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.”





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.


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!

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.


Zackariah and the Non-Profits

In the minutes and hours and weeks following the tragedy, they huddled together on the corner of the street where it happened, in coffee shops and living rooms, and any other place where one or two or more were gathered.

They cried together, leaned on each other, held each other up and caught each other in those moments when their grief overcame them. They shared stories of their friends, laughed at their remembered antics, shook their heads at some of their escapades. They honoured their names, their memories, their lives intersecting.

And time moved on as they struggled to make sense of what they could not make sense of. How could five of their own, five lives whose promise was just beginning to unfold as they travelled through University classes, art college, band practices and sporting events and the plethora of minutiae that make a life, that made these five lives so precious, how could they be gone? How could they be killed in such a brutal fashion?

It was if a giant unseen hand swept down from the north and wiped away the space these five young friends held on earth. One moment, they were laughing and celebrating the end of another school year, the next, they were gone.

Last night, C.C. and I along with hundreds of others came out in support of the efforts of two surviving members of the Zackariah and The Prophets band.  Organized by Kyle Tenove and Barry Mason, the evening featured The Fox Who Slept the Day Away, The Ashley Hundred, Windigo and Jesse and the Dandelions, as well as a moving and emotional tribute performance of Zackariah and The Prophets.

And while nothing can make sense of such a horrible loss, the evening, called, High Hopes, did just that. It reminded all of us that no matter what happens in the world around us, we cannot let go of hope for a better future, hope for a kinder world, hope for peace. And we must take action to keep hope alive in all our hearts.

As C.C. and I sat and listened, tapping our feet to the rocking beat of the Prophets, the many young people in the crowd leapt up and hurried en masse to the front of the performance hall to stand as one body, shoulder to shoulder, arms around each other, singing and waving their arms and moving their bodies to the music.

And as they did in the moments following the events of April 15, they held each other up, they supported one another and moved as one body united in memory of Josh and Zacharia and Kaiti Perras, Jordan Segura, and Lawrence Hong, all of whom lost their lives on that fateful day.

And when it was over, when the music quietened and the last thank-you spoken, there was one thing remaining that carried each of us out into the night — the High Hopes that we can make a difference that Barry and Kyle so desperately wanted to instill in everyone.

Proceeds from the event will go to the Zackariah and the Non-Profits (ZATNP) established by the two young men which will then be distributed among the five scholarships and/or trust funds established for Joshua Hunter, Zackariah Rathwell, Lawrence Hong, Jordan Segura and Kaiti Perras.

Their dream is to make a difference in the world. To ensure that the lives of their friends continue to make a difference in the world.

And they are.

I’m sure their friends would have approved and while it doesn’t make sense of what happened, it does create better in the world from a tragedy that has impacted so many.

We can learn much from these young people about what it means to honour and celebrate the lives of those we love — no matter where in time their stories end.

The past is not the only avenue to the future.

When asked, “What did you fear most when you were homeless,” Gladys* answered without hesitation. “Dying on the streets.”

Recently, I met with the board of a community association where the foundation I work for is considering building a 25 – 30 unit apartment building for formerly homeless Calgarians.

It wasn’t an easy meeting. It wasn’t all sun and roses and welcome to our community.

There was openness. Curiosity. Awareness and a desire to be inclusive and supportive.

There was also fear. Concern. Misunderstanding and misconceptions present.

And there was possibility.

It is the possibility I want to stay with. To expand. To stretch out across the room, the community, the city so that every Calgarian can understand, fear of dying on the streets is real for some people. It is a constant grinding away at their existence. A continuous eating away at their experience of life leaving them to believe, there is no other way, no other street to walk. There is only this existence that is killing them.

Gladys no longer worries about dying on the streets. She is living in an apartment now. In her new way of being she is supported by people who understand her fears, and who believe that with compassionate care, she can thrive in community.

Her thriving will not look like yours or mine. It will be different. But then, mine is different than yours and yours is different than someone else’s. It is our differences that create the vibrancy of our communities. It is our diversity that builds strength into the intersections of our lives.

There is possibility in our differences. There is connection.

When I left the meeting, I marveled at the similarities of our perspectives and experiences.

One man at the meeting, in an attempt to ‘do good’ in a community in another city, had bought a building that was in receivership. He renovated it and provided low rent housing for individuals living on the margins.

It was not easy. It was not a good experience, he shared with the group. I will oppose this project 1,000 percent, he said.

I can understand his fears.

Like Gladys (*which is not her real name), his fears are built on an experience that did not meet his expectations. He set out to ‘do good’ and felt bad with the outcome. He felt abused. Betrayed. Confused. Why would people treat his property so badly? Why couldn’t they see he was trying to help them? To make a contribution to society?

Like Gladys, this man is stuck in his experiences and fears, in his belief that no matter what he does, or anyone else does, it can never be another way. The past dictates the present and determines the future.

My experience is different. My experience has led me to this place where I believe the past does not make the present a repetition of what happened then, again and again. My belief is that when we use our experiences of the past with the intent to inform our actions for the better today, we can create better, we can make a difference.

There are people living on our streets today, and in our emergency shelters, who have given up on believing there is another way. They live with the constant fear that dying on the streets will become their future.

In the streets they walk everyday, they have lost sight of possibility. They have lost hope for a new way of being present in the world.

There are people living in our communities today, who have given up on believing there is another way. They live with the constant fear that without high fences, without holding onto to what they have, they will be unsafe in their homes and in their community.

In the streets they walk everyday, they have lost sight of possibility. They have lost hope for a new way of being present in the world.

For my world to change, I must change how I see my world.

When I look at it through eyes of fear, I know fear.

When I breathe into possibility, when I open myself up to allowing possibility for another way to arise, my world becomes a reflection of what I want to create more of in the world around me.

We all know fear. We have all been touched by change and its constant hammering away at the walls of our comfort zones demanding we learn to stretch, to find new moves that will take us away from where we are into that place where anything is possible if we let go of holding onto to what we know and tell ourselves we cannot let go of.

Just as Gladys is learning to let go of street life so that she can embrace a new way of being present in the world today, the possibility exists for each of us to create the kind of world we want to live in. The kind of world our children can live in too. To find a new way of being present in the world today, we must we let go of believing the past is the only avenue to the future.





Safe journey

I feel rushed this morning. Hurried. Rain presses down upon morning’s awakening, a sodden blanket of sleep lingering long past the hour of awareness breaking through my dreams.

Lesson 2 of my course material waits in my Inbox. And I lay in bed listening to the rain and the wind chimes in the backyard.

Get up, Louise, my mind encouraged me at 5:30am.

Sleep some more the critter whispered. You don’t have to get up yet.

The critter won. I lingered in bed drifting in and out of wakefulness.

And morning rose and I held my eyes closed.

Time is running. It is time to greet the day, to get busy.

This morning’s lesson included a photo of a spiral staircase. Looking down from above it, looking into the well of its spiral, there is a light at the bottom.

And my mind quickly carries me into the light. I look up and find myself rising. Stepping up through the tiny pinprick of light curving up into the open expanse at the top of the stairwell.

What awaits above is a mystery greater than what lies below, my mind whispers, and I breath deeply into the expansion of this moment right now.

I am not rushed. Hurried. Time does not change because of the slowness of my awakening. it expands out into each breath, opening me up to wonder and awe and mystery.

I stop racing. Stop trying to fit it all in and breathe again into this place where all I am and all I need are all that is present.

Letting go of searching for the light at the end of the tunnel, my heart hears dawn’s breath awakening within me. And my eyes open to the beauty of the rain falling, the wind whispering and the chimes tingling in anticipation of another day opening up in mystery and wonder all around.

My eldest daughter, Alexis, returned to the city where she lives by the ocean last night. She said a final farewell yesterday to her father’s mother, her other grandmother who turned 94 at the end of July. Two days before her birthday she was told of the cancer that would steal her life within a week.

Alexis’ gratitude for her holding on until she got here to see her one last time is palpable. She got to visit every day. To spend time with this woman who was the first ‘other woman’ to care for her on the day I got out of hospital after her birth. She has been there for both my daughters throughout their lives and now, she is in hospice. The end approaches, shrouded in mystery, in finality, in darkness and in eternal rest.

For my daughters, with both their grandmother’s life-breath growing shallower, this has been a time of uncertainty. Of sadness. Of letting go. Of recognizing the delicate hold life has on each of us is only as strong as time’s willingness to hold on to our beating hearts, the deepness of our breath moving in and out.

Time passes and soon this woman who shared so much love and time and care and attention on my daughters will pass away in time’s hands moving beyond her last breath.

And I breathe and take time to honour this woman who has meant so much to me and to my daughters. This woman who has given so much time and love and care.

Fare-thee-well Jill. Safe journey to the other side.

May we all travel safe today. May we all be held in loving hands, our hearts beating freely in the knowing, we are loved. We are loving. We are love.

The Way of the Monk. The Path of the Artist

The path through the trees

The path through the trees

I walked at the river yesterday. It is only the second time I have walked there since Ellie, the Wonder Pooch, passed away. I walked along the escarpment, sat at the spot where we used to sit on the edge of the cliff overlooking the river. I travelled down into the river valley, a trip made much easier without Ellie urging me to go faster, faster. I walked along the path that skirts the edge of the river, deep into the forest, back along the river. And then, I sat in the warm autumn sun at the edge of the water and breathed in. Deeply.

I have started a twelve week online course The Way of the Monk. The Path of the Artist at Abbey of the Arts. The course offers an invitation to explore the two powerful archetypes of the monk and artist. As the course outline explains, “Our “inner monk” is the part of ourselves that seeks the ground of all being and a mystical connection to the divine source, longing for what is most essential in life and cultivates this through a commitment to spiritual practice. The “inner artist” is the part of ourselves that engages the world through our senses, and is passionate about beauty, seeking to give it outward form and expression through a variety of media (including visual art, poetry, movement, song, gardening, cooking, relationships, etc.). Both the monk and artist are edge-dwellers, ones who commit to living in fertile border-spaces and who call the wider community beyond the status quo to alternative ways of being.”

I am standing in the liminal space where the path of the monk meets the artist. It is unknown territory for me, hallowed ground where I honour what is present and release what is not needed at this time.

I don’t know what walking into the mystery of this course will offer. I do know it will serve me well.

The invitation in yesterday’s course email was to slip into the meditation, open to the invitation of a word or phrase shimmering at the edge of my awareness.

The word that came to me was ‘roots’.  The phrase that rose up to embrace me was,  “her roots are as deep as the mountains grow high”. I live along the plains at the foot of the Rockies, north of the 49th parallel.  I have always wondered what it means to have roots — believing that roots are physical, that we must be of one place to know them.This past weekend, celebrating my mother’s 92nd birthday, it struck me that while my roots are not deep in Canadian soil, relatively speaking, they are deep in the spiritual essence of family.

As I sat in the silence, the thought arose that roots are metaphorical. They are not what grounds me. It is family. Life. Love that holds me steady.

In the meditation, I found myself breathing into my heart space — the invitation to release all that was not needed at this time gave me space to be present with all that is needed at this time — and that was Love and the knowing that my presence here on earth is not, as I recently read in an article by Peter Rengel, to transcend my humanness, but to revere myself exactly as I am right now.

And in that space, my heart embrace the truth at the root of all I am — Love.

It is all I need in this moment right now to know, I am safe. I am free. I am One with the essence of life flowing all around me.

I have roots and my roots are grounded deeply in the nourishing soils of Love.


We sat around the dining room table and laughed and shared stories and feasted on what makes life so rich and rewarding. The love that connects us, binds us, holds us safe no matter the times.

And through it all, my mother sat in the place of honour at the head of the table, a table she created throughout her life through her devotion and commitment to her family, soaking up the joy of sharing her special day with those who love her and whom she loves so dearly.

On Friday evening, my two sisters came over and we sat in the studio and laughed and had a glass of wine and nibblies and cut out butterflies and birds for the table decorations. When they left, I hung the lights and draped fabric and set the table so that everything would be ready for the next day.

And then, the celebrations began.