Dare boldly

Inspiring acts of grace in everyday living


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There is no speed to time.

Art Journal Page Speak often the words of your heart.

Art Journal Page
Speak often the words of your heart.

This is one of those fast and flurry-filled posts.

After spending some time in the studio last night, I joined C.C. to watch one of ‘our’ programs on TV. And then, I got caught in another. After the second, I slipped into the office to catch up on some emails and work I had to get done for both my upcoming art show, and the concert for Christmas at The Madison. (Yes, it is coming soon for the third year! Sunday, November 30th, 7pm. St. Stephen’s Anglican Church – watch this space for more information soon!)

And then, I got distracted. Lost track of time and didn’t realize how late it was until the midnight hour was upon me!

Needless to say, I slept in. On purpose.

Actually set my alarm for 6:30am and slept until it went off!

Now that’s unusual for me.

To actually heed an alarm and not wake up before its ring.

And out of all that, what I’m saying is…

I’m late.

Or am I?

I have a choice.

To allow my sense of being late to hurry me up and leave me feeling breathless and out of time, or, to breathe into my sense of being late and allow myself the grace of being present in the moment, where I’m, at without judging the time or tardiness of my awakening.

What I choose will determine the tempo and the essence of my day.

And my voice of reason whispers, “Choose wisely.”

I am choosing to accept the hour of my awakening as what it is, the hour of my awakening.

And now, I must rewind.

Earlier, thinking I was late and had limited time to begin my day, I chose to skip my meditation. It’s my all or nothing thinking. If I don’t have at least 20 minutes to meditate, what’s the point?

The point is, there’s nothing wrong with just 10 minutes, or even 5. What’s important is that I take the time to center myself, to ground my day in quiet. So, rather than spend half an hour to forty-five minutes here, I’ll make this short and give myself the gift of time for quiet reflection where I can set the intention for my day and live into its wide-eyed awakening with awe-inspired breathing.

So often, in my ‘all or nothing’ thinking, I convince myself that there is only one way to do something when, in fact, the choice is always mine and in that choice, there are many roads and many options.

My option this morning is to surrender judgment and  fall effortlessly into being present in my day knowing, how I live it is my choice. When I choose to honour myself, I give myself the gift of all the time I need to experience each moment as a wonderful, joyful awakening.

There is no time like the present and time isn’t going too fast, it’s simply moving. How I experience the speed of its passing is up to me.


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There’s always room to paint over.

Chicken Little

Chicken Little

Standing in front of my easel, staring at a blank canvas, or one I’ve decided to keep painting into, can be daunting. In fact, it can be downright scary!

I come to the canvas with an idea, a thought, a visual expression I want to make manifest, and always, my critter mind gets going like crazy!  Forget it. Stop it. Don’t bother. Nope, too scary. Nope, you aren’t an artist.

To move through the critter’s nattering I must take action. Get into action. Get going. I must make the first mark of paint, and then the second, and third and keep putting paint onto the canvas without letting the critter’s voice take hold.

And, with each stroke of paint, with each breath I take, the fear subsides as I move into the sacred space of creating for the sake of creating.

Tamara joined me in the studio last night and at one point she commented how much she loves to create with no agenda.

The underpainting A landscape I didn't like that I'd already working into once too often by adding a whole bunch of green trees in the foreground (don't have a photo of that version - it was not pretty!)

The underpainting
A landscape I didn’t like

It is in that space, that limitless and liminal space of creating without an agenda that magic happens, wonder awakens, awe invades. In that space, there is no critter’s voice telling me to Stop it. Or yammering about my limitations. There is only me and the muse. Me and the process of being present in all my senses, without judgement.

Now, don’t get me wrong, the critic has a role to play in the creative process. The original painting that forms the underpainting for Chicken Little was not pleasing me. The photo I shared is phase one. I don’t have a photo of phase two because it was quite ugly. I’d added a whole bunch of dark green trees in the foreground and the mass of them was disappointing! I was undecided as to where to go with it, what to do when I came upon a technique of painting random designs onto a background, and then, blocking out what was not needed and leaving the ‘desired’ elements exposed.

Letting go of fear, I decided to try it. What did I have to lose? A painting I wasn’t too happy with anyway?

And that’s where the magic, and the fun, happened.

In painting over, in fearlessly letting myself be one with the canvas, I found a new and fun way to work, and a piece I really like.

Just like life. when I’m stuck in thinking there’s only one way to do it, one thing to do, I am limiting my focus to the known, to the visible.

When I let go and relax, breathe into each moment and allow myself the grace of experimentation, of simply being present, miracles happen!

 

 


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The Impact of Your Donation: Calgary United Way

Every fall Calgary’s uw_logo_horiz_colour_idUnited Way campaign kicks off with thousands of volunteers rushing in to support its success.

Every year, for the past three, I carve out time to participate as an Impact Speaker. It is a volunteer contribution I love to give. Prior to my role as an Impact Speaker, I spoke from the perspective of a United Way supported agency, one of hundreds who form the web of supports and services vital to fulfilling on the mission of ensuring Calgary is a great city for everyone.

This year, along with two other Impact Speakers, I was invited to film a video of my personal story. The stories speak of how we have each been directly affected by the United Way and the agencies it works with, and why we believe it’s important to support the cause and get involved.

It is easy in these times of seemingly too many demands on our personal energy and resources, of news of wars and famine and natural disasters desperately calling for our immediate support, to put off contributing or to rationalize not participating in a local fund-raising campaign for an umbrella organization such as the United Way.

“I give directly to the agency of my choice.”

“They spend too much money on administration.”

“They’re too big.”

“I don’t get why we need them.”

“I can’t afford to give,” or “I’m not sure how my giving makes a difference.”

For me, there is one very important reason to give, get involved, take action.

If not me, who? If not now, when?

There are issues that face our communities, society and world today that are so big, I sometimes feel helpless to do anything about them. And in my feelings of helplessness, I tell myself the safest course of action is to draw the circle of my world in real close and hold the ones I love really, really tight to my heart and hearth. I tell myself that I must conserve my resources and compress my circle of influence into a smaller and smaller circumference as if in the act of minimizing my worldly footprint, I will be safer, or untouchable, or even invisible to marauding eyes and the things I fear are out there, lurking, wanting to harm me and the ones I love.

Fact is, burying my head in the sand does nothing but leave my butt exposed.

It also leaves me exposed to all the buts I utter to convince myself and others there’s nothing we can do to change the world.

And that just ain’t true.

There is lots we can each do to create change, to create the world we want to live in. And it begins at home. Right here, in our own sphere of influence, in the circle of our impact.

And for me, that means, supporting the United Way.

Not just because they are doing vital work I know is necessary to change the socio/economic fabric of our city, but also because, I know I cannot do it alone. I know none of us can.

Together we are stronger. Together we are united.

Giving to the United Way makes me feel better about what I’m doing to create possibilities for greatness in my own life and in our city. It lets me focus on the things I love to do within my own immediate sphere of influence with the confidence that there is a bigger picture at play, and that big picture vision of a great city for everyone is being attended to with passion and the commitment of thousands of my fellow Calgarians who with me, are holding space for the vision to become true for all of us.

And in holding space together, I don’t feel all alone. I don’t feel so small and I definitely don’t feel helpless.

The Impact of Your Donation: Jeremy Nixon

The Impact of Your Donation: LeeAnne

The Impact of Your Donation: Louise Gallagher


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She’s Back!

For an entire year, my eldest daughter wrote a blog about recovering from an eating disorder.

Alexis did more than survive. She grew. She challenged. She stretched and pushed and drilled down into her roots and dragged out the things that were not working in her psyche and brushed off the dirt and shone up her soul. As the title, How I Survived Myself, suggests, it was more than just the stories of ‘me and my eating disorder’. Alexis writes about how she got through the stories she told herself about why she was/felt the ways she did to discover there was more to her story than the story of an eating disorder and a past that wasn’t working for her anymore.

Alexis is courageous. She is relentless in her desire to live life on the other side of fear, out in the bright clear air of harmony, serenity and joy, in that place where miracles happen on every breath and wonder abounds.

She is also honest. Breathtakingly so.

She hasn’t written on her blog for awhile, so on  Monday night when she called to tell me she had written another post, I was delighted. I know the power of ‘writing it out’. I know the grace of finding yourself on the page. I know how the words let go are the ones that lead to discovering the real story of your life. The one you choose to create after you let go of the one you’ve been telling to keep yourself playing small.

She’s Back!

Alexis blog post… And We’re Back.

And…we’re back.

In showbiz, as it’s sometimes referred to, these words signify the beginning of rehearsal after a break or hiatus. At the sound of the phrase, the company’s members immediately drop all other conversation and activity, the outside world all but vanishes, and the work resumes again.

I say the words now, because it’s the only way I know how to begin.

I’ll be honest, (’cause that’s what I generally try to be here) over the course of these past few months I’ve been on a recess from myself.

I’ve let the world outside steal my thunder, rain on my parade, and pull me away from all that matters.  

I’ve allowed myself into meaningless conversations (mostly in my own head), played a victim, and thrown an epic pity party for myself because life wasn’t going as planned.

After weeks on end of sitting in the epic pile of shit I’d created (though I would have told you then I wasn’t in it of my own volition) I found myself in a precarious circumstance: Was I going to keep on getting sucked in to my make-believe stories and backwards thinking, or was I going to let go and start to live again?

Now I’m not saying that that shit I was sitting in wasn’t real. Because in the grips of a depressive episode, the hurt feels about as real as it gets.   Keep reading!…


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Prayer for the Hours

Art Journal Page Praying the Hours Collage

Art Journal Page
Praying the Hours
Collage

How was your day, my daughter asks when she calls.

Fabulous! I exclaim.

What made it so fabulous? she queries.

I laugh. I’m in the studio.

Ahh, she says. You listened to your own words.

And I smile.

I listened. From the ears of my heart. Within the depths of my soul. I listened and heeded the call of the muse calling me to come, let loose, release, be present.

I am a layerer. I begin a painting, allow paint and image and colour and design and texture to merge and blend and create itself. And then, I layer over. And over until what becomes revealed is not at all what I first imagined.

It is always a mystery to me, that space where the ‘art’ emerges from the layers, that place where I trust in the process enough to allow what is forming to become what appears. To allow the incubation of an idea to become its illumination of the mystery.

In the course I’m taking with Abbey of the Arts, (The Way of the Monk, the Path of the Artist) we are invited to “Pray the Hours”, an ancient tradition of praying hte Liturgy of the Hours with its seven holy pauses throughout the day.

This is not foreign ground to me as much as uncomfortable terrain. It brings back memories of childhood. Of kneeling beside my mother in church desperately wanting to escape outside into the sun. Of reading Holy Scripture, searching for understanding and fearing the hand of God would strike me down if I did not attain the perfect posture of penitence.

What I resist persists.

I have confused religion with spiritual presence. I have confused the past with the present.

Last night, I spent time in the studio and delved into Christine Valters Paintner’s (the Abbess of Abbey of the Arts) invitation to grow in the awareness of the rhythms of the day.

I am grateful.

For the evening spent amidst the hours waxing and waning in creative flow.

I am grateful.

For the time and space to be present with the muse shimmering on every breath.

I am grateful.

For the hours. The rhythm of my day. The ebb and flow of earth’s heartbeat illuminating the space for me to flow in time.

I am grateful for, as Christine writes in The Artist’s Rule, Nurturing your creative soul with  monastic wisdom, “The artist’s task is to remind humanity that we’re part of a great family of being, that we are included in a cyclical process of companionship, disappearance, and reemergence.

The sun disappeared at the end of day. I held communion in my studio, basking in the glow of creative expression illuminating the page over which I toiled. And in time’s prayerful passing, the hours merged into the moment and I awoke to the joyful essence of my being at one with the Creator, the goddess, the divine.

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To read my Prayer for the Hours, please come visit me at my poetry blog.


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Safe in this moment of possibility

Walking into the studio to simply be present in its space has been a challenge for me this past week.

Fall has settled in and I have been building a nest to hibernate within, letting go of the possibilities of what comes next.

I resist that walk. I hesitate, tell myself I have other things to do, I’m too tired, too edgy, too anything other than present.

I lose myself into a novel. Turn on the television. Convince myself it’s okay to resist and tumble into that rebellious state where doing what is good for me, what is nurturing and supportive falls short of my conscious decision to not do what I know feeds my spirit.

I have been here before, in this space of rebellious resistance to the things that bring me pleasure, joy, peace, contentment. This place where I resist what opens my heart wide, sets it to beating fearlessly as I move into the flow of creativity coursing through my veins.

I am in my head. Walled up in rebellious denial of my power to walk through the barriers I have placed to keep me out of the heart-space of creativity where I am free to flow in all directions without needing a map, a guidebook, a plan.

In this space I ask myself questions that don’t have answers. They just have rabbit holes down which I slide into perpetual cycling in and out of rationalizing my state of being.

There is only one way to stop spiralling into resistance. Breathe and allow.

Breathe and allow.

Allow what is present without judging it or believing it will be forever.

Now is not forever.

And in the now that is not forever, I find the grace to allow myself to shift from inaction into action.

To turn away from the voice of resistance I must breathe and allow myself the sacred connectedness of sitting in front of a blank page, a white canvas and being present to my fear that what I create is not good enough or not right or that the timing is wrong, that I am not meant to create, or that I am too small to change, or too weak to deal with this state I am in.

There is no right or wrong or enough in creativity and I am never too small, to weak, to nothing. I am all that I am and there is only the act of creating exactly where I am at.  There is only the act of casting words upon a page or throwing paint at a surface upon which I have already begun to tell its story if only to change the story that was present when I walked away from the space of believing in all things are possible.

It is sacred ground this creative space. And I have been holding onto the fear I will fall if I believe in it.

I breathe and allow.

Now is not forever and in this not forever place I let go of my fear of being stuck, of falling and of flying.

I breathe and lovingly acknowledge I have moved away, changed, shifted and am holding onto the fear that nothing is possible. In the nothingness of standing in fear with my eyes closed, I cannot see the light shining.

It is in the fearlessness of those moments, those tender, fragile moments where I fear what might be revealing itself upon the canvas or the page that I must let go of my fear and simply stand confidently and unafraid and do that which I fear the most — trust.

Trust in myself. Trust in being present. Trust in the muse, in creativity, the Universe.

When I trust in what is, in where I am, no matter where I am standing, Love is with me, creativity abounds and possibilities open up in endless gratitude for my being present to each moment unfolding.

I have been amusing myself in the land of darkness. It is time to open my eyes and breathe into my fear. It is time to allow possibility, creativity, hope and joy to surface. It is time to let go and trust, no matter what appears, I am safe in this moment of possibility.


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A Cry for Peace

IMG_5842I cried yesterday. I sat on the ridge overlooking the river and tears spilled gently over my eyelids kissing my cheeks as softly as dew clinging to a leaf in early morning light.

I cried for the children who will go hungry tonight. For the boys who will hoist guns as long as their bodies and kill in the name of a peace they have never known. And for the little girls whose childhood’s are lost to faceless men who believe the only way to know love is to rape it from another.

I cried for mothers who weep at the gravesites of their loved ones lost to war and famine and disease and for the father’s who desperately want to teach their sons to grow into men, and do not know the way to quiet the fear within their hearts that their sons too shall never find their way to peace.

I cried for this world, this planet upon which we each rely for our existence, this planet we take for granted and treat with such disdain.

And I cried for humanity, our humanity, our human kind lost beneath our history of destroying one another in the name of God, Allah, Yaweh, Satnam, All Powerful, Vishnu, and 70 x 70 names I do not know but hear whispered upon the cries of millions of others dying to defend their right to worship at the altar of their choosing.

These were needed tears. Gentle. Cleansing. Healing. They were the words my heart could not speak out loud.

IMG_5846And when the tears were shed, when they had run their course, compassion flowed freely like the river winding its way through the valley bottom below, each passing drop changing the course of the one before.

And in their passing, I was left alone upon the hillside, sitting in the sun, cherishing the beauty of the day, savouring the gentle autumn breeze caressing my skin, the sound of the grasses whispering, the geese honking their plaintive lament as they journeyed south.

There is darkness in this world.

And there is light.

It is in the darkness the light shines brightest.

Yet, I want not to see the darkness. I want not to know its thrall, to feel its drag pulling me under. I want to steer clear of the darkness and still I know, it is only through acknowledging its presence that I will be free to shine my light fearlessly. It is only through letting go of fear of its nature I will be free to stand fearlessly in mine.

IMG_5851I cannot rid this planet of war and pain and sickness and hunger. I cannot heal the children of the world. I cannot silence the guns.

I can create beauty in my world. I can create peace around me by letting go of my fear that to witness the darkness is to let go of the light.

It is when I hold onto light for fear it will go out that darkness takes hold.

I cried yesterday. And I will cry again today. And in my tears, I find myself flowing in Love and compassion, holding onto nothing than the truth of who I am and all that is possible when I let go of fearing I cannot change the world.

If not me, who? If not now, when?

We are each capable of changing our worlds, of creating peace where there is discord, healing where there is pain. We are each capable of putting down our guns and holding out our arms in love, peace and forgiveness.

If not us, who? If not now, when?