On Saturday, I took a four hour workshop with Dr. Minette Riordan, “TheSacred Garden: Spring Cleaning for Your Creative Spirit.”
The workshop was enriching, inspiring and very grounding. In our four hours spent writing and creating a circular ‘vision map’ of the Sacred Garden in our world right now, I discovered something really, really important to me.
One of the things Minette does in her workshop is ask really good questions. Like, really good.
Minette’s questions took me right into the core of what’s important to me and what I want to do in the world in this time in my life right now.
I am grateful.
Holding space for voices to find their unique song, beat and path underpins much of my creative expression.
Creating sacred and courageous space for all voices to be heard, honoured and celebrated is part of what I want to do more of in the world.
That’s how I feel after spending four hours with Minette and the other women in the course. Listening to the conversation, the sharing, being part of the circle really helped me gain clarity.
I was ready. A guide appeared. Creating with her guidance I gained clarity and confidence in what I want to do next in this, the Third Act of my life.
So…. stay tuned! More about that later.
For now, I’m in the fluffing up of my wings, stretching the tendons and muscles, ensuring they are ready to stretch wide and lift me up stage of my Learning to Fly.
Attitude and Actions No. 7 & 8
Be brave. Let courage draw you to the edge and passion lift you up
Close your eyes, imagine the feeling of flight – repeat often
There are moments when the mundane feels so heavy, the woes so full of dark clouds gathering and the worries so close in, that I forget I have room to breathe. To move. To do. To be. To change.
In those close-in to the darkness moments, it’s easy to forget that I am part of something bigger than just these woes and worries illuminating my flaws with their 1,000 watt klieg-worthy glaring light. Or their words spewing out from TV newscasters mouths or plumping up Twitter threads full of bile or just cluttering up my day with their insistence I pay attention to all that is wrong with me and the world today.
In those moments of forgetting all the room around me for other things to take up the space of woe and worry, I will tell myself, there’s nothing I can do. I am too flawed. Too tired. Too lost to change anything.
It is in those moments I must remind myself that I can breathe. Not just your everyday, ordinary take a gulp of air and keep on going kind of breath, but a deep, sinking into my toes, filling me from the bottoms up kind of breath that soothes and replenishes, nurtures and reminds me to Stop-Breathe-Listen-See-Feel-Be-Here-Now-I am the Breath of Life – kind of breath.
In that breath where I find myself breathing in the exquisite beauty of all there is Here-Now -in that breath empty of the flotsam of life swimming around in a sea of news and forgettable TV shows I watch only because I’ve forgotten I’m part of something so much bigger, so much greater, so much more mysterious, magical and mystical than this everyday life I tell myself is my burden I gotta keep trudging through, on and on and on, I am reminded – life is a gift. A beautiful, exquisite, priceless gift. Mysterious, magical, mystical, 4th of July fireworks exploding, rollercoaster-fast heart-pounding fierce, breathless kind of gift wrapped up in the miracle of life.
In that breath I am reminded, I Am Alive.
What a beautiful gift. To be alive. To be. Here. Now.
These are the moments to savour.
These are the moments to remember. To grab onto and never let go. To remind myself, I have power over me. I have power in me. I have power. To change. To get accountable. To not be ‘my flaws’ but to see my flaws as part of my beautiful, exquisite human magnificence.
And in those moments I get to choose.
To make excuses for how I am or celebrate who I am, right now, in all my human contradictions, complexities, curves and straight lines adding up to one amazing being who has the power to stand up, speak up, and take action to create change that matters. Change that could just save my own life from being my excuse for not living it truly, madly, deeply in love with all I am and all I do and all I have in this moment, right now.
These are the moments to live. Always.
And to remember to Breathe.
Breathe it all in
and Begin Again.
Breath by life-giving breath to stop making excuses for myself and start living fully accountable for this life that is so precious, so divinely orchestrated, so…. mine.
Yesterday, when I stepped into the sheltering welcome of my studio, the muse whispered a tantalizing thought “He gave her words.”
Curious, I followed her lead.
I tore a page from an old book I keep on hand for just such occasions. I pulled out my GelliPad (a rubbery mat used for mono printing) and laid some colour down. Using the round end of a paintbrush, I drew a vase and flowers, laid the book page down and pulled a print.
The words on the page showed through. Cool. I kept going.
Pulled out a piece of deli paper, laid some more paint down (mostly darks), made more marks and pulled another print.
On the canvas paper page of my art journal, I collaged strips of paper from an old dictionary onto the page. The words defined on the torn strips all had to do with flowers. I collaged the deli paper printed page and then the printed book page onto the background and set to work creating a cohesiveness to the piece with paint pens, markers and fingerpainting – I had decided, somewhere in the process, that I wouldn’t use any brushes on this page. So I didn’t.
When I was finished, I placed my hands on the page, took a breath, closed my eyes and asked, “What words do you yearn to release?”
And the poem below came into being.
I am sharing my ‘process’ because it is, in so many ways, a reflection of life. We start with a desire to live life as best we can. We set goals. Follow dreams. Discover and use our talents. We gain knowledge. Expertise. Experiences. We layer on wounds. Scars. Cracks. They form the stories we tell ourselves about why or how we can or can’t do something. Those stories, made up of all the words we use to tell them to ourselves, again and again, create pathways, ruts, habits. Sometimes, we question their existence. Often, we accept them as natural limitations.
And then, one day, if we’re lucky or if we’ve hit such a devastating patch we cannot fathom how we will go on, we have no other choice but to start questioning the stories we’ve told ourselves about how we got to this dark and foreboding place. In our questioning, we start to unravel the words that formed those limiting beliefs that trapped us in believing this, this place where we feel so lost and alone and hopeless, is really all there is. Isn’t there more?
And then, if we’re really, really quiet, if we’re really, really still, we hear that voice deep within calling us to awaken. To open our eyes and heart and arms to the infinite mystery of who we are when we stop questioning our right to live wild and free and outrageously ourselves.
That’s when we begin the journey back to our truth. To the stories we tell ourselves, not of our limitations but of our limitless capacity to live wild and free and outrageously ourselves.
Yesterday, I stepped into the studio and the muse whispered, “He gave her words.”
I did not question, “What does that mean?”
I did not ask myself, “How on earth am I going to create something around ‘that’.”
Instead, I dove in. I let my intuition, my inner knowing guide me, unquestioning, into the creative expression of the muse’s invitation. I allowed ‘whatever yearns to appear’ to appear as I expressed myself without limiting my expression of my intuition by listening to all I tell myself I know about words and making sense of them or art and all I know about making it happen.
I stepped into the studio yesterday. I let go of ‘knowing’ and allowed myself to be present to the process of unveiling the mystery of what was seeking to be revealed.
And in the end, isn’t that what life is? A journey of exploration? A great mystery to be revealed with every step we take in its unfolding? Wild and free and outrageously ourselves.
He Gave Her Words
by Louise Gallagher
He gave her words
ripe and plump
of plundered promises
from the strings
playing a melody
he vowed would never die
with the turning of each season.
He gave her flowers
colourful and bright
cast upon indolent days
beneath a summer sun
hot against her skin.
He gave her promises
beneath autumn’s kisses
upon the frozen ground
of winter’s ice-cold breath.
He gave her words.
She gave her heart.
His words faded.
Her heart beats.
Fierce and free
of his words.
I am meditating on the question, “What has this time of Covid and its slivers and shivers of fear running through every thought, action, moment have to teach me?”
My facile mind wants to answer, “I don’t know.”
The wise woman within asks, “If you did know what would you know?”
I know that at the beginning of Covid’s restrictions, when people said, “Be safe” I’d wonder, what on earth does safety have to do with these times? Be well. Be healthy. Take care. Those make sense to me. But safety?
I wear my arrogance like a mask as if donning it will keep me safe from feeling afraid.
Over the past year of sequestered solitude, of spending time exploring grief and loss, silence and solitude, I’ve learned that safety isn’t about just the physicality of my life. It’s the whole shebanga. It’s feeling safe in my heart, my body, my mind, my spirit. It’s all of me and trusting that ‘all of me’ to be enough to keep me safe from self-harm as well as external danger.
At the beginning, I thought saying, ‘be safe’ was just instilling fear into everyone’s minds. I thought wearing a mask would make me look foolish.
Yet there I was, wearing masks of my own hubris, separating me from feeling the fear that would allow me to recognize the truth.
I needed fear to ensure I did the right things during this time. I needed that fear to compel me and inspire me to take actions to safeguard my health as well as my beloved’s and the health and well-being of those I love and care for. My family, friends, community.
Fear, in the time of Covid, is a great motivator. It doesn’t immobilize me. It mobilizes me to take right actions.
I am freefall writing and smiling as I write.
The gift of freefall writing is its capacity to allow the words to flow out my fingertips without engaging my mind in their creation.
It is a process rife with uncertainty.
Uncertainty is good for my soul. My hubris. It brings me back to the centre of who I am when I let go of wearing the masks of attitudes that do not serve me.
I used arrogance as my protection. It did not serve me well.
Arrogance is not a great dance partner. It assumes it knows better, can do better and create better than those who are doing the hard work of doing and creating better.
I want to stop and go back and edit. I know that’s just fear talking.
Will I be revealing too much if I let this post stand as written? Will I look… foolish?
Ah yes. The fear of looking foolish.
Such an inhibitor. Such a waste of energy, time, life.
Looking foolish is good for me. It keeps me playing in the field of possibility. It keeps me testing boundaries, pushing myself outside my comfort zone, moving beyond the edges of what I tell myself I know, into the bottomless mystery of all I don’t know about myself, the world around me, life itself.
I am freefall writing and letting my words stand as what has appeared in this moment.
I am awakening uncertainty to claim my right to be, Me.
And I am letting go of the masks I wear that I tell myself will keep me safe.
The only mask I need to feel safe and be safe in this world today is the one that protects me and the world around me from Covid’s sinister reach.
I mean, Leonard Cohen said it. “The cracks are how the light gets in.”
And if you’re human, there are bound to be cracks and broken places in your heart. It’s life. Few of us intend to hurt another, or cause ourselves pain. But we do.
The secret isn’t to avoid the pain. It’s to allow our hearts to grow through it. With it. Because of it.
Yesterday at the park, I met a woman I’d chatted with last week. She’s not a dog owner but she has a son whose dad (he’s her ex-husband) has a dog and who is currently laid up and unable to walk him. So she’s doing it. Which I thought was very kind.
“He’s my son,” she said. “I love him.”
We chatted some more about exes and raising a child on our own and parted ways.
Yesterday, as she walked towards me she said, “I thought I knew you the last time we met but I couldn’t figure out where and then I wondered… I watch a lot of crime TV. Are you…?” And she paused and looked at me expectantly.
I smiled. I knew exactly what she was talking about. “Yup. That’s me.” I replied.
And she got very excited. “OMG. Really. That’s amazing and wow. You look so happy.”
I laughed and said, “I am.”
We went on to chat some more about the program she had seen. The one where the story of my journey through the relationship from hell is told. Even though it was filmed many years ago, it still runs on OWN.
“I’m so sorry you had to go through that,” she said at one point.
I said, “I’m not. I have an amazing life today and healing from that relationship gave me an opportunity to grow and learn and fall in love with myself completely.”
When I told her I am married to a wonderful man she was shocked. “How on earth did you ever trust a man again after that?”
That fact is, I knew even in those first days of healing from that relationship that it was never about trusting a man again. It was always about learning to love myself so completely I knew I could trust me to always stand by me and not let me down. To believe in me enough to know that I would not compromise my values or undermine my worth by placing it in the hands of another.
I must trust myself enough to do the right thing. Always. And trust, that when I do the right thing, no matter how others respond, I will continue to do the right thing for me and those around me. Always.
And the right thing for me is to love myself truly, madly deeply.
To love myself, truly, madly, deeply, I must shine my light on the cracks and broken spaces that naturally appear as I live my life fierce, passionate and free. In those spaces, Love flows in to fill in the gaps, making the broken places, the ugly cracks, the scars and scabs dazzling fragments that make the whole of my heart a beautiful, exquisite home where Love grows wild and free.
Yesterday, I posed the question at the end of Part 1 of To Love Yourself Completely, “Knowing what you know now, what are you willing to do to love yourself completely.”
It’s such a delicious question. So invitingly full of possibilities.
I mean, think about it, knowing what you know now, knowing how important it is to love yourself completely, the paths to self-love are endless.
As are, it feels at times, the places within where ‘unlove’ exist in constant disharmony. Those wounded places where self-neglect and shame and other signs of self-abhorrence hideout and manifest themselves in harmful ways that diminish your light and leave you feeling less-than and unworthy, angry and discontented, sad and weary…
They don’t hideout in your heart, those wounded places. They’re buried deep within your psyche, swimming in a sea of emotional angst infecting every facet of your being with their angst-riddled ways. Their presence robs you of knowing and sharing your talents, gifts, beauty and light with passionate abandon.
What will you do to love yourself completely?
For me, the studio is where I come home to my heart, where my mind stills its constant chatter and I become embodied in the infinite beauty of being all I am in the present moment.
Yesterday was no different.
As I began to create, I knew I wanted to explore the question. What will I do?
Not holding myself to a set idea or plan, I gathered random items to work with. A dryer sheet. A delicate piece of crocheted lace my mother had given me. A broken chain from a necklace I’d used when I made my wedding bouquet (it was made of brooches and necklaces from family and friends). Some painted papers. A leaf I’d printed on a piece of fabric. A page from a book of poems that belonged to my father on which I’d drawn a heart-shape and other bits of ephemera including a bit of painted paper from one of my paper dolls.
I got out acrylics, inks, watercolours, my sewing machine and let my imagination run wild as I zigzag stitched items together and glued them onto a canvas board I’d painted at the start.
When I was done, I sat quietly, eyes closed and rested my hands on top of the completed piece.
What is your story? I asked it. What truth are you revealing?
The answer drifted effortlessly up from the font of wisdom that is always present deep within my belly. Or, perhaps it floated down from the collective consciousness that connects us all (I don’t consciously know where it came from – it just appeared, as truth often does)
To love yourself completely, begin with finding beauty in the broken places.
Ahhh yes. My heart sighed. Truth.
And my body embraced it as my mind quietened and rolled the words around and around.
Find beauty in the broken places.
There are so many, my mind whispered.
And my heart replied, “They are all so beautiful to me.”
I shared this piece yesterday with an art journalling group I belong to. One of the members called it – Layers of Love — it fit so beautifully. Thank you Pamela W. ❤
Art-journalling is about creating without a ‘plan’. It’s about allowing myself to be free of ‘intention’ or a destination and to simply be present to whatever the heart is yearning to set free.
Yesterday, when I started, I kind of blew it before I began.
I had an idea. That idea flowed into a plan. I was ready to execute on it when I sat down at my studio table. I was going to paint the rest of the faces of my paper dolls.
As I settled at my worktable to begin, I felt the stirrings of the wise woman within me. “Be still,” she whispered. “Be still.”
Now, being still is great in meditation. it doesn’t get paint on a page.
She kept whispering. “Be still.”
I stopped, took a deep breath. Closed my eyes and listened deeply.
And that’s when I heard her question. “What if it’s not about painting their faces but cutting the ties that bind?”
Not paint the faces? But that was my plan.
I felt her amused smile tingle all the way down to my baby toes. “Your plans are so… enchanting,” she said. “What’s even more enchanting is to let go of your plans and listen deeply to your heart.”
Oh. Listen deeply to my heart.
I bustled around my studio for awhile, tidying up, watering the plants, filling Beaumont’s water dish. You know, doing the things we humans do when we’re trying to avoid doing the things our heart is calling us to do. Facebook scrolling. Instagram — looking for inspiration.
Right? Yeah. I know. Busted.
Except, the scrolling helped. I re-read the quote I’d written from my art journal page on Friday,
"In every heart there is a song of love yearning to be sung.
Listen deeply to the yearnings of your heart."
The heart knows.
I picked up the paper doll chain I had planned on painting, took a breath and cut the paper connecting the first two dolls. The ones whose faces were already painted.
I breathed again.
A lovely whiff of flowery-scented air caressed my face. My heart expanded with delight at its touch.
Ahhh… I felt free!
The symbolism is not lost on me.
The import not unnoticed.
I began to paint.
In the end, the painted dolls I’d planned on collaging into whatever I created didn’t get collaged in.
Instead, I went with the wildness dancing in my heart. I let go of my plan and found myself breathing deeply into the radical gift of creative self-kindness – letting everything go, holding onto nothing except the art of creative expression.
And as I cast paint upon the page like seeds floating upon a gentle spring breeze, I felt the child within smile and run off to play amongst a field of wildflowers blowing in the wind.
Life is such a beautiful gift. Joy is such a delightful companion. And self-kindness is such a loving force of nature it can heal all wounds, even those we don’t know we carry.
I hope you spread a little kindness on yourself today — better yet — a lot!
I hope your joy ripples out into the world in rivers of delight creating gardens of Love wherever you go.
I feel memory’s tug, like an undertow pulling me into the riptide of its dark and stormy seas, calling me to dive deep. To give myself over to its beguiling insistence I am powerless to resist.
I know resistance is futile.
I resist anyway. Gasping and struggling as I fight its relentless current pulling me under, away from the safe shores of what I know with certainty into those dark spaces of what I tell myself I do not need to revisit or explore or see or know.
I first noticed the undertow when I began painting the faces of one of my paper doll chains.
The critter hissed. “What a stupid idea. Don’t do it Louise.”
Curious, I turned to face its presence in my psyche. “Why not?” I ask.
“Because I said so.”
I know that voice. It is the one that carries childhood angst and fears.
“What are you afraid of?” I ask it.
The critter tosses her hair back behind her right shoulder, sticks her chin up into the air and says, vehemently, “I’m not afraid. I just think it’s stupid to be playing with paper dolls. You’re not a child anymore Louise. Grow up.”
It was the ‘grow up’ that triggered me.
I remember that phrase. I heard it a lot when I was a little girl growing into adolescence and then my teens.
Grow up. Cry-baby. Act your age. Don’t be such a spoiled brat.
Words flung carelessly onto the delicate fabric of my psyche weaving its way into adulthood. Words that stung. Confused me. Hurt me.
I smiled through them, pretending like I didn’t care.
The sting of those words has lessened with time and therapy and doing ‘my work’.
Yet still, they drift back into view in moments when I least expect them, reminding me that within me are still hidden pockets of history. Places where, I tell myself, to dive in means risking letting go of what I have in the here and now.
And the voice of wisdom deep within whispers. “Memory cannot hurt you. It lives in the ‘there and then’ in your head. It isn’t real but its impact is felt in the here and now. Diving into it can set you free to live completely free and authentic and present in the here and now. Be brave Louise. Be brave.”
It is the gift of creative exploration. I never know what will be revealed. I only know it will fill in the gaps of the tapestry of my life with the wisdom garnered from letting what is seeking to be revealed appear. In its appearance, I am free to paint it with all the colours of the rainbow. Free to dance in the lightness of being released from its muddy stories dissolving into vivid colours woven through all the threads of my life today.
I don’t get to pick and choose the threads that appear. I do get to choose whether I heed the invitation to explore their mystery. In heeding the call to explore the stories they reveal, I empower myself to weave their story into my tapestry today with threads of beauty, compassion, love, joy.
I began to paint the faces on a paper doll chain.
Memory beckoned. Come dive deep into the mystery, it whispered.
Memory is a relentless companion. It keeps pushing and tugging. Prodding and probing.
Memory cannot hurt me. Not diving in can.
And fear is washed away as the mystery of more of me unfurls in the exquisite beauty of the here and now.
It is a beautiful mystery this life we live. It is a beautiful mystery worth exploring to our deepest depths.
The inspiration for this page came from a comment a lovely soulful woman, a fellow artist, made about one of my pieces and how it opened a door to healing and connection and joy.
On this day of the second year since my mother’s passing, I am reminded of how a friend described her feelings when in her 50’s both her parents passed away — “Since ‘becoming orphaned’ as she put it, I am all alone”. I wanted to create something that took away the sting of that idea of ‘being orphaned’ and connected me to the joy that is always dancing within and all around me.
In a comment yesterday, MSJaDeli of TaoTalk, shared a story from the Zhuang Zi. “Someone dies and an old man in his tent starts banging on his tin plate in grief. This is the wise man who is supposed to be above it all. The banging begins to bother others who go to check on him. They ask the old man, hey aren’t you the wise man, how much longer are you going to bang on that pan. The old man says I feel it as long as I need to feel it and when I don’t feel it anymore I’ll stop banging on the pan.”
I am known amongst some of my friends as a really good pot-banger. (The ‘good’ is my word, btw. Not necessarily theirs.) On backcountry ski trips, I was inevitably the first one up. As the first one up I would restoke the fire in the hut and put on coffee as well as start breakfast. As these were backcountry huts there was no electricity or running water. My least favourite task was going out to haul in water so… if the big water container was empty, to ensure there was coffee, I had to wake someone up — which meant I’d walk around singing at the top of my lungs, banging on a pot with a big metal spoon — I didn’t say it was a good practice. Just that I was good at it! 🙂 I know. Not my finest moment. Though we inevitably would get off to a nice early start because of my ‘joyful’ pot banging.
MSJ’s sharing of that story reminded me of those days and how much joy I felt being with good friends, far from the maddening crowds, surrounded by soaring peaks and still mountain air and sprawling valleys leading up to wide open slopes of untouched powder.
I am so blessed.
I bang on my keyboard letting words spill out, letting my emotions flow wild and gloriously free. I bang with my paintbrushes, hauling paint pots onto my worktable, tossing colour and texture onto the canvas with joyful abandon, transporting myself far from the maddening crowds into the sacred fields of creative expression.
I dance with the muse and joy lifts me up reminding me always — I am never alone. I am always connected to the divine essence of life in all its sprawling beauty unfurling.
In my studio, I know with great certainty, I am connected to the all that makes this life so beautifully exquisite and precious.
I sit at my desk, a candle burning, furnace humming, Beau sleeping on the chaise beside me.
Outside, the sky is slowly lightening as dawn gently pushes night away towards the west.
On this morning, a year ago, we were sitting vigil with my mother. We knew the end was near. We just didn’t know, today would be the day she took her last breath as her spirit released her body and she crossed over to that place where she believed completely that my father, brother, her parents and all her siblings who had gone before her were waiting, with open arms, to greet her.
We knew the moment was coming. We just didn’t know the time.
And then, we did.
10:35 am. Tuesday, February 25, 2020.
It has been a year today. A year of sadness. Sorrow. Grief. Joy. Laughter. Growth. Healing.
It has taught me many things. One of them being about the power of my mother’s prayers. The power of prayer isn’t in the one to whom we pray. It is in the one who prays.
Faith is like that. It isn’t about the one or ones or things or ‘its’ we believe in, or the doctrines of religion or church we follow and adhere to. It is in our ability to let go of questioning ‘the why’ or believing our ‘why’ is the way for others and breathing into what brings us peace, solace, comfort.
Prayer is a personal act of faith that reminds us to care about those for whom we pray.
My mother always knew that. It wasn’t that her faith got in the way of our relationship. It was that our ways were different and my questions, confusion, angst built a wall between our differences neither of us knew who to cross. The only way my mother knew how to take down that wall was through prayer.
She was wise that way. When she did not know what to do, she prayed.
Today is the one-year mark of our mother’s/grandmother’s passing. My sisters and daughters and I will gather later today on Zoom to mark the day, her life and this circle of love she created through her every breath.
I wrote this poem a year ago today as I sat in the quiet stillness of the morning just before my mother’s last breath.
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