Dare boldly

A blog by Louise Gallagher


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The truth may surprise you

the answer may surprise you copy

How often do you jump to conclusions about another person’s motivation or reason for doing something especially when what they are doing is causing you angst?

If you’re human, the answer is possibly, a lot.

The brilliant Ian Munro of Leading Essentially shares  4  Thoughts For Navigating The Every Day Path, on his blog this week. As Ian writes,

How often do we find ourselves rising up the “Ladder of Inference” (theory first put forward by organizational psychologist Chris Argyris), creating new truths for ourselves that clutter our view of our world and make it difficult to answer the question “what’s really happening right now?”  (you can see the diagram for the Ladder of Inference Ian mentions by clicking here.)

We are New Truth Makers, continually spinning tales of ‘what’s really happening’ outside our sphere of influence to deflect from what’s really happening within us when we become hyper engaged in someone else’s story.

Recently I had a perfect example of my ability to be a new truth maker. A simple mistake, omission, moment of forgetfulness by another lead me down a path to telling myself the story of how they were being deceitful.

Fact is, what I knew to be true is they had not done something that needed doing. Whether it was forgotten, an oversight, or an intentional omission made little difference to what needed to happen — and that was for them to address the situation so that it would be resolved.

Challenge is, in my story-making-up-of-their-motivation, I fell into my own trap. I believed less of them and in that place, felt less of myself because my response, based on my less-than thinking, did not keep me in the moment, did not leave me operating from my higher self, but rather, thinking from my baser instincts.

And that does not serve me well.

Life will always offer up opportunities to rise above or sink below our instinctual habits. For example, I know that I don’t trust people’s motivations easily. It is learned behaviour that I am conscious of, and when acting from a place of esteem, balance, openness and authenticity, does not pull me down to my baser instincts. However, because I have an inherent belief that people are ‘out to get me’, I can fall into the trap of believing they are not acting from a place of wanting to contribute their best in moments of discord. When I let go of my desire to stand in the light and be at peace with the world around me, it is relatively easy for me to leap to the conclusion that what motivates others to do what they do, is proof I should never have trusted in the first place.

From that place, it’s just a short hop, skip and a jump to seeing what someone else is doing as being nefarious, underhanded, deceitful…

Staying conscious of my innate distrust of other’s motivations keeps me grounded on my path, without my capacity to create new truths that prove my child-centric belief, ‘I can’t trust anyone’, interfering with my ability to continually check in with ‘what’s really happening right now’.

Making ‘new truths’ is convenient. It means I don’t actually have to see inside myself to what’s really happening now within me. It means I don’t have to be 100% accountable for my responses, my actions, my own story. It puts me in that treacherous place of negative fortune-telling where I see ‘what’s really going on here’ as the one and only truth – and that’s not a truth based on fact. It’s based on the story I’ve created to keep me from feeling at risk.

We all encounter moments where it is convenient/habitual to make up stories about why someone else is doing what they’re doing that is causing angst or drama or unease in our worlds.

Fact is, we can never be 100% all-knowing of what motivates another.

We can be 100% all-knowing of what motives us when we stop our rapid ascent of the Ladder of Inference, take a breath and go back to the basics of asking, ‘what’s really going on here, right now, inside of me’.

When you do that, when you take the time to stop and ask yourself, ‘What’s this really about for me?’ ‘What do I really want right now’ ‘Is my belief about the other 100% true?’ ‘Is my story about what they’re doing 100% fact?’,  or, ‘Is my story about the other interfering with my ability to be… happy, content, peaceful, accomplished…?’, when you ask yourself the tough questions and lovingly embrace the answers that appear, the truth may surprise you.

 


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Give a little forgiveness| 52 Acts of Grace | Week 11

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Let’s face it. It is impossible to get through life without some hurts and pains. Big, medium or small, life offers up thousands of opportunities for we humans to be perfectly human in all our human imperfections.

Often, the other person may not have intended to hurt us. They may have been acting out from their place of pain. They may not even realize there is pain in their response.  Just as when we have been the one to cause pain or hurt, we did not intend it or did not know the source of our own unease that caused us to say or behave the way we did.

It isn’t what happened that makes the difference in your life today. It’s what you do with it.

Give a little forgiveness.

No one deserves to be abused, lied to, manipulated. No one deserves the countless things that happen in their lives that push them down. Name calling, deceit, the loss of a loved one, loss of any kind, feeling humiliated, feeling alone, feeling like you don’t belong.

No one deserves to have their feelings ignored, their truth called a lie, their beauty called ugly.

Yet, it happens.

The challenge is, when what happened ‘then’ continues to dictate how we feel, behave and see ourselves in the now, it isn’t the past that’s hurting us any longer. It’s our repetition of ‘the story’ we’ve created about what happened that is causing our distress.

Give a little forgiveness.

Sure, it may feel awkward, uncomfortable, different. Do it anyway.

And, if your mind immediately leaps to “I will never forgive ____________.” ask yourself, what does holding onto resentment, bitterness, distress get me? How does it serve me today?

This is not a big sweeping, I forgive you, will forget it ever happened or a ‘it’s okay, I swore I’d never let you back in my life and I still don’t trust you but I will’, kind of forgiveness. You may never want to let them back into your life. And that’s okay. That’s your decision. Only you know what is the best for your life.

Forgiveness isn’t about making what another did right or okay, or acceptable. It’s about releasing yourself from the past, letting go of the story you are telling yourself that keeps haunting you, hurting you, holding you down.

Forgiveness is not for them. It’s for you.

And once you’ve started practicing a little forgiveness, keep practicing. It’s not about biting it off all in one big chomp. It’s about taking tiny little bites that are manageable. Bites that slowly nourish you with their soothing grace, setting you free to flow into life without the wounds of the past limiting your brilliance today.

Give a little forgiveness.

And don’t forget to give yourself the same grace.


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Great artistry abides in everyone.

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If I had met them walking down the street, I might have been inclined to judge them by their look. To think the two young men walking towards me were out to find trouble, or at least, aimlessly wandering without direction.

In every human, judgements reside.

Not knowing their artistry, not knowing their story, I might have wondered about how we could be of the same world and inhabit the same space when we are such world’s apart in how we appear to the world. I might have passed them with a fleeting thought about what caused them to look so fierce. To dress so grunge. To think being hipsterish was cool.

On their part, I might think that if we passed each other walking down the street, they would not even notice me. I would imagine they were so caught up in the stage of their lives, they would not notice an older woman walking down the street, or even wonder if we had anything in common.

And then I watched the video of two young ‘hipster’ men dancing.

What struck me most, what superseded any judgements I might, or might not have had about their ‘look’, was the passion of their dance and the incredible discipline, training and commitment to their art it must have taken for them to be able to dance together like that. What talent and creativity. I was in awe.

When I posted the video on my FB page, a friend commented on the power of their dance. When I replied with my commentary of how judgements of ‘the look’ could have interfered with my seeing the beauty of their art, she replied, “Great artistry abides in every human costume.”

Yes!

Within each of us great artistry abides. No matter how we look, what we wear, how deep our pockets, how tight our pants or how long our pasts. Great artistry abides within each of us.

It is what struck me every day when I worked at a homeless shelter and started an art program. The individuals who came to the studio didn’t have deep pockets, they didn’t have a wealth of clothing options or choices on how to share their creative gifts, or how to express themselves through every medium. We only had so many supplies in the studio, so many canvases, so much paint for people to explore and use.

It didn’t matter.

Because when they walked into the studio, they came with the fierce desire to create. They came with their deep passion for expressing themselves through their art.

While homelessness may have ripped away all of their possessions, undermined their self-confidence and sense of place, they all shared a fierce commitment to holding onto ‘the thing’ that no one and nothing could take from them. Their creative essence.

Life can be tough. It can tear us down. Pummel our dreams and shake up our sense of purpose. It can hold us in arms of sadness, grip us in the death maws of addiction, weigh us down with the heaviness of sorrow, loss, regret, and trauma.

But it cannot take away the greatness of our individual artistry.

That abides within us.

No matter how deeply it gets buried beneath the clothes we wear, the heaviness of our backpacks, the depths of our traumas, our greatness cannot be diminished.

And when we set ourselves free to express ourselves from that place where all that matters is being true to ourselves and our self-expression, we create a world where differences diminish, judgements disperse. In that place all we are left with is the raw, beautiful and shining gift of our greatness.

I am so grateful these two young men had the fierce confidence, passion, discipline to not leave their artistry buried within them. I am so grateful they chose instead to dance with abandon for all the world to celebrate.

Let us all dance with abandon today so that in our dance, the world can celebrate the great artistry that abides within each of us.

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Thank you Slim Russell for inspiring this post.

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Listen with the ears of your heart.

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St. Benedict, a 5th Century monk who wrote, The Rule of St. Benedict to guide his fellow monks in monastic living, entreated humankind to ‘listen with the ears of your heart’. To let go of the mind’s desire to know the meaning of the words through thought and sink deeply into what comes when we soften our hearts and listen with all its desire to know the soul.

Yesterday, my eldest daughter shared her sadness over the responses she had read in social media feeds to the verdict of a case involving a young man, who in the darkness of a psychotic break, went to a house party and killed five fellow-university students, all of whom were celebrating the end of a year of studies.

It is a tragedy beyond the scope of our thinking minds capacity to understand how this could have happened, or why.

We must listen with the ears of our hearts.

To the sorrow of the families who have lost their beloved children.

To the family of the young man who committed this act of violence.

To the young man who is now under psychiatric supervision and must live with the consciousness of his act for the rest of his life.

We must listen with the ears of our hearts. Those ears do not decry the failure of justice, ignoring the power of the mind to break down and drag a young man into the darkness where he hears only its roar driving him to strike out against the world around him. In the devastation left behind, those ears seek to understand, to know this act of violence was not of conscious mind. They seek to find ways to be present for those who are filled with the pain and loss of what happened so that they can help ease their burden.

Those ears do not seek vengeance. They do not judge. They do not condemn. They seek only to understand the soul’s calling out for humanity to stop the violence. Stop the killing. Stop the wars and drugs and rapes and horrors we commit against each other every day and to be present to one another. To love one another. To cherish one another. To be with one another in peace.

My mind cannot begin to imagine the pain and sorrow and anger and grief of those involved.

What my mind can imagine is what I need to do to be present in our world so that my presence creates a place where healing and peace can take hold.

Adding my anger, condemnation, judgement does not ease their burden. It does not pave the way to peace.

Adding my compassion, my heartfelt, soul-driven desire to be of service, to be present from a deeply soul-driven place of listening with the ears of my heart calls for me to soften my heart and let go of judgement. It calls for me to lower my voice filled with condemnation and be present to the pain and suffering. To stand where I am in peace and know it is what I can do in this moment.

 

As a friend said over tea on Sunday, she does not want to add more violent discourse to society’s already violent discourse about so many things — politics, our leaders, the economy, what is happening in our world. She only wants to add peace. Compassion. Caring. Love.

And if she cannot add those, then she will stay silent. She will not join in the discourse.

Sometimes, it is all we can do, what we must do to listen with the ears of our hearts.

Stay silent and hold peace in our minds.

In that way, peace has a chance to take hold.


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Always Give Way to Love.

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I was leery when we met. Wary of falling into anything, especially Love.

And then he smiled. That soft, gentle, I see into you smile he has that makes my heart feel as if it has wings. As if it has nothing to fear but my fear of falling.

It was impossible to resist that smile, though I tried.

And over the years, I have continued to fall deeper into that smile. Those eyes. That way he has of kissing the back of my neck as if to say there is nowhere else I’d rather be in this moment right now than softly touching the back of your neck with my lips.

I knew him on the periphery of my life for years before we became ‘we’. We have a mutual friend. We went to the same parties. Knew many of the same people.

Years before we would become ‘us’ I tried to pitch him on hiring my firm to provide investor relations consulting. He never did hire us. Doesn’t even remember the encounter.

I do. He wore a black cashmere sweater. Black pants. And he had that smile.

I didn’t see him for years after that. The first time I met him again, it was in the offices he shared with a friend who’d hired me to write their business plan.

I remember him showing me photos of his son and daughter. Playing me music his son had written. He would come over to the desk where I was working, kneel down beside me, slip a CD into the disc-drive of my laptop, and say, “Listen to this.”

It was the position he took when he asked me to marry him.

“Here. Listen to this.” His eyes said as he knelt beside me and handed me his heart.

It has a beautiful song, this heart of my man.

Kind, caring, loving. It beats steady. Strong. Fierce.

It protects. Gives shade. Gives breath. Give wings. Gives strength and hope and flows effortlessly into the possibility of always being more. Free. Connected. Caring. Loving.

Sometimes, I have not treated this heart well. Sometimes, in my fierce resistance to falling, I have pushed back against flight, desperately seeking solid ground.

And always Love has found me. His heart has held me as I have learned to trust his smile, his gentle ways, his loving eyes that see into the heart of me.

I am learning, Resistance is futile in matters of the heart.

Always give way to Love.

Love will show the way.

Always.

I am grateful. I am blessed. I am free-falling. Every day. Falling and flying free into Love, to Love, with Love.

And in flight, I find myself lifted up by this one man’s heart. Beating steady. Beating strong. Beating fiercely beneath my wings.

So is the way of Love.

Namaste.

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This post was inspired by a memory post offered up by Facebook yesterday.

As I read Alexis’ memories of meeting her fiance, I was reminded once again of the power of Love’s ways.

Thank you to both my daughters and C.C. for being my guides and my teachers in the ways of Love.


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Lighten Up! | 52 Acts of Grace | Week 10

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Ever sat at your desk, looked down at your socks and realized, they don’t match? Or mid-way through the day had someone tell you that your sweater is on inside out?

If you’re like me, you probably wanted to race home and change, or did immediately turn your sweater right side out.

Stop it!

Don’t mess with the happy consequences of lightening up unintentionally.

Do it with intention. Do it to shake up your psyche! Unsettle your status quo. Upset the apple cart of your habitual behaviours.

Do it as if it’s fun!

I know. I know. I struggle with this one. Wear mis-matched socks? Two different earrings? My sweater on backwards? Intentionally?

What will people think?

Right. Who cares what people think?

But they’ll…

Stop.

So, what if I just think about it but don’t do it?

It’s not the same thing.

Our critter-minds crave the familiar, the same old same old. Critter-mind wants us to believe the familiar is safe. The different is too risky, scary, insecure.

Tell the critter-mind to take a nap.

Shaking it up a bit makes space for big shifts to happen that we don’t even know are possible.

Think of it as a gift for your heart. An act of grace to stir its beat and jazz it all up.

I don’t know who said this but I like what they said, “Doing things differently leads to something exceptional.”

Anthony Robbins is credited with having said, “If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.”

My youngest daughter once responded when asked why she always wears mis-matched socks, “Why do you wear matching socks?”

If you always wear matching socks, you’ll never know what it feels like to consciously unmatch them, to go about your day with your feet unbridled by the convention of matching socks.

Go ahead. Try it. Just for today, do something that makes you feel uncomfortable because it takes you out of your habitual behaviours. It’s not about breaking ‘the law’, it’s about breaking the innate laws of society that dictate you must do things the way you’ve always done them because that’s the way they’ve always been done — and don’t worry about people whispering about you if you get out of the rut of convention — they will but that’s their issue, not yours!

Lighten up and shake up your senses. Set your heart free to beat to its own rhythm.

Let me know what happens!

Me… I’m wearing mismatched earrings today and if anyone happens to notice, my response will be… Thank You!

I’ll let you know if I hear things differently.


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The 4 secrets of self-awareness

What is necessary to change a person is to change his awareness of himself. </>

~ Abraham Maslow ~

When we were small and learning about life, the lessons we learned were a reflection of the world around us. They formed the stories we told about our world, and how to operate in it to be safe. Sometimes, we might have sensed that a friend’s house wasn’t the same as ours. People didn’t yell in their house or get lost in a bottle when they came home from work or lay curled up in a ball crying all the time. But mostly, we accepted our family was the way it was and created a story to help us fit into the story safely.

As children, we didn’t think about life in terms of ‘something’s wrong with this picture’. We saw it through the child’s lens where every experience becomes the foundation for the next experience. When the adults around us yelled, we either grew quiet fearing what would happen if we didn’t, or fought back fearing what would happen if we stayed silent. When things happened that didn’t make sense, we either accepted them as our ‘new normal’ or, told ourselves we’ll never be normal. Not knowing the difference between what makes sense and what was nonsense, we conformed and adapted. No matter how fragile the branches of our family tree we held on for dear life, because it was the only place we knew where we belonged, no matter how fiercely the wind shook it.

Shaky foundations create unstable paths.

As adults, because the way things were is what created our adaptive behaviours and the stories we told ourselves to make sense of our world, we continue to operate from the unstable paths we created to make it through to today.

And then, life throws us a curve ball. One day, we encounter a situation we have absolutely no framework for, or we lose someone we love, or our heart breaks over yet another love gone wrong, or we just feel weary of always being the victim. Suddenly, the weight of everything we’ve learned that is stuffed down into the backpacks we’ve carried with us through life, pushes us to the ground. How will we ever get up again?

And that is when we have a choice. To crumble, stumble and keep struggling on, carrying the backpack stuffed with even more regrets and pains, telling ourselves this rut of ‘normal’ where being the victim, the loser, the scapegoat, the fall guy is our lot. Or, choose to wake up and start to unpack the past, jettisoning the stories we created as children that no longer work for us now so that we can learn a more conscious and life-giving way of being present in the world.

And that’s where self-awareness is important.

Self-awareness is an always choice.

Self-awareness is not a place. It is not a one-time event. It is a life-journey, a way of being and staying present always to what is happening in your life. It’s about not holding onto regret, pain and trauma but stepping joyfully into the lightness of being human, just the way you are, in this moment right now.

Self-awareness is owning your own story.

Self-awareness is not a self-indulgent retelling of the litany of sins committed against you, flailing your psyche with the long list of wrongs you’ve done, or were done to you.

It’s not about staying the victim. It’s about rising up, a victor in your own story.

Self-awareness is being courageous.

Self-awareness means fearlessly and lovingly hearing the lies you tell yourself about yourself. It means letting go of the list of wrongs and falling in love with yourself in this moment right now. It’s about being willing to learn and see the truth is not; you are awful, stupid, worthless, unloveable. The truth is; you are perfectly human in all your human imperfections. And aren’t you fascinating?

Self-awareness means looking in the mirror and being willing to love the person looking back, without fearing she or he will ever be enough. It’s about accepting, no matter how scary the thought, that you are enough, just the way you are, even in those moments when fear would have you doubt your own self-worth.

Self-awareness is the freedom to be you.

Self-awareness means taking up the challenge of charting a new path to finding value in all things in your life today because you are willing to acknowledge the old path was leading you to exactly the same place you were living in the past — and that was going nowhere but to where you  felt defeated, lost, confused, alone.

Does self-awareness matter?

Always in all ways. Self-awareness is the path we walk to living the life of our dreams, having the love we’ve always yearned for, the relationships we’ve always wanted, the joy we’ve always craved, the peace we’ve always chased.

Self-awareness is the way to freedom.