Give your time away | 52 Acts of Grace | Week 31

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Even if you don’t know what you are passionate about, volunteering is a great way to find out what your passions are.

Check your FB feed. What ‘stories’ do you share the most? What stories create energy around you? Are you passionate about ending racism? Discrimination? making sure refugees are treated fairly, find a way to assimilate, to find their own space in your city/town/area?

If you’re like me and find that stories of animal abuse cause you to cry and weep in despair, you might want to consider the wisdom of volunteering for one of these groups. I can’t do it. I know I will take on the pain and anger too much and not be able to experience the joy of helping one animal at a time. In these instances I donate money to the cause so that I can feel like I am contributing to the well-being of the animals and those who work so hard to end animal abuse.

Anger can be an avenue to passion. so if you find yourself always posting or reading up on discrimination, for example, find an organization in your area that works with immigrants and volunteer your time.

It’s a great way to meet people, learn about what is being done to make a difference for those who have come here to change their lives, and it’s a great way to contribute to making positive change happen.

Several years ago I gave a TEDxTalk called How Volunteering Saved My life.  It reminded me of all I was capable of in a time when I didn’t believe I was capable of much. Volunteering did save my life. It helped me restore my sense of worth, dignity, self-esteem, and, I met some wonderful people while I was there!

 

How to fill your heart with peace and joy.

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Being happy and being at peace are not the same thing.

I can be happy to be out of a painful situation, but if I keep retelling the story of my pain, I will not find peace and joy in this moment I’m in.

It is important to face the emotions, to confront the things that disturb our peace of mind so that we can step through the disquiet and move beyond the things that distress us.

I caught myself in that space of disquiet recently. I was struggling to make sense of something that was going on and found myself in my own self-defeating game, one of my favourites — “I can’t do anything right. There’s no point in even trying. I may as well quit right now.”

It is not pretty when I find myself playing ‘the victim’.

It is insightful though because, in its light, I can see where I have veered off my path of walking with integrity, truth, passion and commitment to being my true self because I’ve allowed someone else’s actions or words become my reality. It illuminates those spaces within where my critter is having a little bit of a hissy fit stirring up angst and turmoil, just because he can, and mostly because I’m listening.

We all have those moments of self-doubt when we act out of our less than thinking and into our fears.

Strength comes when we stop blaming ‘the other’ for our angst and  lovingly face the truth about the games we’re playing with ourselves and say, “Well that was fascinating.” And then choose to stop the game and let go of the limiting thoughts that are keeping us mired in self-pity, woe is me and I’m no good thinking.

What can I do differently in this moment right now?” is a powerful question to ask in those moments. And if the answer is ‘nothing’, turn and face yourself and ask, “Really?” (it helps if you put one hand on your hip, tilt your head sideways and give yourself that ‘I don’t believe you’ kind of look you save just for your teenage son or daughter) and then smile  lovingly at yourself and decide to not buy into your own limiting beliefs about your capacity to shift, create possibility, change your thoughts. The truth is, those are just thoughts rolling around in your head. And thoughts can be changed.

There are a 1,001 reasons why we play self-defeating games — and none of them justify letting go of our right to live with peace and joy in our hearts, free to be the most amazing, magnificent human beings we were born to be.

Decide today to live free of the past, and feel your heart fill up with peace and joy.

Hudson’s Bay Company. Get your act together.

Have you ever had one of those encounters with a sales clerk where you had a plan on how it would go and it just doesn’t go the way you expected?

That was me yesterday.

I was returning an outfit to the Hudson’s Bay. I had bought it last week prior to coaching at Choices only to get it home to discover the clerk had left the security tags on all three items. The downtown Bay closes at 6. I debated and decided to drive to Chinook Centre to get the tags removed at the Bay there.

It was late and I was unhappy about the extra trip but wanted to wear the outfit the next day.

No such luck. I had bought it at the Olsen’s downtown, the sales clerk at the ladies clothing section told me. It’s not part of the Bay. Just a store within the Bay.

“But the sales receipt says, The Bay.” I said to the clerk.

“They use our system,” she replied and then promptly informed me that I should ‘rip the clerk’s face off’ when I took the items back.

I didn’t want to rip anyone’s face off, I told her. I just wanted to be able to wear the outfit the next day. Which in the end, I couldn’t.

So I decided to return it. I didn’t need to wear a reminder of how irritated I was.

Yesterday, on my way to meet my daughter and step-daughter for dinner, I went to the Bay downtown, walked up to the Olsen’s counter and told the clerk, who happened to be the woman who’d sold me the outfit last week, my story.

“Oh dear,” she replied. “I don’t know how that happened.”

Neither did I. I then told her how when I left the store the buzzer beeped. I walked back to the sales counter close to the exit where the clerk checked my bag on the scanner and nothing beeped. She told me I was okay to go and not to worry if the buzzer went again. Which it did.

“Well,” the clerk at the Olsen’s counter said after hearing that part. “She should never have let you go out again. That is inexcusable.”

Hmmm…. Like leaving the security tags on 3 items is inexcusable?

I decided not to engage in an ‘I’m the victim’ here exchange and told her I wanted to return all 3 items.

“If that’s how you want to get revenge that’s fine,” she replied.

Revenge?

“I’m not looking for revenge,” I said. “I’m looking for satisfaction. I would like to know how you are going to compensate me for the extra time and bother your mistake has cost me.”

“Oh. I can’t do anything about that,” she said.

“Then who can?” I asked.

“My manager.”

“Can I speak to her?”

“Yes, but she’s away for two weeks.”

I left my name and number and asked for the manager to call me upon her return.

And that’s where ‘expectations’ do not result in satisfaction.

I expected the clerk to be able to do something about providing me satisfaction for this situation. She did what she could. Refund my money. Beyond the refund though I wanted her to be contrite, apologetic and to not see me through her eyes of ‘seeking revenge’ but rather to see it through my eyes of “I am a frustrated customer and I am seeking satisfaction”.

She cannot see me through her eyes.

I also happen to know she is fairly new to the store as last week she was still in training. Not taking the security tags off is an oversight which her supervisor could have also checked for as she was there overseeing her on the day I purchased the outfit.

Human error is forgivable.

So is acting from her human condition.

As to Hudson’s Bay and Olsen?

They could get their act together and recognize if they are going to use the ‘same system’ for billing, they should use the same system for security tags too.

 

 

 

Take time in the quiet. | 52 Acts of Grace | Week 30

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It is easy to get caught up in all the chaos and activity of the world around you.

Traffic, people, TV and computer and cellphones and other devices are constantly calling for your attention.

We all need a break.

Give yourself a break throughout the day.

No matter what you’re doing, take five or ten minutes to simply get present with where you are at outside and inside.

Sit quietly. Close your eyes. Breathe deeply. Slowly. In. Out. Slowly. In. Out.

Imagine a river of love rising up all around you.

It envelops your toes, your feet, your ankles, calves, knees, thighs and as it rises, it embraces you in warmth and love washing away all the tension of your day.

Let it keep rising and imagine that as it rises, your body begins to lift until you are floating on the river’s warm, beautiful surface.

Floating.

Gently. Effortlessly.

Spend five minutes simply resting in the river’s embrace knowing it is love that supports you, holds you up, keeps you safe.

Repeat several times throughout the day.

Namaste.

Choices: Gratitude and Miracles

logo-choicesWe all have them. Those moments in time that have caused us pain, to feel rejected, to feel lost, alone, less than, not worthy of love, joy, caring, affection.

And in those moments are the grains of sand that become the stories we tell about the limitations of our lives. Within those moments are the reasons, and excuses, we give as to why we are in pain, rejected, lost alone, less than, not worthy of love, joy, caring, affection.

We are all born to live in grace. To be loved. To know joy. To have lives of wonder and awe.

But life has a way of happening. And in its happening, we learn methods of coping with pain, loss, rejection and a whole host of human attributes that caused us pain. In our coping, we forget the beauty and magnificence of our human condition. We forget our capacity to love, to find joy even on the darkest days, to feel love even in the darkest nights.

I have just spent five days in the Choices Seminar training room. Five days immersed in the human condition awakening to it beauty, wonder, awe and magnificence as trainees began to take the journey into the heart of what they want more of in their lives.

In her opening comments Mary Davis, one of the facilitators and daughter of Thelma Box the founder of Choices, describes Choices as a program that presents simple tools so that each of us can live better lives. The question is,  If better is possible, is good good enough? When it comes to living lives of joy, grace, peace and love, better is always possible.

The tools are straightforward. Trainees answer questions and work through exercises that help them identify for themselves what behaviours continually interfere with their feeling happiness, joy, peace, love. They learn tools to help them listen better to what another has to say without feeling like they have to ‘be wrong’  or constantly defend their position. They practice tools that teach them how to ask for what they want, without feeling rejected or invisible and how to give themselves medicine so that they can take care of those they love without always feeling like they are running on empty.

It is a powerful 5 days and no matter how many times I am in that room, I always learn something new about myself, my self-defeating games and the things I do that block me from having the ‘more’ of what I want in my life and in the world around me.

Being part of that circle reminds me every time that we are all miracles of life, all magnificent in our human condition. All perfectly human in all our human imperfections.

It reminds me that the pains we carry, the hurts and sorrows, the anger and grief are not our destiny.

 

It reminds me that we are human beings on the journeys of our lifetime. This lifetime in which we are free to let go of what brings us down so that we can become the light, the beauty, the magnificent human being we are truly meant to be.

It reminds me that no matter how dark or heavy the past, Love is always the answer.

It was a week of miracles. A week of connecting heart to heart. It was a week of wonder and awe.

I  am profoundly grateful.I am blessed.

 

 

Seek to find value in all things | 52 Acts of Grace | Week 29

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It can be easy sometimes to think in absolutes when skies are dark and it feel like the darkness will never end.

Yet, even behind grey clouds, the sun is shining. And even after the darkest night, the dawn is waiting on the horizon.

Fin the value in the grey cloud day — for me, I look at a cloud day as an invitation to spend time in my studio — without guilting myself into feeling like I should be doing something outside in the yard.

I love candlelight, so dark mornings are an opportunity to meditate with a candle burning.

Find value in all things, and let the value you find be your invitation to create peace, love, joy and harmony in your life.

Silly statements and other limiting words

I am talking with two of attendees at an event. They are both Indigenous Peoples. Both well-versed in sensitivities around Indigenous issues.  Both have been discriminated against. Branded as ‘other’. Felt the disdain of those who call themselves ‘white’.

I tell them about my awakening at an Indigenous training course I took a couple of weeks ago.

“I have never stopped to think about the richness and depth of Canadian culture as being grounded in Indigenous Peoples,” I tell them. “I have fallen for the discourse that our history as a nation began when white man arrived.”

It didn’t. It began thousands of years ago with a culture that is deeply connected to the land, the elements, nature and a desire to walk softly upon the earth.

“Discrimination and ‘other’ thinking is pervasive,” I say. “I participate in it without even recognizing I am participating in it.”

One of the men mentions the statement we make as a Foundation at the beginning of all our events acknowledging that we are standing on traditional Treaty 7 land.

“You know that calling it ‘Treaty 7’ land is a reference to colonization,” one of the individuals mentions. “For many of us, it is a reminder of all that has harmed us, not strengthened us.”

I am taken aback.

It is subtle this discrimination, this ‘other’ thinking.

Later, I am at a roundtable discussion on the National Housing Strategy the Federal Government is currently in the process of drafting.

Our host is a public figure. An elected official. Well-respected. Well liked. He has always been conscious and considerate in his approach to homelessness.

I am listening to the conversation. To my peers around the table talking about the content in the documents before us.

On a page referring to the themes to be covered by the Strategy is a list identifying those who need extra consideration due to the specialized needs of their demographic/human condition. ‘Homeless, seniors, youth, families, people with disabilities’. There is no mention of Indigenous Peoples.

Someone mentions the omission. The elected representative is surprised there is no mention. He comments that he doesn’t see how it could have gotten so far into development with such a glaring omission.

“Perhaps it’s like the language we use without thinking,” I say. And I ask him about a comment he had made earlier in the session. “You said, ‘We are not going to make silly statements like, we’re going to end homelessness. We know we’re not.”

How is that a silly statement, I ask. It is aspirational. Forward-thinking. But silly?

There is a pause and then they talk about how they were referring to the timeline. He tries to justify the statement until someone else around the table also speaks up in support of my question. “If the government plans on ensuring everyone has access to housing, won’t that mean we end homelessness?”

Another pause.

I stand corrected, the elected official says.

Language.

We get hung up in our words. Use them to divide and conquer. To separate and clarify.

We make words the ground upon which we stand, the positions we will not cede, the space we will not move from.

And in the process, our language becomes the battlefield upon which we stake our claim to be right. It becomes our battery of defenses against another so that we don’t have to give up our right to stand our ground.

It was a short week and a tough one. A week where words spoken awakened my consciousness to injustices caused by the language of Treaties that continue to define and marginalize an entire Nation. A week where language failed to inspire by its use of silly statements about what we can, or cannot do, amongst a group of people passionately committed to ending the very thing they called silly.

I believe passionately in our human capacity to create possibility from the seemingly impossible.

I believe we are all one humanity. One human race.

But the words I heard this week, and the ones omitted when they needed to be spoken, are cause for concern.

How can we stop discrimination? How can we end homelessness when the very words we use continue to mire people in the limited thinking of the past? How can we inspire one another to do better when the words we use build walls and tear down confidence in our ability to contribute our best?

 

Where Mother Nature’s concerned, every jar counts.

I know it’s not headline making, but I’m going to share it anyway.

I cleaned out my fridge.

I know. I know. Not the earth-shattering news you were expecting, but if you’d seen the inside of my fridge, you’d understand why it’s such a monumental feat! (and yes, Alexis, I did it without you!)

I was ruthless.

Out of date? Gone.

Only a dribble left in the jar? Gone.

Don’t know what it is, even if it’s not expired? Gone.

Know what it is but have no idea when I’ll use it next? Gone.

It felt great to clear out those clogged up, cluttered shelves. But in the end,  it wasn’t actually the cleaning of my fridge that became the big deal, with the BIG LESSON attached.

It was deciding to clean out and recycle the 30 some jars I tossed.

I admit it. I threw them into the garbage can first.

And then I thought about cleaning them out and recycling.

“But that will take foreeever!” my critter mind hissed.

“Don’t you think you’re exageratting just a little bit?” my voice of reason responded.

“No!” inisisted my critter mind. “You don’t have time. You’ve got better things to do than clean out jars. And anyway. Who cares? What difference are a few jars from you going to make?”

Fact is. Those few jars could make a world of difference to the world.

And therein lay the debate.

To ignore my worldly impact in even the smallest things I do, or to accept my responsibility and the fact everything I do has an impact on the world.

Was I going to take the easy route out, or do the right thing?

In the end, ‘the right thing’ won. As it should.

Because to have thrown out those jars full of moldy, hardened and mostly unidentifiable substances would have been to contribute to fodder in the landfill. It would have meant I carried with me the knowing that I did not take the time to do the right thing by Mother Nature, the environment and my fellow human race. It would have meant carrying with me the shame of giving into the easy route, the downhill path, the road of least resistance.

I spent an hour scraping out and cleaning the jars. Some went into recycling and some to a girlfriend who likes to make jams and jellies. And BIG BONUS!  I also gave my conscience a clean bill of health. What could be better than that?

I cleaned out my fridge on the weekend and in the process, cleared out some old and hardened thinking about the impact and capacity I have to make a difference.

It may not sound like a lot, but every jar counts where Mother Nature is concerned.

Namaste.

 

Give Thanks | 52 Acts of Grace | Week 28

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It was Thanksgiving weekend in Canada. It snowed here in Calgary.

Lots of it.

I am thankful. (Even if it did look more like Christmas than Thanksgiving).

I am thankful for the moisture, the beauty of the snow covering the earth, the golden leaves sprinkled like confetti on a white blanket.

I am thankful for our family and friends who gathered round our table, sharing companionship, fellowship, good food, laughter, wine and bread and turkey with all the fixin’s.

I am thankful for new friends and old. For a young boy who joined us who, at 10 years of age, reminded all of us to be open and present and willing to participate and give thanks. Just before we went around the table to talk about the things we are grateful for, I had created feathers for everyone which had a word on it that they were to express their gratitude for) he came to my side and whispered into my ear, “When we are going around the table can we also say ‘what we like best about Thanksgiving?'”

And while sometimes, there is a bit of a groan, a bit of an ‘oh dear what am I going to say?’, when he announced what we were about to do, and added his request, everyone joined whole-heartedly in the conversation, sharing their gratitude and their favourite thing about Thanksgiving. And it wasn’t all about the turkey.

It was about gathering together, sharing, connecting. About family and friends present. Family and friends absent and the fullness of our lives because of their presence on our paths.

It was about taking time out to give thanks. To savour the moment, and to appreciate all we have in our lives and those who make it so rich.

It snowed this weekend. I am thankful for the snow. It reminded me to be aware, be present, be in awe of nature — and to not count on fresh parsley from my garden in October.