Dare boldly

A blog by Louise Gallagher


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On my mat, there is no room for fear.

I am hot. Sweating hot. It drips off my chin. It runs down my back.

I am lying on my mat, my feet, thighs, stomach, shoulders, arms, left ear pressed to the mat.

It is almost over. I am almost at the end.

I let the thought go.

It is not about beginning and endings. It is about this moment right now. Being present.

That was my intention when the yoga class had begun 70 minutes earlier. To be present.

I want to review my process but remember the instructor’s words at the beginning of the class. Yoga is not a competition. There is no judgment in yoga. There is only you and your body, present in the moment.

It is my fifth hot yoga class in five days.

I have set an intention to be present on my mat at least five days of the week.

I smile to myself. I wonder if my week began last week or if this day is the beginning of my new week.

Dang. There goes my mind. Off on a little jaunt.

I breathe. Bring myself into my breath. In. Out. Breathe in Love. Exhale gratitude. A continuous circle of renewable energy filling me up with all that I need to be present in my practice and my day.

I am relatively new to yoga.

I have intermittently practiced it over the years, okay more off than on, and have only come to the mat with any intention recently.

Yoga was never fast enough for me. Hard enough. It wasn’t filled with pounding feet and racing heartbeats and if I didn’t feel like I’d run a marathon, what was the point of doing it?

I am learning the truth. After thousands of miles hitting the pavement, my knees and joints are grateful. Yoga is about presence. Strengthening and lengthening. It is about the moment, not the destination.

I look around the class. Candles flicker on wooden blocks set into one wall. The lights are semi-dim. Bodies lay supine on multi-colours of mats spread out throughout the room.

There is peace here. Contentment.

And the gratification of a hard workout.

Oops. There I go again. Looking for the win.

I bring my thoughts back to my breath.

I give a quick scan of my body for points of tension.

I meet myself where I’m at.

I feel present. Relaxed. Strong.

The instructor invites us into the frog pose.

I have forgotten my towel. For a moment my mind races with concerns around pressing my upper body into bare floor.

I am dripping. Wet. The scooped neckline of my t-shirt soaked. The nape of my hair soggy.

I move into the pose, my torso pressing down through my knees on the mat, my upper body cradled between my splayed out arms. I rest my forehead on my hands.

I breathe into the pose. I smile as my mind imagines a bullfrog sitting on a lily pad. He gives one giant croak as his tongue whips out to capture a passing fly.

I breathe in. Pull up slightly from my bend and exhale as I deepen once again into the pose. I am seeking the comfort of no tension (not to mention no frogs catching flies).

“I like to read a verse as we finish off the pose,” the instructor says, her voice a melodic chant high above my head. There is a slight burble of laughter in her voice. “It’s a good way to distract your thinking as you hold the frog.”

I smile.

“Fear or Love,” she reads.

I listen, my mind forgetting the discomfort my body is starting to feel as it pushes itself over the edge of what it knows is possible into holding the pose longer than it thought it could.

I listen and smile again. No matter what you choose to do, ask yourself if you are doing it through fear, or love.

Do you  work because you are afraid of poverty or do you do work for the love of doing something worthwhile, contributory?

Do you fear not having food and a roof over your family’s head, or do you provide for them as an expression of your love?

No matter what you do, let go of fear and move through love.

I began my practice afraid I would not be able to do it. That I would look ridiculous compared to the other supple and toned (and did I mention youthful?) bodies in the class.

I let go of my fear.

I am here on my mat because I love my body and want to provide it what it needs. I want to take care of it so that it can carry me through my days effortlessly and with grace.

I came to my mat, my mind filled with fearful thoughts of how less than the others I was.

There is no less than on my mat. There is no room for fear. There is only Love.

Namaste.

PS — do try out  Calgary Hot Yoga.  Great studio!


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Listen to the moon rising

Years ago, (in my 20s) I wrote a a book of poetry I called, “Footprints in Melted Snow”.

It was an out-pouring of my sorrow, confusion, angst, grief, fear, hope…. of not knowing who I was, what I wanted, why I wanted, how I wanted, or even if I deserved to have whatever it was that I wanted, in  my life.

I had married young. It didn’t last. I knew even before I stepped into the church that marrying this man, even though he was a good man, was not the right thing for me to do.

And I did it anyway.

There was a lot of pressure to do it. To commit and though deep inside I knew I wasn’t in that space of making such a lifelong commitment, I succumbed to the pressure.

Months later, I was sick with unhappiness and worst of all, I hated myself.

What is wrong with me, my critter kept asking. Why can’t I be happy?

It wasn’t about him. It was all about me.

One evening, just after I’d started a new job and was working late on my first really big project, my parents and brother and his wife arrived for a visit. My parents lived in Europe at the time so having them come to visit was not like they could just drop in anytime.

But I was hurt.

They had arrived two weeks earlier and gone to visit my one sister’s in-laws who lived an hour away and not come to visit me. They had gone to visit my brother and his wife, and not come to visit me.

And then they announced their arrival and I was working.

I told them where the hidden key was and that I would be home as soon as I could get away. I told them I had steaks in the fridge and all the fixings and to make themselves at home.

When I arrived home, they were sitting around the dining room table eating take-out and drinking.

My father and brother loved their scotch. So did my then husband. We always had a bottle of the ‘good stuff’ in the house. It was almost empty.

My mother and sister-in-law were sharing a bottle of wine and I arrived in the midst of a conversation about… me.

What I was doing in my life that they didn’t like. How I was thinking I was so uppitty and better than everyone else.

I was taken aback. Stunned. Surprised.

Why did everyone else have so much to say about my life? What had I done to any of them to make them think I was such a horrid person?

And I said nothing.

I sat for awhile and listened because they told me what they were telling me was for my own good. Eventually, I told them I was going to bed. I had heard enough.

But even in bed, I couldn’t drown out their voices so I got up and told them that they were welcome to stay but they were not welcome to keep talking about me in that way. I didn’t deserve that and if they wanted to keep doing it, they would have to leave.

They left.

And thus began my journey into discovering “Who am I?”

I couldn’t understand why my own family didn’t like me. I didn’t understand what I had done to hurt them all so badly.

I left my marriage shortly after that. There were a host of reasons for my leaving but mostly, it was because I knew that when I stepped into it, I didn’t know who I was and I most definitely didn’t love myself. In knowing that, I knew I had to find me before I could drag someone else into the mess I saw as my life.

I learned a lot through that process. I learned about self-love. About inner strength, inner truth and beauty.

And I learned about compassion.

I long ago let go of having to forgive anyone for what happened back then. Not one of us set out to intentionally hurt they other. We were simply acting out from where we were at. And we were all carrying a lot of pain. In letting go of telling myself I had to get to a place of forgiveness, I was freed to move into the truth of what I found.

It is as Eleanor Roosevelt said so long ago, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

I have started to work on a new book. It is called, “If I Had Known Then.” It was inspired by my eldest daughter who read my list of “10 Things I would tell my 10 year old self‘ and said, “Mom. It’s so beautiful. You need to make it into a book.”

I like the idea.

I have started working on an art journal using each of the ‘things’ as a theme for each page.

And, I went back to the poetry book I wrote so many years ago and am going to use some of the poems as touchstones to connect me today to the me I was back then and the truth I’ve found in living my life now in the beauty and wonder of all that I am when I speak my truth fearlessly in love with all of me and the world around me.

This is my life. It is a journey through Love. Hope. Joy and Compassion.

I’ll be sharing poems from the book as I move through it and wanted to share this one with you today.

Namaste.

Listen to the Moon

©Louise Gallagher

I painted a picture
of time
but couldn’t find
the words
to describe
impressions
of moments
Cast upon the sand
Shifting.
Sifting.
Drifting.
Sunrise exploding horizons
Bursting waterfalls
cascading
through time.

Listen to the moon
rising
and you shall hear
yourself.
Listen to yourself.

 


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Whistle while you work…

This is my holiday day style blog…. Three things and a question for this holiday Monday in Canada.

The question first — why do we celebrate Queen Victoria Day in Canada?

Queen Victoria was known as the Queen of Confederation — though her birthday was celebrated in Canada long before Confederation. According to that source of all things needed to know to be in the know, Wikipedia, Victoria Day is celebrated on the last Monday of the month before May 25th to commemorate the current reigning monarch’s birthday and… unofficially, the first day of summer in Canada. (I’m still kinda waiting for spring!)

Or, as my beloved’s brother-in-law Steve Nease shared… (Steve is a syndicated political cartoonist – his website is here)

Cartoon by Steve Nease http://neasecartoons.com/

Cartoon by Steve Nease
http://neasecartoons.com/

 

The second thing…

Two weeks ago, I was the keynote speaker at a Women’s Conference in Claresholm, a small city an hour and a half drive south of Calgary. Last week, a friend sent me the article from the Claresholm newspaper. I made the front page!  🙂  You can read it by clicking here  (page 1) and here (page 2)  I have to spend some techy time figuring out how to get the link for page 2 into the first page!

And the third thing…

Well, it is a long weekend, and today is officially my day to get into the garden and beautify it for the summer. But, it’s not very nice or warm out and I have a project to complete and I know that many of my readers are not here in Canada, so…. whatever you are doing today, I’m sharing a song to help you enjoy your day!

Have a good one. I’ll be back to regular programming tomorrow! 🙂


 


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10 Things I’d tell my 13-year-old self if I could change her life

A friend asked me awhile ago to join her and other women in creating a book of wisdom for a niece who is turning 13. Of course, I want to participate, I told her. And promptly got busy on the many other things on my plate.

But it has been sitting in a corner of my mind. The wondering of what would I tell my 13-year-old self about life, love, living? What wisdom do I most want to share to inform her journey?

I let my mind float. Let it empty itself of conscious thinking and sink into the reservoir of known but unseen wisdom within me.

Ten Things I would tell my 13-year-old self if I could change her life.

  1. There is no such place as forever. Nothing is forever. This too shall pass. Whatever you are experiencing, the trauma, the angst, the joy, they are all illusory. Transitory. Ride whatever is happening hands free, barefooted, body wide open to the experiences of life. Now is not forever.
  2. You’re okay. More than okay, you are amazing. Just the way you are. There is no fashion too out there, no style too wild if it is what you want to wear. You are not too fat, too skinny, to short, too tall, too under-developed, over-developed. You are who you are, how you are. And that’s amazing.
  3. You are worthy. This is a tricky one. Your mind wants to steal this one away and hide it because to know your worth, you must risk — the unknown. the perceived impossible. You must risk the ups and downs, ins and outs, overs and unders of life. To know your worth, you must know there is nothing, noone, no way anyone can steal it from you. It is your birthright.
  4. Believe in you. Really, really believe in you. Don’t question your right to be. Don’t question you’re right to go anywhere, do anything, anyway you choose. Be you. Everyone else is taken. Wear your hair up, down, wild, straight. Colour it pink, gold, orange or green. It’s your body. Your hair. Your skin. Your life. Your right to believe in you and be you just the way you are.
  5. Be kind. People will say mean things. Do cruel things. Be kind. Like you, they struggle to know their worth, find their place, feel their feelings. Like you, they are taking this journey of life without a manual, unable to control and predict everything life will throw at them. Like you, they are sometimes scared, sometimes silly, sometimes confused, sometimes wise. And like you, they too are looking to fit in, to belong, to be part of something bigger than themselves. Be kind, no matter how they act. Be kind.
  6. You don’t have to find your meaning. You are your meaning. Live it with your whole heart wide open to life. Your meaning is not in wearing the latest fashion or having the coolest stuff. Your meaning is found in how you approach every moment, engage every person from that place where you know, no matter what you think they think about you, you think and know you are amazing, just the way you are.
  7. Seek magnificence. Don’t go looking for mediocrity. Seek to be known through your magnificence and seek always to know others through theirs. Don’t look for fault, seek the lessons, seek the knowing, seek the value in all things.
  8. Risk often. Life isn’t a predictable series of events over which you have ultimate control. The only person you have control over is yourself – and even then you’ll sometimes doubt just how in control of yourself you are. Risk anyway because, if you’re involved with others, there will be lots of messy, sticky, unexpected and sometimes painful things happening on your journey. They’re just things. It’s all just stuff. You are amazing  – I know, I said it already – it’s true. Believe it. Risk living from the place of knowing you are okay, you are amazing, you are magnificent. Risk living as if it’s true — because it is.
  9. Smile often. Laugh lots. Dance always. And when you cry, cry out loud. When you laugh, laugh out loud. And when you see injustice, ask what can I do to change it, and do that thing with your whole heart and know, that is enough. You are enough. You don’t have to have all the answers, you only need to learn the one’s that will allow you to make the difference in the world you want to see and be. And that’s enough.
  10.  Get creative. Don’t go looking inside boxes for the recipe for life. Live it not knowing what’s next. Live it expecting the unexpected. Live it free of holding onto hurts and pains, sorrows and regrets. Live it up. Fill it with joy. and always, always SHINE! Because you are amazing. You are worthy. You are magnificent. And that’s the only truth you need to know to live your life fearlessly in Love with all of you.

 


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A question is a great place to begin seeking answers

I am sitting in a trendy restaurant having dinner with a friend who has asked me to help him work on a piece he has to read to a group. My wild mushroom soup arrives and I dig in. My friend has not ordered an appetizer, opting instead for a main course only.  I finish my soup (it was delicious right to the very last morsel). My salad and his lamb arrive and he asks, quietly. “Do you mind if I say a prayer of thanks for our meal?”

I am chagrined.

Not because of his request. It is important to give thanks.

I am chagrined because I never thought to invite him to give thanks before my soup.

I quickly agree and he says a prayer of gratitude. There is no hesitation in his words. No self-consciousness. There is only thankfulness and grace.

I am humbled.

And I want to speed him along. I see the waiter coming towards us. What if he hears my friend praying?

John Pentland, the facilitator of the course I took for the past two days and the reverend of Hillhurst United Church, shared the story of a young woman who confessed to him that it was easier to tell people she was gay than to tell them she went to church.

Danish philosopher and theologian, Sᴓren Kierkegaard wrote, “The function of prayer is not to influence God, but rather to change the nature of the one who prays.” 

When I was a little girl, prayer was big in our household. Friday evenings, we would kneel with our mother in front of the crucifix that stood on the mantel and say the rosary. As a little girl, I liked the pretty beads of my rosary. I liked how the tiny translucent pearls felt when they slipped through my fingers. How the metal links connecting them jingled slightly if I held it all together and shook it up. I liked being tucked in beside my mother, her head bowed in prayer, her lips moving as she quietly said the words of each Hail Mary followed by the Our Father at the end of each decade. And, I liked how from my spot in front of the crucifix I could see the many arms of Shiva doing his dance of  destruction beside the figure of a fat happy Buddha who also graced the mantel.

I liked rubbing the Buddha’s belly. My mother told me it would bring me good luck.

Sometimes, she would burn incense and I would breathe deeply of the pungent, sandalwood scent that wafted through the air. My grandmother, a severe and deeply religious woman, frequently sent us parcels from India filled with incense and popadoms and sugary sweet candies, along with little cloth pouches covered in a photo of a Saint and a prayer tucked inside. She also sent us statues of Shiva and other Hindu deities and I wondered if she was simply trying to cover her bases by ensuring no matter the belief, we were covered. Of course, I also wondered if the frequent fighting of my parents was simply the gods duking it out over who owned our souls.

One of the exercises John asked us to do yesterday at the workshop was to draw a picture of a river on a blank sheet of paper. Inside that river, he instructed, mark significant moments in your life. Perhaps the birth of a sibling, or the death. Perhaps a book you read, a movie you saw, a conversation you had. Mark in your river those things that in this moment feel like they have significance.

A river is always moving, he told us. Your river today may be filled with different things than your river tomorrow he cautioned before inviting us to move into small groups of three to share one of the things in our river along with its significance.

One of the things I shared was the day I married my first husband. I told of how I stood outside the church with my father and told him I didn’t want to go in. “I think we should go for a walk instead,” I told him. But he insisted it was just nerves. That I had a duty to all the people who were waiting inside. That I must enter and marry the man who waited at the altar.

I hadn’t wanted to change my name.

I hadn’t wanted to get married.

But I acquiesced. I gave in to what others said, rather than hold onto what I knew was right and true for me.

The marriage didn’t last long. It wasn’t that I didn’t love the man. It was that I did not love myself. I did not know me.

The significance of that day for me, I told the other two in my circle, was that I had a voice, and I didn’t use it. I knew my heart, and I didn’t listen.

A friend said a prayer over dinner last night. I heard him and I wondered, where am I in my prayers?

A question is a great place to begin seeking answers.

 


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Beyond what I know… there is more to learn.

I am sitting in a circle, the soft cushion of my chair a welcome separation between my body and the hard metal frame upon which I sit. I am listening intently as our facilitator, Dr. John Pentland, weaves the art of story-telling into his presentation.

When C.C. learned I was going to a course on story-telling, his first comment was, “Don’t you usually teach that?”

There’s always more to learn and discover I told him and the only way I know to do that is to keep deepening what I know through the wisdom of others.

I am a life long learner. Learning feeds my whole body, mind, spirit. It fills me up with joy. It keeps me humble. I keeps me passionately engaged in living wide-open to possibility.

The morning session of this two-day course began with John inviting each of us to wander about the room, examining the photographs that were laid out on the floor. “Pick one that speaks to you about what gives your work meaning,” he instructed. “Do it in whatever way you feel called. Pick up the first one you see. Examine them all. Pick up several and then decide. It is your choice, but find one photo that speaks to you about the work you do and/or your organization does in the world.”

I was amazed at how quiet an exercise it was. No one spoke as they wandered amongst the photographs, carefully moving around each other. We were all intent on finding the right photo.

I moved into the mess of photos strewn all about and immediately one of them called to me. I bent down to examine it, wondering what it’s meaning was, why it resonated. I picked it up. Looked at it carefully, let my mind go blank so that I could see it from the inside out. It was a photo of an old master’s painting. An artist at his easel, a woman in a severe black dress standing at the wall. The painter’s assistant mixing paints to the far right, a large window casting long rays of light across the floor from the left. It spoke to my artist’s heart. To my desire to understand, to know, to see through all perspectives.

I waited. Felt its call and put it back down. It might be the one but I wanted to look at all the others to ensure I wasn’t picking to get the game over with versus choosing it for the meaning it represented. (Yup. The critter was active as he likes to be in exercises where I fear ‘not getting it right’. LOL. He truly is a pesky fellow).

I kept wandering amidst the photos.

A picture of stars.

A photo of a man praying.

A photo of a mosque door, its intricate blue tiles calling my senses.

A photo of a child smiling.

A river.

A skyline.

An astronaut floating in space.

And then I found it. A coloured in painting of a woodcut (unnamed) by the 19th Century astronomer, Flammarion (1842-1945).

It calls to me. Excites my senses. Pushes my thinking beyond the edges of my knowing. Lean into it, I hear my inner guide calling. Lean in and discover its meaning.

I pick it up. Stand quietly peering into the photo.

Slowly I walk back through the photos to the one I originally picked. It is still there. It still has meaning. But it is not the one.

This one is.

I take my seat and when asked to talk about the relevance of the photo I talk about how I live in the known of what I know. How everything I do is based on my perceptions of what appears as real and actual before me. This photo calls to me to look beyond. To breathe into my fears. To lean into the unknown. To explore and in my explorations, to share what I see and learn and discover — not because I know it all, but rather, because there is always something new to learn, always something new to discover. Because, there is always possibility of better. Of more.

I am excited by my finding. Excited by how one photo has taken my mind beyond what I know about what I do, into seeing more deeply into what brings meaning to what I do, for me, for the world around me.

“We are all in search of meaning,” John tells us.

And then, he gives us a statement to complete. “At my workplace, [in my life] meaning happens when….? Finish the sentence,” he says.

And I do.

In my workplace, meaning happens when people say YES! to doing whatever it takes to ending homelessness.

In my life, meaning happens when people say YES! to living life beyond the edges of their comfort zones.

I am excited. Day 2 is about to begin. Here’s to saying YES! to stepping into the unknown of what is possible when I let go of believing  all I know is all there is to know.

 


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We are born to succeed at life!

It was a Be. Do. Have. I wanted to quit on many times throughout the months leading up to the Artists Gone Wild Art Show & Sale.

So much to do. So many things to take care of. And I was busy. Busy with all my other work. Busy with my writing. My taking care of business. My life!

Who had time to devote to organizing an art show? I mean really? Why bother? I bet no one comes. I bet those who do will think it’s awful. I bet the other artists won’t like me. Or will be so much better than me I’ll look stupid.

Ah yes, the critter was in full blown panic attack — let’s undermine Louise’s sense of well-being because we all know she’s such a loser when it comes to commitment and living her dreams.

And then there was the guilt. Such a waste of energy but oh so familiar a space to writhe around in.

The lion’s share of the running around, making phone calls, organizing and figuring out fell onto the shoulders of Tamara, one of our Basement Bombshells Art Collective members. She was doing it all and my head kept telling me I was doing nothing.

Fortunately, neither critter nor guilt were powerful enough to stop the show from happening — we’d already paid for the space, postcards and other things necessary to promote and put on the show. We were committed whether my agents of self-sabotage had a say in it or not!

I am grateful.

Grateful for all I’ve learned over the years about who I am and what lengths my critter voice will go to undermine and pull me off my course.

I am grateful I have learned to recognize his hissy incantations calling me to give up, step away, let go of my dreams.

And I am grateful for the support of all those I know and love who remind me every day to stay the course, stand true and walk my path with love and joy.

The show was a success. Personally and in the bigger picture of the show.

Personally, I sold 10 paintings. Professionally, as an artist, I was given affirmation of my talent, my capacity to create art that speaks to others. What a gift!

We’ve sent out a survey to the other artists, and the feedback is positive — it was a success! The Possibilities Project artists felt welcomed and sold some works, and, we raised over $1400 at the Silent Auction for Alpha House!

It wasn’t that I doubted (okay, maybe I did a little bit). It was that I questioned whether or not my style, my unique expressions would please others enough that strangers would walk in and purchase my work. ( They did. In fact, one couple bought two of my paintings!)

Because, even though I say I don’t paint to sell my work, there is, just possibly, a tiny little whisper of a dream inside me that I could make a living from my writing and artwork….

I love to paint. I love to immerse myself in the process and get lost in exploring what happens when I simply let go of doing and become one with the piece I’m working on.

At the show, I took one of my art journals to have it there as an example of ‘possibility’.

There are no limits, no dont’ do that’s, no never put red beside orange rules in art journalling I told people who stopped to take a look at the journal. There is only the page. Only the expression of whatever is happening as you paint and collage and sticker up and glitter up and glaze over whatever you’re doing.

I wanted to test the waters to see if there was any interest in art journalling courses.

There is.

And now I have my next Be. Do. Have.

To hold a two-day Artifying your Soul workshop!

Yesterday, as I was walking back from a luncheon, I stopped in at a new little wine store I happened to pass by. I met the owners at a Community engagement Open House we’d held on one of the Foundation’s new buildings in the city. They’d shared the story of their new endeavour, about how their Be. Do. Have was coming to life. I promised to drop in and I did.

And in the process, found a space for another endeavour I want to undertake —  Nights of Wine and Creativity  — An evening to taste wines and explore simple art creations.

I recently read of a woman in California holding art making evenings in a winery — and thought what a brilliant idea. Wine. Nibblies. Canvases ready to go and an evening of painting away for fun — couples attend a lot of them and it looked like such a happy endeavour.

I spoke to one of the owners and…. we’re going to talk some more!

YES!

Staying focused on my Be. Do. Have. keeps the critter’s voice from rising above the fear I will fall if I step into my dreams, unfold my wings and let myself fly free.

One of the paintings that did not sell is one of the paintings I wanted to keep — the one on which I wrote…. She never imagined she could fly until one day she dared to believe…. in herself.

I am grateful it didn’t go. It is now hanging in my living room, reminding me always that we are born to fly free of our fears because we are born to succeed at living this one wild and passionate life in the rapture of now.

Namaste.