Dare boldly

A blog by Louise Gallagher


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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.

 

 


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Choices: Changing the world one heart at a time

Intersections Mixed media on canvas 10" x 16"

Intersections
Mixed media on canvas
10″ x 16″

Life is filled with crossroads, intersections, moments of choice. Which way to go? What to do next? Where to stop? Where to begin again?

For the next five days my choices have narrowed down to three very simple rules to follow:  Love the people. Love the people. Love the people.

I am off to coach at Choices for the next five days. Off to be part of hearts breaking open to beat fearlessly, minds setting themselves free of the past, lives opening up to possibility.

Coaching at Choices is always a good reminder for me to get present, get conscious, get compassionate.

It is an opportunity to be mindful of my actions, thoughts and words so that I bring my willingness to serve and be present for another into each moment. As a coach, my role is to hold the space for each trainee to trust themselves enough to know, their answers are not ‘out there’, they are inside their hearts. Inside their own knowing of what works, and doesn’t work in their lives. As a coach, I don’t have someone else’s answers. I only have good questions. The answers are theirs.

It is one of the many things I love about being in the Choices room. We are all so unique, different, complex individuals, yet, singular in our humanity.

We think. We feel. We know things. We see things. We understand things.

We act. We speak. We do and say things we mean. We do and say things we regret.

We carry our hurts, bury our pain, avoid our fears.

We laugh, we cry, we weep, we dance for joy.

We do all these things and still, we struggle to find the path to living fearlessly in the now.

We look at the past, wishing it could be different, wishing we can have it back.

We look at the future, fearing it won’t be different, fearing it will be the same.

And in this moment right now, we all have the power to change our minds and hearts to feel and see and know differently what happened in the past, and what is possible in the future.

In this moment right now, we all have the capacity to love fearlessly, live wildly beyond our wildest imaginings.

Tomorrow, I will step into the seminar room for five days of living and loving fearlessly.

Tomorrow, I will step into a circle of people who believe to change the world, we must first begin with our own hearts. In that space, we create a world of possibility for everyone.

Today, I am grateful. Excited. At peace. I am present, willing to do my part to change the world one heart at a time by living my life fearlessly, lovingly and compassionately, breath by breath. I am willing to serve and give my best to this moment right now so that my ripple can flow out into the world around me, in Love.

Namaste.

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I am off to coach at Choices for five days. See you next week.

 


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Facing the belief that is a lie.

yoda fear

Fear lives in my belly. It is that grumbly, rumbly, churning feeling of disquiet that eats away at my peace of mind. When I give into it.

Love lives in my entire being. It is that warm, soothing, tranquil feeling of quiet joy bubbling up to embrace my peace of mind. When I give into it.

Which one will I choose?  It is up to me.

I can’t try to ‘be fearful’. I am or I’m not.

Yoda said it best.

“Do or do not. There is no try.”

Which will you choose today?

To take the path to the dark side, or to keep walking the path into the light?

Will you allow your fearful thoughts to drag you down, or will you allow loving kindness to lift you up and draw you out of the darkness and hold you in the light?

It is your choice.

On the weekend at Choices Seminars, I had a moment of fear wash over me. I’d made a mistake in how I presented something to the group, and my mind went into hyper-active defensive mode when I heard my co-facilitator point out to me how stupid and unprofessional I was.

Now — here’s the thing. That is not what my co-facilitator said. All they really did was provide me some constructive feedback on how to do it better next time.

In my fear of making mistakes, of looking stupid in front of the group, of being shamed for not doing it right, my fear heard their feedback totally out of context to what they said.

In the moment, my fear rose up and heard condemnation. In the moment, my fear drove me away from courage and truth into the darkness of criticism.

I’d like to tell you I recovered right there on the spot. 🙂  Truth is, as soon as I could gracefully do so without drawing attention to myself, (which was at the first break) I left the room and went to the washroom, had a little pity party and then pulled myself together. When the session resumed, I stood in front of the group and continued.

 

And here’s the thing about those moments.

It was a breakthrough. A moment of such deep clarity and light I could not avoid the truth that came spilling up out of me as all night long I worried over and thought through the events of that evening trying to discern why my reaction to such a simple moment had been so visceral, so immediate, so violent.

The next morning, I awoke, tired yet really clear on what that moment of feeling shame at the front of the room represented. And in my enlightenment, the sun broke through the darkness and light illuminated my path in all its brilliant clarity.

Since a small, small girl I had held a belief within me that is not true. I didn’t even know the belief was there until such an insignificant moment erupted into a deep dive into truth and the ‘belief that is a lie’ rose to the top and screamed in my face and, I swear, felt like it was ripping my heart out.

I won’t go into the details of the ‘belief that is a lie’, I still have a lot of processing to do on it. I will tell you though that I am celebrating. I am dancing. I am shouting for joy. This ‘belief that is a lie’ has caused me a lot of pain, confusion and harm. On some deep subconscious level I have always been aware of its presence, lurking in the darkness, disturbing my status quo and jeopardizing my capacity to feel and know pure joy.

Now that I see it. Now that I know it. Now that I can face it, I can deal with it.

I am grateful.

I cannot heal or change what I do not acknowledge.

I acknowledge that the ‘belief that is a lie’ does not serve me well. It does not bring me the ‘more’ of what I want in my life.

Today, I choose to step boldly, confidently and joyfully onto the path of light, love and well-being.

Which path do you choose today?

 

Namaste.

 

 

 


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Share a Hug | 52 Acts of Grace | Week 4

 

acts of grace week 4 copy

When in an open-hearted space and place like the Choices Seminar room, it is easy to give generously. Of yourself. Your time. Your treasures and talents.

At the hotel where the Choices Seminar is held, participants are encouraged to be generous with their tipping — we are a large group and can at times overwhelm restaurant staff and other areas of the hotel. Being at Choices meant Week 3’s Act of Grace invitation to show my appreciation for people who served me was easy to fulfill on.

It also means, it takes me a few days to get out of “Choices” mode out in the ‘real world’. To not greet everyone I meet, whether in meetings or on the elevator, or in my office with a hug.

Maybe I should change that!

One of the things I say in the Choices room is that my dream is to create a world ‘out there’ like it is in here so that I can effortlessly be ‘out there’ as I am, as I feel, as I breathe in the Choices room. A place where everyone has the opportunity to feel loved, safe, supported. A place where mistakes are celebrated as opportunities to grow and learn and do better. Where people believe in themselves. Find their voices and sing out loud. Celebrate who they are. Love themselves in every condition.

And one way to create it that way, no matter where I am, is to offer hugs. To simply not listen to that voice in my head that whispers, “Don’t hug. They’ll think you’re weird. You’re invading their space. You’re being pushy. You’re over-stepping…”

Hugs are a powerful communication tool. Hugs require no special equipment. They’re easy to give and take. Hugs connect us and create a powerful bond between our humanity.

Yesterday, as I approached a table where a hotel staff was selling tickets for the Sunday Brunch, I didn’t even have a chance to say hello before she stood up, opened her arms and walked towards me. We shared a hug and then went about the business of the Sunday Brunch ticket, both of us smiling broadly.

What a wonderful gift!

To know that hugging means as much to the staff as it does to me. To know we are connected.

And let me be clear — 10 years ago, you would not have caught me hugging strangers, hotel staff, or most people for that matter.

Now, I love hugs. I love how for a moment, two people stand silently together, take a breath and simply share human touch and a moment.

Make special moments this week. Share your warmth and generosity of spirit through hugs.