Where miracles explode with every breath – Choices

It is here again. That time when I get ready to step into the seminar room to be part of miracles unfolding all around.

Tomorrow morning begins another 5 day seminar at Choices. This evening, I begin the coaching session with a meeting of new coaches at the hotel where the seminar is held and then, tomorrow morning, bright and shiny we meet again with the whole team to prepare for the day.

Someone asked me recently why I volunteer so much time to the program. It was an easy question to answer. “Because it makes me a better human being. Because it gives me an opportunity to deepen my understanding of who I am and how I am in the world and, it reminds me that to live the life of my dreams I need to live on purpose, give back and dig into living my wow! for all I’m worth.”

If I had one wish for the world it would be that we could all spend 5 days in a seminar room digging into the amazing, magnificent and beautiful essence of our being who we are each born to be. I would want for everyone to experience an opportunity to take five days out from the busy and the doing to get into their being. To delve into the mystery and the miracle of what it means to be truly, deeply, madly in love with themselves and their lives.

Life can deliver up many hurdles. It can be busy. It can be hard. It can be rough. It can also, no matter the circumstances surrounding me, be a journey of love, compassion, truth and beauty — one I get to experience from the inside out, acting from my higher good calling me to rise up and shine.

We are all born into this world with a promise, a hope, a belief in the capacity of humankind to make a difference. And no matter our circumstances, no matter the conditions surrounding our birth, we are all miracles of life. Divine inspiration come alive in the presence of our humanity.

And then, life happens. Circumstances take over and the miracle of our life becomes clouded in the real world limitations of the humans around us. Wars happen. Poverty strikes. Desperation invades. Some of us have it easier than others. Some have such a rough road to travel we can’t imagine how they ever got beyond the limitations of their beginnings.

But we do, survive. Surpass. Overcome.

We do, breathe. Walk. Run. For some of us our mobility is hampered by physical limitations the rest of us cannot imagine. For others, our minds are limited by factors we do not understand or cannot cope with.

And still we survive. We struggle. We make do. We make happen.

For many of us, we reach a point where we can’t carry the burdens any longer and give into the fear and horror that this is all there is.

For many of us, we learn to take shallow breaths, to wall off our feelings, to build up our walls.

We are adaptive human beings and in the journey of our lives, we learn to adapt, and adopt, ways of being that keep us from feeling too deeply the sorrows and tragedies of our lives. We learn to cope. To rationalize and minimize the things that happened, the things that were done to us, or by us, so that we can keep taking one step after another. We drag our heels. We drag our hurts. We drag ourselves through each day believing if we can just get through this one, tomorrow may be another day, and maybe tomorrow will be different.

Fact is, nothing is different until we choose to do something differently. Until we learn to change our glasses, shift our perspectives, steer a different course, nothing really changes.

And that’s why I keep going back to Choices. In that room I am reminded that it doesn’t have to be ‘that way’. Possibilities for change, for different, for better are endless.

We each have the power to create the lives of our dreams — no matter our circumstances.

We just have to begin somewhere and for me, it begins with always reminding myself of the infinite possibilities of the miracle of our lives. And that’s what I experience in the Choices room. An opportunity to refresh my belief in our human condition, to share in the wonder of us all and to dig deep into my dreams and see once again the wonder and incredible beauty that life has to offer when I quit shuffling my feet, looking down at the ground and learn to lift my head and trust in myself enough to know, I can fly if only I dare to unfold my wings.

I’m off to coach at Choices for five days. See you next week!

Go Canada Go!

The neighbour’s had their barbeque fired up. Steam rose into the dark. Traffic whizzed by. It was 4:30 am and we were on our way to meet friends at a local pub to watch the Men’s Gold Hockey game live.

Who would have thunk it? Me up and at ’em before the crack of dawn on a Sunday morning just to watch a hockey game!

I hadn’t intended to go. C.C. and my youngest daughter had organized to meet up with some of her friends and ours at a local pub where they’d made reservations. “I’ll come for the last period,” I said, just as I’d done for the semi-final play-off on Friday.

But this was different. This was the Gold and it was live at 5am. The anticipation of what Canada could or could not do was high. The sense of community, of being in it together, of national pride on the line vibrated in the air.

I couldn’t stay home and be a party pooper and I sure wasn’t prepared to watch it alone.

Plus, that little voice within me that likes to remind me life is an adventure keptwhispering, ‘Quit taking yourself so seriously Louise. You want to be part of the fun. The energy. The excitement. Get up and go!’

I got up. I got going. I went and saw and I’m glad I did.

When it was over C.C. and I invited everyone back to the house for breakfast. By 11, 2 lbs of bacon and his world famous crepes consumed, the first load was running through the dishwasher and we were all asleep again, catching up on the missed winks.

I’m glad I went. It was fun. Exciting. And I did feel part of the spirit of it all. I did feel part of something that brought our entire country together in the early morning hours.

And I can say today, I was there. I was part of it.

Instead of pulling my normal, well… I’m just not that all into hockey.

It is something I am learning. To feel part of things, I need to put myself into the action. When I don’t feel part of things, it’s not because I’m not welcome or invited. It’s usually because I keep myself separate. I set myself apart. I hold myself back.

Yesterday morning, I had an opportunity to stretch my fun muscles and be part of my community. We laughed and joked and took pictures and I even drank a beer at 6am, no less! (Getting a glass of water was out of the question. Our waitress who had finished her night shift at 3am was swamped and it was easier to pour a glass of beer from the jug than to ask for anything else!)

When my daughter and a friend arrived at the house for breakfast, her friend told us the waitress was in tears when he left. She had dropped two trays of drinks, messed up on some orders and was exhausted. We’d all over-tipped as she was obviously doing her best and simply could not keep up with the crowds – the pub was packed throughout the game. It was a scene that was repeated in many bars across the Province as owners tried to keep up with demand and staff their premises to be able to take advantage of the special license the Premier had granted on Friday allowing them to serve alcohol at 5am.

So here’s to the team — not just the hockey players but to the staff who came in, or didn’t go home after they finished their shifts, so that they could give the fans what they wanted. A fun and exciting environment to watch the game together and cheer on our country as one voice raised high in jubilation.

Go Canada Go!

 

it costs me nothing to give.

He sits on the sidewalk, shoulders hunched over, chin tucked into his chest. His body is layered in clothing, his head covered by the hoodie of a dark-coloured jacket that is just visible beneath the blanket that encompasses his still form. In one hand, he holds an upturned ball-cap that slants precariously close to the ground. He doesn’t move as people walk past. He does not stir.

He is there when I walk to my meeting and still there when I walk past an hour later. I have seen him before. In many parts of the downtown core. A silent figure on the edge of the sidewalk. A still life painted black on the streets.

I do not approach. I do not drop coins into his cap. Working at a homeless shelter for several years, I made the personal decision to not give to panhandlers.

I walk past and hear the voice of a friend, a recovering addict, whisper through my mind, ‘I always give to an addict. He really does need that next drink, that next fix. His life depends on it.’

I turn around, walk back and drop a toonie into his upturned cap. He does not look up but I see his head nod slightly. One quick jerk, up, down.

I carry on with my day, leaving him behind.

I do not know if he is an addict. I do not know his story. I do know that I will not miss the toonie. It costs me nothing to give and I’m pretty sure he can use it more than me. And maybe, as my friend said, it is what he needs most because at this moment in time, staying alive is the most important thing he can do today.

 

 

 

In this perfect flawed mess of my human condition.

In the perfect flawed mess of my human condition, the dust bunnies gather in the shadows of my out-of-date thinking rattling around in the corners of my mind. They shake up my status quo and pepper me with endless questions I cannot fathom and no longer spend the time of day trying to answer. Questions like… Why me? Why now? Why?

I celebrate their presence. They are part of me but they do not define me. It is in their being part of me I feel the depths of my soul calling me to lighten up! In its deep calling, I dance as if no one is watching on the broken pieces of my heart laid bare on the backbone of too many love affairs gone wrong that brought so much right into my being me through being with the one’s who were wrong for me to be.

And in the creative reaction to the juicy presence of the past rising up to greet me this morning, I am perfectly me in all my human imperfections.

I am delightfully free in all my fears of flying, dancing, leaping, spinning and careening about.

I am heavenly enriched in every attempt to cast off all doubts so that I can soar without fear of falling. Sail without fear of drowning. Sing without fear of being silenced.

In this perfect flawed mess of my human condition, I celebrate being me.

There’s no other way for me to be. And I am grateful.

Namaste.

PS — I originally wrote that phrase, ‘perfect flawed mess’ in Monday’s posting.  I hadn’t really thought about it beyond the initial scribing until a friend posted on FB and thanked me for the reference. (Thank you Danielle E.)

This morning, in meditation, the phrase slipped into my mind and wound its way through the stillness to reveal itself in the words above when my fingers reached the keyboard.

Stop. Slow down. Breathe and Be.

I have always loved ritual. Ritual brings me home to my heart, it grounds me in my soul, and opens my spirit to wonder.

As a child, I loved going to Mass on Sunday mornings for the experience of ritual that a Catholic mass offers. The candles, incense and the echoing silence of the vast spaces of cathedrals throughout western Europe where we lived all brought me a sense of peace, connectedness, completeness. Immersed in ritual I felt part of something bigger than me. I felt connected to the spiritual realms which I believed, and continue to believe, permeate the air all around me.

Ritual fills my soul with grace.

I know this and still, today, my life is sorely missing ritual. I no longer attend Catholic mass. In fact, I seldom go to church. I know though, that I don’t need church to create ritual space within my life. I simply need the will — and I’m not spending time creating space for ritual in my life.

In fact, if I think of the most profound ritual in my life today, it might well be the making of coffee every morning.

To have what I want in my life, I must be committed to do what it takes to create it.

I want peace in my soul. I want Love in my heart. I want enlightenment for my spirit.

I want to walk in grace.

What am I willing to do to create it?

These thoughts drifted through my head this morning as I meditated — which, as I type I realize is also a ritual I engage in — that is much more profound than making coffee!

However, I have been feeling out of sorts for the past few days. Off-kilter. Out of sync with where and how I want to be in the world.

Sure, I have a cold that has been expressing itself through stuffed up nose that is either running or plugging up and a cough that won’t quiet down. It’s left me feeling a tad draggy and sluggish. But I know it’s not ‘the cold’. The cold is just a manifestation of an inner ennui that is creeping around the outskirts of my peace of mind looking for fertile ground to set up camp and create disharmony.

What’s that about? my inner voice asks? Where are you not giving yourself the medicine you need to be at peace, at One, at awe with the world around you Louise?

And the quiet voice deep within my soul whispers, invest in ritual. Stop. Slow down. Breathe and Be.

Take time to soothe your spirit through connecting with the world around you by invoking the elements of ritual.

It’s not that I don’t ‘do ritual’. It is that I have not been mindful of the rituals which I do invoke throughout my day. And, I have not been mindful of the need to create sacred moments in my everyday doings that give grace to daily living.

The sacred lives within every moment. It is up to me to open myself to its presence, to allow the shimmer of its light to settle in my heart and touch my soul, deeply with grace.

I haven’t been paying attention.

Time to begin again.

Always begin again.

And so, I begin again to be mindful of my every act throughout the day. To be grateful for each breath I inhale and exhale knowing that each breath in brings love into my body and each breath out returns the gift of love to the world around me.

I breathe and am aware of the gift of breathing. It is a circle of grace.

I begin again to be mindful of each step I take. For the privilege of walking this planet earth at this time, in this place where I know I am the difference I make in the world around me. Where I feel the connection between where I begin and end and you begin and end and know there is no beginning nor ending to the Love between us.

I begin again to awaken mindfulness in my every action, word, thought. To be aware of my capacity to create, to contribute, and allow a world of wonder, awe and beauty to be my unique expression in, around and through me.

Namaste.

Don’t turn out the lights on your own brilliance.

I went to a gathering last night with a group of people interested in keeping their toolbox for living a great life alive. It was inspiring to sit with a group of people, all of whom have been through Choices, and talk about what’s going well in my life, and what’s not going so well.

The main topic of conversation was centered around the question — How does your personal growth help the world?

Being a personal growth junkie, I love this question. It gives purpose and meaning to the inner journey and I believe having purpose and meaning is integral to living at ‘wow!’

I think it’s one of my deepest fears. To go through life and have it mean nothing other than having passed through. I want to know that I am contributing. I want to know that I am making a difference. I want my life to add value to the lives of everyone around me.

Now, the simple answer is, well of course it does. Everyone adds value just by their presence. That’s true. We do.

There is, however, something deeper for me about being a conscious and knowing contributor to the evolution of humankind. That deeper meaning comes from stripping away the facade of my adapted self, (the person I became and the behaviours I learned to cope with all the happenings in my life that I could not make sense of or had the tools to deal with) to be fully aware of, and take inspired action from, that place where I celebrate and revel in being true to the essential nature of our human condition, our magnificence.

I believe we are all magnificent. That we are born shining lights of the miracle of life. And then, life happens. Trauma, turmoil, angst, the living manifestation of our human condition gets involved, and we forget how brilliantly we are each and every one of us, born to shine. We forget our magnificence in the journey from birth to adulthood. We fall into the trap of believing we are less than, other than, broken, dispirited, wounded beings trapped in the physical form of our bodies, destined to keep doing the same old same old because we do not have the capacity to let go of the pain and sorrow that brought us to this nexus of our existence.

Why should we bother we ask?

Remember that saying? “Life’s a bitch and then you’re dead.”

It’s not true.

It’s a lie.

Life is a powerful and wondrous journey, when we open the eyes of our heart and let the light in.

Last night, as we sat in a circle and shared our experiences of living on purpose, I felt awash in the magnificence of our human condition. I felt the beauty and light of many hearts radiating out in ripples of Love with the shared purpose of making the world a better, more loving, caring and kinder place.

Believe me. We are brilliant when we shine together. We are powerful beyond our wildest imaginings when we connect through our magnificence and share our gifts with Love and joy.

Giving is receiving.

We talked a lot about that last night. How the value we receive is often greater than what we give. And, we talked about the fear of receiving. The inner critic who likes to whisper mad things in our minds about how it’s selfish to accept gratitude, or egotistical to appreciate a compliment.

When we are living from our magnificence, we value feedback that informs and ignites our journey. Compliments do that. And learning to accept a compliment with grace is part of the journey towards our magnificence.

Think about it. When a baby comes into the world, people ooh and ahh and say wonderful things about her/his perfection. We celebrate everything about that miraculous being.

Why don’t we do that as adults? Celebrate every aspect of our beings today? Why do we hide from compliments? Blush. Deny we ‘did anything’ and say things like, ‘oh no. It was nothing. You did all the work…. What? This old dress? Yes, I made it myself but really, it’s kind of misshapen and see this hem here… it’s crooked.’

One of the greatest lessons I ever received in this aspect of my adapted self was from my daughters.

People would come up to me and tell me how amazing my daughters were and I would smile and say thank you and then share some story about how they weren’t so magnificent.

One day, one of my daughters asked me why do you do that? Why do you try to bring us down when people celebrate who we are?

It was a good question.

Fear. Wanting to not seem too proud. Wanting to fit in. To show I’m human and so are they and aren’t we all just a perfect flawed mess

There were a whole bunch of reasons for my response and none of them were worth the breath I gave them.

I stopped my habitual response and taught myself to respond with as smile and a heartfelt, Thank you. Yes they are. I am truly blessed.

What about you? Where do you undermine your own magnificence with words of self-defamation? Where do you turn out the lights on your own brilliance?

 

 

From uninspired to inspired — it’s just a thought.

I think about not posting. How, it’s a holiday in Alberta today, Family Day, and I should spend it with my family (but even the cat and dog are still sleeping) and I don’t really need to post everyday and I don’t feel very inspired today so why should I post and really, who am I kidding? I don’t need to post today.

I listen to the voices in my head. Clean up the dishes from last night’s ‘family dinner’, browse through Pinterest, read a few blogs. Not feeling inspired I don’t bother to comment on anyone’s posts.

It’s a gorgeous day outside. The birds are twittering at the feeder. Ooops. Gotta fill it.

Come back in. Finish clearing off the dining room table. Putz around some more. Check out the Pairs Figure Skating Champioships. Take another look at Pinterest. Read my daughter’s blog. Wow. She’s so amazing. I’m not feeling inspired. Glad she is.

Really, I don’t need to post. It’s a holiday.

Think about another coffee. Nah. Water would be better. Fill the water-filter thingie. Pour myself a glass. Stand at the kitchen sink watching the birds gather around the feeder. Turn around and notice the fridge door, — stainless steel + golden retriever + sun shining through kitchen window = ugh. Really? All that hair and dust? I just cleaned it yesterday. I clean it again.

Decide it’s time to get out of my pjs. Talk with my sister on the phone. A girlfriend. Arrange a meet-up this week.

Really? Do I need to write a blog? I’m feeling blah. Head cold fogging my thinking. Seriously? I’ve got another cold? What’s with that. Think about googling ‘frequent colds’ but decide against it. Really? What are they going to tell me other than I need to boost my immune system. Hmmm… I worked at a homeless shelter for 6 years and prided myself on the fact that my loved one’s brought colds into the house and I never caught them. Hmmm… maybe my immune system adjusted to the stress of that environment and strengthened itself. Does that mean stress can have its advantages?

Maybe I’ll google it.

Nope. Feeling uninspired. I’d really rather just go back to bed.

But there’s that painting I’m working on in the studio. The seascape that seems to be revealing itself as a pond with water lilies.  Very Monet-ish.

Consider going down to the studio but the blog is calling. My mind won’t let it go. Is this a self-defeating game? to not write. I know that writing my blog every morning sets my day up for inspiration. It opens my access to the muse, clears my thinking of vestiges of sleep and ennui that threaten to curl up into little dust-balls in every corner, stopping the free-flow of ideas that are always present — when I set myself free of worry, angst, thinking I don’t have to, self-defeating games and limiting beliefs — magic happens. Trusting in the process, I become the ideas flowing freely.

Hmmm…. maybe that’s it. Maybe I’m just stalling on writing my blog to keep myself in this place of unease.  Maybe, I’m telling myself a story about feeling tired. Maybe the truth is, what I tell myself becomes my truth.

What if I tell myself I want to write my blog because it’s good self-care. It inspires me.

They I’d best go write my blog. Because seriously– I have no desire to feel uninspired, tired, or even weary of living life to the fullest every day.

That negative, limited thinking does not transform my day into a thing of beauty. It only keeps me feeling BLAH.

I don’t like blah.

Think I’ll go write my blog.

And so I did.

Feeling inspired now. Think I’ll go explore what is calling to be released in the studio.

Have an inspired day! Mine promises to be!

Valentine’s Day is a day to celebrate Love!

It’s Valentine’s Day. The day for Cupid’s arrow to pierce even the crustiest of hearts. The day when chocolate makers rub their hands in glee and flower shops dance the kaching’ka jig.

It’s a day when lonely hearts feel the lack of someone warm to hold onto, when reminders that ‘love is all around’ echo hollowly in their empty beds.

I’ve never been a huge fan of Valentine’s Day. Always thought it was just a tad commercial, a tad too contrived. I mean, if it’s love why do we have to force feed one another with protestations of our sincerity? Shouldn’t Love be the norm? Shouldn’t it simply be ‘the given’? Why do we need to dress it all up in glitz and glamour?

harumph.

Perhaps I need to see The Grinch who stole my Heart and ask him to give it back!

Just kidding. Really. 

In ancient Rome, Lupercalia was a festival that included lots of unruly behaviour. It was often filled with more debauchery and unbridled sex drives run amuck than protestations of undying Love so the Christians converted the Lubercalia festival to one celebrating ‘Love’ of the more tame (and sane) variety to protect its people. And while no one knows for sure which Valentine it was named after, many believe it was dubbed Valentine’s Day at the end of the 5th Century in honour of a cleric who was executed for performing marriage between soldiers — the Emperor at the time had forbidden soldiers wed as he believed unwed men made better soldiers.

Regardless of its origins, I find the pressure of Valentine’s Day overwhelming!

And yet, this past month, I have been secretly creating a book of Love for my beloved. Like my art journal, it is a hand-crafted tome filled with images and words to celebrate Love.

And, just as when I spent a year writing a love poem a day for C.C., I discovered in the course of creating his book of Love, that the journey lead me deeper into my own heart, into my own creative essence and capacity to know and feel and understand and express, Love.

The book is called, There is No Edge to Love. The title is taken from a poem I wrote in the poetry book I gave to him last year, Love is the Mirror.

Happy Day of Love and Light everyone!

People of Grace

I am in a meeting when she arrives. The receptionist comes to get me and I excuse myself. I think it will only take a few minutes to complete what I need to do.

I love it when serendipity and fate step in with moments of human brilliance that leave me breathless with awe.

Her name is Marlene Clay. I’ve asked if I can write about our encounter and share her story.

Of course, she replied. If it can help one person, why not?

Marlene is a social worker. For over 33 years she has served people in need, working with marginalized populations to help them cope with life’s travails.

For the past 10 years, she also cared for her husband of 30 years until he passed away 17 months ago.

I was devastated she tells me. Lost.

To ease her grief she threw herself into the music of Bon Jovi, an artist she has followed throughout his career.

But she doesn’t just listen to his music. She decides to go to as many concerts as she can, no matter where in the world he is performing. Which is why last year Marlene attended 15 concerts on Bon Jovi’s world tour and travelled to 5 countries outside Canada. England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, and the USA.

As she’s telling me her story, my eyes are widening in awe. There is a grace and openness about her that is compelling. Her eyes sparkle and look deeply into mine. I feel like she can see me, deep inside. Hear me. Know me.

She has come to the Foundation offices where I work with a book she wants to present to Bon Jovi at his Las Vegas acoustic concert next week. 200 people. An intimate setting and a chance to ask questions, chat, and get to know the man behind the music.

I don’t want to go and ask the normal questions, like, where do you get your inspiration from, or what do you do when you’re not playing music, she tells me. I want to do something that will make a difference to him too.

Her idea. To present him with a copy of the Calgary Herald’s book The Flood of 2013, with a message from the Calgary Homeless Foundation on the inside leaf. The Foundation has a connection with Bon Jovi. We were recipients last year of his largesse. As the first stop on his world tour where Richie Sambora was not in attendance, Bon Jovi had donated $100,000 to the Calgary Homeless Foundation as a way to make-up for his lead guitarist’s absence. His donation made the headlines but this was a way to make our thanks more personal, said Marlene in an email last week to ask if we’d be willing to write in the book.

I’m going to his acoustic concert in Las Vegas and want to give him a copy of the Flood of 2013 book and tell him the story of how his donation made a difference in people’s lives, she wrote.

Which was why I was sitting with Marlene yesterday afternoon, writing a note in the front of the book on behalf of the Foundation.

I asked her why she wanted to do it. We had sent a thank you letter at the time of the donation, and while this seemed like a nice gesture, it was  a bit out there.

I met him, personally, she says. He made a difference at a time when I really needed something to help me deal with my grief.

And she went on to tell me the story of last year, just a few months after her husband’s passing, while sitting in the lobby of a hotel in Toronto she had the opportunity to meet him in person.

He happened to walk right past me, she said. And I knew, this was my moment.

Marlene jumped up and approached Bon Jovi, or Jon, as she calls him and said, “Can I tell you something?”

The super-star stopped, looked at her and replied, ‘Yes’.

“Your music makes a difference.” And she quickly told him about following his tour, listening to his music in an effort to cope with her grief.

“Bon Jovi looked at me and said, “I’m so sorry”, and then, he stepped right up to me, put his arms around me and hugged me,” she said. “He held me like that for a few moments and then, stepped back, smiled and turned and walked away.”

And in that moment Marlene felt her grief lift. She felt as though her husband Leigh was there, making it happen, making it all possible.

Even my grief counselor is surprised at how well I’m doing, she laughs.

And she is. Healing. Living. Moving through the grief with grace, her heart open to all that is possible when we accept that no matter what happens to the one’s we  hold dear, Love is always present, Love is always creating miracles all around.

I spent an hour with an amazing woman yesterday. We laughed and chatted and in our conversation I felt connected to the beauty and magnificence of the human spirit shining brightly.

I wasn’t expecting it. Didn’t anticipate such a simple task to be so filled with generosity of spirit and light.

I am blessed.

Marlene has promised to let me know what happens at the concert. She’s promised to get a photo and when she returns, to get together for tea.

I’m looking forward to our next encounter.

I like being surrounded by people of grace.