Dare boldly

Inspiring acts of grace in everyday living


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Feeling lucky.

The C-train is pulling to a stop in the station as I validate my ticket in the machine at the top of the stairs. I quickly take the time-stamped ticket from the slot, stuff it into my pocket and start racing down the stairs. I am halfway down as the doors open and then close. I figure I won’t make it and slow to a walk when I see the driver smiling up at me through the plate glass windows of his cubicle. I race down the stairs, smile and wave my ‘thank you’. He opens the doors, I get on and the train, carrying me and all the other passengers, moves on.

“I’m so lucky!” I think.

Later, I am talking with a co-worker about my experience at Shelter from the Storm on Saturday night. I was reminded how much I miss the people in that place, I told them. How much I miss the daily connection with the people for whom we are holding the vision of ending homelessness. (I worked at the shelter for 6 years prior to joining the homeless Foundation where I work now).

I could never work there, my co-worker said. I’d get so immersed in fixing what was wrong, I’d sink under the weight of the task.

What if there’s lots right? I asked.

In 2006, when I started working at the shelter, I started an art program that became the foundation of many art’s based initiatives throughout the shelter.  When we first set up the program, I had the participants, all clients at the shelter, create the Rules of Conduct that each person had to sign in order to use the studio. The rules included things such as no food in the studio, leave your personal baggage at the door, find a way to get along with the other artists and honour the space and those who use it.

Every so often, clients would come to the studio upset about something they felt had gone wrong with someone else whose conduct did not measure up to their ideas.

“I’m never coming back to the studio if they are,” and they would name the person whose behaviour they found so objectionable.

And my response would always be, “That is your choice. You get to decide whether or not you come to the studio, or not. You get to decide to work out this situation, or not. If you enjoy coming to the studio, is it worth finding another path to resolve this situation than to walk away?”

Inevitably, they would find another path, or not. It was always their choice.

I was not powerful enough to fix the situation or the relationship with another person or whatever angst they were carrying.

None of us are that powerful.

The power we carry is the one that can make changes in our own lives. Changes that will create different ripples, different paths to living the life we always dreamed of and in the process, empower us to hold doors and spaces open for others.

 

I raced to catch the C-train yesterday morning. The driver held the train, just for me. I felt lucky.

It wasn’t luck. It was because I met a fellow traveller who believed in his power to hold doors open for others so they could get where they were going smiling and feeling lucky.

What a wonderful gift he gave me!

There would have been another train behind that one and I would have taken it. In his gift though, I was reminded that we all have the power to hold doors and spaces open for one another. In the ripple of our actions, other lives are impacted in ways we never could imagine.

Let’s all hold doors open for one another today! Imagine the miracles we can create for one another!

 

 

 

 


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Shelter from the Storm.

Shelter from the Storm Calgary Drop-In & Rehab Centre

Shelter from the Storm
Calgary Drop-In & Rehab Centre

“You picture in your sympathy their life of only pain
And unlike you and what you do they have never tasted fame
Be careful with your presumptions brought on by another’s dress
There might just be a forgotten jewel behind the eyes of the homeless”
Behind the Eyes of the Homeless
Lyrics & Music by Lenny Howel

Homelessness is a place of loss.

Loss of home. Loss of belongings. Loss of job, money, family.

Homelessness leaves you yearning for a place where you can be accepted, however you are, however you’re at in the way that you are when you walk in the door, if only you had a door to walk through.

Often, we think homelessness is about a lack of belonging or connection. It’s not.

There is a community in homelessness. A community where people connect over their shared human condition and find themselves feeling hopeful once again that maybe this place called homeless will not last forever. Because in this place you know, people see you, watch out for you and are looking out for one another.

On Saturday night, I found myself in that place where community runs rich and deep. That place where community celebrates our shared humanity exactly where we are, exactly the way we are when we walk through the doors – The Calgary Drop-In & Rehab Centre (The DI).

The occasion was a ‘house concert’ like no other. In front of over 100 guests seated in the multi-purpose room turned music hall for the evening on the sixth floor of the DI, the clients, staff and volunteers who have participated in the six month long song-writing initiative, presented their finished pieces. “Shelter from the Storm” was the inspiration of DI staff members, Michael Frisby and Steve Baldwin over a year ago. For the past six months, under the guidance of Calgary singer, songwriter, actor and former Poet Laureate and Artist in Residence at the DI, Kris Demeanor, the participants explored the meaning of song and its ability to draw us closer, to cross barriers, to build community and build bridges between the hearts and minds of humankind.

I was in awe. Moved. Brought to tears. Laughter and joy.

I was reminded once again about what community truly is. It’s not about the homes we live in secure behind guarded gates, or the cars we drive in that separate us from the noise of the streets. It’s not about designer labels that set us apart or the money we acquire to fill our desires.

Community is about people. People coming together to share and explore and support one another, where ever and however they are at, on this shared journey called ‘life’.

On Saturday night, I was embraced in the warmth and care of the community that is the Calgary Drop-In & Rehab Centre and I was reminded that miracles are all around us. That we are all mysteries to one another and we all have this human capacity to shine bright, even in the darkest spaces.

The evening adventure began as I drove onto the DI property. An orange t-shirted volunteer guided me to my parking spot. Another smiled and guided me to the entrance for the event through the underground parkade. A volunteer manned the elevator. I didn’t know if he was a client or a general volunteer from the host of thousands who support the DI every year. All I knew is he was happy to see everyone who walked onto his elevator for the ride up from the basement entryway to the sixth floor. He wore a leather top hat, a tailcoat and sported a smile that could melt the ice around the most stubborn of hearts. In the brief seconds it took to ride up, he had everyone laughing and feeling like there was no where else to be but on that ride to experience, “Shelter from the Storm”.

I had the gift of witnessing humanity shining brightly on Saturday night. It was at a homeless shelter. A place where in most people’s eyes, despair, deprivation, lack are the only things people share.

At ‘Shelter from the Storm’ the things that were shared are beyond price, beyond label, beyond quantification.

At ‘Shelter from the Storm’ I witnessed human spirits rising high. I felt surrounded by the love that comes when people set aside their differences to find, there is no such thing as ‘us and them’. There is only ‘us’. One humanity giving and sharing and finding the songs that break us wide open to see, we are the same kind of different, unique, beautiful and magnificent in all our human conditions.

Huge kudos to Michael Frisby, Kris Demeanor and all the clients, staff and volunteers as well as the donors and sponsors who made ‘Shelter from the Storm’ move from just an idea into possibility. You are amazing.

Kudos also to Sled Island for having the vision to include this incredible event in their programming.

Thank you.


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Beyond purpose, what are you here to give?

Mystery banner copy

The question slipped through the cracks of my mind, deepening into the silence of my meditation. “Beyond purpose, what are you here to give?”

“Your whole heart,” soul whispered. “Give whole-heartedly and you will be living into your purpose.”

It is not a thing, this giving whole-heartedly. It is a way of being.

Purpose is not something to be on, or off. It is something to live and breathe into. To live within.

And my heart breathed deeply into the elegant simplicity of knowing. I am living my purpose when I engage whole-heartedly with life, fearlessly shining my light for all the world to see, there is light beyond darkness, hope beyond despair, love beyond fear.

heart mind

Source: Sojourners Path talesfromtheconspiratum

In the third segment of the Choices program that I coach in, trainees spend the Sunday delving into their Purpose, crafting the words for their own personal statement of what they do in the world, naturally, intuitively, effortlessly.

Sometimes, people ask, “What if I don’t have a purpose?” or, “How do I know what my purpose is?” or some other question that speaks to our learned-fear of not being here on earth for a reason beyond, we’re here taking up space; and then we’re gone.

I love the purpose process at Choices. It is an engaging, loving, and whole-hearted exploration of the small, and large, significances each person creates in their life, every single day, often without thinking. Diving into the purpose process, trainees are often surprised to discover, they have been living the expression of their purpose all their life. It isn’t necessarily something grand like ‘make world peace’ or ‘find a cure for (name the disease or social cause or issue). It is in fact, every small thing they do that expands their heart-felt living into the mystery and wonder of feeling alive and passionately engaged with living life through their own unique expression.

Purpose is about all areas of our life, even though people sometimes want to limit their purpose statement to just one group, like children, or just one area of their life, like music. Once they explore all the ways they express themselves through living their purpose, they inevitably discover

How you do one thing is how you do all things. What you do for one, you do for all.

Each of us will have passions, areas where we completely, totally engage our entire beings in the fulfillment of some idea or dream of what the world would look like if…. we ended poverty, had world peace, treated every creature, big and small, with kindness and respect…

Purpose isn’t about proselytizing ‘the mission’. It’s about our way of being in the world. Aligned and integrated with the deepest expression of our heart’s desire to live beyond the comfort zone of playing small or quietly. It’s about shining our own, individual and unique light, as brightly as we can.

And in our brilliance, inspiring everyone around us to shine theirs, so that everyone they meet will shine theirs and so on and so on until all around the world, we are shining so brightly not war, not hatred, not anger nor fear can overshadow our light.

Mind asked, “Beyond purpose, what are you here to give?”

Soul answered, “Your whole heart.”

 


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Mystery: I am who I am because of who we all are. The ultimate un-guide to surrender.

Mystery banner copy

In my dream, the pedestrian light turns green, I step off the curb and the car waiting to turn right moves into the crosswalk and hits me. I fall down.

I see me get out of the car and race to my side.

I see me looking up at the driver,(me) who hit me.

I see me refusing help, insisting I am okay.

I see me wanting to help and doing nothing.

In my dream, I am the victim and the perpetrator.

In life, I am also both.

I am the one who discriminates. I am the one discriminated against.

I am the bully. I am the victim.

I am the abuser. I am the abused.

I am the peace-keeper, the war-maker.

When I allow, accept, condone, permit; abuse, discrimination, war, and any host of social ills that cause another pain, that allow injustice to exist, when I do nothing, when I stay silent, I am my part of the problem.

u·bun·tu

ˌo͝oˈbo͝on(t)o͞o/

noun  – a quality that includes the essential human virtues; compassion and humanity.

“I am what I am because of who we all are.”

There is no mystery in why war exists. Why discrimination impacts the lives of so many. Why abuse harms lives every day.

Human history is filled with evidence of the what, how,  when and where of our unjust practices, our desire to dominate another, our need to make ourselves right. It is filled with volumes of the laws and social norms we have written and invested in that allow injustice to exist.

The mystery lies in why we choose to stay blind. Why we choose to stay silent, to do nothing, to hide our eyes from the pain of others.

The mystery lies in our willingness to suspend our belief that it is happening and convince ourselves we cannot change ‘it’.

We are the ‘it’ we tell ourselves we cannot change.

We are the perpetrators of our injustices, the creators of our laws, the ones who vote into power, or choose not to vote into power, the leaders who refuse to take action on the things that would create justice and equity for all.

The lack of action in our leaders is a result of our lack of standing up for justice and against discrimination.

It is a result of our staying silent in the face of corporate greed, in the evidence of political malfeasance.

It is a result of our turning a blind eye to the woes of our neighbours, the poverty on our streets, the despair in our communities, the waning away of the vibrancy and health of our planet Earth.

It is a result of our saying, “Someone needs to do something about…” and then waiting or expecting someone else to do the things we know we can to contribute in positive ways to stopping the tearing apart of the ozone layer, the depletion of our forests, the poisoning of our rivers.

It is a result of our not turning up for ourselves, no matter our condition, and saying, I deserve to live without discrimination, fear, hunger, inequality. And so do you.

What happens to me happens to you.

I am what I am because of who we all are.

If I have my wealth because you work for me at wages you cannot afford to live on, then my wealth is founded on your poverty.

I am what I am because of who we all are.

I dreamt I was hit by a car. It was me driving.


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The creative impulse is not a mystery when I take time to express it.

Mystery banner copy

“The mystery of life isn’t a problem to solve, but a reality to experience.”  Frank Herbert, Dune

Where do ideas, vision, openings to creativity begin? Is there an end? Where does the creative impulse come from?

Not really a mystery but definitely a source of wonder and awe, the impulse to create drives me every day to write here, to journal, to draw and paint. It calls me to express myself in artful ways that often surprise me with their capacity to reflect the mystery of my dreams, the yearnings of my heart, the wonderings of my thoughts.

And then, there are those periods of time when I stop. Stop painting. Stop art journalling. Stop going down into my studio in the evening to give expression to my creative urges.

I have been in such a space since May. At first, I thought it was just that I was tired out from all the wedding prep and the hours upon hours I spent creating for it. I’d enter the studio in the evening or on weekends only to return upstairs to do some meaningless thing like watch a show on Netflix or the TV.

The avoidance of creating created the habit of not spending time in my studio and while it’s not particularly fear based, I know, avoidance strengthens fear.

My avoidance created a fear of creating. Of seeing the possibility in a blank canvas and letting the muse guide me in expressing my dreams upon its surface.

Yesterday, my team at work and I entered into what we have agreed will be a bi-weekly session on goal setting and visioning. Guided by a team member who worked for several years for a company that made regular conversations about goal-setting and vision a part of their culture, we started with a guided visioning session of what our work day will look like and how we will feel when we enter the workspace in six months, a year.

We shared what brings joy to our day. What creates satisfaction. We explored what we want more of in our work-life balance. What we need less of.

We talked about the things we’re doing we want to keep doing, the things we want to start doing to create greater value in our lives and the things we need to stop doing that undermine our sense of joy and satisfaction.

What things do you do every day that bring you joy?

For me, art-making every day creates joy in my life. It lifts me up. It fills me with a sense of peace, wonder and awe.

And I have been avoiding it.

Getting lost in the why of my avoidance will only keep me stuck in questioning the why of why I’m not doing it.

Not creating is not a mystery that needs to be solved.

 

The answer is simple.

I must make a decision to do it, to engage in it, to create the more in my every day that brings me more joy. I know creating in my studio lifts me up. I must decide to take action and then, make a commitment to do it and follow through on my commitment.

I commit to spending an hour in the studio every night. I don’t need to know the ‘why’ of my not creating. I need to take action now that I’ve identified the impact of my avoidance. It’s a pretty simple equation:

No studio time every day = an absence of joy every day.

Just as habits can be broken, habits can be built. Habits can be kept.

Up until our wedding in April, I had a daily habit of spending time in the studio every day.

It was good for my soul. Good for my being present in my life.

I’ve broken the habit. I can fix it. I have that power. I choose to step into my power and create the more of what I want in my life every day.

Joy. Harmony. Love. Peace and the mystery of creativity expressing itself in every way I am in the world.

 

 


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A Dog’s Guide to Life. (for Ellie)

ellie the wunder pooch copy

1.  Get moving!

Get outside. Get into nature. Go for a walk. Garden. Run. Play in the snow. The river. The mud. And don’t forget to take me with you. I like being outdoors. There’s so much out there to explore and it’s just good doginess to share it!

2.  Stop and smell the roses.

Breathe. Smell the air. Heck, smell my fur, even when it’s wet. Bury your face in the sweet, juicy aromas of life. Sure, it can be messy and prickly. But it’s always beautiful and fruitful and full of sweet smells and reminders of how wonderful it is to be alive. Remember, you gotta BREATHE it all in.

3.  Show, act, feel, be Love.

Pet me. Rub my belly. Fuss over me. I’m a dog. That’s what I need and it’s what you need too! Love all over me and know, no matter what, love really is the answer. Try it with the people in your life too. It really works. Why do you think I do it with you?

4.  Fill the whole canvas of your life.

Sit. Sprawl. Laze about. Let yourself sink into nothing but the pure joy of doing nothing. Block doorways. Lay in the middle of the room. Take up all the space you need to get comfortable. It’s your life. Your space. Fill it and do it often. Life looks better when you’re stretched out filling the whole canvas of your life.

5.  Chase your dreams (and butterflies too).

Chase butterflies. Dragonflies, even bumblebees. You don’t have to catch them. The joy is in the running about, chasing after nature and feeling the wind against your skin, or fur if you’re me.

6.  Let your sillies out.

Dance in the rain. Run barefoot in the grass. Don’t be shy. Don’t tell yourself you’re too old or too proper or too whatever. You’re never too anything to act silly and free. Kick your shoes off and feel the earth — I’ve never understood why people, and horses for that matter, wear shoes. They’re so distracting.

7.  Set yourself free of your secret hurts and pains.

Talk to yourself – which is like… talking to me. Tell yourself all your sorrows, your secrets, your fears, your dreams. It’s okay. No one else can hear you except me and I will always listen and never judge and never tell another soul. Your secrets are mine to keep.

8.  Let your happy shine, where ever you go!

Greet everyone you meet, even strangers and that girl with the tattoos and piercings and dog collar around her neck, with a big happy smile. And btw, I don’t understand why people wear dog collars. They’re for dogs, people, because we’re special. But I digress. Greet people like you’re really, really happy to see them. Try some wiggles and squirms, lick them even! Or, as you humans like to do, give them a peck on the cheek, but really, really mean it! Be happy to see them. Let your happy shine, where ever you go! Heaven knows, the world needs more wriggles and squirms and happy greetings. And by the way, so do you.

9.  Savour every morsel of life (and whatever else is on your plate)

Always, always, clean your plate. Yup. I know. Your parents told you this. Difference is, what you don’t eat, you can give to me, I’m not picky and will eat anything you don’t, and then some! (and that’s how you clean your plate btw while also savouring every morsel of life) Oh. And no artichokes please. I don’t like the prickles. Which brings me to my final point;

10.  Follow your heart (and let me be your guide).

Only consume, buy, eat, do, speak, think, create, the things that create more joy, laughter, love and caring in your life. Be picky! Don’t settle for something just because it’s there. Make your own choices. Make your own path. Make your own waves. Remember, I chose you and you’re the bestest friend a dog could ever have, which is saying a lot for someone who is not a dog. And you truly are great, especially when you remember to follow your heart, oh, and let me be your guide.

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In honour of Ellie the Wunder Pooch who passed away on this day a year ago, I have reposted her Guide to Life. She sure knew how to live it!

Thank you Ellie for your wisdom, for sharing your joy and your forever love.

Namaste.


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The mystery of peace: the ultimate un-guide to surrender.

Mystery definition copy

I went to the river yesterday. I went to visit the place where the 2 heart rocks we laid last summer for Ellie The Wonder Pooch are tucked into the trees.

I wanted to tell her about Beaumont. About his arrival next week into our home and how he has already taken up residence in my heart.

I wanted to let her know it was okay. That my heart has room for only love and she is always a loving presence in my heart.

Ellie. Life. The Universe. Maybe just summer and its tangled overgrowth, had a different idea.

I could not find her rocks. I’d found them just last month on a walk along the river. I knew they were there. But I could not find them.

I laughed.

Oh that trickster Ellie. That wonderful, loving, caring girl. As always, she wanted to make it easy for me. She wanted to let me know, “It’s okay.”  She’s not worried about Beaumont’s presence in our home and hearts. She knows there’s always room for Love.

Mystery banner copy

When I was at the river, I hadn’t really thought about the date. Hadn’t noticed that tomorrow, June 23rd, is the day she left us last year.

The serendipity and the mystery of it all is astounding to me.

In my post last year about Ellie’s passing, Jodi Aman wrote, “Thank you Ellie! You were a guide in this life, but now it’s time for you to guide from the other side. Still connected, but even more powerfully!”

Is this part of the mystery of life? That when we leave this place we have the capacity to guide, even more powerfully, from the other side?

Life is a powerful and mysterious journey.

Yesterday, walking by the river, through the woods, sitting listening to the gurgling of the water as it flowed past, I was immersed in the awe and the beauty of that moment in time, that place on earth.

I felt the spirit of Ellie splashing in the water. Felt her warm, wet body leaning into mine.

I felt a part of something bigger, more grand, more spectacular than anything I could ever imagine.

I felt part of life.

Flowing.

Moving.

Evolving.

Being all around me and within and part of me.

I felt in the flow. In the moment. In the place where I sat.

I felt at peace.

At ease.

At One with the mystery and beauty and wonder of life flowing all around.

The mystery of life is not that we live and then we die. It is that we are born.

That from one natural act, one sperm survives its journey to unite with one egg to become the uniqueness, and the sameness of each and every one of us. That from that one act, we are created and emerge into this world through the gift and mystery of life becoming matter.

It is that a seed falls into the ground and a flower grows. A sapling becomes a tree. A blade of grass becomes a field of grasses waving in the sun. That a bird flies, a cow moos, a rooster crows.

It is that a river flows past until it reaches the sea. That nature abounds with bounty. That life creates itself again and again and again.

There is so much I do not know, do not understand, do not comprehend in this world. There is war and death and dying and man hurting one another, killing one another, destroying one another, and still, life keeps creating. Re-inventing itself, again and again and again.

And in that creation is the hope, the faith, the knowing that to create is to give birth to the possibility of Love overcoming hatred, fear, discrimination, self-loathing.

In life creating itself again and again is the knowing that until we find ourselves at peace, sitting by a river, or just sitting beside one another where ever we are at and loving one another exactly how we are, life will keep creating itself again and again and again.

That’s the true mystery. We keep creating life even in the midst of all the turmoil, angst, war and hatred that abounds on this place called earth.

And in the midst of it all, that a wonder pooch knows better than me when it’s time to let go, time to move on, time to create again a place in my heart and hearth where a four legged friend can roam and show me the way to be at peace in a world that sometimes feels like it’s gone mad, and still, always has room for Love.

In the presence of Love, the wonder pooch once again teaches me to be at peace no matter where I am in the world, no matter how fierce the winds or hot the sun. To be at peace and know it is only when I am at peace I create peace all around me.

Namaste.

 

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Elizabeth at Almost Spring invited me to take up the challenge of posting a photo a day and writing a story/article about a word related to the photo.

I took the photo above on the ridge above the river yesterday. I was enchanted by the wisps of the seed pods, the delicate tendrils of its feathering strands protecting the bud.

This post is also my first exploration into the word ‘mystery’. A month ago, I made a decision to explore what I don’t know about  surrender, hope, faith, mystery, loss, God, and the power of love. To seek the unknown is to journey into what I know and allow space for ‘what else’ to appear. It is to live within the question, not knowing or needing the answer.

This is the first post of five on ‘mystery’.  I’m curious to see what will emerge.