Dare boldly

A blog by Louise Gallagher


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What makes you happy?

I dropped in to visit friends at Choices over the weekend. The seminar was in session so I knew there’d be lots of people there to hug and say hello to.

I wasn’t wrong.

It is what I love about visiting Choices friends. It’s as though whatever time has passed is erased and we are all standing, heart-to-heart, connecting on the deeper plane we each discovered exists when we went through the program. It’s the space the space that makes life so much more rich and vibrant.

At one point, I sat and chatted with a lovely woman whom I don’t see very often but when I do, always reminds me of the power of the human spirit to grow and heal and stretch and deepen.

I haven’t spent a lot of time with her, but today, as we sat and chatted about the things in life that have held us back from living the life we want, time wasn’t important. Our heart conversation was.

We talked about how the experience of going through Choices and using the tools in our lives has changed us and all our relationships. How we have both found our lives enriched and our capacity to use our voices strengthened.

One of the greatest gifts Choices has given me is the belief in myself and my right to be happy and my accountability for my own happiness. There was a time when I thought a man would make me happy. Or perhaps the right job, or more education, or more money, or more anything.

What I didn’t realize was that my search for externals was keeping me from diving into the one place where I would find the source of my discontent, and my happiness. My own heart.

Another friend commented that my life seems really busy. “It is,” I replied.

“Are you happy?” she asked.

I heard her question coming straight from her heart and stopped a moment to reflect. I took a breath. In. Out.

Am I happy?

I listened deeply to my heart.

“Yes,” I replied. “I am. And even more than happy, I’m content.”

“What makes you happy?” she asked sincerely.

Ahhh.. Well, of course my grandson. Daughters. My marriage. My life. Beaumont — of course.

But even deeper is my sense of fulfillment. My sense that the work I’m doing matters. That I matter.

A few weeks ago, when I took on the role of Interim Executive Director of the family emergency shelter where I work, I wasn’t thinking about my happiness. I was thinking about  how taking on this role was the right thing to do for the organization at this time.

Doing what I believe is the right thing makes me happy.

I hadn’t thought of that until my friend asked me, “What makes you happy?”

In many instances, I’ve been focused on how scary it is to step into these shoes. How daunting a task to try to stabilize an organization that has gone through a challenging period.

I haven’t thought about my own happiness. I haven’t had to.

In doing what I believe is the right thing, I have inherently created a sense of happiness within me. Because, to not do it would have left me disquieted. Uneasy. I would have felt like I was letting people down and while that’s not always a good enough reason to do something, there is a place in me that recognizes that being of service to others fills me up. It feels right within me. And when I feel right within me, I am happy.

I spent a few hours this weekend immersed in the world of Choices. It was a gift of time. Of connection. Of deep-feeling and listening.

It was also an opportunity to delve inside and connect to what makes me tick. What gives my life meaning. What brings me joy.

I am so blessed.

I have a life I love. I am surrounded by people who love and adore me and whom I love and adore.  I get to work everyday in a place where I find meaning and fulfillment. And I have friends who are willing to ask me the tough questions that give me pause to consider… What makes me happy?

What makes you happy?

 

 


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What’s holding you back?

I believe that when we are born, our unwritten stories hold the untold promises of our unique possibility.

And then, life happens and the promise of our potential becomes lost in the limits of our reality. We experience life in ways that we cannot imagine and, looking out through the eyes of a child, simply do not make sense. Ill-equipped to handle the sometimes harsh and bitter winds of life, we harden our hearts, build up walls, shut off feeling to cope with what we don’t understand and have no tools to cope with.

It isn’t that life set out to hurt us, it is that we were unprotected for far too long and learned to do anything that worked to keep from feeling the pain of whatever happened to us. In our need to protect ourselves from the pain we don’t understand, we end up hurting ourselves with the very limitations and beliefs we adopted to keep ourselves safe.

To justify wherever we’re at, we tell ourselves stories about how it’s safer this way. Safer to keep our hearts locked up, our feelings stuffed down, our senses shut off, if only because it feels less scary, less frightening, less everything to stay locked within than to risk letting our hearts run wild.

We grow up and fight to hold onto the limitations that we created to keep us from feeling the pain of being lost in a world that doesn’t make sense. We carry on until we are living in a box so small we are suffocating within its restrictions. We can’t breathe. We can’t move. We can’t feel.

But we don’t dare look at the walls of our box. We don’t dare attempt to break free because, remember… and we list the litany of things that life not safe out there… The last time you tried to break free your heart was broken, your hopes dashed, your dreams ridiculed. Remember? And our minds embrace the idea that keeping ourselves safe means locking our hearts and dreams behind the walls of our self-defenses so that nobody can touch us in a way that will hurt us ever again.

And life goes on and we become accepting of the idea, this is the only way it can be. This is the way I am and I am safer when I play the part I know.

But we wish…

We yearn for…

We want…

Freedom.

From the pain of living life one short breath at a time.

We wish…

We yearn for…

We want…

Freedom.

From the pain of walking on broken glass with every step we take.

We wish…

We yearn for…

We want…

Freedom.

From the pain of believing we are worthless, useless, unwanted, unloveable, un-everything we tell ourselves is true if only because, believing in the lie of our limitations is familiar. It’s safer. No one can hurt us if we don’t let them see into our hearts, we tell ourselves. And we shut down.

For years, I spent five days eight or nine times a year, immersed in Choices Seminars as a coach. In that room, I had the gift of being witness to people’s hearts as they opened up to the beauty and magnificence of their truth.

So much time spent breathing into the essential beauty of our human condition has left me feeling, humbled, joyful, grateful, hopeful.

We can change our world, one heart at a time.

In that room,  dreams awaken and hearts break open to find their own special beat. In that room, I have heard silent suffering become a powerful voice announcing to all the world, I am here. I am alive. I am willing to begin this journey of living my life on the outside of my comfort zone. I am willing to go for the gusto. I am willing to break free of the past so that today, in this moment right now I can breathe freely and soar higher than I ever imagined. Because, it doesn’t matter whether I take one baby step or one giant leap, it is my journey, my flight into freedom and no matter how I take it, I am worthy, deserving, capable of Love.

Choices Seminars is happening at the end of this month, as it does eight times every year, here in Calgary, Dallas and Vancouver.

Everyone deserves to let their heart run wild, their dreams soar, their pain ease.

If you’re looking for tools to help you run wild, set your dreams free to soar, or simply to find out more about the most fascinating person in your world (that would be you 🙂 ) I can’t think of a better, safer, more loving place than the Choices Seminars.

Go ahead. Give it a go. Click this link and find out for yourself!

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And just so you know, no one paid me, asked me or coerced me into writing this post or suggesting Choices. I just know what incredible value its created in my life and want everyone in the world to experience what can happen when they discover tools to live their best life yet!


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Self-Love: Where all things are possible.

I hope it is the start of a revolution. A new way of being and doing and connecting at work.

This past week, a co-worker, friend, a woman with a beautiful heart, attended Choices.

She fell in Love. With herself.

And from self-love, all things are possible.

On Wednesday, I dropped by the hotel where the seminar is held to leave a card for my friend and to say hello to some of the coaches.

It’s been a year since I’ve been in the room.  Last year, as I struggled to keep up with the pace at my former job and then started a new job, I took time off from coaching. It was needed medicine for myself. Time to simplify  my life, to create space to be more present to what was in my life without feeling stressed by all the “To Do’s” I had on my plate.

At least, that’s the story I told myself.

Walking into the seminar room on Wednesday morning I realized, it’s time I went back. It’s time I immersed myself in the joy, beauty, Love of that space where all things begin with self-love. Where all things are possible.

People often ask me why I volunteered so much of my time to the program or why I stayed involved.

When I suggest they try it out to find out for themselves, I often get a nervous laugh and a, ‘it’s not for me’, kind of response.

Choices is for anyone.

But often fear of the unknown prevents us from stepping beyond the edge of our familiar. Sometimes, it’s the fear that comes from believing inside ourselves is too risky a place to explore – what if it’s too dark to see? We tell ourselves that to explore our inner depths could put us at risk of completely falling apart with no way of being whole again.

All of that was true for me, yet, once I went through the program, I realized, as Winston Churchill famously penned,  I had nothing to fear — but fear itself.

In fact, my fear paled in comparison to all that I gained.

When I walked into the seminar room on Wednesday morning, even though I was only there for a few minutes, I remembered why I gave so much to the program and the people involved.

Because I receive so much more in return.

In my life there have been very few times when I felt 100% safe to be ‘all of me’. In the Choices room, I know I am safe.

In the Choices room, I know that people are not whispering behind my back, talking about my flaws, complaining about how I say this or do that or how I’m not participating enough or not doing it right.

In the Choices room, there is no judgement. Only Love.

So often in this world, we learn to not trust love. To be distrustful of one another.

To cope, we build up walls and defenses. We guard against possible hurts. We defend our position of remaining separate, believing that we need to protect the core of who we are against attack.

In the Choices room, I know I am 100% safe and from that place of feeling safe, I can be me. Completely me. All of me. Beauty and the Beast. Wisdom and Wounds. Perfections and Flaws.

It is an incredible gift. A beautiful thing.

And that’s why I’m hoping my friend’s having experienced the Choices revolution will create its own revolution at work.

Choices provides tools to live your life outside your comfort zone, wide awake, 100% in Love with me, myself and I and the world around you.

My dream is to have our entire leadership team experience the program so that we can connect on deeper, more authentic and meaningful levels. From that space, all things are possible. Including, ending child and family homelessness.

Namaste.


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Get naked with life

As teenagers, my sister and I liked to play tricks on each other (the naked truth — I liked to play the tricks, she tolerated them. I’m the youngest… what can I say? :)).

One night, a girlfriend and I decided that as my sister tended to sleepwalk, we’d play a trick on her. Laughing at our ingenuity, while my sister was sleeping, we took a bite out of a chocolate covered cookie and placed it on the pillow beside her head.

The next morning, she awoke with chocolate smeared all over her face and the sheets. She couldn’t figure out how the cookie got there.

We told her she was sleep-walking. (Naked truth again — we hadn’t counted on her rolling over onto the cookie and the heat of her face making the chocolate melt. We were a bit scared to tell her the truth, so…)

She believed us. For years (and years). Until thirty years later when I fessed up.

The truth is, I thought the story of her sleep-walking was way more interesting than the reality where I was the culprit and she the innocent victim.

The moral of the story? We all sleep-walk through life. It takes a conscious decision to get up close and naked with life for us to awaken from our dreams, and our nightmares.

Naked with life means stripping away the masks, the games, the excuses we employ to protect ourselves from loving intimacy with ourselves, and the world around us. It means, letting go of the stories we tell about why we fear being vulnerable, being real, being hurt.

It means letting go of our fear that life will hurt us.

Life will serve up hurts and pains, joys and triumphs. It’s up to each of us to decide how we want to carry life’s happenings. In secret. As a burden. As a deadly weight. As an opportunity to learn and grow and become more intimate with ourselves. The choice is always ours.

We are not separate from life, we are one with life.

This life, the one we’re living right now, is all we’ve got to live. When we choose naked contact with it, we are choosing to grow, to learn, to become more intimate with ourselves and in that intimacy, to grow vulnerable and real with the world around us.

Sure, we can stay all decked out in our stories. We can hold onto our fears and life will continue on. Day by grinding day.

To get naked, to reveal our true selves, to fall fearlessly and consciously in love with ourselves, is a constant journey into the wonder and mystery that sparkles within the multi-faceted, ever fascinating aspects of truly knowing, being, living as Me. Myself. and I.

Why not try it on? Get naked. Get real. Get living awake!

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One of the most fulfilling and rewarding ways I have ever found to get naked and real with my life has been through Choices Seminars.

And wouldn’t you know it — a brand new session begins today at noon. If you’re in Calgary and environs, you still have time to give yourself the gift of awakening to the wonder and mystery of you! I invite you to check it out!


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3 Things I learned through Choices

The world can be a harsh place. Filled with breath-taking beauty, it also holds inexplicable pain, suffering and terror.

It can be easy in today’s world to forget about the beauty. To believe the suffering and terror are consuming the love and joy, pushing it further and further back into an ever present darkness.

In the Choices Seminar room I am constantly reminded of the awe, beauty, and power of the human spirit, of our capacity to live IN LOVE and let go of fear.

There are many, many things being in that room teach me.

Here are 3 key take-a-ways from this past week.

  1. LOVE is always present. Choosing to embrace LOVE, know it, be it, is my choice.

I get to choose what I carry with my on this journey called life. I can ‘travel heavy’, burdened down by past regrets, choices, experiences, or, I can choose to accept this moment right now is all I have. What do I choose to fill it with?

I do not want to be consumed by fear, holding onto regret, clutching desperately to the past believing it will be my future. I have a choice. To hold on to what doesn’t work for  me anymore, or let it go and fill each moment with love.

It is my choice. To believe in Love or give into fear. And if I fall, or forget, or buy into fear, it is my choice to choose Love again and again, always.

2.  We are not alone.

We all have experiences in the past that have hurt us, caused us to falter, to stumble on our journey. And while my experience may be unique to me, and yours to you, we all share in this human experience. We are not alone on this human path.

When we risk telling our stories of pain and expressing our fears, we make room for others, including ourselves, to see into our hearts. When we choose to look into the heart of what makes us build walls to keep others out or push back against those who want to know us deeply or dig ourselves into corners and hide in darkened rooms, we create the possibility of light shining through, illuminating even the darkest corners of our fears.

When the light shines through its easier to see, we are not alone. There have been others in the darkness with us, yearning for the light too. And beyond the darkness, we can see those standing in the light reaching in to help us out.

3.  I can choose to be Right or Happy. It is my choice.

The need to ‘be right’ is seductive.  It convinces us that if we hold onto it, we will never be hurt, or disappointed, let down or feel out of control.

The challenge is, being right means someone else has to be wrong. And in that space, true intimacy, the one that is spelled “In-to-me-see” cannot happen. And without intimacy with those closest to us, we feel unseen, unheard, unknown, and disconnected.

We are human beings. We are hard-wired for connection. We can’t connect with others when we hold onto our need to be right.

Choosing to ‘be happy’ invites us into that beautiful space where there is room for others, along with ourselves, to feel seen, heard, known and connected.  It doesn’t mean we have to agree with other’s points of view, it just invites us into that space where other points of view are different, not wrong. And that’s okay.

Being in the Choices Seminars room these past five days has reminded me of my power to live each day with a loving heart and open mind.

It has renewed my commitment to walk my path believing in my worthiness and my capacity to create passion, delight and kindness all around me.

It has reminded me that we are all beautiful human beings sharing this space called Planet Earth, taking this journey together. We may live on separate continents, different towns and cities, but we all share in this human condition. And when we choose Love, we create greater possibility for peace to happen, miracles to appear and Love to blossom in every heart.

None of us are powerful enough to change another, but we can choose to change how we see ourselves and our capacity to create better in our world.

When we focus on how we are in the world, and look into our own hearts, we make space for others to share their heart’s desires too. In that sharing, we create opportunities to connect through Love so that hate and terror and war and abuse and a host of other human conditions that are hurting us, can be exposed and healed in the light of love.

Namaste.


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Choices: Simple tools to live life fully

I am off to spend five days in awe and wonder tomorrow.

I am off to coach at Choices Seminars where I will be immersed in the human journey.

It has been several months since I have been in the Choices room.

The demands of work, of striving to find balance in my world called for me to find my centre in the busy-ness of all that is around me.

Coaching at Choices is a volunteer activity. I choose to do it for the benefits of being part of experiencing the joy people feel when they open their eyes to the true wonder and beauty of who they are at their core.

Giving is Receiving and in the Choices Seminar room I receive the beauty of miracles all around.

It is a room where miracles are visible. They are visible in the broken hearts healing deep pains that have bound them up in confusion, disappointment, disillusionment and grief. In the wounded spirits freeing themselves from the darkness of the past to stand tall and proud in the light. In the silenced voices finding the courage to speak their truth.

For eleven years, I have volunteered my time to support others on their journey through the Seminar. For eleven years, I have been given the gift of continuous support on my journey of becoming all that I am when I let go of believing the lies I tell myself about why I need to play small in a great big world of possibility.

Eleven years ago, when I walked into the Seminar room, I didn’t really think I needed to be there. I had just spent three years deep-diving into healing from the pain of a relationship that had almost killed me. My book, The Dandelion Spirit, had just been published. I had a new job in the homeless serving sector, and I was writing and producing a documentary on The Young Canadians of the Calgary Stampede for Global TV. My daughters and I were reunited, healing the wounds of the past. My world was turning up aces! I didn’t need some self-help mumbo-jumbo to help me live better. I was doing great.

We don’t know what we don’t know. We cannot find new paths until we stop walking the old one’s.

Choices, I discovered, wasn’t about what I did in the world. It was about learning simple, yet powerful ways to do what I choose to do  — with heart, compassion, passion and integrity – no matter how dark, bumpy, lumpy, crooked or straight, smooth or light-filled my path.

Everything might have been going great, but if better is possible, why not go for the greatness of being fully alive, free of self-defeating games and limiting beliefs that would have me stumble whenever life’s curve balls took a swing at me?

My awakening didn’t happen all at once in the room. It happened slowly, over time, as I began to use the simple tools I was given in the room that would have a profound difference on my life and the world around me.

Like being courageous — to speak up when all I wanted to do was retreat. To step into conflict when all I could think about was hiding. To stay true to my values, my beliefs, my right to be heard when my habit was to smile and pretend everything was okay in the face of everything not being alright.

Choices isn’t a magic pill. It is a profoundly moving and shifting experience that provides simple tools and practices to live life outside your comfort zones. In Choices, you’re not told how to live. You’re provided a loving space to look at yourself and see where what you are doing is, or is not, working for you anymore. And in that space, to make your own decision and choices to create the life you choose to live.

Life is a journey best taken in Love.

In the Choices Room, I am grateful I get to walk beside people as they fall in love with the person they spend their whole lives with, themselves.

I am off to coach at Choices tomorrow. It promises to be An Adventure of a Lifetime!

See you next week.

Namaste.

 

 


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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.