always been, always will be, even in those moments when my mind tells me it is impossible, not true, not real.

My soul knows.

Your soul knows.

We are LOVE in the pure and beautiful expression of all our human condition.

Namaste.

 


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Let me be brutally honest — I don’t think so.

What do you say when someone says, “Do you mind if I’m brutally honest.”?

“Of course. Hit me with the truth! Go ahead. Fling your words at me and cut me to the bone. Beat me up with your need to be brutal.”

Or, are you more likely to respond along the lines of, “Well, actually, I’d rather hear loving honesty. Brutality just isn’t my thing, you know?”

It is such an odd phrase, and to me, a contradiction.

To be honest, I must not just watch my words. I must be accountable for every one of them, as well as my actions. For me, honesty is, by its very nature, loving. It is never brutal.

When I was a little girl my mother used to always say, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”

Now, for years, I thought that meant, “Don’t speak the truth.”

Finally, after years of learning how to discern my truth, and to recognize what it means to speak truth without fearing the outcome, I get it. It isn’t about not speaking truth, it’s about always speaking truth in Love.

It’s about always standing in Love and knowing that when I speak from that place my words are never meant to hurt or cut, they are always spoken with the intention of being kind, caring and loving — of all.

It doesn’t mean I swallow my feelings, my responses, my reactions to things that hurt or disturb or distress me. It means, I find the path to expressing what hurts, disturbs and distresses me in Love.

It doesn’t mean I accept other’s bad behaviour. It means, I accept my right to speak of those things that do not sit well with me with a loving heart and the intention to always ‘create better’.

And it means, I never ever beat someone up with my truth or what I perceive to be their truth.

Disagreement does not equal rejection.

It also doesn’t give me the right to be cruel, mean or ‘brutal’.

We will not always agree with one another, but when I ask to be ‘brutally honest’, I am asking to be unkind.

And I do not want to be unkind.

I want to create better in the world.

And to do that, I need to let go of being brutal and surrender my fear of truth, of disagreement, of darkness and of light to fall, In Love.

In Love, all things are possible,  including honesty without fear of being hurt or hurting one another.

***************

This post is inspired by my friend MF who yesterday shared that one of her goals was to be brutally honest with herself so that she could grow in love and compassion. For me, being brutally honest with myself hurts the one I need the most to help me grow in Love and compassion — myself.

Thank you MF for shining your light so that I could see my truth.


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Let us share compassion.

I want to write of something else, I want to find ‘the normal’, but I don’t know how.

I don’t know when it’s okay to move on, to change the subject. Because, no matter what I do, nothing will change what has happened. Nothing will bring back the lost. Nothing will change the course of the future for the accused.

And so, I write as tears run down my face.

I have a friend who lives on the street where it happened. Her husband just had surgery. She is at home with him for the next few days as he recovers.

The house at the corner is visible through her front window. As she sits in her living room, as she looks out over her yard, as she stands at the kitchen and pours herself a cup of coffee, she can see the house at the corner. The house where it all happened. The house where police tape still separates the yard from the neighbourhood. The house where a steady stream of cars and people pass by, some stopping to leave flowers and cards and candles at a makeshift memorial in front of the house. Some just simply driving slowly by.

Her neighbourhood is consumed by the tragedy and my heart is heavy for her.

My friend has a son who died in a motor-cycle accident. He was the same age as some of the five youth killed in this tragedy, as the suspect too.

How will she avoid seeing the pain and grief on her street? How will she be able to sleep soundly in her bed knowing that just a few houses down and just across the street this happened and that other parents and families, just like hers, have suffered an incomprehensible loss?

How will anyone on that street be able to get back to ‘normal’ when that house, that address will always be known as the ‘place where it happened’. The place where Calgary’s worst mass murder transpired?

How do they find peace amidst the sorrow and pain flowing all around and the reminders lying on the sidewalk at a makeshift memorial?

How will the parents of other young people who have been concerned about their son or daughter’s mental health rest easily tonight? How will they feel confidence in their son or daughter’s ability to make good choices?

It does not seem right nor just to simply move on today.

According to a news report, the father of the accused was out on the streets looking for his son that evening. He was concerned for his well-being, fearing his son might harm himself. Not others. Himself.

And then, the worst happened. He did, harm himself in a way that is incomprehensible. In taking five lives, he forever changed the course of his life. Forever shattered hopes and dreams and possibility.

I don’t know how to move on at the moment. I feel the need to simply stay in this space, to feel the sadness and sorrow. To let the pain wash over and through me. To let the tears flow so that they can cleanse my heavy heart.

Perhaps it is the only way I can honour those who are gone, those who are living with the pain of their missing children. Those who are lost. And those who must face the reality of the situation every moment of every day as they see the evidence on their street, or as they sift through the evidence searching for answers, or as they sit at the Easter dinner table and feel the silence in the empty seat that will never be filled by their loved one again.

It is in this way that I can be present to what others are feeling so that I can share my light, not my fear, my compassion, not my sadness.

And as I write, I remember to once again surrender all fear and fall in Love.

We cannot undo what is done. We cannot change what happened. We can only love one another, support each other and take care of ourselves so that we can take care of others.

And in our taking care of others, we will find hope in the pain, light in the darkness, and compassion for one-another in the sorrow as Love embraces our tears and opens our hearts to beat freely again.

.


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In winter’s icy grip

It is snowing today. Spring has slipped back into the shadows of winter’s icy grip.

A tragic event in our city yesterday left me, along with everyone in our city, reeling.

C.C. picked me up from the C-train and drove off to spend some time with his daughter. Two of the victims were close friends.

I talked to my eldest daughter on the phone as I walked up the street towards the house. She and her sister both knew the suspect’s sister. They are reeling.

I know the suspect’s father. Admire him. Respect him.

My heart aches for all the families.

I came home and did what I like to do when I do not have answers, when I can not make sense of what has happened.

I moved all the furniture in the living room around.

And then, I went to meet my youngest daughter for dinner and we avoided conversation of the day’s events until we could no longer avoid it.

It is too real. Too raw. Too incomprehensible.

There is pain. There is sorrow. There is heartbreak.

And there are many lives affected.

Many lives lost.

Many more broken.

And nothing can undo what was done.

Nothing can bring these five young people back.

And nothing can heal the space where once they laughed and sang and lived their lives with such promise for a future they will never see.

And nothing can undo the future for this man and his family whose son did this. Nothing can undo the pain he caused. Nothing can erase his deeds.

There is no sense to made. No words of comfort big enough to ease the pain.

There is only this moment right now where we must breathe. We must continue to take one step forward.

Just like time. Time moves forward, it cannot flow backwards.

Time.

It is all there is in this moment.

And I am saddened for everyone. For all the young people whose lives were taken and all their family and friends who are trying to come to grips with such a devastating loss. And their fellow students at UofC who collectively must mourn what no young person should ever have to mourn.

It is snowing today. Spring has slipped back into the shadows of winter’s icy grip.

There is no sunshining. No birds singing.

But, there is Love. Always, in the sadness and the grief, the sorrow and the pain, there is Love.

It is all we can hold onto.

 

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