Dare boldly

A blog by Louise Gallagher


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To walk in beauty, count your blessings.


I am walking at the park with Beaumont, The Sheepadoodle, throwing the ball whenever he deigns to drop it for me.

As is his way, his run out for the ball is fast. Lightning quick.

Running back… not so quick. Not so direct.

It doesn’t matter. He makes me smile. Laugh. Feel good.

I keep walking. He keeps running circles around me, dropping the ball whenever he pleases. Unless I ask him to of course. Then he is quick to comply.

It’s our thing.

I breathe in the air. The smoke from the fires burning fiercely to the west is not so heavy this evening. There is a breeze blowing. The leaves on the trees rustle like a thousand worshipers whispering prayers to an unseen deity. The air is coolish on  my face. My hair blows around my eyes.

We keep walking. I keep throwing. Beaumont keeps running and fetching.

I feel rich tonight. Full. Filled with the enjoyment of spending time outdoors, walking with this dog who has brought limitless joy into our lives.

Earlier in the day, someone asked me about a man I knew years ago. Is he your friend, she asks?

I laughed. Not by a long stretch. He was a a cohort of the man who almost killed me, I tell her. Neither of them were good or honest people.

She is relieved. He had once hurt her badly. She could not imagine how we could be friends if I called him friend.

I tell her how my life is so much richer, fuller, complete since that experience. How, while at the time it was awful, terrifying, now I am grateful to have come through it. To be able to carry with me all I learned journeying through those dark times.

Years ago, I walked this same park with Ellie, the Wunder Pooch. My life at the time was filled with fear, uncertainty, horror, angst.

I didn’t savour the wind on my face, my hair blowing into my eyes. I didn’t hear the whisper of the leaves or see the sky above filled with limitless possibilities.

I didn’t laugh at Ellie’s antics or throw a ball.

I walked, steps heavy, every cell in my body filled with dread, my heart and mind consumed by the darkness that seemed to fill my entire world.

The darkness has lifted. The winds of fate have changed direction.

I walk in beauty now.

I am grateful.

I am filled with richness, loving-kindness, joy.

My world is a sea of limitless abundance.

I am blessed.

Namaste.

___________________

 

 


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3 Tips to Travel Lightly

3 Ways to unpack your worries every night:

  1. Write them down
    • Keep a notebook by your bed and every night before you sleep, write out your ‘troubles and worries’.  They don’t have to be a beautiful piece of prose. Just write them down.
  2. Meditate
    • If all you can manage is five minutes, take five minutes. But whatever you do, spend a few moments in silence. Breathe deeply. In. Out. In. Out. Let your mind slowly unwind. Let it empty itself of thoughts and simply be present in the silence of following your breath. In. Out. In. Out.
  3. Read something inspirational
    • Before you fall asleep, after you’ve done everything else you need to do, read something that inspires your dreams, your flights of fancy, your imagination, your heart. You don’t have to read for long, but whatever you do, spend the few last moments before sleep letting your mind rest in thoughts of possibility, dreams and dreaming.

And whatever you do, get the TV out of your bedroom! Do not let the news or some mindless chatter fill your last thoughts before sleep.


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Disagreement is not rejection

 

I am meeting with the very talented Michelle Jeffrey to get her insight on a delicate situation I am navigating at work with an external group of people who feel like their intentions to serve marginalized people have been disrespected.

“I always felt like disagreement equaled violence,” Michelle tells me. “Like if I said something against what someone else was saying that didn’t feel right to me, I’d be in harm’s way. So I stayed silent.”

Michelle speaks up today. She speaks out and lives her life on her terms. Doing it her way.

A memory slips into my mind.

Year’s ago, while working on a project with an organization that supports teens in distress, I was entering a building on their site for a meeting. As I walked towards the front door, a young woman exited the building where I was to meet one of their managers. She saw me, walked towards me and forcefully asked, “What are you doing here?”

I wanted to be polite. To show her I felt empathy and compassion for her situation, whatever it was.

“I’m here for a meeting,” I replied, smiling.

She grabbed my wrist, dug her fingers into my skin and said, “You can’t go in there.”

The suddenness of her action took me by surprise. I didn’t want to inflame an already delicate situation and quietly said, “I have a meeting. I need to go in there. Please let go of my wrist.”

She dug her nails in more deeply.

“You need to let go of my wrist. Now. So I can go to my meeting.”

I looked directly into her eyes consciously keeping my breathing slow, my voice soft.

She let go and started to walk away muttering back at me, “You can’t go in there.”

I went in.

As I remember the story of the young girl grabbing my wrist I also see something I hadn’t recognized before. I’d always focused on how upset that encounter made me feel. I often wondered what I could have done differently to avoid the confrontation.

What I’d missed seeing in my desire to make it ‘all about me’ was the strength and courage it took for me to simply stand my ground, quietly, firmly, compassionately.

I wasn’t standing in opposition. I was standing in compassion.

I wasn’t pushing back. I was creating space for both of us to move on.

I hadn’t recognized those things before. I remember thinking how scared I was. How I wanted to cry but didn’t want to give into my fear.

At the time, when I spoke with the man whom I was meeting with, he told me that the young girl had just been told she had to leave the program and return home.

“It’s possible she did what she did to force us to let her stay. She’s afraid to move on.”

“What’s important,” he added, “is that you don’t personalize her actions to be about you. If you need to talk to someone about what happened, we can find a counsellor for you.”

I assured him I was okay. But I still thought about the situation a lot. Wondering what I could have done differently.

My head wanted to minimize my fear, and the scratches on my wrist, by pretending it wasn’t a big deal. I didn’t want to make it a big deal by over-reacting to a situation which I knew, in my head, was not about me.

My heart wanted to cry. She hurt me. Why did she do it?

That young woman knew violence. It had surrounded her all her life. It was the ground upon which she stood to protect herself, to defend against the unknown, to rebel against what she’d always known.

The difference that day was, my life had taught me that disagreement does not equal rejection, or violence.

Disagreement is an opportunity to find common ground, no matter how rocky the ground upon which we meet.

I could choose to respond in violence, or find the path to peace.

Thanks Michelle for shining your light so I could see where I stand today.

We can all choose to find the path to resolve our differences by choosing compassion, understanding, tolerance and love. Every day.

Which will you choose?


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Be like the river when it arrives at the ocean

As I look out my window this morning, I notice the leaves on the hedge on the west side of our yard are turning yellow.

Already it is past the mid-point of July.

Time moves even while I sit still.

I breathe in and imagine the world breathing with me. My breath on fire with the fires burning so fiercely to the west. The sky above is smoky grey. It smells of woodsmoke, of backyard fires.

This morning, I dedicate my thoughts to those who are fleeing the fires, to those who are fighting them and those supporting the evacuees and the fire fighters.

I am in the community and the community is in me.

Namaste.

Zen Flash

 “When you speak, allow the insight of our collective humanity to speak through you. When you walk, don’t walk for yourself alone; walk for your ancestors and your community. When you breathe, allow the larger world to breathe for you. When you’re angry, allow your anger to be released and to be embraced by the larger community. If you know how to do this for one day, you are already transformed. Be your community and let your community be you. This is true practice. Be like the river when it arrives at the ocean; be like the bees and birds that fly together. See yourself in the community and see the community in you. This is a process of transforming your way of seeing, and it will transform how, and how effectively, you communicate.”

~ Thich Nhat Hanh, The Art of Communicating

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The Big Yahoo!

Remember how the other day I wrote about not wanting to Yahoo! when a parade went by?

Well, I did it.

I Yahoo’d out loud. Loud and strong. In fact, I Yahoo’d so loud people in my office actually talked about how loud I was — and how surprised they were I could be so loud!

So there! Take that you critter of wanting me to conform to not making a scene. I made one and it didn’t matter. It didn’t make a giant hole appear in the fabric of the universe to suck me into the forever vortex of embarrassment and shame!

It was on Friday. One of my co-workers had read my post about not Yahoo’ing and she insisted we go outside and Yahoo at the regular Stampede morning parade going by.

She was persistent.

So I did.

I went outside and we Yahoo’d and people smiled and we laughed and waved and it was all just a whole lot of fun.

And then, on Saturday  morning, at the Inn from the Cold Stampede breakfast sponsored by the Kinsmen Club, another parade marched by and I Yahoo’d out loud all over again.

Which goes to prove, being a yahoo isn’t just about not having a clue or being a little slow on the uptake. It’s also about doing things just because you can; Just because there’s no reason not to — other than that annoying critter in your head who would have you believe Yahoo’ing is for losers.

Seriously though, it wasn’t all that big a stretch. Though I will admit, I did have to work up to it. I did have to tell myself to stop being so self-conscious and self-important and just let it go, give in, yell out.

And it was quite satisfying. To simply yell at the top of my lungs. Even made the folk in the parade smile!

Yahoo!

Giving people a reason to smile is a great thing to do!

Giving people a reason to feel special is even better. And my co-worker who insisted I Yahoo out loud did just that.

Thanks JM!  You are special.


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It’s Stampede time in the city! Yahoo!

 

I laughed yesterday as I stood on the street corner waiting for to cross. It’s Stampede time in the city and there are daily parades everywhere. The parade that was holding me up from crossing the street yesterday had horses and First Nation’s chiefs and a big Stampede float with a bunch of people sitting on it, laughing and waving at everyone standing by waiting for it to pass.

They waved and called out, “Yahoo!” and I waved back.

I did not yell out, “Yahoo!” That felt silly.

Which is what struck me most. How concerned I was with the opinion of strangers.

The desire to not look silly, to not make a scene, is buried deep in my psyche.  Perhaps it stems from childhood when I was always spinning and laughing and chattering about this and that and continually calling out for the attention of the adults around me.

Don’t be so ridiculous. Stop making a fool of yourself. Stop it! People are looking. Calm down…

My monkey-mind critter knows these phrases well. He likes to repeat them in the most inopportune times and while I know he’s only trying to protect me, his concern is grating. His caution limiting.

Like when I want to feel part of the excitement going on all around me, and he reminds me not to do it because he fears I’ll look foolish.

Seriously?

How silly is that?

A bunch of people are riding by on a float doing exactly what I’m afraid to do because I’m worried others will look at me and say, “Look at that silly person!”  People in all likelihood whom I will never see again, I might add!

How often does that happen to you? You want to leap in but hold yourself back from taking the plunge because you might look too enthusiastic. Too excited. Too different. Too… silly?

Let it go.

Let laughter be your answer. Let your enthusiasm carry you away from holding back and leap in!

It’s okay. People may not think you’re silly. They may actually think, I wish I was courageous enough to do that too!

It’s stampede time in the city. There’s all sorts of yahooing! goin’ on!  Think I’ll saddle up and ride me a cowboy!  No! Wait! That’s rude. That’s not appropriate!  Real women don’t talk like that!  At least that’s what the critter says.

But it is kinda funny that ole’ expression. Sort of a ‘turn the tables on the cowmen kind of talk.

Nevertheless, let sanity and good taste reign. What I meant to say was… Think I’ll saddle up and join the parade!

Yahoo!