Dare boldly

A blog by Louise Gallagher


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The Enlightened thinking of Andrew Solomon

This is not at all the post I intended when I sat down to write this morning. It can keep.

As I went in search of a link for a quote I wanted to share in my original post, I stumbled upon writer, Andrew Solomon’s, TEDMED 2013 talk:  Love, No Matter What.

Given that Love is Always the Answer is one of my beliefs, I could not resist clicking on the title of his talk.

Andrew begins his talk with these words,

“Even in purely non-religious terms, homosexuality represents a misuse of the sexual faculty. It is a pathetic little second-rate substitute for reality — a pitiable flight from life. As such, it deserves no compassion, it deserves no treatment as minority martyrdom, and it deserves not to be deemed anything but a pernicious sickness.” That’s from Time magazine in 1966.

Later, he quotes an article in The Atlantic Monthly, voice of liberal America — written by an important bioethicist who, in 1968, on the subject of Down syndrome children, said to millions of Americans,

“There is no reason to feel guilty about putting a Down syndrome child away, whether it is put away in the sense of hidden in a sanitarium or in a more responsible, lethal sense. It is sad, yes — dreadful. But it carries no guilt. True guilt arises only from an offense against a person, and a Down’s is not a person.”

I read Andrew’s first book, The Noonday Devil: An atlas of depression, a year after it was released in 2001. I was in the dark, dark, days of a relationship going very, very wrong. I knew I was in a depression. I didn’t know how to ‘get out of it’ and was searching for answers outside myself.  The answer to my depression was not ‘out there’. It was within me all along. It came from accepting I was not in a relationship of love gone wrong. I was in an abusive situation. It came from accepting I was abused. I did things I wasn’t proud, and I was still worthy of love. It came from acceptance of me, just the way I was, in all my warts, with all my Beauty and the Beast complexities. In acceptance, Love had room to flow. In Love, all things were possible, including loving myself even when I didn’t think I deserved it.

After devouring every word of his 20 minute TEDMED talk, I intend on reading his latest book, Far From The Tree.

Don’t tell anyone…. I’m hoping for rain this weekend so I can curl up and read!

Give yourself the gift of 20 minutes of enlightenment this morning with Andrew Solomon.


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Isn’t that fascinating!

Sky hangs heavy
like a dream unbidden
tears fall silent in the night

photo (75)I have been working on a new art journal based on the 10 Things I would tell my 13 year old self post I wrote last week. Last night, I messed up.  I know. I know. Unbelievable! Inconceivable. But it’s true. I did. Mess up. 🙂

I came home from the office with good intentions. A couple of hours in the studio. A late yin yoga class. Bed by 10:30.

I missed the yoga class. Became so engrossed in creation, time passed unnoticed. That’s not at all a bad thing, other than I didn’t give my body the attention it deserves.  Dang. How easy it is to lose that  balance thingie when I become singular in my attention.

The real mess up, though, came in my creating.

I overworked a page.

Took it over the edge of what pleased me into that place where I kept hemming and hawing about what to do to bring it back into balance.

I didn’t really want to go back in and rework it and I definitely didn’t want to paint it over or throw it out. I actually didn’t even want to not like it, but I didn’t like it, and I couldn’t ignore my feelings nor my thoughts no matter how hard I was trying to pretend it was ok.

My gut speaks loud in those instances where I am attempting to accept the unacceptable and make it ok.

I didn’t always listen to my gut. Now I do.

I painted over the page I was working on and let it dry.

It is one of the greatest lessons in painting, and life, that I hold true.

If you don’t like it, paint over it.

Painting over it doesn’t mean I have to get rid of everything I’ve done already. It just means, creating a clean slate while allowing some of what was there to show through, to be part of the underpainting of what is happening now.

Yesterday, Val at Find Your Middle Ground wrote,

We are still weaving our tapestry of life.
We can repair and recreate into our own unique design.
Nothing is really lost. Be kind and careful with your tapestry.
Have faith that you can bring new life to it.

We are always weaving into our life, threading moments that inspire and moments that conspire to pull us out of the light. It is in our capacity to find the value in each moment and thread that through our needle that creates the difference between a life lived as a daily grind, or a life expressed through moments that take each breath away.

Last night, as I sat in my big comfy chair that sits in the corner of the studio and wrote in my journal, I thought about what was the value of overworking that page and found myself laughing at myself. As Benjamin Zander exclaims when he’s done something that is totally not what he intended, “Isn’t that fascinating!”

I was fascinated last night by my capacity to let go of being in the moment, going with the flow and trusting in the process.

In my forgetfulness, I became rigid in my thinking that I knew what I was doing. In thinking I ‘knew’, I didn’t allow space for my intuition, my creative muse, my source to guide me.

See, the reason the page went over the edge is because I wasn’t paying attention to being in the creative process. I was paying attention to the act of creating. That space where me, myself and I, compel me to get busy doing the act of creating and not be One with the art of creating.

In that space of pushing and pulling and wanting to make it happen, my need for perfection, my need to ‘make it look smart’, make it appear clever, overtook my soul’s desire to simply be present and flow with the process.

In each of our tapestries there are moments of wonder and awe and moments of’ “really? what was I thinking?”. Finding the value in all things, allows us to thread our needle with purpose and allow the design of our tapestry to be a unique expression of our lives.

Last night, I found wisdom in stepping back and allowing myself the grace of painting over. And, I was reminded that my ego (aka The Critter) likes to jump into the foray when I am least expecting him. Who knew the critter could paint? I wonder if I should tell him he can’t, or simply let him live with his delusions as I paint over the messes he creates and exclaim, “Wow Mr. Critter. Isn’t that fascinating!”


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Dead minds don’t think

Mountains touching sky
beetle marches unobserved
in prairie grasses.

The haiku wrote itself while I lay in savasana last night, my body gratefully giving itself over to ‘corpse pose’ after 75 minutes of hot yoga.

I know. I know.

Dead minds don’t think.

But my mind couldn’t help itself. When it wants to create, the muse awakens in the silence and has her way with me.

In my search for quiet mind, I wondered if I would remember the words, or even the fact that I had fallen into haiku thinking and, there it was this morning. The moment my fingertips hit the keyboard and I gave myself over to the process of writing, the words appeared.

I am amused.

I don’t recall ever being fascinated with writing haiku before. One month after hitting the yoga mat, my mind is stirring in unusual ways. Perhaps it isn’t a goddess awakening within me but a Buddha!

Somehow, the vision of a fat, chubby Buddha laughing and rubbing his belly in contentment is not as stimulating as a svelte, sensual goddess dancing with her seven veils unravelling my psyche.

Perhaps though, it is fitting.

Life is funny.

We humans are funny too.

Yesterday, a man I knew from my days of working at the homeless shelter, dropped into my office unexpectedly.

I’d run into him the day before and he’d asked if he could call. “I’d like to talk to you about writing my story,” he said.

And there he was, the very next day, standing in the lobby of our offices.

“I need to ask you something,” he said after I’d lead him into a private meeting room and sat down. “I’m in a real bind financially. Everything will unravel if I don’t get $500 today and put it in my bank account. If you lend it to me I can pay it back tomorrow.”

And he went on to explain his financial predicament.

I stopped him.

“You don’t have to tell me the intimate details of your story,” I told him gently. “I can’t lend you the money.” And then I gave him a suggestion on how to deal with his financial emergency.

Instantly, his entire being deflated. He looked lost. Frightened. My suggestion won’t work he told me because he had to pay the first $500 to someone else in order to borrow the next to pay off the second.

What happens when you get to your last person on the list? I asked.

I don’t know, he said. I haven’t got there yet.

When I worked at the shelter, one of my co-workers called it, The Hail Mary Solution.

Pray for a miracle. Pray that if you keep putting one more grain of sand on the pile it won’t all come tumbling down. And even though you know it can’t last, you keep adding one more grain, one more grain, building it up and up until that one grain is added that the pile can no longer sustain. And it all comes spilling down to earth.

Mountains soar to the sky. Prairie grasses blow in the wind. And there, at my feet, is a tiny beetle slowly crawling along the earth. Unnoticed, he is not concerned with what the mountains are doing. He doesn’t care if the grasses grow or the sky falls down. He is only concerned with his journey. Slowly, with intention, he keeps walking. One step in front of the other, moving forward.

I have spent many days piling sand, trying to fix a problem I’ve created by adding more of what I did to build it up.

It is only when I stop focussing on adding a grain of sand to keep the sandpile growing, that I start to awaken to what is evident right where I’m at. Grounded in my body, my feet firmly planted in the now of my being present, I discover the truth of where I’m going is not built on adding one mistake to another.

It’s created when I stop doing what I’m doing that isn’t working, and start becoming aware and accountable for what I’m doing – and choose to stop destroying my path with steps in the wrong direction.

A man asked to borrow $500 yesterday. In his request, I was given the gift of awakening. No matter if part of me wanted to help him. No matter if part of me wanted to relieve his immediate anxiety so that he would feel better, it wouldn’t have helped. The relief would have been fleeting.

And in its passing, we might both have been swept away in the tsunami of the sandpile spilling down to the earth.

 


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There is no separation between mind and body.

If I Knew Then... Art Journal Cover Mixed Media

If I Knew Then…
Art Journal Cover
Mixed Media

river  flowing forward
dawn breaks 
darkness falls back

I am on my mat. Body bent in child’s pose, forehead touching mat, posterior reaching for heels, arms outstretched above my head. Torso pressing down towards the earth.

I am a supplicant bowing before the altar. I am a priestess offering up her prayers. I am hot and sweaty and I am crying.

They are unexpected these tears. Not particularly welcome either. Who cries in a yoga class?

My eldest daughter tells me it’s not unusual. Yoga touches the core. At the core, emotions flow and when released, can express themselves through tears.

Yeah? Well I don’t cry in public.

Good thing my forehead is pressed to the mat.  Good thing I’m sweating so profusely. No one will be able to see my tears.

I replay the teacher’s words through my mind once again.

“The body needs the mind to be engaged. They need each other for strength, courage, balance…. Where the mind goes, the body follows.”

Even as I type the words, I can feel the emotional tug of recognition, remembrance, awakening.

My body and my mind. I have treated them as separate. Independent. They have continually battled for voice. To be heard. To be recognized. To be known — as independent. The mind fighting for control, the body fighting to lead the way, to take charge, to be in charge.

Connect. Make peace. Body bows to mind. Mind makes way for body.

I imagine a bridge. Water flowing beneath. My mind wants to take the bridge, the route of safety. My body wants to swim. To immerse itself in the raging waters and go with the flow.

From above, the water looks dangerous. “Do not go in,” my know-it-all mind cautions. “You do not know what lies within. The current is too strong. You might drown.” And then it adds for good measure, “Someone built that bridge to make it easier. Why not take the path of least resistance?”

“I will never know what lies within if I do not venture,” my dare-it-all body responds, desperately trying to break free of mind’s control. “Anyone can cross a bridge. But to swim across, to tempt the fates, to venture into the depths, to discover what’s really there, ahhh, that takes courage. Fortitude. A spirit of adventure. A willingness to risk.”

“The bridge is there for a reason,” mind parries back. “The object is to reach the other side. It doesn’t matter how you get there, what matters is you get there.”

“I disagree,” yells body. “You always decide where we’re going but I am the one who carries us there. I am the one who decides how we take the journey.”

And they duke it out on the safe side of the river, the distant shore forgotten in their fight for freedom from one another.

And the water keeps flowing and I keep holding back from stepping away from the shore where I am comfortable in what I know to be true. Whether I step onto the bridge, or enter the waters, it isn’t about how I take the journey, it is that I take it with mind and body engaged, each one supporting, loving, carrying and caring for the other.

To live means to risk. It requires stepping into the unknown. Pushing against boundaries, forging new trails.

Many years ago, Henry David Thoreau wrote, “Pursue some path, however narrow and crooked, in which you can walk with love and reverence.”

And I remember what I have forgotten in my flight and fight to get to the other side.

On the journey, no matter where I am going, there is only one thing that carries me across, through and over. There is only one thing I need to carry to wade into the waters or step onto the safety of the bridge.

Love.

In Love, I am safe no matter where I go or how I travel.

In Love, body and mind travel united.

In Love, all things are possible.

I bent my head to the mat. Tears flowed and I found myself once again, flowing in Love.

 

 

 


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How to Love. Forgive. and Live in the rapture of now.

I love the month of May! Eleven years ago this month on May 21st, I was released from a relationship that was killing me. At 9:14 am two RCMP officers walked into a room where I had been hiding out with the man who had promised to love me “’til death do us part” and was taking the death part way too seriously, and arrested him.

It was a miracle.

On February 26 of that year, 2003, we had driven west, out of the city without telling my daughters, family and friends we were going.

I didn’t know where we were going. I didn’t care. I belonged to him. I did what he told me. Did not question him. Did not speak up. I was his.

He told me he would let me go when he got out of the country. I was terrified if he let me go, I would die. I was terrified if I went with him, I would die. And still, for all my terror, the only thing I really wanted in those final months was to die. I kept praying he would make it happen, sooner. I kept imagining ways I could make it so. I kept telling him ways he could take my life and still, nothing happened.

As the days mounted into weeks and then months and he still hadn’t found a way to get out of the country, I knew it would be only a matter of time before he killed me. I was his albatross. His dead weight. His inconvenience. These were the things he told me and I believed him. I was conditioned to believe everything he said. To not question his lies.

I wanted to let my daughters know where I was. I wanted, desperately, to hear their voices.

He told me I couldn’t. He told me I was selfish. Inconsiderate. Stupid.

I believed him.

I stayed silent.

And then he was arrested and I got the miracle of my life and was given the gift of healing.

These are the things I learned upon my healing journey.

  1. Life is a miracle. Look into the mirror, look deep into your eyes. See the miracle you are and say, “WOW! What a miracle I am!” Do this everyday of your life.
  2. Surrender all fear and fall into Love. It doesn’t matter what you’ve done, how far you’ve fallen, how deep you’ve sunk. It is fear that keeps you there. Accept yourself just the way you are and love yourself, beauty and the beast. And, after you say, what a miracle I am! say, I love me! Do this everyday of your life.
  3. Learn from the broken places. Life is filled with moments that lift us up interspersed with moments that confuse us, tire us, hurt us, bring us down. There is something to be learned in every step of the journey, no matter how hard. A broken heart is an open heart and an open heart is a loving heart. Don’t be afraid of the broken. Hold yourself lovingly in those places where it feels like you can’t breathe, and breathe. Deeply. And ask yourself, “What do I really want in this moment?”
  4. Listen to your heart. This one goes with Learn from the broken places. Our hearts always know the answer. Listen. Deeply. Don’t give your mind room to talk your heart out of what it knows to be true. Give your heart free rein. Know that a loving heart cannot be broken because it is always open.
  5. Forgive. Freely. Joyfully. Continually. People will hurt you. People will do the inexplicable. The unbelievable. Believe it. They did it. Forgive them anyway.   Forgiveness doesn’t mean they aren’t accountable for what they did, it just means you aren’t holding onto what they did with anger, pain, fear. And while you’re at it, forgive yourself. Doesn’t matter how angry you are, or how hurt you feel, nothing gives you the right to be cruel or unkind, especially to yourself. Holding onto unforgiveness hurts you. Forgive and remember to surrender your fear. Forgiveness feels so much better than unforgiveness. Forgiveness sets you free.
  6. You are magnificent. Seriously. You are magnificent. You were born that way. It’s just life and happenings, and all that jazz got in the way of your remembering your birthright. To shine. To illuminate. To live in the magnificence of the beauty of who you are when you let go of your disbelief that you truly are an amazing, miraculous, magnificent human being.
  7. Love is the answer. No matter the question, no matter your predicament, your fear (which you’ve let go of anyway so it won’t matter), Love is the answer. Whatever is happening right now, ask yourself, what’s the most loving thing I can do for me right now, and then… yup… listen to your heart and do that thing that your heart tells you. And, just in case you’re trying to kid yourself, your head does not hold the answers so when it tries to tell you to do the opposite, to take the old path, don’t listen!
  8. Live in the rapture of now. Joseph Campbell coined that phrase. It’s easier said than done. Do it anyway. Get out of thinking about what will he say, she do, they think and live in the wonder and awe of being totally present right now. In this place, your heart knows the truth — you are magnificent. Live your truth.
  9. Life is a series of teachable moments. It’s constantly delivering up fascinating moments to grow and dig deeper and learn and stretch and expand your understanding of who you are and how you are in the world. Listen deeply to life’s teachings, find the value in all things and shine!

Namaste.

 


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Loving Beauty and the Beast

I am often asked, “How did you do it? How did you go from such a broken place to seeing the world with such joy and wonder today?”

It was my choice, I reply.

And it was. My choice to heal in Love. To not allow anger, fear, regret – anything-  steal from me the awe I felt at having the miracle of my life in that moment of release from the relationship that was killing me.

It wasn’t that it was hard, or easy. It was what it was. It is what it is.

What is true for me today is that going through that relationship was not my life. It was a time in my life. A period of time. It was not my whole life.

I am blessed.

I wanted to awaken. And was struggling to find my truth.

I found a path that forced me to wake up. It wasn’t the easiest path I could have chosen — abuse is not easy. But it is the path I took.

I cannot change the path I took. I can change how I see it from my vantage point today.

And today, I see it as the gift of awakening.

Awakened, I step fearlessly into being all of me without hesitating on the edge of fear that I will never be all of me.

I can only be all of me — whether I am fearful, joyful, sad or happy. I can only be all of me. It is in my denial of all that I am, beauty and the beast, that I run into trouble. When I deny my light, and my darkness or my shadow, I am resisting all that I am.

And as I type, I watch a squirrel trying to run across the street in front of my window.

It can be a busy street at this time of the morning. There are two schools in the next block and the bell is about to ring.

The squirrel leaps out into the street only to dart back when a vehicle approaches.

He tries again.  Runs out. Darts back.

Again.

Again.

And then finally, there is a break in the traffic.

I watch him run across the road to the nieghbour’s lawn. He races over to the base of a tree, runs up the tree and disappears into its branches.

Mission accomplished.

And I think about my life. How so often I saw what I wanted on the other side, would move towards it, grow afraid and then dart back into the shadows, fearful of the path to where I wanted to go.

things appeared on the path. Obstacles rose up. Craters opened. I darted and leaped and raced and circled and dove into and under and around, continually wanting to reach the other side.

And then, one day, I had to make the choice. Get there, or stay stuck.

I crossed. Breathed. Accepted I was where I wanted to be and began to adjust to being there. It didn’t matter the obstacles I’d overcome in my journey to there. what mattered was I was there. Being there, what was I willing to do?

Being there/being here is not a static place. It is fluid. Filled with possibility. Filled with opportunity. Filled with all that I want, all that I need as long as I accept that it is here that I am all that I need, all that I want, all that I can be when I let go of the fear — I am not where I want to be.

If this is not where I want to be, why am I here? Why am I holding onto this place. What is it that is keeping me here? What is it that is keeping me from letting go?

If this is not where I want to be, why am I holding onto being here with such ferocity?

There are always places to go, things to see, to do, to have, to get.

But there is only one place I can be where I am always enough. And that is within me. It is all of me. It is who I am when I let go of running to, away, into anywhere other than who I am when I breathe and accept I Love all of me, warts and all, Beauty and the Beast.

 

 


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Freedom! What a wonderful place to be!

The patio at Bonterr

The patio at Bonterra

My youngest daughter and I are sitting on one of my favourite restaurant patios. I had called her earlier in the afternoon and asked, “Do you know what day it is?”

She thought for a moment before exclaiming, “Oh my! It’s May 21st! Happy Freedom Day!”

I had forgotten.

Completely.

The date had entered my mind some weeks ago. I’d noted it and then carried on. And now, on the actual date, I’d completely missed its significance until a young woman made a comment about an emotional outburst she’d had the week before at a workshop we’d both attended.

There were three of us standing chatting at the time. They both work for United Way and I am an impact speaker. We were waiting to present at a corporate function and were talking about the workshop we’d attended last week together. At the workshop, the young woman had shared a story and broken down into tears. Confused by her emotional outburst, she’d shared her feelings with her mother who had reminded her of the significance of the date. “My grandfather died on that date two years ago and I hadn’t connected it,” she said. I listened and we kept talking until a few moments later, the significance of the date hit me.

May 21.

When I get back to my office I call my youngest daughter and she too has forgotten.

We need to celebrate she says and make a date for later that evening. It promises to be beautiful, so we agree to meet on the patio of Bonterra.

I arrive early to ensure we get a table on the patio. My daughter won’t be there for at least 45 minutes later, so I come equipped. I have a brand new bright red moleskin notebook. I have decided. I will write in it everyday for the next year.

I haven’t kept a written journal consistently for awhile. I use this space as my ‘write it out’ place mostly and have let go of my practice of nightly journalling. I like the idea of diving once again into the discipline of writing my day out every night. I like the process of filling a page with random scribblings. Ideas. Writing bad, good or simply silly and inconsequential.

I order a celebratory wine and savour a few sips as I pull out my brand new journal, unwrap it and crack it open. I look around at the other diners. Little sparrows flit through the vines that hang suspended from the pergola above, their tiny buds bursting with promise that a few more days of heat will coax open. Waiters flit between tables. There is laughter. Chatter. Clinking of cutlery and the muted hum of traffic beyond the patio’s high protective walls.

At the table next to me, a woman is complaining, first to her dinner date, then to the waiter. Service is slow. There is no lemon. This is too salty. In the 45 minutes that I sit by myself, the woman and her dinner partner have had a glass of wine each, an appetizer, their main course and a desert. They leave without once smiling at the waiter, or anyone else. Though at one point, he does laugh at something he reads on his cell phone while they sit together not speaking to one another.

And I wonder. Is it because she has had to fight for everything in her life? Is it because she feels unseen, unknown? Has she felt attacked throughout her life for being a woman, for the colour of her dark skin or any other host of unseen differences that she feels the need to protect herself always?

I wonder about her journey and write my thoughts in my journal. When my daughter arrives I share my wonderings and she teases me and says it’s not nice to eavesdrop.

I wasn’t eavesdropping I tell her. I was observing. 🙂

And then she tells me the thing that makes my heart sing. On this day when 11 years ago she and her sister awoke not knowing if their mother was alive or dead. On this day when after almost four months of not having heard from the mother who had loved them so much and then betrayed the sacred trust of being their mother by disappearing, my youngest daughter told me that she will always be grateful for the lessons I’ve taught her.

“T. (her boyfriend) said one of the things he likes most about me is how I am kind to everyone,” she tells me. “It doesn’t matter who, I always talk to them and treat them with respect. You taught me that mom. Thank you.”

It was eleven years ago yesterday, at 9:14 am that I was given the miracle of my life when a police car drove up and two officers got out and arrested the man who wanted to kill me.

It was eleven years ago yesterday that I awoke to the truth. I did not deserve to be abused.

It was eleven years ago yesterday that I began to step into the truth. I am worthy. Of love. Forgiveness. Joy. Freedom. Life.

It has been an amazing journey from those dark days of abuse into my life today. From tiny, baby steps of hope, I have taken leaps and bounds into the wonder of living my life in freedom. And in that journey, I have been blessed with the love and support of my daughters, my family, my friends. Of strangers and so many people willing to share this amazing journey with me.

I am so blessed.

I am grateful.

I am joyful.

I am Love.