Gathering by Louise Gallagher Gathering, the circle draws us near candlelight flickering on precious faces held so dear sharing stories of our days laughing and teasing one another as only those whose stories have been woven through the warp and weft of this family tapestry can because we know there is no distance too far that cannot be bridged by two hearts beating together and weaving stories full of memory and love of life shared within the circle. As we thread our stories together, laughter, memories and love rises and we raise a glass in silent honouring of all the hearts who lost their beat in those days, not yet past but slowly now, slipping away, when we could not gather with family and friends because only the distance between us could keep us safe. We are gathering now drawing near stretching our arms around one another, curving into bodies touching, heart to heart and savouring these times where we can feel them beat in time as we gather and share laughter, love and memories of times past and loved ones lost and feeling grateful for those who made it through to be here now, gathering, the circle drawing us near, holding us safe from where so many have gone leaving behind only memories to light the empty spaces left behind.
Some mornings take my breath away.
One moment I’m immersed in typing, head down, fingers flying across the keyboard, always pushing with just a bit more force on the ‘e’ which has started sticking. Lost in thought and words appearing as I type, I look up without looking, fingers still flying and then, it captures me.
The view outside my window. The world bathed in golden autumn light. Not red. Not yellow. Not orange. An indescribable gold kissed rose that wafts and floats through the trees like a ghost on All Hallows Eve drifting through candle-lit gravestones shimmering in the light of a full moon glowing bright.
My fingers stop moving. My mind stills. I jump up, run to the deck door, fling it open as I call out to C.C. to wake-up and, “Come see!”
There is beauty in everything.
And always miracles.
Because, the miracle this morning is that in that one looking up moment, I caught sight of morning light in its full intensity, it’s full unfolding.
I would have missed it had I not lifted my head to consider the thought that had just entered my mind as I was typing an email to the CEO of the organization with which I’m working. I was considering the thought, ‘how do I phrase this?’ when I lifted my eyes without really seeing the world beyond, only to be awoken by its beauty.
How many times does this happen?
How many instances of beauty are missed because we’re so immersed in the doing of what needs to get done rather than the being with all that is present?
There is so much beauty in this world. So many miracles unfolding right before our eyes.
Today, I awoke and found myself embodied in nature’s sunrise, awash in life’s glorious beauty bathing the sky in autumn’s glow.
What a beautiful awakening!
I am deep in meditation when a leaf flutters down through my awareness, drifting effortlessly into view within the deepness of my knowing.
Softly it whispers. “Like a leaf falling, time moves without your hands guiding its passage.”
My first reaction is to shoo the thought away. I mean seriously! I am in meditation. I’m not supposed to be having thoughts!
It won’t be shooed.
There it is again.
My breath deflates.
A thought rises up out of my belly. Resistance is futile. Meditation isn’t about emptying the mind. It’s about being present within all my body to this present moment. And in this present moment, a leaf is whispering to me.
As gracefully as I can muster, I yield to its presence and allow it to settle gently onto the crucible of my knowing, I am held in this present moment, embodied within all that is present here and now, within and all around me. We are all connected.
That leaf and me. That breath of wind. The tree releasing its golden gifts. The earth catching them on its fertile ground.
We are all here, embodied in this present moment. Effortless. Complete. Timeless.
And I breathe.
It is the timelessness that surprises me.
I mean, isn’t all of life about the passage of time?
Time is a man-made construct, some voice within whispers.
The construct of time was created by man to somehow make sense of and claim nature’s natural nature to Release. Let go. Be.. Be present. Man doesn’t like the present moment. Man is caught up in fixing the past or designing the future.
In nature, there is no concept of ‘time’. No past. No future. There is only this present moment where all things that are present exist fully alive, fully here, being and becoming.
In this moment, the invitation is to Release. Let go. Be. Release. Let go. Be.
In Philip Shepherd’s work on The Embodied Present, there is an exercise where trainees are invited to walk outside and allow the body to guide them to stop periodically beside a tree or flower or leaf, neither intentionally nor non-intentionally, and state, “I am here.”
The ‘here’ is not a declaration, a claiming of ownership, a marker placed judiciously in time and space. It is simply a statement of communion with all that is present wherever the body has guided you to stand and state, “I am here.”
This morning, as I sat in meditation, a leaf fluttered into view carrying with it a reminder to get out of my mind and into my body. To let go of having to know. To Release. Let go. Be within all that is present in the world around and within me.
And in that sacred nature, to be open and alive within the vast, ineffable mystery of a falling leaf as it drifts effortlessly on the wind’s whispering incantation to Release. Let go. Be.
Love. Courage. Curiosity by Louise Gallagher Trembling, she stood at the edge of darkness her heart beating an erratic tattoo full of trepidation that to enter would be the end of light “I am afraid,” she whispered into the darkness holding back from stepping forward as she stood trapped in her fear she would be consumed by all she could not see and all she did not know about the darkness. Be not afraid, whispered her heart, I am always here, beating steady holding you safe in the womb of love that is eternally present in all of life. I’m here too, said courage. And so am I said, curiosity chimed in. And the light grew brighter and said, I will never burn out with Love as your constant companion. Gratefully, she invited them to join her as she moved forward from where she stood at the edge of her fear into the darkness. Buoyed up by their presence she flung her arms wide and stepped boldly into the darkness knowing her heart and courage and curiosity would step fearlessly with her. Bathed in the glow of their presence, her light grew brighter and the darkness grew dimmer and fear vanished in the light of knowing, no matter where she was, in darkness or in light, she was always safe when she walked faithfully in Love.
I took my own advice yesterday and spent time immersed in wonder and art playing for hours in my studio.
The painting above is what appeared.
I didn’t know where I was going, or what I wanted to do when I began. But I needn’t have worried. The muse always knows and when I am open to her whisperings, she flows with ease and grace, lightening even my darkest doubts.
About the process:
The background in this piece is very layered and complex.
Layers of sprayed on inks covered by stenciled on gesso and pastels, shapes, textures and patterns as well as collaged on images printed onto rice paper.
One of the challenges I set for myself in this piece was to create it without the use of a paintbrush.
So that’s what I did.
About the poem:
This morning, when I sat down to write the poem began to form as if floating in from the velvety darkness all around.
I love to sit at my desk in the morning, looking out at the river, my latte steaming by my right hand, the only light the halo of my desk lamp and the candle I burn in the mornings as I write.
Perhaps it was the combination of the image and the atmosphere around me, but, I wasn’t expecting a poem to write itself out.
I had other ideas.
I’m grateful courage and curiosity opened my heart and mind to being present to the mystery of creative expression.
Small significances can make big change happen.
What are small significances? I learned this term when I was coaching in the Choices program, working with trainees on developing their Purpose Statement for life.
A small significance is that small thing you do, like taking a neighbour dinner when you learn of a hardship they’re facing, because, to you, it’s what you do naturally. You’re thoughtful about the need. You don’t think about the doing, or not doing. You just do it.
Or, picking up garbage you see lying on the pathway as you walk. Yes. people shouldn’t leave garbage lying about, but that doesn’t mean you leave it for someone else to pick up. You do it because it’s what you do.
Small significances can also apply to our habits.
Like the one I’ve developed over the course of Covid’s presence of zoning out most evenings on some trivial, inconsequential Netflix or Prime drama. Watching endless hours of flickering images on my screen, headphones popped into my ears.
This habit… (ok. addiction) is not conducive to creating the grace and ease I want in my life. It affects everything. From my joy, sleep, physical fitness and mind alertness. It also keeps me out of my studio and, now that 22 hours of my week are consumed with work, I want to reclaim those endless run-on evenings of doing not much other than vegging out.
One small significance i can do to make big-time difference is to unplug my headset, turn-off my screen and commit to spending time in my studio.
And that’s why I’m choosing to be vulnerable here in talking about my unhealthy habit (addiction) – because going public is good for my soul, and my commitment to change.
After months and months of automatically turning on the screen every evening, logging into one of the three entertainment providers we have subscribed to, it has become rote. A thoughtless, mindless and enervating practice that serves me up a dopamine laden pleasure reward that fools me into believing I’m enjoying this… when seriously, I’m not thinking about enjoying it or not. I’m really just dialing in for my fix.
And here’s the thing. The more I do it the ‘want’ to do it transforms into ‘the need’.
And what I really need in my life is enriching, heart-engaging, soul-dancing, mind-expanding experiences.
Not hours of sitting watching a flickering screen.
To achieve my desired state, I’ve begun to take small, significant steps away from the screen.
The first wasn’t designed as a ‘breaking-free of my addiction’ plan but to my surprise, it has become a gateway to it.
I’ve started reading books on Kindle. And, while there’s probably no scientific data to back up my findings, for me, it has opened up the process of change. Why? Because I think my amygdala is saying… oh look! We’re watching a screen. All’s good. Let’s feed her some dopamine.
See. I think the brain doesn’t know the difference between flickering images and words passing before my eyes. It just knows there’s a blue light entering its dendrite connected neuron pathways, feeding it what its come to expect — hours in front of a screen.
Something I’ve observed in the process is that I struggle to remember what I’ve read — that didn’t used to happen and while I could just say it’s age related, the fact is, I think it has more to do with my brain becoming lazy after watching so much mindless chatter. In the getting glued to the screen, I’ve unconsciously (and perhaps somewhat consciously) turned off my memory neurons — there’s no sense in remembering what I just watched. It’s all trivial and if I want… I can always go back and watch again – and it will be like a brand new show all over again! 🙂
So, while shifting to reading on my Kindle app might feel like it’s just a baby step – it is a step and I am grabbing on and riding this stepping stone into an ocean of possibility.
And in the meantime, I shall continue to turn up here and hold myself accountable. You’re welcome to check-in anytime and ask me how I’m doing — I’d love to have you as my accountability buddy!
And in the meantime, I’m employing my new ‘neural pathway chant’ to help me stay on track, building stepping stone after stepping stone to my desired state. And that chant is…”I deserve to feel alive and free! Oh yes I do.”
In September, I took a 20 hour a week contract with a not-for-profit. I was excited. Nervous. Inspired. To be able to give back, to share in the NFPs vision of inclusive workplaces employing a diverse workforce felt right. Good. Challenging.
After two years of ‘retirement’ that felt a little derailed under Covid’s presence, I was feeling somewhat adrift. It wasn’t that I didn’t recognize that every time I wrote here or created in my studio, I was living on purpose. It was more that after almost 2 decades of feeling on-purpose everyday knowing that the work I was doing changed lives, I felt a bit disconnected from my purpose to “touch hearts, open minds and set spirits free.”
Supporting a not-for-profit in advocacy and government relations seemed like purposeful work.
And it is.
Though, I must admit, I hadn’t accounted for the challenges of onboarding and getting to know an organization through socially distanced practices.
My hat’s off to any employee who has waded into a new organization during these times, and the employers who have successfully onboarded new staff. It ain’t easy!
But, like anything, if you let go of expectations and stay open to possibilities, it’s achievable.
Which means, I’m learning and growing and adapting and shifting my expectations to embrace this new reality.
I am also adjusting my daily routines and slipping back into my old habit of rising early.
I have always been an early riser. Even as a teenager. Early mornings are my sweet spot. Over the last two years however, my normal 5:30 rise and shine has drifted into a 7:30 yawn and stretch as I slip into an easy awakening.
It’s been an adjustment.
In encountering this new reality, I am remembering my love of early rising and its many benefits. Something I seemed to have forgotten as I slid through each day without having to reference my daily agenda. It was easy over the past two years to keep track of my calendar. There were few appointments or meetings to remember.
Now, my calendar is getting peppered with Zoom meetings and tasks to be completed.
It’s kind of nice.
I like the busy. I like the structure.
And that’s what I’m discovering to be most true for me.
I feel more grounded and centered within a structure.
Free-spirited I may be but what allows me the most breadth to spread my wings with ease, is knowing the purpose and direction of my flight.
I don’t need to know the destination.
I just like feeling that my wings are wide-spread with purpose.
I’ve gone back to work, albeit not 5 days a work-week, it is enough to remind me though, of the joy that comes with giving back, with living on purpose and feeling challenged.
I’m adapting. Making adjustments and embracing this change.
There are some things however, that cannot, will not, must not change for me — and one of those is ensuring I protect and preserve my sacred space for creative expression.
I’ve been letting it go in the past couple of weeks. Telling myself my head is so full of learning new things, I’m too tired to take my body down to the studio.
Ahhh…. that critter mind loves to slip in when new horizons open up. He gets scared by wide open spaces and wants to pull me back to safety. Except… his idea of safety leaves me vulnerable to confusion and doubt.
And I smile. Head and body are one. Not two separate entities with the one ruled by the other. For my mind to be calm and peaceful, I must respect the wholeness of all I am and breathe into my entire being, connecting deeply to the flow of all life in and around me.
In that grace-filled space of unity, mind chatter drifts away as effortlessly as clouds on a blue-sky summer day as I fall with grace into gratitude and joy.
And look! It’s not yet 8 am and I’ve just finished my blog – something I’ve been less present with over the past few months.
Because here’s the thing. Writing here every morning sets my day up with grace, gratitude and joy.
And who doesn’t like a day that begins with feeling full of grace, gratitude and joy?
The Wild Places by Louise Gallagher Some may call it a wilderness a vast unexplored terrain thick with brambles and vines interwoven into a thick impenetrable net of lost dreams and disappointments of life’s hurts and wounds, scars and scares holding you back from breathing freely in the light of each new dawn breaking free of night. Some may call it a wilderness I call it my heart a wild and mystical place where vast unexplored terrain rich with open spaces yearning to be discovered with dreams calling to be awoken call me to cast off life’s hurts and wounds and disappointments to jettison the scary stories I tell myself of how I will never do enough deserve better be worthy. In this wild place of my heart beating wild and free untethered to the stories I tell myself about how I will never be enough I am enough I am all I ever dreamed of I have all I ever hoped for I am all of me worthy of living with the wilds of my heart breaking and breathing, breaking and breathing free.
In deference to autumn’s chilly morning temps, I have been bundling up on my morning walks with Beaumont the Sheepadoodle lately. Nighttime temperatures have been sinking below freezing. Frost covers the ground.
But, in one final gasp of bravado, I attempt to defy Mother Nature. I haven’t pulled out the remains of summer from the garden. Yet.
I don’t think Mother Nature cares. She just keeps doing her thing.
Which, in the case of this city at the eastern foot of the Rocky Mountains north of the 49th parallel, is to sprinkle autumn mornings with hints of winter days to come.
Resistance is futile.
Mother Nature will always have her way.
And Mother Nature’s way is always full of beauty and wonder.
Thanksgiving Weekend, 2021.
Our second Thanksgiving under the thrall of Covid.
I am grateful for our health.
Our second socially distanced dinner.
I am grateful for our food.
Our second Thanksgiving without gathering family and friends around a crowded table, laughing, sharing, connecting.
I am grateful for the knowing no matter how far the distance between us, we are always connected.
I am grateful for the love.
The sense of belonging I feel because of the people in my life who make it so rich and beautiful.
I am grateful.
Yesterday, I shut down my computer after my third Zoom meeting of the day and decided to create.
I took Beaumont the Sheepadoodle for an early evening walk along the river, (darkness comes early here above the 49th parallel) and when I came home, sat and chatted about our days with C.C. who was just finishing off a Zoom meeting.
Dusk was settling in as I went downstairs to my studio, which has also become my at-home office now that I am working with a client on advocacy and social engagement, and decided to create.
We are able to have a couple of family members for dinner on Sunday, and I know friends who would normally be at our table, are also doing the same, so I decided t start working on nametags for the table.
I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do and let my ‘unsuredness’ be my guide.
“Go outside and gather some branches and leaves,” the muse whispered.
And so I did.
“How about mono-printing?” she teased.
And so I did.
I pulled out my mono-printing pad (a gelli plate), laid down a layer of paint, pressed some branches onto its wet surface, lay a sheet of mixed media paper on top and rubbed all over the back, trying to get the paint lifted while leaving white space wherever the leaves lay on the pad.
And then, as C.C. rattled around in the kitchen making dinner, I dove in.
Colour me delighted. Paint me at peace. Splatter me with joy.
And here’s the thing. This morning, looking at the one at the top of this post, I see where imprinting one of my hand-carved leaf stamps onto the bottom of each and painting it white will really add value to the others.
I have a couple of zoom meetings today and some documents to go through and then…
Well… You know where you’ll find me!
I am grateful.
For this day. For the beauty outside my window where I sit typing. The sun is bathing the sky with rosy hues, the river flows deep in silent communion with nature’s beauty and the golden leaves of autumn hang still in morning’s light.
I am grateful for it all.
Happy Canadian Thanksgiving!