Category Archives: The Seeker’s Journey

Look Upward

6th two page spread in Sheltered Wonder Art Journal project. – Watercolour & acrylic on watercolour paper.

Prayer is the intermediary to Grace. Prayer connects us to the mystical, spiritual, divine essence of Life.

It’s not a religious thing for me. It’s a spiritual openness. A portal into the divine essence of life where, when I look upward, I remember the Grace that imbues life with all of Nature’s wonder, awe and possibility.

Because, when all feels lost, when there appears to be no exit, no safe recourse, no possibility of another step, I look upward and I pray and Grace finds me wherever I am, how ever I am and fills me up with hope.

This morning, as I sat at my desk and watched the river flow and the rain fall and the bright-green, newly budded leaves on the trees shimmer in the breeze, tears gathered at the back of my eyes and my heart filled up with gratitude that flowed upward from deep within my body and soul.

On this morning in 2003, I stood by a gentle flowing river, looked up into the blue sky and I prayed. Hard.

I prayed for death to take me.

I did not want to live. My life was one long, fearful moment running blindly into the next. At the time, the abuser and I were in hiding while he evaded the police and tried to get out of the country. I sat in silence. Never threatening the status quo. Never making waves that might disrupt him. Though, given his propensity to fly into a rage no matter what I did or said, avoiding making waves was kind of impossible.

On this day, it had been almost three months since my daughters, or anyone from my past, knew where I was or if I was alive. They feared the worst.

I prayed for the worst. I wanted him to end my life because I was not courageous enough, or strong enough, to do it myself. At least, that’s what I told myself. Though my words were not so kind. They bordered on the abusive, a mirror of the names he liked to call me.

By that time, everything in my life had become enmeshed in his lies. The only truth I held onto was that I loved my daughters. I could not make a lie of that truth by taking my own life.

And so, I prayed for release by him or some other outside force.

My prayers were answered. Not as I expected but by a blue and white police car that drove up and arrested the abuser at 9:14am on this morning in 2003. It wasn’t the physical death I was seeking. It was, however, the death I needed. The end of that relationship.

I am grateful my prayers were answered. I am grateful the Universe, The Divine, God, Allah, Yahweh, The Light, Almighty, All Powerful, however you call it/her/him, answered my prayers in a way that was life-giving, not life-ending.

But then, that’s the thing about Grace. It creates. It opens. It welcomes. It does not destroy.

Up to that moment of being released from that relationship, I had prayed for gravity to magically release its hold on my body so that it could fall of its own volition into the river and be washed out to sea.

Instead, Grace descended and embraced me, washing away my fears, my horror, sorrow, grief, anger, shame leaving me free to do what I needed to do to reclaim my life and Grow Wild. Live Strong. Love Always.

Seventeen years ago today I was given the miracle of my life.

I am grateful.

This morning, I look upward and say a prayer of gratitude.

And the sky and the trees and the river and the grasses and the flowers and the squirrels tucked safely in their nest in the hollow trunk of a tree that protects them from the rain coming down, and the geese huddled up against the riverbank, and the songbirds sheltering in the grasses, answer my prayers with their gift of nature dancing wildly in living colour, in Love with all of Life.

Namaste.

Roots. Memories.Connections.

rooted in memory

My Catholic roots are woven throughout the memories of my childhood. They give me peace. They give me security. They give me space to grow wild and free.

Friday evening Rosaries.

Listening to the clicking of the beads as they passed through my mother’s fingers, her whispered Hail Mary’s as she prayed the decades and began the cycle again and again as I impatiently waited for it to be over so my sister and I could go out and play.

Saturday afternoon flowers.

In the quiet of the church my middle sister and I helped her ‘do the flowers’ that graced the altar. They had to be fresh for Sunday mass.

My sister was allowed to carry the vases of week-old flowers to the sink in the back of the sacristy. I could help sort the flowers. For some reason, my mother didn’t trust me to carry breakable objects. Go figure.

To this day, I struggle with throwing out dead flower arrangements.

The smell of the rancid water. The look of the wilting flowers. It feels almost.. .sacrilegious. Like I’m somehow impinging on the prayers of a dead past to be left in peace.

Then there was Sunday morning mass.

The inevitable rush of getting four children all dressed up in Sunday best, out the door and in the car and down the road to church.

I loved Easter Sunday best. Not the mass. Oh no. That was way too long in my child’s mind.

I loved my bonnet and pretty dress. My patin leather shoes. My little white lace gloves.

I loved the gold trim on the priest’s liturgical robes. The pageantry. The statues adorning the walls. Watching my brother up front, beside the priest, where he served as an altar boy.

I still love the smell of incense. Candlelight. Ritual. Angels.

Though I never did come to peace with the notion that girls were somehow so inadequate (or sinful) that they could not serve at the altar as priests.

I still remember, sitting on the hard benches. Swinging my legs, looking around, being poked by my sister and poking her back followed by the inevitable admonition from my mother to sit still, be quiet, pay attention.

On Sundays, there was no breakfast until after the 10am Mass. The church didn’t allow food before communion. Fortunately, this edict gave me an easy to confess ‘sin’ to add to the litany of others I’d have to tell the priest at our weekly meeting in the confessional booth on Wednesday night. I had three:

I fought with my sister.
I disobeyed my mother.
I accidentally swallowed the water when I brushed my teeth before mass. (It’s also possible I stole a muffin or cookie from the kitchen before we left for mass but I wasn’t sure God would forgive me for that one so I never told.)

In church, I prayed the sermon would be short, the greetings afterwards of neighbours and friends even shorter. I was hungry!

Always, my father would meet someone and invite them back for breakfast. Always, they came. My father’s breakfasts were legendary.

As a child, I used to ask my parents where God lived during the week if he was only in church on Sundays. My father laughed at my question. He liked to encourage my curiosity, telling me to ‘go look it up’. In the encyclopedia or the dictionary if it was about the spelling of a word. My father was not as married to the Catholic faith as my mother.

For mom, my questions caused her great unease. Don’t be so impudent, she’d caution. God is watching. He knows everything. You cannot question Him.

I wasn’t particularly good at listening to my mother. And, once I discovered how uneasy my questions made her, I tended to keep asking them.

It was my way.

Yesterday, with an email from a cousin I haven’t seen in decades, the memory of those long-ago days came sweeping back into focus.

We spent time together in France during our youth and into our teens. I remember how much he and his sister loved the chocolates and other goodies my parents brought whenever we visited. How our excesses in food were so foreign to the austere selections their mother allowed that they almost made themselves sick savouring the sweet, gooey concoctions that came from my father’s kitchen.

In our exchange of emails, in the memories that came flooding back, I was reminded that no matter what path I carve, it is the deep security of my roots that gives me the freedom today to explore my spiritual path without fearing where it will lead me. Entangled as those memories are in the complex web of religious observance of Catholicism that was my childhood, they are also filled with a love of mysticism, of faith and of family.   

I had a note from a cousin I haven’t seen in many years yesterday. His presence in my Inbox took me back to my roots.

It is there I find myself this morning, deeply rooted in my belief that even though I no longer practice the faith of my childhood, I am safe and secure in my belief that this is a world of divinely inspired glory. That this life I have been gifted is designed to be savoured and celebrated. It is a life immersed in joy and Love for I live in a universe of great mystery and wonder, awe and beauty.

Namaste

Critters and other inner beasts

A friend and I are talking about inner discord. “I was surprised to read about your struggle with your internal critter,” she says. “I always think you’ve got everything so together.”

I laughed.

Recognizing and acknowledging my inner critter isn’t about not having things ‘together’, it’s about seeing everything fitting together the way it does, critter and all and accepting it is all essential to the whole of my life.

I don’t judge myself for those inner struggles with the critter, I told my friend. They are imminently human and, because I like to celebrate my human condition, I accept my struggles and celebrate my capacity to move through them — sometimes with grace and ease. Other times kicking and screaming as I pound my fists against the injustices of the world around me. Even when I falter and give into ‘the veg in front of the TV’, I celebrate my process. If I’m going to give myself that space, why not accept with grace my choices?

For me, it is about our human struggle with the need to be perceived, or our need to attain, perfection.

I will be perfect when I know no struggle, we tell ourselves.

My life will be perfect when I know no conflict.

Ain’t gonna happen.

Living life fully involves struggle and conflict. It involves engaging deeply with life, not just skimming its surface in search of the easy, constantly staying on the lookout for quick exits from anything that involves going deeper than the superficial.

Life is a joyful, complicated, messy journey. How we navigate its many byways and detours, how we travel its unknown depths determines the quality of our experience, not the journey itself.

The journey is what the journey is. Somedays, it feels like a walk through the park, every sight and sound a joyous reflection of our peace of mind. Other days, we wonder if we need to go back to bed and get up on the other side. On those days where discord abounds, we get to decide if we fight against it, or lovingly delve into what is happening within to create our angst. It’s always a choice. And it’s always our choice, even on those days when we tell ourselves we have no choice.

Every day, we are the judge, the juror, the architect, the conductor of our experience. Choosing to love ourselves in all our complexities creates space for the journey to be less of a struggle against ourselves and more of an adventure into falling in love with ourselves.

Falling in love with ourselves isn’t about seeing only what we judge to be the beautiful or worthy about ourselves. It’s about accepting all of ourselves, critters and angels, sinners and saints, those parts we deem worthy, those we don’t.

Ultimately, I gotta love all of me ’cause all of me is all I got. Loving all of me means embracing beauty and the beast. Dark and light. Yin and yang. Wounds and wisdom, without wishing I was some other way. If the way I am, the way I am being present in the world is not creating the peace, joy, compassion and love I seek, I get to choose what I do with it – and if I choose to do nothing, then that is the journey I’m on.

Change or stay stuck.

Move or stay put.

My choice.

Seeking perfection is just a way to stay stuck. It lets us off the hook of being 100% accountable for ourselves; our actions, words, thoughts, impact.

A friend told me she was surprised I struggled with my critter.

I laughed.

My critter and I know each other well. I love him in all his angst-driven chaos. Loving him doesn’t mean I give him control of my life. It just means when I recognize his strident calling for me to act out or to ‘get perfect’, I lovingly embrace his fears and pains and let him know, I am perfectly content being present with my perfectly perfect human imperfections.

 

Namaste.

 

 

 

In Love’s Infinite Grace, Life Flows

It’s only Wednesday and already, it feels like a long week.

It happens.

Perhaps it is that yesterday was the 11th of September. A day worth marking. Not just because it’s the birthday of a couple of young women I love, but also because it is what it is. September 11th. A day in 2001 when the world felt like it shifted on its axis. A day when fear and confusion and horror awoke in the heart’s of millions.

I remember the fear. The confusion. The horror.

I choose Love.

And still, the ennui is here.

Perhaps it is just a heavy workload. Or having said goodbye to my daughter and grandson yesterday, my heart is full, and my body is tired.

Emotions come and go. Some weeks feel longer than others. Some situations feel more daunting. Some opportunities more challenging and exciting.

Yet, no matter what is going on, no matter what we’re facing, or doing or experiencing. No matter our elation or our worry, our joy or our sadness, Love is always present.

It’s the thing about life.  No matter how dark the skies or deep the river, Love is always present.

The challenge is, in the midst of chaos, it can be easy to lose sight of Love, to forget that in the midst of everything, Love is always present.

To remember, we need to name what we’re feeling and to also name Love in its midst. It goes like this:

Oh look. Confusion is here. So is Love.

Oh look. There’s my old friend anger. And here’s my greatest companion, Love.

Oh look. Helplessness is present. So is Love.

Oh look. Fear is raising its head. Love is here to ease its burden.

Oh look. Sadness is clouding my skies. Love is lighting my way.

It doesn’t matter what is filling your heart and mind. What is clouding your vision. What is stirring up your emotions. In the midst of everything, remind yourself that while all those things are present, so is Love.

And in Love’s infinite grace, life flows effortlessly.

Namaste.

 

 

The Cloak of Worry (A Fairy-tale)

Once there was a little girl who loved to dance. She danced so much her mother feared she’d never find her feet on the ground and if she never had her feet on the ground she’d never be able to take care of herself when she grew old. So she took the little girl’s shoes to the shoemaker and asked him to line them with lead.

Convinced it was the right thing to do, she put the shoes on her daughter and made her promise she would never take them off. “If you remove the shoes your feet will fall off and you will fall down, never to get up again.”

And so the little girl who loved to dance learned to walk with heavy step.

But still she loved to sing and laugh no matter where she went. Her mother feared her daughter’s voice, which sounded like birdsong, would keep her from ever taking life seriously and if she didn’t take life seriously, how would she ever watch out for trouble?

And so, she made her daughter a cloak of thorns and knit it together with threads of worry. “You must always wear this cloak,” she told her daughter. “If you dare to take it off, your skin will grow brittle and hard and fall off and your body will fall down, never to get up again.”

And so the little girl who loved to laugh and sing forgot the power of her own voice beneath the weight of the cloak as she took each step. She was careful to always look out for trouble.

One day, when the little girl had become an old woman and no longer needed lead lined shoes to keep her feet firmly planted on the ground, or a cloak of thorns with worries sewn into every stitch to keep her taking life seriously, went into the forest to gather firewood for her hearth. As she carefully picked up wood to place into her basket, she saw a child dancing and heard her singing amongst the trees.

The sound of the child’s voice that sounded like birdsong, the sight of her spinning and twirling about set her heart racing so fast she had to sit down in a hollow at the bottom of a tree to catch her breath. But, before she sat down, she had to check the ground for spiders, and sweep away all the dirt and place a cloth upon the earth to keep her clothes from getting dirty. Worried that a wild animal would come and attack her, she sharpened one of the pieces of wood in her basket into a spear and placed her back firmly into the tree trunk where she sat.

But still it wasn’t enough.

She was worried that an animal might sneak up from behind her, or a storm would blow in and knock down the tree beneath which she sat.

“Oh this life is such serious business,” she sighed as she moved her body deeper into the open space at the bottom of the tree trunk. “It is wise to keep your feet firmly planted on the ground at all times. It is right to always look out for trouble.”

And as she sighed and kept shifting her eyes around, making sure she was safe from attack, she forgot all about the little girl laughing and dancing in the woods.

And the animals never paid her any attention. They didn’t see her tucked into the tree’s trunk and they were busy anyway. They were doing what animals do in the woods and did not have time for an old woman sitting in a tree, glaring out at the world, fearful of every noise.

And the little girl never saw the old woman sitting in the tree trunk either. She was too busy dancing and singing to her heart’s content as she continued on her way through the forest.

Slowly, over time, the old woman fell asleep to dream of a dancing girl with a voice like birdsong who long ago danced in the woods and sang to her heart’s content.

And as she dreamed, the seasons turned and the leaves fell and snow blanketed the earth and her heart grew still until only the sighs of the wind could be heard whispering through the leaves.

She sits there still today, tucked inside the tree, her body entwined in the ivy that spun its way around her like a cloak of thorns knit together by worries.

*********************************************

I originally posted this story in 2016. This story wrote itself from a dream. It has many meanings for me. I’m curious to know what it means for you?

Please, do share your thoughts.

Namaste.

How do you wear your Oh Canada? Eh?

Growing up in Europe, whenever I told people I was Canadian the immediate response was, Oh American.

No, I’d insist. Canadian. We’re different.

But I could never really describe the difference very well. Back then, the gun culture prevalent in the states today didn’t seem as strong and the Canadian dollar was almost on par with the American. We wore similar styles of clothes, though it was often easy to pick out the American boys in Paris by their starched button-downed collars and crispy starched pinstripe shirts and their khaki pants. For those who hitch-hiked, bell-bottom blue jeans and flowers in your hair may have demonstrated you commitment to the era of free love, but no matter your nationality or style of dress, the Canadian flag was the one to wear on your backpack.

But what made me Canadian?

At that point in time, my only real connection to being Canadian was the fact I was born here. A first generation girl born to an Irish/English father and a EuroAsian mother from India.

My roots were not that deep.

But I was proud of my Canada, nonetheless.

I liked that we were considered peacekeepers. That we were not considered obnoxious to most Europeans, like our neighbours to the south.

I liked that being a holder of a British and a Canadian passport, I could travel to countries others couldn’t. And I liked the fact one Canadian dollar got me 5 Francs, 4 Deutsche-marks, and a whole whack of other currencies.

But that was then and this is now. In the intervening years, much has changed to devalue both the Canadian dollar and our reputation as peacekeepers in the world.

Canada in its current construct, turns 150 this July 1st.

Throughout this week, I’ll be exploring my take on my Canadian identity. I’m curious as to how you wear your Oh Canada?

I’d love it if you share yours in the comments below. What makes you Canadian. What make you sing, Oh Canada! Eh?

Namaste. And oh yeah. Vive Le Canada! Eh?

The maiden with leaden shoes and a cloak of worry (A fairytale)

Once there was a little girl who loved to dance. She danced so much her mother feared she’d never find her feet on the ground and if she never had her feet on the ground she’d never be able to take care of herself when she grew old. So she took the little girl’s shoes to the shoemaker and asked him to line them with lead.

Convinced it was the right thing to do, she put the shoes on her daughter and made her promise she would never take them off. “If you remove the shoes your feet will fall off and you will fall down, never to get up again.”

And so the little girl who loved to dance learned to walk with heavy step.

But still, she loved to sing and laugh no matter where she went. Her mother feared her daughter’s voice which sounded like birdsong would keep her from ever taking life seriously and if she didn’t take life seriously, how would she ever watch out for trouble? And so, she made her daughter a cloak of thorns and knit it together with threads of worry. “You must always wear this cloak,” she told her daughter. “If you dare to take it off, your skin will grow brittle and hard and fall off and your body will fall down, never to get up again.”

And so the little girl who loved to laugh and sing forgot the power of her own voice beneath the weight of the cloak as she took each step always looking out for trouble.

One day, when the little girl had become an old woman and no longer needed lead lined shoes to keep her feet firmly planted on the ground, or a cloak of thorns with worries sewn into every stitch to keep her taking life seriously, went into the forest to gather firewood for her hearth. As she carefully picked up wood to place into her basket, she saw a child dancing and heard her singing amongst the trees.

The sound of the child’s voice that sounded like birdsong, the sight of her spinning and twirling about set her heart racing so fast she had to sit down in a hollow at the bottom of a tree to catch her breath. But, before she sat down, she had to check the ground for spiders, and sweep away all the dirt and place a cloth upon the earth to keep her clothes from getting dirty. Worried that a wild animal would come and attack her, she sharpened one of the pieces of wood in her basket into a spear and placed her back firmly into the tree trunk where she sat.

But still it wasn’t enough.

She was worried that an animal might sneak up from behind her, or a storm would blow in and knock the tree beneath which she sat, down.

“Oh this life is such serious business,” she sighed as she moved her body deeper into the open space at the bottom of the tree trunk. “It is wise to keep your feet firmly planted on the ground at all times and always look out for trouble.”

And as she sighed and kept shifting her eyes around, making sure she was safe from attack, she forgot all about the little girl laughing and dancing in the woods.

And the animals never paid her any attention. They couldn’t see her tucked into the tree’s trunk and they were busy anyway. They were doing what animals do in the woods and did not have time for an old woman sitting in a tree, glaring out at the world, fearful of every noise.

And the little girl never saw the old woman sitting in the tree trunk either. She was too busy dancing and singing to her heart’s content as she continued on her way through the forest.

Slowly, over time, the old woman fell asleep to dream of a dancing girl with a voice like birdsong who long ago danced in the woods and sang to her heart’s content.

And as she dreamed, the seasons turned and the leaves fell and snow blanketed the earth and her heart grew still until only the sighs of the wind could be heard whispering through the leaves.

She sits there still today, tucked inside the tree, her body entwined in the ivy that spun its way around her like a cloak of thorns knit together by worries.

*********************************************

This story wrote itself from a dream. It has many meanings for me. I’m curious to know what it means for you?

Please, do share your thoughts.

Namaste.