Dare boldly

A blog by Louise Gallagher


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Living life in all its colours is a Choice.

Living life in full colour
alcohol ink on yupo paper
5 x 7″
2019 Louise Gallagher

My heart is full.

After five days in the Choices Seminars room, I feel grounded, peaceful, whole.

Stepping into the Choices room felt like coming home. It felt so effortless and easy. So life-giving and fulfilling.

There is something miraculous about being in a room with people intent on finding their path out of the darkness — even when they walked into the room scared and full of trepidations that they don’t belong there, they don’t fit in, they are not welcome.

There is something so incredibly inspiring about witnessing hearts breaking through the walls their human has erected to keep themselves from feeling the pain of loss, the confusion of betrayal, the agony of grief.

We all do it to some degree or other. Life happens. We get hurt. Betrayed. Griefstricken and we desperately fight to keep ourselves safe from more pain, more sorrow, more loss. In our efforts to ease our pain, we build walls around our heart believing the wall will keep us safe. And then one day we realize, the wall has become a prison and we are trapped on the other side, convinced there is no way out. To make sense of finding ourselves imprisoned by the very walls we’ve built to keep ourselves safe, we tell ourselves, it’s better this way. We don’t need to feel, to breathe freely, to dance like no one is watching or live like this one life is a precious gift. We’re safer in our prison we tell ourselves and then we name it — our comfort zone, our safe place, our doing our best to get through the daily grind that has become our life.

The label is important to us. It has to be for us to make sense of the limiting beliefs that are holding our lives in check and our walls intact.  I’m okay in my comfort zone we say. I like it here. At least I know what to expect. At least no one can hurt me if I don’t let love in.

Imprisoned by our limiting beliefs we convince ourselves not to risk change, not to dare to try to fly, not to even breathe deeply. We’re safer that way.

There is no need to live imprisoned by our pasts, trapped in our belief we are not good enough, or too small, too big, too loud, too weak, too stupid, too much, too anything other than beautifully, exquisitely human.

But we do it. We convince ourselves our beautiful, exquisite human selves do not measure up to the expectations of voices from the past, the chaos and pain of the present or the fears of an unknown future. And in our pain and grief of having lost connection with the magnificent, exquisite human being we were born to be, we act out. We rage, we lie, we hide, we crumble beneath the weight of our sorrow, we strike out at the one’s we love, we beat ourselves up with our disappointments.

Last week, I got to witness the miracle of hearts breaking free, of minds awakening to the brilliance of their true selves and of human beings stepping into the truth of who they are when they let go of the past to live fearlessly and fiercely in the present.

I am so blessed.

Namaste.

 


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What do you want more of in your life?

Alcohol Ink on Yupo Paper
5 x 7″
2019 Louise Gallagher

This is my last post for a few days.  I am off to coach at Choices Seminars tomorrow — Long days. Short nights.  And I am excited.

There was a time when I coached at least 6 – 7 times a year.

It’s been almost 2 years since I’ve been in the room.

When I joined the team at the homeless shelter where I work, I struggled to balance worklife, homelife and such a significant volunteering commitment. Something had to give, and I let my Choices commitment go.

I am soooo excited to be back in the room for the next five days.

There is something incredibly enlivening and inspiring about being in a room where I get to witness miracles happening with every breath.

It doesn’t start out easy. Trainees walk into the room scared, confused, defiant, eager to learn, resistant to changing. They are all over the emotional map.

And then, slowly, they begin to get the idea that Choices isn’t about magic wands that will suddenly solve all their life issues and feelings of loss, unworthiness, separateness, loneliness.

Choices is about doing their own work to discover their own answers, their own way of being in this world that gives them the ‘more’ that they are looking for.

It’s one of the key questions we each get to explore in our lives, when we are willing to peel away the layers of past hurts and shame and fear and self-loathing that prevent us from seeing, ‘better is possible’.  The question is:  “What do I want more of in my life?”

For me, I want more time… to create, to spend with those I love, to laugh and sing and inspire others feel joyous and light. I want more space to simply be present in each moment, without worrying what the next will bring.

I want more of being me without the masks, without the fear that being me will bring ridicule, shame or blame.

I have been blessed. Thanks to a beautiful friend I trust deeply, I entered that room in April 2006 and began this amazing journey into peeling away the layers of the past so that I could be free in the present.

I am so grateful.

Thirteen years ago, my Choices journey began. At first, I was kind of dubious. Kind of, ho-hum, done all that digging, there’s nothing else about me I need to learn – or change — for that matter.

We don’t know what we don’t know until we’re willing to explore what’s possible when we give up believing we know it all, or that this is all there is. Blinded by our beliefs and fears and judgements over who we are, and who others are, we become stuck in the comfort zone of our unease and fear breaking free.

Over the past 13 years I have been in that room countless times and every time I come away with my own, ‘Ah Ha’s!’ that break me free just a little bit more, that give me just a little bit, or a whole lot, of what I want more of in my life.

In that room I have witnessed hearts breaking open, spirits breaking free and lives being changed for the better.  I have witnessed people choosing to drop their anger, pick up their self-esteem, walk away from relationships that were unhealthy, forgive themselves, forgive others.  I have witnessed those who felt so lost they only wanted their lives to end, claim their right to live. And I have watched miracles happen again and again as people awoke to the beauty and wonder of how incredibly powerful they are when they walk in their own truth.

I am off to coach at Choices tomorrow. Off to stand in a room where the common denominator is that our human journey is so much richer and fulfilling when we let go of what is holding us back from living the more of what we want in our lives.

No magic wands. No abracadabra’s. Just a whole lot of opportunity to walk alongside people as they learn new ways of being, new tools to use so that individually they can find their own answers to living the life of their dreams.

Namaste.

 

 

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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!

___________________________

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.