Category Archives: Essential Journey

The Rainbow Chasers Guide to Changing the World through Loving Self-Talk

You can be hard on yourself or kind to yourself.

Either way, you’ll get things done.

The hard way will be harder. The kind way will be easier.

The hard way, or the easy. Which do you choose?

I know, it sounds so simple. Just be kind to yourself and it will all work out.

Being kind to ourselves isn’t all that easy when the habit of being hard on ourselves takes up most of our inner conversation.

Many years ago, I kept track of the number of times I gave myself negative self-talk versus positive. I carried around a little notebook and for one week I made a check mark in either the negative or positive column on the page.

It kind of made me want to cry to see how much the negative outweighed the positive.

It was definitely an eye, mind and heart opener.

I sure wouldn’t want to hang around me if I was constantly shedding negativity into the world.

Oh wait! I was. And I was holding it all inside me. Ugh.

Hanging around with myself wasn’t a choice. The choice was, what was I willing to do to make the experience of being with me more enjoyable?

Right.

Change my relationship with me.

I’m not saying it was an easy transition, moving from always talkin’ sh*ttalk to myself to being a voice of gentle loving-kindness. But it sure made a difference once I made the decision to stop the sh*ttalk and get with the “I’m okay. I’m human” talk.

For me, it meant ensuring the ‘Positive’ column in my notebook was filled with more check-marks than the negative side. My consciousness of that goal kept me aware of my inner talk. Every time I caught myself saying something negative to myself, I had to find one positive to match it. That way, at least the negativity didn’t grow into the longer column!

Eventually, I moved from one positive to two until, now, when I do say something negative to myself, like ‘how could you be so stupid?’ or, “Seriously? What were you thinking?” I quickly breathe in (deeply) and give myself grace. “It’s okay Louise. You made a mistake. Your job is to be accountable for your mistakes, not give yourself a life sentence of grief.”

See, sometimes, when I do make mistakes, like say something that hurts someone, or do something I’m not all that proud of, I want to revert back to that place where my mistakes are worthy of my being whipped, tarred and feathered. In those moments, I must surrender my need for punishing myself by making myself ‘not okay’ and call on grace to love me through it.

We are all ‘okay’. It’s our behaviour that can be optional. And when our behaviour gives evidence to our not being as okay as we’d like to be, then we work on our behaviour.

Changing behaviour isn’t about working on our essential goodness, our inherent human magnificence. Those are givens. They are universal in all humanity. Remember?  We are born magnificent and then… life interferes and gives us reasons to doubt our magnificence. Our job then becomes remembering what we forgot so long ago, we worry it no longer exists.

That’s our universal human journey. Returning to love and our inherent magnificence.

What’s not so universal and not such a given is that we treat ourselves, and each other, with dignity, respect, kindness, Love.

And that’s where the work is — in shifting our behaviours to be a reflection of the values that make this world a better place.

We can make it hard. Or do the easy.

The easy begins with talking nicely to ourselves so that our hearts are at ease, our minds calm and our spirits lifted up by our generosity of spirit.

From that place, well let’s just say, changing the world becomes a cakewalk! (Okay maybe not quite so Pollyanish but if we’re all talking nice to ourselves, we’ll be talking nice to everyone else too!)

See, the Rainbow Chasers Guide to Changing the World through Loving Self-Talk! Easy-peasy!

Acceptance in Every Peace of My Heart

Ahh. Acceptance. Of self. Beauty and the Beast. Yin and Yang. Light and Dark.

Sister Joan Chittister writes:

Self-knowledge gives us perspective, and self-esteem gives us confidence, but it’s self-acceptance that gives us peace of heart.

One of the most challenging things I have ever done is to accept myself as a mother who once was so lost she believed the only path to peace of heart was to desert her daughters.

It’s a long story.

The short version is, I got lost in an abusive relationship and lost myself. In that dark place, I held no mercy for me. I was beyond saving.

I believed the only way to save my daughters was to leave them. Because without me in their lives, I believed they would be free to live their lives without the pain and shame of me and all I’d done to hurt them.

Learning to love and accept myself as that mother was not easy. Especially when the question I asked myself everyday was, “What kind of mother would do that?”

And while the answer was wrapped up in the pain and trauma of being abused, I had to practice self-compassion and mercy every single day — for a long time, whether on some days I wanted to or not —  to get to a place where I could look at that woman who was, and is, me and say, “I forgive you. I love you.” I had to be willing to give up beating her up with my anger, pain, sorrow, shame and accept her brokenness with all my heart.

And then, I had to commit to walking in mercy every day to live with peace of heart and mind so that I could find the grace to create love and joy, peace and harmony in my world.

I had to stop using what happened as an excuse to not turn up in my life today. I had to quit telling myself I was a victim or even a survivor. I was a victor and I had to don my victor’s robe of glory over adversity, beauty over pain, love over fear, mercy over judgement.

I could not stand in the light if I was constantly turning off the lights of my own magnificence. Standing in my magnificence (and not judging it as tarnished, bruised, unworthy of being seen) was essential if I was to be a light and a safe haven for myself and others.

I had to, and still have to, practice radical mercy on my heart. Because magnificence does not come with a clean slate. It arrives wrapped up in everything I am, including all the wounds and scars, darkness and fears of me, myself and I.

And accepting who I am, all of me, is the path to peace of heart.

I can know myself and live confidently as myself, but to live in the wholeness of peace of heart, I must accept not just my wisdom but also my wounds, not just my light but also my dark, and not just my beauty but also my beast.

I invite you, just for today, to practice radical mercy on yourself. Stand in  front of the mirror, look deeply into your eyes and say out loud, “I forgive you. I love you. I accept all of you in my heart.”

And so it is.

Namaste.

The Exquisite Unknowing

It is the exquisite beauty and angst of this journey called life. So much is unknowable. When you name ‘the something’ you think you know, it is changed and you begin again the quest to know that which is unknowable.

And still, we try to know it, name it, place it. To hold it fast. To let it go.

Like the silence. It is unknowable and immune to our entreaties for certainty we exist within the silence, that we will be heard within its deep embrace.

These thoughts come to me this morning as Beaumont the Sheepadoodle and I wander the woods that line the river where he likes to play.

Autumn’s golden hues are sprinkled amidst the still green leaves of summer. The air is fresh. The river cold.

Yesterday I walked these same paths. They were different then. I could not know what I would experience today. Today was unknowable to me yesterday and anything I think I know today, will be different tomorrow.

I could not know the experience of ‘retirement’ until I entered into it. It is different than I imagined. Filled with the mystery and wonder that arises within me as I journey deeper into its unknowning. Filled with feelings I had never experienced and could not conveive of until I entered its sacred space.

In its complexity lies its simplicity, the paradox of change and growth. What was becomes different, filled with what was and the what wasn’t known before. And as soon as I name it, it becomes unknowable again for in the naming what I believe I know, I create space for all I do not know to enter.

What do I not know cannot be answered with words. It must be experienced, felt, rested within for it to become part of my being who I am when I let go of believing I know everything there is to know about me, myself and I.

We are all the magician and the performer, conjuring up stories we tell to make sense of who we are in a world of mystery. Steeped in the dichotomy of being unknowable from the outside in. With every surrender of knowing what we believe to be true about ourselves, we journey deeper into the mystery of being our true selves in the unfathomable mystery of life.

In embracing our journey as not being defined by who we think we are, we discover the exquisite unknowing of all we thought we knew about our true selves. In wonder and awe of all we do not know, we discover we truly are magnificent.

I had a wonder-filled wander with Beaumont this morning.

I am grateful for the unfolding of my unknowing.

May we each fall into the joy of unknowing who we think we are to discover how magnificent we truly are.

Namaste.

 

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The Age of Grace

 

I am sitting in meditation when a question slips into my mind as effortlessly as a leaf falling to the ground, ” I wonder if a rose resents its petals for losing their bloom?”  Or the tree for that matter. Does it resent the leaf for dying and falling?

I am getting older. I know. Amazing right? But wait. So are you. We all are. It is the inevitable drawing of time that began when this sacred journey of our life was first conceived.

And the fact is, while I may sometimes look askance at the evidence of time’s weathered marks etched into my skin, resenting it is like the tree resenting the falling leaf.

It makes no difference to the leaf (nor to time for that matter) how the tree experience’s its fall. Just as it makes no difference to ‘life’ how I weather my journey. It does, however, make a significant difference to me and my experience of life, how I navigate the inevitability of aging.

Holding myself in a sea of resentment at all I tell myself I’ve lost, I lose precious time to sing and dance, laugh and play, create and learn, Love and be loved.

Holding myself in joyful acceptance of all I learn and experience with every passing moment, I gift myself time to live joyfully with grace in this moment right now, dancing and laughing, spinning about, leaping for joy and embracing all of life’s wondrous gifts at every state of my journey.

Sitting at my desk right now, looking out the window at the trees that line the river, I watch a golden leaf release its hold on a tiny branch and drift slowly to the ground.

It does not rush. It does not plummet. It dirfts, effortlessly, enraptured by its timeless dance with gravity and air. Light. Joyful. Grace in motion.

The leaf will fall. The seasons will turn. Time will pass. Life will continue to evolve and each of us will continue to age until all that is left are the memories we leave behind and the Love we knew, the Love we shared, the Love we embraced.

We come into this world through an act of Love. All we can carry with us when we leave is Love and all we can leave behind is Love.

How we fill in the pieces between the Love is up to each of us.

It’s my choice whether I fall through time resisting gravity’s pull, or let gravity hold me in its loving embrace as I fall through time joyfully dancing in a sea of grace.

 

Namaste.

 

 

 

The Inviolable Truth of Worth and Belonging

Painted fabric on Canvas Paper and acrylic paints — 11 x 14 — Love Knows The Way ©2019 Louise Gallagher

It seems so simple. To trust in Love. To believe the light is lighting the path through the darkness. To know that, even though you can’t see the next step clearly, the way to the light is to trust in the earth beneath your feet.

So why then, is it so easy sometimes to get lost in the belief Love is fickle and the glaring light is actually a fast approaching train? And the ground will rise up to hit you if you take that step?

I have been pondering these questions (and others) recently as I struggled with the voice inside that would have me believe, I am not worthy. I do not belong.

There was a time when running away from the tough questions would have been my answer.

I have learned that running away doesn’t bring answers. Just more questions I’m trying to avoid.

I have learned that standing in the dissonance of my unease is the path to my peace of mind and ease of heart.

It ain’t easy. Sometimes, I truly do just want to turn my back on my own angst and say, “Get over it, Louise. Grow up.”

Challenge is, it isn’t about over, under or even through. It’s all about being within it, (whatever the angst) to grow into the learning that is pushing its way up out of the depths of my being.

Being present has its rewards, and its risks. Sometimes, the voice of wisdom rises up out of the depths of my heated inner debates to surprise me with the obvious.

I love hot baths. Hot baths and my morning coffee, a book and classical music are my ‘heaven on earth’ go to wake up call.

Challenge is, sometimes, the mix of hot water in the tub and my morning latte creates a temperature I just can’t take. (Hmmm… perhaps I need to only take baths in the evening so I can drink wine instead!)

Yesterday morning, as I lay in the bath telling myself if I just stayed there long enough my body temperature would adjust to the too hot water, I’d be able to stand the heat.

And that’s when the voice of wisdom broke through the surface and showered me with its brilliance.

“What are you trying to prove?” it asked gently. “That you can take it?”

“Well… yes,” I replied. I was thinking it was kind of obvious that was what I was doing so why on earth would the voice of wisdom be asking me such a ridiculous question.

“Why?”

And that’s where I got stuck. Why indeed?

What did I have to prove?

I started to laugh.

I had nothing to prove and a lot to learn.

I turned on the faucet and added some cooler water to the bath.

Sometimes, the most loving thing you can do for yourself when you feel like you’re swimming in hot water is to cool it off.

It’s not about proving I’m tough. It’s about learning how to let go of believing a tough skin will protect me from life’s inevitable slings and arrows.

Only Love can do that. Because in Love’s embrace I don’t need protection. I am always safe.

In Love’s embrace I don’t question my belonging or worth. I know it’s truth is inviolable.

Namaste

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And yes… I’m trying out a new design format for my blog. I’d love your feedback. Thanks!

The Darkness and The Light

When I was a little girl I remember my mother being very sad. My father was away a lot and she was far from her motherland.

Her first language was French. She was used to heat and sun, to servants taking care of everything, to living a carefree life surrounded by family, the sounds and smells of India where she was born and raised and the Catholic faith that had filled her life with meaning.

And there she was, no family to support her, raising four children mostly on her own, ill prepared for the loneliness and coldness of a Canadian winter and the harshness of the landscape. All she had to cling to was her faith, and in that she felt God had foresaken her to this foreign land so far from home. She was lost.

My mother seldom yelled or screamed. One of her favourite sayings was, “If you can’t say it in a whisper, don’t say it at all.”  She did cry. A lot. Sometimes, when she was really desperate, she’d hold a knife to her breast and threaten to kill herself.

I remember as a five-year-old standing in front of her, confused, terrified, not understanding what was happening. I learned to smile through her pain. To never show I was afraid. To never acknowledge my fear. Somehow, the knife was always put back in the kitchen drawer and life would go on. I still struggle to let go of smiling when I’m in pain.

My mother’s mental health overshadowed all our lives. We became accustomed to her mood swings, her habit of crying while making supper and ironing my father’s shirts, her seemingly irrational fears and her constant caution to ‘be careful’.

As a teen, I began to resent my mother’s tears, her constant sadness, and what I deemed her unending criticism of me and my life. I could never do things right enough for my mother. I was always causing trouble she would tell me before asking, “Why can’t you be like the others?”

My mother’s journey through life has been constantly overshadowed by her mental health. She is 97 now. She finally got help in her 80s. That’s a long time to live in the darkness before finding the peace of heart and mind she’s always sought.

I no longer resent my mother and even though she’d often ask why I hated her so, I never hated her. I just never understood her. And the truth is, I always loved her. She gave me the gift of my life, and many other gifts too.

Because of her mental health, I learned to differentiate between ‘the person’ and the behaviour.  The person is ‘the person’. I can love the person. I do not have to love their behaviour. Behaviour can change. As an adult, I had to change mine so that I could let go of my anger and find peace in my relationship with my mother.

Albeit awkwardly at times and sometimes not soon enough or steadfast enough, my relationship with my mother taught me that I needed to set boundaries. In my 60s now, I still struggle with this one, but I’m getting better.

I learned that seeking help is important. I first started seeing a therapist in my 20s. I had to. I thought I was ‘the crazy one’. I thought my mother’s sadness and tears were all about me. And while I no longer have my therapist on speed dial, I know when the darkness clouds my thoughts, it’s time to call to get some light.

I learned my behaviour, who I am, is all about me. I am the only person I can work on and I am deserving of my loving care and attention.

I learned that I can’t change what is happening in another person’s mind. I didn’t create it. I can’t cure it.

I learned that I’ve got to take care of my mental health first.. I can’t do the work for another, but when my mind is clear, I am not at risk of climbing into the darkness with them and can hold the light steady as they find heir way out of the darkness into life.

And I learned it is not helpful nor healthy to defend against what someone is saying or doing when they are lost in the darkness. Loving them is and I can choose to always keep loving them, though sometimes I must do it from a distance to keep myself safe from the darkness.

All these things I learned from my mother and her journey.

The darkness is real. So is the light. The light is more powerful than darkness because when you stand in the light, you can see where you’ve been, where you are and where you’re going.

In the darkness, all you can see is that there is no light.

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According to the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention, today in Canada 10 people will end their lives by suicide; up to 200 others will attempt so.

For each death by suicide, between 7 and 10 survivors are profoundly affected. Today in Canada, suicide will leave up to 100 people in a state of bereavement. Latest research shows there were 3,926 suicides in the year 2016 in this country. In 2015, over 3,396,000 Canadians aged 12 and over had suicidal thoughts.

Tuesday, September 10th was World Suicide Prevention Day. Let’s all stand in the light together.

 

The Eagle Soars (Day 22 – 30 Day Art Project) Haiku #6

Day 22 – 30 Day Art Project. Mixed Media on Canvas Paper; 11 x 14″. Haiku #6

“Once there was an eagle who thought he was a chicken. Left at birth in a chicken coop, all he knew was how to peck at the dirt, scrabble for grub and walk around strutting his stuff like he was the best dang chicken in the yard.

And he was, until one day an eagle spied him from on high and wondered, “Why is that eagle acting like a chicken?”

Wanting to find the answer, the eagle swooped down and landed in front of the eagle who thought he was a chicken.

All the chickens in the yard were terrified. They raced to the coop, slammed the door and hid inside.

Not the eagle who thought he was a chicken. He was the best dang chicken in that yard and he could stand up to an eagle. And that’s what he told the eagle.

“You don’t scare me. I’m the best dang chicken around. You don’t belong here.”

The eagle was surprised. “You don’t belong here either,” he said. “You’re an eagle. Your wings are designed to soar high.”

The eagle who thought he was a chicken stuttered and spewed. “I am not an eagle. I am a chicken!”  He stomped his great eagle talons in the dirt and threw back his head to show off his mighty eagle beak.

“Ummm…. I don’t think so,” replied the eagle who knew what he was talking about. “Let me prove to you that you’re an eagle. Come, take one flight with me and you’ll know the truth.”

The eagle who thought he was a chicken thought a moment before answering.

“Ok,” he said. “I’ll fly with you but first, you have to let me go to the coop and say good-bye to my family. They will be worried about me if I’m gone too long.”

The other eagle was standing between him and the chicken coop and that’s where safety lay. In the coop.

“Sure thing,” said the eagle who knew what he was talking about as he stepped aside to let the eagle who thought he was a chicken pass. “I’ll wait right here.”

And with that, the eagle who thought he was a chicken raced to the chicken coop. Flung the door open, entered its dark confines, slammed the door shut and exhaled a sigh of relief.

“See!” he said to the wide eyes chickens he called his family. “I am not only the best dang chicken in this coop… I’m the smartest. I just outsmarted that eagle!”

And all the chickens praised him for being such a smart chicken because through their chicken eyes, they truly could not see he was an eagle born to soar on high.

Every heart needs a home, and every person needs to have a place to belong.

Sometimes, we mistake where we’re at as that place. Sometimes, we confuse our titles, our degrees and accomplishments, our belongings, talents and accolades and our origin story, as our place of belonging.

Belonging comes from within. It is the knowing that, as Maya Angelou described it:

“You only are free when you realize you belong no place — you belong every place — no place at all.”

It is the dichotomy of belonging. We yearn to be or do or have something that will quell the fear within that we don’t fit in anywhere. Propelled by our fear, we adapt ourselves to suit the world around us to fit in somewhere. And in our adaptations, we lose the one place we truly belong, within our hearts, true to our own self — which leaves us nowhere out there to belong, other than everywhere, or as Brene Brown writes in Braving the Wilderness:

“True belonging is the spiritual practice of believing in and belonging to yourself so deeply that you can share your most authentic self with the world and find sacredness in both being a part of something and standing alone in the wilderness. True belonging doesn’t require you to change who you are; it requires you to be who you are.”

You can clip an eagle’s wings so it cannot soar.

You can dim your own light so you will not shine.

Whether you hide out in the chicken coop of your thinking you don’t fit in or fit in where you don’t belong, or strut your stuff believing you’re a rock star because nobody can see how scared you are of shining your light, you cannot belong anywhere without first belonging to yourself.

Your answer does not come from ‘out there’. It comes from and lives always within the sanctuary of your being at home with being true to your beautiful, magnificent, brilliant self, fearlessly breathing life into the sacredness of being who you are, always.

Namaste

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A note on the eagle story — I heard this story years ago in a video of Eldon Taylor. It’s one of my favourites.