Dare boldly

A blog by Louise Gallagher


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You are where love will find you. always. completely. forever.

IMG_5492There is no edge to love. No line that marks its beginning and its end. There is only the sea. The vast, limitless waters where love flows free of the boundaries we set to mark its territory.

Try to hold love in a cup and it will flow over the edges the minute you put your hand within.

Tie love to a fencepost and it will untangle itself from the rope and run free as the wind.

You cannot contain or tie up love.

Love is limitless. Forever. It knows no ends.

It does not come to her and not him. To them and not me.

Love doesn’t judge who it visits. It arrives unbidden because love never left, even when you slammed the door on love’s presence.

Love simply is.

Here. There. Everywhere.

Love is.

All. Completely. Everything.

It is we who measure love. We take out our yardsticks of life and count the moments we felt, or missed out on love and recount all the reasons why we are lacking in its worth.

We tally up the hurts and bruises, twist the arrows and knives that have pierced our hearts, and call love all kinds of names it does not know. Lacking, lying, untrustworthy, invisible.

And still, no matter how we measure it or what we call it, love keeps flowing. Love keeps being what it is because love can be nothing other than itself.

There is no edge to love but there are limits to our capacity to be open and present to love. And in our fear love is not enough, we close off parts of our hearts telling ourselves that love hurts, or harms or kills.

Love doesn’t hurt just as guns don’t kill without a human to pull the trigger. We do. We the human beings who live within the sea of love flowing all around, frantically grasping onto any support to keep ourselves from drowning, we are the hurting and the hurters. We are the limiters of love. The ones who dole it out in measured drops for fear there will not be enough to fill the ocean of need within our hearts.

And in our frantic scramble to hold on to what we believe is not enough, will never be enough, we hurt one another. We do ourselves harm. In our fear of swimming freely we cramp up and stop breathing deeply. In the shallowness of our breath, we lose the freedom to live fearlessly in love’s flow and die, one breath at a time, of starvation.

There is no edge to love. Just breathe, deeply, and you will find yourself in its embrace. Just breathe, slowly, and let yourself go, let go. There is no need to hold on to love. It isn’t going anywhere but where you are because where you are is where love finds you. Always. Completely. Forever.


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Thank you. You touched my life.

Death knocked at 5am, September 17th. It was not unexpected. It had been hovering for weeks, waiting for the quiet time, just before the dawn to slip in and steal her last breath away.

It came for three others that morning at the hospice. My youngest daughter will laugh nervously when she tells me this. “I told Grammy it was okay to let go. Perhaps I whispered too loud,” she adds.

I do not know the ages of the other 3 who slipped across the threshold from life to death. I do not know if they were alone, or surrounded by family, or if they cried out in regret or clung to the final threads of a breath filling their body in the hopes of one more.

Jill was 94. Her son, (my daughters’ father) and his wife, their aunt and her husband along with my youngest daughter, were by her side the night before she passed away. She didn’t want a fuss. She didn’t want a lot of hoopla as she called it. She was uncomfortable with tears and any sign of emotion. “Stop your blubbering,” she would say at the first sign of waterworks flowing from the eyes of anyone present. And the blubberer would obey.

She was not eager to stay longer she told me one Saturday morning when I went to visit her at the hospice and asked if she was afraid of death’s impending arrival. She was still coherent then. Lucid, even though the cancer had already prevented her from eating for weeks. “Why should I be?” she answered in her practical way. “It’s time. I’ve lived long enough.”

Long enough. To know love. To know the loss of love, the fearful scrambling for more and to know the sometimes painful truth of thinking love is limited to only those we think of as deserving.

It is not love that is limited. It is our capacity to let it in, to see and know and feel its boundless joy. To see and know and feel its infinite wisdom.

I first met Jill, my daughters’ paternal grandmother, when her son and I began dating in 1979. Never one to gush or fuss, she told me on the day her son and I announced our engagement a year after our first meeting that marriage was a trap, an institution that served only to strangle a woman’s voice.

I laughed and reassured her marriage would not do that to me and she said, “We’ll see.”

She was filled with contradictions. A woman who was once a Vogue model, who earned significant monies in the stock market, who fiercely held onto her independence while also believing it was her responsibility to cook and clean and keep house for her husband, she could not understand how I could make her son vacuum . “That’s women’s work,” she told me one day when she discovered the errors of my way. I laughed and told her that it was necessary work that didn’t have a gender. She harrumphed in response and I never again let her know if her son was engaged in ‘women’s work’.

Sometimes, it was easier with Jill to just not let her know. I also think she just liked to test people to see if she could get a reaction.

When my daughters were born, it was Jill I counted on to be there, to support me, guide me and to love our little girls like no other. And she did.

The very first night I got home from the hospital with my eldest, it was Jill I trusted to be with her while her son and went to the theatre to see Evita. I knew she was in good hands. I knew she was with a loving heart.

She was always there. Supporting. Loving. Guiding. Caring.

For all her acerbic and sometimes gruff ways, she loved her granddaughters completely, always, passionately.

She was a constant role model for them, showing them what it meant to age with dignity, and pizzazz! She danced with them. Laughed with them. Cried with them. Took them to the beach, searched for pieces of blue glass (you have enough green, she told them), overturning rocks to watch crabs scurry away, sitting for hours watching the girls play along the water’s edge below the cliff of her beautiful home that she loved so much. She taught them the wonders of watching an eagle soar above, the beauty of sitting still and doing little other than to watch a feather float upon the water’s surface or a deer traipse through the forest. She taught them what it means to be human in every way.

In the final years of her life, family matters got in the way of Jill and I having much contact. There are so many things I never told her about how much I valued her presence in our lives. So many words of gratitude that went unexpressed.

In her passing, the words remain unspoken, yet, I know that in her passing, there is no need for words. In the space that was once filled with her life, there is only one thing that remains. That very same thing that carried her into this world and carried her out. The thing she struggled most to express. Love.

And it is Love I pick up today and wrap around her memory in a warm, soft blanket of gratitude. Thank you Jill. You touched my heart and my life. Safe journey.

 

 


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Like a tree – healing from the inside out

There is always Music amongst the trees in the Garden, but our hearts must be very quiet to hear it. ~Minnie Aumonier

 

Yesterday, I walked home from the C-train, the September sun warm against my skin. I walked along tree lined sidewalks bordered by manicured lawns, and piles of dead branches. As I walked I kept looking up to ensure there were no limbs of trees precariously hanging, threatening to fall to the ground.

IMG_5831It snowed here last week. Twice. The first snowfall was bad enough. When I wrote about it, I thought it was a freak September anomaly, Mother Nature having a hissy fit. Maybe she was experiencing nature’s form of menopause. The heat got to her and she snapped.

And then, the snow fell again, two days later. This time the skies dumped a heavy, wet oppressive blanket that caused significant damage to the urban canopy, as I heard our Mayor call it yesterday on the radio. $4.5 million dollars worth of damage and counting.

The view down our street

The view down our street

The trees in our yard were saved. No giant branches falling. No limbs snapped off from the trunk.

It might have been different.

In our backyard we have a giant and beautiful crabapple tree. Four years ago, when the arborist came to trim its companion birch tree, he pointed to the inside of the crab apple tree and said as he pushed a stick down into her trunk, “See here. She’s a beauty but she hasn’t been very well cared for over the years. She’s been rotting from the inside out because waters been getting into her trunk for quite some time. She’s drowning.”

“A tree will always try to heal itself,” he said and he bore a hole on each side of her trunk and slid an iron rod into it. “It will give her strength and prevent her trunk from splitting.” And he showed me a limb where someone had trimmed her, on the other side of the piece that was rotten.

He shows me the end of a branch that someone has cut back. “Someone cut her back but didn’t leave any place for her to heal herself. Cut her on a dead limb. She tried to heal but she was already dead beyond the cut. There was no way she could heal herself.” He pauses. Taps the cut off piece against her trunk. “She wanted to heal. She really did. But sometimes, even nature can’t overcome bad cuts.”

Like that tree, sometimes, we have to cut off the dead pieces to heal. We have to jettison the parts that no longer serve us well to give ourselves strength to heal from the inside out.

“She won’t be as pretty to look at when I’m done,” he says. “But she’ll be healthy. She’s got good roots and next year, she’ll be even more beautiful than before. It’s all in her roots and how we tend to her above ground.”

And she has been, more beautiful than before, and stronger too.

Our tree survived the storm. She’s got good roots. Her canopy of leaves continues to shade the backyard. Crabapples ripen on her branches, their bright red fruit poking out from between her leaves.

And I wonder… Am I keeping my roots healthy? Am I feeding them what they need to stay strong? Are there things I need to cut off that are leeching me of strength? That no longer feed me, nurture me, strengthen me? Things that limit my growth because I haven’t yet had the courage to cut out the deadwood?

My roots are strong. To keep them strong, I need ensure I am not carrying dead or dying limbs of thoughts that are leaving my roots exposed to the elements, drowning me from the inside out.

No matter what life brings, no matter the weather, the times, the hardships, my roots are strong and with strong roots, I grow and prosper and flourish and leaf out into beauty, as long as I care for myself, no matter the weather, no matter the times, no matter the hardships.

My roots are strong and as long as I take care of nourishing myself from the inside out, my natural capacity to heal will strengthen me from the inside out with every breath I take.


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I see you. You are beautiful just the way you are.

When I walk into the Choices seminar room on the Wednesday morning, I know that miraculous happenings are afoot. That wonder and awe are in the wings, waiting breathlessly for the trainees to arrive and step into their embrace.

And I know Love is always present. And in its presence, there is nothing that has happened that cannot be healed. There is nothing that we’ve done, that cannot be forgiven. There is nothing that is not possible.

I see it every seminar. Trainees walk in feeling worthless, lost, unforgiven or unforgiving. They avoid. Hide. Run away. Argue. Fight for their limitations. Put up walls. Dive deep into silence.

They carry their wounds, their backpacks filled with regrets, their hearts full of woe. They wrap themselves in the belief they are alone, that no one understands them, that no one loves them. They push down their tears, their broken hearts, their anger and fear and stand defiant. No way will anyone break through their shield.

And still, Love finds them where they’re at, exactly the way they are.

Love always loves.

Being in the Choices seminar room is always a testament to the strength of the human spirit and our desire to LIVE.

We hurt one another. We call each other names. We abuse, bully, push and prod and poke and preen. We talk back. We shut up. We force our opinions on each other. We bend under the opinions of others. We know the pain of abuse, divorce, death and the things we cannot speak of that have happened in our lives.

And still, we live. We breathe through every moment, fighting for solace, for relief, for a moment to catch our breath. And even when we don’t find them, we keep breathing, keep taking another step and another until we think we cannot take one more step, one more breath. And we do. Keep stepping. Keep breathing.

Our shoulders slump over. Our hearts harden. And still we keep stepping and breathing.

For some of us, we go our entire lives without ever learning that the past does not keep us safe. It is not a weight to drag around just in case we need it. We believe our death will be the only thing that will bring us relief, and still we keep stepping and breathing.

I used to think it was because people had given up on themselves, on others, on living free. In their resignation, not knowing what else to do, they just kept on doing what they’ve always done. Stepping and breathing.

After years of being in the Choices seminar room, of witnessing miracles transform broken hearts and wings unfold, I realize it’s not all about ‘stepping and breathing’. That their journey isn’t all about hanging on until death comes knocking.

I believe, deep within, no matter how grim or dark our lives may feel, each of us has a deep deep knowing of the sacredness of our being human. It is a sacred space within that we secretly tell ourselves we must protect if we are to survive. So we build up walls of anger, fear, regret, sorrow, despair and push back against the world in fear the sacred essence of our being human will be violated if we do nothing.

Truth is, there is no power on earth than can violate the sacred essence of our being human.

There is no force strong enough, or evil enough, that can desecrate our soul.

We do not have to do anything to protect it. Preserve it or prevent it from being harmed.

The soul cannot be harmed. It cannot be broken. It cannot be corrupted.

It is the essence of our magnificence and it is indestructible.

Yet, because life happens, because we learn to fear ourselves and one another, to hurt ourselves and one another, to protect ourselves with words and acts of destruction,  we forget who we truly are when we are born. In our desperate quest to remember what it was we knew at that moment of our first breath, we spend our lives fearing we never will, and fall under the spell of believing, we are not worthy, wanted, needed, seen, understood, acceptable, forgivable, loveable.

Truth is, we are magnificent. We are each and every one of us miracles of life. Unique. Shining and brilliant.

It’s just life and living has gotten in the way of our remembering who we truly are in the sacred space of our spirit shining brightly for all the world to see.

I watched miracles unfold last week. I stood in the light of many souls shining brightly as Love entered and said, “I see you. You are beautiful just the way you are.”

Namaste.

 

 

 


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Four questions. No answers.

I am revelling in the exploration of the course I’m taking online with Abbey of the Arts, The Way of the Monk. The Path of the Artist.

One of the elements I have been meditating on is ‘silence’.

What does it mean to me? What does it look like? How does it feel? Where am I in silence? What do I hold onto?

These are all questions I have been pondering as I delve into the liminal space where my inner monk and artist co-mingle, finding themselves at one with who I am when I let go of searching for the answer to “Who am I?”.

When I let go of constant searching, doing, getting, and still my being into this moment right now, I find myself deeply connected, on a spiritual level, with the essence of my being present, here. The pounding of my heart, the constant sense of ‘what next’ as I scramble to get done all that I tell myself I must do to be productive, contributive, participative in the world eases away and I am left breathing deeply into my being at one with the moment, right here.

This morning, I am off to coach at Choices Seminars for the next five days. I will not be posting — they are long days, short nights, fast sleeps. I also won’t have time to delve into the coursework. Because I know how busy I will be, I decided to create the space last night, to heed the invitation of the Visual Art Exploration of the course.

Before going into the seminar room, I need to ground myself in the essence of my creative core. It is a vital practice for me, a necessary preparation to ensure that I enter the sacred space of the training, open, present, loving and compassionate.

What a gift the Visual Art Exploration gave me!

The invitation was to create three collage using water colour and images based on questions that came to me during meditation. The invitation was to simply, let be. To let the questions arise, without thinking my way into, or out of, them. And, to write the questions on the back of the watercolour paper, and to create without knowing which question was on the back.

In Letters to a Young Poet, Rainer Maria Rilke writes, “Have patience with everything unresolved  in your heart and try to love the questions themselves…. Live the questions now.”

Sitting in silence, allowing what arises to arise, what appears to appear, is always a challenge for me. I want to direct. To control. To know the answers.

Creating from the silence, allowing the unresolved to have space, to allow the questions to be loved so that I can live what calls from within me to be expressed, is also very challenging.

I am learning to let be.

What a wonderful exploration.

Four questions arose for me, so I allowed myself the gift of all four. It felt appropriate. In the training room at Choices, there are four flags hung on the wall which honour the four directions, and colours, of Canada’s First Nations.

For me, the four questions arose from the wisdom of The Monk. The Artist. The Monk and The Artist and The Mystic.

The artist asked:  What does the silence look like?

The monk asked: How do I find myself in the silence?

The artist and monk asked, as they faced each other and mirrored one another: How do I touch my creative essence through the silence?

And the Mystic asked: Are you willing to create the space to find your balance dancing along the edge of darkness and light, holding onto the silence?

I have chosen to live within the questions, to simply love their presence, without seeking to resolve or answer them.

I struggle with this. I want to know. Are these the right questions? What do these questions mean? What is the answer? Is there a better question?

I am choosing instead to let go of struggling and simply move into being in their presence.

As you journey through your day, I invite you to be present. To let go of needing to know the answers to life’s questions, and to simply stay present in the shimmering space of acceptance of the dissonance and resonance of being here on this planet, just as you are in this moment, right now.

See you Monday.

Namaste.


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I will not write of Snow in September!

September Snow Angel

September Snow Angel

I will not write of it, I tell myself when I awaken. I will not!

Why should I? Twitter is filled with references to it. My Facebook page is littered with photos and comments about it. My eldest daughter even had to send a photo of it not being there, with her, on the coast.

I will not write of it.

Instead, I shall write of the little girl on Sunday at the Market Collective (you are invited to LIKE their page on FB) stage in the East Village who twirled and twirled and flung her arms out in abandon, giving herself up to the music of The Ashley Hundred. She wore purple butterfly wings and a blue flower patterned sundress and a pink ribbon in her hair and as she spun, her dress ballooned out and we were all transfixed by the pure joy in her presence.

And the music played on.

And the sun beat down and C.C. and I sat in the warm late summer heat and soaked in the music, the smells, the river flowing, the birds soaring high above, the people wandering the stalls and pausing to listen to the wonderful sounds of the band.

The memory of that little girls spinning has stayed with me. I remember watching her and thinking how I wanted to spin with her. How I wanted to be so free it didn’t matter what others thought.

As I looked at the faces of the crowd, I could see that same yearning in many of them.

Remembering, summers long ago when we too danced just for the joy of dancing.

When we too spun just for the joy of moving.

When we too didn’t know that there was such a thing as other people’s opinions to worry about.

When we too didn’t know that there was such a thing as ‘the proper’ way to behave in a crowd.

I got caught up in my mind’s thinking I was ‘too old’ to be free on Sunday. I got caught up in telling myself, “You can’t do that. People will think you’re showing off. Creating a scene. Making a spectacle of yourself.” and in my confusion and fear, I listened to the voice of ‘Don’t do it.’

I sat on a concrete bench and listened to the music and moved my body in time and tapped my foot and did not get up to free myself in the moment of dancing for joy.

And I remembered the market square in San Francisco when C.C. and I were last there and how when The Family Crest played, people got up and moved and danced and spun about and how I joined them and loved the feeling of the sun beating against my skin and the motion of my body dancing in the heat.

There is safety in numbers.

I didn’t feel safe to dance out loud on Sunday. Trapped in my conventional wisdom to not make a scene, I sat and watched and listened and loved the music and the scene, anyway. But I did not dance. I did not get down and silly on the concourse in front of the stage. (You are welcome A & L) 🙂

Which is why, yesterday, as I sat at my computer reviewing files for a meeting I have today, I decided there was only one thing to do.

I was not going to write about the snow covering the ground. Instead, I was going to go outside and experience it.

The willow tree in the front yard needed my assistance to lighten its branches. I stood beneath its drooping arms and held the handle of a broom above my head and shook the leaves and let the fresh crisp whiteness of the September snow fall upon me and all around. It was magical! Enchanting! Fun!

And then, I went into the backyard and lay down and made a September Snow Angel on the ground.

I will not write of snow but I will write of freedom. Of doing what makes my heart sing. Of releasing what gives my spirit wings so that I can do what I want in the moment of now without fearing the opinions of others.

I may not dance next time either. But, then again, I just might!  Hope you do too!

Enjoy the sounds of The Ashley Hundred (they are awesome! – LIKE them on FB) on this snowy morning (and more to fall today)


And The Family Crest (you can LIKE them too on FB) — they rocked me in San Francisco and still do whenever I play their CDs! Love them!


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Where I cannot say, Oh yes, I knew this.

Though I receive a daily prompt for blog ideas from The Daily Post every day, I have never written to it.

Today’s title and idea intrigued me: Greetings, Stranger.

It reminded me of an invitation from my meditation guide Dal Bryant who asks: You are walking through the desert and someone approaches. Who is it?

Today’s prompt is: You’re sitting at a café when a stranger approaches you. This person asks what your name is, and, for some reason, you reply. The stranger nods, “I’ve been looking for you.” What happens next?

I smiled at the stranger’s statement, “I’ve been looking for you.”

I think of myself as a seeker. I don’t often see myself as the one being sought.

What happens next?

Not after I meet the stranger, but after I realize that I am not just a seeker, I am also a giver, a sought after, a wanted, a desired, a beloved.

What if the stranger is actually a thought that has come to me because that one new thing, that one new idea that was hidden to me, has been seeking the right time to be revealed?

The thread of this thinking stems from last week’s reading in my The Way of the Monk. The Path of the Artist. course I am taking with the Abbey of the Arts.

Now I am revealing new things to you
Things hidden and unknown to you
Created just now, this very moment.
Of these things you have heard nothing before
so that you cannot say, Oh yes, I knew this.
— Isaiah 48, 6-7

I have contemplated these words throughout the first week of the course, setting them to memory, even in my discomfort of reading  and quoting from the Bible.

As a child, we had to read from the Bible every Friday night when my mother would have us kneel in our living room and pray the rosary, in front of the statue of the Virgin Mary that stood on the mantle beneath the crucifix.

As a child, I loved the sacred space of that prayer circle. I loved the feel of the tiny sparkly beads of my rosary in my tiny hands. I loved the smell of the incense burning in the brass holder on the mantle sending out a long tendril of pungent smoke that filled the room. I loved the quiet hush that came over us as we four children prayed with bowed head beside my mother reciting the Our Father at the beginning of each decade of Hail Mary’s.

And then, I grew distant from the practice, not just of praying the rosary, but of the Catholic faith.

I grew angry with God and turned away from anything even closely related to organized religion.

It was a rebellion of my youth that lasted long into my 30s and 40s and while I am not so rebellious today, I still shy away from organized religion, holding onto my belief it does not sit well with my soul.

That which I resist, persists. The disquiet of my soul stirs deeply in my roots as I hold back from examining what it is I truly am resisting, as opposed to what it is I believe to be true to cause me such disquiet within.

I am resisting letting go of my anger, my sadness, my disquiet from the long and distant past where I felt forced to honour a God who let bad things happen to me, to the world around me, to people all over the world.

As I child, I could not understand how God, that giant unseen hand in the sky above which my mother promised me would fall down and strike me if I wasn’t a good girl or worse yet, would send me to Hell, could allow people to die. How could He allow war and famine and starving children in Africa and atomic bomb threats that forced us to practice hiding under our desks?

Was He not all powerful? All seeing? All knowing?

My mother told me He was. If He knew it all, what was wrong with him that he could let these things happen?

I have been holding onto a vision of God that is not of His making, but of mine and in my resistance to letting go of what I decided was true decades ago, I have held myself in the border lands, that place where my resistance to stepping over the threshold of my fear keeps me from truly expressing the Divine mystery of my being human.

I am delighting in this exploration. I am learning. I am expanding my understanding. I am evolving.

I do not know what I will find, but then, these are new things being revealed to me, so I cannot say, Oh yes, I knew this.