Dare boldly

A blog by Louise Gallagher


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Being me makes a difference

When I was a little girl I loved to play hide and seek. I loved to run through sprinklers and ride my bike as fast as I could down a hill. I loved to swim and climb up high and leap down, imagining I was swimming the ocean deep or leaping from great heights. My favourite book was “What Katie Did” and anything with Nancy Drew or Trixie Belden in the title. Now those girls did things! They solved mysteries and crimes and found lost things and took care of business!

When I was a little girl I didn’t understand why girls couldn’t do everything boys did. I didn’t understand why girls had to be ‘all sugar and spice’. I wanted to get down and dirty running barefoot in the mud. I wanted to skin my knees crawling through rain culverts and sleep out under the stars deep in the forest and be fearless and free.

I didn’t want to have to worry about boogie men in the dark and wild beasts roaming the forest deep. I didn’t want to have to worry about keeping my dress clean, or what would the neighbours think.

But I did. And in worrying about all those things, my life became prescribed by all those things I worried about.

In my twenties, I lived in a house surrounded by trees on a hillside deep in the forest. I loved to run outside in the rain and run barefoot through the mud. I loved to stand deep in the forest and howl at the full moon. I loved to dance as if no one was watching and sit on the forest floor practicing laughing yoga.

In my twenties, I worked hard, doing the same job as ‘a man’, earning ‘a man’s keep’. But I never felt equal. I never felt I held the same value.

I thought it was because of the lessons of my youth that taught me men held the upper hand in life. I thought it was the world, out there, dictating who and how I was in the world. I thought it was ‘their’ fault.

And then I had daughters. How could I teach them of their infinite worth if I didn’t believe in mine?

I set out to find me.

I am older now. My daughters young women making their way in the world. Through our journey together I have fallen, many times, in many ways, to many depths. But always, it didn’t matter that I fell, what mattered most was that I stood up again. What mattered most was that I found my way, again. That I began, again. That I stepped free of what was to become what is, right now, right here, again and again and again because I wanted my daughters to know, we all fall in life. It’s just what happens. But we don’t all get back up — even when we can. And I wanted them to know, it was the standing up again that made the difference, not the falling down.

I am standing tall now. Standing tall and being all that I can be because I have quit believing who I need to be is dictated to by a world that frightens me. And that’s what makes the biggest difference in my life today. Being unafraid of the world ‘out there’ because I know, in here I am safe. I am me.

I still like to run barefoot in the mud, howl at the full moon and practice laughing yoga. I still like to ride my bike as fast as I can down hills and swim deep beneath the surface. I still believe in magic. I still see miracles everywhere. I still love to feel the sun on my skin, the wind at my back.

I still like to dance like nobody’s watching.

What I have found in the search for me is that while those things are fun and freeing, they are not what makes the difference. What makes the difference is that I am me. You are you. We are each our own unique selves, living life our way, creating more of what makes a difference, doing less of what hurts the world and ourselves.

Years ago I set out to find myself and discovered I was always there. I was always within, waiting for me to find the key to letting go of blaming the world, ‘out there’ for how I felt, inadequate, worthless, little, small… whatever I told myself I was that was keeping me from living my best self yet.

The difference, I have found, is not in what is going on in the world out there. The difference is what is happening inside me. It’s in how I see myself, not how the world sees me.

The difference is in being me.

 

 


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The Long View Makes a Difference

As the road passes by

Ellie and I travelled westward last night, the sun a brilliant ball of light calling for the night to fall. Golden fields of wheat shimmered in the evening light, starlings and hawks and magpies sat on fence posts or flirted with wings spread wide, dancing with the evening breeze. I watched two starlings chase a hawk, Away! Away! they seemed to call.

And in the backseat, Ellie slept. She is a good traveller, Ellie the Wonder Pooch. She seldom stirs, seldom even sits up to look out the window. She simply lies sprawled across the backseat, resigned to the fact she is encased in a metal capsule until such time as I release her.

It’s the nice thing about travelling with Ellie. I stop more often for mini-breaks. Five minutes here to let her stretch her legs. Five minutes there to let  answer the call of nature.

The route C.C. drew out for me was fairly deserted. Backroads, all beautifully paved and marked, but backroads none the less. No semis. No giant motor homes. No trailers hauled behind cars too small to pull them. A few pick-ups. A few cars. And a long straight road piercing the endless fields of grain sprawling out on all sides of me. North. South. East. West. Grain fields rolled into forever.

There is lots of time to think and ruminate and meditate when driving in the prairies. The long view pulls me into its thrall, calling me to look back, forward, inside, out.

And in the long view, I see the difference time has made on what was, and is no more.

In the long view, I see the signposts of roads taken, intersections crossed, corners turned.

In the long view, I see life sprawling out in all its wonderful and mysterious directions.

Life. It is always there. Always abounding. Always, being what it is.

Ellie sees the long view

As the miles passed by, I listened to an interview on CBC Radio conducted with Jungian psychologist and author,  James Hollis. Dr. Hollis and I agree on many things, and one of them is — the difference we make in the world isn’t because of what happens. It’s created in what we do, how we respond to what happens.

Dr. Hollis said, and I can’t remember his words exactly so I’ll use mine… The universe doesn’t care. It isn’t that ‘the world’ is out to get us. There is no script for how we’ll be treated by life. We are the creators of that script. The events that transpire are in response to our responses. The events are man-made. The Universe is Divinely-created, or whatever your belief, God, Buddha, Allah — the Universe just is. We are what/who makes a difference in our lives. How we respond to the Divine essence of our lives on earth makes our lives different.

Earlier this year I took a course at Abbey of the Arts where each day we were invited to meditate and respond to a series of questions posted by Abbey abbess, Christine Valters Paintner. Christine also invited us to draw a mandala, write a poem, do something creative to experience our responses to the questions posed in different ways.

In my exploration through that 40 day course, a mini-pilgrimage into the desert for Lent, I discovered a ‘truth’ I’d been holding onto that, in my grip, was limiting my life. I didn’t trust ‘the universe’. I didn’t trust it to turn up and support me. In fact, I often expected it to let me down.

If, as Dr. Hollis suggests, it’s not about what the Universe can do for me, but what I can do for it, then not trusting this sentient energy that is all around me is a self-defeating game of giant proportions!

Beauty at the corner

Trusting the Universe to be ‘on my side’, is a simple flip of the switch from ‘not-trusting’ to trusting. Either side of the equation, it is just a thought. A leap from one side of the road, to the other. A step from north to south, east to west. No matter which direction I go, trusting the universe to simply be, and holding myself 100% accountable for how I am in the world makes a world of difference.

I drove westward into the setting sun last night and found myself opening up to the possibilities of life spreading out in the long view all around me.

It is an amazing world we live in. It’s up to each of us to live it up for all we’re worth! To make all that we can of this one and only wild and precious life that is our miracle of creation.


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Making a Difference with Peace Work (guest blog)

I met her at our weekly Tuesday night, Summer of Peace Calgary 2012 meeting. When I heard her speak, I was captivated, in awe, intrigued. How can one woman do so much? How can one woman make such a difference and stay so committed throughout her lifetime to ensuring the difference she is making leaves the world a better place?

I prompty asked her if she’d be a guest blogger and she graciously replied, ‘of course’.

Karen Huggins is the Executive Director of Project Ploughshares Calgary. In my brief encounter with her, I felt peaceful!  She is gentle-spirited, kind. She radiates peaceful energy all around.

I’ve included her bio at the bottom — imagine, a Masters in Peace Education!

I am grateful as well that Karen sent me her blog entry last night as I didn’t bring my own computer with me for the weekend, and the blog I had originally scheduled for today is there, waiting. Thank you Judy Atkinson — stay tuned everyone for next Sunday’s guest blogger as Judy is a wise woman drumming up peace and joy and wonder and next Sunday she shares her brilliance here.

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Making a Difference with Peace Work

by Karen Huggins

Making a difference in the world is part of my work, part of my psyche, part of who I have been since childhood.  I am indeed fortunate and blessed to have a job that allows me to put my personal beliefs into action! I have long been an activist – writing letters, marching, drumming, protesting the injustices that seemingly permeate our world.  These injustices have included the Vietnam War, nuclear proliferation, women’s rights, the Iraq War, racism and discrimination, the rights of immigrants and refugees…you get the picture!  I am passionate about peace, and believe that when we achieve true peace – these injustices will simply melt away into the background. To me, peace is not just about the absence of physical violence, but also the absence of structural violence.  (Examples of structural violence:  institutionalized discrimination; homelessness; inadequate funding for women’s shelters; policies that favour corporations over people…).

True peacemaking addresses structural violence at its very core through advocating for human rights, justice and compassion towards all beings, environmental care, intercultural solidarity, inner peace, and finally for the abolition of a culture of war.  When all these issues are dealt with in a meaningful way, we will be on the path to true peace in the world.

So – how do we achieve peace?  How do we change the political and economic systems that tend to promote various forms of structural violence?  The answers to these questions lie within each and every one of us, when we  open our hearts and minds and listen carefully to our inner, wiser selves!  When we find that sense of inner peace within ourselves, nurture it, learn from it, and take care that we are kind and loving to ourselves, we naturally radiate an outward sense of peace and are able to spread that to others around us, beginning with our families and then on to our friends, communities, and the larger world.

My own sense of personal peace is derived from the simple things in life:  quiet time for reflection and meditation, time spent with my family and friends, and time spent in activities that somehow contribute to making a better world for future generations.  Thich Nhat Hanh says it best when he says that, “happiness does not come from possessing something or someone, it comes from kindness and compassion, from helping to ease suffering.”

I have studied many religious traditions during my life.  I have explored Indigenous spirituality with traditional medicine men and women, studied Buddhism with Tibetan lamas, and embraced Sufism with its message of love and beauty.  The lessons I have learned have been invaluable in gaining self-awareness and in developing my own sense of reverence for the natural world and compassion for all living beings, as well as an informed and engaged approach to social activism.

I have long envisioned a world where all people are treated fairly and have access to education, health care, food, water, security, and freedom of movement. I have actively imagined a world where resources are equitably shared and used wisely so that future generations will not be adversely affected by our actions today.

My 2½ year old granddaughter is the light of my life – when I look at her, play with her, and watch her relate to this whole new world around her, I know very well that  my personal goal is to leave a beautiful, just and humane world for my children and grandchildren and their children to enjoy and revel in.  Really, there’s no other option!

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Karen Huggins – Bio

Karen and her husband are proud parents to eight wonderful adult children, as well as grandparents to a delightfully busy 2-year-old.  Her family is very supportive of the work that she does in terms of peacebuilding, which is a large part of her current job as the Program Director of Project Ploughshares Calgary and as a member of the Executive of the Consortium for Peace Studies at the University of Calgary.

Karen holds a B.A. in English from Miami University, Oxford, Ohio; a B.A. in Latin American Studies from the University of Calgary; and an M.A. in Peace Education from the United Nations mandated University for Peace in Costa Rica. Her research interests have included autonomy and transnational advocacy, sustainable development, participatory democracy, and consumerism and peace, making her a natural fit for the principles of the EverGreen Party.

Karen believes that we need to foster a society based on human need, not on rampant extraction of our natural resources, consumerism, and war.  As a practitioner of peace who is firmly grounded in peace education theory and practice, she is an avid supporter of peaceful solutions to our seemingly intractable problems and believes that a culture of peace is possible

She is very enthusiastic about building a better world for ALL people

 

 


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Heroes among us

I am in Saskatoon for the weekend. Ellie and I drove here yesterday, through fields of grain waving in the sun-soaked fields shimmering with harvest bounty under a cerulean sky that arced off into forever.

When I arrived, C.C. was waiting for me at the house we just bought. It is sweet and charming, a ‘period piece’. Rounded doorway, arched entrances to rooms and a huge yard for Ellie to roam. We settled in and then C.C. and I went off to a Latino restaurant where we sampled Latin fare and watched dancers learn the steps to a Cuban dance I’d never heard off.

People got up and danced, shared laughter and missteps, well-executed moves, spins and one-two, one-two threes with stumbling grace that moved into ease. C.C. and I watched and enjoyed a Marguerita. One man came and tried to cajole us into dancing, but after a long day of driving, I was content to simply sit back and watch.

Those who get up and dance, learn new steps, take a chance on being on the floor are heroes.

On Thursday night, 30+ people joined me to greet and meet and make peace with their inner muse. They were courageous, funny, committed to simply being in that place of creative exploration.

People who are willing to let go, to explore and challenge their inner selves are heroes.

Last night, before the dancing started, C.C. and I watched parts of the Opening Ceremonies of the Olympic Games. I watched the laughing, smiling faces of the atheletes, their parents and loved ones in the stands cheering them on, the crowds. I watched the wonder of the spectacle of the ‘show’, the lights and flames and fireworks and parachutists falling from the sky and byclists dressed up like birds seeming to fly and I was in awe.

Those who compete, who support them, who challenge them. Those who create and allow and make happen the wonder and awe of the Games are all heroes.

Who are you heroes? Have you celebrated anyone today?


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Our magnificence makes a difference

I taught at the Peace Academy last night.

Thirty creative peace-makers gathered together to explore the creative core of being human. Of making peace with our inner muse.

What a gift to be in the presence of each person who came and shared their time with such grace and ease to create a magical evening of wonder together.

There is nothing quite so enlivening and rewarding as watching faces light up with smiles, and relief, as the realization hits — being creative isn’t scary. Being creative is how I am born to be me.

Life is an act of creation. And we are miraculous beings created to be loving and joyful in a world of peace.

Last night the muse lit up the hearts of everyone in the room as we created together —  acts of peace that sang on the magnetically charged air of creativity in motion. Words of love that flowed onto the page, that streamed into the air around us.

We drew and made paper airplanes and tossed crumbled up pieces of paper onto the floor. We scribbled and brainstormed, we chatted and mindmapped. We were all present in the act of creation. We were all present in the art of being human. And we were all blessed by one another to be together in the act of making peace happen.

And when it was over, when the last bit of paper was filled with words, when the last idea was drained and examined, when the last line was drawn in the sands of possibility, it wasn’t over. It was just the beginning.

Always begin again.

Never let the end of what was become the end of what can be.

Always begin again.

Open up to the beauty and magnificence of the essence of being human.

Explore. Dig in. Dig out. Dig under. Dig into the soils of creativity, rich and fertile, at the heart of being human.

Always begin again.

To create. And be and become and emerge and evolve.

Always begin again.

It never ends, this being creative, this creating for creation’s sake. It’s just sometimes, we forget, or have lost the way, to our hearts. But when we take the time to stop and listen to our heart’s calling, we awaken to the truth of our own magnificence.

We are all acts of creation. And life is forever changed when we let go of playing in the shadows of our fears and step wild and free into the waters of life flowing all around us.

Life is forever opened up when we give into the brilliant truth of our being who we are and where we are right in this moment of creation. This is our birthright. To be free. To be creative. To be great. And in our greatness is the difference we make in the world. Unique. One of a kind. Priceless.

We are each of us born to shine. To run and laugh and sing and dance and play and leap and cavort. To be silly and serious. Funny and wise. We are each of us born with untold gifts to share and to be known.

We are each of us magnificent.

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And… over at Make Peace Happen I share today’s poem on peace: Peace Be Among Us


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Poems of Peace make a difference

The wind tells many stories. It journeys across the globe collecting tall tales of adventures passed, of lives lived on the edges of possibility, of lives lost on the margins of defeat. It howls through canyons, skips across rivers, slides through city scapes and along one way roads to somewhere only the wind knows. It swirls and dips and blows and cavorts into and out of time and space and far-off places only the wind can get free of.

Yesterday, when Ellie and I walked along the edge of the Reservoir, the wind blew in from the west, rustling through the trees, telling stories of places far away never travelled. It whispered through the grasses, calling out names never heard. It cajoled and coaxed and called and laughed and howled and blew in on itself, depositing its stories in the welcoming arms of willows and aspen and poplar and first who stood through time, firmly rooted in the soils of life, their arms open and welcoming to the stories the wind had to tell.

I walked through the wind as Ellie pranced along the edge of the slope leading down to the gun-metal waters below where the wind rippled across their surface whipping the waves into whitecaps of possibilities.

It was mystical. Wild and free. The wind blew and I leaned into its stories swirling all around. Calling me. Calling me. Calling me to listen, to hear, to know, to observe, to witness. This life. This moment. This time right now.

This is your one and only life the wind called. This is your moment to be passionate, wild and free. Live it up!

Sometimes, in the wind and thundering clouds and darkened skies, letting my imagination go sets loose my thinking. And in its far-flung wanderings dreams arise of anything and everything possible in this world.

And when I came home, I started a new blog. It is one of my contributions to A Million Acts of Peace.

It is my response to my heart’s desire to be who I want to be in the world, to create what I want to see in the world. It is my blessing for how I wish to treat others, how I wish to re known and seen. It is my blessing for beauty, wonder and awe in a world of love, joy and peace.

It is a poetry place where I can, Make Peace Happen.

I’m not sure what inspired me to create another blog — I do know the power of writing a poem a day on one subject. I continue to write C.C. a poem a day and the power of that act resonates throughout my being and my life and our relationship.

So I know — there is power in our words, there is power in each creative act.

Marilee, over at Rushing to Yoga Foundation, wrote a blog that stirred my thinking — she told about a dream where she awoke with the statement,  “Just do what you are able to do in this moment.  And only do that which your heart guides you to do.” as her mantra.

I like that idea. I like the thought of doing that which my heart guides me to do — with compassion and the intent to create peace in my world.

And so… I’ve created a new blog. My intent is to write a poem a day on Peace. To create the possibility of peace through exploring what it means through poetry. I hope you drop over to visit. I’d love to see you there, to add your voice to poems of peace.

Everything we do makes a difference.

Had I decided to write poems of anger, it would have made a difference.

Had I chosen to write poems of grief, it would have made a difference.

Yesterday, I felt the wind tugging at my mind, pulling at my heart. I heard the wind’s stories of far-flung spaces and far-off places and in its voice, I heard my heart calling me to write poems of peace.

It is the difference I want to create in the world.

Namaste.

And…. to inspire you, and to share peace and compassion in the world, Maureen at Writing without Paper shares a metta meditation video that is simple and easy and beautiful to experience. And in its experience, peace and compassion will be created in your world.

Here is the video Maureen shares — she also has more information on Sylvia Boorstein and her teachings in her blog today.


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Peace makes a difference.

It was all about peace. From beginning to end, our meeting was all about peace.

Making it. Having it. Creating it. Dreaming it up. Drumming it wild. Co-creative. Generative. Aligned.

We met, as we meet every Tuesday night, to envision ‘what next’.

We had a new visitor. Karen Huggins of Project Ploughshares Calgary joined us to talk about some of Ploughshares peace initiatives, in particular, the Calgary Peace Run which is set for Sunday, September 23.

“What can we do to build on the run/walk,” asked Kerry, our head peacemaker as she invited us to free associate and let our imaginations reign.

And that’s when the magic started. Judy Atkinson whose Friday night Circles of Rhythm on June 21 kicked-off Calgary Summer of Peace Calgary 2012 at Drumming Up Peace mentioned a collaborative drum circle that is taking place on Saturday around the globe. Howard mentioned walking across the Peace Bridge. I saw lanterns floating down the river and Marilyn saw them as being carried along as we marched from the Peace Bridge to Prince’s Island where Judy suggested we create the world’s largest human peace sign. I hear children’s voices singing John Lennon’s “Imagine” Judy H. threw out.

And we were off. Imagining peace. Imagining an entire weekend that brings awareness to peace while engaging Calgarians in taking note of this year’s International Day of Peace on September 21.

It was exciting. Energizing. Fun. Creative.

And, it was peaceful.

Now, to get to work. Planning. Organizing. Strategizing. Engaging volunteers. Registering our walk. Soliciting sponsorship. Igniting support.

We know we can. We know we will. Because we know, peace makes a difference.

And if not us, who?

If not now, when?

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You too can be part of Summer of Peace Calgary 2012. Check out the website — http://www.summarofpeacecalgary.com  .  Come to one or all of five Peace Academy sessions — I teach this Thursday, July 26 — Making peace with your inner muse — a poetic guide to finding peace within. Next week, the amazing Heather Compton coauthor with Dennis Blas of Retirement Rocks! Canadian Boomers Invest in Life! will guide you in Making Peace with Money — and there’s more. Do check out the Peace Academy!

Peace is in us all. To make. Create. Give. Share. Be.

Be Peace Now.