Dare boldly

A blog by Louise Gallagher

1 Comment

Create Space

This morning, over at David Kanigan’s blog, he shared a quote from Eckhart Tolle:

When you get into your car, shut the door and be there for just half a minute. Breathe, feel the energy inside your body, look around at the sky, the trees. The mind might tell you, ‘I don’t have time.’ But that’s the mind talking to you. Even the busiest person has time for 30 seconds of space.

– Eckhart Tolle, from Oprah Talks to Eckhart Tolle (Oprah.com)

When I stepped into the role of Interim Exec. Dir. at the family emergency homeless shelter and housing provider where I work, I made a commitment to write a weekly intention and share it with staff. I’ve been doing it ever since.

Yesterday, I forgot.

Oh, I thought about it at one point but we’re in the middle of budgets for next fiscal year and thinking about it did not translate into creating and sharing my weekly intention.

This morning, I sent it out.

I thought about not doing it this week, of skipping it, but that would not be the right thing to do.

I made a commitment. It is very important for me that I keep my commitments.

For me, my listening for my daily intention is all about that ‘space’ Tolle writes about.

To hear my intention, I must take a few moments to slip into the silence, breathe into the quiet and let the words rise up as I feel the energy inside my body, the air on my skin, the darkness and the light that surrounds me.

In the beginning, when I first started sharing my weekly intention with staff, my head-chatter warned me, “Don’t do it!”  They’ll think you’re stupid. Crazy. They’ll laugh at you. Snicker behind your back.

Since the first time I shared my weekly intention, I have received many comments about how people appreciate my taking the time to do it. “You remind me to stop and breathe sometimes and not get all uptight about what’s going on in the shelter,” one staff member wrote.

My intention when I began sharing my weekly intention, was to create a space for transparency, openness, thought-full conversation. I wanted staff to know who I am beyond just the ‘title’. I wanted us to share a moment of space each week.

As Tolle suggests, what’s most important is that in setting and sharing an intention, an opportunity is created for each of us to step into a moment of ‘space’ where, amidst the busy-ness and chaos of a homeless shelter, everyone is invited to stop for a moment, breathe and remember that even in the busy-ness, there is always space to connect to the calm within and be present to all that is happening without worrying about all that is happening.




Mistakes are a place to grow.

There is a responsibility in making a difference. A universal pact that the difference should, do no harm.

In  Ethical Intelligence by Bruce Weinstein, PhD, the first principle Dr. Weinstein cites as essential to living an ethical life is ‘To do no harm’. He goes on to say that if you must do harm, minimize it. The example he gives is when you have no choice but to terminate an employee, do it in a way that retains their dignity, that respects and honours them as well as you and your organization.

Recently, in an effort to do something good for someone, I harmed them. It wasn’t intentional, harm seldom is when we come from a place of wanting to do good. But, in the act of creating ‘a moment’, I didn’t consider the consequences of some of the aspects to what I was doing and the recipient felt unheard and unseen.

I am 100% accountable for my footprint in the world and how I walk in other people’s lives.

When I take a misstep, when I create harm or hurt in another’s life, intentional or unintentional, it is my responsibility to get accountable and clean up my mess.

The most effective way I know to do that is to acknowledge my mistake, apologize (no excuses, no rationalizations, no blame-game), get accountable and commit to making amends and doing better.

Recently, I made a difference I didn’t want to make.

It provided an opportunity to recommit to doing my best, being my best, to paying attention, staying focused and present in what I do.

We all make mistakes. Mistakes can make a lasting impression that creates ‘worse’ when we do not clean them up. We can pretend, ignore and carry-on blithely,


We can hold ourselves accountable for what we’ve done.

Mistakes are an opportunity to create better when we  turn up, pay attention, speak our truth and be 100% accountable for ourselves. When we turn up without expectation of our mistakes being made okay by the other and instead use our mistakes as an opportunity to be vulnerable, to create intimacy, closeness, better, we create a space where resentment does not find fertile ground to grow as we move closer in love and forgiveness.

In my mistake I have taken action. Embraced the opportunity to learn and grow. I have apologized and am committed to stay present in my desire to make a difference and do better every day.

It is the best I can do and my best is good enough.



When children are stressed, the world is not a happy place.

Yesterday, in a comment on my post, To Be Happy, We Need Boundaries, Mark Kolke wrote,

“Kids without clear lines wander/experiment in ways that can lead to confusion and unhealthy behaviour […]

We all want to do good but don’t always do good – so it is important we have a deep early grounding in what is OK vs. what we should have twinges of discomfort about. These things, clear or fuzzy, stay with us all our lives.”

Every day at the family emergency shelter where I work, I see this statement in action.

Kids under stress doing things kids under stress do.

Add in stressed parents and the challenge becomes even greater. How do you cope effectively with your children’s under stress behaviours when you are experiencing extreme stress too?

Being in an emergency shelter is stressful for everyone, so there is little opportunity for the stress to be eased. Thus, little opportunity for the kids to not be doing things kids do under stress.

The brain science is simple. The solution isn’t.

Stress impairs a child’s brain development.

Continual stress creates toxic stress = compromised brain development

(factor in)

human growing process,

(end result)

Emotional, mental, physical impoverishment into teenage years and adulthood.

We can’t end adult homelessness if we don’t end homelessness for children.

A family emergency shelter is not the problem. Nor is it the solution.

A stable, predictable home environment is the solution, but how do you create ‘home’ when the parents themselves have never had the benefit of an environment conducive to healthy brain development?

See, that’s the crux of it. For many of the families we serve at the shelter, poverty is an intergenerational cycle. They have never known anything other than the stress of living in a home where everyone is struggling to make ends meet, lessen the pressure of never having enough and coping with the instability and limitations that come with parents under stress.

What parents do. Children do.

Every parent wants to do what is right and best for their children. Every parent wants to ‘do better’. But, when your starting point is so far below the poverty line, you can’t see beyond the stress of never having enough, it becomes even more daunting to rise above the line to do better for your children.

I wish some days I had a magic wand that would heal all the wounds we cannot see but are so clearly evident in the behaviours of the children we see at the shelter.

I don’t have a magic wand.

What I do have is the opportunity to create better so that those families who do come to the emergency shelter for support, find a more inviting path out of the stress of poverty and  homelessness into a world that is more supportive of their desire to provide a better world for their children.




to be happy, we need boundaries

Recently, I saw a couple making out in a bus stop as I drove by. I mean, really making out.

Later, I read a news article about a movement in Vancouver to provide homeless couples freedom to have sexual interactions in parks. The theory being, they have no where else, why not in a park?

Which got me thinking about freedom.

Freedom doesn’t mean living a life free of moral responsibility, lawful living and justice. It means, the freedom to own my own destiny — within moral reason and lawfulness. To act in accordance with my values, beliefs, principles — within the context of the society in which I live, its laws and social mores guided by my moral compass which hopefully, always points me towards doing the right thing.

On the surface, I might think that’s not freedom. It’s got too many constraints and boundaries limiting what I can do. With all those limitations how will I be happy?

Happiness guru Dr. Dan Gilbert proved in an experiment on synthetic happiness that putting boundaries on choices makes people happier. He says, we should have preferences, we all need boundaries. When our ambition is bounded, we work joyfully. When it is unbounded, we lie and cheat and manipulate to get what we want. When our fear is bounded, we are prudent, cautious, thoughtful. When fear is unbounded, we are reckless and cowardly.

In freedom, I know contentment when I know that what I am doing fits within the moral construct of my world, and does not leave me exposed to risk of arrest, condemnation, and the fear of self-loathing.

Just because I want to do something in the name of freedom doesn’t mean it will make me happy. If it pulls me away from the True North of my moral compass, I risk being unhappy with my choice and the consequences as well as myself.

Thoughts to ponder.


To learn more about Dan Gilbert and his research on choice and happiness, watch the video below. I found it fascinating!


Soaring with Heroes

There’s a wonderful story, by David MacNally which he put to video with Mac Anderson, about an eagle who, in the process of helping her babies fly, must push them from the nest — because if she didn’t, they would stay forever stuck in the belief they don’t know how to fly.  At one point, the mother Eagle asks herself, “Why does the thrill of soaring have to begin with the fear of falling?”

Most things I’ve tried in my life, I have felt fear.

Sometimes I’ve ignored the fear. Sometimes I’ve given into it.

Whenever I’ve given into my fear, I’ve carried with me a regret — because fear is not a good motivator of growth. Fear keeps me stuck.

When I took on my current role as Interim Executive Director at the Family Emergency Shelter and Housing agency where I work, fear kept whispering in my ear, “You know you’ll fail… you know they’re going to find out you don’t know what you’re doing.”

I had to choose to breathe into my fear to get to the place where my courage was calling me to leap; even if I didn’t know if I could fly.

Fact is: Failing is always an option. So is flying.

I have been blessed. In my four months in this role, I have surprised myself with my capacity to lead. And I have been surprised by my willingness to accept support and encouragement from others.

Because that’s the thing about my fear… to hide it, I have been known to pretend I know what I’m doing, even when I don’t. And, when I’m pretending I know what I’m doing, I put up walls that are meant to protect me, but mostly just keep me isolated and repeating the same mistakes again and again.

One of the lessons I’ve learned to appreciate and embrace as I’ve stretched myself into this role is that, it’s not about avoiding mistakes. Mistakes are part of learning new things, stepping into a different role, challenging myself to grow. What doesn’t have to be part of it is, giving up or not attempting it in the first place. What I’ve learned is that as long as I trust myself enough to acknowledge my mistakes and have the courage to not put up walls by defending against them, I am open to receive their lessons. And in that place, grace has appeared again and again in the form of the people around me who are willing to encourage and support me to get back up.

I have had a lot of people encouraging and supporting me throughout this journey. They are the best kind of people to have around. I am so grateful.

Over the next few weeks, I will be stepping out of this role as a new ED will be appointed. I don’t know who it will be. I do know that whatever the outcome, I have been blessed with this incredible opportunity to work alongside some of the most compassionate, intelligent and passionate people I have ever met.

My life is richer for this experience, not because of the things I’ve done or learned or achieved, but rather, because the people I’ve walked alongside have made my journey so much richer with their presence and their willingness to give me a push when I needed it, a hand up when I fell, a shoulder to lean on when I grew weary and a light when I struggled to find my way.

I am truly blessed. I began this journey with fear and have found myself courageously soaring with heroes all around me.





My Heart Vision (a poem)

Mixed media on card stock 6″ x 6″ Louise Gallagher

Rumi’s poetry always captures my heart, opening me up to the simple and provocative truths of our human condition.

This morning, I visited a poem I have not read in a long while, The Water You Want.

The Water You Want  Jalaluddin Rumi

Someone may be clairvoyant, able to see
the future, and yet have very little wisdom.
Like the man who sees water in his dream
and began leading everyone toward his mirage.
I am the one with heart vision.
I have torn open the veil.
So they set out with him inside the dream,
while he is actually sleeping
beside a river of pure water.
Any search moves away from the spot
where the object of the quest is.
Sleep deeply wherever you are on the way.
Maybe some traveler will wake you.
Give up subtle thinking, the twofold, threefold
multiplication of mistakes.
Listen to the sound of waves within you.
You are dreaming your thirst,
when the water you want
is inside the big vein on your neck.

Slipping into meditation I carried the phrase, ‘heart vision’ with me. The following poem moved through me, writing itself into creation.

Heart Vision ©2019 Louise Gallagher

In my heart vision I tear away the veil
that blinds me to nothing
but my fear of falling
into the dark stagnant abyss
where love will never find me

I rise above
the fog of my delusion.

Truth shimmers dancing in the light
of fear held silent
in arms of molten lead
pinioning me to the pain of believing
that I must seek love to find it

Searching for the way I find myself
listening to the sound of my ears opening
to the truth where hope rises
into the mists of my fear falling
into nothing but Love.

Joyfully I embrace
the vision of my heart.


And as a special treat, here is Coleman Banks’ reading of The Water You Want.


On this day, dare boldly to be Kind. Brave. More.

I am lying in the border lands between awake and dreaming.

I don’t want to get up. I’d rather stay snug and cozy in my bed, listening to my husband’s breathing, Beaumont’s snuffling from where he sleeps on the floor on the far side of the room.

A thought floats into my mind. There are many ways to raise a child and only one place to do it. Home.

Work rises early.

A family emergency homeless shelter never sleeps.

I must get up.

I get up.

It is still dark out. January days slowly lengthen. Morning has yet to lighten.

I paddle barefoot into the kitchen. Beaumont follows.

I turn the kettle on so I can make a cup of hot lemon and honey. Beaumont pads over to the far side of the dining room table, by the deck doors, plops his body on the ground and goes back to sleep.

Mug of hot lemon and honey in my hand, I light the candle on my desk, settle into my chair and fire up my laptop.

Outside, the river flows quickly beneath the bridge. A city bus travels westward. I cannot see the passengers inside. The lights of several cars follow. Unseen, the city slowly awakens farther to the west.

I sip my honey and lemon. Take a deep breath. Close my eyes. Quiet descends.

David Kanigan of the I Can’t Sleep blog shared a quote this morning from Kelsey Danielle of Misguided Ghosts.

I felt my soul stir in her words. My heart give that little flutter like when you meet someone for the first time only to discover you have a world of friends and experiences in common. Possibilities of friendship expand.

I move into that space of familiarity, comfort. I begin to write.

Morning awakens. The day awaits. It is filled with unexplored opportunities to be kinder, bolder, braver, more.

On this day, Dare boldly to be kind. Dare boldly to give your heart away. Life is calling you to awaken.