How to learn to do anything.

When we learned to walk we were not overnight successes. We learned to crawl, then stand, then teeter, then take a step and most importantly, we learned that falling was okay and getting back up an essential part of the process.

When we learned to read we did not know how to make sense of the letters instantaneously. In fact, we didn’t even know what the letters were before we began the process. We had to be taught, vowel by vowel, consonant by consonant what each letter and combination was. It took mispronunciation, stutters and trips and hesitations before we truly got a grasp of what it was the words were trying to say, and what we needed to know to understand them.

And we kept learning. New things. Unknown things. Things we’d never done before.

And with each new learning we got a better understanding of what we were capable of doing. We also, unfortunately, learned the habit of telling ourselves all about the things we couldn’t, shouldn’t or will never do. In the process, we learned to put limitations on our possibilities. To dig into the fear of failure and trying something new. We learned to resist the unknown, to beat ourselves up about our prowess in how quick or adept we are at learning something new and to hesitate to do things we’ve never done before or failed at in the past.

We learned to measure our progress through our perceived limitations, not our possibilities.

We are all capable of learning new things, doing something different, taking new directions. It takes time, patience, persistence and compassion to allow ourselves the grace of falling down so we can learn how to get back up again.

Here are 7 easy steps to learning anything new.

  1. Begin and take action.
    Yup. It’s that simple. Just begin. Whatever you’re attempting, whether it’s to learn a new language or break a habit, begin. Like learning to walk, it doesn’t begin with the first step, it begins with the desire to take the step. And then, it takes action.
  2. Walk the 3 Ps. — Patience. Persistence. Passion.
    Don’t give into the voice of doubt and negativity. Give yourself space to make mistakes and keep making them until you learn every mistake there is to make. In the learning, you will learn to trust yourself to do better every time. Don’t give up. Don’t look for the ‘right way’, look for the way that creates the more you want, the better, the other you’re seeking. And be passionate in your belief in you. Believe with all your heart you are capable of anything, and you will become your belief.
  3. Ask for directions.
    It’s so easy to tell yourself that asking for directions, or help, is a sign of weakness, of not knowing what you’re doing. Well, when learning something new, you often don’t know what you’re doing. So why pretend you do? Give yourself the gift of learning from others, of seeking guidance. You’ll be expanding your own knowledge base, and, you won’t feel all alone in your efforts!
  4. Test your assumptions.
    This can be a biggy for those who tell themselves “I can’t”, “I don’t”, “I never”. Testing the assumptions of your limiting beliefs opens you up to possibility. It can be as simple as removing the contraction — ‘t or testing the opposite. ‘I can’t’ becomes – I can. I don’t -I do and I never -I always. Test your assumptions and then, live for a moment in the possibility of life beyond the confines of its limitations. Don’t tell yourself it’s forever, just tell yourself, for the next half hour I will live without the limitation — and then do it.
  5. Breathe and relax. 
    It’s easy to forget to breathe when faced with something new or an unknown situation or the fear of failing. Your breath becomes shallow and your body contracts. Expand. Breathe deep and expand. Consciously invite expansion into your body as you breathe in. Let your breath relax your body as you ask yourself, “What’s the worst that can happen if I… do this or that. go here or there. Say this or that… Ask for what I want… And then expand out into the possibility that comes with setting your breath free. Dig into the passion of expanding not just your breath but your horizons too.
  6. Quit taking yourself so seriously. 
    Let go of your judge and jury. It’s so easy to convince yourself people are looking, judging, expecting signs of weakness and measuring you up for failure. Most of the time, they’re too busy looking, judging, measuring themselves to be concerned with little ole’ you and your escapades. And seriously? Aren’t you judging yourself more harshly than anyone else ever could? Let it go. Don’t take yourself so seriously. Imagine all you’ll learn just by trying. Imagine how much you’ll grow just by giving yourself the benefit of the doubt! And remember, sometimes you gotta get down and dirty with life to find the diamond beneath the surface.
  7. Be kind to yourself.
    This is a biggy. All those words you use to bring yourself down, all those nasty names you call yourself… they’re not kind to you. Stop it. Stop calling yourself down. Stop dragging yourself through the muck of negativity. Rise up. Be kind to yourself. Treat yourself how you would treat your bestest friend if they were trying to learn or do something new. Be encouraging of you. Be supportive. Be kind.

And above all, BELIEVE IN YOU. Believe in your capabilities. Your capacity to grow. Your commitment to being your best.

Believe in you and don’t let anyone tell you you’re not worth believing in.

You are.



The antidote for sadness is joy

Let go of fear and hold onto Love Art Journal January 28, 2015

Let go of fear and hold onto Love
Art Journal
January 28, 2015

Life is filled with moments that bring us sadness and bring us joy. Which ever you choose to hold onto will be the memories that fill your heart. You have the power to stir your mind up with discord or create peace of mind.

There is only one antidote for sadness; joy.

Fill your heart and mind and soul with joy and set yourself free of pain. Let go of holding onto that which hurts you and hold onto only the the things that fill you up with lightness of being.

Let go of holding on to pain and fear and anger and hurt and give yourself the grace to live on the joyful side of life singing in the rain and dancing amongst the wildflowers.


Everyday acts of grace make the world a better place

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In a meeting yesterday we were speaking about the power of the individual to create change in the world. I shared the story of Tamara Van Staden who as a grade 7 student created Heartprints — Kids for a Cause Foundation.  At 12 years of age, Tamara knew not only how to make a difference, but the importance of taking action.

Seven years later, she still does. Not a huge enterprise, Heartprints has huge heart. Since her first sale of handmade jewellry in 2007, Tamara has raised almost $12,000 dollars for local charities in the homeless sector. She engages countless volunteers to join her in making jewellry, washcloths, scarves and other articles which she sells at events throughout the city. All net proceeds go to agencies in the sector.

Everyday Tamara and her volunteers do something to make the world a better place. Everytime they sit down to spend ten minutes or an hour creating crafts to sell, they are sending out ripples of better in the world.

It counts.

If each of us took 10 minutes everyday to do one thing to make the world a better place, the world would be a different place.

It doesn’t have to be on a grand scale. That’s not the point. It just needs to be an act of grace that instills a sense of possibility, hope, connection… into the world.

So…. here’s an idea on one simple thing you can do today to make a difference. Visit the Heartprints — Kids for a Cause Facebook Page and like it just to let Tamara know you stand with her.

And, just in case you still feel the urge to keep creating better in the world, here are some other simple ideas to create grace in daily living…

  • Hold the door open for the person behind you, even if you’re in a rush
  • Let that car merge in front of you, even if you think they should have to wait
  • Smile at a stranger
  • Ask the cashier at the coffee shop if they’re having a good day and then… wish them one when you pay by leaving a tip
  • Buy the coffee for the stranger behind you
  • Put your dishes in the dishwasher in the coffee room at work
  • Offer to buy a panhandler lunch, or a coffee and then sit and chat with them about their life. Listen deeply
  • Write a note of gratitude to a co-worker and leave it on their desk when they’re not there
  • Phone someone you haven’t spoken to in awhile and tell them how much you miss them
  • Buy a box of glass writing markers and write a love note to your partner every day on the bathroom mirror for a week… or more
  • Bake cookies for the neighbour you barely talk to
  • Tie a scarf around a tree and let it know you’re thinking of it in cold weather
  • Offer to take the neighbour’s dog for a walk

See, it’s easy to do one thing everyday that makes a difference.

What are some of the things you do every day to create grace in the world?  Please do share. You will be inspiring everyone and creating better in the world because of what you share!


The answers lie within.

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Maybe you are searching among the branches
for what only appears in the roots.

~ Rumi ~

I am driving westward, towards the mountains. Behind me, the sun sears the horizon crimson and pink and gold. When I look into the rearview mirror, its light blinds my eyes.

Ahead, just to the right of me along the road embankment, the shadow of my car travels happily along, wheels spinning in the morning light.

A haiku writes itself in my head.

“Sun rises blindly / Shadow leads me into the west / The past falls behind.

I am off to a morning “Taste of EcoART” with Sherri Phibbs at the W.I.S.H. Studio an hours drive west then north of the city.

My critter mind has spent some time trying to talk me out of this foray into the mountains this morning. You’re too busy with wedding planning. You need to clean your office. Paint. Spend time with C.C.  Declutter the studio. Read that report. have all danced through my head, willing me from my path.

I stay the course. Pack up my car with ‘just in case’ winter clothing, a water bottle and my sunglasses. I turn on the tunes and drive.

“What’s the level of stress in your life?” Sherri asks me as we sit sipping tea beside the fire blazing merrily inside the yurt that is her studio/consulting space on the 10 acres she and her husband moved to a couple of years ago.

I laugh. It is my shadow laugh, I know. The laugh that would have me hide within it.

“Depends on the day and circumstances,” I reply. “Right now, practically non-existent. I’m sitting here with you in this beautiful space surrounded by nature. That’s pretty divine and not stress inducing at all.”

All the truth is, my stress can vary depending upon what I’m doing, or where I’m at. When I am avoiding doing the things that feed and nurture and support and enliven my spirit, my stress is high. This I know to be true.

Why then do I spend so much time avoiding doing the things that feed and nurture and support and enliven my spirit?

Good question.

A question worth living inside of, sitting with, breathing into.

I wander into the woods, find a clearing in the sun and sit at the base of a broken tree trunk. The mossy grass is dry and wintery. Snow covers the ground.

It feels safe and welcoming.

I clear a spot in the snow with my boots. The sun is warm and bright. I sit down, lean against the tree trunk and close my eyes.

I listen to the world around me. Deeply.

Before I left the yurt, Sherri provided me a drawing pad and pen and invited me to create a ‘sound map’ once I found my place in nature.

With my eyes still closed, I begin to map the sounds I hear on my drawing pad. A horse snuffling in a paddock to my left. A woodpecker drilling irratically into a tree. Far in the distance, a car hums along the main road. High above, a gentle breeze whispers through the uppermost branches. A dog barks. A bird tweets. Grass rustles.

I sit for awhile, breathing into the space, feeling, sensing, hearing, connecting with the world around me.

I stand up and wander further into the woods. A vision of a heart rock flits through my mind. I smile. What if I find one here in the woods? Dead branches, leaves, deer droppings and horse poop litter the forest floor. There are no stones.

I return to my sitting place where I have left my bag of writing and drawing supplies. As I approach, I spy something on the ground, right beside where I was sitting.

It is a heart rock.

I laugh out loud.

While I was searching in the woods, what I sought was lying right beside me, right where I was at.

Such is this journey called life. We go looking for happiness, success, wealth, fame, love, whatever it is we are seeking, out there, in other places when that which we seek is always right here, right where we’re at.

I breathe in and out, thanking nature for holding space around and within me.

The chiming of a Tibetan bowl ringing is calling me back to the studio.

I return and carry my experience within me.


Love is the shortest distance between two hearts

love copyEULALIE — A SONG.

by Edgar Alan Poe (excerpt)

DWELT alone
In a world of moan,
And my soul was a stagnant tide,
Till the fair and gentle Eulalie became my blushing bride —
Till the yellow-haired young Eulalie became my smiling bride.

I don’t know if there is a specific age limitation on the appropriate use of the term “blushing bride”, but I do know that at 61, and getting married for the third time, the term just doesn’t fit me. But then, I don’t like labels so this is one I have no desire to wear.

What I do want to wear is an outfit that reflects me — my personality, my nature, my style and my stage in life. And that’s where the real challenge lies in getting married at this age. Wedding dress-makers don’t cater to the mature bride, or any other term I’ve plugged into Google to try to find information and ideas about getting married in my sixties.

It’s funny. Okay, not really funny, more disheartening in a ‘if I don’t find the humour in this I might just cry’ kind of way, to be looking for dresses and wedding ideas in my sixties. So much of the online information is geared to young, ‘blushing’ brides who are embarking on married life for the first time.

And it’s understandable.

In 2008, there were 147,288 marriages in Canada. At 4.4 marriages per 1,000 people, the marriage rate was at the lowest level it has been in the last century and half of what it was in 1972.   (Source) Given that the average age of a bride at first marriage is 28.9, focusing on ‘the mature bride’ is not a booming business. Focussing on second and more marriages is also not a growth area if the data is any indication. Only 10% of all marriages in Canada are thought to be ‘second time’ with only 1% attributed to more than two marriages.  (Source)

So many of our social norms are focused on the notion that the wedding is all about the bride and groom. It’s their day and as many a first time bride has spent much of her life dreaming of this special day, it’s understandable that there’s a sense that for her, it just might be the most important day of her life.

There is a difference though when you’ve been married before and together have four adult children. This day is not just a statement about the two of us. It’s a statement about our families becoming one. About the six of us becoming united. It’s an opportunity to celebrate with our children, to involve them in a symbolic union of our families that states, we are family, we are united, we are together.

And, in that union, it is a recognition that we have thought long and hard about what we are doing. There is no reason for us to be married other than we want to do it. In our desire to wed, we are stating we are deeply committed to making it work, not just for our sakes, but for the sake of our children who have already suffered the stress and sadness of their parents’ divorce.

Getting married at this age is no light matter and while it may not be big business, it is serious business not to be stepped into lightly.

Though being light of heart does help!

And that’s where I struggle. I read the data. Search for articles on planning my ‘mature’ wedding and all I stumble upon are dire predictions of why second and third, and even first, marriages are not necessarily good predictors of future happiness.

According to Stats Can, forty-percent of first time marriages in Canada are predicted to end in divorce before the 30th anniversary. In a US infographic titled Divorce in America, it shows that 60% of second marriages are more likely to end in divorce, and 73% of third.

And I wonder, does it matter? Aren’t we more than the statistic? Aren’t we more than a prediction of failure, or success?

Isn’t this day and all the planning leading up to it, about focusing on happiness, fun, celebration? Isn’t it about celebrating family and all that binds us in Love? Isn’t our willingness to publicly declare our love for one another, no matter our age, a statement of our belief in the power and majesty of love to overcome the odds and not remain relegated to mere statistics? There’s also the consolation that getting married at this age is more likely to find its end in the demise of one or both of us, rather than divorce!

Ultimately, our wedding is our celebration. Though Google has not been a fount of wedding planning how-to’s in planning our big day, I’m no blushing bride. I don’t need anyone to tell me what is the right, or wrong way, to tie the knot. We don’t need anyone to tell us how to create memories. We’ve got lots of those already! 

What we need is exactly what we’ve got, two people who love eachother deeply. Two people who have been willing to stand in the whole of their relationship, with all their pasts and broken places between them and acknowledge, the shortest distance between two hearts is always the path of love. 


The Power of Yes

I am a “Yes’er”. When asked, “Will you?” “Can you?” I have in the past, inevitably replied, “Yes” — before considering all my options, before weighing the impact of what I am agreeing to will have on my life.

Some of my ‘yesy’ behaviour comes from a belief I do not have the right to say ‘no’. It also comes from a belief that if I do say no, people will be mad at me, they won’t like me. And, it comes from a place of wanting to be needed and to feel important.

Being a ‘Yes’er’ has also lead to some wonderful things. It’s lead me to do things I never before imagined I could, take risks I never thought I could, go places I never dared to venture before. But far too often, my automatic yes has come without thought, without measuring the distance between what someone else wanted and what I needed to feel balanced, whole and at peace within me and in my world.

I am learning.

I am learning to find my authentic yes. That yes that comes from knowing what I want more of in my life is only found from a place where I give myself the gift of freedom to ask for what I want, state my truth and do what fits best in my life, without compromising myself to fit into someone else’s.

I have discovered my authentic yes is a constant journey through my ‘no’. My authentic yes is not the opposite of No. It is not the immediate response of, “No. I won’t do that.” Or, “No, you can’t”. It comes through knowing what I want more of in my life. It comes from understanding I need to give myself time and space to breathe into the question, or, as Rilke wrote:

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.” Rainer Maria Wilke

There have been many times in my life I have said no to the things I wanted to do and yes to the things I knew were not healthy, healing, supportive or loving of me. In those times, I was not saying YES! to life, I was saying NO to living in the light. No to shining. No to being my authentic self.

In those moments when I said yes to the things I really didn’t want to do simply because I was afraid or feared the opinions of others, I was saying yes to what I didn’t want in my life. I was acting from the dark-side of authenticity, the shadow side of living.

I’m giving up the game. Giving up saying yes to what keeps me playing small, holds me back from breathing freely. And, I am saying no to the things I know hurt me, pull me down and drag me back.

I am leaping into the power of YES!

YES! This is my one and only life and I choose to live it in the light.

YES! This is my time to shine. To dance. To laugh and spin about and be real and authentic and true to who I am.

YES! There is no one path to finding myself because no matter what path I take I am always on the path with me. This is the path where I find myself fearlessly saying YES in the joy of knowing, when I treat myself with tender loving care, when I celebrate my strengths and share my gifts, I am creating ripples of my best for all the world to see. In my YES! I know I am exactly where I want to be living this one wild and precious life for all I’m worth.

To contribute my best I gotta give up my worst

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I am off tomorrow to be in that place where hearts break open with every breath and miracles unfold with every heartbeat. I am off to coach at Choices for five days.

I am happy.

I am excited.

I am relieved.

Yesterday, at a team meeting, Mary Davis, Choices founder Thelma Box‘s daughter and the facilitator of the program, asked the group, “Why do you commit so much time to volunteering at Choices?”

Everyone of the 8 – 10 core team members present shared along similar lines.

We love being in a place where miracles unfold, and, where we get to live on purpose, every moment of every day.

I also like being in a place where I know everyone around me is supporting me in contributing my best, just as I am supporting them.

It is easy in the busy, crazy, schedule-driven competitiveness of everyday living to criticize, condemn and complain. My hair’s a mess, the price of gas too high, too low. I can’t find a parking spot — really, does that guy have to take up two spots? Governments are blind, bosses are stupid, co-workers lazy. The world is going to hell in a hand-basket. The world is falling off its axis.

It’s easy to see and speak of what’s wrong, what’s not working and what we’d do to make it different, better, other than what someone else is doing.

It’s also easy to forget that those we criticize did not get up this morning and say, “I’m off to do a horrible, piss-poor, really rotten job at whatever I do today. I’m off to make the world a worse place than it already is.”

I don’t believe any (or at least the majority) of us get up with the intention of creating worse. I believe we set out into our days to create better, or, in some cases to at least uphold the status quo if only so we don’t have to face the consequences of the changes we’d like to avoid.

Why is it then, that at water-coolers, in quiet corners, on transit buses or where ever two or more of ‘us’ are gathered, conversations often focus on what others are doing so badly, at least according to us?

When I get up in the morning I make a conscious decision to contribute my best throughout the day.

When I criticize, condemn and complain, I am not contributing my best.

So, if a + b = c, when I engage in C I am undermining my best and robbing myself and the world around me of the very things I want to contribute to make the world a better place. Engaged in the 3C’s I am actively engaged in doing the opposite of what I want to do because, whether actively engaged in A or B, I am making a contribution to the world. The one I focus on the most determines the outcome of my efforts.

Which do I want it to be?

I am off tomorrow morning to contribute my best in a place where the vision is to “change the world one heart at a time.”

It’s a big job, but, the more of us engaged in changing hearts and minds to see we are human beings filled with infinite possibilities and the capacity to create the world we’ve always dreamed of, the more possibility there is of living in the kind of world we dream of. The kind of world where Love and peace and compassion and joy and harmony co-exist without fear of being condemned for the colour of our skin, the God or gods we do or don’t worship, the pedigree of our family tree, the depth of our pockets and the trajectories of our past.

The more of us who give up the 3Cs, the less we’ll be contributing our worst and the more time we’ll have to give everything we do and say and create our best.

I’m off to coach at Choices. See you next Monday.


The heart can be a messy place.

IMG_1115My daughter, Alexis, writes about her messy pink squiggly heart on her blog today. Not the beating steadily to keep the blood flowing and your organs running kind of heart, but the heart of what matters in life kind of organ. The heart of happiness, love, contentment, joy.

That heart can be a messy place.

It can be filled with unease, insecurity, distrust. It can beat wildly with the abandon of a stallion racing across the plains, or cower timidly as a mouse reaching for the piece of cheese luring it into a trap.

Sometimes, that heart has no sense. It wants only to feel alive, to avoid what is causing it pain, to believe it is safe. And in its yearning for safety, it can open up to danger, to unsafe conditions, to the wrong thing posing as right simply because, that heart can be deaf and blind to its own beat, even when its eyes are wide open to the world outside.

Alexis writes about how, when her father and I separated when she was six, she learned that ‘love could be temporary’. “Happiness is hard for people who don’t trust anyone,” she writes. “Harder still, for those of us who don’t trust love.”

Yesterday, while sharing coffee with the amazing Michelle Jeffrey Horvath, we talked about love and loving and how our human expression of love is sometimes the exact opposite of what love is all about.

LOVE is never temporary or temperamental. It is permanent, eternal, everlasting.

It is how we, its human carriers, express it, live it, know it that can have temporal and time stamped limitations on its durability and presence in our lives.

There was a time when I thought Love came from outside me. I thought ‘in Love’ meant having someone else to keep me safe, make me happy, make me feel like I belonged.

I’ve learned through experience that no one else can give me those things or make me feel those ways. It isn’t someone else’s responsibility to make me feel ‘loved’. It’s mine to know and embrace. When I flow into and with Love in all things, I am always safe, always connected, always at peace. When I allow Love to embrace me with all its capacity to let me live as beauty and the beast, messy squiggles darting everywhere and white doves flying free, there are no limits to its presence in my life and who I can be in its presence.

I have learned that when I share that space called ‘in love’ with another, there are messy places, dark moments, shifting sands that can trip us up or draw us out of love’s abiding presence. In love with another is not synonymous with permanent, it simply means I must continually choose to stand in the broken, leap into the unknown, explore the shadows of who we are together, while holding onto what makes love real and necessary and life-giving between us — our decision to be together, to be in union, to be one with one another.

“In love” doesn’t mean out of stress, out of discord, out of the trigger zone of my own stuff erupting to make me want to run and hide and jettison all reason to stay together.

It simply means, I am willing and open and able to stay present in love’s light, together. Always committed to seeing my beloved as human, as real, as perfectly imperfect as I am in my human condition so that in our perfectly imperfect expression of Love, we see one another through eyes that are loving, with our hearts wide open to the possibility that together, our hearts can beat as one when we let go of judging, condemning, blaming the other for our imperfect beat.