Lean Into The Questions

Years ago, I heard a story about an eagle who was raised in a chicken coop and because of his environment and companions, believed he was a chicken. One day, another eagle high above saw him in the coop and couldn’t figure out why he wasn’t eating all the chickens. They were perfect prey.

The eagle swooped down from above, confronted the eagle who thought he was a chicken and asked, “What’s wrong with you?”

The eagle who thought he was a chicken thought the eagle was there to eat him and was scared. Eventually, the eagle who could fly said, “Look, come fly with me once and I’ll prove to you that you’re an eagle, not a chicken.”

The eagle who thought he was a chicken agreed, but first, he had to go say good-bye to his chicken coop companions… just in case.

The eagle who thought he was a chicken ran into the chicken coop, slammed the door and laughed. “I’m the smartest chicken in this coop,” he said to his companions who were all cowering in the dark afraid the eagle outside was going to eat them. “I just fooled that eagle!”

And the eagle who thought he was a chicken never learned how to fly.

It’s possible that the eagle who thought he was a chicken was also displaying great resilience. He figured a creative solution out of his dilemma and survived to fight another day — and that’s the challenge, an eagle who doesn’t know he can fly turns from predator to prey. Rather than soaring, his resilience his expended fighting for survival every day.

We humans are hard-wired to fight for our survival every day. Survival is in our DNA..But, when we don’t know, or never had the opportunity to explore, our possibilities, we spend our time in survival mode. We don’t have the energy, nor the awareness that beyond survival there is mystery and awe, wonder and magic, beauty and possibility.

Life is the game of survival.

My friend Diana equates it to swimming in a lake. You know how to swim. Your’re strong. You can easily swim an hour. Maybe two. But three… four… five… Add in boats. Water-skiers. Flotsam. Deadwood. All the resilience in the world isn’t going to keep you from tiring out. Your very survival is at risk.

Which says to me, resilience isn’t about strength. It’s about our ability to overcome obstacles, endure hardship and make it through to the other side.

Challenge is, in life, there is no other side to dying. It is our only way out.

As we age, it is perhaps the fact it is our only way out that can make living so much more precious, beautiful and awe-inspiring.

Life can be hard. But… with age, the beauty can outweigh the hardships. The inherent magnificence of our human nature can shine so much brighter than the darkness we’ve come through, the hardships we’ve endured, the obstacles we’ve climbed over, when our focus is not on surviving but living.

As we age, the realization ‘the end’ is not just some ethereal thought shimmering far away on a distant horizon, but rather, a near and closing-in companion. In that awareness, the sweet juicy preciousness of life can fill our senses with the realization, fighting to survive is a one way street to nowhere but the end of life. Why not let it go and start swimming with abandon in the sea of life, filling each day with joy, harmony, serenity and love?

Thank you everyone for being my companions on this journey. I am fascinated by where it’s taking me. Curious about the unexplored mysteries it holds. Enchanted by each gem I am discovering as I let go of believing I ‘know what it’s all about’ and instead, lean into the questions blowing in on the winds of change all around me, inviting me to flow with them into the sea of my life abounding with joy, harmony, serenity and love.

Namaste

We are all refugees

I wonder sometimes how my uncles and aunts felt when they left the land of their birth in search of a new land to call home.

India was no longer a welcoming place for them. Their passports, language, customs were French with a melange of Indian culture thrown in. Their father and his father had all been born in India, as had many centuries of their maternal line. Raised in the then French protectorate of Pondicherry, none of them had ever visited France.

When India reclaimed its independence, they had to make a choice – stay and give up their French citizenship. Or leave. Most of them left for the next closest French protectorate, Vietnam.

At first, Vietnam was a safe haven. But then, war broke out and they were forced to flee.

Like many refugees around the world who run grasping battered suitcases and broken promises, they wanted peace. Not war.

Eventually, they mostly settled in France. Even though their skin was a beautiful blend of white and brown, it was easy to ‘fit in’. French was their first language. Their schooling had followed the French curriculum and even though they blended cultures into a beautiful Euro-Asian tapestry, they were Catholic. They knew the rituals and the faith of their new ‘home’ land. Few questioned their pedagogy, though some of my relations, particularly those whose skin was darker than their neighbours, faced discrimination at times.

Some struggled. Others thrived. Others, like my mother, never let go of their love for India, her Shangri-la as she called it.

The heat, the smells, the vegetation, the food, the singsong of Hindi and Tamil voices, the raucous chattering of monkeys in the yellow neon palms and bougainvillea that surrounded their home, ran through her blood like a strand of DNA that could never be altered.

In some ways my mother lived her life as a refugee yearning always to return to the land of her birth if only to hear the sounds of the ocean lapping against the shores she loved so much.

As news of more refugees fleeing Eastern Ukraine fills my newsfeeds, I am reminded of the stories I heard of my mother’s family’s flight from Inida to France. They faced an uncertain future. They endured bombs falling and lives crumbling before finally reaching ‘home’.

And though a few have remained in India, few of those who left returned to take up residence in the land of their birth, the land where both my maternal and paternal grandparents are buried. My cousins in France all return to India for visits. They all have a deep connection to the beauty of the land. But they always return home to France.

I think of the refugees fleeing their homes, carrying their children in tired arms, fearing that each step could be their last. Fearing they might never be able to return as they race ahead of the bombs into an uncertain future.

And my heart breaks and my mind swirls with thoughts of when will we ever learn? When will this destruction of our humanity, this killing of our fellow human beings stop?

And I cannot find an answer.

There is no answer in war. Just as there is no peace. For, with every mother’s son or daughter killed we risk seeding germs of hate and anger that will grow into endless branches of conflict and unrest.

And so, to no longer be a refugee of my own heart, I return to the origin of it all. To Love. For while there is no peace in war, there is always love. Waiting… Patiently. Steadfastly. Always.

Love for our humanity is all that will save us now.

Let us all remember love is present. Love is always the answer even in war.

Namaste.

What if I try… and don’t fail?

At a popular restaurant, a young man with Down’s Syndrome has an important lesson to teach.

Several years ago, he wanted to find a job. He asked an agency that supports people with barriers to help him.

And they did.

His career advisor helped him write his resume, develop and practice his interviewing skills, worked with him on improving his ability to handle human interactions, change and conflict in particular.

The agency also works with employers on diversity hiring and best practices in accomodating special needs and had a roster of opportunities for him to apply to.

After several months, the young man went for an interview and got a job as a dishwasher in a busy restaurant kitchen.

His career advisor stayed connected, helped him adapt to a busy workplace and worked with the employer to develop their comfort in working with the young man’s ‘style’.

After 4 years as a dishwasher, he is a valued member of staff, one of ‘the family’. Well-liked, he is included in all social activities, has made friends and is considered an essential worker, so vital to the organization that even with COVID’s downturn, the organization didn’t lay him off.

One day, the young man announced he wanted to work front-of-house, in particular, the cash register. This is a big move and everyone, including his career advisor who has stayed connected, tries to dissuade him.

“I can do it,” he says. His persistence finally convinces management to give him a chance. They move him to front-of-house as a busyboy. He excels.

After several months, the young man still hasn’t given up on his dream. He wants to work the cashier register and serve customers at the counter.

Several months ago, he got his chance.

He’s a star. Friendly. Always accurate in his work. Steady and solid in his service. Customers love him and the rest of the staff, along with his family and support team and career advisor… They learned a valuable lesson.

Barriers are limitations that haven’t been tested.

Our human minds perceive barriers to be concrete. Immovable. Insurmountable. So why bother testing them?

Everyone involved wanted to protect the young man — taking on such a big challenge left him exposed. “What if you fail?” they asked.

His response, “What if I don’t?”

_________________

Next time you face a new opportunity, experience, barrier, ask yourself… What if it’s not about protecting myself from failure? What if, it’s about giving myself the opportunity to succeed?

What if instead of fearing falling, I chose to believe in my wings?

Namaste

When will it end?

Sometimes, on mornings like this when darkness still wraps the world outside my window in its embrace and ice glistens on the river’s surface, and the world continues to hold its breath beneath Covid’s thrall, I wonder… when will it end?

When will booking a flight to somewhere far away in the world, or just to Vancouver to visit my grandchildren, not come burdened with vaccination passports and endless thoughts of should I or shouldn’t I as I weigh the risks and calculate the cost of travelling on my life and the lives of my beloveds?

When will the simple act of going to the grocery store not include wearing a mask, sanitizing my hands at every turn and worrisome thoughts of… What if I get it?

When will it be okay to hug again, or hold hands or sit side-by-side on a park bench or in a restaurant without measuring the distance between us to ensure we’re safe?

When?

And then, I think about the boys and men who went off to war decades ago unsure of when or if they’d make it home and the mothers and children and grandparents and those who had to stay behind. Did they wonder every day, “When will it end?” Did they have doubts and fears that would not lay quiet in the night? Did they worry would they be safe going out the door if they were not close to a bomb shelter? What about their children at school and so far from their loving arms when air raid sirens blasted? Did they worry every day about their loved ones somewhere far away fighting a war so they could be free? Did they wonder when Year 3 started, “Will this be the last year of this war gripping the world in its terror? When will it end?”

And then, I think about the wars that are still being fought today and the millions and millions of refugees uprooted by guns and natural disasters who sit in crowded tents and live in crowded quarters where Covid is not the only risk they face every moment of every day. And how they must worry every single moment about food to eat, a safe place to sleep and wonder, “When will it ever end?” as they go about their days yearning for peace and safety, worrying and wondering about when they will ever have a home to call their own again. Worrying and wondering which country in this world will accept them so that they can build better lives for their children. When will it end?

And then, I think about this freedom I have where I can choose to wear what I want, speak how I want, disagree with government and not be jailed, or killed for my impertinence. This freedom I possess to be myself, to worship or pray or send blessings into the sky or sit at a pew of my choice, to walk the streets without needing a man to accompany me or having to walk a step behind, to drive a car even though I’m a woman, to enter establishments of education, justice, government or places of worship without being barred because of my gender, this freedom… not even Covid can deny me that.

Billions of people around the world do not share in the freedoms I possess.

If killing Covid means I must get a jab or two, and wear a mask and take into account how close I stand to a stranger, then I will do it. It’s good for me and good for you and good for those billions of people around the world who do not share in the freedoms I possess. At least if I take care of my world here now, we all might have a chance to live without Covid in our midst tomorrow and one day, one year, one millennium in the future, we might all walk in freedom, peace and love.

Namaste

I Wrote A Letter To My Lover

Two things happened this morning. Both took me in unexpected directions.

Gratitude and curiosity fueled each experience and brought them together on a river of creative expression flowing free.

David Kanigan’s Monday Morning WakeUp Call today lead me to the website, The Vale of Soul-Making. Exquisite. Provocative. I got lost in its words.

The morning post I receive every day from Daily Om connected me to thoughts I’d had yesterday about personality. How it’s so easy to get trapped in believing ‘we are the way we are and there’s nothing that can be done about that.’

At the time of that thought drifting into my mind, I was walking along the rocky beach between the river and the forest, my mind skipping from thought to thought, like a stone skimming and dipping, skimming and dipping along the water’s surface.

At one point a thought skipped into view that surprised me. “You know, Louise,” the thought whispered. “One of the gifts of that relationship with the man of ill-intent was that because your personality was so completely submerged in his abusive ways, when he was arrested and you got your life back, you had to rebuild yourself up from the soles of your feet to the soul of your being who you’re truly meant to be.”

It was a fascinating thought. But, because I was wandering along the river, savouring the sunshine on my face, throwing the ball and watching Beau race after it interspersed with his stopping every so often to follow a scent that caught his olfactory glands in unexpected ways, I let the thought drift away.

This morning, I read one of the many quotes offered by Nick Flynn at The Vale of Soul-Making and that thought skipped back into view.

And then, I read “Finding Another Perspective” at Daily Om and my heart did one of those skippity-dippity hops it likes to do when it finds the subterranean flow of its beat rising to the surface in joyful exhalation and my lungs gave a giddy sigh of satisfaction and my lips smiled wide and my eyes popped open and I exclaimed to no one and to the world, “Oh Yes!”

And then…. as so often happens when I follow the winding way of my thoughts flowing through, a poem appeared as if floating on a lifeboat of possibility.

And here it is. I do so love the unexpectedness and joyfulness of the muse’s way of drawing me into creative expression.

A Letter To My Lover
by Louise Gallagher

I wrote a letter to my lover
long gone from this sphere
of my life orbiting 
around the one I have become
rising up 
from the ashes of a love
that was never truer
than the lies
he told to enslave me
in the poisonous venom
of his unrequited self-hatred.

I wrote a letter to my lover
Thank you, I said,
you saved me from my belief
who I was, was all I could ever be
locked up in a painful construct
of believing I was never good enough
to be free.

I wrote a letter to my lover.
I am free.

The Best You Can Do

The Best You Can Do.
by Louise Gallagher

You ask me to believe
you are doing your best
even when your best

is not true
for another.


And I do

believe
you are doing
your best.


And I do wonder,
can you believe

that in doing your best

you are limited 
by your belief
your best

is true for others?


What if

your best 
could be better?

What if

you stopped believing
you know what is best
for others?


Would you then choose 
to believe
what is true 
for another

is best
for them

even if it’s not
true for you?


Would you then choose
to believe
their truth
is the best way to create
something better than
what you believe
is the best
you can do?




My Credo – a reshare

On June 11th, last year, I posted My Credo – It was created in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, of the thousands upon thousands who were marching and calling for change.

I am sharing it and what I wrote about it again as when I re-read it this morning, I had this deep sense of knowing — yes… this is true for me. This is what I want to create in this world.

For me, My Credo speaks to what I stand for, and against. It acts a guidepost against which I can measure every action, word and thought. And, it provides me with a safe and courageous container within which to grow and evolve so that I can give my all to creating better in this world.

Years ago, when I began my healing journey after being freed from an abusive relationship, I created a credo for how I wanted to live my life. It included statements like, “I shall turn up for me in all my wounded brokenness and love myself completely”.

It also included a statement on how I wanted to treat the past — as a bludgeon to beat myself up with or as the vehicle that brought me to this moment right now where I was free to heal and fall in love with myself and all my world and celebrate life for all I’m worth.

I chose to treat it as the vehicle that brought me to this moment right now. The past had served its purpose. It was time for me to let go of its pain and find a more loving, caring and roadworthy vehicle within which to continue my journey.

We cannot change the past. We can learn from it and grow deeper in our understanding of its impact on our lives today. And, we can use it as corroboration for what we need to do today to ensure tomorrow is not a repeat of a past we do not want to live again and again.

There is so much good in this world. So much beauty, possibility, hope, joy… And there is grief and sorrow, pain and suffering, violence and abuse.

It is all present. And always, no matter what is present, Love is always there.

To live by this credo, fearlessly letting all of my human condition be present, I must accept all is present. Light and dark. Fear and hope. Anger and sorrow. Suffering and joy. And I must love it all, fearlessly. Joyfully. Completely.

I am not powerful enough to change all the darkness in the world. I am powerful enough to determine how bright I want my light to shine. And I am powerful enough to shine as brightly as I can so that others can see in the dark and stand with me in the light.

Today, I am choosing to shine full on. Bright beams blasting.

I am stepping onto this road armed with My Credo. Yesterday, the decision to step onto the road to ask a man with a brick if he was ok, was what I had to do. The tenets of my credo were guiding me.

To be of service in creating change so that Indigenous people, all people, who live on this land now called Canada, are treated with dignity and respect, I must live by my credo. It is my map to creating a future where my grandchildren will know, the world into which they are born is not a place in which only they and others like them enjoy its’ privileges. It is a place where all the world enjoys the same privileges. Where all people have equal rights and are inspired to live freely and shine bright.

Namaste

____________________________________________

Do you have a personal Credo?

If you’d like to write one, here are some questions you can ask yourself to get started.

My Sacred Garden

“A dream is a wish calling for its wings.” — Learning to Fly mixed media hand-crafted art journal

On Saturday, I took a four hour workshop with Dr. Minette Riordan, “The Sacred Garden: Spring Cleaning for Your Creative Spirit.”

My Sacred Garden Vision Map

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.

When the student is ready the teacher appears. When the student is truly ready… The teacher will Disappear.”

Tao Te Ching

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.

Happy Flying!

___________________________

Attitude and Actions No. 7 & 8

  1. Be brave.  Let courage draw you to the edge and passion lift you up
  2. Close your eyes, imagine the feeling of flight – repeat often

Where The Wild Things Fly

From the 2 page spread for No. 7 & 8 of 20 Attitudes and Actions to Help You Live the Life of Your Dreams.

7.       Let courage draw you to the edge and passion lift you up
8.       Close your eyes, imagine the feeling of flight – repeat often

Mother Nature is the most amazing partner. When we invite her to be our mentor, our guide, our co-creator of possibilities, miracles and magic happen all around.

Thanks to Mother Nature and a Bald Eagle yesterday, I played in the field of possibilities of my Learning to Fly list of Attitudes and Actions – and was rewarded with miracles, magic and a whole lot of laughter!

In my studio, I spent much of the afternoon into the evening working on the spread for No. 7 & 8 of my 20 Attitudes and Actions.

  1. Let courage draw you to the edge and passion lift you up
  2. Close your eyes, imagine the feeling of flight – repeat often

Just before taking Beaumont the Sheepadoodle for his late afternoon walk, I made a spaghetti sauce so dinner would be easy. C.C. is engrossed in the hockey season as the teams near making it to the Playoffs. Or not, as the case seems to be he tells me for the Flames, our hometown team.

I was engrossed in creativity. Both, working on items on my list as well as creating in my art journal.

Win/win when dinner is easy and relatively ‘mess-less’. I tell you all that because, it all plays into the miracles and magic of the evening. As we sat at the island eating and chatting, C.C. looked out the window and said, “There’s a Bald Eagle sitting in one of the trees.”

I was so excited, I immediately jumped up from the table, grabbed my phone and raced out onto the deck.

The eagle from our deck.

He was quite a ways away, and there were lots of branches blocking my view.

But I soooo wanted to catch him in his moment of taking flight.

So I waited. And waited. But he seemed quite content sitting on his branch. Have you ever tried to outwait a Bald Eagle? It ain’t easy.

Over dinner, I kept darting out onto the deck to see if I could capture him. After we’d tidied up, I went downstairs to my studio and decided, ‘what the heck’. If the eagle’s still there, I am going to outwait him.

Without bothering to put shoes or coat on, I dashed out the French doors of my studio, onto the back lawn and raced along the fence-line until I was relatively close to the eagle’s perch.

Did I mention we’ve had snow the last couple of days? While most of it is gone the backyard is either covered in snow or wet and soggy. I was wearing Birkenstocks. At least I had socks on! (I know. Such an elegant look. Right?)

Anyways. I waited. And waited some more. And then…. it happened….

You’ll have to watch the short (40sec) video of what happened to find out! It’s at the bottom of this post.

I know. Such a tease.

But I am so very grateful for Mother Nature’s gift of flight.

Absolutely divine!

Oh. And btw… The laughter part of the miracles and magic, that’s at the end of the video. you’ll see. 🙂 C.C. howled when I showed it to him. I hope you do too!

Flight of the Bald Eagle.

Exposed

Yesterday, I followed through on my commitment to work on Steps 9 and 10 of my 20 Attitudes and Actions to help you live the life of your dreams.

It worked.

Once I’d printed out the two lists, I had to laugh at myself.

The ‘I can’t list’ – pretty well all lives in my head. The blocks and hurdles imaginary things I tell myself which, through repetition or simply remaining unchallenged, have become limiting beliefs that do not serve me well. And definitely don’t do much towards helping me live the life of my dreams!

And isn’t that what we all want? To live a life where we feel inspired, passionate, engaged. A life that reflects our desires, whatever they are, for love, friendship, comfort, and yes, success.

I realized as I was working on my Can’t and Can lists that defining what ‘success’ looks like to me at this certain age of my life is different than what it looked like at 30, 40, 50. I haven’t spent as much time considering the question, “What does a ‘successful’ life look like to me now that I’m no longer ‘out there in the workforce’ but here, spending time writing, painting, creating. Am I creating ‘things’ or am I creating a life worth living?”

It was a great question to carry with me as I wandered the forest and trails of the park Beaumont the Sheepadoodle and I walk in every morning.

I walked through the forest along the river and looked up into the naked branches of the trees, listened to the birds, a woodpecker hammering, chickadees calling and the wind. Always the wind.

I stopped and took photos. Noticed broken bark and branches. Touched crenellated trunks and scarred limbs.  And was reminded of how life is often a journey that leaves us scarred and scared but also beautifully weathered, worn and wise.

When I came home, I played Rod Stewart’s hit, Scarred and Scared. Stewart was one of my dad’s and my brother’s favourites way back when.  Before they left this world a year a half apart. Before we had to learn how to fill in the spaces of their missing with memories and stories of their lives interwoven with ours. In the past. Always in the past.

And then… the poem below wrote itself out as I meditated on life and the joy of my many circles. From art circle creatrixes to writing circle poetresses and family circles and friendship rings and everyone in between. We have all weathered life through days and months and years, words and poetry and actions and colours splashed against the tapestries of our lives coming into full bloom and then, softly, lovingly, gently beginning to fade.

I do not know about ‘the fading years’, as I heard the latter years of life called once. I love the visual imagery of it. The softness and gentleness.

But I don’t know if I want to fade or go out in a great big burst of colour!

And that’s the beauty of life. I don’t have to know. I simply have to live. Every moment. Every colour. Every word and action, every sight and sound the way I want to live them. Now. Fully. Completely. Wholly. In this moment.

Until there are no more moments, no more sights or sounds or even breaths to live.

Perhaps it was the melancholy of the trees, the quiet of the forest, the reading through a course I created several years ago and spent a good part of the day updating that pulled me into the lure of time. Its gathering. Its weaving. It’s meandering course through life. Its unravelling. It’s gathering. It’s weaving….

Whatever the impetus, I am grateful.

________________

NOTE: The course I created and updated is called, “Right Your Heart Out”. It is currently available for free download on my website – I would be incredibly appreciative if you took it for a test run and gave me what feedback you can — feedback is the only way to make it better!

To learn more about this 21 day/lesson course click here – Right Your Heart Out

To dive in without learning more, to just ‘go for it’ click HERE for immediate download.

And… working on updating this course was my diving into Step 12 of the 20 Attitudes and Actions.

Here’s the deal – a marker on my path is having someone download the course… Don’t you want to be a marker of my path forward? I get to surprise myself with a reward if you are! 🙂